Understanding the mechanisms responsible for carbon nanotube (CNT) internalisation into live cells is considered critical both from a fundamental point of view and for further engineering of CNT-based delivery systems to intracellular targets. While several studies are focused on the development of such CNT-based delivery systems, attempts to systematically elucidate the cellular uptake mechanisms of CNTs are still rather limited. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the cellular internalisation of chemically functionalised multi-walled carbon nanotubes (f-MWCNTs) in the presence of different well-known cellular uptake inhibitors. Our data reveal how f-MWCNTs are able to translocate across cell membranes of both phagocytic and non-phagocytic cell lines. We have evidenced that at least 30-50% of f-MWCNTs are taken up by cells through an energy-independent mechanism. This characteristic makes nanotubes loaded with therapeutic or diagnostic cargos extremely interesting as the release of active molecules directly into the cytoplasm increase their biological activity and therapeutic efficacy. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.