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Getting around Helsinki

Public transport

Helsingin Kaupungin Liikennelaitos (HKL) operates Helsinki’s metro, trams and buses, as well as the ferry to Suomenlinna, but information on routes, timetables and tickets is provided by Helsingin Seudun Liikenne (HSL) (tel: +358 9 4766 4000; www.hsl.fi).

You can buy tickets on board buses and trams and at metro stations, but they're cheaper if purchased in advance on your mobile phone or from newsagents (R-kioski), the tourist office or post office. Transfers are allowed for single and multi-trip tickets within one hour of the time stamped on the ticket upon initial boarding. Tram 4 is ideal for architecture buffs, and tram 6 is designed for those interested in design, art and food.

Passes are available for anything from one to seven days. Visitors also get unlimited travel with the Helsinki Card (www.helsinkicard.fi), which also provides free entry to many museums and attractions.

There is also a Kutsuplus service (www.kutsuplus.fi/home), an on-demand minibus service which you can book via a mobile phone or computer, enabling passengers heading in the same direction to share the same route.

Taxis

Taxi services are operated by Helsinki Taxi Centre (tel: +358 100 0700). Helsinki taxis can be hailed on the street or booked by telephone, but demand often exceeds supply during the morning and afternoon rush hour. A taxi is available for hire if the yellow 'TAXI' dome is lit. As a general rule, tipping is not expected.

Driving

As the public transport system is excellent and most of central Helsinki is accessible on foot, it is not necessary to take a car into Helsinki city centre. Visitors who drive in the city should be aware that parking regulations are strictly enforced and delays are common during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

The city is divided into three parking zones. Central Helsinki is designated as Zone I (I-vyöhyke) and parking rules are enforced from 0900 to 2100 Monday to Saturday. Parking is less expensive outside this central zone and rules are only enforced from Monday to Friday. On Sundays, you have to pay for parking in some parts of the city centre, so make sure you check signs.

Parking meters take ordinary coins or parking cards, which you can buy in advance from R-kioski (newsagents) and service stations. The major car parks in the centre are located at the Forum shopping centre, Mannerheimintie 20, and Kluuvi shopping centre, Aleksanterinkatu 9.

Car hire

Car hire in Helsinki is available at the airport and railway station, or can be arranged through hotels, the tourist office or directly with the operators.

Companies operating in Helsinki include Avis (tel: +358 10 436 2222; www.avis.com), Budget (tel: +358 10 436 2233; www.budget.fi) and Sixt (tel: +358 20 112 2553; http://fi.sixt.com).

The minimum age for car hire varies from 19 to 25 years, depending on the hire company. An EU driving licence or an International Driving Permit is required, including one year's driving experience. A credit card is usually needed as a deposit.

Bicycle hire

With the flat topography, bicycles are a popular way of getting around in Helsinki, and the city has an extensive, 750km-long (466 miles) network of well-maintained cycle paths. Cyclists must obey bicycle traffic signals to avoid a fine.

You can hire town and road bikes by the hour or day from Bicyclean Helsinki, Luotsikatu 14 (tel: +358 4429 15331; www.bicycleanhelsinki.com).

Featured Hotels

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CheapSleep Helsinki

This hostel does what it says on the tin, offering affordable accommodation in a notoriously expensive city. The humorous tagline of its website sums it up: "Sleep cheap, stay rich". With 10 private rooms and 118 dorm beds, take your pick from this modern, comfortable and clean hostel, which benefitted from a refurb in 2012. There's free Wi-Fi throughout, a supermarket on the ground floor, kitchen, 24-hour reception and free lockers.

Crowne Plaza

The 349-room Crowne Plaza benefits from an excellent location opposite the Finnish National Opera on Mannerheimintie close to most of the attractions in Helsinki. The hotel offers wireless internet access in all areas. Creature comforts include saunas a spa and pool and a restaurant and bar.

Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre

The thoroughly modern Holiday Inn in Helsinki benefits from an excellent location in the centre of Helsinki, next to the train station, the terminus for buses from the airport and the new music centre. There are 174 rooms and suites with modern amenities, plus a restaurant and lobby bar. There's also a gym and a kids play area.

Hilton Helsinki Strand

Just north of the centre, in the Hakaniemi district, the Hilton Helsinki Strand makes the most of the water views from its rooms, restaurant and rooftop sauna, pool and gym complex. The 192 rooms have every convenience, including wireless internet access, and the Helsinki hotel offers excellent services for families, including a babysitting service. The hotel is less than a mile from shops and entertainment areas in the city.

Hotel Kämp

Founded in 1887, the Hotel Kämp has attracted high fliers for more than a century, and its public areas swim with period charm. Restored throughout, the Helsinki hotel offers 179 spacious rooms with luxurious amenities and high-quality dining at the elegant Kämp Café Brasserie & Bar and Yume, which serves innovative Japanese/Scandinavian fusion cuisine. Other facilities include a gym, spa, sauna suite and a stylish bar and nightclub. The hotel has five meeting and conference rooms, plus the flamboyant Mirror Room, with banqueting space for 120.

Hotel Helka

Housed in a building designed by architect Wivi Lönn in 1928 and furnished with furniture designed by Alvar Alto, this inexpensive and comfortable Helsinki hotel also scores points for its convenient location, just west of the centre. Refurbished throughout in 2006, Hotel Helka has 150 rooms, sauna facilities, a restaurant and bar. Limited parking spaces are available.