The Scandinavian Countries are some of the most expensive in Europe but can you still visit Helsinki on a budget? If you haven’t got much money, is Helsinki worth visiting, especially with kids? We just spent 6 days in Helsinki and we’re going to give you a rundown of some of our costs and how you can make your trip there cheaper.
A Quick Helsinki Visitors Guide Post Covid
We (this trip 2 adults & 2 kids) visited Helsinki during the last week of May and the first week of June 2022.
There were no COVID restrictions on the flights or in Helsinki, face masks were voluntary if you chose to and there were hand sanitiser units in most museums. We flew from Stanstead to Helsinki although our outbound flight was at 6 am! Our flights cost £281.92, not including seats or luggage. We flew with only hand luggage (40x25x20cm) and took random seats. Click here (opens in new tab) to see how much flights to Helsinki might cost you)
Helsinki is further north than we’ve ever visited before and the weather was a mix of 13 degrees (celsius) with rain and 17 degrees with bright sunshine and blue skies. The wind was quite strong, especially on the coast, so we took plenty of layers including a waterproof coat. We didn’t take an umbrella and we wished we had.
Helsinki city is easy to travel but you’ll need to be prepared to use a combination of trams, buses, metro and rail. Using the HSL App (click the link to download the app) is the easiest way to get around. You literally enter a start and finish destination and it’ll give a combination of ways to get there, including the walking distance between them. It even shows you real-time location on a map! It’s possibly the best app I have ever used. Like, ever! We never got lost once.
Cost Of Living Helsinki: Is Helsinki Expensive?
The cost of living in Helsinki is relatively high.
- Coffee and cake cost (at the time of writing 06/2022) €10, a bowl of soup was between €10-13, a main dish could be €20 and above.
- An all-day ticket on HSL including trams, buses and rail is €11 for adults. It is cheaper to buy multiple-day tickets.
- The hostel we stayed in cost £83.49 per night for a private 4-bed room. I found a number of apartments which cost the same but were further north of the city. In hindsight, it might have been a better option.
- The biggest cost we noticed was museum tickets, coming from the UK where museums are free, these seemed extortionate however we overcame this by purchasing all-inclusive, 3-day tickets. I would definitely recommend this option.
Where Else Could You Stay In Helsinki?
Use this interactive map to search different accommodation providers in Helsinki.
Is Helsinki Worth Visiting On A Budget?
I loved Helsinki and I’m really glad that we visited. Some of the things I liked the most were the inlets and closeness to the water, how clean & well looked after it was, the investment in people and infrastructure and the architecture which is a mix of Soviet & Scandinavian.
We rarely do city visits so this made a change and I’ve wanted to visit Finland for over 4 years now. If you’re not a city person, you could skip Helsinki and head further north to some of the Finnish parks or further north still and head to some of the glass igloos.
Making Helsinki Cheaper: Things I Took With Us
Meal prep boxes so we could make sandwiches every day. On average 4 bowls of soup would cost us €40-53, so making sandwiches saved us a lot of money. There was a 24-hour shop under our hostel and costs for food were comparable with the UK. What I loved about the shop was the huge array of food, including protein yoghurts, Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit & veg, selections of cold meats & cheese as well as pastries, frozen fruits, bars of chocolate and loads more.
To keep costs low, I made porridge every morning and topped it with frozen fruit. I made meat & cheese sandwiches & we had high-protein yoghurts, chocolate, biscuits & fresh fruit for lunch. To keep the kids happy, I also bought them a large bar of chocolate every day! I also made small Nutella sandwiches for a snack later on in the day. On average this cost roughly €20 a day.
These collapsable lunch boxes were great as they folded down inside the harder ones, shown above
Beeswax Wraps to wrap the sandwiches in. They take up virtually no space and can be reused for the kid’s sandwiches when they go to school.
Clear travel bags as we flew with only hand luggage. At Stanstead, I got these out of our bags and they passed through security without needing to be unpacked.
I also took these travel bottles and filled them with shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, face wash etc.
3 days in Helsinki On A Budget: Itinerary
Helsinki in 3 days is really doable but you’ll need to be prepared to get up early and have full days. Nearly all of the museums are open between 10 am-9 pm although most are closed on Mondays.
You’ll need to start by purchasing all-inclusive, 3-day tickets.before you go. You can collect them from either the Holiday Inn in town or head to the Quayside and collect them from next to the boat with the big yellow flags. Tickets cost €51/25 for 1 day, €63/31 for 2 days or €74/37 for 3 days. For 4 people, tickets will cost €222.
What do you get for your ticket? All-inclusive cost on HSL trams, metro & buses, the ferry to Suomenlinna and 2 boat cruises, plus Hop on Hop Off bus (only the red & green signs) (there are 2 hop on hop off bus companies & both buses are red!) as well as entry to:
- Art Museums: Amos Rex, Design Museum, HAM, Emma & WeeGee, Sinebrychoff, Photography K1, Finnish museum of photography, Kiasma.
- Museums: Finnish Architecture, Hotel & Restaurant Museum, Seurasaari open-air museum, sports museum, museum of technology, National Museum of Finland, Theatre Museum.
