How do you get between Swedish Lapland and Finnish Lapland?

Hello fellow readers!

We are writing this post to you after our travel trough Swedish and Finnish Lapland in August 2017!

So we where trying to get between Abisko National Park in Sweden (see our review of Abisko National Park here) trough Lulea in Sweden and follow to Kemi and Rovaniemi in Finland.

There was few information about this trip, not only online but also in the rail offices in Sweden about how we could pass between these countries without a car!

You need to understand that there is no train connection for passengers between Lulea in Sweden and Kemi in Finland (although there is a single track line that is used exclusively by freight trains) and we wanted to enjoy our Inter rail pass and not have to come back all the way to Stockholm (16 hours by train)! If you are in this situation, we have good news for you (keep reading)!

So here is the result of our arduous research and our travel between Swedish and Finnish Lapland by public transportation! Mind that we made this trip during Summer, in Winter the timetables might change and some buses may not work!

Check out the map below to help you understand the trip.

First step: Abisko to Lulea by train

This is the easy part of the trip!

You only have to book in the Swedish Rail here – you can see the timetables and pay online. Don’t forget that if you have the Inter rail pass you have to make a reservation in the Swedish Rail offices (see where they are located in Stockholm, Malmo or Gothenburg here)!

We booked it in their Stockholm offices. They where super helpful (as anywhere in Sweden), but they had no information about how you could pass after Haparanda (border city in Sweden) to Finland…

It will take you about 5 to 6 hours getting from Abisko to Lulea, and the first train only departs at 12:29, so you will only arrive in Lulea at 18:22!

Second step: Lulea train station to Lulea bus station

If you look on the map (you have to zoom it in Lulea!) you will see that the Train Station is very near to the bus station.

You will see a garden as you leave the train station. You just have to cross the garden diagonally and you will see immediately the bus station in front of you.

It will take you 5-10 minutes walking.

Third step: Lulea bus station to Haparanda

This is the tricky part, because there is not much information online.

Actually the buses have connected times to the train arrivals in Lulea, but if you arrive in between you may have to wait a few hours to the next bus.

Now the BIG TIP: you can check on Resrobot the correct time in the day of your departure.

So if you get the first train from Abisko to Lulea you will get there at 18:22, so you may catch the 18:40 bus or if you get late you will have to wait until 21:00.

It will take you from 2h15m to 2h35 min to get to Haparanda (Swedish side) or Torneo (Finnish side – most of the buses now stop in Torneo, so you don’t have to walk 800 meters from Haparanda there).

And the good news: your Inter rail pass is valid for this trip! So you don’t have to pay, just show your Inter Rail pass to the bus driver.

So you will get to Haparanda/Torneo at 20:55 (Swedish time! in Finland is already 21:55) if you get the 18:40 bus or at 23:55 (0:55 Finland time) if you catch the 21h bus in Lulea.

But Finland time is advanced in one hour!And there starts the problem – the last bus from Torneo (Finland time) leaves at 19:15… So you will never get there on time…

Other tip: check the timetables of the Finnish buses in this website.

You have to sleep in Lulea OR in Haparanda

We chose to sleep in Lulea, because there where more options and we could get to know the city!

Fourth step: Sleep in Lulea or Haparanda

We had quite a nice stay in Lulea, since we got to visit the city and the lakeside bars and got to sleep in an Airbnb in Gammelstad, the Unesco World Heritage Site old city!

We cannot recommend more that you sleep for a night in Gammelstad, the ‘church village’, a unique kind of village formerly found throughout northern Scandinavia.

There are 424 wooden houses, huddled round the early 15th-century stone church, that were used only on Sundays and at religious festivals to house worshippers from the surrounding countryside who could not return home the same day because of the distance and difficult travelling conditions.

Gammelstad UNESCO World Heritage Site

Here you have a recollection of the old life in Scandinavia and you can visit the main historical sites easily by walking trough the old town. And the bonus, sweet old ladies will explain you the history of the place in each historical house!

You can get there catching a bus from the centre of Lulea in 20-30 minutes by bus – from the train station you hop on the local bus nr. 104 to bus stop “Smedjegatan”, takes about two minutes (or you can just walk). At Smedjegatan you change bus to nr.9 to Kyrkbyn and then you hop of at bus stop “Kyrktorget”, takes about 25 minutes. The bus cost 30 sek (3,10 euros) and you pay with creditcard/payment card. Check the timetables here or just check on Google maps.

We slept there, asked for a late check out, visited the villa in the morning and came back to catch the bus to Haparanda by 13pm.

We didn’t saw much options to sleep in Haparanda, but if any of you stayed there, please let us know in the comments!

Luleå bay

Luleå bay.

