Ask Lonely Planet: Trolling through European rail routes

3 comments
Travelling from the Baltic to Europe via Helsinki you might meet a few trolls. Photo / Jim Eagles
Travelling from the Baltic to Europe via Helsinki you might meet a few trolls. Photo / Jim Eagles

My wife and I - fit and in our late sixties - need to get from Talinn, Estonia to Vienna. We will have a Eurail pass for Germany and Austria but Estonia and its neighbours don't seem to be on the Eurail system, and it is unclear whether they have trains or what they are like. What is the best way to get from Talinn to Vienna? Is there a train to Germany where we can use our train pass? Are there ferries or coastal ships from Estonia to a port in north Germany where we could pick up a train? Is it cheaper to fly (though we prefer not to)? What are the relative costs?
- Harry Parke

Lonely Planet's European Travel editor Tom Hall writes:

The best way to research international rail routes in Europe is to have a look at the German Rail website, bahn.de. There is an English-language button on the site.

However, train services are limited to the point of being useless in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and, unsurprisingly, Deutsche Bahn offers no routes from Tallinn to Vienna. The Baltic countries do not take part in the Eurail scheme.

The website Seat61.com is a mine of useful information about travelling in Europe and has details of ferry services; it recommends the Tallink Silja (Tallinksilja.com) services from Tallinn to Helsinki and Helsinki to Rostock in Germany.

From Rostock you can reach Vienna, using your rail pass, in about 14 hours via a change to a sleeper or day service in Berlin.

An alternative route - which is much quicker but less fun and would require an additional ticket purchase - would be to take the bus from Tallinn to Warsaw, Poland (16 hours, see Eurolines.com) and pick up the nine-hour direct service to Vienna from there.

This latter option will cost about $185 per person, while the combined ferry trip will be slightly more, in the region of $276 for both journeys including a cabin on the Helsinki to Rostock service.

Lastly, you can fly between the two but not directly.

This is marginally cheaper, much quicker and also much less fun.

You can book a flight when you arrive should you decide to. We say: don't.

Road trip to Vancouver

My wife and I would like to drive ourselves from Anchorage to Vancouver taking in as much as we can over a couple of months. Is this feasible? What is the best time of the year to do this?
- Rick Morris

Lonely Planet's US Travel editor Robert Reid writes:

You should aim to have at least part of your trip outside peak season (July and August), when crowds and prices are at their highest but before snows block roads or attractions such as Denali wind down.

There are endless stop-offs, detour rides to visit and hikes to do but you can manage the trip in two months and even make it to Jasper and Banff, depending on how slow you go.

The most obvious path is to drive north from Anchorage to the thrilling Denali National Park (and September is the best month to see it) en route to Fairbanks, where you can dunk into hot springs before heading south to reach the Alcan, or Alaska Highway.

It's really North America's version of the Trans-Siberian in some ways, an engineering marvel of a highway that connects Delta Junction, Alaska with Dawson Creek, British Columbia is 2237km southeast. It's a route with rare fuel stops, so fill the tank whenever a chance comes.

I'd recommend some detours, though. From Tetlin Junction, head north on the 259km Taylor Highway to colourful places such as the mining town of Chicken or the canoeing centre of Fortymile River, and cross into Canada via the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City in the Yukon, a real-deal boomtown, home to Jack London's cabin and mining lore and daytrips to lonely Fort Selkirk on the Yukon River.

Try to get there before it empties out by late September.

Take the Klondike Highway 540km south to Whitehorse, where there are hikes and attractions including the Whitehorse Fishway with the world's longest fish ladder. Back on the Alcan, you'll reach a crossroads at Watson Lake, near the BC border. Most continue on the Alcan south to Dawson Creek but our British Columbia authors swear the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is better. It is a 727km ride into the province's wildest territory with a bit more bump on the backside and a can't-miss detour to Stewart, with the hill-sized, ethereal blue Bear Glacier.

If time allows, you can continue east to Jasper and Banff in Alberta, before reaching British Columbia.

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- NZ Herald

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