The new Interrail countries Estonia and Latvia
When I travelled in 2019, I still had to buy extra tickets for the trains in Estonia and Latvia. However, since 2020 they are part of Interrail and are also included in the Global Pass, which thus grows to 34 countries. The Baltic capitals are among the most popular destinations. Unfortunately, the train connections are often not that great. I tried it anyway!
Timetable: better at weekends
Unlike for almost all European countries, you can NOT find the timetable for this route at Deutsche Bahn and have to look it up on the websites of the Estonian railway Elron and the Latvian railway instead.
During the week, the first train leaves Tallinn at 08:11 and reaches Valga at 11:21. The connection to Riga does not leave until 14:58 and arrives in Riga at 17:39 (with a stopover in Sigulda).
On weekends, you can also travel later from Tallinn (from 12:12), arrive in Valga at 15:22, and the connection then leaves at 16:45 and arrives in Riga at 19:36.
If you travel in summer, there may be other or additional trains. Please inform yourself at short notice or on the spot.
Timetable Latvian side 2019 (2021 slightly changed)
Tickets: better on the internet
At the train station in Tallinn, they didn't really want to sell me a ticket for the Estonian train to Valga. So I went to the website of Elron and booked my ticket. The price was very moderate at around 13 EUR, and I also benefited from the student discount. The proof of this actually has to be requested on the train, but I didn't have to show my card.
I also bought the ticket for the second leg from Valga to Riga online https://rail.shop/ldz. This time it was only 5 EUR, so I got from Tallinn to Riga for less than 20 EUR, cheaper than the bus. Prices for buses start at about 20 EUR, you can buy them here.
Both tickets can also be bought on the train from the conductor.
I receive my tickets as a PDF by e-mail and can also show them conveniently on my mobile phone. But beware! The first ticket ended up in my spam folder, which I couldn't access on my mobile phone. I then pressed "resend mail" and entered another e-mail address, and then asked this person to forward the e-mail to me. Because the sender was known, the ticket then appeared normally. So make sure that doesn't happen to you.
Since 2020, of course, Interrail is valid on both trains without additional reservation.
Interrail: NEW 2020
Estonia and Latvia are new since 2020. You can buy One-Country-Passes (only valid for the respective country) or Global-Passes, with which you can travel all over Europe including your own country. You can buy all Interrail passes here.
The same applies to Lithuania, by the way. However, they are already part of it since 2019.
You can travel on all trains without extra charge or reservation.
Part 1: From Tallinn to Valga
The journey starts at around eight o'clock in the morning at the train station in Tallinn. The station is a terminus and for the fact that there is relatively little rail traffic here, it is actually in pretty good shape. Note that most of the tracks are not covered per se, in case it rains.
Tallinn station from the road
the cross platform is covered
Tallinn station seen from the tracks
I am then surprised by a rather modern train. Built yesterday, it seems!
Modern regional train to Valga
Since the train is broad-gauged, there are two seats on one side and even three on the other. Some have a table. In first class there are only 2 chairs on each side.
2nd class on the regional train Tallinn-Valga
2nd class 6-seater
1st class on the Tallinn-Valga regional train
Apart from that, the train offers almost everything you need: Bicycle stands, wheelchair spaces and a toilet, which is of course also barrier-free.
Bicycle transport possible
Bicycle transport on the Tallinn-Valga train
The line is not electrified, it runs on diesel, which will need some help in the near future, but more about that later. Maximum speed 120 km/h. The journey takes about 3 h and leads via Tartu, the only important city on the way, next to it a student town.
on the way from Tallinn to Riga by train
By the way, you can also buy tickets on the train, as an information board tells you. The appropriate behaviour on the train is also nicely explained.
Information board with ticket purchase options and behavioural etiquette on the train
Around 1120 hrs we reach Valga: final stop! This town is still in Estonia, albeit just over the border. The transfer time is 3.5 hours during the week and only 1 hour at the weekend. I suspect this is due to demand. Only two people (myself included) travelled this route all the way to Riga.
