How to use Avios points to get to Tallinn, Estonia

Tomorrow, as part of our unofficial series of “reviews of new luxury hotels in European tourist spots operated by chains where you might have reward points or free night certificates“, I will be looking at the brand new Hilton in Tallinn, Estonia.  (EDIT:  our review of Hilton Tallinn Park is now live and is here.)

Tallinn is unfairly best known as the Finn’s cheap drinking destination. One of my best friends who is from Finland warned me of hundreds of Finnish stag and hen parties in Estonia’s capital. She also told me that taking the ferry from Helsinki is not a good idea – but we had already booked the tickets …..

Besides the cheap booze (relaive to Scandinavian alcohol prices), Tallinn is becoming an increasingly popular short break destination for the rest of Europe. With the opening of the new Hilton and also because Estonia was on my list of countries I wanted to visit, I made my way up to Tallinn.

Getting to Tallinn from London

…. is surprisingly tricky.  easyJet flies from Gatwick but there are only two departures per week on Monday and Friday.  Ryanair has four flights a week from Stansted but they leave at 6.45am.

I came back on easyJet on the Monday afternoon service which is conveniently timed at 4.35pm.  Going out on Friday evening, I decided to see how it could be done using Avios.

The easiest route is to fly via Helsinki on Finnair or British Airways.  As Finnair flies from Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh as well as London, you don’t have any excuse if you live outside the capital.

There are connecting flights available from Helsinki to Tallinn on Finnair.  They do not show on as being bookable with Avios because they are operated by a Finnair subsidiary.  American Airlines does show them as being booking on AA miles so BA may be able to do it via the call centre.  AA wasn’t showing any availability for my dates so it was not an option – and it would have meant I didn’t get to see Helsinki.

Tallinn city view from viewing platform

London to Helsinki airport

My trip started on Friday evening with a late (and delayed) British Airways flight from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Helsinki where I was going to spend the night at the Hilton airport hotel.

There isn’t much to say about the flight, except that this salmon in Club Europe was actually very nice.

BA salmon salad

I arrived in Helsinki around 1am and made my way straight to the Hilton Helsinki Airport hotel. As I did not have a private sauna in my room (some rooms do – I was hoping that Rob’s Diamond status may have done the trick, but it didn’t), the hotel sauna closed at 10pm and I had an early start the next morning, I went straight to bed.  You can read Rob’s review of the Hilton Helsinki airport hotel here from his trip last year.

The hotel’s Executive Lounge was closed on Saturday and I had breakfast in the main restaurant in the morning. I was incredibly happy to see proper bread and a large selection of fish, cheese and hot dishes!

Hilton helsinki airport breakfast

Hilton Helsinki Airport to Helsinki

There is a newly opened train station at the airport with trains into Helsinki which is a quicker connection than the bus or a taxi. From the Hilton it is a 10 minute walk to the station. As you leave the hotel turn right and walk across the parking lot, turn left onto the main road, keep walking and from then on there are signs leading the way to the station.

Unfortunately arriving at the station doesn’t mean you have arrived at the platform:

Helsinki Airport Train Station

From the station entrance to the platform is another 7 minutes walk starting with a long way down (I took the escalator but the lift would have been faster).

Helsinki Airport Train Station escalator and lifts

Then you have to walk through a tunnel – note the exposed rock on both sides:

Helsinki Aiport Train Station walking tunnel

until you finally arrive at the platform.

Helsinki Airport train station tracks

There is also an entrance directly from the airport.  Google Maps said walking from the Hilton through the airport to the station takes about the same time (good to know for a rainy day). There are two trains with different routes from the airport to Helsinki.  I trains take 34 minutes and P trains 28 minutes.

Helsink Airport Train Station ticket machine track

A ticket to Helsinki costs €5.50. The ticket machine only takes card payment. However once I boarded I found out that you can also buy tickets on the train.

Helsinki Train station train

Helsinki Train Station to Ferry

If you planning to head to Tallinn via Helsinki, you should really try to spend a day in Helsinki as well as it is a lovely city in the summer months.  Unfortunately I had to press on.

