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...

It's easy to travel from London to Helsinki by train and ferry, a wonderful 3-day 2-night 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

  London to Helsinki by train to Hamburg then ferry from Travemünde 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 1.20 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

 

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

Page last updated:

 

22 August 2016.  Train times valid 12 June to 10 December 2016.


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 via Copenhagen & Stockholm

This is the fastest option, with daily departures.  You travel from London to Hamburg by Eurostar & onward trains 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?  Note that the Cologne to Copenhagen sleeper train was discontinued from November 2014.

London ► Helsinki

  • Day 2, travel from Hamburg to Copenhagen by fast ICE-TD EuroCity train, leaving Hamburg Hauptbahnhof at 09:28 and arriving Copenhagen at 14:22.  The Hamburg-Copenhagen train is shunted onto a ferry for the crossing from Puttgarten in Germany to Rødby in Denmark, one of the few places in Europe where trains still go onto ferries.  An interesting experience in itself!  You need to leave the train and go upstairs onto the ferry during the crossing.

  • Day 2, travel from Copenhagen to Stockholm by 125mph SJ 2000 high-speed tilting train, leaving Copenhagen at 16:34 and arriving Stockholm Central at 21:39.  You can check train times from Hamburg to Stockholm using www.bahn.de.  Trains from Copenhagen to Stockholm cross the Öresund Fixed Link, a tunnel & double-decker road/rail bridge opened in 1999 linking Denmark with Sweden.

  • Spend the night in Stockholm Check hotels in Stockholm.

  • Day 3, travel from Stockholm to Helsinki by ferry+train.  Two ferry companies compete on this route, both offering luxurious cruise ferries which sail out of Stockholm past many islands into the Baltic.  Consider this a cruise, see the video!

    If you choose Silja Line (www.silja.com), you sail from Stockholm's Silja Line terminal at 07:10 arriving Turku Harbour at 19:15, a connecting InterCity train will be waiting at the quayside, this leaves Turku Harbour (=Turku Satama) at 20:20 arriving Helsinki's wonderful art nouveau station at 22:26.  In Stockholm, the Silja Line terminal is about 2.5km from Stockholm city centre, 500m from Gärdet metro station.

    If you choose Viking Line (www.vikingline.fi), you sail from Stockholm's Viking Line terminal at 07:45 aboard a luxurious Viking Line ferry, arriving in Turku in Finland at 19:50.  A connecting Finnish InterCity train leaves Turku Harbour (Turku Satama) at 20:20 arriving at Helsinki station at 22:26.  See www.vikingline.fi.

  • Alternatively, spend day 3 exploring Stockholm and sail overnight to Helsinki.  Both Viking Line and Silja offer luxurious overnight cruise ferries from Stockholm direct to Helsinki - I'd suggest Silja, www.silja.com.  Silja's ferry sails from Stockholm at 17:00 every day arriving in Helsinki at about 09:30 next morning (which would be day 4 from London).  Viking Line sails at 16:30.  It's a very scenic voyage, as the liner sails out of Stockholm past all the islands, see the video.  You can have dinner in the restaurant and retire to your cabin, or party all night in the nightclub, it's up to you!  The Silja terminal is about 2.5km from Stockholm city centre, 500m from Gärdet metro station.  A shuttle bus links the Cityterminal (the bus terminal next to the central railway station) with the Silja terminal.  Map of Helsinki showing Silja terminal.

Helsinki ► London

  • Day 1, travel from Helsinki to Stockholm on the daytime train+ferry service.  The luxurious Scandinavian ferries sail across the Baltic and into Stockholm past many pretty islands, consider this a cruise!

    If you choose Silja Line (www.silja.com), you leave Helsinki's wonderful art nouveau station at 05:17 by InterCity train, arriving Turku Harbour (Turku Satama) at 07:48.  The Silja Line cruise ferry sails at 08:15 arriving Stockholm Silja Line terminal at 18:15.

    If you choose Viking Line (www.vikingline.fi), you leave Helsinki station at 05:17 by InterCity train, arriving Turku Harbour (Turku Satama) at 07:48.  The Viking Line cruise ferry sails from Turku at 08:45 arriving Stockholm Viking Line terminal at 18:55.

    Alternatively, both Viking Line and Silja offer luxurious overnight cruise ferries direct from Helsinki to Stockholm - I'd suggest Silja, www.silja.com.  The Silja ferry sails from Helsinki at 17:00 arriving in Stockholm at about 09:30 next morning, after sailing past all those islands.  Departures are daily, and a range of comfortable cabins is available.  Map of Helsinki showing Silja terminal.  If you choose this option, you obviously have to leave Helsinki the night before (let's call that day 0) but you then get a free day to explore Stockholm (on the day we're calling day 1).