Arrival in Valga
Valga station seen from the city
Valga railway station
Valga station inside
Valga station interior
I used the time for shopping and for a walk around the town. For fun, I walked to the border and crossed it before going back to the station. Walking distance about 2.5 km one way. There was very little going on that noon, even the city museum was unfortunately closed (unscheduled). Around 2 pm I was soon back at the station, which has a very nice and large building.
Then the Latvian train was already waiting, it came in a rather old-fashioned design.
the Latvian train to Riga
I met Lorenzo again, this other one who wanted to go all the way to Riga. He had actually just got on in Tartu, so I was actually the only one travelling Tallinn-Riga by train that day.
Part 2: From Valga to Riga
The Latvian train from Pazazieru Vilicens looks as if bus seats had been installed there. The aisle is quite wide, as they only have 2+2 seating here, despite the Russian wide gauge. The chairs are quite uncomfortable, but at least everyone has a small table. When I take a closer look at this one, I think they are seats from buses.
Seats on the Valga-Riga train
they resemble seats in a bus
Folding table at each chair
the train to Riga is a strange mixture of old and new
Despite their discomfort, the train still has some specials: wheelchair seats (although wheelchair users definitely need help getting on) and wifi, which I didn't test.
Seats for wheelchair users
WLAN on the Latvian train
Very important: The toilet did not work on this trip, but is basically available.
By the way, tickets can be purchased here without extra charge, price: 5,60EUR. And that for 3 hours of train travel. The journey is similar to the first part. First you cross the border after 2 km, then there is a lot of forest.
Characteristic are the railway workers at the stations who always raise their trowels, the whole thing next to a box that rings incessantly as long as the train is within reach. I can't explain what that means, but one thing is for sure: it must have something to do with running on rails. It reminded me of Moldova, where it happened in a similar way.
Railway worker in Latvia
Every now and then the train stops, but hardly any people get on or off. Until the station called "Sigulda". Sports fans are certainly familiar with this place, because from time to time luge competitions take place here in the ice canal. A veritable mob of people gets on here, armed with child and children, prams included. The train gets full!
Crowd in Sigulda
Sigulda railway station
We pass the station building, which is well worth seeing, and after about another hour's journey we reach the terminal station of Riga Hbf, or: stacija, Woksal, Terminal. Station" is written on the façade in three languages. Everything here looks as if there is plenty of rail traffic in Latvia, which, however, completely contradicts my previous impression. I suspect that only domestic traffic is really running. Here is a map showing the routes in the country:
And a few more pictures of the arrival in Riga:
Arrival in Riga
On top of the track
Station building inside
Riga main station
Please note that the escalators here change their direction cyclically, of course. From 9am to 1pm they go down, from 3pm to 8pm they go up. It seems to be the most normal thing in the world here, I feel a bit like in Harry Potter. Well, bad luck if you arrive at 5.38pm, because the escalator doesn't go in the direction you want.
Strange escalator in Riga
Lorenzo from Italy and I looked for another way to get down instead. In front of the station building we said goodbye and arranged a joint city tour for the next day. Now everyone was looking for their hotel. Mine was a particularly great one and had a lot to offer.
Spending the night in Riga
The day before, I had booked a bed in the newly opened Riga Art Hostel. A really great hostel on the edge of the historic old town and close to the train station (<1km). Walking distance from the bus station as well. I can really only report good things. The ambience is promising, they paid attention to cleanliness and especially to friendliness.
Brand new hostel: Riga Art Hostel
Booking link see below
It opened in mid-2019, unfortunately when I was there the kitchen wasn't ready yet. Despite this, every effort was made to organise a fridge for my food anyway. It found shelter in a friendly bar downstairs. That's what I call service! They also helped me to complete my Latvian euro coin collection. Kudos to Daina and the Art Hostel Riga. You can book this and other hostels here.
Would you prefer a hotel? Then search here on booking.com
Posted 4 months ago