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How to Travel Around Finland on a Backpackers Budget

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Finland holds a special place in my heart as it was the first country I embarked on a solo backpacking adventure back in 2005.

That initial journey sparked my deep interest in both the country itself and the world of travel.

So much so, that I moved to Vaasa, Finland for a year during my Erasmus exchange program. After years of traveling, I came back to the country and moved here.

I’ve called the country home for roughly 12 years.

I love Finland. It’s a wonderful place full of incredibly nice people and breathtaking nature. However, Finland can be an expensive country to visit.

There’s no doubt about it. But, like any place in the world, you can find many cheap ways to travel around Finland that don’t have to break the bank.

Here are my top traveling tips on how to backpack around Finland on a budget:

Camping across Finland is Free

(Me camping out in the Finnish wilderness by the sea with my simple hammock and light sleeping bag setup)

Thanks for public land use laws called Jokaisenoikeudet/jokamiehenoikeudet – Finnish everyman’s rights – the right to roam & enjoy nature.

you can camp anywhere around Finland for free.

All you have to do is find a nice spot in the Finnish nature, pitch your tent and as long as you’re not bothering anyone, no problem at all.

This can only be done on public land though so don’t go pitching your tent on someone’s lawn!

Moreover, on popular hiking trails, you can find outdoor huts that you can sleep in and they usually have a grill or fire pit you can use to heat your food and keep warm.

The great thing about these spots is that firewood is usually provided free of charge and regularly topped up.

Just be sure to clean up after yourself and leave the spot better than you found it.

How to enjoy a Cheap Lunch in Finland

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(This Lunch set for a Nepalese restaurant was only €10 during the week in central Helsinki and includes salad bar, coffee and water)

Many restaurants across Finland offer a set menu or a buffet (“lounasbuffet” in Finnish) during lunch at a cheaper price than dinner.

Lunch normally costs from 10 to 15 Euros and includes a salad, meal, drink (usually water), and coffee or tea. Lunchtime in Finnish restaurants is normally from 11 am to 3 pm, depending on the establishment.

You can either enjoy your lunch at a restaurant or find great deals easily on local apps such as Wolt, Foodora or ResQ Club.

For instance, Nepalese food is quite popular in Finland and a set lunch will include Papadam, naan bread, dal, curry of your choice, mint yoghurt, pickle, salad and water and coffee to enjoy after.

My other favorites are the sushi buffets and the Thai buffets. You can also find affordable pizza restaurants around Finland starting as low as €7 and including water and a salad buffet, making them good value for your money.

Stay Hydrated: Enjoy Free and Amazing tap Water in Finland

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(So many fresh water lakes in Finland! You could drink direct from the source if you have a water filter bottle)

Finland has the best quality tap water I’ve ever come across; it’s fresh, tasty and typically served cold.

You can find many free refill stations across Finland.

The water is safe to drink so be sure to bring a refillable water bottle when you visit.

It’s also common to find tap water included with your meal when dining at a restaurant across Finland.

It usually isn’t an issue to request a jug of water for your table.

Don’t Forget to enjoy Your Free Coffee Refill Across Finland

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(Enjoying a free refill coffee at the Oodi Finnish Library in Helsinki)

Coffee is loved all around Finland, and Finnish citizens are among some of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world, consuming an average of 7 cups a day.

Many coffee shops offer a free refill when you order a cup. Typically, you’ll come across a generous tank or jug filled with filter coffee, ready for you to help yourself to another serving.

While some cafes may have a sign saying that refills come at an additional cost, most popular cafes in Finland, such as Robert’s Coffee, offer refills, allowing you to enjoy your coffee without worrying about the cost.

How to Travel Around Finland by Train on the Cheap


(Travelling around Finland VR train is cheap when booked in advance, they even sell beer onboard!)

The most comfortable way to travel around Finland is by train with VR, Finland’s national railway operator. If you book your ticket in advance, the price is usually halved compared to the day price.

For example, my direct train from Helsinki to Vaasa is €22 when booked three weeks in advance. Usually, on the day, the same ticket to Vaasa would cost €52.

I just booked a ticket today from Helsinki airport to Vaasa for next week and it only cost me €15. if you’re flexible with times and connections you might be lucky and find a good deal.

