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Travelling around Finland

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Winters in Finland can be harsh and can make even the notion of travelling from point A to point B seem daunting. But you don’t have to worry spending most of the year stuck at home, as Finnish public transportation works well and can take you almost everywhere in this large country, on time. Of course, you can also opt to drive -- but you’ll need to make sure to adhere to the country’s sometimes strict traffic regulations.

Helsinki versus everywhere else

Helsinki is uniquely blessed, in the sense that it offers the most transportation options in the whole country. It’s the only city in Finland to have a Metro and a tram system and it’s the city where most buses and trains depart from. The tram system consists of nine lines and does a very good job at covering most of Helsinki -- some lines like 3T are especially good to take if you’re looking to see the city’s sights. Tram tickets are different from the other tickets (you can’t use a bus ticket on the tram) and you can only get them from designated ticket machines. One thing you should know is that the Helsinki Card, the discount card which also provides free entry to museums and city sights, can also be used as a valid public transport ticket. As for the Metro, it only has one line that spans to 17 stations and operates until 11:30 p.m. As is the case with many city-centre Metro systems, there have been some safety issues (from pickpocketing to drunken fights) in the past. Although there are currently security forces at the stations, appointed by the government to discourage similar incidents, the general consensus is that you will be safer if you avoid using the metro in the night-time, especially on the weekends.

Getting your tickets

There are many different ticket options for your public transport needs: they’re all easy to obtain and their prices are quite reasonable. Just make sure to always carry a valid ticket with you, because fines can be steep otherwise (80 euros plus the price of the ticket). Depending on how much travelling you’ll be doing, you can choose between a single ticket, a day ticket or a travel card. Single tickets can be used for buses and for the metro, start from 2.20 euros and are valid for as many trips as you want from the moment of purchase until the moment of expiration (which is stated on the ticket). You can get them from a ticket machine or directly from the driver, but if you choose the second option make sure to carry the exact amount or at least enough small change -- drivers won’t accept anything larger than a 20-euro banknote.

Day tickets can be a better long-term solution, although they’re a bit more expensive: they’re valid (from the moment you activate them) for 24 hours, or for up to seven days, and their prices range from 8 to 32 euros. You can buy them from ticket machines (only the 24-hour tickets are available if you want to buy them directly from the driver).

If you need something that will have you covered for more than a week, then the travel card might be the best option for you: it can be used on all public transport services for either 14 days (24 euros) or a month (45.90 euros). To get it, you need to be a resident of some of Finland’s key cities; Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, Vantaa, Kirkkonummi, Kerava, Sipoo and their neighbouring municipalities. You can also choose to buy a personal one (can be used only by you) or a multi-user one (can be used by family members, co-workers etc), although the second option is more pricey.

Trains, buses, and flights

Finland may be a big country, but don’t be fooled into believing that you need to hop on a plane to see it all: domestic flights are usually too expensive. There are many bus companies, and you have the option to buy bus tickets online, at the Matkahuolto website.

The train system is especially sophisticated: you have the commuter trains in the Helsinki area, the overnight trains (either car-carrying or with sleeping cars) that will take you from northern to southern Finland and vice-versa, and the Allegro and Tolstoi trains, that will take you to Russia (St. Petersburg and Moscow respectively). All long-distance trains are very comfortable, complete with restaurants and cars specifically designed to keep the children occupied, are timely (in contrast to the Helsinki trains where you may encounter delays in the winter) and not very expensive: a 200km journey could only set you back 25 euros.

If the weather allows it though, do consider travelling by sea: there are more than 40 routes you can take with a ferry (they’re called Finferries) and most of them combine transportation with leisure, as you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy Finland’s majestic landscapes.

Driving in Finland

Driving in Finland can be a completely different experience, depending on what season it is; it's enjoyable in the summer, but quite nerve-inducing during the winter. Here’s what you need to remember:

  • Keep your headlights on, at all times -- even at daytime. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving within a built-up area or not, use of headlights is mandatory.
  • This should go without saying, but don’t drink and drive, not even in the slightest. The police perform random breath-analyser tests and if you register a blood alcohol level of more than 0.5 g/litre you’ll be arrested immediately.
  • Mind the moose. And the reindeer. Especially around dusk and night-time, animals are known to be drawn by the lights and they can cause damages to your car and injuries (besides the tragedy of you actually hitting them, that is).
  • Always use your winter tyres from December 1 to the end of February, or even until April 20. If the weather is bad, it is a necessity. Winter tyres are a legal requirement, as the roads will be icy and hazardous during the winter months.

 Useful links:

Helsinki Region Transport
Finnish Transport Agency
Train tickets
Bus tickets

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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