Practical Life in Helsinki


Transport in Helsinki


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Barrier Free Helsinki http://helsinki.esteetontamatkailua.fi/english/ provides resources for getting around the city and enjoying the various attractions for physically challenged travelers.

Public transportation (with the exception of suburban trains) within the city of Helsinki operate under the direction of HKL, while regional transportation connecting Helsinki to Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen are operated by YTV. If you plan to stay for more than a few days, consider purchasing a multi-day pass, which works out to be much cheaper than individual fares.
The following basic ticket types are available:

  • Tram ticket(raitiovaunulippu) (€2 from the driver, travel card button "0" €1.35); valid for one hour of tram trips, unlimited transfers
  • City ticket (kertalippu) (€2 by mobile phone or in ticket machines, €2.20 from the driver, travel card button "1" €1.80) — valid for one hour within city limits, unlimited transfers
  • Regional ticket (seutulippu) (€3.80, travel card button "2") — valid for 80 mins within and between Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, unlimited transfers
  • Full region ticket (€6, travel card button "3") — a regional ticket that also covers Kerava and Kirkkonummi

Note: The City ticket allows you to travel by almost any public transportation method (buses, trains, trams, the subway known as metro, and the Suomenlinna ferry) within the boundaries of Helsinki.  The Regional ticket allows you to travel by almost any public transportation method within the boundaries of Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen. However, if you purchase a specific tram or train ticket, you are allowed to travel only by tram or train respectively. The Helsinki Card is designed for tourists and offers free travel and admission to more than 50 attractions, including the Helsinki Zoo.

Tram

For tourists the most convenient (and scenic) means of travel is the extensive tram network, especially Line 3T which does a figure-eight circuit around the city.  You could say that the "T" stands for "tourist."  The 3T line usually stocks an informative leaflet listing attractions along the way. For a slightly offbeat experience, take Line 3B which is essentially 3T in the opposite direction.

By bike

In the summer time you can "rent" a bright green Citybike by paying a deposit of €2 which you get back when you return the bike. There are 26 Citybike stands around the city center - if you see a free bike on a stand, it's yours. Bicycle helmets can be borrowed from Jugendsali (Pohjoisesplanadi 19). You are required to remain within the boundaries of the city center show if you are looking for guided bike trips, Bike Tours Helsinki organizes bicycle sightseeing tours.

If you bring your own bike with you, you will find an extensive network of bike routes within the city. Cycling downtown can be a bit tricky as the bike lanes are usually situated on the pavement (instead of next to car lanes on the street) so pedestrians can get in your way - don't be afraid to ring your bell! Furthermore, the bike routes are not always that well thought-out: you may end up in a "dead end" as the bike lane ends and you are supposed to get off your bike and continue by foot. A map of downtown bike lanes is available as well as a journey planner for cycling.  Once you get out of the city centre, the bike lanes work better and cycling is faster.

Metro

The Helsinki Metro links the city center to the eastern suburbs. The longest section of the line (Kamppi - Itäkeskus) was opened between 1982 and 1983; in 1986 the line was expanded to Kontula and in 1989 further out to Mellunmäki. In the city centre an additional station was recently added at Ruoholahti. The branch from Itäkeskus east to Vuosaari opened in September 1998. This stretch runs underground from Itäkeskus to Puotila until it reaches Vartiokylänlahti Bay.

The underground stations, built in deep rock, were equipped as air raid shelters with an overall capacity for 21,000 people. Three stations along the eastern section (Herttoniemi, Itäkeskus, and Puotila) lie just below ground, with an entrance building on surface level. The remaining stations are on the surface and are generally covered to protect passengers during harsh winters. Only Kulosaari station has about half its platform length in the open.

Urban Rail - Helsinki: http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/hel/helsinki.htm

Bus

While the trams operate in the city center, buses cover the rest of the city. The main stations for northbound and eastbound buses are on the two squares adjacent to the Central Railway Station: Eliel Square (Elielinaukio) and Railway Square (Rautatientori). Westbound buses operate from the underground bus station in the Kamppi Center which is adjacent to the Kamppi metro station.  One interesting convention is that mothers (and fathers!) with prams are allowed to enter the bus via a door located halfway back - so they need not leave their babies unattended.

