Tartu is situated in Southern Estonia and connects to the world through Tartu Airport, Lennart Meri Airport in Tallinn and Riga Airport in Latvia. The distance between Tallinn, Estonia's capital, and Tartu is 186km, or about 2 hours by train and 2.5 hours by express bus or car.
Flying to Tallinn
To travel from Tallinn to Tartu you have a choice between a bus and a train. You can board the Tallinn-Tartu bus either from Tallinn bus station or the Tallinn airport. Tickets can be bought online and downloaded to a smartphone. Tickets are available from the driver, too, but please note that buses tend to be full and you would be much better off purchasing your ticket before the bus arrives!
If you arrive in Tallinn by ferry or travel to Tartu from the city centre, express train might be the best option. The main train station (Balti jaam) is located just outside the Old Town, the station closest to the airport is Ülemiste. Trains run about 10 times per day. Note that the train schedule is currently only available for ten days in advance, but it is unlikely to change significantly.
Buses are rather frequent: on average, they depart every 30 minutes, however, there are no late-night buses. The easiest way to get to the bus station from the city centre or the ferry terminal is to take a taxi. Tram number 2 (in the direction of Ülemiste) or bus number 2 will also take you there (the Autobussijaam bus stop). You can buy a ticket for €2 from the bus or tram driver, or at the ticket validator using a contactless banking card. See ticket information and timetable.
- You can reach Tartu from Riga airport, about 250 km from Tartu. Bus connections are provided by Luxexpress and Ecolines, but current schedules have been affected by the pandemic.
- From Stockholm and Helsinki, there are also ferry connections to Tallinn. From Helsinki there are multiple departures with different companies. The ferry line to Stockholm is overnight.
- For heartier travelers, Estonia can also be reached by bus from major cities in Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries.
- From St Petersburg, you can travel to Tartu by bus. Note, however, that due to a large number of refugees and tightened controls on both sides, crossing the border by bus may take several hours. If you are travelling from Russia by land, contact us for further instructions.
Calling a taxi
In Estonia, most people use smartphone apps like Uber and Bolt for taxi services.
Regarding Tallinn, the most common (but not necessarily the cheapest) taxi companies include Tulika Takso (1200, +372 6 120 000), Tallink Takso (1921, +372 640 8921), and Elektritakso (1918, +372 588 588 00).
Covid-19 related information
Please see the Government of Estonia’s website for Covid-19 related travel information: https://www.kriis.ee/en/travelling-crossing-state-border/travelling-estonia
One of our colleagues has put together the following set of recommendations for travellers arriving in Tallinn airport and heading straight to Tartu:
Here’s some advice on how to best tackle this last leg of your travel to Tartu. The buses to Tartu tend to be full, so it is advisable to buy the ticket in advance.
It is easy to get one's bus ticket online. Full timetable is available online, the best are Lux Express buses, especially their Relax class.
The only problem is that if you buy your ticket in advance and your plane happens to be late, you will lose your money. I usually buy my ticket online just before or after boarding the flight to Tallinn, when it is clear that there are unlikely to be any delays. Still a bit risky, but after all, we are not talking about an astronomical amount. The other option is buying your ticket online on arrival (there is excellent wifi at the airport). To reach the bus terminal, turn right as you exit the customs, and follow the signs. Finally, if you see a bus ready to depart, you can also try to buy a ticket from the driver (subject to availability).
Timewise, the bus usually arrives at the airport 10-15 minutes after the scheduled departure from the bus station (i.e. around 10 or 40 minutes after the hour). If you have checked luggage, it is usually delivered 10-15 minutes after the plane arrives at the gate, but delays are of course always possible (especially if you happen to be on a large plane).
In Tartu, the bus station is located in the centre, with Hotel Dorpat and Hotel Tartu right next to it, and within 10 minutes walking distance from other main hotels.
Just in case the buses are full or you prefer to take a train, the nearest station is Ülemiste. Train timetable is available online. It is within a walking distance from the airport, but not easy to find. The best option is to take a taxi from the first floor (Arrivals level) to Ülemiste. Note that this is not the main train station, make sure the driver doesn't take you to a wrong place (the main one is called the Baltic Station or Balti jaam). In fact, it's just an open platform so don't leave the airport too early, the drive is 5-10 minutes max. Get on the train, find a seat and wait until the conductor finds you and sells you the ticket.
In Tartu, the train station is located at about 20 minutes walking distance from the centre, so it’s best to take a taxi to your hotel, the stop is in front of the station. Check the location of your hotel as it might be within a walking distance.
Cards are preferred everywhere, but bus drivers and train conductors also accept cash. Most taxis accept cards but some don't. so cash is the safest option. Tip is not required.
Please don't get me wrong: I am sure everything will work smoothly and you will get to Tartu without any delays. It's just always better to be prepared in case something does not go as planned.