  • Spend the night in Stockholm Check hotels in Stockholm.

  • Day 2, travel from Stockholm to Copenhagen by 125mph SJ 2000 tilting train, leaving Stockholm Central at 08:21 and arriving Copenhagen at 13:22.

  • Day 2, travel from Copenhagen to Hamburg by ICE-TD EuroCity train, leaving Copenhagen at 15:37 and arriving Hamburg Hauptbahnhof at 20:21.

  • Spend the night in Hamburg.  Starting with the cheapest, hotels next to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof with good reviews include the Hotel Continental Novum, Hotel Furst Bismarck, Hotel Europaischer Hof, Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Check other hotels in Hamburg.

  • Day 3, travel from Hamburg to London by InterCity train to Cologne, high-speed ICE train to Brussels and Eurostar to London, using any of the services suggested on the London to Germany page.  For example, the 06:46 from Hamburg will get you back to London at 16:05, but by all means have a leisurely breakfast and take a later train.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Hamburg starts at just €59 each way with a Sparpreis London fare from Germany Railways (DB).  Like air fares, the price varies significantly from date to date and departure to departure, and prices rise as departure date approaches, so book early and pick your date carefully for the cheapest prices.

  • Hamburg to Stockholm can cost as little as €39 each way with a sparpreis fare from German Railways.  Again, the price varies significantly, rising as departure date approaches so book early for the best deals.

  • Stockholm to Turku by Viking Line ferry can cost as little as €15 each way without any accommodation, you can add various types of private cabin from €13 upwards.  Silja Line is similarly priced.

  • Turku to Helsinki by train costs as little as €8 if booked in advance in Eco class (2nd class) or €35 full-price.

  • If you take the direct overnight ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki, fares start from around €88 including a bed in a shared 4-berth with Viking Line or €111 with sole occupancy of a cabin with Silja Line.  But there are whole range of cabin types and prices, just check both ferry company websites.

  Helsinki station
 

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

Photo courtesy of Adrian Tanovic

How to buy tickets online...

  • Step 1, Buy a Sparpreis London ticket from London to Hamburg using these special links... 

    I recommend registering when prompted, as you can then log in and check or re-print tickets whenever you like, from any PC.  Booking usually opens 92 days ahead, you can't book before bookings open.  Prices vary like air fares, so book as far ahead as you can and shop around for the cheapest departure.

    From London to Hamburg:

    Departing London at 08:58 Sundays (a few dates when there's no 11:04)

    Departing London at 10:58 Mondays-Saturdays or 11:04 Sundays

    From Hamburg to London:

    Departing Hamburg at 06:46

    Departing Hamburg at 10:46 daily except Saturdays

    Departing Hamburg at 10:46 on Saturdays

    Sparpreis London fares have limited availability as DB (German Railways) only have a small allocation on Eurostar.  If you cannot find any cheap fares from London to Hamburg or have any other problems, try booking exactly the same trains, but using www.eurostar.com for the London to Brussels train and www.bahn.de for Brussels to Hamburg trains.  Alternatively, try www.b-europe.com for London to Cologne and www.bahn.de for Cologne to Berlin.  There are various ways to break this journey down!

  • Step 2, buy a Sweden Spezial ticket from Hamburg to Stockholm using these links...

    From Hamburg to Stockholm departing 09:28

    From Stockholm to Hamburg departing 08:21

  • Availability of Sweden Spezials is also limited, so if you don't find any cheap fares between Hamburg and Stockholm, split the booking.  First book Hamburg to Copenhagen using www.bahn.de.  Then book Copenhagen to Stockholm using either the Swedish railways website www.sj.se (no booking fee, see advice on using it below) or Swedish transport site www.snalltaget.se (English button bottom right, booking fee added).  If you can't get your credit card to work, simply use www.acprail.com instead, or call SJ telesales on +46 771 75 75 75 (there's a phone menu option for English).  The price varies like budget airline fares.  If you book several months in advance you can find really cheap fares available, rising to pretty much higher prices closer to departure.  You simply print out your own ticket or you can choose to collect your tickets from the Swedish Railways (SJ) ticket machines installed at Copenhagen main station.

  • Step 3, book the ferry from Stockholm to Turku...

