The galectins, a family of lectins, modulate distinct cellular processes, such as cancer progression, immune response and cellular development, through their specific binding to extracellular or intracellular ligands. In the past few years, research has unravelled interactions of different galectins with lipids and glycoproteins in the outer milieu or in the secretory pathway of cells. Interestingly, these lectins do not possess a signalling sequence to enter the endoplasmic reticulum as a starting point for the classical secretory pathway. Instead they use a so-called non-classical mechanism for translocation across the plasma membrane and/or into the lumen of transport vesicles. Here, they stabilize transport platforms for apical trafficking or sort apical glycoproteins into specific vesicle populations. Modes of ligand interaction as well as the modulation of binding activities and trafficking pathways are discussed in this review.