Taking the ferry to Helsinki...

Helsinki bound!  Sailing out of Stockholm past all the islands on the cruise ferry to Helsinki...  Courtesy of Michael Herbert & Bernadette Hyland

UK to Finland without flying, in just 48 hours...

It's easy to travel from London to Helsinki by train and ferry, a wonderful journey across Scandinavia with a lot to see on the way.  It's a great alternative to an unnecessary flight.  On this page you'll find a step-by-step guide to planning, booking & making a journey from the UK to Finland by train or ferry, with train & ferry timetables, approximate fares, and the best way to buy tickets.

Train times, fares & how to buy tickets...

  Which route should you choose?

  UK to Scandinavia route map

  London to Helsinki by train to Stockholm then ferry to Finland (using a sleeper train)

  London to Helsinki by train to Stockholm then ferry to Finland (using day trains & hotels)

  London to Helsinki by train to Hamburg & ferry Travemünde to Finland

  London to Helsinki by train to Berlin & ferry Rostock to Finland

  Train travel within Finland - the Night Train to Lapland...

  Trains & ferries from Helsinki to other European cities

  Trains & ferries to Helsinki from other European cities

  Helsinki to St Petersburg & Moscow by train

Sponsored links...

 

Useful country information

Train operator in Finland:

 

VR, www.vr.fi for train times & fares within Finland.

Trains between Helsinki & Moscow

Trains between Helsinki & St Petersburg

 

 

Ferries to Finland:

 

www.silja.com & www.vikingline.fi (Stockholm to Turku & Helsinki)

www.tallinksilja.com/en/ (Germany to Helsinki)

Railpasses:

 

Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

Time zone & dialling code:  

 

GMT+2 (GMT+3 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).  Dial code +358.

Currency:

 

£1 = approx 1.15 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

 

www.visitfinland.com.  Helsinki metro, bus, tram info: www.hel.fi

Page last updated:

 

21 October 2014.  Train times valid 15 June to 13 December 2014.


Which route should you choose?

There are several good options for reaching Finland in comfort without flying:

Interactive map:  London to Helsinki & Scandinavia by train & ferry...

...click on a route for train & ferry times from the UK, and how to buy tickets.

Key - Finland via ferry from Germany Key - via Harwich-Hoek Key - via Eurostar Via the Harwich-Hoek ferry Train travel in Sweden Train travel in Norway Train travel in Finland Travemunde to Helsinki by ferry Helsinki-St Petersburg by train Ferries to Tallinn Stockholm-Riga by ferry Stockholm-Helsinki by ferry London-Norway via Hirtshals London to Oslo by train London-Sweden by train London-Copenhagen by train


London to Helsinki by Eurostar & sleeper train

This is the fastest overland option between the UK and Finland, with daily departures taking less than 48 hours (2 nights) from London to Helsinki.  Though it would be a shame not to allow an extra day or two and see Stockholm (or Copenhagen) on the way!  This route is shown in red on the map above.

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

Take Eurostar to Brussels, then an ICE high-speed train to Cologne...

High-speed ICE3 train from Brussels to Cologne & Frankfurt ICE3 second class ICE3 first class

An ICE to Cologne waiting to leave Brussels Midi.  More ICE information.

ICE3 2nd class.  ICEs are one of the most comfortable trains in Europe...

ICE3 1st class, with real leather seats.  All ICE seats have power sockets.

Introducing the City Night Line sleeper train Borealis from Cologne to Copenhagen...

The Cologne to Copenhagen overnight train is one of the German Railway's excellent City Night Line sleeper trains with a choice of sleepers, couchettes & seats.  The modern sleeping-car offers proper beds in 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet, or 1, 2 or 3-berth economy compartments with washbasin.  All sleepers have power-points for laptop computers, hotel-style cardkey locks, and there is a shower at the end of the corridor.  The air-conditioned couchette car offers simple flat padded berths with a rug & pillow in shared 4 & 6-berth compartments.  There are also ordinary seats in 6-seater compartments, but always book a couchette.  A bistro car is attached between Hamburg and Copenhagen in both directions.  The train actually starts from Amsterdam.  More pictures & information about this City Night Line train.

