Planning a low budget and environment friendly trip to Iceland from Helsinki, Finland next summer for me and my friend. Haven't been able to find relevant information on possibility for cargo travel (from where - eg. Norway, Denmark? - timetables, prices etc). Expected departure from Helsinki around June 18th, return at latest on July 7th 2015. I'm very thankful for any related advice (and first time on stackexchange, so apologies if I didn't formulate my question in a best possible way)

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    +1! I did this but it was a long time ago. I went to Baltimore Port and started asking people on the various ships until someone agreed. Any destination was fine, but a ship to Iceland agreed. I had a motorcycle at the time and the captain wanted a bit extra to store it. Don't know if the same tactic will work in Helsinki though...
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 8:09
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    Why do you wish to travel by cargo ship rather than by regular ferry from Hirsthals?
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 17:03
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    @CGCampbell - airplanes release .8063 kg of CO2 per Ton-Mile versus 0.0403 kg of CO2 per Ton-Mile for cargo ships. So, if you're worried about CO2 (though ships and their heavy bunker fuel releases much more of other pollutants), air travel is about 20 times worse than ships.
    – Johnny
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 21:36
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    @CGCampbell You might stand by your comment but it doesn't make much sense. The fact that air travel is more convenient/economical/desirable does not make it environmentally friendly. And Johnny's point is spot on: Ships already carry a lot more freight more efficiently (in terms of energy) than airplanes. Adding passengers to the mix, as unrealistic as it is, would not change this.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 16:08
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    And your new arguments don't make more sense and even contradict your earlier comment. Obviously kayaks are even more unrealistic so they won't stop people from flying. OTOH, if you want to argue they are good because of low emissions then it follows that even dirty freighters are better than planes. In any case, if you think individual choices do not matter because planes are flying anyway, you ought to consider freighter travel as essentially carbon-free: Unlike airlines passenger demand does not play any role in this market. You can't have it both ways. Beyond that, please use the chat.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


I don't know if boarding a freighter by asking around in the port or approaching the ship's captain is still possible nowadays, many things I read suggest it is not. In a large port like Rotterdam, there is also no way to get anywhere near most ships without a car and some credentials.

On the other hand, there are many opportunities to travel on a freighter through an agency but this is not particularly cheap. I have also never heard of a ship linking Finland and Iceland directly (although it seems possible I guess). Answers to Where can I get information on freighter travel? and What is the cheapest available freighter voyage anywhere? provide a lot of info on these agencies and some typical trips but you will need to approach one of them with your needs to see what's possible or not.

One problem for your specific plan is that many ships in the Baltic sea travel between ports in Poland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Russia, etc. and the biggest European seaports in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Cargo bound for farther destinations can then be transferred to bigger ships there. The feeder container ships serving the Baltic are specifically designed for the dimensions of the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal in Germany and probably don't venture elsewhere very often (it's not economical to use a smaller ship than possible on a given route).

With two different ships, it could still be possible to book a trip to Iceland entirely by sea but you would have to include a stay in Rotterdam (probably for several days/weeks as you need to wait for the right ship and can't rely on cargo ships' schedules to ensure a smooth connection). To give you just one example of what you can expect price-wise, here is a round-trip between Anterwerpen and Finland for about €800 per person and here is a round-trip between Rotterdam and Iceland with another agency for a bit more than €1000.

You would need to find ships allowing one-way passages instead of round-trips, which should be cheaper, but I would guess that the total could be around €1000-1500 per head, (much) more expensive than flying (as of writing I see Helsinki-Reykjavik flights in May for about €120 one-way). Going to Norway or Rotterdam by train/ferry/bus as suggested by David in a comment could save some money but the crossing to Iceland itself would likely cost around €500 in any case.

Finally, if you want to avoid flying for the sake of the environment and are willing to give up the freighter travel aspect, there are ferries between Iceland and the continent. I am not sure about the price, but it's probably cheaper than a freighter.

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    As you say, EUR800 is very expensive for Finland to Antwerp. Given that the goal is a low budget and environmental friendliness, rather than cargo-ship travel per se, it would probably make more sense to, e.g., take a ferry from Helsinki to Sweden, then take trains to get closer to Iceland (e.g., Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Norway) and only use a cargo ship for the final leg. Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:28
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    You could use trains and/or buses all the way to the north of Scotland and take ferries from there. And if still young enough to qualify for the under 26 InterRail, it can be relatively cheap to do almost all by train. Only the Channel crossing to pay.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 11:08
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    @pnuts I don't think it is that suspect or at least that article does not suggest it is. I mean shipping as a whole might have a serious impact but it's still a lot less CO2 per kilogram of meat, the problem is that we transport much much more than what we could conceivably afford to fly around. And of course, the marginal impact of a passenger is essentially nil and cargo ships live or die based on freight (the same can't be said for passenger jets). The ferry is of course a little different and that would be an interesting comparison.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 22:57
  • I'd say flying with WizzAir and purchasing carbon impact offset (which WizzAir offers - so you are flying carbon-free) - would probably be the most low-budget and environmentally friendly.
    – George Y.
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 0:26
  • @GeorgeY. That's debatable but I don't see any link with the question at hand. WizzAir is not the only (low-cost) airline doing this, incidentally.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 1:44

I know this is very old post, but for people who read it for future reserch .....there is a way, "relativly cheap and easly"....they could take the normal ferry to sweden , bus across and then the ferry or vridge to denmark....at the top of denmark there is a once weekly boat, its a high seas ferry that also takes cargo, the boat in the winter costs like 150 euros, going up to like 300 or more in the summer, and even more if you want a private cabin ( the bottom of the boat has hostel style accomidaton with bunks)... the company is called smyrlines....as for people suggestions about asking around in the ports.....maybe 40 years ago, but no chance now, ...if you realy want to go on a dedicated cargo only ship, then sometimes you can book places on these boats, but they are like 2000 euros and must be booked at least 6 months before if your luck enought to find a ship that will take you.

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