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Helsinki is Finland's capital and biggest city. Other major cities include Turku (the old capital), Tampere, and Oulu in the north.
Neighbouring countries are Sweden, Norway, Estonia and Russia. The traveller route usually includes Estonia (Tallinn) and/or Sweden (Stockholm) which are a just a cheap (and usually quite fun) boat ride away from Helsinki. Connections to Russia are not too bad either, St. Petersburg being just a few hours away, but the cost of visa (50e) is certainly not very welcoming for the most budget-minded travellers.
- By airplane: Finnair with a range of international destination is the national airline and most European airlines have Helsinki as a destination. Low-cost airlines operating to Finland include at least Airberlin (Helsinki) and Ryanair (Tampere) and Air Baltic.
- Train: the only direct train connection is via Russia. You can travel by train through Sweden and then take a ferry, though. If you have an interrail ticket, there are discounts on the ferries between Stockholm and Helsinki/Turku/Mariehamn. If you take the land route via northern Sweden, there's a gap in the train network at the Swedish-Finnish border, but there are buses (with discount for interrailers, too). You can also travel by train from Hungary, Poland etc. to Estonia and then take a ferry to Helsinki, but it takes a long time and you have to change trains many times. However, it's a very interesting way to travel to Finland.
- Bus: from northern Sweden and Norway (this is the cheapest company I found), or from Russia. There are also many buses to Estonia from different countries, and from Tallinn you can take a ferry to Helsinki.
- Ferry: Viking Line sails from Stockholm/Sweden to Mariehamn, Turku and Helsinki, and from Tallinn/Estonia to Helsinki. Tallink offers the same routes, plus Rostock/Germany - Helsinki.
It's easy (though not very cheap) to get around by train or by bus. The railway company has a pretty helpful English site. Hitch-hiking is said to be fairly easy, too. Driving a car can be challenging in winter time and in areas where reindeer etc. like to walk around on the streets (particularly in Lapland).
What to do
Eat and Drink
Tips for the guests
- Always remove your shoes when entering your host's place.
- Don't worry if your host seems a bit stiff at first - it might take some time for Finns to open up, but once they do, you've made yourself a loyal and trustworthy friend.
- Honesty and straightforwardness are highly valued in Finnish culture - so don't bullshit your host...
- Your host most probably has access to a sauna. Here's a sauna etiquette that might help you deal with the possibly awkward situation of sharing a hot space with naked strangers ;-)
- Finns almost never smoke inside their homes, even if they are smokers themselves.