In January 2015 I picked up a friend who was studying in Helsinki and we travelled together back home to Austria through the Baltics. On our way from Helsinki to Warsaw we made stops in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, the capital cities of the Baltic States. I have always been curious about these countries however since the train connections between the countries are rather obscure it took quite a while until I finally made it there. Sadly it is currently not possible to travel all the way from Tallinn to Warsaw by train so we had to travel by bus on parts of the route. Here's a short summary on how to travel between these cities using train, bus and ferry. In case there are any updates on train services, especially regarding the reinstatement of the connection from Vilnius to Warsaw and the possible introduction of a new direct train from Riga to Vilnius, this post will be updated accordingly.
Since June 2016 two pairs of trains runs between Kaunas (Lithuania) and Bialystok (Poland) on the weekend, allowing travelling by train from Vilnius to Warsaw.
Since January 2018 two pairs of trains run between Daugavpils (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania), allowing to travel the entire route through the Baltics by train once again.
There are four ferry operators running services on this route: Tallink Silja, Viking Line, Eckerö Line and Linda Line. Tallink Silja, Viking Line and Eckerö Line operate all year round with large ferries that usually take between just 2h and 2h30 for the passage. Linda Line use smaller, even faster catamarans which cover the trip in just 1h30 but do not operate during winter. Overall there are up to 19 departures per day. Despite the short travel time, Viking Line and Tallink Silja even offer overnight trips where you can spend the night on board the ship in a cabin before disembarking the next morning.
Update: Linda Line finished operating in November 2017.
Prices start around EUR 19 for a single deck passage, even at short notice. However prices can vary between operators and depending on when you book. Tickets can be bought online at the websites of the ferry operators as well as directly at the ferry terminals. Viking Line and Tallink Silja both offer discounts for rail pass travellers. Read more about how to get these discounts here. For schedules, booking links and information about the location of the ferry ports have a look at the links below.
For schedules, go to the websites of the ferry companies (see links above).
This website being mainly aimed at rail travel we of course took the train connection between the two cities. There is no direct train but you can travel with a change of trains at the Estonian border station of Valga. Overall travel time is between 7h and 7h30. Tickets can be bought on board of each train; Tallinn – Valga is 15,30€; Valga – Riga costs 5,60€. Tickets are available at the station in Tallinn, online at Elron website (where you get a 10% discount) or simply on board the trains.
Estonia recently renewed its passenger trains completely, all service are now operated by brand new Swiss built EMU and DMU. Although mainly aimed at commuter traffic to and from Tallinn the trains offer reasonable comfort, including a well-working free WiFi connection as well as 1st class accomodation.
The train station in Tallinn is located just outside the old town and easily reachable by foot. Also if you were arriving by ferry and immediately continuing by train you can walk between the ferry port and the station for which you should calculate about 20 minutes. In Valga you have to change to the train to Riga which waits on the opposite platform. In case you take the afternoon connection from Tallinn where you have to wait for about one hour in Valga you can get food and drinks in a small shop just a few metres away from the station on the left. Tickets are simply available on board the train.
From Valga to Riga there is still an old soviet-style DMU running, however comfort is not much worse than on the previous train I'd say and regarding style – just look at the picture. There is even a flawlessly working free WiFi connection!
In Riga the central station is again just a short walk away from the historic old town. On the opposite side you can also find the huge central market which I'd definitely recommend visiting. Have a look at schedules, information about the location of train and bus stations at the links below.
If you prefer to travel directly you can of course also take the bus - there are several connections each day between Tallinn and Riga, for example by LuxExpress. For details, see below at the Riga - Vilnius section.
The best connection is available on weekends, leaving Tallinn at 13:15, arriving in Valga at 16:27. There you have a connection ta 16:38, arriving in Riga at 19:48. During the week you have to leave Tallinn at 08:13 already, arriving in Riga at 17:38 (including almost three hours of waiting in Valga - use the time for a quick walk around town).
Tallinn - Tartu - Valga train schedule valid from December 2018
Riga - Tallinn train schedule 2018
Sadly, there is no train connection on this route. There used to be an option where you could travel on the Riga to Moscow night train until Daugavpils, stay there overnight and continue with the night train St. Petersburg – Vilnius early in the morning. However, since the night train St. Petersburg - Vilnius has been withdrawn last year and you now have to travel by bus.
There have also been plans to introduce a direct train service via Siauliai, however these plans have not materialized yet. Meanwhile the best option for the regular traveller is to go by bus and this is exactly what I did on my trip.
Update: since January 2018 there are two trains once again between Daugavpils (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania). These enable you to travel again by train from Riga to Vilnius. Leave Riga at 07:40 and take the train to Daugavpils where you will arrive at 11:10. Have a look around the city before taking the train to Vilnius at 15:41. Arrival in Vilnius is at 18:24.
Other trains (weekends only): Daugavpils dep 08:57 - Vilnius arr 11:39 | Vilnius dep 05:42 - Daugavpils arr 08:29 | Vilnius dep 11:45 - Daugavpils arr 14:36
The main bus operator on this route is Lux Express, offering nine services throughout the day taking all around four hours. There are two different service types:
- Simple Express is the cheaper option, offering modern coaches with free WiFi connection.
- Lux Express buses are slightly more expensive, offering more legroom and a personal entertainment system.
- Lux Express Lounge class with extra-comfortable reclining seats and complimentary refreshments is available on some LuxExpress service
Tickets are available online directly on the website of Lux Express, at ticket offices at the bus stations or directly at the driver. Prices start at 11€ for Simple Express services, 15€ for Lux Express and 25€ for Lux Express Lounge services. The bus station in Riga is situated just opposite the central market just a few metres away from both the old town and the railway station. In Vilnius, there are two bus stops: The stop Panorama (City Centre) is quite far away from the old town so I would definitely recommend to travel all the way to the bus station which is adjacet to the train station and just a short walk away from the old town. Have a look at schedules, information about train and bus stations at the links below.
Riga - Daugavpils train schedules 2018
After several years of rebuilding, the train line between Lithuania and Poland is open again since June 2016. However, there are currently only two train pairs operating on weekends between Kaunas and Bialystok so the best option still is to go from Vilnius to Warsaw by direct bus. Main operators on this route are Lux Express and Polski Bus. We chose Lux Express who operate only the Simple Express brand on this route, however with the extra feature of a personal entertainment system at each seat. Tickets start from 17€ and are available online or on board the buses.
The ride takes between seven and eight hours, depending on the connection - consider that Poland is one hour ahead of the Baltic States! Being not really fond of bus travel, this probably is about the maximum distance I am willing to endure. Luckily the personal entertainment system provides several movies of different genres as well as a number of TV series which make time go by rather quickly. In Warsaw the buses serve two stops, at Centralna and Zachodnia, both adjacent to the train stations of the same name (Central and Western Station). Normally it will be better to get off at Centralna, from where it is a short walk to the old town. Below you can find the links to schedules and information about bus stops.
Train schedule between Kaunas and Bialystok (with connections from Vilnius and to Warsaw):
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Update: November 2018