    You can check sailing dates & prices for both Viking Line & Silja Line ferries on both the Stockholm-Turku & Stockholm-Helsinki routes using the form below, powered by Direct Ferries.  Remember to select '18+' for adults and change With vehicle to No vehicle.  The price you initially see is for a basic passenger place on the ferry, you can add a cabin at the next stage.  When you book online you will be emailed a confirmation which you present at check-in to exchange for your boarding pass.

    Alternatively you can book direct with the relevant operator at www.vikingline.fi or www.silja.com.  You can book individual beds in shared cabins if you book directly with the operator, which is much cheaper than sole occupancy, that's the one thing Direct ferries can't do.  Tips for using www.vikingline.fi:  For English, change 'Suomi-Suomeksi' to 'International'.  Now look for the 'Book' box on the right, and remember to change the selection from 'Cruise' to 'Regular voyage'.  Now you can select Stockholm to Turku!

  • Step 4, book the train from Turku to Helsinki:  If you book the daytime or overnight Stockholm-Turku ferry, you'll need an onward train ticket to Helsinki.  You can do this online at www.vr.fi (click 'EN' for English).  It's Turku Harbour (Satama) station that you should select.

How to buy tickets by phone...

  • Step 1:  Buy your train tickets from London to Stockholm.  You can buy all these tickets through a number of UK agencies, but the best for this trip is probably Deutsche Bahn's UK office on 08718 80 80 66 (lines open 09:00-20:00 Mon-Fri, 09:00-13:00 Sat & Sun, no booking fee, 2% credit card charge, no charge for debit cards), or European Rail on 020 7619 1083 (lines open 09:00-17:30 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday, £25 booking fee per transaction).  Click here for a list of agencies and more info on how to book.

  • Step 2:  Viking Line tickets can be booked online at either the Seat61 Ferry Shop or www.vikingline.fi or by phone though its UK agent, Emagine Ltd, on 01942 262662.  Silja Line tickets can be bought online at www.silja.com or through their UK agents, DFDS Seaways, on 0871 522 9955.

Custom-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.

      UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

      US call toll-free 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com.

      Canada call toll-free 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com.

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

      New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034, www.railbookers.co.nz.

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


  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 a morning Eurostar to Brussels and onward trains to Hamburg, and stay overnight.  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 shown on the route map above in red between London & Hamburg and in dark blue between Hamburg & Helsinki.

London ► Helsinki

  • Spend the night in a hotel in Hamburg.  Starting with the cheapest, suggested hotels next to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof with good reviews include the Hotel Continental Novum, Hotel Furst Bismarck, Hotel Europaischer Hof, Hotel Atlantic Kempinski.  If you're on a budget, private rooms with en suite shower & toilet in the A&O Hotel near Hamburg Hauptbahnhof start at around £33 for one person or £49 for two people booked at www.hostelbookers.com.

  • Day 2, enjoy a day exploring Hamburg...

  • Day 2 evening, transfer from Hamburg to 'Lübeck Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal' by local train and bus.  You take a local train from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof to Lübeck which runs every 30 minutes throughout the day, hourly in the evening, journey time 42-43 minutes.  At Lübeck, leave the station and follow the signs to the ZOB bus station.  Lübeck is a good place for an early dinner, there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the old town just 5 minutes walk from the bus station.  Now take a bus from Lübeck bus station to 'Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal' (note that this is not the same stop as 'Travemünde Skandinavienkai'), the bus ride takes 28 minutes and the last bus goes around 21:00.  You can check journey times from Hamburg to Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal at the German Railways website, just use this link to bahn.de as it has the bus times in its database as well as the trains, or you can find bus information at www.xn--sv-lbeck-95a.de.  At the terminal, walk into the unassuming building next to the bus stop for check in.  You're looking for a large building marked HafenHaus and with a green neon 'Check in' sign by the front door.  After check-in, you go downstairs to a large waiting hall, with a bar/cafe open until 10pm, toilets and a large supermarket open until 01:30 selling alcohol and chocolate.

  • Day 2-3, sail from Travemünde to Helsinki on the daily Finnlines ferry, see www.finnlines.com.  The ship boards from 22:30 to 24:00 (day 2), foot passengers are driven onto the car deck in a minibus.  The ship sails at 03:00 (day 3), arriving at Helsinki Vuosaari ferry terminal outside Helsinki at 08:00 on day 4.  The ship may not be quite as glamorous as some other cruise ferries on the Baltic, but it has all the essentials:  Comfortable cabins with private shower & toilet and free internet access (but not WiFi, so bring a network cable), restaurant, shop, bar, sundeck, and (naturally, being Finnish) a sauna.  It's a very civilised way to travel.

