Beginners Guide to White Water Rafting Around the World

White Water Rafting is a great way to see the area along a river in an adrenaline fueled activity.  Here is what I wish I knew before I went rafting the first time.   I have asked for guidance from fellow travelers about their first trip, and advice from a few experienced rafters.White Water Rafting

The first time that I went rafting was in Colorado with a very experienced group.  They asked me if I wanted to go on a weekend trip, and one full day was going to be rafting.  Without asking any questions, I said YES!

I did not know about the area, different classes of rapids, what to expect – I just showed up.  Granted, I had a great time, but I was in way over my head, here what I wish that I knew before my first trip.

I should have asked about water conditions, safety gear, what to wear, water temperature, and weather forecast before our adventure!  I never imagined that it would start snowing during our trip, but I would have known and would have prepared if I had just asked a few questions.

Most of all, I should have admitted it was my first time and started on a beginner raft.  I am fit and strong, and I somehow managed to blend in with the experienced group for Class V rapids!  I had no idea what I was in for.  There are six levels of difficulty, we were going to be on rapids for advanced and experts.

Tamz was on a bike tour in Thailand, and seized the opportunity to try rafting for the first time.Tamz_Rafting

It was actually a “rafting only” stop we made during our road trip to Chumphon. The stop lasted for one hour including briefing, queuing up and the actual rafting.

Adventure sports have always attracted me ever since I first caught a documentary on Nat Geo People about rock-climbing. Since then, I knew that I wanted to try some form of adventure sports/activity when I would start traveling. During my trip to Thailand last year where I met up with a few of my traveler friends, we decided to go for white water rafting for two reasons – 1. We all had never tried it before. 2. There is no way I would even think of bungee jumping or skydiving because of my fear of heights.

Instead of taking the usual half-day/full-day trips, we went for just the rafting session during our planned road trip to Chumphon from Phuket. I still remember each and every moment of that one hour starting with the briefing session to getting on to that raft and till the very end of those 7 kilometers on that river. I wasn’t scared because I am a decent swimmer – in case the raft or I toppled over – but once our raft was in the middle of the rapids, those rocks did look intimidating. To explain this experience I can say that was the first feel of Freedom I have had in years. When I was on the raft I was soaking in all the thrill as we meandered vigorously on the rapids and were colliding against those rocks. Those 30 minutes of rafting that day felt like a necessity in my life at that time. That is when I learnt to understand the real meaning of the phrase – “Just Let it Go”.

Tamz offers this excellent advice:

Listen to the instructor carefully during the briefing session before hopping on to the raft. Remember the instructions while you are on the raft. Trust the “captain” guy of the raft – there is a reason why he is in charge. Do not be scared, absorb the thrill and just have fun.

Follow along with Tamz for all of his adventures and wise words at  www.tamzexplores.comFacebookInstagram, and Twitter

Michelle from Just Booked a Flight describes her adventurous side.

I am into extreme activities such as zipline, free fall drop, mountain climbing, etc. I have yet to try skydiving and bungee jumping. I am not really athletic, just adventurous I guess. I want to try activities that most people are afraid of doing.

Most tourists would do white water rafting when they are in Cagayan de Oro City (Philippines) as it is one of the must try activities there. I didn’t know what to expect during our trip, and I don’t regret signing up for that activity. It was an entirely new experience for me, and I would want to do it again if given the chance.

Michelle_Rafting2Michelle offers this parting advice for first timers,

Don’t panic. It’s perfectly safe as long as you follow the guide’s rules and you have the proper safety gear. Have fun, just let the raft follow the rapids, and expect the unexpected!

Michelle_Rafting1Follow along with Michelle on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Hung Thai from Up Up and a Bear is a pretty active guy, and he shares his first rafting experience.Hung_Rafting

I can do most athletic activities and/or sports including, but not limited to, basketball, baseball, football, soccer, street hockey, ultimate Frisbee… okay I’m going to stop here because this could take a while. I also love the water. I was probably a fish in my previous life so white water rafting was a natural fit.

It was an incredible experience, given that it was my first time. We had a few “experienced” folks with us, but all of us were pretty pumped regardless. Because we were so pumped, we were put in the lead boat with the main instructor. Craziness ensued. I personally wanted to make the most of the experience so I pleaded that we go into the most difficult fall or maneuver or whatever at every portion of the run. Our instructor was up for it and we ended up getting pummeled, soaked, destroyed… but it was super fun.

Don’t be afraid. Even if you fall into the water, you’re going to have all the safety gear on you to keep you safe. Just relax and go for it – the crazier the better.

Hung_Rafting2More craziness on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest


Not the first time, experienced rafters Monica and Felicia share their advice for first-timers.

Monica from In a Backpack regularly enjoys camping, geocaching, paddling, and snowboarding.  She spent a half day rafting while recently in Manali, India.

