Where did I go: Helsinki & Tallinn
When did I go: December 2016
On our visit to Helsinki and Tallinn, we traveled from Helsinki to Tallinn (and back) by ferry. This is a review of our experience.
I bought the tickets on-line with direct ferries. I like direct ferries as it allows you to mix and match your onward and return tickets between different ferry companies to get you the ferries most suited to your schedule (and budget). This meant that we bought outward tickets on the Viking line and return tickets on the Ecekro line. Besides getting the crossing times that suited us best, it also gave us the option to try out two different ferry companies, so a double win.
Our outward journey was on the Viking line. The ferry was departing from the Helsinki – Katajonakka terminal. Helsinki has several ferry terminals and the Katajanokja Terminal is the closest to the city centre, and is about a 20 minute walk from the Senate Square.
We arrived at the Terminal an hour before the departure time and headed to the foot passenger entrance (there is a separate one if you have a vehicle). We collected our tickets from the machine and headed to the departure area.
All of this is was fairly straightforward and everything was well signposted. The only downside was that the departure area didn’t have much in the way of shops/cafes, so there wasn’t much to do whilst you waited. However, as 6th of December was Independence Day in Finland, there was a small ceremony with some mascots.
The ferry started boarding about 20 minutes before the departure time. It was busy, but not too crowded. Inside there ferry, there are several cafes, and restaurants and a large shopping area.
The ferry left on time and we went out on to the deck. It was a beautiful and clear day and as the ferry pulls out of the harbour, you get a great views of the Suomenlinna fortress and the Helsinki skyline.
We spent the next 2.5 hours playing cards, eating and drinking and shopping.
It was a clear and calm day for the crossing, but there isn’t a lot to see outside until you see Tallinn in the distance. Also being December, it was pretty cold outside. When we arrived in Tallinn, ferry announcements gave us plenty time to get our things together. There was a bit of a queue to get out, but we were on our way to Tallinn city centre within 20 minutes.
Tallinn to Helsinki
Our return trip was with the Eckero Line. We arrived at Terminal A in Tallinn 90 minutes before departure time. There was no ticket machine, so we had to collect our tickets at the counter. Similar to Helsinki, there is not much to do in the Terminal, except for a cafe and a couple of souvenir shops. We used the opportunity to stock up on gifts and souvenirs. There were a lot of people buying alcohol. We had heard that the Tallinn to Helsinki was a bit of a booze cruise as alcohol is much cheaper in Tallinn.
The ferry arrived on time and then we boarded.
Facilities very similar to Viking line – but this ship had a much bigger restaurant at the back and a large selection of food and drinks.
The return trip was much the same as the outward trip – and we spent most of it playing card. Unlike the viking line, the Eckero line docks at the West Terminal in Helsinki, this is on the opposite side of the city to the Katajanokka terminal.
The third option – Silja line
There are 3 ferry companies that provide services between Helsinki and Tallinn – The Viking line, Eckero line and Silja line. Although we chose the first two as they has the schedules that suited us best, the Silja line is also a good option. According to reviews, the Silja line is faster than the other two (2 hour crossing as opposed to 2.5 hours). However, I did see a few reviews saying that the Silja line ferries were more prone to cancellation due to bad weather – possibly because they have faster vessels.
I can highly recommend the ferry crossing from Helsinki to Tallinn (and vice versa), even if you only go for a day trip. Easily accessible, stress-free, it’s a great way to travel between the two cities.