Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located near Helsinki, is Finland’s major international hub. There are bases for Finnair, SAS, and Flybe, as well as Norwegian Air Shuttle, which offers local and international flights. Around 30 international airlines fly to Helsinki-Vantaa, an airport that was initially constructed to serve the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. The terminal structure was later enlarged and renovated, and one additional runway was constructed.
International flights to other locations are once again limited, since Air Baltic and Ryanair have discontinued most of their services to rural Finland; for example, Ryanair only serves Tampere in the summer. Direct flights to Tampere and Turku are available from just a few international destinations, as are flights to Lappeenranta from Bergamo and Mariehamn, Oulu, and Vaasa from Stockholm. In addition, there are sporadic direct charters (particularly in December) and seasonal scheduled flights (December-March) to Lapland.
If your destination is in Southern Finland, it may be worthwhile to take a low-cost aircraft to Tallinn and then follow the boat instructions for the last part.
VR and Russian Railways run combined services between Saint Petersburg and Helsinki, including stops at Vyborg, Kouvola, and Lahti along the route (rail was introduced in Finland under Russian rule, so the gauge is the same). To minimize delays at the border, border procedures are performed while the train is going. The route was renovated in 2010, and the sleek new Allegro-branded trains travel between the two cities in three and a half hours at speeds of up to 220 km/h. In both directions, the route is serviced four times each day. Prices range from €30 to €80 each way, depending on the popularity of the departure and the time of year you book. There is also a conventional overnight sleeper train from Moscow that takes around 15 hours.
There are no direct trains between Sweden or Norway and Finland (the rail gauge is different), however the bus from Boden/Lule (Sweden) to Kemi (Finland) is free with a Eurail/Inter Rail ticket, and these cards also provide a 50% discount on most ferries.
Buses are the cheapest mode of transportation between Russia and Finland, but they are also the slowest and least pleasant.
- Buses operate on a regular schedule between St. Petersburg and Vyborg, as well as important southern Finnish cities such as Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Jyväskylä, and all the way west to Turku; see Matkahuolto for timetables. Helsinki–St. Petersburg is serviced three times each day, costing €38, and takes nine hours during the day and eight hours at night.
- Several direct minibuses operate between the Oktyabrskaya Hotel in St. Petersburg (next the Moskovsky railway station) and the Tennispalatsi in Helsinki (Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, one block away from Kamppi). This is the cheapest option at €15 one-way, but the minibuses only depart when they are full. Helsinki departures are more often in the morning (about 10 a.m.), whereas St. Petersburg flights are typically nighttime (around 10 PM).
- A daily service runs between Petrozavodsk and Joensuu.
- There is a three-weekly service between Murmansk and Ivalo in northern Finland.
A bus from northern Sweden or Norway to Finland is also an option.
- Buses link Haparanda in Sweden’s Norrbotnia region to Tornio, Kemi, and Oulu.
- Eskelisen Lapinlinjat provides bus service from northern areas of Norway, such as Troms.
Traveling to and from Finland by water is one of the most convenient options. The ships from Estonia and Sweden, in example, are massive, multi-story floating palaces and department shops with low rates supported by tax-free alcohol sales: a roundtrip journey to Tallinn with a cabin for up to four people may cost as little as €50. If you go by Interrail, you may save up to 50% on off-deck tickets. Standing on the outdoor terrace with a view of Helsinki is the finest way to arrive.
On a calm day, the crossings over the Sea of Land or Kvarken and the Gulf of Finland from Sweden and Estonia, respectively, are short enough for most boats (many also come over the sea from Gotland). Because Finland is renowned for its archipelagos, particularly the Archipelago Sea, arriving by small boat is a viable option.
Estonia and the Baltic states
The distance between Helsinki and Tallinn is just 80 kilometers. All year, Viking Line, Eckerö, and Tallink Silja offer full-service vehicle ferries. Travel times range from 2.5 hours (most ferries) to 3.5 hours (Tallink Silja’s largest cruise ships). Some services go overnight and stay outside the port until the following morning. Linda Line has rapid services that finish the journey in 1.5 hours, although they charge much more, have no entertainment on board, and stop services in severe weather and throughout the winter. If the weather forecast is bleak and you’re prone to seasickness, go for the large, sluggish ships.
The Tallink cruise boat connects Tallinn and Stockholm and stops in Mariehamn (late at night/early in the morning). There is also a Navirail service from Paldiski to Hanko.
There are no scheduled trips to Latvia or Lithuania, although several of the aforementioned companies provide semi-regular summer cruises, with Riga being the most popular destination.
Finnlines travels from Travemünde near Lübeck and Hamburg to Helsinki in 27–36 hours.
In the past, traffic to Germany was more active, with the GTS Finnjet being the fastest and biggest passenger ferry in the world in the 1970s. Freight and people could be carried in just 22 hours between Helsinki and Travemünde (and the rest of continental Europe west of the Iron Curtain), considerably quicker than the other (non-air) routes at the time.
