Is Finland really so expensive? This is the question I get probably most often once I am back from my Finnish escapade. The answer is unfortunately yes, it is expensive. Is it possible to travel cheeper in Finland and explore it without ruining your budget? Fortunately the answer is also yes. You can travel in Finland cheaper. You just need to now few smart tips that will save you money and probably also some frustrations.
1. How to choose cheaper transportation
First things first. You arrive at the airport and want to get to your hotel, but what will be the cheapest choice? The truth is that transportation in Finland is really expensive. We flew to Kittilä airport from where 14 kilometers ride to our Igloo hotel would cost us 75 euro one way using hotel transportation or 50 euro with an airport taxi. Both solutions are really pricey. There is a local bus also but the schedule is not that frequent and obviously, the bus will not take you everywhere, especially if you travel to some very remote locations.
So how to travel in Finland? What I strongly recommend is to rent a car right at the airport. Roads in Finland are almost empty and your rental car will be perfectly equipped with everything you may need to drive in the snow like winter tires or winter fuel. Not only you will be independent with your own car but in fact, it will also save you money. We have rented our Ford Focus at the Kittilä airport directly from the Europcar website. The cost of 5 days rental with insurance package was 282 euro. What is also good to know is that the most favorable price you will get booking the car online, before you travel to Finland. Renting it at the airport after your arrival can even double that price.
2. How to find affordable accommodation
Hotels can be really expensive in Finland, especially in high season time. For our first night in Levi we wanted to stay in town and book something affordable. After an online research we found out the cheapest hotel room will cost us 200 euro for a one nigh stay in a nothing but a basic standard hotel. If you prefer more sophisticated accommodation the prices can be shocking. Luxurious igloo hut cost 500 euro per night for a basic standard up to even 700 euro for a deluxe igloo with the best view. I consider this kind of luxury hotels as a special occasion experience and we did stay one night in the igloo too. But must admit I was really surprised how expensive regular hotels are and we wanted something more affordable for the rest of our stay.
How to avoid overpaying for your accommodation? First of all search local pages where the choice is much bigger. Try: Go Finland and Lomarengas. These two are the most popular among Finns. If you travel in a group it makes sense to rent a nice cabin and split the cost. There are many of them for rent and they usually have a fireplace and even a sauna.
Another great option are hostels that offer exclusive suites with bathroom and kitchen. We were lucky to find a place that I can sincerely recommend. The pets and eco friendly 7 Fells Hostel is nestled in the forest, 5 km from Ylläs Ski Resort and 52 km from Kittilä airport. Each apartment and room is individually decorated with second hand furniture and only environmentally friendly cleaning products are used on the premises. The location is great to explore the woods, enjoy local attractions and watch norther lights. You can choose between a hostel standard accommodation or a separate studio apartment with your own entrance. We paid 100 euro per night for the studio what is much cheaper than any hotel we have seen. A hostel standard room with 6 beds costs 28 euro per person.
3. How to watch northern lights for free
Northern lights, known also as aurora borealis, is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions. It is not an easy predictable occurrence and local people know very well how tricky aurora borealis is. Once you will arrive to Finland you will be literally bombarded with different northern lights tour offers. What I would advise you, it to make it on your own.
The cost of organized tour is around 100 euro per person and there is no guarantee to see anything. You can easily manage northern lights watching by yourself. Simply choose for your stay a place with good visibility point like flat land or frozen lake. Install an application called AURORA on your mobile phone and monitor it. This application will give you a pretty reliable forecast with prediction of chances to see northern lights in the next 30-60 minutes. Once the app sends you the alert that the chances are increasing you just need to get to the viewing location and wait for this nature phenomenon to occur.
This is exactly what we did and we were lucky to witness beautiful, strong northern lights with all possible colors including a very rare pink one. They were dancing on the sky for more than an hour. All totally for free. Of course, you need to take into consideration that you may not see northern lights during your stay in Finland, but at least, you will not pay for that.