This was my third time white water rafting.  I had previously rafted in northern Minnesota and in northern Colorado.  This experience was different in that we were running rapids for the majority of the trip.  There are four levels of rapids – Class IV are the most extreme.  For this trip, we were running Class IIs which was perfect for the beginners in our group.  Being that it was April and the river was flowing with snowmelt from the mountains, the water was quite chilly.  However that did not stop a few brave souls from jumping in for a swim as it was a warm day.  The trip was planned through the hostel, Zostel, where I stayed and the company they chose had experienced English-speaking guides; I never once felt unsafe.  Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I would highly recommend it no matter your level of experience.

Research your company to the best of your abilities or at least ask questions upon arrival.  You want not only experienced guides but also guides that you feel comfortable with as your life could depend on them.  If it is chilly, ask about renting a wetsuit (Internationally, these are probably not available.)  If these are not available, wear clothes that are lightweight and can dry quickly (No jeans or cotton!). Leave your cameras at home (unless you have a GoPro).  You won’t have time or the ability to snap any action shots and the company will have someone taking photos.  They may be expensive but worth it.

Monica shares her adventure on Facebook and Twitter


Felicia from Ciao Felicia started rafting in middle school and has gone rafting numerous times in California.  Here she shares details on a recent rafting trip with easy and moderate Class 3 rapidsRafting_CiaoFelicia1

Our guides actually scared us in the beginning. They kept telling us stories about how dangerous it could be!  But I guess it was better for us to be prepared than not!  We had so much fun rafting, but it was definitely a long day and everyone was ready to just relax the next day.

Rafting_CiaoFelicia2It’s not that scary.  It seriously might seem like it! But it’s so much fun!!  If you’re hesitant about going, please do it!

Discover the World with Felicia on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest


Excellent advice and photos courtesy from each contributor.  

Anywhere around the world,  these tips will ensure your trip white water rafting is a fun and exciting adventure!  

Have you been White Water Rafting?   Any additional advice to share? 

21 thoughts on “Beginners Guide to White Water Rafting Around the World”

  1. What you said about following the guide couldn’t be more important. Not only is the guide going to keep you safe and ensure you have the proper safety gear, they’re going to make it more fun. They know how to handle the river, they do it over and over day after day. They know the best spots and how to navigate them safely.

  2. I loved what you said about following the guide. Although to us it seems like we’re going to hit disaster, the guide is always calm. I have to remember they are experts in this field. This one time I went I was a nervous wreck. Hopefully this next time I can have more confidence in my guide.

  3. That was the best advice I received before my rafting trip. You should just relax and never panic. It’s really not as scary as it seems when you follow the rules.

    1. The Colorado trip was my first time, and I have been rafting a few times since. I still have not attempted another Class V rapids!

  4. i don’t have the place for this in my location but i enjoy watching it on the TV, so cute and the adventurous feel it gives does some soothing magic to the mind.

  5. I LOVE rafting! If there is rafting available in a place I visit- I’m definitely doing it. So far, I’ve done it in the US, Thailand, and… even Korea. I’m about to go on my 4th rafting trip (2nd in the US) and I cannot wait 😀

    1. Awesome! I am in for rafting, kayaks, boats of any kind – any excuse to be on or near the water!

  6. Oh wow these stories have made me want to go rafting again! I only went once, in Thailand and was a little underwhelmed. To be fair, it was a super easy route and we had two experience guides who directed us. I think I would definitely enjoy it more if it was a little more challenging (maybe not class V though!!). Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. What an adventurous bunch of travellers! I tried rafting once and was very motivated NOT to fall out of the raft after I saw several HUGE water snakes.

  8. I’ve been rafting a few times and loved it! But my advice comes from someone else’s experience, not my own. In Nepal I met two girls who’d gone rafting that day, and their upper legs were BURNT so badly! With the cold water they didn’t realize just how much sun their legs were getting while they were sitting in the raft. So even on an overcast day, make sure you either use a really good waterproof sunscreen or wear something that covers your legs!

  9. I agree to admit your level of inexperience. Experienced rafters love it and are good at it, but they had to start somewhere too, and I’ve found whenever I go onto a river, the more experienced paddlers are thrilled to spread their wisdom!

  10. I always get myself in trouble by not stating it’s my first time. From horse riding to white water rafting on the Nile, it’s always been a bad idea to not come clean. So yes, do tell people you’re a beginner! Especially when white water is concerned.

  11. I can certainly associate with your experience. I was in over my head too the first time I went, literally. Half our raft was thrown overboard and it was not the most pleasant experience of my life.

    1. Sorry to hear your first trip was not pleasant. A shorter, easier area might be a good way to try it again, and enjoy it this time!

  12. Woot woot! It was fun reliving the experience through this article Jen. Rafting is really fun and has many different levels to match every skill level. And even if you fall in, you’ll find it rather satisfying 🙂 DOOOOO ITTTTT

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