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Large ferries like this Viking Line vessel cruise between Helsinki and Tallinn every day. (Courtesy of Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door)

Sailing to Estonia

Tourists can catch an overnight cruise from Sweden or take a short boat trip from Finland to get to Estonia

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Sailing from Stockholm to Tallinn
Tallink’s ships leave Stockholm at 19:00 every evening and arrive in Tallinn at 10:00 the next morning. Return trips leave Tallinn at 18:00 and arrive in Stockholm at 10:00. All times are local (Tallinn is an hour ahead of Stockholm).

Fares vary by the day and season—highest on Friday nights and from July 1 to August 15; lowest on Sunday through Wednesday nights the rest of the year. I’ve given high/low prices here in Swedish currency (7 kr = about $1). A one-way berth in a four-person cabin with a private bath costs 500/300 kr on the Regina Baltica, 600/400 kr on the Victoria. Round-trip prices cost only a little more: 600/400 kr on the Regina Baltica, 700/500 kr on the Victoria. The two legs of a round-trip don’t have to be on successive days, and the price depends on both the outbound and return days of the week. Couples can rent a cabin for themselves for roughly four times the per-person prices above.

Breakfast is 90 kr, and the smörgåsbord dinner is 240 kr. Reserve your meal (and even, if possible, a window table) when you buy your ticket. The boats have exchange offices with acceptable rates for your leftover cash.

Reserve by calling either the Stockholm reservations line (Swedish tel. 08/666-6001) or the Estonian booking number (Estonian tel. 640-9808). Pick up your tickets at the port on the day of departure or at their downtown office (Klarabergsgatan 31 in Stockholm). Online booking is possible only in Swedish and for entire cabins (www.tallink.se).

In Stockholm, Tallink ships leave from the Frihamnen harbor. To get from downtown Stockholm to Frihamnen harbor, take the shuttle bus from the main station (30 kr, leaves at about 15:30, check times when buying ticket), or take public bus #1 (marked Frihamnen) from Kungsgatan to the end of the line (30 kr, 3–6/hr, 25 min). In Tallinn, the Tallink ships dock at Terminal D.

Speeding Between Helsinki and Tallinn
From April to October, two companies offer fast boats that link Helsinki and Tallinn (2/hr, 2-hour journey, first departure about 7:00, last about 21:30). You can reserve in advance by phone or online, or buy tickets from a travel agency (such as the Helsinki Expert office in the TI), but it’s rarely necessary. Fast-boat trips may be canceled in stormy weather (in which case you’ll be put on a bigger, slower boat).

Fares run €30–50 one-way (evening departures from Helsinki and morning departures from Tallinn are cheapest). Round-trips start at about €40 if you come back with the same company. Linda Line (www.lindaline.ee), which uses small hydrofoils, is the fastest (only 90 min, 45-pound luggage limit), but is routinely canceled in windy weather.

Big, very slow car ferries also run year-round between Helsinki and Tallinn (7/day, 3.5 hours, cheaper at €20–30 one-way, 15 percent discount for round-trip, student and senior discounts) and come with great smörgåsbord buffets (expect €12 extra for breakfast, €25 for dinner). These boats are filled with “four-legged Finns” crazy about cheap booze and karaoke. Foot passengers prefer the Viking ferries, which depart from central Helsinki (www.vikingline.fi). The Tallink (www.tallink.ee) and Eckerö Line (www.eckeroline.fi) ferries use Helsinki’s Länsi terminal (no problem for drivers, but hard to reach by public transit).

The helpful Helsinki Expert desk in the Helsinki TI sells tickets (€7 fee per booking) and posts a sheet clearly explaining departures and costs. The TI in Tallinn posts a list but does not sell tickets. Websites have all the latest information, and most allow online booking. Tallinn and Helsinki each have several different ferry terminals; make sure you know which one your boat leaves from.

For all the details on Stockholm, Tallinn, and Helsinki, please see Rick Steves’ Scandinavia.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at rick@ricksteves.com, or write to him c/o P.O. Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020.

© 2010 Rick Steves

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About Rick Steves
Rick Steves

Rick Steves is a travel writer and television personality. He coordinated with Smithsonian magazine to produce a special travel issue Travels with Rick Steves.

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