Budget Helsinki: How to Save Money in the Finnish Capital

The countries of northern Europe are the sweet dreams of any traveler who is crashed into the harsh financial reality. Who among us has not dreamed of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, sadly closing the tabs with prices for housing and food. But someone should have the courage to bring home the thrifty tourist’s life hacks! Tested on themselves and obtained “in battle”. This time they are from Finland and its incredible capital, Helsinki.

Victoria Safronova

It is important to know in advance

The first and foremost rule of Helsinki is money on the card. Keep in mind that Finland is a very digital country, with some services only being paid online. For example, a luggage room needs to be booked and paid in advance (€ 5 – a piece of luggage). This cannot be done on site, because the site shows only approximate locations. You choose the right one, pay for the reservation and only then get the exact address. Everything happens online.

Here Old Believers will have a hard time without a smartphone and a map. Even in a small souvenir market in the middle of the street, sellers are ready to pay you with PayPass. And this is not only general advice, but also the most direct way of saving. The fact is that the Finns are very encouraging new digital habits of society, so some services will cost less if you pay for them online. No joke: a bus ticket between the two zones, purchased in the app, costs € 2.80, and from the driver’s hands – € 4.

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How to save on housing

Let’s say you’re looking for options on Booking or Airbnb. The difference in housing prices in Helsinki and in neighboring towns like Espoo or Vantaa (the city of arrival) is immediately evident. You can see that a “cheap” apartment in the capital in autumn costs € 35-50 per day, while in some 20-30 minutes drive you can find something even less than € 20. Seductive? Of course! But if you are planning to start your activity in Helsinki – stop in Helsinki. A ticket for the intersection of three zones in public transport costs € 4.60 in the app and € 6.50 from the driver. As a result, you will spend not only the money saved on rent, but also the most important resource in travel – time.

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Conclusion. To the question “How to save on housing in Helsinki?” you will get a strange answer: do not save too much on housing in order to save good money on transport. Start looking for options as early as possible, and don’t be afraid to head to Helsinki in the fall when prices decline – most summer activities are available here until the end of September.

How to save on transport

It seems that the most flashy rule is already clear: you need to download a special HSL app and buy tickets through it. A single ticket is valid for 80 minutes and applies to all types of transport: bus, tram, metro, even some ferries. In 80 minutes you can change seats as many times as you like – the ticket will be valid. On the bus, you need to show it from your smartphone to the driver at the entrance, in other types of transport – just have it with you in case of checking. If you know that you will have to travel a lot between specific zones, buy a pass. They are available for a period from 1 day to a week in the same application. Absolutely all information about travel zones, prices, timetables and other information is collected on the official website, which cannot be ignored when going to Helsinki.

Conclusion. Download the application in advance and link a payment card to it. On the spot, buy a ticket right before boarding and keep track of the time of its activity.

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How to save on food

Be sure to bring tea / coffee on your trip to have breakfast at home or at the hotel. Fresh pastries are available in any shop, which open quite early. The cheapest croissant costs only 50 cents. Take free honey to it when you visit a coffee shop – and voila! With a couple of yoghurts, pastries or a sandwich, you can easily organize your breakfast for € 3-5.

Take your lunch if possible. Finns respect everyone’s right to choose food very much, so many places have special zones for those who come with their own. For example, in a zoo (there are fountains with drinking water), in an aquarium or in a library. Such points are even equipped with a microwave.

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When looking for products, look at the Lidl chain of stores. The assortment is small, but the prices are really lower than in the most popular K-Market, for example. Especially it is worth looking there for branded Finnish chocolate – it costs decently less than in the manufacturer’s coffee shop, which breaks our pattern “directly – cheaper”.

There is also such a magical thing in Helsinki as free food distribution. Several times a week, groceries from supermarkets are brought to a couple of outlets, the shelf life of which is almost over. They are distributed to all comers – a very practical action. Do not hesitate to look for relevant addresses and days – Finnish products are of extremely high quality, and remain so even at the end of the expiration date (and they say that after its expiration, but we did not check).

One day, be sure to have lunch at the Market Square. Here is the most authentic street food in which at least 3 types of northern fish will be mixed for you. No, it still doesn’t cost a penny, because it is located in the very heart of the city, but it is still cheaper than in a cafe, and too romantic. In the end, let’s be fair – Finnish portions are excellent and the food is really delicious. Save on anything, but be sure to eat a sandwich with the freshest salmon or sip salmon soup. Because where else if not here?

Conclusion. Bring something basic like tea and coffee with you. Eat breakfast at home and go boldly with your lunch. Look for the cheapest products in Lidl, and the most free ones at special points of distribution. Speaking about cafes, remember the most golden rule of the traveler: “The further from the center, the cheaper.”

How to save on entertainment

This is another question that needs to be asked in advance. And Google will answer it – the Helsinki Card. We have already written about cards of this type here. They are found in many European capitals and provide the tourist with excellent benefits. In the case of Helsinki, you can choose a card:

1) for an adult / for a child;

2) for 1/2/3 days;

3) for free visits to more than 25 attractions and discounts in many locations of the city, including popular cafes and souvenir shops (MOBILE) / all previous opportunities + free travel around the capital (CITY) / all previous opportunities + free travel to the regions (the same intersection of three zones) (REGION).

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On the site you can see the entire list of interesting places that become cheaper or free with the Helsinki Card. And these are really must see objects and excursions, so that an active tourist with big plans will definitely save the wallet with a magic card. It is enough to know that a sightseeing tour by bus costs € 30, to the sea fortress of Suomenlinna with a guide – € 37, a boat trip along the canals – € 25, while the Helsinki Card CITY for the whole day is only € 49. And during this day you can do much more.

Save not only with the card, but also on it. From time to time, a 10% discount appears on the site. Do not be lazy to monitor it, even if there is still a year before the trip, because the card is activated not from the moment of purchase, but by its first use and remains active for 24, 48 or 72 hours, respectively. Be careful: with the Helsinki Card for 2 or 3 days, set aside specific days in a row in order to fully devote them to activities free of charge for you.

Bonus. Come to Linnanmäki amusement park 3 hours before closing time – the entrance will cost € 10 cheaper. For € 33, you can ride all of the park’s top attractions, including the crazy Taiga roller coaster, and get into the aquarium with a 50% discount. In addition, the park has 9 free rides.

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Of course, the north requires more preparation than the south, but the Finns have already done their best to make the process easier for you. They are very practical people, restrained at first glance, but friendly; people who adore a good rest – on mirror-like lakes and in cozy baths, in the middle of the forest and in a three-story library, on the high water of the Baltic Sea and on the land of their many islands. This is not what you expect from the austere northern capital, about which they only write “too expensive”, but Helsinki will teach you how to relax and will fall in love with life in a new way – even one where a latte costs € 8. Be sure to fly!

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# finland # helsinki