Helsinki FAQ – Practical Information

helsinki railway station
Stone men guard the central railway station in Helsinki, Finland: Mikhail Varentsov / Shutterstock

What should you know before travelling to Helsinki? This article answers frequently asked questions about Helsinki as a travel destination.

If you can’t find the information you are looking for, please post your question in the comment box in the end of the article. Thank you!

Weather in Helsinki – what to wear?

The weather in Helsinki varies according to the season. On a beautiful summer day in June, July or August only shorts and a t-shirt can be enough, but it is often so windy that long pants and a jacket should be kept at hand.

In winter, December to February, the temperature can be anything between +10 and -20 degrees Celsius. The coldest month is usually January. Indoors are warm even in mid-winter, whatever the weather, thanks to central heating and double window glasses.

In winter, the streets are snowy or unpleasantly wet, so summer shoes are not the best option. A beanie and gloves are also needed in the winter.

Read more: Best time to visit Finland – the four seasons

Is Helsinki safe?

Helsinki is a safe city, and for a tourist there is no need to be afraid of thieves, scammers, junkies, food poisoning, or really anything at all. In winter, you should watch out for slippery streets.

In Finland, tap water is 100% drinkable and it is even offered in restaurants.

Money and costs – how expensive is Helsinki?

Helsinki prices are cheaper than in Stockholm, but more expensive than in Tallinn. It is expensive to eat in a restaurant (and especially to drink alcohol), travel by taxi and stay in high-end hotels in the city center.

Particularly good deals are the 24-hour ticket for public transport (8 euros) and the 10 euro lunch offers of practically all restaurants on weekdays. 

Cash or card?

In Finland you can pay in cash (euro), but paying by card is much more usual. Visa and Mastercard are the most common debit/credit cards. 

The most convenient is a chip card with a contactless payment feature. In Finland, contactless payment can be used up to 50 euros, and more expensive purchases are ensured by entering the card’s PIN code. 

Various mobile payment applications are also common.

Tipping in Helsinki

It is not customary to leave a tip, only the waiters of fine dining restaurants are used to it. If you’re not sure whether or not to leave a tip, you might as well forget about it – no one gets offended, let alone lose their livelihood.

Taxi drivers are never tipped.

Free WiFi and buying a SIM card in Helsinki

The City of Helsinki offers free WiFi in the city center and in many public areas. There is also an open wireless network in libraries, public transport and many restaurants and cafés.

Prepaid mobile data subscriptions for Finnish mobile operators can be purchased at R-kiosks. A 4G data subscription costs around 5 euros and can be topped up as needed. A prepaid subscription can be purchased at the airport.

Helsinki Airport (HEL)

Helsinki Airport is Helsinki-Vantaa (HEL). It is located about 20 kilometers north of Helsinki city center. From the airport you can reach the city center by train. A taxi between the airport and the city center is expensive.

Renting a car in Helsinki

It is not worth renting a car in Helsinki, as public transport works very well.

Read more: Driving in Finland – Tips and 4 Best Road Trips

Public transport in Helsinki

Helsinki has a comprehensive network of local buses and trams. The metro runs only between east and west, so it’s very easy to use. The metro line has 25 stations.

A local transport (HSL) ticket is purchased before the trip from a vending machine or by mobile phone. A single journey ticket costs about 3€ (valid for 80 minutes) and a 24-hour ticket 8€. The same ticket is valid on all means of transport: buses, trams, metro and even on the Suomenlinna ferry.

If you travel by public transport to the neighboring cities of Espoo or Vantaa (including the airport), you need to buy an ABC zone ticket that costs about 4€.

Taxi in Helsinki

Taxis are expensive in Helsinki. There is no need to be afraid of scams, but due to confusing pricing, we recommend using public transport.

Due to legislation, Uber drivers in Helsinki are registered taxi drivers.

Helsinki city bikes 

Helsinki’s city bikes are part of the official public transport, but unfortunately you must register before riding them. Electric kickboards from private companies can be used by anyone through a mobile app.

