Helsinki, Finland’s capital, is a beautiful city, well worth a visit. But whether you’re a tourist or a local, we have gathered the best tips for your trips around the “Daughter of the Baltic”.
To find your best connection from A to B, check the TripGo app. It quickly and easily lets you compare your options, showing how much each alternative costs, how long it takes and the environmental impact it has.
Public transport tickets
Any of the tickets listed below allow unlimited transfers within their validity periods and regions. Please be aware that prices may vary depending on where you buy the ticket. You can see current ticket prices here. Children under 7 travel free, and children under 16 for half price. Please note that while there are no ticket checks when getting on the metro, trains, trams or the Suomenlinna ferry, ticket inspectors in blue uniforms do random checks on board.
from a Travel Card service point, R-kiosk or Stockmann, for example. The first time you use the ticket, show the card to a card reader when boarding a vehicle or the Metro platform area. The ticket is valid from the first time you use it.
- Single tickets (kertalippu) can be bought from bus drivers, tram operators, ticket vending machines, and via text message (requires a Finnish SIM card) or via the HSL app. They are valid for 1h.
- Night fare tickets are single ticket for travel between 2am-4:30am. Single tickets bought before 2am can be used during the night fare hours though if they are still valid. Please note that at the Kamppi bus terminal, tickets are inspected at the entrance; drivers do not sell single tickets at night. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket machine next to the terminal entrance.
- You can buy tram only tickets (raitiovaunulippu) from ticket machines, they’re not available from the driver. These are valid for 1h as well. On a ticket machine, press the button with the tram picture.
- Similarly, the Suomenlinna ticket (suomenlinna-lippu) is only valid on the Suomenlinna ferry. The ticket allows for unlimited travel for 12h.
- Regional tickets (seutulippu) are valid for 80 minutes within and between Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.
- Day tickets (vuorokausiliput) are on a single charge card and valid 1 to 7 days. You can purchase them from ticket machines or from the driver/conductor.
- You can also get a single charge card with a 2h ticket (2 tunnin lippu). 2h tickets are available from Travel Card service points, R-kiosks or Stockmann, for example.
- Most locals use a Travel Card (matkakortti, pictured above), an RFID card used as an electronic ticket. Please see below for more info. The Travel Card is sold at the R-kiosks and HSL offices.
- For visitors to Helsinki, who would like to include sightseeing in their stay in the city, the Helsinki Card (Helsinki Kortti) is recommended. The card is valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours from the time of the first use. It is not transferrable an you won’t get any refunds if you leave earlier than expected. However, it includes bus & boat sightseeing tours, free or cheaper entry to Helsinki’s museums and top attractions and a guide book.
If you want to travel throughout the whole metropolitan area of Helsinki, not just the city, get the Helsinki Card Region instead.
You can buy the Helsinki Card online (your cheapest option), or from airport information desks, ferry terminals, travel agencies or the Helsinki City Tourist office.
- Season tickets (kausilippu) offers unlimited travel for the duration paid for. These are great if you use public transport regularly. If you have a season ticket, just show your travel card to the reader every time you board a bus. On commuter trains, trams and the Metro you do not need to show your season ticket.
- Value tickets (arvolippu) are used to pay for one trip, which may contain changes. These are a good option if you use public transport only occasionally, or if you occasionally want to go outside the area of validity of your season ticket. You’ll get a discount compared to normal ticket prices.
If you have a valid value ticket on your card and wish to transfer from one vehicle to another, show your card to the card reader in order to register your transfer but do not press any of the buttons. The ticket is valid if the green light appears and the card reader beeps. The reader’s info display shows the time the transfer expires.
Trips to and from Helsinki Airport
Helsinki’s airport is about 20km from the city centre. You have the choice between buses, trains, taxis and coach services. Check TripGo for your best option to get where you want to go.
- There are two arrival halls in terminal 2. If you are picking up passengers check whether they arrive in 2A or 2B.
- Taxi stands are located in front of both terminals.
- A direct coach service by Finnair (not free, but easy and quick) is also available to and from the city centre.
- If you plan to drive to the airport and park there, you can check costs and book your spot online here.
- Bus transportation to nearby hotels and the airport parking areas is available free of charge.
Helsinki has one of the oldest electrified tram networks in the world.
Taking the tram, especially lines 2 or 3, is a fantastic and affordable way to sightsee in Helsinki. Click here for a brochure describing the stops.
Other recommended trams are lines 4 (architectural tour) and 6 (design and culinary tour).
Tips for taking the tram:
- Tram tickets cannot be purchased on board. Please ensure you have a valid ticket before boarding the tram.
- Sitting on the right hand side of the tram enables you to check tram stops and sites you are passing more easily.
