Getting round in Finland: a newbies’ information

Finland has a deserved fame for doing issues at a human scale, and nowhere is that this extra obvious than on the nation’s public transport system. From trains with onboard playrooms and environment friendly public buses to well-maintained highways and traffic-free cycle lanes, touring round Finland is never annoying, although, like many issues in Finland, it may be costly. 

Right here’s our information to the most effective methods to get round Finland, from Helsinki all the way in which to the Arctic Circle.

Trains are one of the simplest ways to benefit from the Finnish countryside

Finland’s glorious practice community followers out everywhere in the nation from the artwork nouveau masterpiece that’s Helsinki Central Station – a gem of a constructing created by architect Eliel Saarinen in 1919.

Run with typical Finnish effectivity by Valtion Rautatiet (VR), trains run to most main cities within the south of the nation, together with Tampere and Turku and the coastal cities of Pori and Hanko.

Nonetheless, the community shrinks noticeably when you head north of Oulu. In Finnish Lapland, the primary hub is Rovaniemi, with restricted providers operating north to Kolari and east to Kemijärvi. Wherever you go, you’ll get pleasure from views of rolling forests, glinting lakes and clusters of wood cottages in a traditional crimson and white Nordic shade scheme. Worldwide providers to Russia have been suspended on the time of writing because of the battle in Ukraine. 

The 1919 artwork nouveau Helsinki Central Railway station is a significant transport hub © Philippe TURPIN / Photon RF / Getty Photographs

Excessive-speed vs regional trains

For fast cross-country journeys, look out for high-speed Pendolino journeys between main cities or quick InterCity rides. Categorical and Regional trains are slower and cease at loads of tiny stations in between the large hubs. For longer journeys, sleeper trains supply a alternative of cozy, airplane-style seats or sleeping berths in upstairs or downstairs cabins (head upstairs for in-cabin perks reminiscent of showers and bogs, at a better worth). 

Perks of the Finnish rail system embrace on-board childrens’ automobiles with play areas, licensed eating automobiles, in depth assist for vacationers with disabilities and quiet cubicles for making cellphone calls with out disturbing different vacationers. Finland can be nicely built-in into the Eurail and Interrail ticket techniques.

With regards to costs, anticipate to pay the same worth to bus journeys in 2nd class, and round 35% extra in 1st class. Youngsters beneath 17 pay half fares, one grownup travels free with every grownup for longer journeys, and reductions apply for seniors and group journey. You should purchase tickets on-line (typically with reductions for advance journey) or from ticket workplaces and ticket machines at stations.

Tip for practice journey in Finland: When you’re touring from Helsinki in summer season, earlier than you hit the station, browse the market stalls on the Kauppatori market sq. for Finnish strawberries, blueberries, cloudberries, unshelled peas and different wholesome snacks for the journey.

Uncover the world’s most intriguing experiences with our weekly e-newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

Buses go virtually all over the place in Finland

Buses are the spine of intercity journey in Finland, although with the dearth of motorways and sluggish velocity limits, bus journeys transfer at a moderately ponderous tempo. Don’t anticipate to cowl far more than 60km (37 miles) per hour. 

You possibly can take the bus to achieve most cities, cities and villages in Finland; seats are snug and fares are affordable, although common vakiovuoro buses (which cease steadily) are cheaper than pricier pikavuoro specific buses between greater cities. Buses additionally run throughout Finland’s borders to Russia, Norway and Sweden – there’s a little bit of crimson tape to navigate on routes to Russia, however border crossings to Nordic international locations are seamless.

Ticketing is dealt with by Matkahuolto, and their web site has complete timetables for routes everywhere in the nation. Built-in throughout the similar system are the funds intercity buses run by Onnibus, with massive reductions obtainable for advance bookings. You should purchase tickets on-line, or from Matkahuolto workplaces or bus drivers. Matkahuolto additionally provides a bus pass permitting limitless journey on routes throughout your entire nation, legitimate for 7 days (€149) or 14 days (€249). 

In bigger cities, there’ll often be a devoted linja-autoasema (bus terminal) the place you should purchase tickets and verify timetables. Departures are frequent between main cities, however providers drop off considerably at weekends; in distant areas, there could also be no weekend buses in any respect. Inconveniently, providers additionally fall off in the course of the summer season holidays.

Air journey saves time (at a carbon price) 

Contemplating the convenience of getting round by bus and practice, there isn’t a very compelling motive to fly internally inside Finland, although it’s value contemplating a flight for the lengthy journey as much as the Arctic Circle from Helsinki. Finnair visits cities everywhere in the nation from its fundamental Helsinki hub, however fares are fairly dear in comparison with inner flights outdoors of northern Europe, until you handle to snag a reduced promo fare.

Cycling on electric fat bikes through Urho Kekkonen National Park.
You may want specialist bikes to cycle in Finland’s backcountry like these electrical fats bikes in Urho Kekkonen Nationwide Park © Jonathan Stokes / Lonely Planet

Biking is an effective way to discover Finland in summer season

Finland is a superb nation for cyclists, with a formidable system of cycle paths taking you away from the site visitors in and round city areas. Within the countryside, there are few hills to cope with, besides within the north of the nation. The nation additionally has some spectacular long-distance cycle routes, built-in into the Europe-wide cycle route community; bikes can simply be carried on ferries, trains and lots of buses. 

