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Freighter Travel and Freighter Cruises Get You There Slooowly

Take a Slow Boat to China or Chile

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container vessel on Baltic Sea
Hans-Peter Merten/Photodisc/Getty Images

One or Two by Sea

Boat travel is a charming alternative to long haul flying. A little known and cheap boat travel option, freighter travel, is popular with student travelers and adventurers of all ilk. And with Easy Cruise ships bobbing up in world ports, "regular" cruises are now navigating the cheap boat travel fun lanes. So what's up with freighter travel, cruises and boat travel in general?

About Freighter Travel

Freighter travel is more expensive than flying (fares range from $65 -$130 per person per day, depending on the freighter company you travel with) but it's a life changing experience. Freighter boats travel the same seas as do their luxurious sisters in cruise lines like Cunard, but there the boat travel similarities only begin. Because of the length of freighter boat trips (Long Beach, California to Tokyo generally takes about 13 days), you'll have time to strike up friendships and possibly meet travelers returning home - your destination area - who can become contacts and give you valuable travel tips.

How Freighter Travel Works

Most freighter travel is set up in the form of a cruise that returns to a starting point, but almost all freighter companies offer one-way fares, which is the way for you to go. You can set up one-way trips, or "segments", as they're called in the freighter industry, and arrange for a segment to get there and a segment to get home. Or you can choose to fly either way - taking a boat to your destination can be a great segue from your busy life here to your busy life there, but you may want to fly back in the interest of time.

Freighter Travel Cost and Booking / Reservations

Hopping a cargo boat without a reservation and with the intent of working off your passage is seldom feasible; most freighter company crews come from the Pacific and Far East and the captain is seldom looking for a temporary boy/girl Friday.

How much does freighter travel cost?

How can I book freighter travel?

  • Go through Freighter Cruises - a freighter boat travel agency (yep, there is such a thing).

About Cruise Ships

Freighter, or cargo boat, travel is the most economical, not to mention interesting, way to sail the high seas, but if you just won big bucks on a game show, you might consider a luxury ocean liner. Bear in mind that fellow cruise ship passengers are very likely to be older and the cruise ship atmosphere far more formal and insulated than that of a freighter boat, though; if you're carrying only a backpack and the passengers in the next cabin have mounds of matched luggage, you may not have much in common... (Go to the next page to read more on cruise ships, including Easy Cruise, and boat travel packing).

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