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Table of Contents
- Tallinn in a Nutshell
- From Helsinki to Tallinn by a Ferry
- Ferry Operators between Tallinn and Helsinki
- What to Do Onboard?
- Our Tallinn Ferry Experiences
- Comparison of Helsinki to Tallinn Ferries
- Port of the Helsinki
- Port of Tallinn
- Tunnel from Helsinki to Tallinn
- Where to Book?
Tallinn in a Nutshell
Tallinn is a Baltic city well-known for its Old Town area, a compact maze of cobblestones streets, historic buildings, breathtaking vistas and UNESCO status. Tallinn is the capital and largest city of recently turned centenarian Estonia. Being the capital city, Tallinn serves as the major political, cultural and educational centre of Estonia. Nowadays, the capital city is also a major fishing port, the commercial and industrial centre of Estonia although Estonia's main strengths are in IT, tourism and logistics.
Reval - the Historical Name
The Estonian capital was not always called Tallinn. Before 1918, when Estonia gained independence, it was named as Reval, which is believed to be of German origin. It is special to note that Estonia was occupied by German forces from 1941 to 1944. Legend claims the origins of this former name originates from a deer hunt when an animal fell off a cliff and perished. Reh-fall means deer fall in the German language. Several historians debate about this theory and believe that this old name is more likely to have derived from the old Estonian county called Revalia.
From Helsinki to Tallinn by a Ferry
Tallinn is one of the favourite getaway destinations among Finnish people and immigrants and also increasingly becoming popular for international tourists visiting Europe via Finland. Tallinn is located on the northern coast of Estonia, on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. The distance from Helsinki to Tallinn is only 80 kilometres which explains the easy accessibility from the Finnish capital by boat. Travelling from Helsinki to Tallinn or from Tallinn to Helsinki by a ferry is extremely popular and practical.
The ferry routes between Helsinki and Tallinn connect Finland and Estonia and they are currently operated by three active ferry companies. Tallink Silja operates their crossing about 7 times per day, Viking Line 2-3 times per day and Eckerö Line service is available about 5 times per day.
Are the Ferries Safe?
The Gulf of Finland is crowded with cargo and passenger boats. It is rational to wonder if the ferries are safe to travel by.
During the long history of Helsinki-Tallinn ferries, there have not been any serious incidents. Cruise companies are operating professionally and the traffic on the Gulf of Finland is coordinated. The ships are equipped with modern technology and they can operate almost in any kind of weather.
We are not worried about their safety ourselves. Like with flying, incidents may still happen and it is good to prepare in advance. On the boat, get familiar with the safety instructions and know where to evacuate if the worst happens.
Ferry Operators between Tallinn and Helsinki
Tallink Silja is an Estonian ferry company. Among the ferry companies, Tallink Silja has the best and the most modern ships operating between Helsinki and Tallinn. Their ships are also fast and the travel time takes only 2 hours. However, one of their ships, called M/S Silja Europa, makes an exception because it travels 3 and half hours from Helsinki to Tallinn. This is the biggest ship traversing the Baltic Sea and it is mainly meant for cruise passengers who are spending their night in the ship. With its recent renovation, this cruise ship feels modern. Sometimes, Tallink is also operating a cargo ship from Helsinki to Tallinn but only passengers travelling by their car can board this ferry.
The quality comes with the price and Tallink Silja is not the cheapest option. One way ticket costs usually about 30 euros when the cheapest Helsinki to Tallinn ferry price is less than 20 euros. The cheapest ticket is usually for the slowest ship. Consequently, the better and the faster ship you book, the more you need to pay. A return ticket may be cheap if you go and come back on the same day. Otherwise, a return ticket may cost up to 60 euros.
Tallink Silja makes also overnight cruises from Helsinki to Tallinn where a cabin is included. You can sleep on the ship and then visit Tallinn for a few hours before the ship leaves back to Helsinki. Surprisingly, overnight cruises are often very cheap because the company assumes that you spend on the ship. The actual price depends on the cabin class.
Be aware that by the many ferry companies' rules, it is prohibited to consume your drinks and food on the ferry. Of course, they are not inspecting your belongings but we still recommended you to use the ferries' restaurants. Cheap tickets wouldn't be possible without passengers using ferries´ services.
Tallink Silja has multiple passenger ferry departures, every two hours during the day so they provide a more flexible option for passengers. If you are not calculating every single penny, we recommend you to try Tallink Silja and especially their newest ship called M/S Megastar. It is the most modern ship between Helsinki and Tallinn.
