How can you get from Europe to America by ship? This guide lists different flightless ways to get from Europe to North and South America.
I’ll start this post by commenting the title: yes, I know “America” means much more than the United States of America. Still, I know many people who search “Europe to America without flying” wish to know how to get to the United States. If that’s your goal, you can read the first part of the guide and skip the rest.
For others, I’ve examined flightless travel routes from Europe to both North and South America in the second part of this guide.
Part 1: Europe to USA by ship
You need a ship of some sort to get from Europe to the United States without flying, Many cruise ships cross the Atlantic. However, if you avoid flying for environmental reasons, you should note that cruises and ferries cause a lot more CO2 emissions than flights.
How can you get to the USA in a more environmentally friendly way? If you cross the Atlantic, you can travel on a cargo ship, which is considered almost CO2 neutral. You can also travel on a lighter vessel such as a sailing boat. If you don’t have your own sailing boat, you can try to hitch a ride.
Here’s information about both these options.
Option 1: Crossing the Atlantic on a Cargo Ship
Lots of freighters that take passengers travel from Europe to the USA. The crossing takes roughly 10-15 days. The price of the journey is around 100-150 euros per day, meals included. Here are some cargo ship routes from Europe to the United States:
- Le Havre (France) to New York, 7 nights
- One of the fastest ways to cross the Atlantic to the USA is by taking a freighter from Le Havre, France, to New York.
- Rotterdam (The Netherlands) to Miami, Florida, ~16 nights
- Just like the previous entry, this cargo ship takes you from Central Europe to the Atlantic side of the United States. However, you can get on this freighter from The Netherlands and continue further south on the other side.
- Valencia (Spain) to New York, 11 nights
- You can also start your freighter journey from Europe to America from the Mediterranean Sea. This ship lets you embark in cities such as Barcelona and Valencia.
Option 2: Hitching a Ride on a Sailboat from Europe to the USA
If you want to travel from Europe to America without flying, you can possibly hitch a ride on a sailboat. However, sailboats heading across the Atlantic are most likely to head towards the Caribbean instead of the United States.
It’s not easy, but you could try traveling to the Caribbean first and continue your journey to the United States with another vessel. Because of the long distances, there are very few regular ferries between the countries of the Caribbean. If you wish to travel on a ferry to the United States, you need to reach the Bahamas and take a ferry to Florida.
I’ve gathered more information about crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat in the second part of this guide.
Part 2: Europe to America without Flying
In the section above, I covered two ways to travel overseas from Europe to the United States. Now we focus on ways to travel from Europe to other parts of America.
There are many ways to get from Europe to America without flying. The quickest routes across on a cargo ship take you to North America, but if you wish, you can take a freighter to South America as well. Most sailboats take you to the Caribbean. You can also skip the Atlantic crossing altogether and travel to America without flying by heading east.
Let’s go through these three options – freighter travel, sailing and a journey across Asia – in more detail.
Option 1: Freighter travel from Europe to America
I described how to get from Europe to the United States on a cargo ship at the beginning of this travel guide. Here are a few example routes that take you to other parts of the Americas.
- Liverpool (UK) to Halifax (Canada), 8 nights
- Here’s one of the quickest ways to travel to North America on a freighter. Just head directly to Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. This journey takes a bit more than a week and costs a thousand euros per person.
- Montoir de Bretagne (France) to Kingston (Jamaica), 14 nights
- Caribbean, here we come! This freighter route offers one of the easies overseas ways to reach the Caribbean. Getting from France to Guadeloupe takes only 9 days. You can also continue past the Caribbean Islands to Panama and Colombia.
- London (UK) to Natal (Brazil), ~27 nights
- The route heads from Europe to the Northeast coast of South America. The last stop of South America is in Natal, Brazil. You can cut the journey by multiple nights if you embark in the Netherlands or France instead of England and if you disembark in one of the many harbors preceding Natal.
- Le Havre (France) to Callao (Peru), 23 nights
- Wow, what a journey! Just discovering this route filled my heart with joy. Do you want to get from Europe to the west side of South America with little hassle? This Eurosal XL route takes you there through the Panama Channel.
Option 2: Hitching a Ride on a Sailboat to the Caribbean
If you have your own seaworthy sailboat, you don’t need this guide to tell you how to get from Europe to America on a boat. Here’s information for the others who need to hitch their ride.
There are plenty of guides about boat hitchhkiking. I won’t compete with the experts: if you’re seriously planning to hitchhike a boat, continue your research after my flightless travel guide. But to help you get started, here’s a quick rundown of hitchhiking a boat across the Atlantic.
Websites such as FindACrew.net or Crewseeker.net help you find sailboats that cross the Atlantic. You can also head to a harbour or a yacht club to use the bulletin board (been there!) and ask around. A friend of mine who hitchhiked across the Atlantic found her boat in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. She told me that boats depart from all the Canary Islands. According to her, Las Palmas is the most popular starting point, and Tenerife is a good second choice.
To reach the Canary Islands without flying, you can try to hitchhike from Spain or Portugal. You can also take a ferry from Cadiz or Huelva to Las Palmas. It takes those ferries 32-36 hours to reach their destination.
Boat hitchhiking is not as simple as hitchhiking on dry land. You’ll spend weeks on a small boat, and the captain wants you to be useful during the journey. Having sailing experience beforehand will greatly increase your chances of getting a ride. If you can’t practice with someone you know, consider taking a sailing course to learn the basics.
Crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat usually takes three to four weeks. Your timing matters a lot. According to Kitiara Pascoe, the best season to sail to the Caribbean or South America is between November and February.
Option 3: Europe to America without Flying from West to East
You can also travel from Europe to America without flying by heading east and crossing the Pacific. For example, you can get to the east side of Asia and travel on a freighter (or a sailboat) to America. Here are a few available cargo ship routes from Asia to America:
- Vung Tau (Vietnam) to Los Angeles (USA), 19 nights
- This route gets you from Southeast Asia to the west coast of the United States. You can embark in multiple countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
- Shanghai (China) to to Balboa (Panama), 27 nights
- Your port of departure and port of arrival make a huge difference on the duration of your trip. If you’d embark in Singapore instead of Shanghai, this journey would take 10 days longer.
- Busan (South Korea) to Callao (Peru), 27 nights
- It takes almost a month to get from South Korea to Peru on a cargo vessel. To reach dry land faster, get off in Mexico or Colombia to save 5-11 days.
Traveling from Europe to America by ship
We’ve now gone through multiple ways to get from Europe to America by ferry and other ships. I wrote this guide during the global COVID pandemic, which adds its own challenges. For example, freighters don’t currently (early 2021) take passengers, but the situation should change in the near future. Make sure you check the latest information as you plan your journey.
I haven’t personally travelled from Europe to America without flying. When I did my 2-year trip around the world some years ago, I traveled mostly overland. I reached North America on a cargo ship from New Zealand, and that journey turned me into a fan of freighter travel.
The Atlantic Ocean offers plenty of opportunities for flightless travel. If you’re thinking about switching a long flight to a flightless journey, this is one of your best chances to do so.