There are several ways to get to Finland from Saint-Petersburg: by bus, by train or by plane. Flights to Finland are mostly way too expensive, so we never even consider it. The other two variants are more appealing.
The most popular would be by bus since it is the cheapest option. There are official busses owned by major companies such as Lux Express, Ecolines and others. As a reminder of better times there are private busses, driven by people who used to have a business of taking tourist to Finland and back.
The price of each of options above varies around 1000-2000 RUB (12-30 EUR). it makes this choice reasonable. The ride to Helsinki takes 6-7 hours and the seats are mostly comfortable.
Note: if you opt a private bus it does not guarantee a comfortable travel. Private here is not like in a “private jet”, but more like someone has some spare seats in his van and is willing to get his trip to pay off. it is ok of you know the provider of this transfer and the cars that are used.
If you are not local and have no idea about these individual drivers, I would stick to bigger companies. There is a possibility to get some additional discounts. For example, Lux Express cooperate with PINS, whose card gives you a discount based on the amount of rides you bought.
There is a high-speed train between Saint-Petersburg and Helsinki called Allegro. It has several stops on the way. Since we didn’t need to go to the capital of Finland, but to the North of the country, we took a ticket only to Kouvola station.
There we took another train to Kuopio, and from there we took one more train to Kajaani. At this station we were picked up by our friend who got us on a >2 hours drive to Kuusamo: the most northern place we have ever been. But first things first.
In Saint-Petersburg there are two routes with high-speed trains: to Moscow (Sapsan train) and to Helsinki (Allegro train). They are approximately on the same level. We noticed only one significant difference: there is no section for large suitcases and hangers for clothes like in Sapsan.
Note: if you are travelling with several bags or a big suitcase, make sure you come to the train early enough to out your belongings on the shelf above seats.
It is possible that not all coaches are like that, but the ones we have seen didn’t have this section. If you have a different experience, please let us know in the comments.
We had an hour of waiting at our first Finnish station, Kouvola. As any other Finnish stations, it has everything we needed to wait for the next train comfortably.
Kouvola station has quite a large waiting room with R-Kioski (a popular Finnish chain of shops founded in 1910, they are literally everywhere all over Finland), lockers and toilets.
Those who travel a lot know, that toilets are important. The situation varies from country to country, but Finland usually has good facilities that are free (based on our Helsinki experience). Here we faced a little problem. Look at the photo below:
So, here we are, somewhere in a foreign country with no mobile network and a vital need. What to do? Luckily, there was another woman who happened to be Finnish. She called the number, opened the door and also let me in.
It was a lady’s room, but since there were no Finnish men willing to enter the men’s room, when I came out I let Martin in. There was no one anyway.
What I don’t understand is why they wouldn’t add some coin box so people could just pay for the entrance. Our Finnish friend said that she never saw such a system before, so I guess it is not that typical. However, if you decide to travel trough Finland, be aware.
Kuopio – Kajaani
The next stop over was at Kuopio station and it was nothing remarkable. Our train to Kajaani arrived in 10 minutes, so we didn’t really have to wait.
In this train we had seats on an upper deck. This way we had quite a nice view from the window. It was big, enough for us and for the seats before us. The blind was also for the whole window.
We were enjoying Finnish landscapes when suddenly the guy, sitting before us pulled the blind down. I was choosing the seats carefully, paying attention to the windows so we could see the surroundings. The guy was just starring at his phone and the sun was too bright for him.
I know Finnish people as a very polite nation, so I was unpleasantly surprised. We waited a but and then pushed the blind up so we had enough space to see things in the window and stayed so until we almost arrived. Almost…
As we were informed later, delays of trains are quite normal for Finland. It is surprising as, for example, the busses follow the schedule accurate to the minute. Our train to Kajaani stopped approximately 20 km before the destination and stayed there for an hour.
Funny fact: when announcing stations, they say “Next stop is …” in three languages: Finnish, Swedish and English. It is not that needed in fact, as the context is quite clear. However, when our train got stuck, there were not a single phrase in English. Not very tourist-friendly, I must say.
Our friend was waiting for us at the station. They announced delay or our train’s arrival several times and she kept us updated. There were many military servants waiting going home and just people going somewhere for the weekend. All of them were quite pissed off because of this.
If we had another change of trains at Kajaani, our plan would be pretty much screwed up. Luckily, we continued our journey by car. What we met on our way (some things were quite unusual and creepy…) we will tell you in the next post.
Stay in touch!