In the costly city of Helsinki, opportunities to cut costs are always welcome. While finding a budget-friendly bed is possible, some hefty expenses (museums, meals, and nights on the town) are unavoidable.
If you’re planning a trip to the Finnish capital, chances are you’ll see the Helsinki Card advertised as a must-have for visitor discounts. But at a hefty €34 for a single day of visits, the tourist pass is a bit of an investment for cost-conscious Cheapos. So, is the Helsinki Card worth it?
What it offers
The Helsinki Card includes free admission to 40 museums (including the wonderful Ateneum and Kiasma art museums), as well as unlimited travel on Helsinki’s tram, bus, and ferry system. The card also offers a free city tour and discounts on day trips to nearby city of Tallinn, Estonia.
For those planning on sampling some traditional Finnish culture, the card also offers discounts at a number of restaurants—and even the city’s famous swimming hall and sauna.
Here are the 2010 prices for the Helsinki Card:
24-hour Helsinki Card costs €34 (€13 for children under 16).
48-hour card costs €45 (€16).
72-hour card costs €55 (€19).
Should you buy it?
There are a number of things to consider before deciding if the Helsinki Card is worth the euros.
Firstly, do you plan on hitting up lots of museums during your stay? Helsinki museums charge around €8—and can skyrocket up to €16 in the event of a special exhibition (such as the Picasso event currently showing at the Ateneum).
Not so fast! Even if museums are a top priority for you, note that many museums offer free admission of the first Wednesday of the month. If you plan to visit more than five museums, or your thirst for Finnish culture can’t be quenched in one Wednesday, the Helsinki Card is your best bet.
Also worth considering is how often you’ll use transportation. Helsinki is a small city, and most sights are within walking distance of one another. That said, there are a few notable exceptions located outside the city center. To reach the famous Sibelius Monument or the seaside ice-swimming Rastila camp site, you’ll need to take the tram or metro. If you’re staying in the center of town, however, there’s no need to step aboard at €2.50 a pop; the city is best explored on foot.
The bottom line
Ultimately, a realistic sense of what (and how much) you plan to see in Helsinki should inform your decision. Keep in mind that the Helsinki Card is really only worth the euros if your trip is jam-packed with sightseeing and museum-visiting.
Tip: If you do buy this tourist pass, make sure to do so online, as you’ll save €3. If you’re considering a jaunt to Tallinn or the island fortress of Suomenlinna (also covered by the card), purchase the two- or three-day Helsinki Card, so you’re able to take advantage of the card’s discounts at a more leisurely pace.