Trains

VR's suburban trains operate north from the Central Railway Station, branching out in three directions.  The Pendolino (express train) is slightly more expensive but has fewer stops.  The ride from Helsinki to Tampere takes about 90 minutes, as opposed to 2 hours on the regular train.  If you have a rail pass, you can use it on the VR with a small surcharge.   Trains are comfortable and feature laptop outlets, food service and room to store your luggage.  You can buy either a first class or a second class ticket. The locals buy second class which is perfectly adequate for all but the longest trips - where first class buys you a private sleeping berth on overnight trains. With a second class ticket you are assigned to a shared berth. HKL tickets are valid within city limits, YTV (regional) tickets on suburban trains to Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. 

Airports

Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of Helsinki's downtown area, in the neighboring city of Vantaa. The airport provides scheduled non-stop flights to many important cities in Europe, Asia and North America. international and domestic terminals are separate but connected by a walkway. Helsinki's second airport, Malmi Airport, is mainly used for general and private aviation with fuel and customs facilities available at the airport.

The cheapest public transport option to the city center is the regional bus 615, which takes around 40 minutes and costs €3.80 to the Central Railway Station in the heart of Helsinki. Finnair, the national airline of Finland, operates the Finnair City Bus which offers direct service to city center for €5.90 and is slightly faster (and more comfortable) than the regional bus. Taxis to the center cost €30-40. Yellow Line (see below) is also a good way to get to the city center from the airport.

Useful Address

By helicopter

On April 9, 2008 Copterline resumed operating scheduled flights to Tallinn. The flights use a dedicated heliport at Hernesaari, in the port area to the south of the city center, but in case of bad weather, flights also use Helsinki-Vantaa airport. The journey takes only 18 minutes.

Taxis (Taksi)

Cab fares are regulated by the government's Ministry of Transport and Communications. Getting into a taxi costs you €4.50 (€7 at night and on Sundays), and then the meter ticks at €1.16/km — although the rate increases if there are over two people and there are surcharges for large bags or leaving from Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport.

Local practice is to take a walk to the nearest taxi stand or try to book by phone. Tel. 01000700 gets you the main taxi booking center; if it's hopelessly congested, try calling direct to Taksione at +358-50-5455454 or Kajon at 01007070. Drivers are not required to pick up a person hailing them on the street, and they usually don't, but it's worth a try if you see one cruising by.

Yellow Line is a good, cost-effective option for getting from the airport to the city center. It's a typical sort of airport shuttle, where you share a minivan among up to seven or eight passengers, and the van stops at their destinations one by one. You can hook up with the shuttle at their bright yellow desks in arrivals lounges 1 and 2. The cost is €20 shared among one or two passengers, and less per person if there are more people.

Boats

The HKL ferry to Suomenlinna from the Market Square (Kauppatori) is a cheap and popular summer getaway. Another HKL operated ferry, used mostly by the island's residents, leaves from the eastern end of Katajanokka. In addition, private operators provide ferries to Suomenlinna and other islands during the summer. HKL's Tourist Ticket and mobile-phone ticket are valid also on the Suomenlinna ferry. Ferry connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by various companies; most prominent are Silja and VikingFinnlines passenger-freight ferries to Travemünde, Germany are also available.  Tallink began service to Rostock, Germany in 2007.

Useful Addresses

Highways in Finland (valtatiet in Finnish, riksvägar in Swedish) are all paved and have at least two lanes, further, they receive better upkeep than main & regional roads. Historically they were labeled as causeways. Highways numbering 1 to 7 start radially from the capital Helsinki (Highway 6 starts from Porvoo), while highways 8 to 10 radiate from Turku at the southern west coast of Finland . The rest of the highways start from other major cities. Highways between major cities often go along motorways, for example between Helsinki and Tampere. Since Finland is sparsely populated and large  there is no reason upgrade all highways to motorways.

City Map: http://kartta.hel.fi/opas/
Road Map: http://www.viamichelin.com/


Update 27/08/2010



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