The development of secondary cancers, metastases, requires that a multitude of events are completed in an ordered and sequential manner. This review focuses on the role of cell surface glycans and their binding partners in the metastatic process. A common feature of metastasis is that the steps require adhesive interactions; many of these are mediated by cell surface glycans and their interactions with endogenous carbohydrate binding proteins (lectins). Aberrant glycosylation is a key feature of malignant transformation and the glycans involved influence the adhesive interactions of cancer cells often providing favorable conditions for tumor dissemination. This review focuses on glycans on the cancer cell surface and their association with endogenous lectins. In particular, E-cadherin and siglec-mediated disaggregation of tumor cells from the primary tumor mass; integrins, laminin and CD44-mediated invasion and migration of tumor cells through the connective tissue; the involvement of heparan sulphate in tumor angiogenesis and C-/S-type lectin interactions with the vasculature. The potential role of glycans in cancer cell evasion of immune surveillance is considered.