The Passenger Line in Finland – Helsinki to Moscow

After a disastrous crop failure in the 1860s led to famine and a loss of income for Finnish farmers, Alexander II promoted railway construction. A resulting network links the capital with St Petersburg and beyond.

Two daily Allegro trains run between Helsinki and St Petersburg’s Finlyandsky Rail Terminal. They’re comfortable, fast and you can save money with a Eurail Pass or Scanrail Pass valid in Finland.

How to get to the train station?

Taking an overnight train from Helsinki to Moscow is a memorable experience that every wanderlust traveler should do at least once in their lives. Unlike a flight, the train ride is incredibly relaxing and the cabins provide enough space for two to sleep comfortably. Plus, you can save on accommodation costs by doing this instead of booking a hotel in Moscow.

The Tolstoi is an overnight train that runs between Moscow and Helsinki, with a stop in St Petersburg. It operates on all days of the week except for Saturdays and costs EUR107 one-way per person in a 2nd class 4-berth sleeper or EUR158 in a 1st class sleeper with sole occupancy.

The Tolstoi is operated by Karelian Trains, a joint venture between Finnish Railways VR and Russian Railways. It uses Alstom high-speed trains that are able to tilt when they go around a curve, which allows them to travel much faster than standard rail cars.

Getting to the train station

The train station in Helsinki is on the ground floor of the arrivals hall, and you can easily access it by taking airport trains I or P. Nearly all long-distance and commuter trains stop at Tikkurila. You can check the schedules here.

It takes less than an hour from the airport to Tikkurila on the airport train, so you can make it in a timely manner for your departure. From there, it’s a short walk to the Helsinki Central railway station.

The Helsinki to Moscow route has a longer history than many might think. Before Finland became an independent country, the railway served as a vital link to Russia. Towns along the line even fought for control between the two countries in the Russian Civil War. The station was famously the location of Vladimir Lenin’s infamous smuggled arrival from Switzerland on 3 April 1917 – an event celebrated with a huge Soviet statue in front of the building.

Getting on the train

Operated by a joint venture between Finland and Russia, the cross-border Allegro train was a symbol of partnership when it opened in 2010. The modern, high-speed trains run four times a day and use an advanced Alstom model that achieves its top speed without tilting like traditional Russian trains.

During normal times, a single Allegro train from Helsinki to St Petersburg takes about 3.5 hours. However, since the Covid outbreak began, trains have been packed. With airspace closures grounding direct flights to Europe, travellers whose only option was a flight have been cramming the trains destined for Finland instead.

The Lev Tolstoy train makes a daily overnight trip from Moscow to Helsinki, with stops in Tikkurila, Lahti, Kouvola, Vainikkala and Vyborg. While it may take longer than the Allegro, it is still an excellent option for those looking to avoid the airport queues. It’s also a much more pleasant and affordable alternative to flying. You can even get a meal onboard!

Getting off the train

With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting air travel, the overnight Tolstoi train between Helsinki and Moscow is a popular way to make a trip of 14-16 hours. Getting on board is easy – you can book tickets here.

The trains are electric tilting Pendolino trains, with 1st and 2nd class plus a proper restaurant car. There are also children’s play areas, wheelchair spaces and a conference room. The fare for first class includes a snack or light meal.

All trains run via Vyborg and Finland Station (Finlandskiy Vokzaland) in St. Petersburg, and they stop in Kouvola, Pasila, Tikkurila, and Vainikkala on the Finnish side and Vyborg and Heinola in Russia. You can check the timetable here.

You’ll also need a passport to travel on the train, and you’ll need a visa if you’re from a country that has been sanctioned by Russia. You’ll also need to show proof of an EU-recognised Covid vaccine. A visa is valid for three months from the date of issue.

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