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 & tickets...

  Which route should you choose?

  UK to Scandinavia route map

  London to Helsinki via ferry from Stockholm

  London to Helsinki via ferry from Travemünde

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

  Helsinki to other European cities by train or ferry

  Other European cities to Helsinki by train or ferry

  Helsinki to St Petersburg & Moscow by train


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

www.finnlines.com (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 1.11 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

 

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

Page last updated:

 

15 September 2018. Train times valid 10 June to 8 December 2018.


Which route should you choose?

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

Interactive map:  London to Helsinki by train & ferry

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

Route map London to Helsinki by train 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 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

Helsinki ► London

How much does it cost?

  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...

How to buy tickets by phone...

Custom-made train travel + hotel arrangements...

What's the journey like?

(1)  London to Brussels by Eurostar.  More information.

e300 power car   1st class seats

A Eurostar e300 about to leave St Pancras...

 

1st class (Standard Premier or Business Premier)

(2)  Brussels to Cologne by ICE3.  More information.

High-speed ICE3 train at Frankfurt   ICE2 train, 2nd class

ICE3 from Brussels to Frankfurt, seen at Frankfurt...

 

ICE3 2nd class seats...

ICE3 train, 1st class   Lunch & beer on an ICE3 train

ICE3 1st class, with leather seats & power sockets...

 

Lunch in an ICE3 bistro car...

(3)  Cologne to Hamburg by InterCity train.  More information

Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train

Most Cologne-Hamburg trains are InterCity trains like this one, a few are high-speed ICEs.  There's usually a bistro car serving food & drink.  Virtual tour of InterCity train...

1st class comparment on a Berlin to Amsterdam train   2nd class seats on a Berlin to Amsterdam train

1st class seats in traditional 6-seater compartments.  Some cars are open-plan.

 

2nd class seating is usually in open-plan saloons like this, although there are also cars with 2nd class 6-seat compartments.

(4)  Hamburg to Copenhagen by EuroCity train More information

Hamburg-Copenhagen trains are operated by Danish IC3 trains like this, shown in the timetable as EC for EuroCity See more photos, tips & information about the Hamburg to Copenhagen journey.

A Danish IC3 train at Copenhagen station...   1st class seats on a Danish IC3 train

A Danish IC3 train at Copenhagen station...

 

1st class seats on an IC3 train...

2nd class seats on a Danish IC3 train   IC3 train to Copenhagen at Hamburg

2nd class seats on an IC3 train...

 

Boarding an IC3 train to Copenhagen in Hamburg.

Train boarding ferry

The view from your seat as the IC3 train slowly runs onto the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry.  Courtesy of Adina Bogert-O'Brien.  Interior & Hamburg photos above courtesy of DiscoverbyRail.com.

(5)  Copenhagen to Stockholm by X2000More information

125 mph tilting 'SJ2000' from Copenhagen to Stockholm, at Copenhagen station SJ2000 2nd class seats

A Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train boarding at Copenhagen main station...

 

2nd class seats on an X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm.

SJ2000 train   SJ2000 buffet car seating area   SJ2000 self-service buffet car.

X2000 bistro car...

 

X2000 bistro car seating area...

 

Bistro self-service...

Winter scenery from a Copenhagen-Stockholm train

Winter scenery from a train between Copenhagen & Stockholm. Courtesy of Radoslav Sharapanov

(6)  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 Discoverbyrail.com

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London-Helsinki via 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 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

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.hostelworld.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 earliest departure leaves Hamburg Hbf at 06:46, changing at Cologne & Brussels to arrive London St Pancras at 16:05.  Or you can leave at 07:46 arriving London 16:57 (18:06 on certain dates).  Or have a leisurely breakfast and leave Hamburg at 10:46 arriving London at 19:57 (21:03 on Saturdays & some other dates).

How much does it cost?

  • London to Hamburg by train starts from €59.90 each way in 2nd class or €109.90 each way in 1st class 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).

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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, for English click EN  top right.  Bookings now open up to 130 days in advance, and you may find it goes offline from 01:30 to 04:00 Finnish time.  Mainline train fares are now dynamic like flights, cheaper in advance and on less popular dates and trains, more expensive closer to departure date and on more popular dates and trains.  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..

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Recommended guidebooks

You 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...

Lonely Planet Finland - buy online at Amazon.co.uk Click to buy - Lonely Planet Scandinavia Rough Guide to Scandinavia - buy online at Amazon

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

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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 set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous 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.

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Hotels in Helsinki & Scandinavia

    

Favourite hotel search & price comparison: hotelscombined.com

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

Favourite hotel booking site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings in one place here. 

You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelworld.com...

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

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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 ww.nhs.uk.  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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