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Train from St. Petersburg to Tallinn

We are planning a trip in July/August. Originally we had planned to fly into Tallinn, ferry to Helsinki for a week in Finland, Allegro train to St Pete, and fly home from there. Now I find we would save money to fly into St. Petersburg and home from Helsinki. The most efficient route in that scenario is St. Petersburg to Tallinn to Helsinki.
Has anyone taken the train from St. Petersburg to Tallinn? If so, what is the border crossing like at Narva? Is it wise to buy the ticket from Russian Trains before we go? The train seems to be no faster than the bus, but we thought it might be a more pleasant ride.

Posted by
3460 posts

I used the ALLEGRO train from St Petersburg to Helsinki this past Autumn .( We had flown into St Petersburg from NYC ) The train was perfect and it was three and one half hours . The rail service Petersburg to Tallinn ( such as it is ) is a Moscow - St Petersburg - Tallinn sleeper and it is unclear as to seating availability , stops in Petersburg , and not least , it appears to be a six hour trip . My advice - fly to St Petersburg , ALLEGRO to Helsinki . ferry service between Helsinki and Tallinn - this arrangement works like a charm and is stress free, If you decide on this , let me know , there are a few details on the ALLEGRO to know that will ease your way .

Posted by
3460 posts

One more thing , From your post , I can't tell if you are planning any time for Tallinn , or are Finland and St Petersburg the only destinations on your visit ? While you should count Tallinn in your plans , considering which destinations are to hand is also part of the planning .

Posted by
16883 posts

I haven't done the Russian route, but would be more likely to travel roundtrip on the Helsinki-Tallinn ferry than to take that once-daily slow train.

Posted by
24 posts

We are staying a week in an apartment in Tampere, Finland (we'll take day trips); also 2 nights in Helsinki, 4 nights in St Petersburg, and 1 night in Tallinn. We had thought the train (even though it's slow and leaves at 6:00AM) from St Pete to Tallinn might save us time (and money) over the Allegro train and then the ferry to Tallinn. The Allegro train appears to be much nicer, and it sounds like they take care of all passport control on board. It is definitely less scary than trying to navigate a Russian train.

Posted by
6871 posts

It is definitely less scary than trying to navigate a Russian train.

Can you clarify? Which Russian train? (Allegro is a Russian/Finnish joint train system)

Posted by
3460 posts

I think Gloria is referring to the Tallinn - St Petersburg route which was instituted last summer , operated by Russian Railways ( the ALLEGRO is a consortium of Russian and Finnish Rail ) Prior to that there was only bus service . Gloria , based on your itinerary , you would need one Tallinn - Helsinki fare regardless of the order , going from Petersburg - Helsinki - Tallinn , you are only talking about one additional ferry ride between Tallinn and Helsinki ( about $50USD/ per person ) . Indeed , passport control on the ALLEGRO was very easy ( two checks - Russian on the way out and Finnish at the border ) , piece of cake . In any event if you do choose the ALLEGRO , there are a few pointers ( nothing major ) of which to be aware . Based on your plans so far , you will need a visa to visit Russia , and it is not difficult to obtain , regardless of the conventional thinking . Considering , the vast amount there is to see in St Petersburg , try to consider increasing the amount of time there .

Posted by
24 posts

We have pretty much decided to take the Allegro train and then the Tallinn ferry from and back to Helsinki. Any advice for the train would be appreciated. Because we must return to Houston by Aug 7, we have to go to Tallinn and St Petersburg before our week in Finland. It would not be good to miss that once-a-day Tallinn train because we had difficulty finding the correct platform.

Since we have a Russian embassy in Houston, we plan to apply for our visas in person. The instructions seem pretty straight forward. Our friends all think we are crazy for going on our own to St Petersburg rather than a cruise, but we have much more independent travel experience than any of them. I think we can do it!

Posted by
438 posts

We flew in and out of Helsinki spring 2015 because it was the most economical gateway city. We took the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn and back to Helsinki again. It was inexpensive, easy and very entertaining as it like a mini-cruise ship. The only "heads-up" is that there are many travelers who go from Helsinki to Tallinn to stock up on cheaper products like liquor. They disembark in a Big Hurry so as to make the return trip in a timely fashion. We were almost knocked over by people running down the walkway with their empty luggage carts (used to cart the cases of booze back). We did both the Viking and Silja lines, and thought the Silga line had more comfortable seating areas.
It is a pity that you cannot spend more time in Tallinn. We found it to be a charming city full of interesting architecture, riveting history and plenty of artisans creating original Estonian products. We highly recommend the Museum of Occupation.
St. Petersburg is also worth as many days as you can give it. There is so much to see, and it takes time to absorb it all. We had the good luck to have a private tour with Peter from http://www.peterswalk.com/
If you do this when you first arrive in St. Petersburg you will feel much more comfortable and oriented for the remainder of your time there.
We highly recommend the Pushka Inn, which is just steps away from Hermitage square. It is an excellent value with large, immaculate, updated rooms and an attached restaurant which serves a solid complimentary breakfast and inexpensive and tasty lunches and dinners. They arranged a driver to take us to the Allegro station. This train leaves from the main train station, but the entrance is on the left side (as you face the station) instead of through the front doors. The Allegro is clean, fast and safe. Just make sure that you have copies of all your prescriptions with you just in case you get "controlled" by the train agents. One of our friends was randomly selected to have her suitcase examined, and they wanted to see the prescriptions for the medicine she was carrying.
SInce you have the opportunity to stay for an extended time in Finland, perhaps you can spend less time in Helsinki in order to devote more time to Tallinn and SPB.

Posted by
3460 posts

I'll add a little more detail to the railway station description - " This train leaves from the main train station, but the entrance is on the left side (as you face the station) instead of through the front doors. " Quite true and a very important point . You don't want to be sitting in the station while the train departs around the corner . Face the station - walk to the left . At the corner , turn right and walk up the street almost to the next block , the entrance is on your right . BUT this is not the " Main " train station . It is one of four mainline stations in St Petersburg - You need to go to Finlandsky Station on Plosschad Lenina , which is from where the ALLEGRO departs . Look here for information on the stations - http://www.saint-petersburg.com/essentials/train-stations/ and here for the metro map - http://www.metro.spb.ru/uploads/img/map/shema_28.12.12c.jpg . Another hotel recommendation as well . We stayed at The Crowne Plaza , 61 Ligovsky Prospekt - two blocks from Uprising Square . beautiful hotel at the corner of Nevsky and Ligovsky and a major bus and trolley bus stop and the Plosschad Vosstinaya metro station ( easy connection to Finlandsky Station . Stockmann Department Store next to the Metro with a first rate gourmet supermarket on the lower level . We often bought dinner there and took it back to the hotel ( table and chairs in the room ) I'm certain you will have no difficulty identifying the major points of interest , but this one is not well known and absolutely worth seeking out . If you decide to include it in your plans , let me know and I 'll be happy to provide directions - an easy trip from downtown . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronstadt_Naval_Cathedral

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks, everyone. I think we are now ready to finalize our plans.

We have to spend at least one night in Helsinki as the flight home leaves at at 6:50AM. Flying to St Petersburg and home from Helsinki versus RT to Helsinki saves us $200+ on each ticket.