Dinner in Cologne before you board?  For a traditional German meal in Cologne before boarding your sleeper, try the Brauhaus Sion (www.brauhaus-sion.de), 5 minutes walk from Cologne hauptbahnhof, or the Malzmuehle restaurant (www.muehlenkoelsch.de), 10-15 minutes walk from Cologne Hauptbahnhof, or there's a restaurant inside the Hauptbahnhof itself at the Schweinske, www.schweinske.deFeedback is always appreciated!

Sleeping-car room - Cologne-Copenhagen overnight train   4-berth couchette compartment on Cologne-Copenhagen overnight train   6-berth couchette compartment on Cologne-Copenhagen overnight train  

A sleeping-car as used on the Cologne-Copenhagen overnight train

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper: The most civilised option, economy with washbasin or deluxe with shower & toilet.

 

4-berth couchettes:  Ideal for families, much more space per person than 6-berth couchettes.

 

6-berth couchettes:  A very economical option, far better than a seat for just a few euros more...

 

A Comfortline sleeping-car on the Cologne-Copenhagen City Night Line sleeper train Borealis.

More pictures & information about this train

... and the 125mph SJ2000 trains from Copenhagen to Stockholm...

125 mph tilting 'X2000' from Copenhagen to Stockholm, at Copenhagen station   2nd class seats on the X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm   The self-service buffet on the X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm...

An SJ2000 train at Copenhagen, about to leave for Stockholm...

 

2nd class seating on the SJ2000.  All seats have power sockets for laptops & mobiles...

 

Self-service buffet car on the SJ2000...

Across the Baltic with Viking Line or Silja Line from Stockholm to Turku & Helsinki...

Viking Line & Silja Line both operate an overnight cruise ferry from Stockholm to Turku and another from Stockholm direct to Helsinki.  The ferries are more like floating hotels, with luxurious en suite cabins, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cafés, shopping centres & cinemas.  The direct ferries to Helsinki are more expensive, and leave in the early evening, too early for same-day connections when travelling from London.  The Stockholm-Turku ferries are cheaper and leave later in the evening, allowing same-day connections when using the sleeper train from Cologne to Copenhagen & SJ2000 onwards to Stockholm.  A 'boat train' links Turku Harbour station with Helsinki soon after the ship's arrival.

Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku in Finland   2-berth cabin with shower on board the ferry   The connecting train from Turku to Helsinki

The Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku.  Silja line operate a similar competing ferry, but it leaves half an hour earlier so not as good a connection. Courtesy of Matthew Philips

 

2-berth cabin on board the ferry to Finland...  Courtesy of Matthew Philips

 

The 08:15 boat train from Turku Harbour to Helsinki is a double-deck InterCity train. Note the children's play area!  Courtesy of Matthew Philips

Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki   Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

Alternatively, go Stockholm-Helsinki by direct overnight ferry...  If you've an extra day to spare, stay the night in Stockholm and spend the next day exploring the city, then sail direct from Stockholm to Helsinki by overnight luxury ferry, a true floating hotel.  Above, the massive Silja Symphony towers over the Silja Line terminal in Helsinki.  Photos courtesy of www.railbookers.com

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

  Helsinki station
 

Above:  Helsinki's beautiful art nouveau station, by famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen.

Photo courtesy of Adrian Tanovic

Anyone from any country can buy tickets this way, at the cheapest prices direct from the operators.  Booking opens 120 days (and at times, up to 180 days) ahead for Eurostar, 92 days ahead for other trains, but I strongly recommend waiting and buying all tickets together, doing a dry run on all sites to check times, prices and availability before booking for real.  Hotel accommodation can be booked before booking your trains risk-free if you use a site such as www.booking.com with free cancellation.

How to buy tickets by phone...

Tailor-made train travel + hotel arrangements...

