Travelling By Cargo Ship

DSC_6932.JPGTravelling by cargo ship or freighter is an appealing option for the adventurous cyclist.

You get to avoid airport stress, for a start. There are no bike boxes or worries about your trusty steed getting lost.

Best of all, you can continue a long journey while still being in touch with the earth’s contours and experiencing life on the high seas.

Finding out about cross-ocean and long-distance sea travel is not the easiest type of travel to get information on though so here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Forget about working. Paying your way across the ocean on a cargo ship by working is not an option anymore because of insurance and union regulations. If you want to work, try crewing on a private yacht.
  • Plan far ahead. Cargo ships typically have only a few berths and the most popular routes or ones with few ships travelling them may be booked up months ahead. We asked in September about a sailing in May, only to find it was full – eight months before departure!
  • Examine routes before you leave. Not all parts of the world are connected by ship and there are certain routes and patterns that freighters tend to follow. A vessel may stop in a country but you may not be able to board or disembark there. The motto here is research, research, research to see if the trip you want to do is possible.
  • Ask about visas. You may not need a visa to fly into the U.S.A. but you will need one to arrive by ship. Countries sometimes have special regulations for those arriving by sea.Leaving Port
  • Save up some cash. Freighter trips aren’t cheap. Trans-ocean voyages easily reach €1,500-2,000.
  • Plan for at least 7 days at sea. New regulations mean plenty of paperwork, and that means shipping companies now want you to be on board for at least a week, to recoup costs. Shorter trips are still sometimes possible, but there may be a surcharge.
  • Provide your own entertainment. This isn’t a cruise ship so don’t expect evening cabaret shows and room service. There may be a swimming pool or ping pong table but mostly you should entertain yourself. Bring that unfinished manuscript.
  • Be flexible. Dates can change and so can ports. If you absolutely have to be somewhere on a certain day, you’d better fly. “Our trip from the USA to Europe changed 3 times after initial booking,” say Scott and Becky of GoingEast. “It started as a trip from Charleston SC to Brussels Belgium, then changed to Savannah Georgia to Gioa Tauro Italy, and finally has changed to Port Everglades, Florida to Gioa Tauro Italy. Had we not been flexible with our departure times and locations, things would not have worked out.”
  • Do it before you’re too old. Cargo ship passengers have to be in good health, both to climb long sets of stairs and because there are no doctors on board. A medical certificate of general good health is often required from your GP. An upper age limit is common.

Still want to know more?

Companies to contact include: Freighter Travel NZ (the company we travelled with), NSB Shipping CompanyAndrew Weir CruisesCargo Ship Cruises and Frachtschiffreisen (in German).

You can listen to an interview we did with Hamish, the owner of Freighter Travel NZ.

For further reading and inspiration, go to another article we wrote – Adventure on the High Seas: Travelling by Cargo Ship Around the World. Other helpful links include:

Happy Sailing!


  1. mr ray worboys
    8th June 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    information on traveling from england to brisbane ? australia by ship cargo ship ?? ray worboys

    • friedel
      8th June 2010 at 10:00 pm #

      Hi Ray, have you contacted the companies listed on this page? They’re probably the best place to start for finding out the latest cargo ship routes. We did meet a guy who travelled between Europe and Australia by ship so it is possible

  2. Linda Barington
    13th August 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Hi Ray,
    Sorry I just realised I should have pressed the reply button. Yes so I wanted to let you know to check these people at Sea Travel Ltd. They have passages to Australia. I have done a Transatlantic with them in July this year. email: [email protected]

    • ray worboys
      22nd December 2010 at 12:42 pm #

      Thank you Linda for your reply to my query on 13th Aug, with details you sent me by travelling to Australia by cargo ship, unfortunately had a knee replacement operation and so am restricted for few months on travelling.
      Best wishes to you

  3. ron
    16th December 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    hi Linda what sort of price are we talking about,
    i have always wanted to do slower
    i have been to Australia and to UK from Australia but on passenger boats,cheers ron

  4. Adrian
    22nd October 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Many thanks for this article especially, and the website overall. I can see I will need to keep coming back to it time and again for assistance.
    Am trying so hard to avoid flying, as you lose that connection with the place you are travelling through, and thanks to the links above, I have finally resolved how I will get from Africa across to South America.

  5. kieran
    13th November 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    please can anyone email me freight or cargo companies which travel from the uk to Australia!

    thanks kieran

  6. daren
    22nd November 2012 at 12:17 am #

    I’m looking travel w/my friend and motorcycle, by passenger freight from Florida/Texas to Mexico, Belize or Coast Rica. Does anyone one know if this is possible. Looked on line all day, I haven’t called any passenger freight agencies yet/ freight companies

  7. Tania
    6th March 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    I am looking to travel by cargo for a transatlantic tour from any port in Europe to Cuba. I’ve been looking for a long time without finding any cargo ship stopping in cuba. Could you perhaps help me?
    Many thanks in advance.


    • Peter
      23rd November 2015 at 9:23 pm #

      23.11.15 – Hi, Tania, thinking for some time already about travelling Cuba by cargo ship and cycling once round suggar island, I’ve tryed in vain to get a ride there until now. Hope you will be more succesful! You know, there have been services for a while by W.E.C. – Holland Maas Container Line (c/o Wec Nederland Bv Albert Plesmanweg 59 P.o. Box 59235 -CEO- [email protected]) offering cargo services to Cuba and the French Antilles since 2004. By now, there should be as well services from U.S. ports! Buena suerte, Tania, y saludos – Peter

  8. zaheer mehmood
    2nd May 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    can any one tell me which route from dubai to itlay by ship please if know please reply me

  9. Dimitrios Marantidis
    3rd December 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    I would like to know if there is a cargo ship that I can travel from Florida, USA to Greece at any time and what will be the price for me traveling to Greece by cargo ship as I used to do 35-40 years ago.

  10. Dimitrios Marantidis
    3rd December 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I did went around the globe 2 times. Via the Suez canal before closed that time in 1967 and via South Africa all the way around the globe and pass the Panama Canal to Golf of Mexico. Was a different life then but now it is another globe or another world to all of us that we are not familiar so much.

  11. Dimitrios Marantidis
    4th September 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    Here I am again. Still I am trying to find a cargo ship to travel from USA to Greece. I am not able to travel by air due to my medical conditions and only by cruise liner or preferable by cargo ship as I was traveling in the early 70’s and even in the early 80’s and went around the globe a few times as I did started in the late 60’s.

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