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Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki--terribly confused!!!

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Whoever said that several options were better than one? I'm traveling to Riga for a few days, then to Tallinn (by bus), where I'm staying overnight, then the following morning from Tallinn to Helsinki (by ferry). I confess I'm beyond confused about transportation options, especially when it comes to all those ferries.

1. From Riga to Tallinn, are there any alternatives to Eurolines buses? Eurolines has a very strange schedule. I need a morning bus (that way I could spend at least half a day in Tallinn), and it looks like my only option is 5:15am, which, considering that I'm renting a private apartment in Riga, would make returning the keys to the owner very difficult. There is a night bus, but that leaves, I believe around 11pm, which gets you to Tallinn in the middle of the night.

2. What is the difference between all the Tallinn-Helsinki ferries (I found at least 4 or 5)? Do they all dock in the same place in Helsinki? Is it in the center of the city, or will I need a taxi to get to my hotel? I need a morning ferry, reasonably fast, reasonably priced. Which one should I pick? (On some sites, I can't get to the schedules; on others, I can't figure out the prices.) Any personal recommendations?

3. Somewhat related question: are there any ATMs on or near the bus station in Tallinn, or will I be stranded there without EEK? Same question for whatever dock/port I'll end up in Helsinki (although, currency shouldn't be a big issue there).

Thanks in advance for answers to these and any other questions you might anticipate :)

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    latest,

    I'll try to answer your questions in the order you posted them:

    1. Nordeka also operates a bus service from Riga to Tallinn with their busses leaving at 07.20 h and arrival in Tallinn at around 13.20 h.
    The website is:
    http://www.nordeka.lv/home_eng.html
    There might be an even later option at around 10.50 and at around 13.00 h, but I don't know who operates it.
    Unless things have changed dramatically, buses for Tallinn leave all day, there should be around 7 connections or so.
    I would suggest you pass by the Bus Station while in Riga and inquire about it. I don't expect that you need to pre-book much ahead of time.
    The Bus Station (Latvian: "Autoosta") is located near Central Stationin Pragas iela 1.

    2. Tallinn's port is located very close to Old Town and is basically walkable if you are staying anywhere close and do not have too much luggage to carry.
    Fast ferries are operated by Silja Line, Tallink, Nordic Jet Line and Linda Line.
    Silja Line, Nordic Jet Line and Tallink all leave from the same basin in close proximity to Old Town. Linda Line, I believe depart from a basin slightly farther West, but I am not absolutely sure. Any of Silja, Tallink or NJL should be a fine choice anyway. I don't know at which time of year you'll be travelling, so be warned that those fast ferry connections will not be available in late fall/ winter.
    BTW I travelled on Silja as I had a combination of tickets for transfer on their ferry to Germany. I enjoyed the trip, but I believe they might be slightly more expensive than Tallink and NJL. All of those three companies are extremely reputable and reliable and I don't think you could go wrong with any of them. Linda Line used to have some reliability problems as I believe two of their speed boats are older Russian made ones. But to my knowledge they have also introduced a brand new one.

    Do bear in mind that Tallink arrives at Helsinki's West Terminal, whereas Silja and NJL arrive at the Makasiini (Silja) and Kanava Terminals in Helsinki, which are located opposite each other in the basin bordering the nice food market of Helsinki.

    Here are some links in English with times and prices:

    http://www.silja.fi/PRICES/One-way%20cruises/?listHinnat=2883&x=27&y=13

    http://www.tallink.fi/en/index.html

    http://www-eng.njl.fi/cgi-bin/timetable.cgi?lang=english

    This is a map of the port of Helsinki indicating where the ferries land:

    http://www.hel.fi/port/english/matkustajaliikenne/lahtojatuloterminaalit/index.html

    3. I have no personal experience with the bus station in Tallinn. BUT: I would almost guarantee that you won't be stranded in Tallinn. First of all, Tallinn is comparatively small, which is why you are likely to be not too far from any bank branch. Second, ATMs are abundant and you should easily find one. Plus, I cannot imagine that there is no ATM at the Bus Station itself.
    A local and very reliable bank is Hansabank, Eesti Ühispank is its venerable competitor.

    For further info, I am sure that you are already familiar with In Your Pocket Guides, if not, I urge you to do check their webpage at

    http://www.inyourpocket.com

    Their guides provide the most valuable information in the area and can't be praised too much. I would suggest that at a small charge you obtain the current print version upon arrival in each city. They are on sale in kiosks (Narvesen, a Latvian version of 7-11) in Riga and Tallinn (no Narvesens I believe in Tallinn, though) or at the front desks of the major hotels.

    Should you require any more info, do post!

    Regards
    hsv


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    Wow, hsv, thanks for this wealth of information! I did download the bus schedule from inyourpocket.com last night, but couldn't figure out who ran the 7:20 bus; now I know. (inyourpocket.com doesn't list nordeka website for some reason.)

    The reason I need to sort out the transportation details in advance, especially the Riga-Tallinn leg, is that my choice of accommodations depends on it. (i.e. if I'm taking a night bus, I'll need to book my apartment in Riga for fewer # of nights, etc.)

    I'm traveling in mid-to-late September. Will all ferries still be operating? Is one of the Helsinki terminals you list (West, Silja, Kanava) preferable to others, or are they all close by, easily accessible and depend on where I'm staying in the city? (I haven't the foggiest idea, by the way, so I'm open to suggestions.) I've been to Riga & Tallinn before, but never to Helsinki, so I'm not at all familiar with the city layout.

