Getting From Tartu, Estonia to Riga, Latvia

Getting from Tartu, Estonia to Riga, Latvia proved to be easy in the end, but initially was a bit more difficult than I expected.

I headed to Tartu from Tallinn and based on what I read online, I figured I could just hop a bus out of Tartu to Riga a day later without any issues.  When I arrived at my hotel and asked the front desk to get the bus times for me, she came back with a massive stack of paper giving bus times to Tallinn and then down to Riga.  Apparently, the Eurolines bus that ran between Tartu and Riga was cancelled.

In addition, almost all buses that run between Tartu and Riga appeared to connect through Tallinn, resulting in not a four hour trip, but rather a nine to ten hour trip, at best.

After a bit of research online, I discovered that I could take a train from Tartu to Valga, Estonia.  From there, I could take another train to Riga.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Here is how I got from Tartu, Estonia to Riga, Latvia without having to connect back through Tallinn:

1)  Go to the train station in Tartu and ask for the 1020 train to Valga.  It leaves from platform #2 and costs 4 Euros per person.  This train is nice and has wifi.

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2)  You will arrive in Valga at about 1134 if everything is on time.

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3)  Valga, Estonia is a shared city on the border of Latvia.  The Latvian part of the city is called Valka.  This is important to know because the trains will not leave directly from the Valga station.  You will, from here, take a bus.  Go outside of the train station to the front and to the left will be a bus.  Double check prior to boarding that it is going to Riga (the sign on it will not say Riga, but will say Strenči).  This bus leaves the train station at 1143 and costs 5,60 Euros per person (this is for the entire trip to Riga).

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4)  You will remain on this bus for about 45 minutes to an hour and it will go to some odd places prior to arriving in Strenči.  Once you arrive in Strenči, you can disembark and board the nearby train that will take you directly to Riga.

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5)  This train ride will take around two hours and the train is old, but will have free wifi as well.  Gotta love this part of Europe for being so well-connected!  In addition to going to Riga, this train also passes through the cities of Valmiera and Cēsis.

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In the end, the trip was easy and painless, but the scenario of switching to a bus and then back to a train in Valga would have tripped me up had I not expected it.

Please do note that this is subject to change at any moment.  Tartu is a university town and will surely have other methods of transportation established here and there.  I took this trip in late October 2014, so please double check at the train station in Tartu before making the journey.

Comments (8)

LOL! Welcome to my lovely homeland. I am very surprised there weren’t any buses between Riga and Tartu – transfering via Valga/Valka can’t be the easiest thing in the world! There are more bus companies in the Baltics than just Eurolines – looking at http://www.autoosta.lv/ (Riga Bus Station), I am able to see several buses between Riga and Tartu, including our much prided Lux Express Baltija. Happy travels! ^_^

thanks for your comment!! i was going from tartu to riga and for some odd reason even lux express buses weren’t running between the two without going thru tallinn, sadly. it was a real shock when we arrived in tartu! fortunately trains ran, just not without a little confusion!!! love your homeland (not sure whether you’re from estonia or latvia but i love BOTH!)

thanks for the comment!!!

It’s Latvia ^_^ or the UK, one of them! x

Hey hey,

From Valka/Valga train station, there should have been a connecting train to Riga/Tartu etc. Used to be one when I did it quite a few times (as I did a bit of exploring in that region). Has this stop now? Also the journey from Tartu to Riga is a bit of a problem when Eurolines doesn’t run. :P

for some reason, that train isnt running directly from valga/valka anymore :( they take you down the road a bit to another train. it was really the oddest experience!!! :):) glad to know it was a bit easier for you!

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Just in case anyone else wishes to make this journey:

Currently (January 2018) there is a connecting train directly from Valga station to Riga.

I took the train from Tartu to Valga leaving at 15:15 arrived in Valga at 16:27

Then the train to Riga departed from the next platform at 16:38

Beware! I missed the train to Riga because it is not shown on the electronic Departures screen! It is only listed on a paper timetable inside the station. There is a notice-board inside the station with bus and train timetables.

So I missed the last connection to Riga that day and had to spend the night in Valga. But it was quite easy. There is a list of hostels and hotels inside the station with phone numbers. I called the Hostel Maria and they picked me up from the station : )

So taking the train from Tartu to Riga should in theory be very easy and quick! Just make sure you don’t miss the connecting train!

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