If you want a tailor-made trip with train & ferry travel, hotels & transfers all arranged for you, contact Railbookers.  Tell them what you want and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out.  They get positive reviews and look after their customers very well.

  In the UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

Call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.


London to Helsinki by Eurostar & daytime trains

You may prefer daytime trains with an overnight hotel instead of a sleeper train.  With this option, you travel London to Hamburg on day 1 from just €59, stay overnight in Hamburg, then travel from Hamburg to Stockholm on day 2 from as little as €39.  Take a bottle of wine and a good book, and enjoy a 2-day train ride across Europe on modern & comfortable trains with not an airport security queue in sight.  Stay overnight in Stockholm and take the daytime ferry+train service to Helsinki next day, for as little as €39.50.  Or spend the day in Stockholm and take the overnight cruise ferry to Helsinki with a comfortable en suite cabin reserved.  What's the journey like?

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?

...London to Cologne by Eurostar & ICE Watch the video guide.

...Cologne to Hamburg by InterCity train.

German InterCity train   InterCity 2nd class   InterCity 1st class (6-seat compartment type)

Most Cologne-Hamburg trains are InterCity trains, a few are high-speed ICEs.  Virtual tour of InterCity train...

 

InterCity 2nd class.  You'll also find a few compartment coaches on InterCity trains, and a bistro or restaurant car...

 

InterCity 1st class, often available in both open-plan saloons like this and in compartments.

...Hamburg to Copenhagen by ICE.

ICE3 second class ICE3 first class High-speed ICE3 train from Brussels to Frankfurt

ICE 2nd class.  All seats in both classes have power sockets for laptops & mobiles...

ICE 1st class, with real leather seats.  Staff provide at-seat service of drinks & food.

The Hamburg-Copenhagen ICE on board the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry.  More info on ICE.

...Copenhagen to Stockholm by SJ2000.

125 mph tilting 'X2000' from Copenhagen to Stockholm, at Copenhagen station   2nd class seats on the X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm   The self-service buffet on the X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm...

An SJ2000 train at Copenhagen, about to leave for Stockholm...

 

2nd class seating on the SJ2000.  All seats have power sockets...

 

Self-service buffet carMore information about SJ2000

...Stockholm to Turku by cruise ferry & train to Helsinki.

Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku in Finland   2-berth cabin with shower on board the ferry   The connecting train from Turku to Helsinki

The Viking Line ferry from Stockholm to Turku.  Silja line operate a competing ferry.  These 3 photos courtesy of Matthew Philips

 

2-berth cabin on the cruise ferry to Finland...

 

The InterCity boat train from Turku Harbour to Helsinki is a double-deck InterCity train. Note the children's play area!

...or Stockholm to Helsinki by direct overnight cruise ferry.

Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki   Silja Line ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki

The Stockholm-Helsinki overnight ferry...  Sail direct from Stockholm to Helsinki by overnight luxury ferry, a true floating hotel.  Above, the massive Silja Symphony towers over the Silja Line terminal in Helsinki.  Photos courtesy of www.railbookers.com

How to buy tickets by phone...

Tailor-made train travel + hotel arrangements...

If you want a tailor-made trip with train & ferry travel, hotels & transfers all arranged for you, contact Railbookers.  Tell them what you want and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out.  They get positive reviews and look after their customers very well.

  In the UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

Call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.


London to Helsinki by ferry from Travemünde

  Finnlines ferry from Travemunde to Helsinki

Don't fly to Finland, cruise there!  A Finnlines Travemunde-Helsinki Star class ferry.  Below:  A cabin on the Finnlines ferry.

Photos courtesy of www.finnlines.com

  Cabin on the Finnlines ferry from Travemunde to Helsinki
   

This leisurely option runs every day and takes 3 nights outward to Helsinki, just 2 nights inward back to London.  In the outward direction it includes a day at leisure exploring Hamburg, too.  Take an afternoon Eurostar to Paris and the City Night Line overnight sleeper to Hamburg.  After a day exploring Hamburg, transfer by local train to Travemünde on Germany's Baltic coast, then take the daily Finnlines ferry from Travemünde to Helsinki, a 2-night cruise.  This route is the one via Hamburg shown in dark blue on the route map above, although in the return direction you'll follow the red route between Hamburg and London.

