Finland is a beautiful country. With epic mountains, scenic waterfalls, stunning fjords, and the chance to see the northern lights, Finland is an incredible destination for outdoorsy travelers and adventure lovers.
Due to its out-of-the-way location and the fact that Finland is expensive, many travelers skip visiting. This is a mistake! Finland has a lot to offer and there are plenty of ways to save money here. I think it’s one of the most underrated destinations in Europe — especially if you love the outdoors!
This travel guide to Finland can help you save money and show you how to make the most of your trip to this amazing Nordic nation!
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Bath
1. Explore the Salla Reindeer Park
2. See the Northern Lights in Lappland
3. Visit Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi
4. See Helsinki
5. Stay in an ice hotel or glass igloo
Other Things to See and Do in Finland
1. Go ice climbing
Finland is known for its impressive ice formations, including frozen waterfalls and tall ice walls inside deep canyons or valleys. Companies like Bliss Adventure can outfit you with the right gear and introduce you to ice climbing in places like Tajukangas Falls and Korouoma Canyon (Korouoma is the most popular place to ice climb in the country). Prices vary but plan to spend around 100 EUR for a short tour. If you’re not afraid of heights and if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, try rappelling from the top of the Tajukangas Ice Falls (it’s about 30 meters high).
2. Visit Pakasaivo Lake
This lake in the north of Finland was once a place where indigenous Sámi worshipped. The 60m-deep lake is a meromictic lake, which means the water on the surface and at the bottom never mix (normal lakes mix at least once a year when the water at the surface cools off and becomes denser, causing it to sink). This creates an oxygen-free environment where the contents at the bottom are perfectly preserved. The area is known as the Hell of Lapland as people used to believe there was another realm under the lake. There is also a giant’s kettle here (a deep glacial pothole) that people believed tunneled all the way to hell.
3. Tour the King’s Road
This route is an old postal route running between Bergen, Norway to the former Finnish capital of Turku, and then across Finland to St. Petersburg, Russia. The 205-mile (330 kilometers) trail dates to the 15th century and it follows the southern coast of Finland. It’s accessible all year with well-paved roads and plenty of scenic stops along the way. You’ll take in manor houses, medieval churches, tiny villages, and endless scenic countryside. You can do the entire route in a day via car, though 2-3 days is better so you can make plenty of stops. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also cycle the route in around one week.
4. Visit the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine
Lampivara Hill is known for its amethysts (a type of purple quartz). The amethysts in this region were created 6-million years ago and on a mine tour, you learn more about this precious mineral and then get a chance to dig around and find your own to take home as a souvenir. The mine is part of Pyhä-Luosto National Park and is located in northern Finland 90-minutes north of Rovaniemi. Tour prices vary from 35-66 EUR per person and include transportation.
5. Explore Raanua Wildlife Park
This is the northernmost nature reserve in the world and a fun place to visit with kids. There are over 50 different animal species here, including the only polar bears in Finland as well as lynx, wolves, and brown bears. Because it’s a predominantly outdoor park, you’re able to see the animals in a much more natural habitat than most zoos. There is no artificial lighting or indoor enclosures so you need to bring your own flashlight if visiting later in the day during the winters (when the sun sets early). Admission is 23.50 EUR.
6. See the Old Church of Sodankylä
Located in Lapland, this church is Finland’s best-preserved wooden church. The steeple-less church was built from timber in 1689 and was commissioned by King Charles XI of Sweden, who paid for it. The exterior and interior are incredibly well-preserved, with a dark timber interior and exterior that resembles more of a log cabin than a traditional European church. In the summer, religious services and weddings are often held here. Admission is free.
7. Learn Finnish cultural history
The ethnographic Museum of Local History in Kemijärvi showcases what life was like in rural Finland at the turn of the 20th century. The main building is home to a traditional farmhouse and living quarters, maid’s chamber, daughter-in-law’s chamber, and living room so show you exactly what life was like for the Finnish working class. In addition to the house, the grounds include a granary, a workshop, a smoke sauna, a barn, and a stable that you can wander and explore. Admission is 10 EUR.
8. Go hiking
There are almost 40 national parks in Finland, each with hiking trails and camping sites. In the winter, they make for great places to cross-country ski or go snowshoeing. Nuuksio National Park is only 45 minutes from Helsinki and is filled with calm lakes, green forests, and rocky trails. Archipelago National Park, in Southwestern Finland, has more islands than any archipelago in the world. With its calm islets and colorful villages, canoeing or kayaking this park is a must. If you want to get off the beaten path be sure to visit Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in the north, where you can hike and stay in traditional villages. Additionally, wild camping is free in all the national parks as Finland has ‘freedom to roam’ laws (Jokamiehen Oikeudet) that enable you to wild camp in national parks if you are quiet and respectful.
