Bicycle Touring Experiences from Finland

Finland

On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who travel to Finland (you can share your experiences here).



Ferries in northern Europe

For far less than the cost of an air ticket, there are a whole lot of useful international automobile ferries on the seas north of Europe. These ferries carry an unlimited number of bicycles and normally charge 5 euros or less (or nothing) for the bike. Bikes never have to be disassembled, can be locked with a cable lock (u-bolt locks may be harder to find something suitable to lock to) and if you trust that no one is going to take your luggage, you don't even have to unpack. (I generally did trust, although I kept money, camera, papers, etc on my person rather than on the bike.)

I traveled ferry networks on the Baltic Sea, North Sea, and the Norwegian coast. In the North, I traveled from Tallinn, Estonia to Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki also had ferries to the other Scandinavian capitols. Then after cycling to western Finland, I grabbed a local ferry to the Aland Islands and picked up the international ferry to Stockholm, Sweden. After cycling to Oslo, Norway and cycling and taking trains through Norway, I took the Hurtigruten - the coastal steamer - from Trondheim to Bergen, Norway. In Bergen, I picked up the international overnight boat to northernmost Denmark. After riding southward through Denmark, I took a short ferry to miss the southernmost neck of Denmark and land in Rostock, Germany.

Almost all these ferries were large boats with staterooms available and multiple eating options. The Hurtigruten, which stops at just about every harbor in Norway is especially interesting. Besides carrying trucking freight and short term travelers, it also carries tourist on all-expense-paid cruises. The trip from Bergen to northern-most Norway takes 7 days and it sails at daily during much of the year. For cyclists, deck-class tickets are available and prices vary depending on where you board and disembark. The amazing scenery is available whether you are on the cruise option or not.

The other boats generally carry day or weekend travelers, many of which are traveling to destination with lower alcohol taxes. Trucks are also big users of the ferries. Almost all of the ferries listed above operate at least daily, at least during the summer. Ferry docks are normally a short cycle or a long walk from city centers.

Traveling by bicycle and ferry was very convenient and if you want to make a point-to-point trip in Northern Europe, you should check out ferry routes. Normally you can figure out where ferries travel from and to by looking on road maps and following the dashed lines leaving ports. For schedules and prices, check the web. One site that may be useful is www.ferrylines.com. It seems to have a lot of schedules. For bicycle travel, there is no reason to book ahead unless you want a stateroom. Otherwise, deck-class passengers never sell out on these ferries.

Craig Smilovitz, November 20, 2009

Bikes on public transport in Finland

I've been slowly catching up after 3 weeks in Finland, half of it bicycle touring. This is a report on bikes on public transportation.


We had four people, two single bikes, and one tandem. The tandem can convert to a single, and we were prepared to do that if necessary, but we did not have to.


Within Finland, we took many ferries, one train, and two buses. We did not have to pack the bikes or do anything else to them except take the panniers off (and attach the train ticket to the handlebar).


*** International airlines


We took our own bikes, traveling by USAir and Lufthansa. The singles are S&S coupled, the tandem is a Bike Friday Q. They were inspected by airline security and they were delayed with our other luggage by USAir on our return trip, but as far as I know there were no special problems. We were not charged extra. We stayed in Helsinki for a few days before and after the bike trip, and the hotel stored our bags and boxes.


*** Ferries


No problems. On car ferries there's always room to squeeze in another bike. If there's no one directing traffic, let the cars on and off first, then find your space. If there's someone collecting fares or directing traffic, they'll have a place in mind. We took one ferry from Hanko that didn't take cars, and they had a place on top of the boat to load bikes.


*** Trains


Trains come in many flavors. Each flavor has its own rules.


Pendolino (fast trains): As far as we can tell, no bikes.


Express: The Express we wanted to take had a baggage car. The agent said "that's better anyhow, you have a tandem". The train stops, the conductor opens the baggage door, you hand up the (unloaded) bikes, then you toss in the panniers. It cost an extra 9 euros for the single bikes, double that for the tandem. If I read the ticket correctly, a single plus trailer would also be 18 euros.


InterCity: Each (most?) train has room for 3 bikes. Reserve ahead. One of the spaces was already reserved on the one we wanted to take, so we took the next train, which was an Express. W never did figure out whether they would have taken the tandem on the InterCity. I believe they also charge for bikes on InterCity.


Local commuter trains: we have no direct information


*** Buses


A friend made advance reservations for our bikes on a couple of bus routes. When we went to pick up the tickets, it appeared that they had no trace of the reservations. They did, however, make fresh reservations. No one else was traveling with bikes that day, so I can't tell whether the reservations made any difference -- but I'd make them just in case. The buses were the big cross-country buses with baggage bays on the bottom that ran the full width of the bus. We loaded the bikes ourselves. They were not quite tall enough to stand up the bikes, so we laid the bikes on their sides. On one bus, there was lots of space. On another bus, the driver had to rearrange cargo to makes space. No problem with the tandem -- the width of the bus was sufficient to take the length of a full-sized tandem.


