Santa Claus Express Night Train, as the name suggests, is an overnight train that goes to Rovaniemi, home to Santa Claus village.

Santa Claus Express Train: Lapland, Finland

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Riding the Santa Claus Express Train in Lapland, Finland

When I see travel posts about taking trains with children, it always seemed like such a fun and novel idea. Board a train, dump your bags, be able to get up at any time for a bathroom or snack break. Sounded perfect to me! When we started booking our trip to the Santa Claus Village, Finland another travel mamma posted about the Santa Claus Express Train from Rovaniemi to Helsinki. I was hooked! Check out all the details on our adventure on the Santa express train!

Santa Train Ride to Lapland, Finland
A standard bunk room with two bunks and no bathroom on the santa express train ride

What is the Santa Express Train?

It is an overnight train from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, Finland. Then again from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. The Lapland Express takes a total of 12 hours and you can book two different cabins types. The Santa Claus train schedule features two departures 7 pm – 7 am or 9 pm – 9 am.

We chose the 9 pm – 9 am departure. This is partly due to the advice another mom gave me. It is much easier to keep a little one up past their bedtime than it is to wake them up and rush out of a cabin at 7 am trying to make sure you have all of your belongings. I hate feeling rushed, so the later arrival worked in our favor. We were also arriving into Helsinki, spending the day and flying out that night, so we didn’t want to be trying to find something open at 7 am. 

How to book the Santa Claus express night train?

You aren’t able to book online, which is unfortunate. Here is the link to more information about the train, but you’ll need to call the Finland based number. Do not call the US-based number because they want to charge you to mail your train tickets, which isn’t necessary. So call Finland directly. Finnish Railways (VR) customer care (+358 9 2319 2902).

The easiest way to call internationally is to sign up for a google voice number. Then add some money to your account and call from your computer. The reservation line is great and the attendants speak perfect English.

How much does the Lapland Express cost?

Reservation fees (as of 2019) for the Santa Express Train:

  • Seat: 21 euros
  • Double sleeper: 36-43 euros p.p.
  • Single sleeper: 95-114 euros
  • Double sleeper with private bathroom: 41-48 euros p.p.
  • Single sleeper with private bathroom: 105-124 euros

The Helsinki to Rovaniemi train cost is the same as above. 

What do the Sleeper Cabins look like?

You have two different options for sleeper cabins. The sleeping cabins without private bathrooms (shared bathroom in the hall) are located on the bottom level of the train. The sleeping cabins WITH a private bathroom are located on the top level of the train. You can also request adjoining rooms (only available for standard sleeper cabins on the first floor) for families with multiple children. You’ll make a reservation for one adult per double cabin and then the children can use the existing beds.

They also have single seats, but it’s a 12-hour journey, so I would only book this if you are budget conscious.

One of my favorite parts of the Santa Claus Express Train was that children 10 and younger are able to travel free of charge as long as they are occupying the same sleeping compartment as their parents. You must tell the reservation line when a child is traveling with you. They will issue tickets for children 4-10 years old for FREE.

We ended up booking a deluxe (with a private bathroom) sleeper for our family of three. Children must occupy the same bunks as the parents, and there are only two bunks, more on that later.

Each sleeper car features a bottle of water per ticketed customer, one pillow and one blanket/comforter.

Hallways on the Santa Claus Express night train
Deluxe bunk room with safety net for kids on the Santa CLaus Express night train in Finland

Sleeper cabins with a bathroom feature a space-age bathroom that transforms from a sink and toilet to a full-size shower. Just open the wall and voila! Hard to photograph, but really cool!

The bathrooms in the deluxe cabins on the Santa express train
Bathroom with shower in the deluxe cabin rooms on the Santa Claus Express train

What is the Boarding like?

We took the train only one way, from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, so I can only speak to the boarding process at this station and in this direction of travel. However, the Helsinki to Rovaniemi train duration and stops are the same as the return trip.

The station in Rovaniemi is rather small, but it features a small gift store and cafe for any late night snacks.

Another nice benefit, if you rent from Hertz, you can drop your rental car off at the train station (key drop box). This was perfect for us because we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of dropping the rental car off at the Airport and then making our way to the train station with luggage, a small child and lots of snow! We like to arrive relatively early in order to scope out the station, use the restroom and be ready for departure. The train boards 10-15 minutes before it leaves, so be ready.

