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I spent the last month traveling from Helsinki to Tallinn by ferry and from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius by bus, spending about a week each in the capitals of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Ferries and buses are cheap, easy to book, and very comfortable in this beautiful part of Europe.
Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn
Ferries are the easiest way to get between Finland’s and Estonia’s capitals, which are just 80 km apart across the Gulf of Finland. Several companies have daily ferries you can book online that take 1:40 to 2:30 and connect city center to city center.
Sites like this one aggregate several (all?) of the options for ferries between Tallinn and Helsinki. I chose Linda Line because it is one of the fast ferries at 1 hour 40 minutes, and it had the departure time closest to when I wanted to leave.
Linda Line is not the cheapest at 31.50 euros ($35) each way, and if you’re very price sensitive, you can book a late night, slower ferry for 25 euros ($28) each way from Viking Line.
My Linda Line ferry was very nice. Boarding was quick, and the ship was probably only about 1/4 full, so everyone had as much space as he wanted. I’m not sure the baggage allowance, but I brought on one 44 pound bag I would check on an airplane, one 20 pound carry on sized backpack, and one laptop bag without issue.
During the ferry, I had meatballs and mashed potatoes–so Finnish!–for lunch, and it was delicious.
The terminals in Helsinki and Tallinn, were each about 1 km from my apartments in those cities, and I walked in both cases.
There is no immigration or customs on either end as both countries are in the Schengen Area.
Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius by Bus
Buses are the easiest way to travel between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania’s major cities.
Lux Express has several daily buses between the capitals and major cities. Lux Express buses have free wifi, and in some cases video monitors at each seat.
Tallinn to Riga and Riga to Vilnius are each just over four hours.
For Tallinn to Riga, I paid 23 euros ($26) on a bus with standard 2-2 seating. The bus was only about half full, so I ended up moving back to get my own row of two seats to myself.
Lux Express Lounge seating is 1-1 with a video monitor at every seat and more leg room. For $30 total, I thought this was a pretty outrageously good deal. I highly recommend upgrading to Lounge seating if your bus offers it.
Lux Express buses are clean, on time, and comfortable. Again I’m not sure the baggage allowance, but I put my 44 pound bag I would check on an airplane and 20 pound carry on sized backpack in the storage hold of the bus and just carried on my one laptop bag.
I passed both bus rides with free wifi and views of the verdant countryside. On my second bus ride, there was even a selection of movies and TV shows I could watch on demand.
Lux Express stops at several places in each city. For instance, in Riga, these are possible stops.
Instead of mindlessly selecting to go from bus terminal to bus terminal, take a look at whether an alternative stop is closer to your lodging. On both my rides, I got on at the bus stations and got off at stops before the next city’s bus station.
Best Way to Buy the Ferry/Bus Ticket
I bought my tickets with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which offers 3x on all travel and gas purchases. Ferry and bus rides certainly count in the 3x travel category. The card comes with 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
The card has no foreign transaction fees, so it is ideal for foreign travel purchases.
The Baltic capitals are very close to each other with convenient and cheap non-air transportation options. Next time you’re in this part of the world, catch a comfortable ferry or bus from one city to the next as you take in a beautiful part of Europe.
Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.