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

It takes several websites so it's best to try a dry-run on all of them first to check prices and availability before booking for real.  Here's how it's done:

How to buy tickets by phone...


London to Helsinki by ferry from Rostock...  

  Finnlines Rostock-Helsinki ferry

Above:  A Finnlines Rostock-Helsinki ferry.

Below:  A cabin on the Finnlines ferry.

Photos courtesy of www.finnlines.com

  Cabin on the Finnlines Rostock-Helsinki ferry

This leisurely option runs once or twice a week and takes 2 days & 3 nights.  It's slightly slower than the ferry from Travemünde, but you may prefer a chance to stop off in Berlin.  Take an afternoon Eurostar to Paris and the City Night Line overnight sleeper to Berlin, a train to Rostock on Germany's Baltic coast, then a Tallink or Finnlines ferry from Rostock direct to Helsinki, a 2-night cruise.  This route is the one via Berlin and Rostock shown in dark blue on the route map above.

London ► Helsinki

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

It takes several websites so it's best to try a dry-run on all of them first to check prices and availability before booking for real, but here's how it's done:

How to buy tickets by phone...


Train travel within Finland

How to check train times & buy tickets for Finland...

It's easy to check Finnish train times and buy tickets online at the Finnish Railways site www.vr.fi, English button top right.  Bookings open several months in advance, and note that it goes offline 01:30 to 04:00 Finnish time.  If you book more than 7 days or more than 60 days in advance, you can buy lower-priced Advance fares, so pre-booking saves money.  You can choose to print your own ticket, collect it from the self-service machines or staffed ticket counter at any main VR station, or in some cases an e-ticket can be sent to your mobile phone.

Helsinki station...

Designed by famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, at Helsinki station you'll find the  usual range of services:  Ticket counters, left luggage, food stores, newsagents, restaurants and cafes.  Photos courtesy of Michael Banbrook

Helsinki railway station   Inside Helsinki station

The night train to Lapland...

There are daytime trains from Helsinki to Oulu, Kemi, Rovaniemi & Kemijärvi, or you can use one of the time-effective sleeper trains, now equipped with air-conditioned double-deck sleeping-cars, all sleepers with cosy duvets, washbasin, soap & towels provided.  Some deluxe compartments have a private toilet & shower.  You can buy sleeper tickets to Lapland at www.vr.fi and print out your own ticket.

Trains at Helsinki in the snow   2-bed sleeper on a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi

A snowy scene at Helsinki station, with a Pendolino train on the left and a double-deck sleeping-car on the right...  Photos courtesy of Michael Banbrook

 

2-berth sleeper in one of VR's double-deck sleeping-cars.  Some have a private toilet & shower.

Double-deck sleeping-car on the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi   Restaurant car

A double-deck sleeping-car...  Photos courtesy of Michael Banbrook

 

The sleeper train to Rovaniemi features a restaurant car (above) and on-board shop..



Recommended guidebooks

Rough Guide to Scandinavia - buy online at AmazonClick to buy - Lonely Planet ScandinaviaLonely Planet Finland - buy online at Amazon.co.ukYou should take a good guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I think this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  I personally prefer the layout of the Lonely Planet, but others prefer the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks provide the same excellent level of practical information and historical background.  You won't regret buying one!  My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon with shipping worldwide.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk...

Or buy direct at the Lonely Planet website, shipping worldwide.


The European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Click to see sample.  Buy online for €13 + €5.50 postage worldwide at www.treinreiswinkel.nl/railway_map_of_europe.

 


Find hotels in Helsinki & Scandinavia...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelbookers.com...

Homestays: www.homestay.com...


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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