Thailand to India by sea.
February 21, 2017 4:24 AM   Subscribe

Is there any service that takes passengers from anywhere in Thailand to anywhere in India by sea?
posted by pompomtom to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Do you mean cruises, or something like a container ship with a cabin you could use? It's a very long distance - Phuket to Chennai or Kolkata are each journeys of over a thousand miles - and a relatively cheap flight on budget carriers, so I doubt there's much passenger demand.

(If you are trying to link up parts of an overland journey from Thailand to India, it's possible to travel overland through from Mae Sot in Thailand up through Myanmar via Hpa-An, Bago, Mandalay, Monywa and Moreh, crossing the border into Manipur in India and end up in Imphal, the state capital. But this would probably be back-of-bike/local-bus/taxi based, and I don't know what sorts of visa hoops or permits you'd need if you aren't Indian or Burmese. This 2015 blog post makes it seem quite hard; one wonders if it's any easier now?)
posted by mdonley at 5:02 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The underlying goal is to get from Australia or KL to Europe using trains and ferries as much as possible, but (and this is probably the point of this question) not spending time/money in Myanmar. If there are freighter-berth options, I'd be interested to know about them. I know I can fly across the gulf, but I'd love to know if there were a surface option. Loads of time on a slow ship doesn't actually bother me.
posted by pompomtom at 5:23 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry, this doesn't directly answer your question, but if avoiding airplanes is your goal, there is a fairly standard backpacker route of Thailand-Laos-China/Tibet-India/Nepal. It's not exactly fast but it's certainly more interesting than a freighter!
posted by lunasol at 5:43 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ferry service does exist between the Andaman Islands (Port Blair) and Chennai, Kolkata, & Visakhapatnam. You'd still have to hitch a ride on a private vessel to get from Thailand to the Andamans, though; no scheduled air service exists between the Andamans and anywhere outside India.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2017

(Also, I would recommend asking this question on Travel StackExchange as well; there are some pretty seasoned travelers there who might have ideas on how to accomplish this.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:22 AM on February 21, 2017

A look on the ZIM 'Port Klang-Chennai-Express' freighter schedule indicates that Port Klang, KL's container port, is linked to Chennai by at least five freighters (Bomar Spring, Wan Hai 508, Euro Max, Northern Priority, NYK Joanna and more) in the next few months. You could call the companies that operate the ships and enquire about how to get on board? It seems quite frequent - twice a week? - and takes four days or so.

An agency like Freighter Expeditions in Oz can set you right - they offer a Singapore-India trip on their site (actually it leaves from Tanjung Pelapas, 40 minutes into Malaysia).

The Wikitravel page on freighter travel also offers a long list of agencies that organize passenger travel on freighters - many of them seem German, interestingly.
posted by mdonley at 6:34 AM on February 21, 2017

The closest thing to a solution that I've found is references to a Yangon to Chennai ferry. It's described in some places as a cargo ferry but there there are also some references to passengers.

I Googled "Thailand India Cargo Ship" and found several instances of people asking the same question going back to about 2008. No one got a good answer. One commenter suggested perhaps a drug smuggler or gun runner. Google Maps found a route by car taking over 5000Km.

One interesting option I discovered is to hook up with a private sailboat that is going that way, probably someone on a round-the-world voyage. There are a lot of such people, so it's not impossible especially if the party is few in number, you are not taking much more than a duffle bag each, and you know how to sail. There is no quality control, of course, and one person who reported doing it had a bad experience - taking a long time, running out of food, etc.

One way to research sea travel is to start with AIS which is a system tracking basically all the commercial vessels in the world: cargo vessels, fishing boats, etc. If you go to, you can see a map with all the vessels reporting. There are very few between Myanmar and Thailand. If you click on a ship icon, you may be able to figure out what shipping company the ship belongs to.

It's apparently a very difficult part of the world for travel. I've seen warnings about closed borders, internal strife, etc.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2017

I've traveled a fair amount in India and have a lot of friends who do this kind of thing, and I've never heard of anyone getting by boat from India to Thailand directly. Going from the Andamans to mainland India is 100% possible and even routine, but getting to the Andamans themselves from Thailand? No clue whatsoever.

Not to question your decisions re: Burma, as I've also semi-actively avoided traveling there, but the political situation has changed quite a bit in the last few years, and there may be more options for spending money on local entrepreneurs rather than the regime, if this is what you are concerned about. I know for a fact that there is a backpacker boom going on right now (not that this is an ethical endorsement of course), so it might be worth checking out.

Also worth considering is that you may be able to minimize your time in Burma and then travel through the northeast. By all accounts that would be a wonderful trip—but definitely be prepared for some visa nightmares.

Good luck!
posted by Stilling Still Dreaming at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2017

This isn't answering your question, but as an addition to Stilling Still Dreaming's answer above: I've traveled overland in Burma recently (though only on the Myawaddy to Yangon route, and that was by bicycle; then I went up to Mandalay, which you'd probably not do), and have done a bit of research regarding crossing the northwestern border with India. I can probably point you in the direction of travel journals of cyclists who've done this recently (or poke around on Crazy Guy on a Bike for this kind of thing yourself), but you'd need permits both for the northeast of India and for the border crossing from Burma. I know the Burma crossing permit is specific to a particular day, which means that you have to time your trip very precisely.

I just asked a Burmese friend about the alleged Yangon-to-Chennai ferry, as much to satisfy my own interest as to answer your non-question (since I know you don't want to be in Yangon in the first place), but I'm pretty sure it never actually got off the ground. I'd pursue booking passage on a container ship if neither Burma nor traveling via China were an option.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:59 PM on February 21, 2017

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