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Bus or train from Tallinn to Riga?

Has anyone taken a bus or train from Tallinn to Riga? Did you book in advance? If so, how long? What was your experience like? Do you recommend a particular bus line? How long did the trip take? Where did you catch the bus or train? Any other help is appreciated. My husband and I will be in Tallinn for 5 nights in early July (just before the song festival). Thanks!

Posted by
5017 posts

Disclaimer: I drove a rental car (actually, from Vilnius, to Tallinn, by way of the Baltic Coast, Riga, and Estonia's two large islands, so the opposite direction, not on public transportation, and not at all direct). So, no first-hand experience with the train or bus.

There's a train and a bus. AFAIK the train is not very direct, and goes via Tartu (quite a ways to the east). Train looks like about 7 hours. Bus is much more direct, takes about 4.5 to 5.25 hours. Detals on Rome2Rio.com.

FWIW, we loved the drive out along coastal Lithuania, all along the Latvian coast, through NE Latvia, and the Estonian Islands - all were beautiful. There's plenty of worthwhile stuff to see (including Riga...be sure to budget a few days there).

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks - that's good information about the train. We have looked in one of our books about the buses and there seem to be several different companies that run between the two cities. So I'm looking for specific information about those preferably. We will be in Riga for about a week - my husband will be attending a scientific meeting there. I have spent extensive time in Lithuania. My background is Lithuanian, and I love the coast, especially the Curonian Spit. I am very disappointed that we won't be able to go there on this trip.

Posted by
105 posts

We will take the Lux Express bus from Tallinn to Riga in August. You can buy tickets online or on the bus. I will buy online a few days ahead. You can find video of the bus trip on YouTube. Here’s their website for information on times and bus stations. https://www.luxexpress.eu/en/

Posted by
4684 posts

I took the bus from Riga to Tallinn a few years ago. I love trains and dislike long bus rides (I get motion sick on buses but usually not on trains), and I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how to go by train instead. I figured out how to do it, but it just wasn't worth the extra hassle (weird connection time at some small train station) and extra travel time, when the direct bus was so easy.

I took an Ecolines bus (a rival to Lux ) - booked near the last minute from Riga. It was fine for a bus - just long. Couldn't wait to get there, whereas on a train I'm usually happy to enjoy the ride.

Posted by
2081 posts

If you can wait until May 3rd I will have up-to-the-minute personal experience with taking the Ecolines bus from Tallinn (bus station is near old town) to Riga (station is about a 10 minute walk to my hotel in old town). I sure hope I like it--no reason to think I won't, I know people who found it a very pleasant experience--because on May 6th I'll go from Riga to Vilnius by bus. I figured it was a good way to see the countryside, and I booked my tickets a few weeks ago, approximately $19 US each. Each trip is 4 hours and I will arrive by noon, so that gives me nearly a whole day.

Posted by
486 posts

We took Lux Express from Tallinn to Riga in 2017 and had no trouble at all. The seats are more comfortable than airline seats. There is wifi (if slow). You can take a city bus from near old town to the terminal on the Tallinn end.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for the useful information! We don't leave until June 24, so I look forward to hearing about the Rick Steves' team's travel experiences in May. It's good to know that there are at least two bus lines that are reputable. We don't have a lot of experience with buses in Europe and none in the Baltics. So I am feeling relieved by your positive responses.

Posted by
4684 posts

Express buses in Europe tend to be pretty nice compared to what you might expect if you are from the US. But...they are still buses, with cramped (if comfortable) seats and you can't get up and walk around like you can on a train. But, they are the most practical way to get from city to city in this region in my opinion.

Posted by
2081 posts

As promised, here’s my experience today on the Ecolines bus from Tallinn to Riga—highly recommend! It was snowing this morning so a taxi took me to the autobusssjaam in Tallinn, 7 euro from edge of old town. Bus arrived 10 minutes before departure at 8 am and everyone headed out to load luggage in—driver checks your ticket, then another person checks it again & your passport. Pretty countryside, comfy bus, wi-fi, movies (bring headphones, not provided), coffee and a WC that I didn’t use. One 5 minute stop in Paarnu, total trip was 4.5 hrs. Passengers were quiet & polite, and I would have napped but I spied some storks in the fields and in their nests and that was it—I LOVE storks so spent the whole trip looking for them. Couldn’t ask for more and under $20 US made it a great choice for me.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you very much for that information! It's very helpful. I love storks, too, and will probably do as you did!

Posted by
5017 posts

You will see plenty of stork nests (and maybe some actual storks) throughout the region - they're everywhere. We saw many, all across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. There were huge stork nests (with big, LOUD storks in them) in the roof of Rundale Palace outside Riga. Don't miss Rundale, it's amazing (with or without the storks)!

An odd bit of international cultural commonality: we were chatting with the driver (an old Polish man) we hired to take us from Krakow to Auschwitz and we pointed out some stork nests along the way. He confirmed what I had suspected: that storks are traditionally valued by farmers and others (natural pest control). I mentioned that where I came from (USA), there was a strange association between storks and, um, fertility. He confirmed that was also a traditional belief in Poland. Neither of us could posit a rational basis for this. I mentioned the way storks are depicted in American cartoons -- as "where babies come from"...literally, they "deliver" babies. He laughed and said the same depiction was common in Poland. It sparked an interesting discussion (I concluded it was a convenient way for parents to deflect their childrens' questions about the actual, specific origin of babies...our driver agreed).

Posted by
2081 posts

David—tomorrow I take the bus from Riga to Vilnius so again I’ll be on stork watch—and of course the highlight of this trip is getting to see them up close on their nests at ground level in the little zoo on Margit sziget in Budapest, you can get within 10 ft of them. I went to an antique shop in Tallinn and was pleased to find 6 postcards circa 1930s depicting storks, some as harbingers of spring and a couple comical ones re babies—text in Estonian so I will have to translate.

Posted by
2081 posts

2nd bus trip today went just as smoothly & I was able to easily find my hotel in Vilnius, about 8 minute walk from station. The only thing of concern is that the drivers don’t seem to speak English, thus all announcements are a mystery. This trip did indeed have yet more stork sightings as well as hawks, crows, foxes and a deer—very pretty country, love seeing all the little houses & farms.