Fifth step: From Haparanda/Torneo to Kemi

Again, check the buses timetables from Haparanda to Kemi here and don’t forget that in Finland you have to count + 1 hour!

Again, this bus is supposed to be free if you have an Inter Rail pass!

Careful because we went on a weekend and the bus didn’t accept the Inter rail pass (they said they where a different company and didn’t accepted the pass) and we payed 6,80 euros/each.

It will take you about 40-45 minutes to get to Kemi. You have about one every hour.

After Kemi, if you want to go on to Rovaniemi…

The bus and train stations in Kemi are near to each other, one just in front of the other, so they are easy to find.

Check the train timetables for the Finnish Railways and you will see that usually there are three trains departing from Kemi to Rovaniemi – one at 16h, one at 19h and other at 22h.

So if you get by bus in Kemi you can always follow to Rovaniemi by train even if you catch the last one at 22h. It will take you between 1h15m to 1h30m to get to Rovaniemi by train. The ticket will cost you between 13 to 15 euros – if you have an Inter rail pass, check below.

If you want to go straight to Helsinki you can also catch a train from Kemi at 19h30m or 22h30m.

Again, just a little problem if you want to enjoy your Inter rail pass…

You cannot book it in Sweden, since they cannot book to the Finland railways! And you cannot make reservations trough the Finnish Railway website…

So what can you do?

First choice

Just pay for the 13-15 euro ticket to get to Rovaniemi.

Second choice

You have to get to the bus station (there was no one at the train station ticket office at the time we got there) and there the lady in the counter (that barely spoke english! You start to notice the difference between Sweden and Finland right away…) has to make the reservation for your tickets trough the phone. Or you can book it yourself if you call 0800 166 888 (free of charge) and book for your reservation (we where lucky that they spoke english). But the lady at the bus station cannot receive the money (didn’t get why…).

So…

After they book your reservation you have to get to the train ticket and pay on the ticket machine (there is an option there where you input the code they send you to your email) OR get to a ticket vending office (the lady at the bus station office will tell you the nearest one) and pay for the reservation – which is harder, trust us, because they barely speak english…

After that, you are finally ok to embark on the train with your Inter Rail reservation 🙂

What we did…

We chose the second option and decided to visit Kemi for a day (we arrived at Kemi at 19h and both the ticket offices where closed and we didn’t know we could book the reservation trough the phone)!

And we weren’t sorry! We got an amazing hostel – Hostel Villa Kemi – with good rooms and Sauna included 🙂 The bay is amazing at Sunset and we got to visit the Santa Claus Seaside Office in the morning! If you go there during the winter, you can catch the Ice Hotel open!

When you are there, check out the view from the top of the Tourist Office Building, right in front of the train station!

Kemi santa claus seaside office

Santa Claus Seaside Office in Kemi

Kemi City View (in the Tourist Office Building) and Sunset in Kemi Bay

In Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi City Art

Rovaniemi City Art

Rovaniemi is a super cool city and home to the REAL SANTA CLAUS OFFICE!!

Is was super fun visiting the Santa Claus Village, even in mid August!

You can see the elf’s, cross the Artic Circle line, have an interview with Santa and even send letters and postcards to you loved ones in the Main Post Office!!

And your visit to Santa Claus is even broadcasted online! See here.

It was a blast and we surely felt like kids again! And… the entrance to the park its totally FREE! You just have to catch public bus 8 from the city or from the railway station.

Santa Claus Village

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi

Artic Circle Mark, Santa Claus Office and Santa’s Main Post Office.

If you want to go the other way around… from Rovaniemi (Finland) to Abisko (Sweden)

We didn’t came back, we hopped on a train to Helsinki, but trough our research we can tell you that the first train from Rovaniemi to Kemi leaves at 15:18 on weekdays.

So you get to Kemi at 16:37. You can catch a bus at 17:05 and arrive in Tornio/Haparanda at 17:45 and you still can catch the bus to Lulea at 20:15 and arrive there at 22:30 (too late to a direct train to  Abisko…). So again, sleeping in Lulea is probably your best chance OR sleeping in Kemi and catch the early bus (8:05; 9:00 or 9:05) to get the 10h train in Lulea (the last one departing unfortunately…) to arrive in Abisko at 15:29.

You will have the same problems if you want to use the Inter Rail Pass reservation for the train from Lulea to Abisko, but I can imagine that in the Swedish side it would be much easier due to better communication.

Again, check the timetables correctly in Sweden RAIL, Sweden BUS, Finland BUS and Finland RAIL. And don’t forget the hourly difference! Finland is 1 hour +!

Hope this post will help you navigate trough this beautiful countries with ease!!
Anything new, please feel free to comment and help us make this post better!

Don’t forget to see our reviews on Abisko National Park!! Helsinki is coming next!

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