M/S Megastar operates with natural gas so it is also more environmentally friendly than other options.
Viking Line is a Finnish cruise company that operates normally only one ship between Helsinki and Tallinn. The travel time is 2 and half hours so the connection is a little slower compared to Tallink Silja. The cruise ship of Viking Line is not as new as the newest ships of Tallink Silja but the ship is still really modern and in good condition. In the summertime, Viking Line operates sometimes also another and slower ship on the route Tallinn-Helsinki-Stockholm.
The price level of Viking Line may be slightly cheaper than Tallink Silja's prices. One way ticket costs about 15 euros. A return ticket costs about 12 euros if you come back on the same day, otherwise, it will cost more than 30 euros. As with all companies, weekends and the summer season are a more expensive time to travel than weekdays and the winter season. Travelling with Viking Line also gives you an option to book a cabin for overnight connection.
Eckerö Line is also a company from Finland from the Åland islands. It operates only one cruise ship between Helsinki and Tallinn. The ship travels from Helsinki to Tallinn two to three times a day and the travel time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. Eckerö Line concentrates more on the relaxing cruising atmosphere and it is popular especially among Finns who just want to relax by having a nice day cruise to Tallinn and back. Eckerö Line operates also a cargo ship from Helsinki to Tallinn. The ship is meant only for cargo and for passengers travelling in their car.
The cruise ship of Eckerö Line called M/S Finlandia is not the most modern but well-renovated. It is almost of the same size as the previous ferries and is also able to operate even in extreme weather conditions. Generally, it is comfortable to travel with Eckerö Line too.
One-way ticket to Eckerö Line costs about 10 euros and a trip back is included if you travel during the same day. Otherwise, a return ticket booked on a different day costs more. We recommend Eckerö Line for passengers wanting affordable tickets but still good enough quality.
What to Do Onboard?
A journey between Helsinki and Tallinn is really fast. The ride is so short that you won't have enough time to get bored in these big ferries. We have some ideas about how to spend your time on a ferry.
Nordic All-Inclusive Buffet
All the ferry operators have restaurants onboard. We recommend trying an all-inclusive buffet that costs about 30 euros/person. The price may sound expensive but it includes starters, warm meals, desserts and drinks. Usually, also wine and beer are included. The food is Nordic style including many seafood and meat products.
There is not many price and quality differences between the buffets on different ferries. It is wise to pre-book a buffet before the journey. That way, the price is cheaper and you can pass a queue onboard.
All the ferries have tax-free shops. They sell candies, wine and spirits, cigarettes and souvenirs for affordable prices. The price level is much lower compared to the mainland of Finland.
Karaoke and Troubadours
Even though the cruise time is short, there is some entertainment onboard. For example, you can sing karaoke or listen to local artists. While relaxing, having a drink in a bar is possible.
Passengers who are looking for a peaceful atmosphere may pay themselves into lounge premises. The lounges are separated peaceful areas with comfortable seats and power sockets. In addition, they include catering services.
On M/S Viking XPRS, Seat Lounge includes a guaranteed seat. The access price is about 6 euros/person.
On Eckerö Line's M/S Finlandia, the Lounge includes free drinks including beer and wine and snacks. The access price is about 20-25 euros/person.
On Tallink's ferries, the Comfort Lounge includes non-alcoholic drinks and snacks for people travelling in the Comfort Class. Business Lounge includes also alcoholic drinks and a buffet but the cost is more.
Remember to book lounge access with the ferry ticket. Paying the entrance on the spot may cost more.
Our Tallinn Ferry Experiences
We have visited Tallinn multiple times in different seasons and always by ferry. We have travelled with all of the ferry companies mentioned in this article. There are no major differences between the ferries but based on our own experiences, some of the ferries are more modern than the others.
Comparison of Helsinki to Tallinn Ferries
|Company||Fastest Journey Duration|
|Tallink Silja||2 hours
|Viking Line||2h 30mins|
|Eckerö Line||2h 15 mins|
|Tallink Silja||The most modern ferries|
|Viking Line||Only 1 but a modern ferry|
|Eckerö Line||Older but well renovated ferries|
|Company||Price level / Notes|
|Tallink Silja||Slightly more expensive than the competitors|
|Eckerö Line||Really affordable|
Port of the Helsinki
Helsinki has multiple really busy passenger harbours.
