Can you really travel around the world by cargo ship?

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If you don't like air travel, travelling by cargo ship is an excellent alternative

If you’ve ever had your car shipped overseas and wondered if it were possible to travel with it and save a little money, or wanted to take more luggage than a regular airline allows, many cargo ships actually do allow passengers onboard. Traveling by cargo ship is a fascinating way to see the world.

It is a unique experience, far more relaxed than you would imagine. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t have to stay in shared accommodation, nor are you allowed to work for your passage.

Hundreds of cargo ships, carrying everything from fire engines to apples, sail across the oceans and many are more than happy to take passengers along for the journey. Here are 6 things to keep in mind if you want to travel by cargo ship:

1. Book well in advance
Remember to book your passage up to 6 months in advance

Most cargo ships only have a few guest cabins available so you should book your trip up to 6 months in advance to ensure that you get a place on a ship that departs at a convenient time for you. Remember to get in touch with a port agent before you depart to double check the arrival date, and to arrange for immigration to stamp your passport.

2. Life onboard the ship
There will often be only a handful of passengers onboard

Remember that you will be traveling on a working vessel. They have none of the organized games or shows of a luxury cruise. You’re likely to be one of only a handful of passengers amongst the crew, and the food is not likely to be gourmet fare. Captains and crew spend a lot of time on the water and are usually happy to have fresh faces around. The sailors may even invite you to happy hours or karaoke nights.

3. What is included?
Unlike a luxurious cruise, you have to make your own entertainment

Booking passage aboard a cargo ship usually includes meals, accommodation, and port fees as well as up to 200kg of luggage, though exact amounts can vary. You may have to carry your own books or DVDs for entertainment and can leave them onboard for the next passengers.

4. Health concerns
Cargo ships, unlike navy or cruise vessels, do not usually have doctors onboard

Working cargo ships usually do not have a doctor on board, so they require that you be healthy and fit enough to take the voyage. Generally, people over 80, or those with medical conditions that would affect their journey are not permitted as passengers, as there will be no doctor to help.

5. Cost of Cargo Ship Travel
Traveling by cargo ship may not be cheap, but it is a unique experience

Traveling by cargo ship may not be the inexpensive mode of transportation that some might imagine. With an average price of US$80 – 130 per day, it is more expensive than your average airfare. But keep in mind that this pays for accommodation, food, large amounts of luggage, and an experience that cannot be had anywhere else.

6. Where can you go?
Try to be flexible with schedules, as dates can vary

You can travel almost anywhere in the world by cargo ship. The immense size of the global shipping industry means that most large ports welcome numerous ships every day. Shipping lines will also let you book for a certain segment of their trip, or one way and round trips. Just be flexible about schedules. Departure dates and ports of call are often subject to change based on the cargo.

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