How to Use The Awesome Public Transport in Helsinki

They say you can't understand a city without using its public transportation. Here's how to use Helsinki's public transport like a pro! 

Helsinki is a compact and walkable city, but it also boasts an excellent and world-renowned public transportation system. Economical, environmentally friendly, and easy to use - Helsinki public transport is a great way to get around!


Types of Helsinki Public Transport

Metro
The Helsinki Metro is the world's most northern metro and the only one in Finland. It consists of one central line laid out in a Y pattern that runs in just two directions - east and west. During rush hour, trains run every four minutes; otherwise, every eight minutes. The six stations in central Helsinki are located below ground, while the others are at street level. 

Trams
Helsinki's tram system is one of the oldest electrified tram systems in the world (it is also, unfortunately, among the slowest in Europe). Trams are the main means of getting around Helsinki, and you'll see them snaking along the streets almost everywhere. There are 13 different routes, plus a pub tram! 

Buses
Helsinki's seemingly countless bus routes serve as feeder lines to the metro, which means that most terminate or begin near the central railway station. Most buses run about every 10-15 minutes, although some are less frequent. Buses that run solely within central Helsinki are usually indicated by a bus number with two numbers (ex. #11). Regional buses that connect Helsinki with its suburbs are denoted by a bus number with three numbers (ex. #102). 

Commuter Rail
Like the regional buses, the commuter rail connects Helsinki with the suburbs. The network consists of 14 lines, all of which terminate at the central railway station. For most visitors, the only important commuter train is the new Ring Rail, which links Helsinki and Vantaa Airport. 

Ferry
The ferry runs between the Kauppatori and the island fortress of Suomenlinna. It operates year round - even when the sea is frozen! - and takes about 15 minutes. 


Planning Your Trip

The best way to figure out how to get where you want to go via Helsinki's public transport is through Journey Planner. Much like Google Maps, you simply put in where you're traveling from and to and it will give you the best possible options, including route numbers and estimated travel time. There is also an app that you can use on the go! 

If maps are more your thing, this site is your Shangri-La. 

TICKET OPTIONS

Travel Card
A travel card is a fancy plastic card that you can load money onto or use to buy a seasonal pass (minimum 14 days). It costs 5 euro but provides discounted rates. The seasonal travel card is the best option if you're planning on using public transit more than six times per week (or three roundtrips) for more than two weeks. Travel cards must be purchased from a service point (bring your passport or residence permit), but can be reloaded at ticket machines.

Suomenlinna
This ticket is valid only on the ferry and does not include transfers to other types of transit. If you're traveling with a group, everyone can travel under one ticket. Just be sure to select the appropriate number of people when you're buying it. The best place to get this ticket is from the dock at the Kauppatori right before boarding. 

 

Discounted Tickets
Children under 7 and people traveling with a child under 7 in a stroller travel for free. Children age 7-16 and students travel at reduced rates. 

Single Tickets
Single tickets are the best choice if you aren't going to use public transport much during your trip. They're valid for 60 minutes from the time of purchase and can be bought from a ticket machine, driver, or commuter train conductor. If you plan to get your ticket from a driver, you'll need cash (nothing over 20 euro). 

Day Tickets
Day tickets are the best choice if you plan on making several trips per day. They allow unlimited travel anywhere from one to seven days and are valid from the time of first use. They can be purchased from a ticket machine, driver, or conductor. 

 

Buying Your Ticket

With the exception of a tram ticket (which is valid only on trams), tickets are not specific to transportation type. One ticket allows you to travel on the metro, trams, buses, or the ferry. You can also transfer between them without buying another ticket so long as your ticket is still valid (usually 60 minutes from the time of purchase, but the expiration will be printed on your ticket). 

Instead, the price of your ticket is determined by zones. Most visitors will need a one-zone ticket, which means you'll only be traveling within Helsinki. 

All ticket machines have an English language option and accept chip-enabled credit cards. Blue ticket machines have a much wider range of tickets (including children's tickets) than pink machines. A full list of ticket machine, sales, and service locations can be found here

Public transport in Helsinki works more or less on an honor system. If you're caught without a valid ticket, you will be charged a penalty fare of 80 euros. Always keep your ticket handy! 

Traveling Via Metro

  • There are no turnstiles like in NYC or Paris, but you must swipe your day ticket or travel card at the card readers or have your paper ticket on you at all times.
  • Trains stop at every station. There is no need to signal to the driver. 
  • If a train is short, it will stop at the blue light on the platform area. 
  • Bikes are allowed free of charge. 
  • Because trains stop at every station, you don't need to press any special stop buttons. 


Traveling Via Tram

  • There is often an electronic timetable at the stop that lets you know when the next tram will arrive. 
  • Trams should stop when there are passengers waiting, but it's a good idea to wave to the driver just in case. 
  • Push the button on the doors if they don't open automatically. Push the pram button to keep them open longer. 
  • There is a ticket reader near each set of doors. If you have a day ticket, hold it up to the reader until the green light flashes. If you have a travel card with money on it, hold it up to the machine and press the "0" button until you get the green light. If you have a paper ticket, you do not need to show it to the driver. 
  • Avoid standing in front of the ticket reader, try not to talk too loudly, and don't eat or drink. 
  • Bikes aren't allowed. 
  • Most trams display the name of the next stop in Finnish and Swedish. Don't be confused if they're different!
  • Trams do not automatically stop at every stop. Press the red stop button located near your seat sometime after leaving the prior stop to indicate that you'd like to stop at the next station. 
  • Push the button on the doors if they don't open automatically. 


Traveling Via Bus

  • There is often an electronic timetable at the stop that lets you know when the next bus will arrive. 
  • You must signal to the driver that you'd like them to stop, so give a nice big wave! 
  • You should board at the door closest to the driver (unless you have a stroller, in which case you should use the middle doors). 
  • There is a ticket reader at the very front of the bus next to the driver. If you have a day ticket, hold it up to the reader until the green light flashes. If you have a travel card, hold it up to the center of the machine and quickly press the "1" button until the green light flashes. If you have a paper ticket, be prepared to show it to the driver as you board. 
  • Bikes aren't allowed. 
  • Buses do not automatically stop at every stop. Press the red stop button located near your seat sometime after leaving the prior stop to indicate that you'd like to stop at the next station. 
  • Exit at the door located toward the middle or back of the bus. 

Traveling Via Ferry

  • Purchase your ticket from the machines at the dock or swipe your day ticket or travel card at the card reader. You don't need to show paper tickets to anybody on board, but keep your ticket available.
  • In the summer, there can be a line to get on the ferry. It helps to get there a bit ahead of time. 
  • Don't miss the fantastic views!
  • Bikes are allowed for an extra fee. 
  • The ferry only makes one stop, so there's no need to worry about ending up on the wrong island. 

Traveling Via Commuter rail

  • Swipe your card at the card reader, have your paper ticket available, or purchase a ticket from the conductor. 
  • Commuter trains stop automatically at every stop. There is no need to signal to the driver. 
  • If the doors don't open automatically, push the button located near them. 
  • Bikes are allowed during off-peak hours, but not between 7am-9am or 3pm-6pm. 
  • Trains will automatically stop at every station. 
  • If the doors don't open automatically, push the button located near them. 

 

Still have questions about using Helsinki public transport? Ask away in the comments!