9. Explore the Harbor Islands
There are over 330 islands that make up the Helsinki city archipelago. Suomenlinna is the easiest to reach with regular municipal ferries (you can take a ferry directly from Market Square). Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari are two other islands worth visiting, as they used to be military bases closed off to the public (during the Viking era, Vallisaari was used as an outpost that would light a fire whenever a Viking raid was coming so people could prepare). The islands have since been reclaimed by nature and turned into parks dotted with abandoned fortifications. You can explore on your own or take a guided tour; there are a ton to choose from, most last 1-2 hours and cost around 20 EUR.
10. Compete in the Air Guitar World Championship
Held every year at the Oulu Music Video Festival, this competition started out as a joke in 1996 but has evolved into a major festival that attracts thousands. If you happen to be in Oulu in the month of August, be sure to check out this quirky competition. Anyone can enter with just a 35 EUR entry fee. Even if you don’t want to compete you should definitely attend if you can — it’s one of the most unique festivals in the world!
11. Wander the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
Located north of Helsinki on Seurasaari Island, the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum allows you to get up close to numerous traditional Finnish buildings from the early 18th-20th centuries. They aren’t replicas either; the buildings were collected from all over the country and brought here. There are houses, cottages, outbuildings, a windmill, and more. Opened in 1909, guided tours are available daily during the summer. Admission is 10 EUR
12. Go skiing
Levi is Finland’s most beloved ski resort located in Lapland, and it’s the location of the Alpine World Cup Race. There are 43 slopes here for all abilities and over 124 miles (200 kilometers) of trails for cross-country skiing. There’s even a dedicated area for snowboarders, plus dog sledding and a reindeer park. A one-day pass costs 47 EUR. Pyhä-Luosto National Park, Saariselkä, Kuusamo, and Jyväskylä are other excellent places to ski too.
13. See Turun Linna (Turku Castle)
Turun Linna (Turku Castle) is located in Turku on the Aura River. The castle dates back to the 1200s and is one of the oldest buildings in the country. It helped defend the region from Russia during the Middle Ages, though much of the castle was destroyed during World War II and later rebuilt. Inside are two large dungeons as well as ornate banquet halls that are often used for municipal events. Tours take place all summer (June to August) and admission is 14 EUR.
14. Learn about the Sámi
The Sámi are the only indigenous people in the EU. Their language and culture is endangered, and so they’re governed by an autonomous government in Inari (Finland’s largest municipality). They’re famously known for their reindeer herding, which is at the core of their culture. Visit communities in Inari, Enontekiö and Utsjoki to see Sámi culture up close. In Inari, don’t miss the Siida indoor and outdoor museum where you’ll learn about culture, art, and nature through interactive exhibits. But if you want to really spend time with the Sámi, come in spring when most of the Sami markets, concerts, and dances take place all over Northern Lapland. VisitLapland.com has a comprehensive list of activities and tours for getting to know the Sami people, including a visit to a traditional reindeer farm.
Finland Travel Costs
Hostel prices – In the summer, large hostel dorms with 8 or more beds start at 28 EUR while smaller dorms with 4-6 beds cost 43 EUR. In the off-season, prices are 2-3 EUR cheaper per night. Private rooms cost 75 EUR in the peak season and 55 EUR in the off-season. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels do not have self-catering facilities. If you plan on cooking your own food you’ll need to book a hostel with a kitchen.
Finland has “freedom to roam” laws that enable free wild camping all around the country for those with a tent. If you’d prefer to stay in a campground with amenities, expect to pay 14-18 EUR for a basic tent plot for two people without electricity.
Budget hotel prices – A budget hotel with a private bathroom starts at 80-120 EUR during peak summer season. In the off-season, budget rooms start at 75 EUR.
On Airbnb, private rooms start at 40 EUR (though they average double that). If you’re looking for an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 70 EUR, though prices usually average over 100 EUR.
Food – Finnish cuisine leans heavily on fish, meat (specifically pork), and hearty vegetables like potatoes. Reindeer is commonly eaten as well as wild game like deer and moose. Smoked salmon and smoked or pickled herring are also popular dishes. Like their Scandinavian neighbors, Finns also enjoy dark bread and cheeses, usually as part of an open-faced sandwich (these are the go-to breakfast choice).