When I got to Helsinki I had 1 ½ hours until the departure of the ferry and decided to have a quick stroll through the city centre. Coming out of the station cross the road, turn left and then right and you will find the tourist information centre where you can get a map.

Helsinki city map

Unfortunately it was Midsummer’s Day and the shops were all closed ….. great timing.

There’s a pretty Russian style church in the city centre:

Helsinki orthodox church russian style

Around the corner from the church was a street market with typical Finnish crafts:

Helsinki city market waterfromt

The terminal for Linda Line was only another 5 minute walk:

helsinki ferry terminal linda line

I reckon if you walk straight from the station to the terminal, you should arrive within 15-20 minutes. However if you do have a bit of time to spare, you should walk around and take in the city.

Helsinki to Tallinn

Linda Line is the quickest connection from Helsinki to Tallinn and also has the most central departure point in Helsinki.  It takes about 1 ½ hours from coast to coast.

Linda line ferry helsinki to tallinn

The ferry was very empty, probably because of Midsummer’s Day. My friend told me that the ferry is always overcrowded with drunk people who get even more drunk on the ferry and then continue drinking in Tallinn …… luckily there was none of that.

Linda Line tallinn ferry comfort class

Included in my Linda Comfort Class ticket for €50 (booked online the week before) was a sandwich and a glass of wine but neither the sandwich nor the wine were very nice. At least there was unlimited free coffee and soft drinks.  A standard class ticket was €35 so the additional €15 is worth it if you would be buying refreshments anyway.

linda line ferry helsinki tallinn wine and sandwich

The ferry has a small duty free shop (alcohol and chocolate) and you can go onto the upper deck which is a pleasant spot when leaving Helsinki.

ferry helsinki tallinn upper deck

When I arrived in Tallinn taxis were waiting in line. It took about 10 minutes to get to the Hilton Tallinn Park, reviewed tomorrow, and the fare was €7.

As an Avios redemption this is a very pleasant weekend break.  Helsinki is 15,000 Avios return in Euro Traveller or 30,000 Avios return in Club Europe on a peak day, plus £35 / £50 in Reward Flight Saver taxes.  If you travel on Finnair you will pay the same amount of Avios but full taxes – £113 in economy and £126 in business return departing from London.

If you took a morning flight to Helsinki you wouldn’t need to stay there unless you wanted to break your trip.  With the Helsinki airport train, the ferry and the taxi from Tallinn harbour being very reasonably priced, it doesn’t add much to the cost of your trip and you get to see a second city.

Flying back on easyJet, Tallinn to London

I want to mention my return flight briefly.  It was very simple – a 10 minute taxi ride to Tallinn airport, two hours on easyJet and the train back to London from Gatwick.

easyjet flight tallinn to london

I was told that Tallinn airport is very small and boring which is why I only left the hotel about an hour before my flight. However the airport was actually very pleasant with cute cafes and a great play area for children.

tallinn airport play area

And if you are looking for an upside from Brexit:

tallinn airport duty free 20 percent off for non EU Brexit

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Johnnycl says:

    Tallin is a great place to visit, easy to get around on foot and lots of interesting architecture to see. Pleasantly surprised to see it on HFP!

    The ferries around the baltics are a bit of a booze cruise but it’s also a great opportunity to ‘live like a local’, particular on the overnight ferry trips.

  2. If the UK leaves the EU properly then we would be able to get VAT refunds on all EU shopping like the hordes of Chinese tourists you see in various EU airports.

    • Shame the GBP will be so poor by that point we’ll still pay more!

      Tip for Oz – avoid similar hordes at tax free refunds by filling out form and dropping it in the box rather than queuing up!

