Passenger Line in Finland – Helsinki to Moscow

The most popular way to travel between Helsinki and Moscow is by flight. But the train is a good option for those who prefer a more comfortable and relaxed trip.

From Helsinki, the sleek Allegro pendolino tilting trains connect central Finland with St Petersburg in an airline-beating three and a half hours.


Taking the train between Helsinki and St Petersburg saves travelers time, hassle and the cost of air travel. The pair of daily Allegro trains – operated by the joint Finnish-Russian company Karelia Trains, with a 50/50 ownership split between VR and RZD – link the city centres in an airline-beating three hours flat. The high-speed Pendolino tilting electric trains are faster than the old Sibelius and Repin services. Time is saved by upgrades to the track, tilting into curves and not having to change locomotives at the border, as well as streamlined border checks.

The trains are incredibly comfortable, with adjustable seats and folding tables, footrests and Wi-Fi on board. A specialized coach is available for people with disabilities, and all of the cars are non-smoking. Customs officers and a currency exchange service are also onboard for those who want to cross the Russian-Finnish border. With airspace closures grounding direct flights to Europe, the once-daily Allegro link has been especially popular with those wishing to leave Russia.


The Allegro train is a high speed express that operates between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. It is an evolution of the traditional Finnish Sm3, and it travels at a top speed of 220 kilometers per hour. The trip takes just three hours, a fraction of the time that it took conservative trains years ago.

On board, passengers will find comfortable seats and a variety of amenities. There are two coach classes, First and Second, along with a restaurant car and a car carrier. In addition, the train offers a currency exchange and Tax Free refund point for both rubles and euros.

Lev Tolstoy is an overnight sleeper train that has been operating since 1975, and it is named in honor of the famous Russian writer. It works every day except Saturdays, traveling from Moscow to Helsinki via St. Petersburg, Vyborg, Vainikkala, Kouvola, and Lahti. This route is a great choice for those looking to travel to Russia on a budget.

Karelian Trains

The Allegro and Tolstoi trains are both run by Karelian Trains, a joint venture between Finland’s state-owned railway VR and Russian rail giant RZhD. The company has bought Italian-made Pendolino high-speed trains which can be powered by either VR’s twenty-five kV AC or RZhD’s three kV DC, cutting travel times between Helsinki and St Petersburg from five and a half hours to just over three.

The joint line also includes a route north through the wilds of Karelia, where Nurmes is a lovely rural town that hasn’t seen such traffic since Tsar Alexander II founded it 150 years ago. It’s a day trip from Helsinki, but most travellers will spend the night to make the round-trip more comfortable, and there are four daily departures each direction.

But in March 2022, the US imposed sanctions against Russia and the four Karelian Trains were placed on an American blacklist. Negotiations are underway about their future, and a decision will depend on the owners of the trains themselves, says Topi Simola from VR.

Regional Lines

The State railways – Valtionrautatiet – operate to-day 3,400 miles of 5 ft gauge track, more than the total mileage in Belgium, which is a twelfth the size of Finland. They serve a population of nearly five million. The passenger coaches, though not so spacious as those of the British, are still roomy. They have centre corridors, and second class has a high domed or, occasionally, clerestory roof.

Local trains – järjestelmäs – run on grade-separated tracks around Helsinki and to towns as far north as Riihimaki and Lahti and west as Karis, sharing the same tracks as long-distance trains. They offer rapid-transit service at peak times, with headways of ten to fifteen minutes.

From the Central railway station it is a short walk to Helsinki’s cathedral or the main shopping street of Kauppa. It’s also an easy 1.8 km 23-minute walk from Silja Line’s Olympia ferry terminal to Helsinki station using tram 2 or 3. Buy tickets on the bus with a contactless bank card.

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