Traveling from Helsinki to Lapland by train is the most convenient way to get from Southern Finland to Lapland if you have even one of the following:

  • loads of stuff
  • kids
  • pets
  • a car
  • a limited amount of time

We Finns often drive to Lapland. So did my family too but then we decided to try the train. We booked the night train with a car because we wanted to explore Lapland on our own once we were there.

And oh, the easiness of packing one week’s things in the trunk of our car, parking the vehicle into the car-carrier, walking to our compartment and waking up the next morning in Lapland… After that one time on the train, I knew I was never going to drive to Lapland again!

I have gathered this mini-guide to help you make the best trip to Lapland using the train. 

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Helsinki to Lapland Trains: Your Options

There are a couple of Lappish railway stations: Rovaniemi, Kolari and Kemijärvi. From Kolari, it’s the easiest for you to explore the western Lapland. There are buses leaving for Lappish resorts (for example Ylläs and Levi) from the Kolari railway station. From Kemijärvi station, you’ll get to the eastern Lapland. Rovaniemi is the central hub of Lapland.

On my trips, I have traveled from Helsinki to both Kolari and Rovaniemi. When using the train, my recommendation is to travel from Helsinki to Lapland using the night train. It’s the most efficient use of your time and if you book early, not so expensive as you might think.

Departure time is always around 7-9 pm from Helsinki and arrival time in the morning or before noon at the last destination. By the way, the Helsinki – Rovaniemi Night Train connection is sometimes called as Santa Claus Express because Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus. Check here the timetables from Helsinki to Lappish railway stations.

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Helsinki to Lapland Train – How Much It Costs?

You can buy a seat, a berth, a private compartment and take a car with you if you want. A lot of options! If you are traveling on a budget, I recommend booking 2-3 months before your trip. You can easily score a cheap berth ticket (for example, 50€/one-way in a Helsinki Rovaniemi train).

In August 2017, the price of Helsinki-Rovaniemi-Helsinki tickets including a car and two persons in a private compartment with own toilet & shower was around 450 euros.

In April and September 2018, the price of Helsinki-Kolari-Helsinki tickets including a car, two persons and a baby in a private compartment was around 650 euros on both times. Kolari is further north compared to Rovaniemi.

In March 2019, the price of Helsinki-Kolari-Helsinki tickets including a car, two persons and three kids (two of them under 10 and thus free of charge), in a private compartment was around 800 euros.

Waiting for the Lapland night train in Helsinki Pasila railway station

Waiting at Pasila railway station in Helsinki to hop on the train and go to our compartment. The car is already on board.

The Older and Newer Lapland Night Trains

There are older trains and newer trains shuttling between Lapland and the south. I have traveled in both. The older train model doesn’t have private toilets in the compartments.

However, the cabin and bed are slightly bigger in the older model. So, as we travel with a kid or kids, we have chosen the older train model, if there was a possibility to do so. Both train types have their pros and cons. In both, the bathroom facilities are tidy.

A Lapland Night Train with a Car

You are able to take a car with you to the Lapland night train. As it might sound a bit tricky (it’s not!), I try to describe how it works.

  1. Buy the tickets.
  2. The driver (most likely you) drives the car into the car-carrier. Others wait aside as that happens. This area is somewhere close to the regular station.
  3. Walk to the regular station platform and board the train as usual. (Car-carriers are attached separately to the ordinary train.)
  4. Go to your compartment and get comfortable.
  5. Don’t get too comfortable because you will hear a knock on your door and tickets are checked.
  6. Get really comfortable.
  7. Wake up at your destination.
  8. Walk to the car-carrier platform. The driver gets the car.
  9. Continue your adventure!
helsinki to lapland train takes cars too!

The car-carrier station in Pasila, Helsinki looks like this. There’s a short walk to the main station of Pasila where you get on board.

Unloading of cars from the Lapland night train. The car-carrier about to be opened so that the drivers can fetch their cars in Rovaniemi. Behind on the left, the sleeping cars of the same trains.

Seven Important Tips to Lapland Night Trains

Here are my helpful tips from several train rides so you know how to book and what to expect on board!

#1 Book early

Remember to book early in advance, in all seasons! Especially winter time is crazy busy! We buy our tickets online. Finland has only one state-owned railway company, so you can’t go wrong.

Usually, you can buy night train tickets three to four months before the actual date. If the search is not able to fetch your dates, then the tickets haven’t been released.

If I’ve had any questions about the connection which I’m about to book, I have chatted with the customer service on Facebook. The chat is phenomenal! So quick to reply. Another option is to call the customer service.

#2 Pack the minimum

The cabin is comfortable but understandably tiny. Pack a separate bag with overnight essentials for the train trip only. The train price includes towels, linen, and a tiny water bottle. Remember to take earplugs and an eye mask if you are a light sleeper!

#3 Happy if not hungry

There is a cafeteria on board with extended opening hours. On our first train trip, we chose to bring our snacks to maximize the unsocial bliss of our private compartment. Later (read: after the baby), we have used the cafeteria as it is so easy to eat there.

Anyway, my recommendation is to take at least a big bottle of drinking water with you! You cannot drink tap water on the train and the free bottles in the compartment are minuscule.

#4 Nauseous?

If you get seasick, the side movement of the train when lying may cause you the same feeling. Have a pill (you can get it from a local pharmacy without a prescription) and feel better.

#5 Family business

At the moment, children aged 10 and under travel free of charge if they sleep in the same berths with the parents.

It is a great deal but not a good night of sleep. If you would like to have separate berths for kids but be close to them, you can ask for adjoining compartments. In that case, remember to make your booking via phone or consult your booking in the chat before booking.

If you are just booking one compartment and have young kids who travel for free, you can do the online booking this way: Buy private compartment tickets for the adult/adults.

Then, go to the VR Facebook chat and say you have young kids traveling with you. They will ask your ticket number and send free kids’ tickets into your email.

#6 New train model compartment info

The cabin with a private bathroom looks like this. 

There is a place for everything in the Lapland night train bunk

Inside the lapland night train aka Santa Claus Express
One berth is comfortable for one person and belongings. These two pics are from the newer train model. 

#7 Older train model compartment info

Here are some helpful pics of the older compartment style. 

Helsinki to Lapland train is so simple to use!

The compartment.

Helsinki to Lapland train is a super easy way to get to Lapland!

The orange table of the compartment is a sink too!

Helsinki to Lapland train is so comfortable!

The upper bed tilts with the use of the ‘wall spike’ so that you fit to sit straight on the bed below.

Warm wishes from Finland, 

A Finland blog that helps you connect with authentic Finnish language & travel resources

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Helsinki to Lapland train is a fantastic way to travel Lapland!

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