When choosing your best option to travel to Saint Petersburg from Tallinn, there is hardly any shortage of options. Regular buses are departing multiple times per day (around 20€/one way), you can fly directly with a stopover in Helsinki or Riga, take a cruise via Helsinki (more like a ferry) or go there by car. However, Tallinn to St Petersburg train is probably one of the best ways to visit the Venice of the North, Russia’s beautiful ex-capital, especially if you wish to travel in comfort, there is nothing like russian train travel.
Tallinn to St Petersburg train is a journey leg of the Tallinn – Moscow train line operated by Russian railways. Many passengers prefer this route due to the romantic atmosphere that only a train journey can offer. Once you step on-board the train, you will be greeted and serviced as a highly valued guest, not as another passenger. There is no 1st class or 2nd class, all tickets are the same category. There is no 3rd class offered.
St Petersburg to Tallinn bus or train?
While train ride is certainly an experience, bus ride is actually much more comfortable. Lux Express buses depart multiple times per day, they are very comfortable, each seat has a dedicated screen for watching movies and listening to music (just like in planes), you get free headphones, free coffee/tea and a small bottle of water. While you still have to leave the bus with all your luggage at the border, it usually is a fast procedure. Downsides of the buses include quite inconvenient arrival stations, which are compensated with good transport options (metro, buses).
Train ride, on the other hand, is great due to possibility to stretch your legs, no need to leave the train at the Russian border, a fully functional (but expensive) restaurant and very good arrival station. Obvious downside – only one departure per day.
How to book Tallinn to St Petersburg train tickets online ?
Your journey starts with purchasing train tickets and making visa arrangements. You have two options to buy Tallinn to St Petersburg train tickets: online or at the Tallinn Train Station ticket counter. Please remember to bring your passport if you’d like to use the second option.
In theory, tickets can be purchased two months in advance. However, I had trouble looking up online tickets further than 1 month from today, the website gave me an error. As of November 2019, the prices were as follows:
4-four-berth coupe– 54€/person/one way
2-two-berth coupe– 111€/person/one way
In square card wagon– 41€/person/one way
In seating wagon– 23€/person/one way
In order to enter Russian Federation, you need a valid visa. Visa should be made in advance. Here, in Estonia, you can use the services of one of the local travel agencies, who specialize in visas. I personally have used Go Travel, they have an office at the Tallinn train station and are open on Saturdays. One time tourist visa for 1 week cost me 65€. If you are planning to visit multiple times per year, consider getting one year visa, it cost around 90€ and can be applied for after you have used one time visa once.
In order to apply for Russian visa, you need to bring your passport (valid 6 months after the visa expiry date), filled application (can be filled at the travel agency), 1 passport size photo, travel insurance for the whole period of travel (also possible to buy at the travel agency). Normal application time is min 2 weeks before the trip.
Since 1st October 2019 St. Petersburg can be visited with free E-VISA. However, you can’t be traveling on a train. E-VISA can only be used when traveling by bus, car or on foot. More about E-VISA here.
Tallinn and St Petersburg train departure time is 16:00 and arrival time in St Petersburg Moskovski station is 23:58 (during winter months). The good news is the location is very central and it is easy to reach most guesthouses and hostels by foot. Traveling in winter? Have a look at this St. Petersburg in November guide as well as Alternative guide for fun weekend without museums!
In the middle of your trip you would be crossing Estonian-Russian border, but you don’t need to exit the train for passport check – border patrol will board the train and do the check themselves. Compared to bus option, the train journey is much more pleasant and relaxing, as you get to stretch your legs, move around the train or have a meal at the restaurant on board.
For such late arrival I recommend staying in a centrally located hotel. Personally, I have stayed two times at a guesthouse called Well-Being. The have very good rates ( especially during winter), 24h reception and don’t require prepayment.
Tallinn and St Petersburg train stations
Tallinn train station is rather small, but functional. It’s an easy walk from the old town and museums, so in case you stay in a centrally located hotel, you may not need any public transport to get there. For some last minute grocery and snack shopping, there is a small supermarket as well as a central market available at the station. Numerous cafes and street food stalls are also located nearby.
Moskovski train station in St Petersburg is also nicely centrally located with lots of shops, cafes and guesthouses nearby. It’s also right at the start of the famous Nevsky Prospekt – the main street with all major sightseeing’s, museums, cathedrals and monuments.
Things to do in St Petersburg
Summer events and museums
Depending on when you plan to visit, you will find a wide range of activities and things to do in St Petersburg and surrounding towns. I highly recommend visiting in June for the white nights experience – the sun hardly sets during this time and you may experience a true polar night. One of the popular activities during this time is to observe the openings of the bridges at night for the ferries and ships to enter the city.
St Petersburg is surprisingly lively city with active traffic even during night hours. You can feel the energy and get charged with it yourself. Moreover, don’t miss the fantastic summer festivals happening in this amazing city every year – White Nights Festival, Scarlet Sails, Opening Ceremony of Peterhof’s Fountains and many more! You can also enjoy fantastic day trips to nearby towns, like Pushkin/Tsarskoye Selo and experience how tsars used to live! Museum lovers will appreciate a visit to world famous Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace, Russian museum or one of the numerous palaces.
Fun activities in St Petersburg
Many thrill seekers book roof tours. However, I don’t recommend them for safety reasons. If you are looking for some cool activities that don’t involve museums and history, you can definitely visit fun museums.
Route66 interactive museum ha sa nice collection of old retro cars that you can sit in, touch and take photos with. Cool thing about this little museum is that its hidden and therefore not crowded at all.
Big Funny center offers lots of cool, small, hands-on exhibitions, like illusions museum, mirror maze, giants house, small petting zoo and Instagram friendly sweet museum.
Grand Maket Russia is a miniature copy of Russia with motorized model trains, cars, houses and people. Its a small world that comes alive in front of your eyes. Every once in a while the lights are turned off and the night falls over this tiny city, thousands of small lights illuminate the scene.
Circus Show and theater
Last but not least – if you like circus shows, consider visiting St.Petersburg state circus on Fontanka river. This circus is the oldest in Russia and the shows are very professional and spectacular. Tickets should be booked in advance on their website. Additionally to circus, you may want to see a theater or ballet show. The most famous opera and ballet theater is the Mariinsky Theatre. It is is a historic theatre of opera and ballet, opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th-century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres.
Have you even traveled to St Petersburg by train? How did you like it?
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