For many years, regular ferry services from Russia have been intermittent. St Peter Line operates a frequent boat service from Saint Petersburg to Helsinki, with fares starting at €30 one way.
In the summer, Saimaa Travel provides sailings along the Saimaa Canal from Vyborg to Lappeenranta. This route is mainly utilized for cruises to Russia, since short-term cruise guests are exempt from Russian visa requirements.
Silja and Viking both provide overnight cruises to Helsinki as well as daytime cruises to Turku from Stockholm, with stops at the landislands along the route. These are among of the world’s biggest and most luxury passenger ferries, with up to 14 storeys and a plethora of restaurants, bars, discos, pool and spa facilities, and so on. The lower cabin classes below the vehicle decks are relatively sparse, while the upper sea view accommodations may be rather pleasant.
There is also a car ferry link between Ume and Vaasa (Wasa line; 4 hours), which lacks taxfree shops but attempts to replicate the atmosphere of the southern routes.
Both Silja and Viking do not allow unaccompanied children under the age of 23 to cruise on Fridays or Saturdays owing to swarms of unruly youths looking to get completely drunk on cheap tax-free alcohol. (On other evenings, the age restriction is 20, and just 18 for those not on same-day-return cruise packages.) Furthermore, Silja does not provide deck class on its overnight services, while Viking does.
It’s also worth noting that with Viking Line, booking a cruise rather than “route traffic” is often less expensive. The cruise covers both ways, with or without a stopover. If you wish to remain longer, just do not return — it may still be less expensive than buying a one-way “route traffic” ticket. This is particularly true for last-minute tickets (you might, for example, travel from Stockholm to Turku for about 10€ overnight – “route traffic” would be more than 30€ for a lower-quality cabin).
Aside from the main two, FinnLink has the cheapest car ferry link from Kapellskär to Naantali (from €60 for a vehicle with driver).
Car ferries typically stop for a few minutes in Mariehamn or Lngnäs on the land Islands, which are outside the EU tax zone and therefore enable duty-free purchases.
A car ferry, as previously stated, is one of the most convenient methods to travel by vehicle from Sweden to Finland. The European Route E18 connects Kapellskär and Naantali through a boat route. You may alternatively take the floating palaces through the close Stockholm–Turku pass or the longer Stockholm–Helsinki route. Further north, the E12 (Finnish national route 3) connects Ume and Vaasa by a vehicle ferry (4 hours).
Land border crossings are also available in Lapland at Tornio, Ylitornio, Pello, Kolari, Muonio, and Kaaresuvanto.
Finland and Norway are linked via European Routes E8 and E75. Border crossings are available in Kilpisjärvi, Kivilompolo, Karigasniemi, Utsjoki, Nuorgam, and Näätämö. Going via Sweden is more convenient for central and southern sections of Norway, such as through E12 (from Mo I Rana to Vaasa) or E18 (from Oslo via Stockholm/Kapellskär).
European road E18, like Russian route M10, connects St. Petersburg to the Vaalimaa/Torfyanovka border post at Hamina via Vyborg. From there, E18 becomes Finnish national route 7 and continues down the coast as highway 1 to Turku. Trucks will have to wait in a long truck queue in Vaalimaa. This backlog has no direct impact on other cars. Vaalimaa has border control and customs inspections, and passports and, if necessary, Schengen visas are required.
Other border crossings may be located from south to north at Nuijamaa/Brusnichnoye (Lappeenranta), Niirala (Tohmajärvi), Vartius (Kuhmo), Kelloselkä (Salla), and Raja-Jooseppi (Inari). Except for the first, all are very distant. Salla and Raja-Jooseppi are exclusively available to Finnish, Russian, and Belarussian citizens and their families as of March 2016, and will remain so until at least September 2016.
As previously stated, there is a vehicle ferry that connects Tallinn and Helsinki. It is part of the European route E67 Via Baltica, which goes from Tallinn, Estonia, via Riga, Latvia, and Kaunas, Lithuania, to Warsaw, Poland. The distance between Tallinn and Warsaw is about 970 kilometers, without counting any diversions. From Paldiski to Hanko, there is a vehicle and freight ferry service.
Bikes may be carried on the boats for a small charge (access through the parking deck, check when to arrive). The land boundaries with Norway and Sweden have no particular restrictions.
During the current immigration crisis in Europe, the Finnish Border Agency prohibited cyclists from crossing the border from Russia at the northernmost checkpoints (Raja-Jooseppi and Salla). However, it seems that crossing the border by bicycle across the southern boundaries is still permitted.
While walk-ins from Sweden and Norway are permitted, crossing the Russian border on foot is not. This prohibition is most likely implemented by Russian border guards (as asked to by Finland). If they allow you out, the Finnish border guard may let you in if your documents, if any, are in order. In any event, the Finnish border guard has no authority to turn away asylum applicants. The UN Refugee Protocol, which Finland has ratified, states that it is not permissible to refuse the right to seek refuge on the basis of formalities or the methods by which they entered the country.