At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks

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Whitewater rafting has become such a popular extreme sport among travelers that many destinations around the world have become famous for their thrilling and challenging rivers.

You can go whitewater rafting in New Zealand, Thailand, Italy, the United States, and pretty much any country with river rapids.

As fun and exciting as it may be, we can’t forget that whitewater rafting entails an element of risk due to the elements of nature.

No matter how easy or challenging your rafting experience might be; you should always follow these basic tips to ensure that your thrilling experience is as safe as possible.

Whitewater Rafting in Thailand

1. Prepare beforehand

If you have never gone rafting, you should educate yourself on the sport. Know what it is and what you should be capable of doing.  Be honest with yourself. Don’t try doing a Class IV or higher river on your first ride.

2. Know your physical limitations

Are you a good swimmer? Can you endure upper body exercises for a couple of hours? If so, good! If not, try taking some swimming lessons before your trip. Exercising your upper body is good for achieving some resistance on longer rafting trips.

3. Know the classifications

Rivers are classified into six classes –from Class I (easy) to Class VI (likelihood of death if attempted).

For first-timers, a Class II (or even Class III) is a good place to start while still having a thrilling experience. Choose your Class according to your physical limitations.

Whitewater Rafting in Thailand

4. Know the river

Rivers have different behaviors during the year. Summer rafting is usually calmer due to low water volume. On the other hand, some rivers take advantage of the melting snow –more water flow– and some even have daily dam releases.

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5. Check local regulations

Some countries might have an age limitation to raft. Some places don’t allow rafters under the age of 12.

6. NEVER go rafting alone

Rafting should never be done solo. If you’re a newbie rafter, try going with an experienced guide. If you’re experienced, do go with other experienced rafters.  But never alone.

Whitewater Rafting in Thailand

7. ALWAYS listen to your guide

Your guide knows what you should do and when to do it during your trip. DO always follow their instructions. Common things you will hear during your raft will be: lean left/right, bounce, sit in/out, paddle, stop paddling, and high five!

8. Don’t drink alcohol before your whitewater rafting trip

I know you want to have fun, right? But drinking alcohol before rafting will not only endanger you but also be a risk to other rafters.

9. Do not raft in the dark

Rafting should be done while there is plenty of sunlight. Try coordinating your trip so that it ends before darkness falls.

In some rivers, there is “moonlight” rafting, but this should only be done with well-experienced companies and guides. Rafting in a pitch-black river can be kind of creepy!

Whitewater Rafting in Thailand

10. Choose a good life jacket

ALWAYS wear a life jacket and helmet. Your life jacket should feel comfortable –not too big and not too small. It shouldn’t reduce your movements’ flexibility.

11. Always have a good grip

Feel comfortable where you are sitting and know how you can get a good grip (with your hands and feet). The ride will most likely be jumpy, and you don’t want to fall all the time, right?

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12. Float feet forward

If you get to fall in the water, when possible, do try to jump back into the raft; if not, float with your feet forward.

Your feet should float right at the “top” of the water, this will prevent them from getting stuck between rocks or injuring yourself. Let yourself go with the current, and NEVER try standing in the river.

Whitewater Rafting in Thailand

These are some of the most important tips you should follow in order to have a successful, safe, and thrilling whitewater rafting experience. Go on and try it, the thrill and adrenaline will make you want to do it again!

Do you know of any other tips? Share it with us…

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  1. Rishikesh has become a main hub of river rafting in Rishikesh, North India. It’s an adventure sport best enjoyed with expert rafters and trainers staying at a white sand beach next to the river. It’s one of the much loved destinations of every adventure fan and rafting down the mighty Ganges is every adventure seekers dream come true.
    White Water Rafting in Rishikesh along Kodiyala, Marine Drive, Shivpuri and Bhrampuri lure adventure water sports lovers of all grades offering rafting tracks of different grades and interesting rapids like Golf 3 Blind Mice, Course, Roller Coaster, Return to Sender and many more. Rishikesh has earned the heading of the river rafting capital of India.

  2. I’m an avid rafter, and I think it’s really important to pack the proper items too! I always make sure to pack the necessary items, but I used to forget sunscreen, extra water, and polarized sunglasses, which help with the glare from the water!

