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Although planes and trains are much faster and also buses and cars are popular way of getting around Europe, taking a ferry between countries in Europe is a great way to travel. Sometimes you can take advantage of good deals and take a night boat between countries. Also, when driving around Europe, the best way to visit islands like Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily or even Malta, is just to hop on a ferry and bring your own car.
This article is about international ferries between countries in Europe. Of course, there are numerous other options of getting around the respective countries as well. For those ferries, it is best to check the articles about the specific countries which have more details about getting around by ferry. There are also different styles of travelling over the water, including the popular cruise ship or even the odd but adventurous cargo ship.
Not all countries are listed here. In western and northern Europe the main countries are the UK, Sweden and Germany which are listed, as well as a short passage about ferries to Iceland. Norway, Denmark, Aland, Finland, the Baltic States, the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia have ferries as well. Most of them you can find here as well, but again for more details check the respective countries. For the east and south of Europe this applies as well, as here France, Italy, Greece are the main countries with small passages on Turkey, Cyprus and some former Sovjet Republics.
The Smyril Line company is your only option to get to Iceland by boat. The Norröna ship travels between Hanstholm in Denmark and Seydisfjördur in Iceland from about half April to the end of October. The ship stops on the way to Iceland in Torshavn, Faroe Islands and in Bergen, Norway year round and in Scrabster, Scotland only during the summer period of half June to the end of August.
The United Kingdom is very well connected to quite a few countries in the western and northern parts of Europe.
Jersey and Guernsey
The Queen Mary 2 regularly sails from New York to Hamburg, usually once or twice a year in the summer months.
There are no longer direct ferries from the UK to Germany, the closest connections are Harwich to Hoek van Holland (Netherlands) and to Esbjerg (Denmark).
Other ferries to Germany operate on the Baltic sea, connecting various ports of Germany with Scandinavia. Destinations are Gedser and Rodby in Denmark, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Trelleborg in Sweden, Oslo in Norway and Hanko (Helsinki) in Finnland.
The Schweizerische Bodensee-Schiffahrtsgesellschaft car ferry travels across Lake Constance between Romanshorn in Switzerland and Friedrichshafen in Germany, taking around 40 minutes one way.
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Getting to and from Estonia by boat is very easy. Most ferry companies service Tallinn but some of the smaller towns also have boat service. Remember to book online for cheaper tickets and ahead during busy times of the year.
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Jersey and Guernsey
Italy being a peninsula, there are many possible entry points for those wanting to arrive by water. For bookings on most ferries, you can use Ferries Online or Viamare. Off-season, you can get much better deals just showing up at the harbour, although this typically requires some flexibility in your travel plans, as many routes don't have daily service.
Italy can be reached across the Adriatic from Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro. Across the Ionean Sea lie Greece, Albania and Malta (no direct connections with Turkey exist). Across the Mediterranean proper lie Spain, France, Tunisia and Morocco (no direct connections exist with Libya, Egypt and Algeria, nor with Israel, Lebanon and Syria).
There are dozens of ferries to and from Greece. Apart from the ones mentioned below, you might find even more connections on Greek Ferries website or another one about Ferries to and from Greece. Dozens of domestic services can be found here as well.
Turkey has several connections with neighbouring countries and even Italy by boat.
Fergün Shipping Company operates a Tasucu-Girne service year-round. They also offer a service in summer between Alanya and Girne.
The only options for international boat travel are from the port city of Odessa (or nearby Ilichovsk) to destinations like Constanta in Romania, and Varna in Bulgaria. A fast catamaran to Varna takes about 8 hours (to Constanta 6 hours). Tickets are available through Ukrferry company or in offices inside Odessa seaport. Boats to and from Georgia (Poti and Batumi) are not always reliable and frequent.
Ferries, both cargo and passenger, travel across the Caspian Sea from Baku in Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan and Aqtau in Kazakhstan. Services are erratic though, but the crossing to Turkmenistan is the most popular and reliable.
Theoretically, ferries also cross the Caspian Sea to Iran, but these are unreliable and infrequent, no schedules exist, they are not comfortable and it's slow. It is adventurous though!
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