Finnair (www.finnair.com) runs a fairly comprehensive domestic service out of Helsinki. Standard prices are expensive, but check the website for offers. Multitrip journeys can be significantly cheaper than one-way flights. Some Lapland destinations are winter only.
Finland is as bicycle-friendly as any country you’ll find, with plenty of paths and few hills. Bikes can be taken on most trains, buses and ferries. Åland is particularly good for cycling. Helmets are recommended but no longer required by law.
You can hire a bike in nearly every Finnish town. Most campgrounds and many urban hotels offer bikes for a small fee or for free, but these are made for cycling around town, not for ambitious road trips. Better bikes are available at dedicated outlets. Expect to pay around €15 per day or €90 per week for a good-quality road bike and €45/120 for a mountain bike.
Lake boats were once important summer transport. These services are now largely kept on as cruises, and make a great, leisurely way to journey between towns. The most popular routes are Tampere–Hämeenlinna, Tampere–Virrat, Savonlinna–Kuopio and Lahti–Jyväskylä.
Coastal routes include Turku–Naantali, Helsinki–Porvoo and ferries to the Åland Archipelago.
The website http://lautta.net is handy for domestic lake-boat and ferry services.
Bus is the main form of long-distance transport in Finland, with a far more comprehensive network than the train system. Buses run on time and are rarely full.
Intercity buses fall into two main categories: vakiovuoro (regular), stopping frequently at towns and villages; and slightly pricier pikavuoro (express). Because there are few motorways, even express buses aren’t that fast, averaging about 60km/h.
Ticketing is handled by Matkahuolto (www.matkahuolto.fi), which has an excellent website with all the timetables. Matkahuolto offices work normal business hours, but you can always just buy the ticket from the driver.
Towns have a linja-autoasema (bus terminal), with local timetables displayed (lähtevät is departures, saapuvat arrivals).
Separate from the normal system (though its timetables appear on the Matkahuolto website), Onnibus (www.onnibus.com) runs a variety of budget inter-city routes in comfortable double-decker buses. Most of these radiate from Helsinki and can be much cheaper than normal fares if booked in advance.
Departures between major towns are frequent, but reduce substantially at weekends. In more remote areas there may be no weekend buses at all. Schedules change during the summer holidays, when it can be much harder to move around isolated regions.
Prices refer to express services where available. There are some online advance-purchase offers, and return tickets are 10% cheaper than two one-way fares, provided the trip is at least 60km each way.
Discounts Children aged four to 16 pay half-fare. Student discounts require full-time study in Finland; there's a 50% discount on journeys longer than 60km. If booking three or more adult tickets together, a 25% discount applies.
Car & Motorcycle
Finland’s road network is excellent, although there are few motorways. When approaching a town or city, keskusta on signs indicates the town centre. There are no road tolls but lots of speed cameras.
Petrol is expensive in Finland; check current prices at www.fuel-prices-europe.info. Many petrol stations are unstaffed, but machines take cash and most (but not all) chip- and PIN-enabled credit and debit cards. Change for cash is not given.
Car rental is expensive, but rates can work out reasonably with advance booking or with a group. A small car costs from €65/205 per day/week with 300km free per day, not including insurance. One-way rentals attract a surcharge and are not always possible. Book ahead at peak times to ensure a car is available. Most cars have manual transmission; automatic cars may be available but at a premium and should be reserved well in advance of travel. As ever, the cheapest deals are online.
In larger towns, look out for weekend rates. These can cost little more than the rate for a single day, and you can pick up the car early afternoon on Friday and return it late Sunday or early Monday.
Car-hire franchises with offices in many Finnish cities include the following:
- Avis (www.avis.com)
- Budget (www.budget.com)
- Europcar (www.europcar.com)
- Hertz (www.hertz.com)
- Sixt (www.sixt.com)
Road Conditions & Hazards
Conditions Snow and ice on the roads, potentially from September to April, and as late as June in Lapland, make driving a serious undertaking. Snow chains are illegal: people use either snow tyres, which have studs, or special all-weather tyres. The website http://liikennetilanne.liikennevirasto.fi has road webcams around Finland that are good for checking conditions. Select kelikamerat on the map.
Wildlife Beware of elk and reindeer, which don’t respect vehicles and can dash onto the road unexpectedly. This sounds comical, but elk especially constitute a deadly danger. Notify the police if there is an accident involving these animals. Reindeer are very common in Lapland; slow right down if you see one, as there will be more nearby.
