Public Transportation around Helsinki and surrounding area is runned by HSL HRT and I found them to be quite efficient. Their website (www.hsl.fi
) is also available in English, and their route planner works well too (http://www.reittiopas.fi/en/
I was staying in Espoo, so I decided to buy the HSL/HRT 4 day regional pass for 30€, valid on all local/regional bus, tram, metro, some suburban trains and the Suomenlinna ferry for Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa region. The pass is electronically added to a single-charge card that you just tap on readers when entering any form of transport. The day pass is valid upon first tap, based on a 24 hour period, as opposed to midnight. You do not have to worry about any buttons on the readers if you are using any day pass. I found the price to be the better value as a single use regional ticket costs 5,50€ and is valid for 80 minutes only. The day pass is a better value when you buy the total days you need all at once, as the one day regional ticket is 12€, and then another 6€/day.
You can’t buy day passes on buses so I went to the R-Kioski (Finland’s equivalent to 7-11) at the Kamppi Center (Kampin Keskus) where there is the central bus terminal, metro station, and mini shopping center. The cashier worker was very nice there, spoke English, and very pleasant to help me buy my regional pass. I made the error of buying only a 3 day pass at first, I noticed before leaving and told him, he charged me the extra 6€ and made the adjustment on the pass. He told me since I hadn’t validated the card, he could easier add the extra day with no problem. I was able to pay with my credit card, which was a nice bonus. I should have bought the day pass when I was at the airport, but I wanted to confirm some plans with my friend so that I could figure out how many days I needed the pass. So, from my friend’s place, I bought the regional ticket at 5€ (now 5,50€) from the bus driver. The ticket is an electronic print out with the fare paid and the date/time of when you ticket is expired (80mins), it even mentions what bus# and time of purchase. You can purchase tickets/day pass from machines as well. I didn’t use that method, so can’t tell you for sure it’s functionality. Personally I like going to the R-Kioski (they even have one at the airport,) since they are everywhere. The cashier at the R-Kioski gave me a free card holder, which I don’t believe they include when you purchase at a machine. You’ll notice the actual card is pretty flimsy so the card holder was helpful.
Most regional buses didn’t make stop announcements (text and sometimes voice in Finnish/Swedish,) however, I noticed local buses and trams did. Of course, I’m sure if you asked the bus driver to let you know when you get to a certain stop, he/she would help. Although I don’t know for sure if all bus drivers can speak English, so write down your destination (in Finnish) just in case. Whenever I took a regional bus it was either to my friend’s place in Espoo or Kamppi Teminal (which I recognized both stops) so I didn’t have much trouble. Regional buses are not too frequent but are pretty good on time. Unfortuntely, their frequency to other regions, usually entail going to Helsinki and then transfering or have limited timetables.
The bus from Espoo to the airport had a very limited schedule so I decided I would bus to Helsinki and catch the regional airport bus at the train station. Keep in mind there are bus stops (terminus) on both sides of the train station. At the time I was there I found the signs at the train station for the airport bus non-existing and when I asked someone they didn’t really explain it properly. If facing the train entrance from Kaivokatu Street the main bus terminal is to the right, there is a bus to airport from the left side of the station, but that one is the Finnair bus. The Finnair bus is a separate ticketing from the HSL/HRT airport bus #615
. The advantage of the Finnair bus, is that it is direct to the airport, but also cost a bit more, and if you are using the regional day pass, it is not valid on them. Bus#615
makes a few stops before making it to the terminals of the airport. Don't forget to figure out if you're going to Terminal 1 (star alliance) or 2 (Finnair and One World) of Helsinki airport. If you do forget, they are connected pretty close to one another via a corridor.
***Update: So, it seems that the train from Helsinki airport to city center is now in operation, and you can use the regional day pass to travel between both points (https://www.hsl.fi/en/ringrailline
The Helsinki only or regional day pass both includes the local Suomenlinna ferry, which is a very nice 10 minute ferry ride to go explore the island on foot or bikes afterwards. I was there during the off season, and although almost everything on the island was closed except for the tourist office, it was a very nice walk around the island. I’ll write more about this island on a different post.
Tip: If you are riding on the system with a pram/pushchair (stroller) with a child between 0-6 years, you can both ride the Helsinki region transport for free. Baby body carriers/wraps do not count as a pram/pushchair, at that point it's full fare.
*UPDATE, April 2016: So the Helsinki Regional Transport has done a lot of newly improved developments in their ticketing machines, card readers, voice/text announcements, real-time waiting times and etc. I find the system to be extremely visitor friendly, so those looking to visit Helsinki and it's surrounding region should take advantage of a well designed public transportation system.
Good to know Finnish Vocabulary:
train station - rautatieasema
bus terminal at train station square - rautatientori
bus station - linja-autoasema
central bus terminal - linja-autoterminaali
single ticket - kertalippu
single regional ticket - seutulippu
day ticket - matkailijalippu