I’ve found it’s always cheaper to book on the VR app directly.

Then you have your digital ticket with you when you travel too. I don’t know why that is, but the app seems to show cheaper prices.

Another cheap way to travel around Finland if you’re from outside of Finland and plan to travel by train a lot is with a Euro rail pass.

How to Travel Around Finland by Bus on the cheap

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(Onnibus isn’t the quickest but offer tickets starting for as low as €1 if you’re lucky!)

Another affordable travel option in Finland is to take the bus. Two budget-friendly operators worth mentioning are OnniBus and FlixBus.

OnniBus is a great option, with some journeys only costing €1! However, this varies greatly depending on their promotions.

The cheapest tickets are found when booking in advance. I’d say three or four weeks before your trip you can still get the most affordable normal price.

For example, Helsinki to Vaasa prices vary between €13 to €40 one way. Helsinki to Rovaniemi in the north of Finland can cost you anything between €25 to €50 one way depending on how early you book the ticket.

You can also try to find a flex rate ticket on the day, which offers up to 50% off on empty seats, but this can be risky, and I would advise booking in advance to ensure you have a seat on the day of departure.

Another bus company you can check out for some good deals is FlixBus. It operates on select routes, including cities like Helsinki, Turku, Rauma, Pori, and Vaasa.

For instance, the prices from Helsinki to Vaasa start from €15 one way. The earlier you book, the more likely you’re to get an affordable price. It’s worth having a look if your destination is on their list!

How to Travel Around Helsinki by Public Transport

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(You can even travel on the HSL boat to Suomenlinna island with a day pass)

For traveling locally around Helsinki, you can download the HSL app, which will allow you to purchase full-day tickets.

If you prefer a paper ticket, you can find ticket machines for example in the Helsinki Airport Railway Station (by the platforms) and outside the Helsinki Central Railway Station (by the platforms).

To find more locations for purchasing tickets, see the HSL map.

If you’re traveling from the airport to the city, you will need a ticket with the ABC zones. A day ticket will cost you €11, covering all your journeys within the Helsinki central region as well.

For comparison, a single ticket from Helsinki airport to Helsinki city (ABC zones) will cost you €4.10, and a single ticket in central Helsinki (AB zones) costs €2.95.

So, it’s worth just getting the day ticket if you’re planning to use public transport in Helsinki within the next 24 hours.

To explore the Helsinki central region, AB zones will cost €9 for a day ticket. All in all, it’s cheaper to book multi-day tickets, which is perfect if you’re spending the whole weekend in Helsinki.

One budget tip with the HSL day ticket is to use it to travel by ferry to the fortress island of Suomenlinna, which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

I highly recommend visiting there and think it’s a good value because it is included in the day ticket.

An alternative to traveling around Helsinki is by rental bike, which is also another cost-effective way to get around town.

How to Travel Around Finland by Boat on the Cheap

Tallinn Estonia 2017

Did you know that some of the ferry boats around the Finnish Archipelago are free to use? They’re seen as a lifeline to help support the transport network and give access to local islanders to the mainland.

But tourists are also welcome to explore some of the most remote islands like Uto (or Utö), which is the southernmost point of Finland. You can also use the free sleeping beds to catch some rest if you wish.

Travel by ferry is also an affordable way to reach Finland as you can find many services offering great deals from either Stockholm, Sweden or Tallinn, Estonia.

Viking Line and Eckerö Line have some amazing prices if you fancy booking a day trip to Tallinn.

Useful travel resources:

VR Trains, Finnish railway.
OnniBus for buses.
HSL app for Helsinki public transport.
Eckerö Line for ferries.

Enjoy the Wonderful Free Finnish Nature

Porvoo Finland 2018 151

Enjoy the incredible Finnish nature, which is not only free but also a perfect opportunity to disconnect from your devices and connect with the natural world.

Make the most out of your trip to Finland by exploring the great outdoors and immersing yourself in the abundance of trees and fresh air.

With its vast expanse and picturesque landscapes, Finland is an incredible hiking destination that will leave you in awe.

While you’re out exploring, take advantage of the opportunity to gather wild berries and mushrooms from the forest.