Overall, food in Finland is expensive. Your average cheap casual restaurant charges around 13 EUR for a meal while fast food (think McDonald’s) is 8 EUR. For a three-course meal with table service, expect to pay at least 40-50 EUR.
Pizza costs around 8-10 EUR for a large pizza while Thai or Chinese food costs 10-15 EUR for a main dish. If you want to splash out while in Helsinki, I suggest Ravintola Aino for good Finnish food (try the reindeer). Dishes costs between 50-55 EUR but are incredibly tasty!
Beer costs 7 EUR while a latte/cappuccino is 4 EUR. Bottled water is 1.80 EUR.
If you plan on cooking your own food, groceries cost between 55-65 EUR per week for basic staples like vegetables, bread, pasta, and some fish or meat.
Backpacking Finland Suggested Budgets
On a backpacking budget of 65 EUR per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all your meals, limit your drinking, take public transportation to get around, and do free activities like visiting the free museums and hiking. If you plan on drinking, add 10-15 EUR to your daily budget.
On a mid-range budget of 135 EUR, you can stay in a private hostel room or Airbnb, eat out for most meals at cheap fast-food places, have a couple of drinks, take the occasional taxi, and do more paid activities like ice climbing and visiting some castles and forts.
On a “luxury” budget of 285 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out at casual restaurants and restaurants with table service, drink as much as you want, rent a car to explore, and do whatever activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.
Finland Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Finland isn’t cheap — no matter what time of year you visit. Fortunately, there are ways to save money if you know where to look. Here are my money-saving tips for Finland:
- Drink the tap water – It’s some of the cleanest in the world and will save you from buying new water bottles all the time (and it cuts down waste)! LifeStraw makes a bottle with a built-in filter so you can always ensure your water is clean and safe.
- Go grocery shopping – Buy basic staples like bread, meat, and cheese for breakfast or for a quick lunch on the go. It’s not glamorous, but by cooking your own meals you’ll save a ton of money, enabling you to eventually splurge on some great local dinners and traditional fare.
- Take the free city tours – Green Cap Tours offer daily free walking tours around Helsinki. You get to see the main sights while interacting with an expert guide who can answer all your questions. Just be sure to tip at the end!
- Get a Helsinki Card – There’s a lot to see in the city and paying 10-15 EUR per attraction adds up. This tourism card grants you free admission to the main sights (as well as access to the hop-on/hop-off bus) for 44 EUR (for a 24-hour pass). You can also get a 48-hour pass for 52 EUR or a 72-hour pass for 59 EUR. It includes discounts on some restaurants as well. For an additional charge, you can add free public transit as well.
- Rideshare around the country – If you want to save money on transportation around the country, there are numerous apps like Kyydit and Carpool World that can help. They’ll allow you to connect with drivers looking for extra passengers. While it isn’t free, it might be cheaper (and more convenient) than taking a bus or train.
- Hitchhike – Hitchhiking isn’t super common here, however, it’s definitely possible and quite safe. Just use common sense and check Hitchwiki for specific tips and advice.
li>Stay with a local for free – Couchsurfing connects you with a local who can host you for free. You may have to sleep on a couch, but you’ll get to make a new friend and get tons of insider information about the country.
Where to Stay in Finland
Hostels can be found in a few of the larger cities around the country. Here are my recommended places to stay:
How to Get Around Finland
Public Transportation – Helsinki is the only city in Finland with a tram and metro system, though other cities and towns have public bus networks. They usually depart every 10-15 minutes with one-way tickets starting at 2.80 EUR.
Bus – Buses are the main form of intercity travel in Finland. In addition to the regular buses which make frequent stops, you can pay more money to take an express bus (although, weirdly, the time difference between the two usually isn’t significant). A bus from Helsinki to Turku lasts 2-2.5 hours and costs 10-15 EUR while the 2-hour journey to Tampere is around 8 EUR. You can even take the bus from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (Lapland) for 54 EUR for the 13-hour ride while the
Matkahuolto is the main bus company. Use matkahuolto.fi/en to plan your journey. OnniBus is another intercity bus service. Prices are pretty consistent with Matkahuolto but fares can be discounted by 50% if you book in advance rather than last minute.
Train – Trains are an excellent way to get around Finland and you rarely need to make a reservation ahead of time (you can book online at vr.fi). Trains are slightly more expensive than the bus but they are much more comfortable. Helsinki from Turku costs about 17 EUR for a 2-hour trip, while Helsinki to Tampere starts from 20 EUR.
