Review: Is the Helsinki card worth it?
How expensive is Helsinki? As someone used to London prices, I winced at the cost of everything from taxis to the price of a small biscuit in the Moomin cafe (especially compared to the first part of our trip in Tallinn). But there is one way to save money in Helsinki – with a Helsinki Card.
At least that’s the promise. Having tried city passes in various European cities, from Copenhagen to Amsterdam, Paris and Porto, there’s a big variety on offer, from the ones which make it easy to cost up your exploring to the ones where you need to visit 20 attractions a day or find only a few discounts are worth it.
It’s worth pointing out that there’s also a Helsinki city card, which is a different option if you’re hoping for a cheap Helsinki city break – you can check that out here. But is the Helsinki card worth it? Here’s what I thought.
Which Helsinki card to get?
First, the basics – you can buy cards to cover three different time periods, for 24, 48 or 72 hours. Plus you can get two different versions depending what public transport you would like to be included – the Helsinki Card City, which covers the Helsinki metropolitan area but not travel from Helsinki airport to Helsinki.
Or you can get the Helsinki Card Region, which also includes Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa, travel to/from Helsinki airport from Helsinki using the Ring Rail Line, various ferries and commuter trains.
A standard train ticket between the airport and the city costs 5,50 Euros so as long as your card is still valid when you travel, it’s worth having: the biggest different between the city and region cards is 6 Euros. There are also child cards for ages seven to 16, kids under 7 can travel free on public transport and often free or with discounts on entry to attractions
Plus there’s free entry to over 25 attractions, tours and museums including my own highlight, Suomenlinna Fortress as well as Temppeliaukio Church (the rock church) and family-friendly options such as the free hop on hop off bus tour (only from May to September).
If you’re wondering how much there really is to do on a Helsinki city break, check out my reasons to visit…
How does the Helsinki card work?
The cards are valid for a year from the date when you buy them – so if you know you’re visiting in a few months’ time and spot a special offer online, snap it up now… if you buy it directly online, you can have it sent to you or pick it up for free at various locations around the city including the airport, the train station as well as the Stromma booths in the city centre at Market Square and Esplanade Park, which also sell the cards if you haven’t ordered in advance.
They’ll only start from the moment you first use them. So if you first activate yours at 5pm on a Friday, a 24-hour card will be valid until 5pm on a Saturday, or 5pm on a Sunday for a 48-hour card, rather than for a single day.
On public transport, touch it on the reader to validate it the first time, and it’ll then show the amount of time you have remaining on any future trips. If you’re using it first in an attraction, just show the card and write the time/date on the back. Actually, makes sense to do that anyway…
Is the Helsinki card worth it?
So far, so straightforward. But will it save you money? Helpfully the website has a list of the standard entry charges so you can cost up what you’d spend without the card – the hop-on hop-off bus tour is 30 Euros, for example, entry into the rock church is just 3 Euros.
The Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and tours is listed as 37 Euros alone – a 24-hour Helsinki card is 48 Euros full-price (and discounts of 10% or more aren’t uncommon) so a single day on the island with public transport means you’ll break even.
That does assume that you take the guided tour (travelling with a five-year-old, we didn’t) and visit the four museums with entry costs which are included – we did go into the Suomenlinna museum and the Submarine Vesikko (very cool!) but not the other two. Two of the museums also close during the winter months. And the toy museum on the island gets a discount but not free entry.
But does the Helsinki card save you money? The short answer…
Really, this isn’t a tough one to debate. With a 48h card at around 58 Euros, we saved 60 Euros on two museums on Suomenlinna, entry to the National Museum of Finland and the rock church, plus the hop-on hop-off bus tour alone.
Not to mention the ferry to and from Suomenlinna, a discount on the toy museum – and we ended up spending a chunk of our time chilling out at Allas sea pools (not included) rather than jumping on the canal cruise (which would have saved another 25 Euros) as we’d originally intended.
Any one of the art and design museums would have added 10-15 Euros to the savings tally and I had been tempted by Seurasaari open air museum as well. If you haven’t just come from Tallinn, like us, you can use it to get discounts on a day trip to Estonia and on a Tallinn card.
There’s even 10% off at the Moomin shop, including the one at the airport. Alas, ours had expired by the time we bought our mini souvenir Moomin but fans could make a killing using the card – that memorabilia isn’t cheap!
Looking at the complicated variety of single tickets for the trams alone – prices vary between 2,20 and 3,20 depending whether you have a mobile ticket using the app, bought it from a machine or got it on a bus – I would definitely pay money not to have to wrap my head around it for a short stay. We were only in the Design district but even a few journeys with a tired small girl or with lots of luggage on the way to the airport, meant the option to hop on the trams was priceless.
If you don’t have the Helsinki card, you can also pick up a Helsinki travel card, costing from 9 Euros for a day – buy these in various places around the city or on public transport. There’s no Helsinki tourist travel card as such – the Helsinki city card or the standard day travel cards are the only equivalent alternatives.
As ever, the more you pack in, the more you save. But as ever, the savings depend what you’re planning to do – and there’s one last word of warning with Helsinki.
Unlike most other cities I’ve visited, where the advice applies year-round, if you’re travelling from October to April, it’s worth doublechecking if any attractions are closed – not least to make your plans, but also to factor in to your calculations.
Let me know if you’ve got any other travel hacks for Helsinki?
PIN FOR LATER: IS THE HELSINKI CARD WORTH IT?
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