Taking the Allegro train from Helsinki to St Petersburg takes just 3.5 hours and runs four times a day. It’s efficient, modern and very easy to use, so instead skip the airport queues and try the cheaper (and more fun) option of taking the train.
Before you leave
I would highly recommend pre booking your tickets here at least a couple of days before your departure date. The online form is simple, needing just a few personal details (including passport information) and then you receive an email with downloadable tickets. Make sure you print out your tickets as you will need them in paper form to get on the train. Both 1st and 2nd class tickets are available with the main difference being that food is included with the 1st class ticket and the seats are slightly bigger. For this relatively short journey, we found 2nd class to be the best choice based on price, comfort level, travel time and ability to bring other food on board.
Most of the trains are fairly roomy but remember that you will need to put your bags in the luggage compartment above the seats or in the designated luggage section so I would recommend not taking anything too large. A small carry on suitcase or a backpack would be ideal. If you are still working on packing light, make sure your luggage is at least easy to carry and move around.
Before getting on the train
Be aware that when you enter Helsinki train station you will have to put your bag through an airport style conveyor belt security scanner and then walk through a security scanner – it is a lot quicker than airport security (it only takes a minute or two)!
Tickets & Passport
Before allowing you to board, an attendant will check your passport against the details on your ticket so ensure you have both your passport and ticket to hand. It is a good idea to keep these handy throughout the journey in case you are asked to present them.
On the train
Immigration & Customs
All customs and border checks are done on board making it even easier than going through the airport! Shortly after boarding in Helsinki, Finnish immigration officers will come through and check your passport and visa information. Once crossing the Finnish/Russia border, Russian officials will come through and again check your passport and visa information. A Russian customs officer will come through, ask what is in your luggage and as long as you have all your documents in place, this is a very straight forward process.
On your ticket you will have been assigned a carriage and a seat number so make sure to find the right spot. The seats are fairly comfortable; all trains will have a tray table but only some will have easily accessible charging outlets.
A snacks and drinks cart frequently passes through the carriages offering alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages, chips and dried fruit snacks. Additionally, there is a dining cart offering warm meals. You also have the option to order and pay for food using an app which can be downloaded on the train.
The train does have wifi and although it isn’t a fantastic connection, it is good enough for general browsing. Alternatively, take the opportunity to relax, take in the scenery and read a book.