- Tram rides aren’t always smooth. If you’re standing, hold on to avoid falls.
- The red SpåraKOFF Bar Tram is a ‘pub on wheels’, worth a ride on one of those warm summer evenings. (Please note: this tram isn’t part of the public transport network.)
Taking the bus in Helsinki is quite similar to taking it in any other city. Two things to keep in mind: Buses are always entered through the front door and exited through the middle and back doors. Also, when getting on the bus with a ticket you have bought earlier, you need to show it to the driver. If you don’t have a ticket, you can buy one from the driver in cash (usually small notes only).
The metro opened in 1982 and is the northernmost subway system in the world. Regular commuters describe it as modern, safe, smooth and comfortable. Taking the metro should as straight forward as taking the bus. Keep in mind the usual safety precautions though, especially at night (don’t be alone in a carriage, ask for someone to accompany you to the station/pick you up at your destination).
Trains are a comfortable means of going longer distances. All carriages on local trains have the electronic readers which allow you to buy a ticket with a Travel Card. If you want to buy a ticket in cash, you must go to a ticket sales carriage (lipunmyyntivaunu) and buy a ticket from the train conductor.
Tip: If you need the train only and travel with at least 5 other people, get a group ticket to save money.
The Suomenlinna ferry connects the sea fortress to the mainland. The ferry is the only connection to the mainland for the residents of Suomenlinna, though a tunnel for emergency vehicle access is in place. Day tickets and mobile phone tickets (see tickets above for more info) are both valid also on the Suomenlinna ferry. Entry to the island itself is free.
Tip: On summer weekends the island is a popular picnic destination and you might have to wait for a long time as hundreds of people crowd the ferry terminal. You may consider the more expensive private ferry option at the other end of the Market Square.
Getting a cab: Hailing taxis can be difficult, especially during weekend nights, popular events and holidays. Drivers are not required to pick up a person hailing them on the street. If their light is on, and they pass a person hailing them, it is usually because there is a taxi stand very near by with available taxis waiting for customers. If you are not near a taxi stand, you’ll very likely be able to hail a passing taxi with the light on. Central stands are at Rautatientori at the station, the main bus station, Linja-autoasema, and in the Esplanade. If the queues at night seem frustratingly long and you are willing to walk a bit, try heading towards Hakaniementori or Lauttasaari Bridge, where you can often hail a returning taxi (don’t bother if the light is not on).
Costs: Taxis are generally comfortable and safe, but also expensive. Check the estimated trip cost using TripGo before you get into a cab. Please note though that taxis charge more for more than 2 passengers, large bags, large pets, leaving from the airport, and pre-ordering.
Safety: Avoid unlicensed taxis as they might overcharge you and they are considered unsafe. A licensed taxi in Finland will always have a yellow box with its number on the roof.
Since the public transport system works really well in Helsinki, and parking is limited and expensive, taking the car is often not the best option. Nevertheless, we have some tips for you if you do decide to drive:
- You can find information on parking in Helsinki here.
- If you are driving at night when the gas stations are closed (they usually close at 9 PM), always remember to bring some cash for the automated gas pumps.
- Note that headlights or daytime running lights must be kept on at all times when driving, in and outside cities, whether it’s dark or not.
- A car is obliged to stop at a zebra crossing, if the pedestrian intends to cross the road. Many pedestrians intend to cross the road only when there is a sufficiently large gap in the traffic.
- Trams always have the right of way.
- Winter driving can be somewhat hazardous, especially for drivers unused to cold weather conditions. Winter tyres (either studded or non-studded) are a legal requirement from 1 December to the end of February but may be used until 20 April if necessary. Please check out these tips for driving in difficult conditions.
- Also remember to take a reflective jacket as a car driver who steps out of their car in the event of a breakdown becomes a pedestrian and therefore must wear a reflector.
Car sharing lets you use a car that’s not your own and drive it to where you’d like to go (basically like a rental, but more flexible as you can get to the car at any time of the day). At the end of your trip, you’ll need to return the car to its pod. You have to register with car sharing services in order to use them.
EkoRent is an electric car sharing service. It is easy to use, affordable and will leave you with the great feeling of zero-emissions driving. Cars can be parked and charged at any of the EkoRent stations around Helsinki (map here).
Generally, the same tips and safety rules as for driving apply for riding your motorbike or scooter. In addition, we recommend you:
- Dress warmly and be cautious in cold temperatures, especially around 0 degrees Celsius. A thin film of melted water can build on the ice and make the roads extra slippery.
- Read up on lane filtering. On one lane streets, you may overtake cars (within the speed limits), but where there are several lanes, you are not allowed to ride between the cars.
- Check out the motorcycle parking map for Helsinki.
