photo © Discovering Finland
Finland has excellent public transport, both locally and nationally. Trains are modern and comfortable, and usually on time – even during the worst of the winter weather. The entire country is linked by a comprehensive bus and rail network.
VR, the Finnish Rail Operator, has reliable and frequent train services operating to most parts of the country, apart from the northernmost parts of Lapland. There are different services in VR, from the fastest express trains of Pendolino (S), InterCity (IC), and InterCity2 (IC2), ordinary express trains (P), and local and regional trains. Trains are comfortable, especially the express trains, which have restaurant cars, family cars (IC trains only, where a carriage is partly a playroom), power sockets, and a smoking room.
The express services generally have a first class section, branded as Business Class, where you pay an additional surcharge which gives you extra space, free newspapers, and possibly a snack. If you’re travelling long distances, for example Helsinki-Oulu, there are overnight sleeper trains, most of which also have car-carrier wagons serving the most important stations. When travelling by car, your vehicle will be loaded on the wagon in the evening and upon arrival in the morning you may continue your journey.
In 2006, VR updated all children’s playrooms on the IC and IC2 trains, which are located on the upper deck of the double-decker car. These trains also have a family compartment where there is room to play and read books. Children under 6 travel free with an adult paying the standard fare, and up to four under 5-year-olds can travel free with an adult, although it is not possible to reserve seats for them. There is a 50% junior discount for 6 to 16 year olds. Seniors over the age of 65 are likewise entitled to a 50% discount. There are additional discounts available for groups: a 15% discount for groups of 3 to 10 people, and a 20% discount available for groups of 11 or more.
Taking a trip to Russia by train is very easy, as there are 3 departures every day from Helsinki. The Allegro train leaves every morning and goes to St. Petersburg via Vyborg; the Russian Repin leaves in the evening and takes the same route; and the Tolstoi night express goes to Moscow. Please make sure that you have a visa entitling you to enter Russia before leaving your own country.
Buses & Coaches
The main bus and coach company operating in Finland is Oy Matkahuolto Ab which offers long-distance coach connections to practically all parts of Finland. In Lapland, buses are the only public transport available as the rail network doesn’t extend to the extreme north. Buses can occasionally be slightly higher priced than trains, but usually between the large cities they are priced competitively, but they always offer more direct connections at more frequent intervals than the trains.
Matkahuolto offer a Bussipassi travel pass, which provides unlimited travel for a specified time, either one or two weeks. Additionally, they promote public transport and provide travel-related products and services. Their timetable service, available on the Internet and by phone, contains the timetables of all buses operating in Finland, providing information about 40 000 departures and 20 000 bus stops throughout the country.
Their services are available through 2 000 service outlets, 60 of which are owned by the company. In addition, its services are marketed and sold through agents at more than 400 localities.
Currently only the city of Helsinki is served by a Light Rail System, although both Tampere and Turku have plans in the pipeline for future tram systems.