Hiring a car in Helsinki Vantaa Airport
This is Finland’s busiest international airport, and as such it is well equipped for transiting passengers wanting to rent a car. There are five rental car companies to choose from: Avis, Budget, Europcar and Sixt, and their desks can all be found in the corridor connecting Terminal 1 to Terminal 2.
You can select a variety of vehicle types, from typical 4 door passenger cars, larger mini-vans, hatchbacks, and even electrical cars. Like most countries in Europe, the standard transmission tends to be manual. You can get an automatic transmission, but please be aware that these will be more expensive.
Leaving Helsinki Vantaa Airport
HEL Airport is 20km north of the capital, but the drive is only around 30 minutes if traffic is light.
Take Route 135 to Route 45. Route 45 will become Backasgatan/Mäkelänkatu, continue on this road, then take a slight right onto Hämeentie/Hämeentien silta junatien yli/Tavastvägen, then a slight left onto Broholmsgatan/Siltasaarenkatu, which will take you across the Kaisaniemenlahti Bay, and into the city proper.
You will find that usually rental companies want their vehicles returned with a full tank of petrol. You can access fuelling stations both at Helsinki Airport and on Route 45 on your way into town.
Driving in Helsinki
People drive on the right in Finland, and it is compulsory for drivers to keep their headlights on at all times. Whilst the roads are excellent in Finland, varying winter conditions can make them dangerous. If you’re planning to drive between December and March, you will have to ensure your car is fitted with winter tyres. This is a legal requirement, so most rental car companies should have these fitted automatically during this period.
There are designated parking areas, as well as spaces available in the inner city, all of which you have to pay for hourly. Please be aware though, that parking can be difficult to find in the centre of the city, luckily Helsinki offers Park & Ride services, where you can leave your car just outside the city centre, and take a convenient shuttle into town. For ease, we recommend that you ensure that your accommodation offers free parking.
Finland does not require foreign drivers to have an International Driving Permit (IDP), and they recognise licenses from any country that has signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention, you can check your country’s eligibility here. Please make sure you carry a valid license, your passport, and proof of insurance and rental agreement with you when you are driving in Finland.
What can you see and do in Helsinki?
The capital of this nation sits on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, which sweeps out to the Baltic Sea. The city’s architecture is fascinating, and reveals a lot about its history, from its Neoclassical old heart, to the newer Art Nouveau buildings of the National Museum and the Finnish National Theatre.
But to start your journey in this city, begin at Market Square. Situated in the middle of town, this paved area plays host to one of the most renowned outdoor markets on the continent. It’s a brilliant way to get a feel for the city, but also the country, as there are stalls selling all kinds of Finnish wares, from small souvenirs, to delicious local snacks and produce. There’s a great atmosphere to jump into here, and it is a good way to introduce yourself to the town.
Nearby, there is the more austere Senate Square, where lots of the city’s attractions are clustered around, from the Lutheran Cathedral, the House of Nobility, the Government Palace, and the statue of Tsar Alexander which dominates the centre of the square.
Outside of the city, only a 20 minute ferry ride away, are the islands of Suomenlinna. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features a sea fortress that extends over all six of these islands, and you will be able to while away the day learning about its history on a guided tour and then relax in its parks, restaurants and brewery!
Please note all information is current as of November 2015.