Glycans have been shown to function as versatile molecular signals in cells. This prompted us to look at their roles in endocytosis, endolysosomal system and autophagy. We start by introducing the cell biological aspects of these pathways, the concept of the sugar code, and provide an overview on the role of glycans in the targeting of lysosomal proteins and in lysosomal functions. Moreover, we review evidence on the regulation of endocytosis and autophagy by glycans. Finally, we discuss the emerging concept that cytosolic exposure of luminal glycans, and their detection by endogenous lectins, provides a mechanism for the surveillance of the integrity of the endolysosomal compartments, and serves their eventual repair or disposal.