Finland //

Getting around

For the most part trains and buses integrate well, and you’ll only need to plan with care when travelling through the more remote areas of the far north and east. Trains are operated by Finnish State Railways (VR; http://www.vr.fi). Comfortable Express and InterCity trains, plus faster, tilting Pendolino trains, serve the principal cities several times a day. If you’re travelling by night train, it’s better to go for the more expensive sleeper cars if you want to get any rest, as no provision is made for sleeping in the ordinary seated carriages. Elsewhere, especially on east–west hauls through sparsely populated regions, trains are often tiny or replaced by buses on which rail passes are still valid. InterRail passes are valid on all trains. The best timetable is the Rail Pocket Guide published by VR and available from all train stations and tourist offices. Buses – privately run, but with a common ticket system – cover the whole country, but are most useful in the north. Tickets can be purchased at bus stations and most travel agents; only ordinary one-way tickets can be bought on board. The timetable (Pikavuoroaikataulut), available at all main bus stations, lists all bus routes, or check http://www.matkahuolto.fi.

Domestic flights can be comparatively cheap as well as time-saving, especially if you’re planning to visit Lapland and the far north. Finnair (http://www.finnair.com) and Blue1 (http://www.blue1.com) ), a subsidiary of SAS, operate the most flights, though Norwegian (norwegian.com) also runs a few domestic routes. Cheaper tickets are generally only available if booked well in advance. One-way tickets with Blue1 can be especially good value.

Cycling can be an enjoyable way to see the country at close quarters, particularly because the only appreciable hills are in the farthest stretches of the north. You can take your bike along with you on an InterCity train for a €10 fee (reservations rarely necessary), and most youth hostels, campsites and some hotels and tourist offices offer bike rental from around €10 per day, or €45 per week; there may also be a deposit of around €30.