Originating in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and ending 3,900-miles (6,300 km) at the East China Sea, the Yangtze River meanders through 10 provinces and nine cities, including Chongqing, Yichang, Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai.
Cruising along Asia's longest river is a breathtaking four-day journey that starts upstream at Chongqing and ends 200 miles (320 km) downstream in either Yichang or back at Chongqing.
Duration: 3 hours (to Chongqing); 2.5 hours (to Yichang)
To get to the Yangtze River, travelers must first fly to Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, 16.7 miles (27km) from Chaotianmen Port, where cruise ships depart on multi-day tours of the Yangtze River.
There are more than a dozen daily flights from Beijing Capital International Airport and the new starfish-shaped Beijing Daxing International Airport to Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport. Arriving passengers can then take a private transfer for the 40-minute ride to the cruise ship terminal. While there is a light rail, shuttle buses, and buses that make the trip from the airport to the port, a taxi or private transfer is the most convenient, direct, and efficient option.
Alternatively, travelers can fly to Yichang. There are two daily flights from Beijing Capital International Airport to Yichang Sanxia Airport, which is 16 miles (26 km) from Yichang's city center, and then take a private transfer to either New Century Port (a 45-minute ride from the airport) or Taohuacun Port (a 40-minute ride). The port you go to depends on which cruise ship you are taking.
There are shuttle buses from the airport to each port, but a taxi or private transfer is the most convenient, direct, and efficient option.
Duration: 11 to 27 hours (to Chongqing); 6.5 to 18 hours (to Yichang)
Two high-speed trains make the journey from Beijing West Railway Station to Chongqing, with one train going to Chongqing North Railway Station (also called Longtou Si Railway Station) and the other going to Chongqing West Railway Station.
In addition, a half dozen long-haul trains depart Beijing West Railway Station and arrive at either Chongqing West Railway Station or Chongqing North Railway Station. From here, take a taxi or private transfer to Chaotianmen Port. We do not recommend taking the train, particularly the local trains, because of the lengthy journey.
Travelers opting to start their Yangtze River cruise from Yichang can take one of two daily bullet trains from Beijing West Railway Station to Yichang East Railway Station and then take a 20-minute private transfer or taxi to New Century Port or Taohuacun Port.
We do not recommend taking the bus from the train station to either port because it takes more than two hours. Likewise, we do not recommend any of the four local trains that run from Beijing West Railway Station to Yichang East Railway Station as these take 12 or more hours.
Second-class, first-class, and Business Class seats are options on all bullet trains from Beijing to Chongqing or Yichang. Long-haul local trains offer hard and soft sleeper options as well as hard seats from Beijing to Chongqing or Yichang. Most trains have a food counter with simple fare like xīhóngshì chǎo jīdàn (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) and there are hot water dispensers to use for making instant noodles, coffee, and tea. Most of the local trains have snack carts that are pushed through each train car.
If you decide to take the night train and book a hard bed option, don't be surprised if you wander off to the restroom or dining car and return to your door-less cabin to find other passengers sitting on the foot of your bed or even curled up in your lower berth bed. Booking a soft sleeper (there are four beds in each cabin) is more comfortable and secure as there is a door that locks.