Local transportation

Local transportation and the Travel Card

The public transport is well organised in Finland. The Helsinki region has buses, trams, local trains, a metro and even ferries organised by HSL (Helsinki Region Transport). Detailed information can be found by visiting their website. If you use public transportation often it is cheaper to use a travel card (see below). You can use the card in the whole metropolitan area.

You must have a valid ticket (either single ticket or travel card) when you enter the vehicle, and it must be valid for the whole journey. There are ticket controls every now and then and travelling without a valid ticket or with a wrong kind of a ticket (e.g. one-zone ticket when you need a regional one) can cost you a penalty fare of €80.

HSL uses three fare zones, and tickets can be bought for one zone (within one municipality), for the region (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa) or for extended region (in addition to the previous, also Kirkkonummi, Sipoo, and Kerava).

For example, for a trip from Leppävaara to Otaniemi (within Espoo) you need a one-zone ticket, but for a trip from the airport to the city center of Helsinki you need a regional ticket (from Vantaa to Helsinki).

Single/day tickets

If you travel only randomly, it is probably best to buy single tickets. Single tickets are available from ticket machines, bus and tram drivers, as well as conductors on commuter trains are suitable for occasional public transport users. You can transfer from one vehicle to another with a single ticket within the validity of the ticket (time dependent). Day tickets can be bought from R-kiosks or ticket machines. A one-zone single ticket costs €2.50-3.20 and a regional single ticket €5.50. Note that at night between 2am-4.30am the prices are higher.

Travel card

You can use the travel card on the public transportation in the whole metropolitan area. It is the cheapest way to travel and fastest way to pay your journey. You can load either time or cash on your card. If you don’t travel regularly, it’s probably best to load cash on your card but if you use public transportation quite often, buying “time” (period, e.g. 30 days) is the best option.

You can choose between two options: multi-user travel card or personal travel card. Multi-user card you can buy for example at R-Kioski. This card anyone can use (you can share it with your friends, for example).

A personal travel card is the option that many students prefer to have. In order to purchase a personal travel card you need to have a Travel card application filled by your school. You can get this document from Learning services when you enroll at the university. The personal travel card can be bought from HSL’s service points: for example at the central Railway station  (Metro station “Rautatientori”) or in Kamppi Shopping Center in Helsinki or in Tapiola or Leppävaara in Espoo. You can find other service points on HSL website. Read also how to use your travel card.

Student discount

As a student (unless you are a doctoral level student or over 30) you are entitled to public transport discounts when using the travel card, or long distance trains. For information regarding student discounts, please contact the Learning services of your school.

Bicycle

Facilities for cycling are very good in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and the popularity of cycling has increased during the past years. A comprehensive map of city cycle ways is available at the City Tourist Office. If you want to buy a bike check the bike shops for cheap second hand bikes. When cycling remember to wear a helmet and have a light/torch when it’s dark; you can be fined if the police catches you driving without one!

Planning your journey

Whether you wish to walk, bike or use the public transportation, the HSL Journey Planner is a helpful tool.

Long distance

In Finland timetables are reliable, and trains and buses do leave on time. Timetables vary slightly on public holidays, weekends and during the summer. There is a nationwide network of train and bus services. This transit service is well thought out and runs on time. The trains and buses are clean and modern. Most of the services providers offer student discounts up to 50 %, but there are also special offers for early bookers which can be even cheaper than the student prize.

Air

In the past couple of years the domestic air travel sector has opened up quite a bit. Not only do Finnair and Blue 1 fly domestically but so do the discount airlines Norwegian and FlyBe. Check their individual websites to book tickets.

Bus

The long distance bus network in Finland is one of the densest in Europe and the buses are modern and comfortable. With a valid student card you can get a student discount (5%-50%) for bus tickets (half price tickets when a one-way trip covers at least 80 km.) When purchasing and using student tickets, you must be prepared to show your valid student card (the receipt of the paid student union fee is not accepted). Unfortunately, doctoral students are not entitled to the discount.

Onnibus, Matkahuolto and ExpressBus  are three of the biggest long-distance bus companies in Finland. Onnibus is a cheap option for specific routes, but they don’t offer student discounts.

Train

VR’s (Finnish State Railways) timetables, route information and bookings can be done online. VR grants a 50% student discount for both one-way and return tickets for students with an official student card. When purchasing and using the ticket, you must always be prepared to show your official student card (the receipt of the paid student union fee is not accepted). Unfortunately, doctoral students are not entitled for the discount. It is good to remember also that a passenger without a valid ticket will be fined (€80) plus the price of the ticket. Smoking is allowed only in special compartments.

Travelling to neighbouring countries

Finland’s northern location next to Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia offers excellent and exciting travel opportunities. There are good air connections to all the neighbouring countries, daily ferry connection to Sweden and Estonia as well as to Russia in summertime. Russia can also be reached by bus, by boat and by train. Remember to check the visa and other possible permit requirements before travelling.

Driving

Licence holders from countries that have joined the Road Traffic Convention (Geneva 1949 or Vienna 1968) may drive in Finland on their national driving licence for one year from the date of entry into the country. After six months, you are eligible for a Finnish licence. It is recommended that you obtain an International Driver’s License from your home country to make it easier (more information on Ajovarma's website).

In Finland, you drive on the right and overtake on the left. Main roads are in good condition throughout the year and they are free of charge (no tolls). Headlights are used even during the day. Wearing seatbelts is compulsory, both front and back.

  • Winter driving: Snow tires are compulsory in Finland from 1 January to 28/29 February. Studded tires may be used from 1 November until 31 March or when weather conditions require it.
  • Drinking and driving: Note that driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly forbidden. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level is 0.05%. Breaking this law nearly always results in a penalty in the form of a fine or imprisonment. Blood alcohol levels in excess of 0.12% incur heavier penalties.
  • Mobile phones and driving: If a mobile phone is used when driving, the use of a hands-free device is obligatory.

Car pooling

There are few Finnish websites where you can look for or offer a shared ride: www.kyydit.net, www.greenriders.fi, www.kimppakyyti.fi.