Tallinn’s public transport

It’s free of charge for the residents, it’s relatively new, but there are still some old examples. It might be overcrowded, but it’s definitely thought through. And yes, it comes in handy when you need to go from point A to B quite fast – it never took me more than 30 minutes to reach the center from my flat close to the seaside!

So, if you don’t know yet – Tallinn’s public transport is free of charge for residents. That’s a grand idea, though there are people who are not in so much favour of that. Those who are against are telling that the transport is not of a very good quality and also – tends to be overcrowded. I lived in several cities and definitely – the transport is OK. Or maybe I am not a person who expects too much :)

Anyways – the Tallinn public transport got more expensive for the people who want to buy a single ticket. From the 1st of March single ticket from the driver costs 2 euro. My friends who live in Sweden are laughing that this is a Swedish price. It was 1,60 euro before. If you are a student – you will pay 1 euro though, I think this is what laws say.

But no worries, you can make a trick to save money on tickets (if you even intend to buy them). You need to buy this:


That’s a green smart card where you can load the tickets. It will costs you 2 euros and you can buy it in many places, including R-kiosks (kiosk chain in Estonia) and grocery stores (e.g. Maxima). So you will find it without any issues. After that, you can load it for a daily ticket (3 euro), 3-day ticket (5 euro) or even 30-day ticket if you wish so (23 euro) :) You can do it via pilet.ee website or in R-kiosks.

Of course it all applies only if you visit Tallinn, because in other cities – there are different rules. For example – Tallinn is the only town in Estonia with a free public transport for its residents.

Newer  vs older transport

As I mentioned, public transport in Tallinn is not bad. It consist of such types of transport:

  • Buses
  • Trams
  • Trolleybuses
  • Electric trains

There are also private mini buses somewhere and regional buses, but they apply in their own rates and are not free of charge.

Buses are usually relatively new (like a few years old), well maintained and quite spacious. It is like that at least for the lines that I am using most commonly: 40, 48, 3 and 42. I have noticed that there are Mercedes and Solaris (Polish) buses + one more brand that I cannot identify.

Trams are of two types. New, made in Spain which are not good in winter… or drivers do not know how to heat them and the old ones (made in… Czechoslovakia! :D). I remember when it was -24 Celsius in Tallinn and I went to this new tram. I thought I would freeze totally – the heating was not good enough to handle it. Here is how the tram looks like:

New trams plus bus

It’s quite silent and really convenient! But I think that the space for standing is really limited. It makes it quite uncomfortable if there are many people or you just prefer to stand in the tram. I can tell you that in case there are 2 mothers with baby buggies, it might be a problem to stand comfortably.

That is why I like the old trams. In my opinion they do not only look better (more classic), but also – they have more standing space :)

The back space is also very nice if you like making rail pictures. Here are two that I made in two separate days. One is mysterious and the other one – optimistic (at least this is how I see them):

There are 4 tram lines in Tallinn. The two lines that are covered only with old trams are 1 and 2. They both go to Kopli – considered to be a bad area. I live just 15 minutes walking from it and I never really visited Kopli (area, not street). The bad opinion on the area is just the one thing why the old trams go there. The second one is the fact that the rails are not good enough to handle new trams. But it’s better for the trams I guess – they would not get damaged too fast :)

When we are at Kopli we should also mention trolleybusses. They are both new old and at the moment Tallinn is served by just 5 lines. One that goes from Kopli is served both by new and old trolleybusses. I am very lucky lately that each time I travel from Madala stop to Kristiine shopping center, I end up with an old one. It looks like that:

Trolley9 outside

Btw – don’t get confused with the number 9. Numbers 2,6,7 and 8 do not exist, so nr 9 is actually the 5th line :)

Inside, it’s nothing special. But I would say it looks worse than the tram. The trips is also not so comfortable. You can compare the interiors. The first picture of 2 is a tram. The second – trolleybus:

For me the tram and trolleybus experience is equally good – in Poland it’s a rare thing that you can use and old public transportation in a big city. Everything is replaced with the new transport. Call me weird, but old bus / tram / trolleybus remind me of my childhood. Oh, good memories!

I should also mention the electric trains – the government-owned company Elron is operating with the electric trains in Estonia. They look impressive (pictures from think-railways.com and postimees.ee):



The second one is more typical for Tallinn as I never seen the short one in Balti Jaam. The painting is always the same in Elron. Those electric trains allow the residents of Tallinn to travel within city borders with the green card I posted at the beginning of this blog post. For example, if you’d like to travel from Balti Jaam (main train station) to Ülemiste shopping center – train is the fastest option – it would be around 11-12 minutes. Same with some other destinations in Tallinn – you just avoid the traffic very easily!

Some people are calling the train system “A Tallinn subway” – of course it’s a joke as Tallinn has no subway of it’s own :)

Ticket controls

I live in Tallinn for 5 months – I never had any ticket control. I am using public transport daily and I think the reason for controls might be the fact that it’s not a tourist season. Maybe they would appear in late spring / summer. Or maybe I am just lucky not to see any controller. Btw – the fine for having no ticket is quite high – that’s 40 euro!

Free transport – good or bad

If someone asked me what I think about the free public transport, I would say it is a decent idea. There are definitely less cars on the streets, it helps the environment and does not cause a lot of traffic. But on the other hand – there is less money for the transportation’s development, buses, trams and trolleybuses are rarely replaced and also – sometimes you can see some dangerous people in the bus (aggressive or drunk). Ok, it would happen as well if there were tickets needed, but maybe some of those weird guys would consider not going to the bus without a ticket? No idea. Anyways – I support the idea – I paid the taxes for the city so I can travel for free. That’s a reward :)

And also, I think it should be introduced in more cities.


2 thoughts on “Tallinn’s public transport

  1. Thanks for this very informative post Adam! I really have had trouble understanding the ticket system now that the public transport is free for residents. The 1,60 was quite difficult because the driver wanted exact change, so two euros actually makes that easier. But I will get one of those green cards next time I’m over there :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never bought a paper ticket, but it confused people a lot and I can tell you that I saw just three times that people were buying them and… it stopped the bus for like 3 minutes because people were searching for cash. Still, it’s funny that you get a ticket and you see no place to validate it :) Green cards are handy and they have no validity fortunately, so you can just top it up when you are planning to come. Also – if you want to do it few days before you come – you can choose the day from when it would be valid. Very good solution, well done Tallinn :)

      Liked by 1 person

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