For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to write a Helsinki budget guide and debunk the misconception amongst travelers about Finland’s expensive cost of living. Almost every post I read about Finland has the word “expensive” to go along with it. I’m not going to lie to you, it is expensive to live in Finland and to travel in Helsinki surely can damage your budget – this is absolutely true with no denying.
However, like in any place in the world, there’s always a way to keep the cost down if you know where to go and spend your money. There are tons of free things to do in Helsinki and affordable ways to get to know the city without breaking the bank.
Granted, I do suggest keeping an open mind because not all free and cheap things in Helsinki are the best. Sometimes you do need to chip in an extra buck or two to actually experience something and this is the truth.
Nevertheless, after living in Helsinki for the last five years, I’ve found a few ways to see the city cheaper (or even for free) for lesser than you think. Nevertheless, with all these said, Helsinki is the capital and I can’t guarantee that the prices will be the same for other places in Finland. I’m sure it is given that the prices are higher in the capital but one thing I’m sure, the beer price remains the same.
NOTE: All prices will be in dollars (USD).
Table of Contents
- 1 A Helsinki Budget Guide – is Finland Expensive?
A Helsinki Budget Guide – is Finland Expensive?
What is the currency in Helsinki?
Finland is part of the European Union and we use Euros as our currency. This makes traveling around Europe rather easy because the hassle of exchanging currency can be a pain in the ass. Previously, Finland had Finnish Marks but since 2002, Euro’s was introduced as the new currency. Check the current foreign exchange rate here.
Accommodation prices in Helsinki
There are many nice hostels and hotels in Helsinki to stay at but there are also free ways to get your accommodation while visiting. CouchSurfing is quite active in Helsinki and from there you can find fellow travelers to host you.
However, I do suggest this with hesitation, CouchSurfing is a great place to find like-minded people who share the same interest as you when it comes to traveling but it is important to use this platform with care and do further research about the person you’re planning to stay at. So take this tip at your own risk.
Backpackers hostels in Helsinki – budget between 29-64.50 USD per night (dorm)
Hostels are a great way to really stretch your budget while in Helsinki. Not only you get a place to stay but also most of the hostels have a common kitchen where you can cook your own food so you don’t have to eat out all the time. You can be creative on how you can utilize this but if you ask me, cooking in hostels can be fun. I’ve done it on most of my trips and I love it.
Not to mention, you get to meet amazing travelers you can share expenses or explore Helsinki with if you’re traveling on your own!
There are few backpackers hostels in Helsinki that will cost you between 29 to 64.50 USD a night for a shared room, toilets, and common room. Private rooms are from 71.50 to 128 USD a night. Most of them are decent and here are few which I recommend:
- The Yard Hostel – Dorm starts at 54USD
- Eurohostel – Dorm starts at 32.30USD
- SweetDream Guesthouse – Dorm starts at 34USD
- Hotel Anna – Privates starts at 128USD
- Kongressikoti Hotel – Privates starts at 65USD
- CheapSleep Helsinki – Dorms starts at 29USD
- Hostel Diana Park – Dorms starts at 35USD
Luxury hotels for those who have an eye for design
If you’re into Nordic or Scandinavian design then you’re in luck because there are tons of amazing hotels in Helsinki that are just candies for a design fanatic. If you have a little extra money to splurge on boutique or luxury hotels so you can relax while in Helsinki then good for you, you won’t be disappointed!
I wrote a design hotel list in Helsinki you can check out to know more about the Nordic design hotel scene in the city and each one has a clear description and price range about each hotel.
However, a standard hotel price in Helsinki will cost you between 170USD to 458USD a night and that usually includes breakfast so that at least saves you one meal in a day if you don’t plan to cook for yourself while in the city.
If you’re on a tight budget, staying at a hotel is probably not the thing you will go for. I’m just throwing this in to give you a perspective about the prices in the city.
Here are a few hotels that are in the lowest price range:
- Omena Hotels – Depends on the season but Omena is cheap but it is the basic out of the most basic. It passes as a hostel to me, if I would be completely honest. As I check now, it cost about 109USD per night.
- Glo Hotel Art – Per night starts at 170USD
- Hotel F6 – Per night starts at 284USD
- Hotel Haven – Per night starts at 285USD
- Hotel Lilla Roberts – Per night starts at 295USD
I’ve personally never dived into apartment hotels in Helsinki but as of recently, the city has been advertising their brand new apartment hotels all around downtown to rent out on a per night basis. I normally prefer Airbnb when I travel because I get to have my privacy and a kitchen. Plus, I often travel with friends so I get to share the expenses. In Helsinki, it is certainly a good choice to opt for the apartment hotels if you’re not traveling alone.