When it is time to board, the staff will announce the arrival of the train. Check your tickets so that you know which train car and which sleeper room you have a reservation for. My husband hauled the bags, I was responsible for the little one.

Rovaniemi Station in Lapland, Finland
Catching the Santa Express train ride

This is where packing light comes in handy (even though we didn’t really follow this advice). The sleeper cars are small and we didn’t see a luggage room to store your items. That means everything you have will be in the room with you.

**Apparently there are luggage rooms! Luggage may be kept inside your sleeping compartment or in the end compartments (sleeping berths 201/202 and 215/216) upstairs or (sleeping berths 101/102) downstairs.**

My husband hauled the bags up the stairs into our room and we shoved the bags into every spot we could find.

TIP: Lift up the bottom bunk and lay the suitcases flat underneath. This will free up the floor space. We also pre-packed a single bag ahead of time with everything we would need while on the train (pajamas, change of clothes, toiletries, etc). So once we packed the bags underneath the bunk bed, we didn’t have to dig through the bags for the rest of the journey.

Amenities on the train

The train is beautiful. Clean, well stocked (a bottle of water for each paid ticket) in your room and a nice cafe car. There is also one towel per person on each bed.

Once you’ve settled into your room, make your way to the cafe car for a late night dinner or snack. Seating can be limited, so arrive early if you have a large party. I don’t know that this is typical, but there was only one lady working in the kitchen and taking orders. She ended up taking everyone’s order before she started cooking, so it was almost an hours wait for our food. However, the food was actually really good! I ordered a pasta dish and a sandwich. Both were wonderful. We got the meal to go and had a picnic in our cramped room.

Dining Car on the Santa train ride
A little boy waiting for his food in the food car train on the Santa Express

What is it like sleeping on a train?

Here are a few tips for sleeping on the train:

-Pull down the window covers so that the light doesn’t wake you in the morning

-Bring extra pillows and blankets for the kids. Sharing a bed is already an adventure, no one wants to be fighting over the sheets.

-There are a few power plug-ins, we always bring multi USB adapters to make use of them.

-Request nets on the beds when you call the reservation line. It’s great for small children and even adults. You can take them off easily if you decide they don’t work for you.

-FREE wifi! It was actually really good, enough for our son to watch some shows in the morning when he woke up (was ready to break out of the room) and we needed to pack up and be ready to depart.

Bunk with bottle of water and pillow.
Little boy climbing into a bunk on the Santa Express train to Lapland, Finland

How did we fit two adults and one child into one sleeping compartment?

So we aren’t the co-sleeping type of family. I thought about this part of the trip for quite a while, knowing that I would be the one sharing a twin bed with my son. Originally we thought he would sleep at the end of my bed, but then we realized that each bunk has two thin mattresses stacked on top of each other.

This probably isn’t the safest, but we ended up taking a thin mattress off my bunk and placed it folded up on the floor of the cabin. It was small enough to leave space for the door to open, but also enough mattress space for our son to curl up on the floor. We had packed an extra little pillow (travel size) and child’s blanket, so he was all set. My bed wasn’t as comfortable, but doable for one night’s sleep.

My husband enjoyed his double mattress and high bunk advantage. But I knew he needed a good nights sleep in order to tackle shopping with me at the Christmas markets in Helsinki. 🙂

Little boy reading a book by nightlight on the Santa Claus express train to the Santa Claus Village in Finland
A standard bunk room with two bunks and no bathroom on the santa express train ride

Want to travel with your Pet or personal vehicle?

Traveling with your pets? Want to bring your car along? Both can be arranged for an additional fee. See more details about that here.

Pets are welcome in pet friendly rooms on the Santa Claus Express Train
Helsinki to Rovaniemi train

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The Santa Express Train runs from Helsinki to Rovaniemi near Lapland, Finland
Enjoy a whimsical ride on the way to Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland aboard the Santa Express night train.
Santa Claus Express Train Lapland, Finland

I hope I answered all of your questions about sleeping on the Santa Claus Express train in Lapland, Finland. Leave a comment below with any other questions or sharing your experience on the train.