- Finns drive on the right.
- The speed limit is 50km/h in built-up areas, from 80km/h to 100km/h on highways, and 120km/h on motorways.
- Use headlights at all times.
- Seat belts are compulsory for all.
- Blood alcohol limit is 0.05%.
An important feature of Finland is that there are fewer give-way signs than most countries. Traffic entering an intersection from the right has right of way. While this doesn’t apply to highways or main roads, in towns cars will often nip out from the right without looking: you must give way, so be careful at smaller intersections in towns.
Hitching is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk.
In Finland hitching is possible, but expect long waits. It’s more common in remote areas where bus services are fewer, but still unusual. Your greatest friend will be your insect repellent. Mosquitoes can’t believe their luck that such a large juicy mammal would stand in one place for such a very long time.
Helsinki has Finland's only metro and trams. All Finnish cities and towns have a bus network, with departures every 10 to 15 minutes in large towns, and every 30 to 60 minutes in smaller towns. Fares are around €2.50 to €3.50; pay the driver.
The taxi (taksi) in Finland is an expensive creature, particularly for short rides. There’s a flagfall of €5.90 in Helsinki (often more elsewhere) and a per-kilometre charge of €1.57. These fares increase if there are more than two passengers, and there’s a surcharge for night and weekend service.
Hail taxis on the street or at bus and train stations, or call or book one online.
State-owned Valtion Rautatiet (VR; www.vr.fi) runs Finnish trains. It's a fast, efficient service, with prices roughly equivalent to buses on the same route.
VR’s website has comprehensive timetable information. Major stations have a VR office and ticket machines. Tickets can also be purchased online, where you'll also find discounted advance fares. You can also board and pay the conductor, but if the station where you boarded had ticket-purchasing facilities, you’ll be charged a small penalty fee (€2 to €5).
Types of Train
The main types of trains are the high-speed Pendolino (the fastest and most expensive class), fast Intercity (IC), Express and 2nd-class-only Regional trains (H on the timetable).
On longer routes there are two types of sleeping carriage. Traditional blue ones offer berths in one-, two- or three-bed cabins, while newer sleeping cars offer single and double compartments in a double-decker carriage. There are cabins with bathroom, and one equipped for wheelchair use. Sleeper trains transport cars.
Fares vary slightly according to the type of train, with Pendolino the priciest. A one-way ticket for a 100km express train journey costs approximately €25 in 2nd ('eco') class. First-class ('extra') tickets cost around 35% more than a 2nd-class ticket. A return fare gives a 10% discount.
Children under 17 pay half-fare; those under six years travel free (but without a seat). A child travels free with every adult on long-distance trips, and there are also discounts for seniors, local students and any group of three or more adults travelling together.
Various passes are available for rail travel within Finland, or in European countries including Finland. There are cheaper passes for students, people aged under 26 and seniors. Supplements (eg for high-speed services) and reservation costs are not covered, and terms and conditions change – check carefully before buying. Always carry your passport when using the pass.
Eurail (www.eurail.com) offers a good selection of passes available to residents of non-European countries, which should be purchased before arriving in Europe. Most of the passes offer discounts of around 25% for under-26s, or 15% for two people travelling together.
The Eurail Country Pass, valid for a single country, costs €286/387 for five/eight days’ 2nd-class travel in a one-month period within Finland.
A Eurail Select Pass, covering four countries of your choosing, costs €389 for five days within a month.
Eurail Global Passes offer a variety of options for travel in 28 European countries, from €488 for five days' travel within a one-month period to €803 for one month's continuous travel. The Global Passes are much better value for under-26s, as those older have to buy a 1st-class pass.
On most Eurail passes, children aged between four and 11 get a 50% discount on the full adult fare.
Eurail passes give a 30% to 50% discount on several ferry lines in the region; check the website for details.
If you’ve lived in Europe for more than six months, you’re eligible for an InterRail pass (www.interrail.eu). The InterRail Finland pass offers travel only in Finland for three/four/six/eight days in a one-month period, costing €119/150/201/241 in 2nd class. The Global Pass offers travel in 30 European countries and costs from €267 for five days’ travel in any 15-day period, to €632 for a month’s unlimited train travel. On both passes, there’s a 33% discount for under-26s.
InterRail passes give a 30% to 50% discount on several ferry lines in the region; check the website for details.