The high-speed rail network may have expanded as far as Guilin, but travel beyond this to rural Yangshuo is strictly by road or river. It's possible to rent a car (with driver) or take the bus for the 52-mile (84 km) stretch, but for an utterly scenic excursion through the soaring karst cliffs, opt for a journey by boat (or bamboo raft). You can also combine a trip to Guilin and Yangshuo with this 13-day itinerary.
If you plan to visit the Yulong River Valley, take note: all motorized vehicles except the designated shuttle bus have been banned from entering the Yulong River Park area since 2017. If you take a taxi or private car, the driver will need to drop you at the entrance to the park. From there you can walk, cycle, or catch the park shuttle to your destination.
Journey Time: 1-1.5 hours
The easiest and quickest way to get from Guilin to Yangshuo is to book a private transfer through a travel agency or your hotel. Standard taxis are a less attractive option, not least because drivers coming from Guilin tend not to know their way around Yangshuo and will try to drop you at the main bus station, leaving you to find onward transport to your hotel.
In either case, ensure that your driver takes the G65 highway (and have change ready to pay the toll) rather than subjecting you to the older, bumpier, uglier, road-rage-inducing G321. Note too that the most fabulous beauty spots between Guilin and Yangshuo are nestled within the Yulong River Valley area-where cars can no longer enter.
Duration: 1.5 hours
Express buses leave every 30 minutes from the Guilin Bus Terminal by Zhongshan Zhong Lu, near Guilin Railway Station and terminate at the Yangshuo bus terminal. You need to buy your ticket from the counter inside the terminal.
If you're feeling adventurous, minibuses depart every 20 minutes from the square in front of the Guilin Railway Station, also destined for the bus terminal at Yangshuo. Note that for minibuses you buy the ticket on the bus itself; ignore any annoying touts trying to convince you otherwise as you approach or try to board. The Express bus takes 90 minutes to reach Yangshuo, whereas the minibus stops all over the place at will, making it hard to predict the journey time.
Duration: 4-5 hours
The most relaxing way to get to Yangshuo is to catch a morning boat from Zhejiang Wharf or in some cases Mo Phan Shan Dock. The Wharf is around 30 minutes' drive away from downtown Guilin. From here, you board the boat and float along the Li River, taking in the majestic landscape along the way-including a scene that famously features on the CNY20 note.
This trip is enormously popular, with several boat companies of wildly ranging quality all jostling for customers. The 4-star boats are the most luxurious. If you're unsure, ask to see a photo of the type of boat the company uses before booking a ticket.
By Bamboo Raft
Duration: 5 hours in total (2 hours on the raft)
For something completely unique, you can also take a four-person covered "raft" modeled on the bamboo style traditionally used by Chinese fishermen. After making your way by car or bus to the dock in Yangdi, you board the raft and sit on bamboo armchairs under a canopy to protect you from the sun, while a boatman directs the raft with the help of a long-tail outboard motor.
The two-hour trip takes you from Yangdi to Xinping, with the option to stop along the way to take photos or eat at local restaurants on the riverbank. From there, you can explore the village before taking onward travel by road (either a bus or taxi) for the final 45 minutes to Yangshuo. Note that this form of transport is entirely weather dependent.