Mary Shaw

Mary Shaw, August 10, 2005

Arctic Circle Tour (Finland)

We took the BikeFridays to Helsinki and made our way all the way up to
Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.

We took ferries and trains too, but pedalled about 750 kilometers (500
miles). Finland is ideal for bicycle touring. There are excellent bike
route guides and maps, dedicated "bicycle roads" between many cities
and inside virtually all towns and cities. Drivers are courteous,
Daylight lasts a loooong time (in summer) and the country is virtually
flat.

Now that I'm over 60 we stay in hotels -- no more camping.

Pictures and other details at
www.gfarnsworth.com/FamaZine/BikeTrips.cfm

No hassle from TSA. As far as I can tell the cases were never opened, either way, and the tires were not deflated.


Mary Shaw, August 05, 2004

Helsinki (Vantaa), Finland

Helsinki capital area has excellent bicycle roads almost everywhere except in the very heart of the city centre (which is crazy).

General

In Finland, you are legally required to use a sidewalk bikepath, if one exists. However, they are not particularly safe, at least at higher speeds. My experience shows that most motorists don't mind proper cycling on the roadway, so do what suits you better. The only roads you shouldn't use are the motorways (green signs) and where cycling is specifically prohibited (not many of those). If you prefer the bikepaths, note that route selection is often very unintuitive, and a map is definitely necessary.

(Nearly) all the bike paths are bidirectional. If there is a solid line in the middle, one side is for bikes and the other for peds. Ride on the right side of the part designated for bikes. If the line is dotted or there is no line, ride on the right side of the path.

The route

(Around Helsinki, all the street signs are in Finnish and Swedish, both the official languages. Only the Finnish names are used in this text, they are the ones on the top of the signs. This route is mostly separated from other traffic, and is definitely the most scenic and definitely most direct. Path surface quality varies, mostly good quality gravel along the river, good to fair asphalt elsewhere.)

At the airport, wherever you have arrived, ride in the permitted direction (counterclockwise around the parking lots). After the building in blue glass, turn right to Lentajantie, then left to Ilmailutie and again left to Tietotie. The bike path starts somewhere there, but the traffic isn't considerable, so whether you use it or not is up to you.

Ride past the Aviation Museum (drop by if you want to ;), turn left at the end to Tikkurilantie and then immediately right to Lentoasemantie. Ride over the motorway Keh"a III until the T-intersection at the end. Turn right to Yl"ast"ontie and then again left 100m after the previous intersection. The sign says "Backastilan puutarha" or somesuch. At the end of the straight part, turn left and off the pavement. You'll now encounter the worst road surface of this trip.

After the pavement has started again, there is a T-intersection. Turn right, towards the bridge. Cross the bridge and the river Vantaa, and you have entered Helsinki proper.

After the bridge, take the path that makes a sharp turn to the left. You will now follow the river basically until its end. Go under the motorway, and then there is the only stop sign you will see on this route. For the curiosity, stop:) Cross the road and follow the path along the river. Then go under a bike/ped bridge and yet another motorway. Then the pavement starts again and the path makes a right turn, after which you turn left into the tunnel. And the pavement ends again. Go under a four-track railway bridge and past a bike/ped bridge. Then there is another railway bridge, below which there is a bike/ped bridge. Cross the river on this bridge. Turn right and follow the river again. You'll go through a tunnel under a motorway, past some houses, and then will arrive at a "real" road.

Now you are in Helsinki, as of anno 1550. Unfortunately for us, the city then moved a bit further south:) Turn right, cross the river (the Museum of Technology on the left) and cross the river again. If you prefer a street, turn left right after the bridge, follow the street until its end and then turn left. Otherwise, go straight on, over the motorway and then take the path to the left. Follow the street the path is supposed to follow (Kustaa Vaasan tie/Hameentie). The path then ends.

If you prefer streets, just go straight on and follow the signs to "Keskusta" and that's it, as you see the railway station. If you prefer paths, turn left and cross "H" ameentie, take the path along Paaskylankatu, and turn right at the end. Follow Sornaisten rantatie and cross it on the first bike/ped bridge.

Follow the coastline, then take the ramp onto the bridge, and take the path. The path then crosses a street, turn right after it onto the path. Then you'll just have to basically go "straight" along the path, and you are at the market place, the Presidential Palace on the right.

Phew, that was a long story for a ride of less than 20 km, which shows that orienteering on our bikepaths isn't easy. I'd be glad to answer any remaining questions at ovr@snakemail.hut.fi.

Rlesnik, April 10, 1994

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