An apartment hotel in Helsinki would cost you between 140 to 330USD a night and that includes a kitchen and obviously the whole place for yourself.
Here are some apartment hotels in Helsinki that are available for booking:
- Helsinki Central Apartments – 140USD per night
- Experience Living Apartments – 189USD per night
- Kallio Downtown – 137USD per night
- Go Happy Homes Apartments – 128USD per night
Food in Helsinki
Eating in Helsinki is probably what will scare off your bank account because trust me when I say this, it is expensive to eat out in this city! However, don’t fret and tell your piggy bank to stay calm because there’s always a way to get this cheap for you.
I’m a professional chef and I know the city’s restaurant scene quite well and I know where to send you off if you want to experience real Finnish cuisine. But let me tell you a secret, eat out for lunch and cook at your hostel or apartment hotel for dinner and breakfast.
Okay, I’m not sure if that’s a secret but let me explain to you why I suggest you do this. First of all, lunch restaurants in Helsinki would cost you between 9.40 to 14USD depending on which restaurant you go to.
However, dinner will often be at least 21USD per person for one single dish and tap water. That is expensive my friend. Imagine if you eat out all day including breakfast (ranging from 9.40 to 14USD) that will easily cost you roughly 60USD a day just on food! That doesn’t even include beers!
So, a friendly tip of advice, cook food! But if you’re not into cooking, don’t worry, read on and I have more advice for you.
Finnish restaurants where you can get under 25USD per meal (for dinner)
If you want to sample some of Finland’s traditional meal and dive into Helsinki’s growing restaurant scene then let me tell you that it is highly possible to do it for cheap. There are many granny-style restaurants around the city and most of them are really good, Finnish food is simple and each place I’ll recommend have the basic food you’ll want to try. Mind you that I’m recommending you dinner places, not for lunch; although they also offer lunches these you have to check when you’re here because most of the restaurants in Helsinki change their lunch menu each week.
- Ravintola Torni
- Ravintola Kuukuu
Finnish restaurants where you can get under 15USD per meal (for lunch)
Sampling Finland food for lunch in restaurants will cost you far less than going out for dinner. There are places that offer a buffet and some offer per meal. You have to be a little wary though and check these restaurants beforehand because often times Finnish restaurants that serve lunch changes their menu each week. Maybe some days they don’t even offer Finnish food at all but rather a fusion of some sort.
If you’re not so keen on eating Finnish food then there’s tons of alternative. There are many Asian or middle eastern restaurants in Helsinki that offer a buffet of different sorts of food for lunch and normally they cost somewhere between 11 to 14USD per person and that will include starters, salads, mains, and sometimes, even desserts.
As much as I want to encourage visitors to try Finnish food, not everyone can eat it every single day. So, I’ll recommend Finnish lunch restaurants that offer classic Finnish food and as well as other alternatives so you can have varieties.
Cheap alternatives for budget travelers and spend 20USD PER DAY on food!
Now, if you really want to be frugal and spend as little as possible then you’re honestly going to love these tips I’m about to give you. A lot of people are scared to visit Helsinki because it is expensive and I don’t blame them, it really is expensive here but truthfully, if you look at the right places – it is not so bad at all!
I personally spend between 12 to 16.5USD a day on food to feed two people and boy, it is not easy to always keep it tight. In that 12USD I get to make two dinners and one lunch for my partner to bring to work. I’m a total cheapskate but I value good food a lot so just because we eat 12USD doesn’t mean we eat crap, on the contrary, we eat pretty healthy every single day. Granted I cook every day, there are days we don’t spend on food at all in a day (hello leftovers) so I save up whatever we don’t spend and splurge on eating out from time to time.
So how you can make it happen for yourself even if you’re only spending a few days in Helsinki?
Easy, hit the local grocery store and check out what they have in there! Of course, you probably don’t want to spend 2USD on a kilo of potatoes or 3.50USD on a box of chicken which you’ll most likely not be able to eat it all during your stay. So, I’ll most likely get tons of hatred from fellow chefs for saying this but go for the ready-made heat-it-in-the-microwave kind of food. I’m not even going to lie, I eat them too and I don’t mind them. I think they are good for what they are!
