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Covered in the Article
- Rail Network in Finland
- Finnish Trains
- International Trains
- Where to Book Train Tickets?
- Bottom Line
Rail Network in Finland
In Finland, we have a 5,926 km long public-owned rail network. Southern Finland is well-covered but in Lapland, the rail network covers only the main cities. Kolari, Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi are the most northern Finnish train stations.
Helsinki being the capital of Finland is a southern central point of the rail network. However, there are still many point-to-point connections between the other cities. When travelling by plane in between cities, usually one has to connect via Helsinki Airport. In contrast, travellers seldom need to connect in Helsinki when travelling by train to other parts of Finland. Oftentimes, it is possible to find a direct route between cities. Also, connecting from one train to another is possible in every major city.
Almost every big city in Finland has at least one railway station. Many cities have plenty of them. Together, there are more than 200 operating railway stations and a few abandoned ones.
Rail Company - VR
The Finnish railway traffic is slowly opening for competition. So far, only the state-owned rail company, VR is operating passenger traffic. The monopoly has a few benefits but also some disadvantages like a higher price level. A good thing is that you do not need to compare ticket prices between companies but all tickets can be bought from the same company.
The best place to buy train tickets is VR's own website. However, you can try perille.fi meta comparison tool to find prices of different types of public transport. VR uses dynamic pricing just like airlines and bus companies. The earlier you buy a ticket the cheaper it will be. Sometimes, there are also sale campaigns going on. The tickets are issued electronically so it is enough to show a QR code to the ticket inspector.
There are three main train types in Finland. Long-distance routes are usually operated by InterCity trains which have two-story modern carriages. A few long-distance routes are operated by Italian-built Pendolinos. These trains are shorter having only one story but they drive a little faster. Unfortunately, some people find Pendolinos uncomfortable because the body of the train is tilting in curves to compensate for lateral forces. Routes near the Helsinki and Tampere area are operated by commuter trains.
VR has three ticket classes: The normal Economy class, Ekstra class and regional class for commuter trains. For long-distance trains, you need to select between the normal Economy or Ekstra class. These classes are quite similar but in the Ekstra class, there are complimentary coffee and tea, newspapers and power sockets near every seat. The Ekstra class has also a dedicated area on the train so it is more peaceful. The other parts of the long-distance trains belong to the normal Economy class. There is no first-class on VR trains.
The Ekstra class costs only about 10 to 30 euros more which makes it very affordable. The exact price depends on the route length.
Seats and Cabins
Long-distance trains use 2+2 seat configuration in open departments. The seats are spacious and they recline. Every seat has a table and at least 1 power socket. On InterCity trains, a traveller can choose whether to sit down- or upstairs.
Travellers often book an overnight train from the south to Lapland. For an overnight train, it is possible to book your own or a shared cabin. The simplest cabins have only beds. The better ones have also a shower and toilet.
Taking a car on a train and sleeping in a cabin is a comfortable way to travel from Helsinki to Lapland. It also comes at a high price. Quite often, flying is cheaper. We advise booking overnight and car-carrier trains early when the prices are still moderate.
The price for a car on a train starts from 49 euros.
Every ticket includes a reserved seat except on commuter trains. A passenger can choose a favourite seat free of extra charge in his ticket class. Seats above the train's restaurant may have extra charges.
Long-distance trains have free WiFi, table and reading light, power sockets, toilets, heating and air conditioning. Commuter trains have fewer services but also they have toilets.
Long-distance trains have a restaurant carriage or sales from a cart. Passengers enjoy typically drinks or coffee with some snacks in the train's restaurant. The restaurant serves also warm meals but the quality may be disappointing. To save money, it is recommended to eat before or after a journey and enjoy only a cup of coffee on the train. Is it allowed to take food on a train but consumption of your alcohol is forbidden.
All long-distance trains have free WiFi. According to our experiences, WiFi is quite slow. Using a mobile phone's internet connection is more reliable and faster. Train's WiFi is still a good service to avoid roaming fees.
Trains in Finland are not fast. Pendolinos can drive up to 220 km/h but normally, they drive from 160 to 200 km/h. The InterCity trains drive between 160 - 200 km/h but the speed depends on the route. Commuter trains are the slowest option and their typical speed is 120 km/h. They also call almost at every station.
The reason for the slow speed is the condition of the tracks. The tracks are not suitable for bullet trains without improvements.
Helsinki Airport Train
There are two HSL trains, Train I and Train P passing through the Helsinki Aiport station. Both trains are traversing the Ring Rail Line bringing passengers to the Helsinki City Center in under 30 minutes either way. If you need to transfer to long-distance trains, you may do so either at Pasila Train Station, the last train station before arriving at Helsinki Main Railway Station or Tikkurila Railways Station in Vantaa. Tikkurila Train Station is just 5 km away from the Helsinki Airport.
VR has an electronic ticketing system. Every ticket has a QR code.
VR uses dynamic pricing. A ticket from Helsinki to Turku costs from 6 to 30 euros one-way. A ride from Helsinki to Lapland costs from 40 to 100 euros. People who prefer to have their cabin must be ready to pay about 50 euros more. Taking a car to the train costs about 40 euros.
In Finland, travelling by train is not cheap. Usually, taking a bus or even flying becomes cheaper. Luckily, VR has sale campaigns now and then and by booking a ticket at the right moment, it is possible to get an affordable rate. In recent years, the prices have been going down.
A conductor inspects tickets on long-distance trains after every station. It is the passenger's responsibility to show the ticket in the first possible inspection. The e-ticket can be shown via VR's mobile app.
Tickets are no longer sold on the trains so a passenger must have purchased a valid ticket before boarding a train. Failure to show a valid ticket during a ticket inspection will result in a penalty of 80 euros.
On long-distance trains, there are paid extra services. You can choose a seat above a restaurant carriage which is sometimes more expensive. Selecting a seat from a closed 2- or 4-seat department costs more than the regular tickets. In long-distance trains, having extra luggage or a bicycle is charged with additional fees. No extra fees need to be paid when travelling with them on commuter trains.
Changes and Cancellations
You can change a ticket to another train before the journey has begun. VR takes a service fee of 5 euros and the price difference of the tickets. Cancelling a ticket is only possible if you have bought a cancellation protection service together with your ticket. This protection costs from a few euros up to 40 euros.
When a train is delayed at least 60 minutes, you can apply for a compensation of 25 per cent of the original ticket price, not including the cancellation protection fee. After 2 hours delay, the compensation will be 50 per cent. Compensation less than 4 euros will not be paid.
The compensation rule is based on the EU's regulation. The compensation is not automated but you must apply for it.
There are only a few international train routes to Finland. You can ride a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburgh or Moscow. Trains between Helsinki and St. Petersburg are called Allegros. This is a common project between Finland and Russia. Trains between Helsinki and Moscow are operated either by VR or by the Russian Railways.
Where to Book Train Tickets?
You can book single tickets for Finnish trains on VR's website. If you plan to visit many European countries, a rail pass is a better option. Visit Eurail to get information and prices of rail passes in Europe. The residents of the UK are recommended to check InterrailUK.
In the Helsinki region, you need to use HSL app to buy tickets for commuter trains. Tickets can also be bought from ticketing machines or R-kiosks.
Travelling by train is maybe the most comfortable way to move around in Finland. It is not fast or cheap. We recommended comparing prices and making bookings early. To save some money, taking a flight or a bus may become cheaper.
Trains are safe, clean and of good quality. You can buy additional services including drinks, food, a cabin or car transportation. If the budget is not a concern, we recommend trying an overnight train from the south to the north.
Have you travelled by train inside Finland? Tell us about your experiences!