A Solo Traveler's Guide to Finland
Anybody looking for a solo holiday in Europe for sports, culture, and crossing off bucket list items should definitely try Finland. Not only does it have a huge range of sights and activities but it is also a highly safe country to visit, even for women traveling alone. Violent crime is incredibly rare and the Finnish people are hospitable and welcoming.
Things to See and Do
Day Trip to Turku
One of Finland’s oldest and most beautiful cities, Turku, on the southwest coast, boasts some of the country’s best cultural sites, restaurants, and historic buildings. If you plan to stay longer, you can also visit Moomin World just outside of the city or tour the archipelago. Regular festivals such as the fish market, the medieval market, and the tall ships races bring even more activity into the city.
Further up north, Lapland is a popular destination for the unique experiences of visiting the Santa Claus Village, seeing wild reindeer, and spotting the Northern Lights. Lapland is quite a long trip from Helsinki and as it is highly spread out, it takes a week or two to see and do everything. But it is still worth the journey for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and memorable landscapes.
Porvoo is a medieval town of picture-perfect wooden buildings, and is easy to reach from Helsinki by bus. Wandering the streets, visiting the museums, and looking in the shops is a great way to pass time and take in the old town atmosphere. The chocolate factory with free samples is a particularly strong draw.
Where to Eat
Thankfully it isn’t too difficult to find authentic Finnish cuisine or regional dishes, even in supermarkets. For higher quality food, visit the local street vendors, cafés, or restaurants to find out what the local staples are. Regular markets and festivals provide rare opportunities to taste seasonal foods, such as the Baltic Herring Festival in Helsinki. Each city’s market hall is also a good and inexpensive place to find and sample food from local merchants.
Where to Stay
Expensive: Hotel Haven
Hotel Haven, on the harbor of central Helsinki, is the best-rated boutique hotel in Helsinki, with rooms costing around 200 euros per night. The rooms are visually pleasing and well cared for while still maintaining a Finnish charm.
Moderate: Hotel Rantapuisto
Mid-range hotels tend to be slightly further from the city center, but are still within traveling distance. Hotel Rantapuisto, for example, is located on the gulf and for around 100 euros per night, offers beautiful surroundings with quality service.
A no-thrills hostel such as Eurohostel provides cheaper accommodation for travelers for around 50 euros per night or even less. Rooms in most hostels are still comfortable with amenities, which sometimes includes a sauna.
If you’re staying elsewhere or want to take advantage of ski resorts or country activities, renting a cabin may also be a better option. They can be rented out for only several hundred euros per week, making them much cheaper per night than most hotels.
Finnish cities have good transport networks that are usually free from heavy traffic outside of rush hour. A day travel pass in Helsinki costs nine euros and can be used on the buses, trams, metro, and ferries. Other towns and cities charge per journey and can vary in price.
Smaller villages and remote places are a different matter. Some have few, if any, buses or rail connections. The best way to get around if you are staying somewhere remote is to rent a car for the duration of your trip.
Health and Safety
A major draw of visiting Finland is that there are very few health and safety issues to worry about. Even major cities are safe to walk through at night. Winter ice and snow tends to be the biggest danger. If traveling to Finland during the winter, take plenty of layers including a hat, a snowproof coat, lots of woollen clothing, thick socks, and boots with a good grip. If you are going to use a vehicle during winter, stick to main roads which have been ploughed and salted and use proper winter tyres.
During summer, the biggest dangers involve too much alcohol, especially around weekends and holidays. Every midsummer holiday there are reports of accidents at lake and island houses involving alcohol, so always be especially careful when drinking near a large body of water.
Wild animals such as bears and wolves can be found in Finland, but they will avoid humans as much as possible so attacks are exceptionally rare. If you stay out of their way, then they will stay out of yours. Bugs such as mosquitos and ticks can be a problem during the summer and if staying in a woodland area, you may need a tick shot. But annoying as they are, they don’t carry any life threatening diseases.
While violent crime is rare, theft is still somewhat common in Finland, especially in busy areas, such as the city center surrounding Helsinki train station. Using the right common sense such as keeping money in a secure inner pocket, locking your vehicle, and keeping valuables in a hotel safe will be enough to prevent a burglary.