Friday, February 10, 2012

Getting to Finland: Flights

For most Europeans, Finland seems to be far in the north and difficult to reach compared with Central European countries. Thus it may take some effort and money to get here - but nowadays there are many budget airline companies flying between Finland and other European countries.

Helsinki is by far the most popular destination in Finland. Helsinki's international airport is actually located in the town Vantaa, about 25 kilometres from the centre of Helsinki. Thus the airport is sometimes referred to as Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.

I would not recommend you to choose Finnair for your flight to Finland unless you need intercontintental connections. If you, on the other hand, are just staying overnight between intercontintental flights you might choose to stay in some of Helsinki's airport hotels. There are several good alternatives of which I recommend especially Rantasipi Airport and Cumulus Airport Hotels.

For European flights, the tickets by competing airlines (e.g. Lufthansa and KLM) are usually a lot cheaper than Finnair's tickets. Thus I myself rarely fly using Finnair, at least if I have to pay the tickets myself.

Some of the budget airlines worth considering are:

  • RyanAir

  • Air Baltic

  • Wizz Air

Of these three, only Air Baltic uses the Helsinki Airport. Wizz Air flies from Turku and Ryan Air connects the Tampere Airport with Central Europe. Thus you can choose any one of these depending on the cities you plan to visit.

As far as I know, there are no real qualitative differences between these airlines -- you can simply choose whichever of these operates connections closest to you. Moreover, the train connections between these three cities are excellent and you can hop from one city to another one of these three in two hours. In fact, this is what I recommend to you: you should certainly visit each of these three cities if you are investing money to a week in Finland!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Days before the presidential election 2012

During the last few weeks, we Finns have been discussing the coming presidential elections. The votes for the first round will be given on next sunday. In case none of the candidates reaches the magical majority of 50 %, there will be a second round with only two candidates.

For the last six years, most Finns thought that the elections will be an easy win for the conservative Sauli Niinistö. At the moment, it does not seem that evident: Pekka Haavisto (The Green party is every day gaining more and more support of the liberal population.

Now it seems probable, that in the second round the Finns will have to choose between a conservative neoliberal and a green gay liberal. For many people it will be a difficult choice, having no left-wing alternative available.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

3 surprising things to do in Helsinki

Helsinki can be a dark and freezing cold place in the winter. But in the summer, the city is warm and full of life as we Finns enjoy the long daylight time and light nights. It is not without reason, that joke our summer to be warm and having only very little snow.

Thus the summer is without doubt the best time to visit Helsinki. Even if the city is one of the most expensive places in Europe, you can find a lot to do even when travelling on a very low budget. In the following, I'll give you a few travel tips for your visit in Helsinki -- there are many things to experience out of your hotel in Helsinki!

Tip 1: The Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

The Suomenlinna Fortress is my own favourite place in Helsinki. The fortress was built more than 200 ago on six islands a couple of kilometres south of Helsinki.

If you have chosen to stay in some of the hotels in Helsinki centre you can easily walk to the market place from where the ferries leave two or three times per hour.

There are both municipal and independent commercial ferries to the fortress. You should certainly take the municipal public transport, as it is much cheaper than the commercial alternative. In addition, the ferries are bigger and thus more comfortable in case of rough sea.

The fortress was built by the Swedish Crown to protect Finland and Sweden from the Russian army. Unfortunately, it did not stop the Russian army from conquering Finland in 1809. This fact, of course, does not diminish the beaty of the historical fortress.

In addition, there are several small interesting museums, cafés and a gastropub brewing its very own beer. The pub is located next to the ferry quay and you certainly should visit it when on the way back to the mainland.

Tip 2: Pub stroll in Kallio

After having a pint or two in Suomenlinna, you probably thirst for yet another beer after the 15-20 minutes sea trip back to the centre of Helsinki.

If you are willing to continue your evening in an alternative atmosphere, you should certainly walk to Kallio (or take a tram, if your feet are already hurting).

Some of the cheapest pints in the town are sold in the Kallio area. Kallio was for decades known as a working class district, but since the 80's and 90's the area has become one of the most popular living districts for students and young professionals.

Most of the pubs are very local in atmosphere. They are only rarely visited by foreigners, but as long as you speak English and do not look to 'exotic' this should not cause any problems to you. Just enjoy your pint with a few locals - but don't be surprised if you have to drink your beer alone, as most of the local winos are probably sleeping by time you arrive in Kallio!

If you plan to visit Kallio by night, it is probably a very good idea to book your hotel stay in the area. I can recommend you very warmly the hotel Cumulus Olympia Helsinki.

Tip 3: Skinny dipping in Seurasaari

If the summer is hot, you probably would enjou a swim in the refreshing sea water. There is no need to buy a swimming suit, as you can go skinny dipping on a few beaches in Helsinki. There is probably no better way to recover after a night in Kallio!

In order to get yourself to the Seurasaari island, you should take bus 24 leaving from Mannerheimintie near Stockmann and Swedish theater. The ride to the last bus stop takes something between 20 and 30 minutes.

Next you walk over the bridge and to the other end of the rather small island. There you will find a fenced area for naturists -- there are separate areas for men and women so even if this is your first time skinny dipping this should not be too embarassing for you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Suomenlinna Fortress

Suomenlinna Fortress built on a few islands a couple of kilometres south from the centre of Helsinki is one of my favourite places in Helsinki.

This video is a nice presentation of this beautiful area.

Travel video about Finland

This is a pretty good travel video about Finland.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Helsinki Airport Hotels: Cumulus Airport Hotel

Helsinki Airport is an important hub for intercontinental flights. It is especially important for travellers flying to or from the Far East -- after a long flight from Beijing or Tokyo a night in Helsinki makes it easier to continue the travel after a good night's sleep.

Thus it should not come as a surprise that there are several airport hotels worth recommending. In this and some posts following during the next weeks, you'll find information about my personal favorites.

Cumulus Airport Hotel

The Cumulus chain is one of the biggest and most popular hotel chains in Finland. The Cumulus in not known as a luxury chain -- the hotels are affordable and nice hotels for business travellers and vacationers alike.

The Cumulus Airport hotel in Helsinki is close to the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Furthermore, you can always use the airport shuttle bus which runs according to a set schedule to take you to and from the hotel.

There are 291 rooms in Cumulus Airport hotel. Out of these, 101 are singlerooms, 174 double rooms and 13 triple rooms. In addition, there are three four bed rooms.

The Helsinki airport is situated in the town of Vantaa. This means iteasily takes half an hour to get to the centre. Unfortunately, thereare no train or subway connections to the city. Thus you have to takea taxi or bus.

Of course, this will be no problem for you if you are just staying overnight in Finland with no plans to visit Helsinki. I would, however, strongly recommend you to visit the centre - unless you are coming to Finland during Christmas or in the New Year's Eve.

Contact information:
Robert Huberin tie 6
01510 VANTAA
Tel: +358 (0)9 4157 5100