Helsinki is a great city for cycling due to its flat inner city and an extensive network of bike routes. The many cycling paths are well-marked and well maintained and they keep you out of the traffic, making the experience a more safe and pleasant one.
If there’s no bike path:
- Bikers are required by law to drive on the street next to cars unless a bike lane or integrated pedestrian/cyclists sidewalk runs next to it, and the police ticket cyclists breaking this rule.
- Biking is also allowed on pedestrian streets.
Many locals use their bicycles all year round. To ensure a pleasant ride in winter:
- The city’s bike paths are kept ploughed and sanded, but winter tyres are recommended.
- Please remember that windchill requires more protection against cold than in walking and dress warmly.
- Pyöräpaja is a non-profit organisation where volunteers fix bicycles free of charge (though donations are appreciated).
- Make sure to lock your bicycle securely to prevent theft, even if you’re just walking away for a minute.
- Check out these tips on safe cycling in Finland.
Bikes on public transport:
Buses and trams don’t take bicycles. If you have a folding bike, you can take it provided it is folded in a bike bag.
The Suomenlinna ferry takes bikes for a small fee.
Commuter trains take bicycles for free outside peak hours (Mon-Fri 7am-9am and 3pm-6pm) if there is enough space. There is a fee for long-distance trains.
Metros take bikes free of charge if there is enough room.
If you live in Helsinki or are planning to stay for a while, you should register online. No access card is needed to hire a bike. You get a personal ID and PIN code (a Travel Card can be used instead of the ID.)
If you are a visitor, you can get a City Bike using a payment card from the following bike stations: Kaivopuisto, Unioninkatu, Rautatientori/East, Kiasma and Hakaniemi Metro Station. With a payment card, you can borrow bikes for 1-4 persons at a time.
For more tips on cycling in Helsinki, see above.
The inner city is rather compact and easy to explore on foot. For visitors, a combination of walking and public transportation might be most convenient to cover the sights.
Walking in winter:
- Remember to dress warmly and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Despite the gravel and salt, pavements can be quite slippery when the temperature hovers around zero and near-invisible black ice forms.
- Before heading out onto ice, it’s always good to check the conditions. Be sure to stay on marked paths and if you do not see other people out on the ice, you should probably stay away, too.
- In spring watch out for snow falling from the roofs of the buildings.
General safety tips:
- It is recommended that pedestrians use safety reflectors when walking, especially in low light conditions. If you walk on unlighted roads without sidewalk or cycle tracks in the dark are required by law to wear them. This is also true for drivers who leave their car if it breaks down and walk (see cars above). Read more about reflectors here.
- Crime rates are generally low. As in all cities, keep an eye on your luggage and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers who are usually on bicycles or motorbikes.
- This site has some more tips on pedestrian safety in Finland.
So, here you have it – our complete guide to transport in Helsinki.
Anything wrong or missing? Let us know in the comments below!
- Title image: Suurkirkko Helsinki maaliskuu 2002 IMG 0629 By Photograph by Mikko PaananenModified by -Majestic- and Ilmari Karonen (Self-published work by Mikko Paananen) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- HSL travel card By By Danrok (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Helsinki Vantaa Airport by Tiia Monto [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Volvo B8RLE 8900LE tri-axle bus in Hakaniemi, Helsinki By Prompter1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- MLNRV Hakaniemi By Kalle Id (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Helsinki-WV By Ralf Roletschek (talk) – Fahrradtechnik auf fahrradmonteur.de (Own work) [FAL or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons
- Sm5 Riihimäki By junafani (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
- Suomenlinna II ferry By Tomisti [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Finland road sign 534 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Kulosaari Bridge Helsinki Finland By Powerresethdd (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Kawasaki Ninja 250 rider By Philo Nordlund from Seattle, United States (Handled) [CC BY 2.0 or CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Afternoon Traffic – Cycling in Winter in Copenhagen By Colville-Andersen [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
- Helsinki City Bike By Vesa Saarinen [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Aleksanterinkatu Helsinki summer By Mahlum (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Expat Finland: Driving
- Fodors travel tips Helsinki
- Helsinki: Travel tips
- HSL (Helsingin Seudun Liikenne; Helsinki Region Transport)
- Lonely Planet: Transport in Helsinki
- NY Times: What’s doing in Helsinki (2002)
- NY Times: What’s doing in Helsinki (2004)
- TripAdvisor: Helsinki Sightseeing tour on your own
- Virtual Tourist: Helsinki
- Visit Helsinki
- Wikipedia: Helsinki
- Wikipedia: Helsinki airport
- Wikipedia: Helsinki metro
- Wikipedia: Helsinki tram
- Wikipedia: Public Transport in Helsinki
- Wikitravel: Finland
- Wikitravel: Helsinki
- And all websites linked in the article above
Content (main sources)