The missing link of transportation in the upper-right corner of Europe is back: now you can travel the Baltic Capitals by train again. The time to deal with the heavy traffic and not so scenic routes of buses and cars is over, and a new, more scenic and appealing Baltic unfolds for all of us.
The new year 2018 started with big news for the train lovers in the north-east of Europe. The Vilnius (Lithuania) – Daugavpils (Latvia) train line, discontinued for some time, has started running again on weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays you will be able to cross the beautiful north-east of Lithuania and south-east of Latvia with an eco friendly scenery on sight from your window, predominantly pine-tree forests.
With this re-opened route, the capital cities of the three Baltic Countries -ie, Tallinn in Estonia, Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania- are again connected by train. You can, then, explore the three countries following a route either from north to south or viceversa. The route would be as it follows:
- Tallinn (Estonia) – Valga (Estonia), with a connection in Tartu (Estonia).
- Valga (Estonia) – Riga (Latvia)
- Riga (Latvia) – Daugavpils (Latvia)
- Daugavpils (Latvia) – Vilnius (Lithuania)
Travelling across the Baltic States on train is not the quickest way of transport (even if it actually is for the newest Vilnius – Daugavpils route), but it will be a peculiar and even romantic trip. You will be able to visit the three capital cities, as I mentioned; but you will also, get to visit the interesting Valga/Valka, a city-turned-into-two by the border of Estonia and Latvia (I started 2017 in Latvia because I walked past the border from my hostel in Estonia 5 minutes before midnight!)
The new train connection started on Saturday, January 13, run by Lietuvos geležinkelių (Lithuanian Railways) and it takes approximately two and a half hours. There will be two trains per day, on weekends only, and the cost will be 9.00€ each way. The departure times are 5:52 and 11:45 from Vilnius and 8:57 and 15:41 from Daugavpils.
The connection has been planned so that people who want to do a day trip to Daugavpils from Vilnius can do so, arriving in the morning and leaving on the afternoon. The whole Baltic train trip, as it stands now, should be seen more of a multiple day adventure than a short itinerary, though. It is impossible to go from Tallinn to Vilnius or viceversa in a day. But, as a week trip, with stops in Tartu, Valga, Riga and Daugavpils between Tallinn and Vilnius regardless of the trajectory, this is a comfortable and different experience.
My suggestion for a week trip across the Baltic States by train
Let’s get practical and imagine you are coming to the north-east of Europe for a week. When exactly should you be taking each train and how much would the transport cost you on total? This is my day by day proposal to you:
- Day 1. Monday. Day in Tallinn.
- Day 2. Tuesday. 8:13 train from Tallinn Balti Jaam to Tartu. Arrival 10:12. Price 12.00€ Tickets in Elron. Day in Tartu.
- Day 3. Wednesday. 10:15 train from Tartu to Valga. Arrival 11:27. Price 4.90€. Tickets in Elron. Day in Valga.
- Day 4. Thursday. 5:16 train from Valga to Riga. Arrival 7:57. Price 5.60€. Tickets in PV. Day in Riga.
- Day 5. Friday. Day in Riga.
- Day 6. Saturday. 7:40 train from Riga to Daugavpils. Arrival 11:10. Price 7.05€. Tickets in PV. Day in Daugavpils.
- Day 7. Sunday. 8.57 train from Daugavpils to Vilnius. Arrival 11:39. Price 9.00€. Tickets in Traukinio Bilietas. Day in Vilnius.
As you can see, the trip is easy to do with one week time, and you would even have full days in the cities of your choice (my example has a full day in Tallin and almost two in Riga). The only thing to bare in mind is that the Daugavpils to Vilnius connection (first or last stage of the trip) has to be done on either Saturday or Sunday. And yeah, you will have to wake up quiet early for some of this trips, but, just imagine a sunrise over the Baltic forests as you cross countries by train. You are welcome!
Lithuania, surprisingly, discontinued all their international train routes for a while, a very strange move for an European Union country, but the Vilnius-Daugavpils is now the second international route for them in 2018, and gives a little bit of hope for us dreaming that this is just a step forward towards the Rail Baltica.
Rail Baltica is a project to link Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with a European standard gauge rail line, providing passenger and freight service between the countries and improving rail connections between Central and Northern Europe. But that, is another story.