A Li river boat cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo can be a great introduction to the clear rivers (aside from the rainy season, Yangshuo climate) and the impressive karst mountain landscape this region is famous for and a true highlight of your China river trip. Contrary to most beliefs, the entire stretch between the wharf, located 40km outside of Guilin and Xing Ping is breath-taking with literally hundreds of karst peaks towering up as huge dragon teeth from both sides of the Li river up the sky which makes one feel rather small, even on a medium sized cruise boat. While this cruise gets a tourist stamp, boats leave at different times in one long series and the 10 boats you may spot in front or behind only make up about 1% of the scenery composed of the river and the surrounding mountain peaks.
The shorter stretch between Yangdi and Xingping can also be enjoyed per raft - in either direction - but in our opinion this seemingly 'more local experience', is far more touristic with dozens of rafts passing by in either direction on all sides and the rafts on this river have all been made of PVC-pipes (with a failed bamboo resemblance) to withstand the strong currents on the river and as a safety precaution. Note that the small rafts offer very little protection from the rain (or sun) while the cruise boats provide you with a wide open and covered deck, and indoor seating area.
Also, there is a min. and max. age restriction of 7 and 70 years respectively for all the rafts on the Li-river so if you have anyone in your group outside these restrictions then a river cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo would be your only option to enjoy the Li river scenery on the river.
The only advantage of a raft however is that you could enjoy this tour while based in Yangshuo and you would not need to stay overnight in Guilin for the cruise so we could arrange a direct train station or airport transfer for you. If you do arrive in the afternoon, spend a night in Guilin and enjoy the unique landscape of the area here in style.
Li river Cruise Boat Types
- Class Superior: We discovered new models have been introduced called the Di Jing Hao and Feng Guang Hao cruise boats. This is classified as the 'super luxury' boat but is actually the only luxurious boat type on the river. Maximum capacity on these boats is 70 seats spread over a lower and upper deck with fewer fellow passengers than on the types mentioned below (120-150). As with all Li river cruises, the included lunch is not the biggest draw (but better than the deluxe lunch) but the high standard of facilities and decor, the cleanliness of the boat, and the fact you will enjoy more space with fewer passengers aboard, makes this the most comfortable way to enjoy the stunning Li river scenery on your way to Yangshuo. If you're coming with a group and would like to have it private the entire boat can be chartered as well. Because of this, the cruise is only guaranteed to run 15 days in advance if it hasn't been chartered up till then. During peak season (April - October) it generally runs daily but during the low season, possible dates are limited to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, or may be suspended.
- Class Deluxe: The most popular version is the advertised as 'luxury' cruise that we call deluxe. They offer a covered air conditioned seating area, an English speaking guide (more of an annoyance provided by the cruise company) and a basic lunch. Please note that the official name of this boat type is 'luxury' and although this is the most popular version it it is not the most luxurious boat on the river and should not be compared with Western 'luxury' standards. There are several models of this boat on the river. The ones we book are the newest ones of April 2016. Luggage will be taken aboard with you.
- Class Basic: These Chinese tour boats provide a budget option with basic seating , mandarin speaking guide and very poor lunch (they say...) As we had regular complaints about the cleanliness, crowds and overall service of this cruise beyond our control we stopped to book the Chinese cruise.
- Smaller motorised rafts leave near Yangdi and generally stop in Xing Ping, a 40min bus ride from Yangshuo. For more information about a cruise per smaller motorised boat see our Yangshuo Li-river bamboo rafting tour page.
- Important: Please note that with all cruise options the guide and lunch can be disappointing. The English speaking guide is hired, appointed and paid by the cruise companies as a mandatory safety precaution to assist foreign travellers who do not speak mandarin in case of an emergency. These guides are paid very little and will try to earn commissions on anything. They might say the lunch is very little or very poor (the latter can be true) so you'd order from an expensive commissioned menu. They may appoint you to the 1st floor and try to upsell seats on the 2nd floor (deluxe cruise) at an extra charge. They might say Yangshuo has nothing else to offer to sell their own afternoon tour. Yangshuo Insider has absolutely no connections with any of these guides and we advise to simply ignore the commercially driven negativity of these people and have it not affect your experience in any way. If you choose not to book your own private guide with us, chances are you'll find private guides on the boat that will be more helpful, friendly and are a true reflection of the hospitality and generosity the Chinese people are known for here.
Li-river cruise schedule and prices
Boats all leave between 9.00-9.30 in the morning. If you arrive at the Guilin airport before 7.00AM you could still make it for the cruise that morning with a private transfer per taxi or mini-van but this is not recommended because if your flight would be delayed you would miss the cruise. That is why most service providers will refuse to arrange tickets for those who arrive on an early flight the same day but if you can find one, the ride per taxi or larger mini-van would take about 1h20min and the cost would be about 320 CNY by taxi or 450 CNY by van.
So coming to Yangshuo on a Li river cruise generally requires an overnight stay in Guilin. Cruise departs at 09:30 with pick-up between 08:00 - 08:20 depending on location of your Guilin hotel. You would arrive Yangshuo between 13:30 - 15:30 (summer/winter). From your hotel in Guilin, the train or bus station or anywhere else in the centre of Guilin, there are 2 options in terms of pick-up for the Li river cruise; shared or private. Shared group transfers are included in your ticket while private transfers to the Guilin wharf (located about 40min south of the centre of Guilin) are optional.