      • Maybe, but the GBP has only dropped 20% against the EUR from the 5-year high

        Since I’ve been old enough to convert my own money, I’ve thought 1.25 was a fair rate for GBPEUR, so even a fall from 1.25 to 1 would be offset by not paying 20% VAT (yes you can’t get refunds on everything, but I have 5000 euros in cash which I exchanged at an average rate of 1.4 – some from supercard :p – and I think every HFPer who can afford to should stockpile currencies they use often as a buffer)

        • Against EUR we’re not so bad but against the USD we’re pretty atrocious :(

        • Mr Dee says:

          Yes good point, I miss the supercard beta, looking back many happy points days with that card, not tried the new one yet…

        • Genghis says:

          Why do you think people should stockpile currencies? Exposes you to FX risk (yes you might win – like in your case – but you might lose).

          • OP’s basic point was fair enough, though, ie spread currency risk, depending on your circs.

            I guess if you include pensions, our money is split about 50/50 GBP/EUR (or EUR equivalent lol).

            Not bothered about other currencies as they don’t particularly figure in our lives.

            So GBP 5% down vs EUR is neither here nor there :)

    • While the UK might leave the EU (still unlikely IMO), the chances of it leaving the customs union and VAT area are, I think, even more slim.

      • Hence my use of the word “properly”. I agree with you that the UK is unlikely to completely leave the customs union etc

  3. It’s probably worth going from the UK only to buy cigarettes.

    There use to be a helicopter airline that flew Helsinki – Tallinn, they shut down after a crash

  4. Noqueueing says:

    You must have chosen the quietest day of the year to visit Helsinki, Rob!
    I’m surprised there were any people around at all.
    The ferry will be a lot more crowded and thus a different experience if travelling on any other day of the year than Midsummer’s Day.

    If staying overnight I can recommend the Crowne Plaza which is about two tram stops or 15 min walk from the center. With status you should get a room on the 9th floor with a fantastic view across Helsinki and the bay area and lounge access too.. Not bad for 30000 IHG points.

    • Wasn’t me, I sent Anika. The odds of me negotiating family leave to spend a weekend in Tallinn were slim!

      • I’d love to be “sent” by HFP to review something…

        • It’s harder work than you imagine, honestly. These ‘formal’ reviews also involve meetings with hotel management, the marketing head etc. I do admit that she got a little spoilt with this one, however, as you will see tomorrow :-)

    • We were flying back on Midsummers’ eve (24th) – and spent the day in Helsinki, and everywhere was starting to close at 1pm and the trains were completely empty. Coupled with the rather gloomy news from the UK it felt extremely strange.
      We had spent the prior week there though and it’s a truly beautiful city, and I’m not just saying that because I have to (my other half is a native Helsinki-an) 😉

  5. Have to say I do take exception to this phrasing “As Finnair flies from Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh as well as London, you don’t have any excuse if you live outside the capital.”

    … Dublin is a capital, and in another country, while this phrasing implies neither.

    Otherwise very interesting review, thanks.

    • I edited that in, Anika didn’t write it. However, the article is basically ‘how to get from London to Tallinn’ which is why I wrote that line as I did.

      • Sorry but that doesn’t change my point. Appreciate that it might seem petty from the outside but we are too used to people thinking that Ireland is some region of the UK! Would be easy to phrase it not to imply that London is the capital of Dublin e.g. “you don’t have any excuse if you live elsewhere / not in London”

        • This isn’t The Sun travel section :-) I think readers know where Dublin is …. half of them are flying there to buy cheap BA tickets! I was in two minds about whether to put ‘Tallinn, Estonia’ in the headline.

          You could argue that the line is for the benefit of readers in NI who can drive down to Dublin and pick up Finnair.

          There will be substantially more Irish coverage on HFP once Aer Club launches since it will be part of ‘Combine My Avios’. This includes one member of the HFP team getting to spend the day with Laura Whitmore ….. not me unfortunately!

        • Yawn.

    • As HFP is a primarily UK-based website, any reference to ‘the’ capital would obviously mean London.

      • I agree it’s UK orientated, however I also think it is a wording that does have the potential to justifably offend or annoy.

        Easy to avoid, just remove the word capital.
        “As Finnair also flies from Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh you don’t have any excuse if you live outside London”.