The South Harbour of Helsinki is located just next to the main market square and close to the well-known white cathedral. Helsinki South Harbour's ferry terminals can be accessed with trams.
Tallink Silja's Stockholm ferries (but not Tallinn ferries!) and Viking Line's Tallinn ferries are using the South Harbour. Tallink's Stockholm ferries leave from the Olympia terminal and Viking Line ferries from the Katajanokka terminal. These terminals are opposite to each other and must be reached by different trams. Make sure you are heading to the right terminal.
Google Maps works well in Helsinki so it is a valuable aid for travellers.
Tallink Silja's Tallinn ferries and Eckerö Line's ferry are using the West Harbour. The West harbour is moderately close to the centre but not as well located as the South Terminal. Helsinki West Harbour to the city centre can be ridden with a tram too.
Tallink and Eckerö Line are operating cargo ships also from Vuosaari Harbour. The harbour is located in East Helsinki about 10 kilometres from the city centre. Reaching the harbour takes 30 minutes by car or 1 hour by public transport.
Eckerö Line is operating M/S Finbo from Vuosaari Harbour to Tallinn Muuga Harbour. Tallink is operating M/S Sea Wind from Vuosaari to Muuga. It is not possible to board these ships without a vehicle.
If you plan to take your car with, using Vuosaari-Muuga connection is the best option. This way, you can skip driving in the city centres and the ferries are also inexpensive. Also, the price level of services on the ferries is lower. However, these ferries are not as new and comfortable as the ferries travelling between the city centres.
Travellers without a car can't board Tallinn ferries leaving from Vuosaari Harbour.
Port of Tallinn
In Tallinn, the situation is simpler. All companies are arriving to the same Passenger Harbour that is about 2 kilometres from the Old Town. There are 4 terminals in the harbour separated by the letters A, B, C and D. Even though the terminals are close to each other, make sure you are heading directly to the right terminal. The sea between the terminals may slow down your walking.
We recommend walking from Tallinn Harbour to the centre. In the case you need a taxi, be careful with their pricing. The most expensive taxis tend to come to pick up tourists. Negotiate the price with the driver before boarding or use Uber, Bolt or similar apps.
Muuga Cargo Terminal
The cargo ferries of Eckerö Line (M/S Finbo) and Tallink (M/S Sea Wind) arrive at the Muuga Terminal a few kilometres from the Tallinn centre. All other ferries arrive at the Tallinn Passenger Harbour that has a perfect location.
Tunnel from Helsinki to Tallinn
The governments of Finland and Estonia have made initial plans for a railroad tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn. The project has progressed slowly but there is also a separate private project going on. If everything goes well, you can travel between Tallinn to Helsinki by train after 2025. The ticket price will be about 60 euros and the travel time only 20 minutes. But to be realistic, we are doubtful that the tunnel will be finished this soon.
Where to Book?
The overall price level of Helsinki-Tallinn ferries is low.
The cheapest way to travel is to book a day cruise. That means a return trip between Helsinki and Tallinn on the same day. Alternatively, you can buy a one-way trip or a return cruise on separate dates. These options are a little more expensive but still moderately priced. There is constant competition between the operators, which keeps the prices low.
If you value your time, the fastest way to compare ferry prices and to place a booking is to visit Direct Ferries. By doing just a single search query, you get the prices of all available ferry companies on the route. If you are ready to spend more time, visit all companies' websites and look for good deals. This way you may be able to save a few euros but according to our comparison, the difference is small.
How to Book a Ferry?
For easier booking, follow our simple checklist:
- Compare prices on Direct Ferries.
- Choose the most suitable connection.
- Include extras, like a buffet. Paying services separately on the ferry costs usually more.
- Decide if you need a cancellation cover.
- Double check all the details CAREFULLY before the payment.
Are you planning to visit Tallinn but not sure what to do there? Check our article about things to do in Tallinn.
Tips For Your Next Journey...
Book hotels from a reliable booking site
It is wise to book hotels on a reliable booking site. We recommend European booking.com that has good booking conditions, excellent customer service and offers the best prices.
Ensure your booking payments refundable
While there is always a risk that flights can be cancelled anytime by airlines, you should ensure your booking payments to be refundable in case of such cancellation. We use a reliable payment card that gives additional security and savings while travelling and so we recommend you get your own Curve Card.
Don´t miss unforgettable activities and tours
Whether you are travelling near or far, make your trips more memorable by attending organized activities and tours. On GetYourGuide, you will easily find after sought sightseeings and tours at your destination.