Last Updated on March 9, 2024

White water rafting is an exhilarating water sport that combines adrenaline-pumping rapids with breathtaking scenery. It’s a must-try activity if you are an adventure seeker looking to try something new.

Places for whitewater rafting worldwide

So where can you go if you want to try white water rafting, what do you need to consider and what else do you need to know? This post will explain all!

Beginner Advice and Tips

Embarking on your first white water rafting adventure is an exhilarating experience. To ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, consider these tips for first-time rafters.

Note though that if you go on an organized rafting trip, the tour company will help you with most of these things:

1. Choose the Right Destination

As a beginner, you will want to seek out a location where you can experience a river that provides Class I or II rapids.

2. Use an Experienced Guide

Whilst white water rafting can be exhilarating, it can also be a somewhat dangerous activity, particularly for a beginner.

It is highly advisable to start by going with a guide or organized white water rafting company, with experienced guides.

3. Travel Insurance

If trying this abroad, do consider if your travel insurance includes cover for dangerous sports (as this activity is likely to be in this category).

Furthermore, you might want to check what insurance coverage the company you are booking the experience with, provides.

4. Wear Appropriate Gear

  • Wearing the right-sized fitting life jacket and helmet is essential.
  • Dress in quick-drying, moisture-wicking clothing and secure footwear.

5. Learn Basic Paddling Techniques

  • Understand the basic paddle commands, such as forward, backward, left turn, and right turn.
  • Practice these commands with your fellow rafters during the trip.

6. Stay Calm and Communicate

  • Remain calm in challenging situations. Panic will only make things worse.
  • Communicate effectively with your fellow rafters. Teamwork is essential.

7. Maintain a Proper Seating Position

  • Sit facing forward on the raft with your feet braced under the thwarts.
  • Keep your center of gravity low to enhance stability.

8. Be Prepared to Get Wet

  • Rafting involves splashing and waves. Embrace the wet and wild nature of the adventure.
  • Secure any valuable items in a dry bag or leave them with the outfitter.

9. Difficulty Levels

White water rivers are classified based on difficulty, ranging from:

  • Class I for beginners
  • to the extreme Class VI.

Understanding these classifications is crucial for selecting a suitable destination.

16 White Water Rafting Destinations

Whitewater rafting in the USA

North America

1. Colorado River, USA

  • Famous for the Grand Canyon section, companies such as Grand Canyon River Rafting offer trips for beginners and advanced adventure seekers.
  • Rafting is possible for all skill levels on these rapids.

2. Salmon River, USA

  • Offers a diverse range of rapids and stunning wilderness.
  • Companies such as Western River Expeditions offer organized trips on the Salmon Rover in Ohio.

3. Ottawa River, Canada

  • Renowned for big waves and challenging rapids.
  • Surrounded by picturesque landscapes.
  • Ottowa City Rafting is worth considering.

South America

4. Futaleufú River, Chile

5. Urubamba River, Peru

  • Flows through the Sacred Valley.
  • Rapids that are fine for beginner and more advanced rafters.
  • Several itineraries are available from Peru Rafting.

6. Bio-Bio River, Chile

  • Remote and pristine wilderness
  • Features challenging Class V rapids
  • Options from Bio Bio Patagonia


7. Tara River, Montenegro

  • Europe’s deepest canyon
  • Crystal-clear waters and diverse landscapes
  • Options from Rafting Montenegro

8. Sjoa River, Norway

  • Surrounded by lush greenery and snow-capped mountains
  • Offers a mix of rapids suitable for all levels
  • A well-respected company running trips here is Rafting Sjoa

9. River Findhorn, Scotland

  • Location: Moray
  • The River Findhorn is known for its challenging rapids and beautiful scenery. The upper section provides thrilling Class IV and V rapids, while the lower section offers a mix of rapids suitable for different skill levels.
  • Learn more from Outdoor Pursuits


10. Kali Gandaki River, Nepal

  • Flows through the world’s deepest gorge
  • Mix of rapids and stunning views of the Annapurna Range
  • Paddling Nepal offers 3 days rafting trips

11. Indus River, India

  • Expansive river with challenging rapids
  • Surrounded by diverse landscapes
  • Options from India-Tours

12. Seti River, Nepal

  • Scenic and less crowded
  • Perfect for both beginners and experienced rafters
  • Paddle Nepal offers a 2-day rafting adventure on the Seti River


13. Franklin River, Australia

  • Remote and pristine wilderness
  • Features challenging rapids and ancient rainforests
  • Frankin River Rafting provides organized rafting on the river

14. Kaituna River, New Zealand

  • Known for the Tutea Falls, a stunning waterfall that is one of the highest that you are likely to raft worldwide
  • A mix of playful rapids and jaw-dropping scenery
  • Try the 1-hour ultimate experience from the award-winning Kaituna River Rafting

15. Rangitata River, New Zealand

  • Flows through the Southern Alps
  • Offers a variety of rapids for different skill levels
  • Mid-Canterbury offers trips on the Rangitata River


16. Nile River

Safety Tips for White Water Rafting

A. Importance of Professional Guides

Engaging with experienced and certified guides is paramount.

