Your Options for Traveling the Yangtze River

Beautiful Yangtze

Most people who go to China also want to visit the Yangtze River. For some, a tour of a few hours is more than enough, whereas others want to book on a full cruise lasting several days or weeks. So what are some of the options you have available?

Domestic and Tourist Class Boats

The first thing you have to understand that here are two classes of boats on the Yangtze. Domestic class boats are rated by the Congqing Municipal Government (CMG) and tourist class boats are rated by the National Tourism Administration (NTA). The CMG rates boats either 2 or 3 star, whereas the NTA rates boats as 3, 4 or 5 star. A 3 star NTA rating is much better than a 3 star CMG rating in terms of the comfort and amenities you can expect on board.

the-three-gorges YangtzeDomestic Cruise Boats

Domestic cruise boats are cheaper, which is why people choose them. However, they have really been designed for local people. The public facilities are limited and badly kept and you are supposed to spend your time inside your cabin. If you’re lucky, your cabin will have air conditioning. The boats can carry up to 400 passengers and most will share cabins. The cabins often have up to 12 bunk beds, meaning they sleep 24. If you do get to a shore excursion, you will spend hours queuing to get on and off the boat first. This is why these tours tend to last longer than tourist boats as well.

There are usually no dining facilities on board. A small canteen may be available with some basic snacks. Most prefer to bring their own pot noodles and eat these in their air conditioned cabins.

Yangtze CruiseTourist Cruise Boats

The domestic boats do not paint a pretty picture. However, they are unbelievably cheap and some people like the ‘authentic’ experience it gives them. If that’s not you, then a tourist class boat may be better. Only around 120 people will be accommodated on these, as more space is needed for improved facilities. You can expect:

  • Twin share, river facing cabins with en suite that includes a shower and modern toilet.
  • A large dining hall for all guests, although some prefer two sittings to save space.
  • Specific viewing decks from where you can see the Three Gorges and other special spots in China (the Three Gorges is, for many, the reason for going in the first place).
  • Various features such as Karaoke, a bar, craft shops, massage and other services, including a doctor on board and guides who speak English.

As you can see, there are two main options available to you, and both those options take you along the same track. One is very cheap, very authentic and very uncomfortable. The other is far more up to Western standards, which takes away from the authenticity and is more expensive. However, vacations are never cheap anyway, so it would be recommended to opt for the tourist class boat.



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