It's not that I have a fear of flying but it seems the best way to see Island countries is by island hopping and these three countries are all relatively close to one another if you take into account their most outlying inhabited islands.

I know there used to be a ferry between Taiwan and Japan that went out of business in 2008. And there seems to be no ferry between the Philippines and Taiwan either.

So how would a true adventurer do it? Can you pay fishing boats or the boats that presumably carry goods between these countries?

I should make it clear that I don't expect to be able to do it on one single boat. One from Philippines to Taiwan and another from Taiwan to Japan would also be good. (More changes would also be good.) I've also included the reverse journey in the question as I'd consider either way to be a great adventure.

Also at which points can I legally enter each country for customs and immigration purposes?

And would it be a lot more difficult to find a boat starting in Japan which I assume to be a much more strictly controlled country?

(Please don't answer "just fly it's easier", such answers will be off topic.)

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    I look forward to an answer to this. All three countries I haven't been to so far, and would love to hear an affirmative answer! Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 18:53
  • Sorry to rollback but "overland" despite the tagwiki text does cover travel by sea. It's about surface travel, not about dryness. I've also submitted a correction to the tagwiki. Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 19:02
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    Was just sticking to the tagwiki convention. On second thought, I agree with the tagwiki edit. Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 19:12

3 Answers 3


You can, but the travel is a bit on the unconventional side. Most shipping companies will accept passengers at a relatively cheap rate and you can just tag along. I live in Manila, my father in law runs one such company, my brother in law is a cook for another.

There are some caveats:

  • You're surrounded by 'salty sailors', which may or may not be acceptable for you
  • You're stuck on their schedule and probably won't get as much time at each port as you would like
  • The accommodations are pretty basic - bed, shower meals
  • You need to avoid ships going anywhere near Somalia, unless that is your destination.
  • You need to make certain that the destination docks are in fact a legal point of entry - they may not be in a position to admit you there if you have anything other than a sailor's visa (a very short-stay permit confined to a very specific area) or visa-on-demand eligibility. There may be no immigration official there at all, which means you won't be able to enter. Make sure.

Still, it would probably be your best bet if you really want to travel by ship. I did a quick glance at some cruise lines before answering, but I did not see one that offered the route you were speaking of. You might want to do a bit of research there, however.

It's a bit of a shame, really that travel by boat (other than entertainment purposes) has pretty well vanished.

  • Would you be able to suggest any such shipping companies or offer a rough price for at least any one leg? (Right now I'm interested in the Okinawa-Taiwan bit again.) Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 13:46
  • @hippietrail You're currently in The Philippines? I can ask my Father-in-law. I think they'll take passengers, but it's not something they overtly advertise.
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 14:07
  • Nope I'm currently in Sydney paying off my previous trip and dreaming of my next one. But info like this makes it more real and helps me make decisions about the next trip (-: (Let me know if I should ask in a new question just for this bit.) Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 14:09
  • I'll ask. What I didn't know at the time that I wrote this answer is that there are a few passenger liners still in business here with destinations out of the country. It'll be a week before I see him again, any rush?
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 14:12
  • No rush at all! Since it seems like you're going to get a quality answer I'll ask a new focused question. Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 14:14

EDIT: Just called up the Keelung port in Taiwan. The operator is closed. I heard they were supposed to resume operation but did not. Please ignore my previous post about the ferry being back up.

I used to know a guy who would bring people from the Philippines up to Taiwan through Koahsuing. It is possible, but you need to be careful. A lot of the people doing this will drop you off in Kenting or near there illegally. If you grab a boat, take one that is stopping at a registered port-of-entry, which is only Koahsuing and Keelung for ships as far as I know.

There have been rumors around here among the ex-pats that Star Cruises will pop by one of the Japanese islands during their cruises, but you need to contact them as none of the information is listed on their page.


Theoretically, you could take the Aleson Shipping Ferry from Zamboanga - Sandakan, overland it to Fuzhou, China where you could take the ferry Fuzhou - Matsu - Keelung, go back to Fuzhou, and go up to one of many cities with a ferry to South Korea, then a boat from Busan to Fukuoka.

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    Sandakan is in Borneo, and I don't believe there are any ferries across to peninsular Malaysia. It might be possible to detour via Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and Java back up the Road Islands and Singapore though. Commented Feb 6 at 7:17

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