Here’s a quick breakdown of the food you’ll find in stores which I think are decent and will help you on your budget while in Helsinki (I will try to keep this as Finnish inspired as possible):
- A cup of coffee or tea – 1€
– pre-packaged quick oats (just add hot water and voila)
– a yogurt, a banana, and a cheese rye sandwich
– chicken caesar salad box
– macaroni laatikko (this is so Finnish)
– balanssimeal box
– a fancy pansy-ish sandwich
– a pasta salad (for some reason I see tons of Finns eat this, I don’t know why)
– Korvapuusti (cinnamon roll)
– salmon soup and meatballs with mashed potatoes
– spinach soup and a box of pasta
NOTE: All that I mentioned in here can be bought from any local grocery store around Helsinki and you either eat them as they are or you heat them up in the microwave.
I feel ashamed of sending you to a grocery store and tell you to buy pre-packaged goods but hey, if you want to really keep your Helsinki budget low AND don’t want to cook, there you go. Again, I do eat these pre-packaged products myself and they are not bad. The idea is horrid but the food is eatable and will fill you up.
However, if you’re staying for about a week or so, I do suggest cooking at your hostel or apartment hotel. That way, you’ll be able to keep your Helsinki budget relatively small.
Drinking and alcohol in Helsinki
The average cost of a beer in a bar all over Helsinki
Ah, alcohol. The heart of every Finns! Not entirely, but mostly. In my personal experience, the cost of a pint of beer is a good starting point of how your Helsinki budget should look like. In Finland, that is the case at least. Finns are big drinkers with no denying and they love their traditional Finnish drinks and their beers with no doubt so alcohol is expensive in Finland, just so you know. As always, the more alcoholic (I say this with love) the locals become, the more tax they put on alcohol – that my friends, is how the system works in Finland. Unfortunately.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a pint or two! I do like the beers in Finland and to be honest, I’m a huge beer drinker myself (my gut says hello). An average pint of beer from the store will cost you between 2.35 to 3.50USD and these are decent beers so it is not really that expensive, right? Right.
However, a pint of beer from a bar in downtown Helsinki will cost you at least 8.80USD and that is shit beer. If you want a good local beer from the tap, a good 9.40USD will be the asking price. Normally a good tap beer won’t cost you more than 11.75USD so it is not so bad. Just limit yourself and don’t dare to drink with a Finn! You’ll likely go beyond two pints and a few shots and possibly an expensive taxi back to the hotel.
What is the legal drinking age for alcohol consumption in Finland?
The legal age for drinking and purchasing alcohol in Finland is 18 years old. You can buy any beverages with under 22% of alcohol from the local food store or Alko (the mighty place where they keep the strong booze). At age 22 years old, you can pretty much buy whatever you want.
Note, always bring your credentials with you because oftentimes they ask for it if you look younger than 35 years of age. It can be flattering but not funny if you don’t have your passport or ID card on hand and just want to buy an ice-cold beer.
Where to find the cheapest beer in Helsinki?
The prices of alcohol in Finland is standard and you really can’t buy anything cheaper than what I mentioned above. However, there are bars in Kallio that sell beer from the tap for a whopping 3.50USD, just walk around and go on a Kallio pub crawl to find out yourself! However, the standard tap beer often starts at 8.80USD. Again, depending on which part of the Helsinki neighborhood you are, the fluctuation of the beer prices May change.
Helsinki budget guide on drinking: Cheap alternative to get drunk
If you’re so frugal that paying 8.80USD for a pint is crazy, then you’re my kind of person. I dislike paying tons for something I can get for far less to experience the same effect. What most locals normally do here in Helsinki, especially during summer, is buy an eight-pack for 9.40 to 14USD (depending which brand) and head to the park with some snacks and have a picnic while the weather is great.
You can even buy a portable and disposable grill and have a sausage grill-fest! If you visit parks close to the city center of Helsinki during summertime such as the huge Sibelius Park (10 minutes away from the railway station) you’ll see a bunch of people gathering, grilling, and drinking. This is perfectly normal!
A quick note, however, while drinking in certain places is legal here in Finland, for some odd reason drinking alcohol while walking is illegal. Keep this in mind!
Transportation in Helsinki
Transportation in Helsinki is a bliss, everything works so well and the traffic is nothing compared to other big cities. You can easily access different places by riding the train, the tram, or the bus.
You can even pay a fee and use the city public bicycle anytime you wish! I’ve never seen any other city in the world that has the same efficiency as the transportation here in Helsinki. I’m probably a little biased because I love my city so much but hey, come and see for yourself and you’ll love it too.
Just make sure that you download the public transport app called Reittiopas and using this app you can easily find the time schedule from the spot where you are standing to your next destination. It works a little bit like the Google Maps but handier if you’re in Helsinki.