As long as you know what you’re doing, you’re allowed to pick these natural treasures. Among them, you’ll find lovely free blueberries, known as superfoods, which make a delightful topping for your morning porridge.

Just be careful not to end up with blueberry juice around your face as you indulge in this delicious and healthy treat.

Don’t Miss Out on the Affordable Finnish Sauna

Lahti winter Finland 2017 36

Finland is home to over three million saunas, which blows your mind when you discover that the population of Finland is over five and a half million. One of my favorite relaxing activities to enjoy in Finland is the sauna.

You can try the popular public saunas that welcome visitors to experience a piece of Finnish sauna culture, but they may be a bit pricey, even if they’re great options.

In Helsinki, Löyly and Allas Sea Pool offer even a dip to the sea in between your relaxing sauna moments.

But in case you are looking for a more affordable ways to try sauna, here are some tips!

Many hotels or hostels offer access to a sauna for free for guests to use.

Most Finnish homes have access to a sauna, so if you have a local friend, ask if you wouldn’t mind joining them for the weekly sauna experience; it can be a fun cultural experience to do in Finland.

You can also find many community saunas that are open for anyone to use, generally for a small fee to cover the costs of fuel and cleaning.

I’d highly recommend trying one of these out, which can be a fun experience.

One great example is the Rauhaniemi folk spa in Tampere which is open to the general public to use since 1929.

You can take a public bus to the location which is out of town by the shore so you can go for a dip in the lake after going to the sauna.

Swimming halls usually offer access to a sauna included in the swimming fee, so you can make the most out of this, especially if you’re camping and would like to have a shower.

Look Out for Free Entry Times in Finland

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(National Museum of Finland is free from 4:00–6:00 pm every Friday when it reopens for business)

While many museums and art galleries charge a fee in Finland, there are some attractions that offer free access if you know when to visit.

Don’t let the cost discourage you from immersing yourself in Finland’s rich cultural scene.

With a little planning and research, you can discover unique opportunities to explore museums and galleries without spending a dime.

Take the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki, which has a free entry on the first Friday of the month. You can learn more about free entrance to Helsinki museums and galleries here.

If you find yourself in Tampere, a popular lakeside city with rich industrial heritage, you’ll be delighted to know that they too offer information on their free cultural opportunities.

The city is located about two hours by train from Helsinki and is well worth a visit.

Take the time to research your chosen destinations ahead of time, as you may discover that certain museums and galleries offer free admission on specific days of the month or week.

By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can make the most of your trip while staying within your budget.

In addition, it’s worth noting that certain Finnish cities host an annual art festival called the Night of the Arts, or “Taiteiden yö” in Finnish.

This vibrant event takes place in August (dates may vary) and is celebrated in major cities such as Helsinki, Turku, Oulu, Tampere, and Vaasa, each offering their own unique Night of the Arts experience.

During this occasion, art-related events and festivities come alive in every corner of each city. Museums and art galleries generously open their doors for free admission, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in captivating works of art.

Theatres offer sneak peeks of their shows, providing a taste of the performances to come. Public parks and squares come alive with the sounds of music and the rhythm of dance, creating a truly magical atmosphere.

You’ll want to find out if your destination happens to organise one of these unforgettable nights. It’s a wonderful way to experience Finnish culture free of charge!

Thank you for reading my guide about how to enjoy Finland on a Backpackers budget

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(You can even ski to these free open shelter cabins, make a fire, grill and rest!)

While Finland’s reputation as an expensive country may seem daunting, don’t let it discourage you from experiencing all that this captivating destination has to offer.

It’s true that costs can add up, but with a little insider knowledge and some savvy planning, you’ll discover that Finland can be surprisingly affordable, even for budget-conscious travelers.

Now that you have the information you need, it’s time to shift your perspective and embrace the possibilities of exploring Finland on a backpacker’s budget.

By taking advantage of budget-friendly accommodations, finding affordable transportation options, favoring lunch times at restaurants, and exploring free or low-cost attractions you’ll not only save money but also create memories that will last a lifetime.

If you’re looking for some suggestions for Finland, why not go on a trip to Porvoo, be sure to checkout my guide to the city.

So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey through Finland!

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