Overnight on the Santa Express

Photo by: Roman Babakin
Photo by: Roman Babakin

Overnight on the Santa Express

by Hilary Church
Stripes Europe

When I booked our flights to Finland, I knew we were going to head north to Lapland. I always have a case of post-holiday blues and heading to see Santa a month later sounded like the perfect way to extend the holidays just a little longer.

After the flights were booked, the planning began. How do we get Rovaniemi and further north? The drive time to Rovaniemi from Helsinki is about 10 hours and with only a week and a toddler in tow, this didn’t seem practical. Flight times were inconvenient and time would be wasted heading back and forth to the airport. I then remembered hearing of the Santa Express – the overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. The 12-hour journey begins at the Helsinki Central Railway station, about 30 minutes from the airport. For the cost of our three flights from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (and saving some money on a hotel, score!), we were able to have a private berth (room) with ensuite. The train departs just after 11 p.m. and arrives before noon in Rovaniemi the next day. Children six and under are free in a private berth.

Our toddler had been ecstatic all week awaiting his journey on the “Santa train” and shouted with glee when he saw Santa’s picture on the outside of the train. Santa even had his picture on the water bottles left on the bunk beds! You are provided with towels, a pillow, a comforter and a bottle of water. The bunk beds are long; however, fairly narrow if you’re trying to sleep with a squirmy child. In hindsight, we might have booked two interconnecting berths so we had a little more space to spread out. The nightshade does a great job blocking out all of the light. We had a very large checked bag, two backpacks, a car seat and coats. Surprisingly, we were able to cram everything into the small space, with room to walk around.

The train chugged along through the night and when we woke, we sat with the shade drawn taking in the beautiful snow-covered landscape for several hours before arriving at the small station in Rovaniemi. Our son talked about the Santa train all week and was delighted that we’d be making the same journey back to Helsinki. It was definitely a timesaver and a highlight of our trip. If (when) we return, we will definitely be taking another trip on the Santa Express. When your almost three-year-old won’t stop talking about the Santa train weeks later, you know it was a great booking decision. The Santa Express runs year-round, so if you’re looking for an easy, cost-effective, timesaving means of travel, look no further than the Santa Express.

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