If you wait last minute, you can often find “saver deals” listed on the website (typically the night before). For example, at the time of writing this, last-minute fares for both the routes mentioned above are less than 9 EUR. So, generally, you get them around 50% off the normal price.
Bicycle – Finland is incredibly bike-friendly. All cities have bike lanes and there are endless paths with very few hills. There’s a bicycle rental service in almost every town, with prices starting from 19 EUR per day. You can often get discounts for multi-day or weekly rentals. For example, Bicyclean Helsinki has city bikes from 19 EUR per day while a week’s rental is 80 EUR.
Flying – Finnair is the main domestic airline in Finland, with fares between most destinations costing less than 100 EUR when booked in advance. Expect to pay double that for last-minute flights. You can pretty much fly anywhere in the country in around 90 minutes or less too.
Flights from Helsinki to nearby Stockholm and Oslo are also quite affordable, costing around 75 EUR when booked early.
Car rental – Cars can be rented for as little as 25 EUR per day for a multi-day rental. Drivers must be at least 20, have had their license for at least one year, and have an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking here is safe here and lots of backpackers do it during the summer. HitchWiki is the best website for hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Finland
The best time to visit Finland is largely based on what you want to do. If you want to experience Lapland at its peak awesomeness, come in December or January. Lapland is a wintery dream world during December due to the holiday decorations, Christmas markets, and the northern lights. Keep in mind it gets extremely cold in Finland during this time, no matter where you are in the country. The average daily temperature in the winter is 17°F (-8°C).
Spring and autumn are the shoulder seasons and temperatures are still pretty low. The average daily high in April is 37°F (2°C), while in October it’s 41°F (5°C). Both seasons are beautiful, though. In spring, everything is in full blossom; in autumn, the fall colors come out.
Summer is full of activities all around Finland, especially in Helsinki. With longer days (in summer, the sun won’t set until after 10:30pm) and warmer temperatures, Finnish people love enjoying the change in season. Parks and beaches are full and there are festivals all the time. The country is very lively. The average high in the south of the country is 64-72°F (15°C), however, so you’ll still want to pack warm clothes if you plan to visit Lapland, as temps up there will be cooler.
How to Stay Safe in Finland
Finland is super safe and the risk of violent crime is incredibly low. Pick-pocketing can occur in Helsinki on public transpiration and at busy bus and train stations but even that is quite rare. Simply leave your valuables at home and be mindful of your surroundings. Do that and you should be perfectly fine.
Be careful when using ATMs as credit card skimming is on the rise.
Solo female travelers can travel freely here without worrying. Taxis are safe — even if you’re alone at night and even if you’re a solo female traveler.
When at the bar, always keep an eye on your drink and avoid walking home at night if you’re intoxicated.
If you rent a car, don’t leave any valuables in it at night. Break-ins are rare, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Your biggest concern in most areas is actually moose. Be careful when driving!
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.
Always trust your gut instinct. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
As a general rule, if you don’t do something at home, don’t do it in Finland!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Finland Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Finland. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and, overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or in their spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, a great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Finland, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B in the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, and boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home-cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Finland Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Finland Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
This is probably the most popular Finnish book out there. It’s about an elderly artist and her young granddaughter spending a summer together on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland. Despite their age difference, they gradually learn more about one another and their bond strengthens despite their individual needs for independence. It’s a classic Finnish book, and while it’s a little dry, the backdrop of the island’s beauty and the rugged, windswept coast is really poetic.
The Year of the Hare, by Arto Paasilinna
A quick but classic read, The Year of the Hare is about a journalist and a photographer who embark on an assignment together. As they drive through the Finnish countryside, they hit and injure a hare — much to the dismay of the journalist, who leaves the car and searches for the animal. The hare is so grateful, he “adopts” the journalist, and together they head out on a satirical journey through political scandal. If you like politics and satire, you’ll enjoy this book.
The Kalevala, by Elias Lönnrot
This is the national folk epic of Finland, translated to English. It’s dense reading, but the translation is excellent and the writing is lyrical and poetic. There’s a lot of classic Finnish wry humor and exaggerated characters and plots, but that’s what makes this such a delightful read. You can glean a lot of insight about the country from this book.
The Seven Brothers, by Aleksis Kivi
Aleksis Kivi spent 10 years writing this book and came under a lot of fire for it because of its scathing account of life in rural Finland. It’s hard to describe what it’s about, but it follows seven brothers who are not particularly peaceful and end up constantly fighting with locals, including policemen and teachers. They eventually run away and settle in the wilderness where a whole different set of misfortunes befall them (e.g. their sauna burns down…this book is very Finnish).