Their knowledge of the river, understanding of safety protocols, and ability to navigate challenging conditions ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for all participants.

B. Proper Gear and Equipment

Wearing appropriate gear, including a well-fitted life jacket, helmet, and suitable clothing, is non-negotiable.

Understanding how to use this equipment and ensuring it is in good condition before setting out adds an extra layer of safety.

C. Understanding River Classifications

Participants should familiarize themselves with the river classifications of their chosen destination.

Knowing the characteristics of each rapid level helps rafters anticipate challenges and choose suitable routes.

D. Emergency Procedures

Awareness of emergency procedures, including how to react if someone falls overboard or the raft capsizes, is crucial.

Guides typically provide a pre-trip briefing, but participants should actively engage in learning these procedures.

Planning Your Own Trip

The following is the equipment you may need for white water rafting although, if you use a company such as the ones mentioned earlier in this post, they will normally provide all of the equipment you are likely to need.

Some of this gear is necessary for safety and some for keeping warm and dry. Here’s a comprehensive list of essential gear:

  1. Raft: An inflatable white water raft designed for navigating turbulent waters, available in various sizes to accommodate different group sizes.
  2. Paddles: Every participant should have a paddle designed for white water activities, offering a balance between durability and performance.
  3. Personal Flotation Device (PFD): A crucial safety item providing buoyancy to keep participants afloat; ensure it’s properly fitted and meets safety standards.
  4. Helmet: On these vibrant tumultuous rapids, a helmet can help you if you collide with a rockface, and from any collision.
  5. Wetsuit or Drysuit: Depending on water and weather conditions, choose between a wetsuit, which retains some water for warmth, or a dry suit that keeps you completely dry.
  6. Splash Jacket or Dry Top: These items shield the upper body from water, wind, and cold temperatures.
  7. Throw Bag: A safety item equipped with a floating rope, used for swift water rescues.
  8. First Aid Kit: Injuries can easily happen on a fast river when rafting although most often it will be a bruise, scrape, or cut.
  9. Whistle: In a noisy environment such as a fast-flowing river, a whistle can be extremely effective for catching the attention of others.
  10. Dry Bag: Use a dry bag to protect valuables, extra clothing, and essentials from water during the excursion.
  11. Sun Protection: Maybe not the first thing you might think of but lack of sun protection is something that commonly catches people out when rafting in the summer months.


What are the different classes of rapids?

Rapids are classified on a scale from Class I (easy, small waves) to Class VI (extremely dangerous and not navigable).

The classification helps you choose a suitable level of difficulty for their experience.

Is white water rafting safe?

When conducted with a reputable and experienced rafting company, whitewater rafting can be a safe activity.

Safety measures typically include wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs), helmets, and thorough pre-trip safety briefings.

What should I wear for white water rafting?

Wear quick-drying clothing, such as a swimsuit or rash guard, and sturdy footwear.

Having a spare and warm set of clothes to change into for after the rafting experience is always a great idea.

The rafting company will usually provide a wetsuit if needed.

How long does a rafting trip typically last?

The duration of a rafting trip can vary but is often around 2 to 4 hours on the water.

Some companies though offer 2, 3 or 4-day rafting expeditions.

What type of raft is used, and how many people can it accommodate?

Rafts used for white water rafting are typically inflatable and can accommodate varying numbers of people, commonly ranging from 4 to 10 participants, depending on the raft size.

If I book a guided rafting trip, what do you usually include in the trip cost?

The cost often includes the services of experienced guides, necessary equipment (raft, paddles, PFDs, helmets), transportation to and from the river, and sometimes meals.

Some companies provide waterproof containers for small items, or guides may carry a waterproof camera.

Is there a time of year when it’s best to go white-water rafting?

The best time can vary by location, but spring and early summer are often popular for higher water levels resulting from snowmelt.

However, some rivers are suitable for rafting year-round.

How fit do I need to be to try white water rafting?

You can generally get away with having a fairly basic level of fitness when trying rafting.

If you have any existing medical conditions though it is probably a good idea to inform the tour company.

Make sure to inform the rafting company of any health concerns.

Are there different difficulty levels within a single trip?

Some rivers have sections with varying difficulty levels.

Guides will adapt the experience based on the skill level of the group, providing options for both beginners and more experienced rafters during the same trip.