  3. Adrenaline rush are about to explode. There are lots of safety tips that rafters must posses before they go on wild cruise adventure. I never raft in wild river in my life but I was planning to have an awesome adventure like this. The tips that this post have are very important and reliable and I can use that whenever I have a chance to do rafting as well.

  4. Thanks a lot for all of the tips,my brother did a rafting last month and we plan to do it also next month maybe.I’ll keep this in my mind. Thanks!!

  5. Thanks for sharing this. Actually, we are planning for a really challenging adventure-the water rafting.I never raft in wild river in my life and i’m afraid. Anyway, thank for the tips.

  6. I really want to try water rafting coz it looks adventurous .. i will plan for it next month with my friends .. thanks for sharing this post. And also thanks for the tips !

  7. I really want adventures but sad to say I don’t have enough friends to guide and bond together.

    Anyways, It makes useful to me to read this blog so that I know how to deal this adventure.

  8. Thanks for the great tips. I’d imagine it is a good idea for anyone to refresh themselves with the safety tips each time they go as the reflex to try and stand up is a natural reaction and you might not be thinking straight when you are full of adrenalin. Cheers.

    1. You’re right, Lewis. When the adrenaline is rushing, we might not think as “clear” and tend to go with natural instincts like standing up… but knowing these tips can help prevent that.

  9. I didn’t know that you were supposed to float with your feet forward, that’s good to know. I’m going river rafting for the first time next week, and I’m sure I’ll fall out at some point. I think it will be a lot of fun to go out with my friends and experience this, thanks for all the helpful tips!

  10. Whitewater rafting is indeed a popular outdoor sport among travelers but the element of risk is equally high with this sport. You have mentioned almost all the safety tips to ensure safe rafting journey. Thank you so much.

  11. Thank you for sharing these great safety tips. My husband will be taking me rafting for the first time and I am a bit nervous about it. He has been rafting several times but I still hear stories of him or a friend almost drowning. I didn’t know you were supposed to float with your feet up in front of you. I will definitely remember that one!

  12. Thanks you for sharing these great safety tips . I’m from Nepal but live in India at Rishikesh for study and also doing a part time job as a river rafting guide and your tips tips really useful for me. Sir!

  13. Hey
    A nice post. I like rafting a lot but i feel scare. What should i do? Looking forward for your answer as i want to try rafting atleast once.

  14. While a fun activity, you always have to have safety in mind when rafting. I really like that your article here goes over so many of the basic safety concepts for rafting. It’s particularly great to remind readers to always have a life-jacket just in case they capsize.

  15. It’s good to know that upper body exercises can help you with whitewater rafting. My husband wants to go whitewater rafting for his 30th birthday. I will practice swimming and upper body strength training beforehand to prepare.

  16. Thank you for sharing these activities. My fiancé and I are planning to take a break from our hectic work schedule and visit the calmness of New Zealand, now this blog is going to help us plan our trip and activities in a better way.

  17. Thanks for the reminder that visibility is a huge factor when it comes to whitewater rafting. I’d like to start doing a lot more adventurous thing starting next year in order to make up for staying at home for almost two years now. I think that doing extreme outdoor activities will help me get back on track and keep myself active.

  18. It was helpful when you said to know your limitations. My husband and I want to go river rafting. I’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind as we prepare.

  19. Thank you for explaining that taking some swimming lessons is a must before trying rafting, as well as exercising your upper body to achieve some resistance on longer rafting trips. I’m going on a vacation with my friend, and he wants us to try whitewater rafting. I’ll take note of your tip so I’ll come prepared when the trip comes, especially since it’s also my first time.

  20. Thanks for the reminder that it’s important to check the life vest first before riding any sort of boat. I’m interested in going to a whitewater rafting trip soon. I think that will be a good way for me to do some traveling while simultaneously staying active.

  21. My wife and I are interested in river rafting, so we’re looking for safety tips to help us prepare for our next adventure. It’s great that you talked about the importance of wearing a life jacket at all times during our rafting adventure, so we’ll definitely keep it in mind. Thanks for the insight on choosing the right-sized life jacked for rafting.