    I'm also wondering if, unlike the bus, I should reserve the ferry in advance, from home here, or at least from Riga.

    I'm completely reliant on my ATM card, and I've been "stranded" before a number of times in both big & small European cities, thanks to either nonexistent or non-working cash machines. So now I'm wiser (or maybe just paranoid) and never assume there is an ATM in the most obvious place (like a major bus or train station). Although inyourpocket.com does say there is one in Tallinn's bus station, so woo-hoo!

    I will definitely have more question as I move along in my planning (hotels, anyone?), so I'll post again.

    Thanks!

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    Ferries operate all through the year, it is the hydrofoils and catamarans that stop running for winter. By even those don't stop till around Christmas. The reason why they stop is the ice situation in the Gulf of Finland, ferries can handle ice, hydrofoils and catamarans cannot.

    I usually take NordicJetLine, and one of the reasons is Kanavaterminaali. It is in the center. But so is also Silja's terminal. Länsisatama where Tallink docks is a little further, but you get easily to the very center with a tram or metro. Both run nearby.

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    latest,

    elina's advice on Helsinki is (as always) spot on. I had hoped that she would join in on this thread with valuable info on Helsinki.

    I tried to hint in my former post, that I find Tallink's terminal in Helsinki less preferable to the ones used by Silja and NJL as they are located closer to the Market Halls and the Dome and Uspenkij (spelling?) cathedral etc, so it is a nice start for a sight-seeing tour of Helsinki to arrive at their terminals. As to the choice whether to use Silja or NJL, I would make that dependant on the convenience of their departure times and price.

    I used to live and work in Riga for a while, and have stayed at various hotels in Riga and some in Tallinn. If you would give me an idea of what price range you'd be looking at, I might have some suggestions.

    The most versatile hotel in Riga that I can recommend, though, is Konventa Seta, which, I suppose, many people could arrange themselves with. It is a sister property to one of Riga's premier hotels, the Hotel de Rome, but is rather 3-star, but still nice. It is located right by St. Peter's church in Old Town and housed in a variety of old convent mansions that have been meticulously restored and feature all modern conveniences such as Western style bathrooms. It usually is pretty affordable and certainly offers a good value.

    For good rates on a number of hotels in Riga, you might want to take a look at:

    http://www.viariga.lv/en/viesn/riga.htm

    That respectable travel agency can also be used for other bookings such as transport. Please note that I have no affiliation whatsoever with that business.

    But again, if you give me some clue what you are lookinng for, I might do a bit better with specific comments or recommendations!

    Enjoy planning!
    hsv

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    Thank you so much both! More questions, as expected.

    1. Should I buy those ferry tickets now? Is there a chance they'll be out of available seats if I buy them on the day of departure? Prior to departure, how early should I be at the Terminal?

    2. I don't need a hotel in Riga, but I need one for Tallinn and one for Helsinki. Something central (perhaps, close to the terminals) and fairly easily accessible. (My memories are somewhat hazy, but I do remember lots & lots of steps in the center of Tallinn...). Prices -- (hopefully) in the 70-100 euro/night range. (Somebody posted here that they had scored hotels in both Helsinki and Tallinn for under 70 euro; I'm trying to find that post.)

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    Again, trying to answer in the order of your questions:

    1. Hard to tell if you should book ahead the ferry connections. I don't expect it to be necessary, but you might get hold of a deal on the hotels, as the ferry companies have usually quite good rates on them in Tallinn as well as in Helsinki.

    You should be at the ferry dock between half an hour and an hour prior to departure, if you still need to buy a ticket rather an hour than half an hour only.

    2. In Tallinn, I have stayed at the Reval Hotel Olümpia, the Scandic Palace and the Radisson Hotel, none of which would be in your price range, I believe (except if the ferry operators have a deal). Out of these, I would rank the Radisson and Olümpia as a tied first and the Scandic Palace despite its better location on Vabaduse Väljak close to Old Town last.
    The former two are a bit impersonal, more business style hotels, but the rooms are well appointed and their amenities comfortable. The Olümpia has a rather nice rooftop pool and sauna (although not included in the price during daytime and evenings).

    I have heard some good reviews of the Domina Hotels, esp. the City, but that might just be out of the budget, too, so you might want to check out the Domina Ilmarine, which is close to the port housed in an old former warehouse.

    Big and ugly from the outside, Sokos Hotel Viru under Finnish management has undergone major renovations recently and receives good reviews almost anywhere. Thus, it might be worth a shot, too, as its location at the foot of Old Town is hard to beat.

    From what I have seen, the Nordic Hotel L'Ermitage might be worth a try, too, overlooking Toompea castle and being a bit smaller than the Sokos Viru.

    The location of the Scandic Barbara is very good, too, just steps from Vabaduse Väljak and Old Town opposite that. It, too, is not too pretty from the outside (at least for my taste) although it is housed in an older building, but it should be pleasant enough from the inside.

    For a more budget option, the Mihkli might please you. I seem to recall that fellow Fodorite marcus enjoyed his stay there.

    In Helsinki, a very comfortable option located centrally just by the quay of Katajanokka Terminal, where NJL lands (and just opposite the Silja terminal) and not too far from the Center of town, in close proximity to the dome, there is the Scandic Grand Marina in a former warehouse complex. The ferries might have a deal with it. Cannot comment on any hotel apart from that, that would fit your requirements as I have been to Helsinki only once.

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