Bargain travel in Scandinavia

Last week, I travelled to Sweden, Finland and Russia from the UK- nine days in total.  Accommodation and all travel costs came to less than £400 ($730AU).

How did I manage it?  Here is an outline of my itinerary and some deals that will entice you off the couch and out to the beauty of Scandinavia!

On fairly short notice, I was required to take holidays from work before they expired (I know, very unlike me!) I wanted to visit a friend from Australia who was studying in Helsinki and with only 5 days of leave, my preference was to include two weekends, even though flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is always cheaper.

To my disappointment, flights alone were going to cost £220 and that didn’t fit my “I work-for-a-charity-and-live-in-London” budget!  Despite the looming departure date I kept delaying booking those flights: they just didn’t feel right.

I’m glad I did- because what happened instead resulted in one of the most awesome and unique trips I’ve ever made.

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View of Stockholm from SoFo

Friday 17 October London to Stockholm, Sweden

The cheapest flight I could get to Helsinki on a Friday or Saturday was around £160.  I was also looking for flights north to Rovaniemi  (the official home of Santa Claus, apparently!) but £110 return was also out of budget, so I started looking at other places to visit in Finland. A bit randomly, I discovered an overnight ferry from Stockholm, Sweden, to Turku, on the south western coast of Finland.  A cunning plan began to form: would it be cheaper to fly in to Stockholm and make my way across to Finland?

There were plenty of well priced flights to Stockholm on the Friday night: £50 with Ryan Air, (but leaving from Stansted, which is barely a London airport) and £79 and £99 with Norwegian (from Gatwick to Stockholm’s main airport, Arlanda).  I allowed myself a little luxury here and decided on the more expensive flight, because it would have me arrive at 20:30 rather than 22:30.

I took the bus to the city from Arlanda- it takes 40 minutes and costs £10- half what the train costs- and wifi is included, always useful when you first arrive somewhere. http://www.flygbussarna.se/en/arlanda

Accommodation in Stockholm

Yep- no two ways about it- accommodation in Stockholm is expensive.  I’m happy to stay in hostels to keep costs down and to meet awesome folks (such as yourself) but even so most beds were £25+ per night!  Hostels fill up fast, but I found myself reading review after review about bedbugs, dungeons and grumpy staff and not being able to make a decision.

The places with better reviews either only had 16 bed dorms left (my idea of hell!) and rooms with less beds were £35+ pounds per night! Once again, I hesitated to book- and was rewarded.  I found the site www.booking.com, who had prices significantly lower than other hostel bookers (though a smaller range of properties).  I ended up choosing an 8 bed dorm which came in at £38 in total for two nights.

Sunday 19 October, Stockholm to Turku, Finland 

For those of us from down under, the idea of moving from one country to another via a boat is foreign and dare I say a little exotic.

So how is this for value?  A cruise, a nights accommodation and transport to Finland for the princely sum of €45?  Yes, that wasn’t a typo.  That got me a private cabin with en suite- albeit at the bottom of the boat, and no window- but heck it was dark from boarding to departure anyway!

I went with Viking Ferries.  http://www.directferries.co.uk/finland.htm The trip can be done overnight and takes just over 10 hours.  You can go for even cheaper during the day (€17 ) with no cabin.

 

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Traditional Farmhouse in the Finnish south western archipeligo

Monday 20 October, Turku, South Western Finland

In Turku, there were not many cheap accommodation options, so I went for a birth on a boat that is permanently moored in Turku, the Laiva Hostel Borea http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/finland/turku/86289/

For €36 I got a private room (no window) and shared bathroom.

Tuesday 21 October,  Turku to Tampare

Get excited budget travellers, as we discuss catching the bus in Finland.  There seems to be quite a lot of competition for coach travel, and in most cases there is very little difference time wise between a bus or getting the train- but there is a HUGE difference in cost.

What I discovered was that if you book online 5 days in advance, the standard fare of €27 drops dramatically.  Using Express Bus http://www.expressbus.fi/timetables-and-tickets I got an online fare of €2.  No- that was not the discount off the price… that was the price.

Please note I wasted a further €2.50 reserving a seat….at least in the low season this is unnecessary.  There were only 8 or 9 people on the bus, and I chose a better seat on the day than the one I had reserved.  The trip took about 2 1/2 hours.

In Tampere I stayed at the Dream Hostel http://www.dreamhostel.fi/en/home/  €28 and worth every eurocent- possibly the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at.

Wednesday 22 October Tampere to Helsinki

Same deal as above with Express Bus- €5 ticket to Helsinki- again the travel time was 2 1/2 hours.

In Helsinki I stayed with my friend Morgan from back home (and all it cost me was a bottle of duty free Finlandia vodka!- €16)

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Church of the Spilled Blood- St Petersberg

Thursday 23 October- Saturday 25 October Helsinki- St Petersberg- Helsinki

I was just warming you up with that cheap bus talk.  Here is the real coup de grace of travel bargains- thanks for the tip on this Morgan. Want to see a little slice of Russia in a fun and very, very cheap way?

St Peter Line cruises www.stpeterline.com leave Helsinki around 6pm, arriving in St Petersberg at 9:30am (local time). Passengers are taken by minibus to the city centre, and picked up later when it is time to return to the ship.  You have the option of staying one day, or 3 days, and importantly- entering the country this way requires no visa.  Attaining a visa can be a long and costly process, so taking the cruise route is a significant benefit.  The boat leaves at around 7pm at night, and arrives in Helsinki at 7:30am.

I booked a cabin which included a bed and private bathroom (again no window), and the bus (which is compulsory) all of which came to €113.  Again- no typo- One Hundred & Thirteen Euros!

Tip: take your own food on the cruise.  I didn’t, and it was both overpriced and not very good. Actually, it was bad.  Buy your own alcohol at the duty free shop on board, and take in the free Russian variety show at 10pm (for a taste of the kind of things your grandparents enjoyed in the 1950s, only with girls wearing a lot less clothing).

Helsinki 25, 26 October

My final night was spent with Morgan- and as we know there is nothing like local knowledge for bargain travellers.  Buy a 24 hour public transport ticket €8  (single tickets are around €5) and you can get all kinds of places, including Seura Saari.  It is a beautiful  island in its own right, but also has an outdoor museum containing relocated Finnish houses through the ages- and is barely 20 minutes from the city centre. http://www.nba.fi/en/museums/seurasaari_openairmuseum

The flight home from Finland was £56- amazing for a Sunday afternoon, and flying with a good airline (Norwegian) and into a good airport (Gatwick).  Get the public bus to the airport- it’s not included in the 24 hour ticket, but at €5, the only places I’ve been to beat it are Berlin €3.20 on the S-Bahn and Bratislava €0.90 on a local bus!!!

So what are you waiting for?!?  It can be done- get creative, look and look again, see what else is possible and have a great adventure!

 

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Finland in Autumn… soak in the beauty and the clean air

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About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Welcome- these are travel and dating stories with a difference- there is no doubt Tina Sparkles has the ability to find the humour in any situation. Every blog is guaranteed to be a laugh- hope you enjoy!

5 Responses to “Bargain travel in Scandinavia”

  1. Looks beautiful, and love the photos Tina! I find the thought of going to Finland surreal, simply because I’ve never known anyone from there, or know anything about the place, except for the Finnish Spitz.

  2. Great blog Sparkles!!! I love the dedication to the cause – tightass-ed-ness, that is. And it was a top story too, really entertaining. If I want to cut down my tram and train journey to work, can I send you my schedule for assessment and comment? Thanks.

    Hope the fun continues for as long as it can 🙂

    Stew xx

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