Also, there’s a new mobile app called HSL Mobile Ticket available on both Android and iOS which you can connect to your credit card and get an instant ticket (if the internet is available) if you don’t have cash or if there’s no ticket machine on the hindsight. It is handy and I use it a lot whenever I forget my bus card at home (which tends to be often, if I would be honest).
How much does transportation in Helsinki cost?
The per-entry ticket that will give you an hour of use is expensive, don’t ever buy that because that’ll easily cost you 3.75USD per entry on a bus and train, and 3.40USD for a tram.
Always buy the day ticket (11USD) or if you’re staying for a longer time than a few days, the week ticket. Granted that most places in Helsinki are walkable, sometimes the weather doesn’t comply and you might end up using the transportation system anyways, so just be sure to check the weather forecast and the places you want to check out the day before to figure out the distances. This way, you can decide if you need to use the transport system or if you rather walk everywhere.
I always suggest people who are visiting to buy a transportation ticket because some tourist spots in Helsinki may look close to each other but will take you about half an hour to an hour of walking. The distances are not long but as always if you’re just a visitor, the time is always doubled because you’re always wandering around.
If you’re only staying for a few days, it is best to tackle tons in a day and I just realized today as I write this is that if you take tram 10 that goes from Lasipalatsi on the main road near the railway station, you can tackle pretty much a lot of major touristic spots in one go. If you’re going to walk that road to tackle the same things, my friend, it will take you long.
NOTE: Assuming you’d like to visit Helsinki’s top sights and museums, as well, then you better opt for the Helsinki Card which you have the freedom to choose how long you’d like to have (it have 24-hours, 48-hours, and 72-hours validity) and with that, you can use Helsinki’s public transport for free including the ferry ride to Suomenlinna sea fortress.
A little information about Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa!
So, as I’ve covered quite a bit about a few things to do in Helsinki in another post, I’ve mentioned a bit about Espoo and the Nuuksio National Park. You see, in Helsinki, there’s this thing called “Ring” and there’s three “Rings” and these are basically the roads that divide three municipalities and these are Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa.
First-timers confuse Espoo and Vantaa as part of Helsinki, they are not and to cross these rings means you have to pay a little extra on transportation fees. So, mind that.
A per entry ticket to Espoo, for instance, will cost you 6.45USD and a day ticket will be 16.45USD. The same fees apply if you’re heading towards Vantaa.
Also, in most cases, you have to pay cash to the bus driver. However, the ticket machine does accept bank cards.
Activities and things to do in Helsinki
There are many things to do in Helsinki beyond anyone can expect. However, not all are for free but there are still tons to do. Keep a keen eye on this place because I’ll be updating this post regularly if I get new insider tips to give.
How much do the museums cost?
Depending on your likes, most museums in Helsinki cost you around 11.75USD per entry. Some galleries are for free some ask for a small fee.
If you’re interested in cultural activities and want to visit the museums in Helsinki, then I suggest purchasing the Helsinki Card which costs 54USD for a day and it enables you to visit all museums, top sights, public transport in Helsinki and as well the ferry ride to Suomenlinna island. This will also cut down your expenses quite a lot instead of pay per entry.
Free things to do in Helsinki
Thankfully there are still many free things to do in Helsinki that could balance your budget and each one is pretty entertaining so perhaps tackle the free things first and decide if paying for entrance fees is worth it. Here are few that pops in my mind:
- The senate square – where you’ll see the famous big white church also known as Helsingin Tuomionkirkko (Tuomio’s Church of Helsinki)
- Suomenlinna fortress – with your transportation day ticket, you can visit this marvelous fortress pretty much for free
- Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (free entrance on every first Friday of the month)
- Finnish Museum of Natural History(free entrance on every first Friday of the month)
- Kaisaniemi Botanical Garden
- Seurasaari open-air Museum
- National Museum of Finland(free entrance on every first Friday of the month)
What is the suggested daily Helsinki budget guide?
Obviously, this depends massively on what type of activities and what sort of accommodation you choose. However, if you really want to visit Helsinki on a budget then you could easily survive at 100USD a day. Here’s a quick breakdown of what your day could be if you’re on a travel budget trip to Helsinki:
100USD per day Helsinki budget breakdown (single traveler)
- Accommodation in a hostel: 35USD per night
- Breakfast cost: 10USD
- Lunch cost: 15USD
- Dinner cost: 25USD
- Transportation cost: 11USD (whole day ticket)
- Free activities in Helsinki: – free –
- A pint of beer in a bar: 9.40USD