- Houses/Estates: Villa Hakasalmi, Hvittrask, Mannerheim Museum, Tamimieni.
- Other: Rock Church, Finnish nature centre Haltia.
The ones in bold are those that we visited and entry to the majority of these museums costs between €20-30 each, so it is definitely worth purchasing the all-inclusive, 3-day city tickets.
Here are some examples of itineraries you could follow:
Day 1: Canal tour around the bay (you could add the boat city tour after). A quick visit to the Helsinki Market Hall or the Market Square. Mannerheim or Sinebrychoff. Ferry to Suomenlinna.
Day 2: National Museum of Finland. Amos Rex. HAM. Hotel & Restaurant Museum & Finnish Museum of Photography. Cafe Regatta (you get to roast sausages over an open fire for €2 here) and walk over to Sibelius. Emma & WeeGee.
Day 3: Seurasaari open-air museum (only if you’re travelling in the summer months). Sports Museum and Olympic tower (the tower costs an extra €6 each). Rock Church (10-minute service is at 12pm). Design Museum. Museum of Technology.
4 days in Budget-Friendly Helsinki: Itinerary
Use the above itinerary but on the 4th day you could:
- Go for a sauna/swim at Allas Sea Pools or hop on the ferry and head over to Lonna. Lonna is a public sauna costs were €76 for 4 of us, whereas Allas cost €45 for 4.
- Head to Lapinlahti mental asylum and walk around the coastal path & parks to Hietaranta Beach. An enormous beach with a small playpark and wooded areas.
- Go for a walk around Kaivopuisto Park, visit the jetty at Ullanlinnanlaituni and carry on walking around the coastal path to Ursinin Kallio park.
- Visit the library in Helsinki (which is an amazing space and has 2 cafes).
- The City Museum is free to visit as is the Tram Museum & is directly opposite the white Cathedral.
Shoestring Family Travel Helsinki With Kids & Teens
I would not have wanted to take young kids to Helsinki because as far as I can work out, the only museum specifically catering to little kids was The City Museum and the Library also has a specific kid area (3rd floor). However, there are plenty of parks with swings which always seemed to work with our two.
My kids are 12 and nearly 14 now and they were much more able to cope with the travel necessities and visiting museums they didn’t necessarily want to visit.
Nearly all of the museums are indoors, the canal cruises can be sat inside but the weather can be temperamental. Remember to pack waterproofs and jumpers. The tram and bus stops don’t always link up and there is quite a bit of walking in between stops.
Is Helsinki Buggy Friendly Or Wheelchair Friendly
The trams, metros, buses and rail are all incredibly friendly, patient and accommodating to wheels. Throughout Helsinki are cobbled stones and tram lines which might make it difficult to cross however, I saw a huge number of wheelchair users there. Far more than I’ve ever seen in the UK!
Many pavements have double sections for pedestrians and cyclists, making it easier to navigate. All of the museums have buggy areas where you can leave your buggy and it’s commonplace to leave all of your wet weather gear in lockers provided by the museums.
There are lifts in most buildings but not all and I saw a large number of toilets with access and baby changing stations are common. In general, it’s very family-friendly but not much is specifically catered to small kids.
Finnish pastries are delicious. Something you’ll find in most bakeries are cinnamon rolls, pistachio folds and sugar doughnuts. We visited a bakery every other day so we could give our kids something nice but it definitely added to the overall price. On average cafe costs were €16-25.
Costs For 6 Days In Helsinki
Some of our costs included:
- Flights – £281.92
- Hostel – £386
- 1 day HSL travel – €33
- All-inclusive, 3-day Helsinki City tickets €222
- Italian Meal – €67
- Soup at Soup & More – €53
- Kanniston Coffee – €29.90
- Coffee at Johan & Nystrom – €16.20
- Regatta Cafe – €25
In total 5 nights/6 days cost us roughly £1,500. In comparison, we spent 4 weeks on Madeira and spent less than £900! City breaks are always going to be expensive but this was very expensive. I’m glad we did it but I wouldn’t necessarily do it again. I loved Finland but I’m always happier in my car, exploring the countryside and hiking.
Helsinki On A Budget: Could You Make It Cheaper?
If you want to make Helsinki more budget-friendly you could:
- Walk rather than get HSL transport tickets
- Buy all the shopping at once from Lidl
- Take dried food with you, such as pasta, rice, dried mashed potatoes
- Don’t eat out! By far the biggest expense was eating out & getting cakes
- Make your own coffee and take it in one of these slimline thermos flasks
- Consider renting a car (roughly £250-300 a week) and heading to different parts of Finland. Click here (opens in new tab) to see how much car hire in Helsinki might cost you)
- Only spend 3 days in Helsinki city and have all of your costs covered by the inclusive city cards.
Have A Look For Flights To Helsinki
We booked the cheapest flights we could.
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Look For Other Ideas On Places To Visit
Keep an eye out for our posts on Tallinn, Estonia because we liked it more than Finland and it was much cheaper too.