        And/or separate Dublin slightly.
        “As Finnair fly from London, Manchester, Edinburgh and also Dublin, you don’t have any excuse.”

        – Clearly separating Dublin out would also be the lead in to pointing out that Ryanair also fly Dublin-Tallinn direct (seasonal).

    • Surprised no one has commented that Edinburgh is a capital!

    • Agree – Living in Wales, my choice routes involves KLM out of Cardiff to Amsterdam

  6. guesswho2000 says:

    Excellent review, having been to both Helsinki and Tallinn (albeit the latter by bus, from Riga) in the past few years.

    I look forward to the review of the Hilton, I believe this was the Revel Park Hotel & Casino, which I stayed at whilst I was there, which closed to become a Hilton a couple of years back – it was average back then (the casino bit was fun), so will be good to see what it’s like now.

  7. Dublin isn’t in the UK, who knew :)

    Anyhow a quick look on BA award booking engine shows it doesn’t offer any direct flights DUB->HEL. Looking on does pop up flights with “Nordic Regional Airlines”, which I’m guessing is the same subsidary that flies Helsinki -> Talinn which was only a “might be able to be book with BA” in the article, so the entire point might be moot.

  8. What snobbery, I got the Helsinki to Tallinn ferry (it was in winter so the express wasn’t running and took about 4 hours) and it was one of the most fun travel experiences I’ve ever had. It was like a big friendly party with everyone is such high spirits, god forbid people have a drink and have a good time

    • I think young women travelling on their own may see it differently ….

    • It’s actually quite intimidating for a big strong fellow such as mygoodself when there is a group of 15 or so beered up pals flying out to our destination for a stag night!

      • Genghis says:

        So harry’s place in the sun is also a potential stag location (rules out France and Italy IMO). BCN / VLC / AGP?

        • Surely Marbs

        • Haha! in that case, I’m going to go for ALC!
          (Only because I love the area, and see multiple ‘Stags’ and ‘Hens’ on this route often!)

    • Mr Dee says:

      I think it really depends if your joining in on the drinking or not!

      Would definitely prefer Tallinn over the South of Spain for value for money and quality of holiday.

  9. Craig Paolozzi says:

    Off topic….

    I’m looking to use my ihg ambassador certificate mid April next year….there’s two of us plus our 5 year old…. looking at staying at IC Estoril for 3 nights and 2 nights Sheraton Lisbon or Sheraton Cacais

    We’re there any decent restaurants near IC Estoril? I know the train is very close and handy to get into Lisbon for the day. Do you think our 5 year old would get bored in that area? She likes the look of the old fashioned trams in Lisbon

    Any advice would be appreciated

    • The IC has its own restaurant right next door which serves petiscos (portuguese version of tapas). However I didn’t eat there so cannot say much more. You can also order food from the poolbar to eat by the pool. There’s a Brazilian all you can eat meat place with huge salad buffet in Cascais which should be good fun for your 5 year old. It’s called Fogo de Chão. (6 minute walk from the train station in cascais). The good thing about the area is that you’ve got Cascais with lots of small shops and the marina, Estoril with the promenade and beach and Lisbon close by. That should make it interesting enough :) Hope you’re having a great holiday.

  10. Mr Dee says:

    Looking forward to the article tomorrow hope it shows some of the sights in Estonia as well

  11. RogerWilco says:

    It’s not tricky at all to get to TLL. There are half a dozen daily flights from LHR to HEL (+EDI, MAN, DUB – from the British Isles) and the same number from HEL to TLL.

    Avios availability doesn’t show on BA, probably because the TLL flights are operated by Norra (which is OW affiliate/partner) but they should be available by calling. The more popular flights (morning/afternoon) might be fully booked but day flights are often 3/4 empty, so there should be availabiltiy.

    It’ a 20 min hop on an ATR to TLL and TLL is a 10 min, sub-10€ cab ride to downtown.

    (interesting factoid – probably one of the most expensive miles to fly for cash, at least if it’s not a feeder flight for longhaul. 400€+ return is not unheard of. Monopoly on a popular route does it)