  • Day 4, transfer from the Vuosaari terminal to central Helsinki.  Helsinki's new Hansa Ferry Terminal in the Vuosaari Harbour is 16km east of central Helsinki.  There is a bus connection (bus 90B) between Vuosaari harbour and Vuosaari metro station.  Take the metro from Vuosaari into central Helsinki, journey time 25 minutes.  Map of Helsinki showing Vuosaari.

Helsinki ► London

  • Day 1, transfer from Helsinki to the Vuosaari ferry terminal, some 16 km east of Helsinki.  You can take the metro from anywhere in central Helsinki to Vuosaari station, then bus 90B from Vuosaari metro station to the Vuosaari's Hansa ferry terminal.  Map of Helsinki showing Vuosaari.

  • Day 1, sail from Helsinki to Travemünde on the daily Finnlines ferry, see www.finnlines.com.  Check in is between 13:30 and 16:30.  The ship sails at 17:30 (15:00 Sundays) and arrives at Travemünde at 21:00 the next day (day 2).  The ship is has all the essentials:  Comfortable cabins with private shower & toilet and free internet access (but not WiFi, so bring a network cable), restaurant, shop, bar, sundeck, and sauna.

  • Day 2, transfer by bus and local train to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof.  Buses link the ferry terminal (Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal) with Lübeck ZOB bus station, it's a short walk to Lübeck station, then local trains run every 30-60 minutes to Hamburg Hbf.

  • Spend the night in a hotel in Hamburg.  Starting with the cheapest, suggested hotels next to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof with good reviews include the Hotel Continental Novum, Hotel Furst Bismarck, Hotel Europaischer Hof, Hotel Atlantic Kempinski.  If you're on a budget, private rooms with en suite shower & toilet in the A&O Hotel near Hamburg Hauptbahnhof start at around £33 for one person or £49 for two people booked at www.hostelbookers.com.  Alternatively, you could spend the night in Travemünde or Lübeck if you prefer, and transfer into Hamburg next morning.

  • Day 3, travel from Hamburg to London using any of the options shown on the Germany page.  For example, the 06:46 InterCity from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, change at Cologne for an ICE train to Brussels, change at Brussels for the Eurostar to London, will get you to London St Pancras at 16:05.  Or have a leisurely breakfast and take the 11:46 from Hamburg, change at Cologne and Brussels, arriving London at 21:03.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Hamburg by train starts from €59 (£46) with a Sparpreis London fare at www.bahn.de, though the price varies.

  • Hamburg to Travemünde by local train and bus costs only a few euros.

  • Travemünde to Helsinki by Finnlines ferry costs between €120 and €155 (£95-£120) each way in a reclining seat depending on the day and season.  However, I recommend a cabin.  The fare including a bed in a 3-bed shared inside cabin is between €200 and €287 each way.  The fare including a bed in a 2-bed outside cabin is between €279 and €413 each way.  Children under 6 go free, and there are reduced fares for children 6 to 12 and youth fares for children 13-17.  See the fares at www.finnlines.com.

  • Hamburg to London by daytime trains starts at just €49 (£46) with a Sparpreis London fare, if one is available, though the price varies.

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:

  • If you don't see any suitable fares from London to Hamburg using these links, split the journey, and book London to Brussels & back at www.eurostar.com then Brussels to Hamburg & back at www.bahn.de.

  • You can buy your Hamburg-Lübeck-Travemünde local ticket at the station when you get to Hamburg (although you could try booking from London direct to Lübeck instead of Hamburg, it may well be the same price so could save a few euros).

How to buy tickets by phone...

  • Step 1, buy your ferry ticket:  Finnlines telesales number in Germany is 00 49 451 1507 443.

  • Step 2, buy your London-Hamburg train tickets:  You can buy tickets from the UK's Deutsche Bahn office, on 08718 80 80 66 (lines open 09:00-20:00 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday, no booking fee, 2% credit card charge).  Alternatively, you can also buy them from www.europeanrail.com (a booking fee is charged).


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 but less than 60 days in advance, you can buy lower-priced Advance fares, so pre-booking usually 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 either www.stanfords.co.uk or 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.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.


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...

  • www.hostelbookers.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelbookers offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year - I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, 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, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        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.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Carry a spare credit card, designed for 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.

 


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