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How to Travel to Southern Finland
All corners of the country are well connected. Transport networks by air, rail, road and water are smooth, comprehensive and reliable, despite that fact that Finland is a large sparsely populated country.
When travelling to Finland, you’ll be most likely taking the plane and landing in Helsinki, the main airport of the country. In total, there are 27 airports in Finland, five of them international. The Finnish national airline is Finnair, part of the One World alliance. Several airlines that operate international flights in Finland. On top of that Finnair, Norwegian, Flybe and SAS take care of domestic traffic.
Given that Finland is a seaside country, it is easily accessible by boat. In the Southern region, Helsinki offers three mayor ports which regularly receive passenger boats from Germany, Russia, Sweden and Estonia. Other seaside cities of the area, like Porvoo or Hanko, can be also reached by boat by making a short connection in Helsinki, and are an excellent way to discover the Southern archipelago.
Finland has an excellent road network, well serviced with petrol stations and rest areas located quite close to each other. When driving in Finland, you must take into account that the traffic flow is right-handed and headlights must be used at all times. Also, one must pay attention to potential elks or reindeers crossing the road mostly at dusk.
In general, drivers are polite and the driving culture is stress-free. Driving in winter can be tricky, specially for unexperienced drivers, as roads get slippery and snow tires are legally required from December to February.
If you want to rent a car in Finland, besides the small local companies you can find most of the international networks operating in the country: Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar.
If you prefer to be driven around, Finland’s coach route network is your top choice. The network is one of the most comprehensive in Europe, and it covers over 90% of the public roads. Coaches are a good alternative when visiting those destinations where the train network doesn’t reach and also a perfect way to enjoy the picturesque view along the smaller roads.
Getting to Finland by train is a bit more complicated than by other means of transport give the Finnish geography. The capital, Helsinki, is connected by train to Russia but that is pretty much it for international connections. There are no direct trains connecting Finland with the other neighbouring countries of Sweden and Norway but there is a bus which covers the gap from Boden/Luleå (Sweden) to Kemi (Finland) which is free with a Eurail pass.
Once inside Finland, the rail network is very comprehensive, and covers all the country from a central departure point in Helsinki all the way to Kolari in Lapland. Finnish trains are spacious, comfortable and clean, and many have their own play carriage for children, a carriage for pets, bike storage options and working compartments. For the long distance trips, traveling overnight in a sleeping car is a great option. If you want to bring your car along the ride, it is also possible to do so with the car carriers.
Finland’s rail system is managed by the public company VR, rated one of the best in Europe.
Getting around Southern Finland
All mayor towns and cities in Finland are perfect for exploring on foot and the Southern Finland region is no exception. The urban layout is mostly flat, with plenty of pedestrian zones and wide sidewalks. They can be walked without trouble, however, in some of the most popular destinations on high season walking might include crowds.
Cycling is also a very popular form on transport. Bike lines are available in almost all cities, often separated from the road traffic. Most of the main touristic cities, like Helsinki, Kotka, Porvoo, Kouvula or Hämeenlinna offer rental city bikes for locals and visitors alike, evenly distributed across the city.
By electric scooter
In the recent years, electric scooters have also become a very popular means of transportation. Located around the city, an app must be downloaded to operate them. The fares vary from one company to another, although so slightly. When riding one of these scooters, safety must be observed. It is forbidden to ride them on the sidewalks and bike lines, and the use of a helmet is advised.
On Public Transport
Public transport is ubiquitous and reliable. In Helsinki, commuter trains, trams, subway, busses and ferries are available, some of them 24/7. In other mayor cities, the frequency might be slightly lower, and there might be less variety of transports, but their quality will always be excellent. Fares depend on the city and the age of the traveller and can be bought by a mobile app or sometimes from the driver. Card payments are generally accepted. Keep in mind that caution is advised on public transport, specially in the trains from and to the airport, as it’s the place where pickpockets operate.
Tips to move around Southern Finland
- Subway – The metro is the fastest transportation, however it is only available in Helsinki. The only metro line crosses the city from the southwest to the northeast, between 5.30-23.30 on Monday to Saturday and ja between 6.30-23.30 on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased with the HSL app.
- Bus – The most present means of transport. Every city has its own internal public bus service. Besides that, there are private companies that operate on scheduled and charter busses between cities. Busses usually run 24/7 in most mayor cities, although the frequency of the busses and the lines operated might be reduced during late night hours.
- Train – Operated by a a publicly held company that provides coverage to whole Finland, VR. Trains are a reliable and eco-friendly way to travel, although the journey can take several hours depending on the destination, and transfers high be required. Tickets can be purchased online or with the VR app.
- Trams – Only available in Helsinki, their network is comprehensive. They are also a nice way to sightsee when the weather is not very kind for walking, as the windows are big and they pass by most of the mayor sights in the capital. As with the subway, tickets can be purchased with the HSL app.
- Taxi – Available in all parts of the region and the country. The different taxi companies that operate in Finland are bookable by phone, on a taxi stop or via an app. Uber and other shared ride services are available in the bigger cities. From a restaurant or hotel you can have them call a taxi for you.
- Electric Scooter – Very popular in the last few years. Remember the traffic safety rules when driving those.
- Bike – The best way to get around, other than walking, is by bike. There are public bikes for rent in almost all main towns of the region, plus some private companies also offer special bike rentals (such as VTT or Fatbike). Most big hotels in Helsinki also offer their own bikes to their customers, either free of charge or for a small fee.
- Travel planners – Perille is a trip planner that makes traveling with public transportation easy and fast. With Perille, you can search for all transportation options between destinations, plan your trips and get your ticket in one place. The app or the webpage allow you to compare schedules and fares for trains, buses, taxis, flights, and ferries within Finland, and also between Helsinki and Tallinn, a popular excursion destination in Estonia.