Nation journeys on quiet backroads is usually a actual pleasure, with loads of alternatives to cease and splash in lakes en route. Nonetheless, the considerable lakes could make journeys fairly circuitous. When biking in distant areas, be prepared for the wildlife – you’re unlikely to come across wolves or bears however deer and elk is usually a hazard, and mosquitoes will stalk you in woodland areas. 

Some cities have native bikeshare schemes, however you’ll need a respectable highway or mountain bike to discover the backcountry – greatest employed from a devoted cycle rental institution. Biking in Finland is certainly a summertime exercise; in winter, the biting chilly, snow and ice and basic lack of daylight are critical impediments to pleasing using. 

Boats slip between Finland’s myriad islands 

Finland has greater than 188,000 islands; many are linked by bridges and causeways and ferries join bigger islands to one another and to the mainland. A very powerful sea ferry routes hyperlink Helsinki and Porvoo and Turku and Naantali; ferries additionally run from Helsinki, Turku and Naantali to the Åland Archipelago, with connections onward to Stockholm, Kapellskär or Grisslehamn in Sweden. 

Worldwide ferry firms reminiscent of Finnlines, Viking Line and St Peter Line run providers from Finland to Sweden, Germany, Estonia and Russia. Then there are lake ferries inside Finland – as soon as these have been important transport hyperlinks however right this moment they’re extra like leisure cruises, however they’re nonetheless a enjoyable strategy to journey between Tampere and Hämeenlinna or Virrat, between Savonlinna and Kuopio, and between Lahti and Jyväskylä.

Red Finnish Wooden Bath Sauna Log Cabin In Summer
For max freedom to get wherever – a rental automobile is the best choice however concentrate on the highway guidelines and circumstances in Finland © Ryhor Bruyeu / Getty Photographs

A rental automobile is the simple strategy to discover Finland 

Driving Finland’s uncrowded roads is a pleasure, with no tolls, immaculately maintained highway surfaces, and infinite miles of attractive surroundings rolling by outdoors the home windows. Nonetheless, with the deeply indented shoreline and lake-filled inside, a journey from A to B can take for much longer than you would possibly anticipate. 

Gradual native velocity limits don’t assist – a 100kmph restrict applies on main highways, rising to 120kmph on Finland’s handful of motorways. On smaller roads, you’ll have to stay to 80kmph. Pace cameras are all over the place however there are good causes for conserving issues sluggish; winter driving circumstances might be difficult and elk, deer and reindeer pose a critical hazard on the roads in rural areas. From 1 November to 31 March, snow tires are required, and slower velocity limits apply.

Renting a automobile is simple in Finland however it may be costly, significantly when you issue within the excessive price of petrol. Most worldwide driving licenses are legitimate, and all the main automobile rental companies have workplaces at airports and in main cities. There are massive surcharges for one-way leases.

Finns drive on the suitable, headlamps are necessary always, and site visitors coming into an intersection from the suitable has proper of means, even when there isn’t any ‘give means’ signal. Parking is often on the road and you may pay at automated machines utilizing money or playing cards; keep away from parking inside 5m (16ft) of a pedestrian crossing or intersection. 

Notice that many petrol stations are unmanned; you may often pay with money or a financial institution card, however automated cost machines might not give change for money.

Native transport is cheap and environment friendly in Finnish cities

Helsinki has Finland’s solely metro and tram system, backed up by an environment friendly public bus community and the City Bikes bikeshare scheme. Elsewhere, cheap native buses zip round cities and out to close by villages. 

The taksi (taxi) in Finland is an costly creature, significantly for brief rides, however you will discover a cab simply at transport hubs and on the street in downtown areas, or you may name forward for a experience. Uber operates in Helsinki, and you may as well summon rideshares by way of and Carpool Finland

Accessible journey in Finland 

Finland units an ordinary that leaves many different international locations within the shade with regards to accessible journey. By regulation, virtually all Finnish establishments and public services have ramps, lifts and particular bogs for vacationers with restricted mobility, and lots of motels and eating places have disabled-friendly services, apart from older properties. 

Trains and metropolis buses are accessible by wheelchair, and a few of Finland’s national parks have devoted accessible nature trails. For extra data on accessible journey, see Lonely Planet’s on-line Accessible Travel Resources

Why I like touring by practice in Finland

Prepare rides in Finland present an exquisite area for contemplation – an opportunity to overlook the world and drift off into quiet thought as infinite pine timber (and the occasional tidy village of crimson and white weatherboard homes) roll by outdoors the home windows. Human-friendly measures like play zones for youths and cubicles for cellphone calls solely add to the stress-relieving temper; it’s like transport reinvented as meditation. 

You may additionally like: 
Autumn in Finland: an alternate fall foliage tour
The European Gastronomic Area for 2020 is Kuopio, capital of Finland’s stunning lakeland
Reindeer, bears and elusive seals: Finland’s best wildlife experiences