You can also read my other blog post on How To Find and Photograph Northern Lights.
4. How to organize tours on your own
There are tours that you will never be able to make on your own. Husky safari, reindeer safari or escapades to some remote locations are only possible and safe when managed by local providers. They will organize the trip for you and take care not only of your entertainment but, what is more important, of your safety. Always ask locals which local tour company they advice as it’s the best recommendation.
But there are also activities that are easy to be managed by yourself and you do not need to spend money for organized tours. We did few of them and you can do it on your own as well.
Tours you can manage by yourself:
Snowshoeing in Finland is a great fun. The land is not very hilly what gives perfect conditions for a snowshoe escapade. Simply rent snowshoes (7 Fells Hostel provides them for only 10 euro per person), check the map with locals for the best truck and you are ready to go. We also had our own thermos with hot tea for a nice break at the view point we have been climbing to. As a result, the tour costed us 20 euro plus the effort of tea making, instead of 100 euro that we would need to pay for an organized snowshoe tour. Remember to plan your activity before it gets dark so you will not get lost on your way back and charge your phone before you leave.
Cross Country Skiing Tour
Cross country skiing is another great activity, especially favored by the Finns. You will find most of the beautiful tracks in Ylläs area, with a great choice of routes from a 330 km long range of ski tracks. All are dotted with cozy wooden huts perfect for a short break or really good lunch. Cross country ski equipment rent will cost you around 30 euro per day. You can find more information about cross country skiing in Finland here.
Snow Village Tour
I was really surprised to find out that snow village trip as an organized tour costs more than 100 euro per person. We met a couple that bought the tour and was disappointed with what they got for the money they payed. Out of the 2 hour trip they spend in the snow village literally 20 minutes. The rest of the time was a both ways bus transfer and long lunch break. What you can do instead is to visit the snow village on your own. The entrance will costs you 17,5 euro per person and you do not need a guide to explore it.
5. How to enjoy delicious local food for less
Restaurants in Finland are expensive. The cost of the two course dinner for two with drinks can easily exceed 100 euro. The cheapest food is fast food of course, but I have a rule that I do not travel to another country to eat pizza or burger king (of course I do eat pizza when in Italy). Food is important part of local culture that I am willing to get to know, so I always try to eat like locals do. So what and where to eat in Finland to avoid ruining your travel budget?
The first option is grocery shopping and cooking by yourself. In every bigger village you will find a supermarket where you can buy not only internationally known products but also local specialities. Local diary products, meat, berries or pastries are really delicious and affordable.
Second option was my favorite dining way in Finland. In the place where you are check the map of all the nearest cafes located along cross country skiing tracks. These are usually cozy huts, often with a nice fireplace area. What you will get there are delicious, traditional meals made from local ingredients. I can bet this will be your favorite food in Finland. The prices are really affordable, around 6-8 euro for pancakes breakfast or 15 euro for lunch menu that includes soup, pastries and drinks.
6. How to shop alcohol in Finland cheaper
If you heard that alcohol in Finland is expensive and not easy accessible, you heard it right. Due to local policy there are many alcohol restrictions introduced in the country. Finland abolished full alcohol prohibition but still, alcohol is not that accessible like in other European countries.
Alcoholic drinks are pretty expensive in bars or hotels and you can easily pay even 10 euro for a glass of table wine. Shops are much cheaper option but you need to know where to find them. You will get beer and cider in supermarkets and other food stores until 9 pm every day but you will not find there any stronger alcoholic products. Wines, liquors and spirits are sold only in special stores managed by government that are called Alko. Most of them are open from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 8 pm, and 9 am to 6 pm on Saturdays. The minimum age to buy alcohol in Finland is 18 for products not stronger than 21% Andy 20 for product over 21%.
You may also be interested in reading my other blog post on 5 Essential Things to Know Before Traveling to Finland.