Pick-up vans provide ample storage for luggage and on all of the below cruises luggage can be taken on board with you.
If you haven't done so already, be sure to watch our own Yangshuo video directed by Bernardo Salce with the highlights of Yangshuo in terms of scenery, culture and possible experiences for you.
Update 03/2017: Shared pick-up times have changed and passengers are now requested to be ready at 07:20 for the group pick-up that may arrive as late as 08:20am. Because of this inconvenience we now organise and include private pick-ups for all cruise types.
The below tickets & prices include a private pick-up, the river cruise - Basic Lunch (no additional menu items) and an English speaking guide (present but hired by the cruise company beyond our service)
Superior River cruise (Luxurious)
Li river cruise with shared pick-up per mini-van
Adult tickets cruise (including children >1.5m): First floor 745 CNY (~ 108 US$) / Second floor 815 CNY (~ 118 US$)
Children tickets cruise (1.2-1.5m): 425 CNY (~ 62 US$)
Free tickets cruise (<1.2m): Free
Includes private transfer.
Deluxe - Shared: Deluxe River cruise with shared pick-up
Li river cruise with group pick-up (no shopping tour)
Total price shared transfer + cruise (+ 'safety' guide)
Adult tickets (including children >1.5m): 470 CNY (~ 68 US$)
Children tickets (1.2-1.5m): 240 CNY (~ 35 US$)
Free tickets (<1.2m): Free
Includes private transfer.
Warning: Too often we hear sad stories of travellers being scammed and taken on shopping tours (the free 'pick-up service'), being accommodated on cheaper boats (first time visitors may not notice the difference until arrival), boat trips cut short with a surprising bus tour to Yangshuo or taken on smaller motorised rafts that are enjoyable when the weather is nice, but not quite when it isn't, and are certainly not what you paid for... So do inform yourselves well about the inclusions of your river tour in detail or simply have us book the Li-river cruise for you. While we make it a policy not to mention anything negative about a service provider in general, beware of the CITS travel agencies that clutter the country.
Li River Cruise Ticket Reservation
More river trips in Yangshuo
For an over view of river trips on the Li-river per smaller bamboo raft with prices see our Yangshuo Li river bamboo rafting tour page. For an overview of river trips on the Yulong river (Dragon river) per real bamboo raft with schedules and cost check our Yangshuo Yulong river bamboo rafting page.
For a different experience be your own driver on the quietest part of the Li-river, check out our Kayaking in Yangshuo page.
Due to its arrival in the early afternoon, travelers coming per Li-river cruise will often enjoy the impressive Liu San Jie light show the same evening.
Li river cruise from Yangshuo to Guilin
This service has been suspended until further notice so we suggest not to count on this option while this notice remains.
In March 2015 it had again become possible to enjoy the Li-river scenery on a Li-river cruise starting from Yangshuo in the direction of Guilin. This part covers the impressive landscape between XingPing and Yangdi, including the Li-river scenery immortalised on the national 20Y bank notes. This cruise starts a little North of Yangshuo (with free pick-ups from centrally located hotels or these countryside accommodations and ends in Yangdi form where there are local buses to either Guilin or back to Yangshuo. The main advantages of the cruise from Yangshuo to Yangdi are:
- There are fewer boats and passengers since the majority travels the best-known stretch.
- It can shorten the bus or taxi ride back to Guilin in a very enjoyable way.
- The cruise from Yangshuo to Yangdi does not require a night in the large city of Guilin, an extra bonus.
- You could also enjoy the cruise as a most enjoyable part of your transfer back to Guilin since the end of the cruise at Yangdi is located along the way from Yangshuo to the center and airport in Guilin.
Boats taking passengers from Yangshuo to Yangdi are the deluxe type with a covered air conditioned seating area. The cruise generally starts between 9.00 - 10.00 in Yangshuo and sometimes runs in the afternoon as well. Upon arrival in Yangdi a bus will bring you back to Yangshuo. Note that there is no English speaking guide aboard but that is not a big miss on the river and there is no lunch served as well but there are a few small local eateries in Yangdi.
Note: Since its relaunch we have noticed that the cruise from Yangshuo to Yangdi does not run on every day and needs confirmation the day before.
|Getting There: Pick-ups from hotels in or near the center are included in the ticket price.|
|Times/Duration: About 3-4 hrs on the water.|
|Prices: Unavailable for the moment.|
|Booking Information: Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Li-river cruise Guilin Yangshuo some useful reviews
W0w, we loved the Li river cruise. The scenery is spectacular. Thoroughly enjoyed the river trip. Met people from all over the world as we sailed along. On the advice of friends we arranged a box lunch at our hotel to take on the trip. Very glad we did as the food was not very appealing to us.
The Li river scenery is amazing. We were on the boat for about 4 hours. When we first boarded it was raining and we were seated at tables downstairs. We were not too keen on this and ventured upstairs to find it had stopped raining. We stood on the upper deck for the whole trip and did not once get tired of the magnificent views. From small bamboo rafts latching on to our boat to try and sell fruit to the beautiful mountain scenery, this was like floating in a dream.