During our most recent trip to Finland, we boarded a night sleeper train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, to stop at the Santa’s home in Santa Claus Village and then onwards to Levi for some more festive fun and to meet the main man himself! With a distance of 705km between the two cities, the train journeys are long—and typically overnight—but they are a fantastic way to get from A to B—and a highlight of the entire trip for the kids!
There are two main train options that will take you from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. The first option is the option we chose, the Santa Claus Express Overnight Train by VR. And the second option is the normal VR train by day.
In this article, I’m going to cover both train options, including their pricing, seating options, and all the other small details that could potentially sway your decision. So if you’re flying into Helsinki and you’re looking for a way to head up north to Rovaniemi, or to Kolari (the closest train station to Levi) keep on reading!
Santa Claus Express Overnight Train
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The Night Train departs from Helsinki City Centre Train Station but you can also reach it easily from Helsinki Airport. As we landed in Helsinki at 7am we opted to store our luggage at Helsinki City Train Station and explore Helsinki for the day.
After a fun day exploring and eating in Helsinki, we boarded the Santa Claus Express Overnight Train, which is essentially a Helsinki to Rovaniemi sleeper train. The overnight train takes just under 12 hours. And usually, in December, you’ll have two train times to choose from. However the only thing Santa Claus about the train – is the image on the outside. There are no decorations, no elves and no Santa on the train.
The first train time is the one we opted for. And I personally think it was the better option with kids in tow. The train leaves Helsinki Station at 7:29 pm and arrives in Rovaniemi by 7:30 am the next morning.
The later train departs at 11 pm and arrives in Rovaniemi at 11 am.
Catching the night train from Helsinki Airport
With either train, there is the option to catch the night train via a short regional connection directly from Helsinki Airport to Tikkurila Station. Tikkurila is the First Night Train stop before Helsinki City Centre Station. The Night Train does not depart directly from Helsinki Airport.
The airport’s train station is within a short walk of both terminals and escalators take passengers part of the way and tickets can be bought from Machines or via the HSL app.
A single ticket bought via the HSL Mobile app costs just 2.20 euros, while the regular fare for a ticket bought from a ticket machine at the Central Railway Station or at the airport costs 2.90 euros.
Santa Claus Express Overnight Train Standard Seats
When booking your tickets, you’ll have the option to choose between standard seats or cabins. The standard seats on the train are cheaper. However, considering you’re travelling 12 hours overnight, they aren’t the comfiest option and I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you do opt for a regular seat, then the seats will be in a 2-2 configuration with adjustable headrests, tray tables, and electrical outlets. There are storage racks above the seats. But you will need to store larger suitcases in the luggage racks at the end of the car.
And families travelling with children will be happy to know that the train’s family cars have a little playground to keep your kids entertained.
Tickets for a standard seat on the VR Santa Claus Express Overnight Train start from €20 per adult and €13 per child. But prices really do vary from day to day, So it’s best to book in advance to get the cheapest price.
Santa Claus Express Overnight Train Cabins
As I mentioned previously, if you’re taking the train Helsinki Rovaniemi train, then paying a little extra for a cabin is well worth it. There are two different cabin options, with the main difference being that one has an en-suite bathroom, whereas the other has a shared bathroom.
For an overnight sleeper train, the cabins were spacious, had enough storage for our suitcases, and the beds were comfy—so comfy, in fact, that we had trouble waking my youngest up in the morning. In your cabin, you’re provided with two towels, lights on each bunk, an alarm clock, soap and shampoo.
Cabins without a bathroom are roughly €200 for two people. And cabins with a bathroom are €220 for two people. Families can book cabin side by side but there is no connecting door.
Food Onboard the Santa Claus Express Overnight Train
The VR Santa Claus Express Overnight Train has a dining car and a restaurant car, with the latter needing a reservation. We opted for the dining/buffet car, and there were a few different food options to choose from.
Obviously, being a train, the food wasn’t anything special. But it hit the spot and tied us over until the morning.
You can also purchase breakfast onboard the train. And there are plenty of grab-and-go options like sandwiches and yoghurt pots.
How to Book Tickets for the Helsinki to Rovaniemi Train
The best way to book tickets for the trains from Helsinki to Rovaniemi is on the VR website. There you can input the dates you want to travel, how many people you’re travelling with, and you can select the earlier or later train time.
The website will initially show you prices for standard seating on the train. But you will see an option to include cabin prices or head directly to the Night Train section. Make sure ‘Show cabin prices and night trains is selected.
Cabins with ensuite showers are on the Upper Deck and connecting cabins without WC or ensuite are on the lower deck. Scroll along to see the clickable link to move between upper and lower decks and more availability. If cabins are greyed around the beds, then they are been already been booked.
Children between the ages of 0 and 10 travel on night trains for free when sharing a berth with another passenger. A child travelling in the same sleeping berth does not need their own ticket, but inform customer service about the child traveling with you.
Customer service, tel. 0600 41 900 (Mon–Fri at 5 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sat–Sun at 7 a.m.–10 p.m., price €2 per answered call + local network charge) You can also use the chat feature on the VR website to do this.
You can also pre-order your breakfast. But I personally don’t think that is necessary, we just went down to the dining car.
Other VR Helsinki to Rovaniemi Train Options
If you don’t want to travel overnight, then there are daytime trains that VR operates. The travel time is just over 8 hours, departing Helsinki at 8:24 AM and arriving in Rovaniemi at 4:46 PM. and known as commuter trains. Cabins are not available on these trains – just seats.
Other Ways to Get From Helsinki to Rovaniemi
Although catching the train is a popular way to get to Rovaniemi from Helsinki, you can also catch a flight or a bus. One of the biggest perks of catching a flight is the Helsinki to Rovaniemi flight time is only an hour and twenty minutes.
If you can book cheaper flights at around €70 per person, they can be an extremely cost-effective way to travel from southern to northern Finland if you have limited time.
Additionally, a Helsinki to Rovaniemi bus takes just over 11 hours—with both day and night travel times available—and prices start from €20 per person.
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