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Travel to Helsinki

Flying to Helsinki

Airlines offering direct flights to Helsinki from the UK include British Airways, Finnair and Norwegian. Finnair also operates direct flights from the USA. It's worth booking in advance for the cheapest deals, particularly if you're travelling around Christmas time or in July and August.

Flight times

From London - 2 hours 50 minutes; New York - 8 hours 10 minutes; Los Angeles - 14 hours 30 minutes (including stopover); Toronto - 10 hours (including stopover); Sydney - 22 hours (including stopover).

Travel by road

Traffic drives on the right and the legal driving age in Finland is 18 years. The speed limit is 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas, 80kph (50mph) on non-urban roads and 80-120kph (50-75mph) on motorways. In winter, the limit outside built-up areas drops by 20kph (12mph).

It should be noted that cars entering a junction from the right always have right of way, even when the car is on a minor road. All motor vehicles must have headlights on at all times. An EU driving licence or an International Driving Permit are required to drive in Finland. All drivers must be fully insured and accidents must be reported promptly to Liikennevakuutuskeskus, the Finnish Motor Insurance Centre (tel: +358 40 450 4750; www.liikennevakuutuskeskus.fi). A Green Card is helpful, but not compulsory.

There are some hazards specific to Finland that drivers should be aware of. Although well maintained, Finnish roads can be hazardous in winter and all vehicles must use winter tyres from December to February. When driving through rural areas, be wary of elk and reindeer on the carriageway, particularly at dusk. Additional information is available from Autoliitto - Automobile and Touring Club of Finland (tel: +358 9 7258 4400; www.autoliitto.fi), which also runs the emergency service Tiepalvelu.

Emergency breakdown services

Tiepalvelu (tel: 0200 8080, in Finland only).

Routes

Most people who drive to Helsinki arrive via the car ferry from Stockholm or the E18 motorway from Turku. Other important roads leading to Helsinki include the E12 from Vaasa and the E75 from Rovaniemi.

Coaches

The main provider of coaches in Finland is Oy Matkahuolto (tel: 0200 0400, in Finland only; www.matkahuolto.fi), which handles all long-distance and express bus travel. 

Various private companies provide local bus services. International coach services run to Helsinki from Sweden, Norway and Russia - numerous companies operate on the Helsinki-St Petersburg route. In Helsinki, coaches arrive at and depart from Helsinki Bus Station, between Salomonkatu and Simonkatu.

Time to city

From Turku - 1 hour 45 minutes; Vaasa - 5 hours; Rovaniemi - 9 hours; St Petersburg - 5 hours.

Travel by Rail

Services

Finnish trains are clean and efficient and there are convenient international connections to St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia. In Helsinki, trains arrive at and depart from Rautatientori (Railway Square), located on Kaivokatu, off Mannerheimintie.

Operators

Valtion Rautatiet - VR (tel: 0600 41902, in Finland only or +358 9 2319 2902; www.vr.fi) provides national and international rail services to Helsinki. Fast, comfortable Pendolino trains run around the country, with regular services to Turku, Tampere, Lahti, Vaasa, Rovaniemi and other Finnish cities.

Many people come to Helsinki to take advantage of the convenient train service to St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia. There are three daily trains to Finlyandsky Vokzal station in St Petersburg, and every evening, the Russian-operated Tolstoi runs overnight from Helsinki to Moscow’s Leningradsky Vokzal station. You can buy tickets in advance through Valtion Rautatiet, but allow time to pick up the tickets on arrival in Helsinki.

Journey times

From Lahti - 1 hour; Turku - 2 hours; Tampere - 2 hours; Vaasa - 4 hours 30 minutes; St Petersburg - 3 hours 35 minutes; Rovaniemi - 10 hours; Moscow - 13 hours 30 minutes.

Travel by boat

There are regular scheduled car and passenger ferry services to Helsinki from Sweden, Estonia and German. Ferries dock at five different terminals in Helsinki - the Kanava and Katajanokka terminals are on the north side of Eteläsatama (South Harbour), while the Makasiini and Olympia terminals are south of the harbour. The Länsiterminaali (West Terminal) is southwest of the centre on Hietasaarenkuja. Always check which terminal your ferry company will be using before you travel.

Ferry operators

Viking Line (tel: +358 600 41577; www.vikingline.fi) and Tallink Silja Line (tel: +358 600 15700; www.tallink.com) have regular daily services between Helsinki and Tallinn, taking between two and four hours, and daily 16-hour ferry routes between Helsinki and Stockholm, most travelling via Turku or Mariehamn in the Åland islands. Several other companies run ferries on the same routes.

Finnlines (tel: +358 9 2314 3100; www.finnlines.com) has daily ferries between Helsinki and Travemünde in Germany, completing the journey in about 28 hours, and several ferries weekly between Helsinki and Rostock or Gdynia.

Featured Hotels

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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.

Hotel Arthur

Offering reasonably priced accommodation in the heart of Helsinki, Hotel Arthur is just a stone's throw from the railway station, the Kauppatori fish market, Esplanad Park and big department stores. There are 182 comfortable and well-appointed rooms with en-suite facilities, plus a large restaurant, a lobby bar and banqueting and conference facilities. Around 18 of its rooms are decorated in an art nouveau style following a refurb in 2012 to coincide with the city being awarded World Design Capital of the Year.