Finland Money-Saving Tips
LanguageSince most Finns under 50 speak excellent English, there’s no need to worry about learning Finnish in advance; a good thing, since it’s one of the world’s most unique and difficult languages. Still, as in most places, using a few words in the native tongue will endear you to locals: Hei (pronounced just like our “hey”) is hello, moi (pronounced “moy”) is see you later, and kiitos (pronounced “KEE-tose”) is thanks.
MoneyThe Euro is the monetary unit in Finland, and Finns will proudly tell you that they were, owing to their eastern time zone, actually the first country to implement its use when it was adopted Europe-wide in 2002. ATMs are plentiful – just look for the “Otto” sign. Credit cards are accepted widely, but lately are increasingly required by retailers to have a visible, metal “chip” in them (i.e., making them “smart cards”), something many US cards currently do not have.
CallingFor calls to Finland, use the country code 358 (preceded by 011 from the U.S.). For international calls from within Finland, dial 001, then the country code and number.
SaunaNo trip to Finland would be complete without a visit to sauna (not the sauna, as we’re tempted to say), a tradition born long ago in Finland, and still an important part of modern local life for its cleansing, socializing, spiritualizing, and, obviously, warming properties. Don’t worry about being naked in front of strangers – the Finns have seen it all before.
Wilderness hutsNo country in the world has as full a network of free-to-the-public wilderness huts as Finland, rendering it a budget camper’s nirvana. Mostly located in the north (especially within Lapland), the huts vary in size and quality, but the basic rule is that you come in small numbers (4 at most), you stay one night, and you leave the place exactly as you found it. For more information, visit www.luontoon.fi (from the home page, click on “destination” and then “open wilderness huts”).
Finland by TrainTrain travel is the preferred method used by Finns for getting from one city to another, and for good reason: The national VR train system is both thorough and highly efficient. Before you go, consider one of the Finland Passes offered by RailEurope, which begin at just over $200 for 3 days of adult travel within one month (www.raileurope.com).
Finland by CarThough it can cost quite a bit more than train travel, a rental car is a great way to see Finland’s beautiful scenery and back roads at your own pace (just remember that in winter, chances are very good that roads will be covered in snow and ice). Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) offers good rates, as does Avis (www.avis.com). Roads and highways are well marked, if often only in Finnish and Swedish, but universal symbols are used for warnings. Pay special attention to the elk and reindeer crossing signs you’ll see in the countryside, as you’ll likely lose any contest between an elk and your tiny rental.
Finland by AirFor longer distances within Finland, especially if you’re traveling to Lapland, you’ll want to fly. Finnair offers an excellent network of flights within Finland, but usually at a premium. Blue 1, a low cost/no frills arm of SAS, operates flights to several Finnish cities, though you may not save money nor time when you factor in airport-to-city-center transport.
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Love local markets? Snag an apartment rental so you can feast after you forage--and save on meals while you're at it.
Christine Wei Assistant Editor
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