I’ve also got lots of great information about our stay at the Santa Claus Holiday Village in Lapland, Finland. Dog sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and more! Or perhaps you’d like some more travel inspiration, head to my destinations page to explore the map.

15 thoughts on “Santa Claus Express Train: Lapland, Finland”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing this! I don’t know for how long this has been possible, but you can now buy your train tickets online. I just did. It was a bit of a hassle since I had to install Flash Player to be able to choose our sleeping compartment, but it worked.
    Your post was very helpful as we were unsure of the difference between the compartments. We didn’t even know the upper ones had a shower, we thought it was just a toilet! After a bit of pondering and looking at your photos, we decided to go for the ensuite one because it was not much cheaper than the one without a bathroom. I am very much looking forward to going to Rovaniemi!

    1. I’m so glad visitors are able to book their tickets online now, which makes it so much easier. I’m glad the post was helpful in making your choices. Enjoy Finland!

  2. Hi I have just read your article. We are thinking of travelling next December myself, boyfriend and our daughter who will be 7 then. I think we would like to do a trip independently as we want to stay in Helsinki for a few nights. Can you please recommend accommodation in santas village and give me an idea of prices etc and also tell me what experiences you did and if they we were it and lastly how you went about booking everything please. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks Joanne

    1. That is similar to what we did. We took the overnight train down to Helsinki for a full day before flying back home. We stayed in the Santa Claus Village cabins. You can email them via their website and the cost varies on the time of the year and season. As far as our activities, did you see my other posts? I wrote about our stay in the Santa Claus Village here: You’ll find reviews about the dog sledding, reindeer sleigh and more. Such a fun trip! I booked everything direct with the company. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. Hi all,
    Chelsea your post was very helpful however I’m not having any luck finding an online reservation system for the train. The only one that pops up is Eurail and it’s a dead link, I’m glad to know the reservation line speaks English so I guess I’ll have to give a call to find out more. If anyone knows of a reservation website please post. Thanks!

  4. Hi

    Is the train decorated for Christmas? We were thinking of flying to Helsinki then catching the train to Rovaniemi a bit like the Polar Express film


    1. Kim,

      No, the train is not decorated. They just call it the Santa Claus Express because it is a fun way to get to the town with the Santa Claus Village. It’s still a really fun and memorable way to go to Rovaniemi.

  5. I know you didn’t board in Helsinki, but did you go to the Helsinki airport after arriving there? How long did it take? The flights I’m finding for our dates land in Helsinki at 1950. We would try to catch the 2100 overnight train up to Rovaniemi… but it’s such a tight connection, I don’t know if we could make it. Same with the return. We’d arrive back at 0900 and the flight leaves at 1055 (I guess we could take the 7-7 train for that one).

    1. The day that we took the train, we opted for the 7am – 7pm train. We arrived into Helsinki and spent the day exploring the area before our flight (early evening), so we didn’t have a tight connection. I would suggest allowing plenty of time because you wouldn’t want to miss any connections. Perhaps stay a night in Helsinki? They have a lovely walkable town and Christmas markets in December.

      You should be fine with a 7am arrival and a 10:55 flight. You can take a cab directly from the train station to the airport.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this! I am planning a suprisetrip for my family next winter (with everything being so expensive Im already starting planning, budgetting and saving… ) and this really helped! Been hesitant to think train was a way to go, but with the airplanetickets so expensive this is now my plan for getting us up to Rovaniemi. Thanks alot! 🙂

  7. We did this train trip, in December 2019, and it was “interesting”! From Helsinki to Rovaniemi was great. Everything was like clockwork. We had the sleeper with ensuit. But on the return trip, we waited an hour in the line up for the dining carriage, just to get some snacks, so I would suggest bringing your own. Also, there was a horrid toilet smell in the whole carriage and we were told we couldn’t use the toilet facilities in our ensuite, and instead had to use the communal toilet at the end of the carriage. There was a line up and so had to wait…. Of course there was no compensation for this inconvenience. The trip itself was an adventure and I’m glad we did it, but next time will either be more prepared with our own food, or fly.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience on the train. I think with any trip, sometimes things work out and are amazing and other times there are hiccups. I hope you had an amazing trip otherwise.

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