Suomenlinna ferry 

Suomenlinna sea fortress can be reached by ferry, which departs from the Market Square (Kauppatori) 1-4 times an hour. The journey takes about 15 minutes. The ferry is part of Helsinki’s public transport, so HSL’s single journey or 24-hour tickets are valid on the ferry.

Cruises in the Helsinki archipelago

Helsinki’s magnificent archipelago is worth exploring on a cruise boat. A great option is an archipelago sightseeing tour, where you can enjoy lunch, brunch or dinner. Most cruises depart from the Market Square every two hours and operate during the summer season (May to September).

The archipelago’s natural attractions can also be reached by public ferry. In addition to the super-popular Suomenlinna, the best islands to spend a summer picnic are Vallisaari, Vartiosaari and Pihlajasaari.

Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn and Stockholm

From Helsinki you can take a ferry to Tallinn, Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Germany. 

A day cruise to Tallinn leaves in the morning and returns to Helsinki in the evening. A few hours are spent in Tallinn. You can also stay in Tallinn for a night or more. Ships to Tallinn depart from the Western Terminal (Tallink-Silja and Eckerö Line) and the Katajanokka Terminal (Viking Line). There are several departures a day between Helsinki and Tallinn.

A cruise to Stockholm and back usually takes two days: passengers spend the first night on the way, and arrive in Stockholm in the morning. After spending a full day in Stockholm the ship sails back to Helsinki overnight, arriving next morning. Ships to Sweden depart from the Katajanokka terminal (Viking Line) and the Olympic terminal (Silja Line). 

A visa-free cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia departs from the West Terminal. Passengers spend a night on the ship both ways (just like cruises to Stockholm). In St. Petersburg there’s about six hours time for visiting the city. A better option is to spend two nights in a hotel in St. Petersburg and return with the next ship (there is no one-night option available).

You can reach Germany by car ferry from the Hansa Terminal in Vuosaari Harbor.

Public saunas in Helsinki

The best public saunas of Helsinki are traditional: Kotiharjun Sauna and Sauna Arla, both located in the trendy district of Kallio. A modern option is the magnificent design sauna Löyly in southern Helsinki.

Read more: Sauna in Finland – the Ultimate Guide to Finnish Sauna Culture

Helsinki accommodation

In Helsinki you can find accommodation for every budget. Rooms in the best hotels cost 150-250 euros, in mid-range hotels you can get a double room for 70-120 euros. You can find a place to stay in a hostel for about 20 euros.

The more traditional luxury hotels in the city center are the luxurious Kämp and the elegant Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel.

Glo Hotel Art, Klaus K, Lilla Roberts and Hotel F6 offer modern splendor in the city center. In the center you will also find wonderful Lapland Hotels Bulevardi, which is highly rated by visitors.

Mid-range city center hotels are Hotel Arthur, Hotel Helka, Hotel Finn, Scandic Kaisaniemi, Omena Hotel and The Yard Hostel.

One of the cheapest places to stay in Helsinki is CheapSleep Hostel, located next to the picturesque Puu-Vallila wooden house area a few kilometers from the center.

The most memorable accommodations in Helsinki are Hotel Katajanokka, renovated in a former prison, and Hostel Suomenlinna in the Suomenlinna sea fortress.

In addition to hotels and hostels, there are also many stylish apartments in Helsinki that can be booked on a hotel reservation website.

More practical information on traveling in Finland can be found in the article Finland FAQ- Know Before you Go

Read more: Helsinki and Southern Finland – Travel Guide

Map of Finland’s best travel attractions

The map below shows the best tourist sights, museums, family attractions, hiking trails, outdoor activities, wildlife safaris and ski resorts of Finland.

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Ville Palonen (born 1976) is a freelance photographer and travel writer who loves mountains, wildlife and road trips. He has visited 80 countries and travelled in adventurous destinations like Amazon, Himalaya and Borneo. In Finland Ville spends his time photographing, hiking, fishing, hunting and mushrooming. Ville's favourite destinations in Finland are treeless fells of Lapland and wild parts of East Finland.

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