Recent estimations have put Finland up there in the top three priciest destinations in the EU. Even Sweden has been rated as something like 9% more affordable, and only the fellow Scandi bank busters of Denmark and Norway manage to trump it to the top spot. But we think there is room for bargains and some scope for travelers on a shoestring. So, what are the cheapest places in Finland?
It’s not going to be easy to seek them out. That’s why we’ve scoured the nation from the edges of the Arctic Circle to the salty beaches of the Helsinki Archipelago, all on the hunt for the spots and cities that should leave you with enough euros for a sauna visit or 10.
The good news is that there’s a pretty nice mix. From provincial towns with upcoming tech scenes to lake-shrouded cities where you can cycle around and wild swim to your heart’s content, there’s actually a decent array of options when it comes to vacationing in the cheapest places in Finland. Let’s begin…
Oulu is something of an outlier when it comes to Finnish cities. Instead of clutching the warming Baltic Sea on the far south side of the country, it’s content with the icy Gulf of Bothnia in the north. The Arctic Circle is only a stone’s throw away and the temperatures here can plummet to well below freezing for months on end when December rears its icy head.
No matter, though. None of that – the isolation nor the cold – has stopped the folks here garnering a reputation for quirkiness, vivaciousness, and innovation. The town has recently established itself as one of the pioneers of urban solar energy. The University of Oulu, meanwhile, is known as one of the great IT centers of the country, and the whole city participates in academic research into new tech and whatnot.
What we’re trying to say is don’t be put off by the hour-long flight it takes to come here from Helsinki. There are draws and they are many. In addition, you might also find that Oulu offers a bit more bang for your buck than the southern cities. It’s up there with the cheapest places in Finland to live, offering rents and commodity prices that are considerably less than what they are in the capital.
Travelers can also enjoy a range of activities that shouldn’t mean dropping stacks and stacks of euros. Hit the riverside parks to see curious statue works and flower gardens that bloom in spring. Head over to the beaches of Nallikari for an icy swim in the Baltic if you must. Dive into the Oulu Museum of Art, which costs just €7 ($7.60) for visions of thought-provoking local installation and photography works.
Given Tampere’s hefty student population – there was something like 20,000 of them in the city at last count – it should hardly come as a surprise that you can get by here on close to a shoestring budget. The largest inland town in the whole of Scandinavia, it’s home to 250,000 people and sits 100 miles north from Helsinki as the crow flies, surrounded by the lovely lakes and woodlands of the otherwise bucolic Pirkanmaa region.
Before we take a look at a few of the budget-friendly things there are to get through in Tampere, a bit of history: Human habitation here goes back some 1,300 years to the times of the Tavastian tribes. However, Tampere really hit its stride with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, which saw it turn into a bit of a powerhouse for textile production a la Manchester, driven by the arrival of prominent Scottish mill owners. Later, it gave the world groundbreaking companies like Nokia, and the town still proudly considers itself a hub for innovation and working-class people.
Hopefully, that’s set the scene for a lived-in and vibrant city. But it’s also a lived-in and vibrant city where there’s plenty to do without delving too deep into the piggy bank. Just €9 ($10) is enough to get you into the Rauhaniemi bathhouses on the outskirts of the city, where you can do as the Fins do with sessions in hot saunas and then rolls in the snow (if you dare). Meanwhile, sightseeing amid the old industrial quarter of Koskipuisto Park and the riverside is totally gratis.
Summertime jaunts to Tampere can be even easier on the wallet. Eminently cyclable, the town is a cracker for getting around on two wheels. Most rental places will do a bike hire for €10 for the whole day. That’s $11 for a chance to explore the wonderful lakesides, the urban parks, the university district – you name it!
Rated as the third-cheapest city in Finland to live in by LivingCost.org, Jyvaskyla might just be the place you’ve been seeking for that budget-friendly Nordic adventure this year. We know, we know…you’ve probably never heard of it. But therein lies part of the charm. This is truly off-the-beaten-path stuff. It’s a part of Scandinavia that few fly-in, fly-out backpackers ever get to see.
Jyvaskyla is pretty much the beating heart of southern Finland. It’s right there, smack dab in the middle of the lovely lake lands, roughly a third of the way between Helsinki in the south and Oulu (see above) in the north. Now rated as one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, it currently counts about 144,000 residents.
To be honest, you don’t even have to leave town to see what life here is all about: Proximity to nature. There’s a designated reserve in the heart of the center, stringing its way along the sides of the Tourujoki River in a patchwork of beech woods and boardwalks. There’s more of that to come, but before you exit for the lakes, be sure to check out the walking strip of Asemakatu. It’s filled with shops and bars and art galleries; very much the vena cava of the town.
Then it’s onto the lakes. Beaches like Vuorilampi and Tuomiojarvi shouldn’t cost you too much to reach and there’s swimming all year round (though winter is only for the daredevils out there). We also like the secluded jetty beach at Ritoniemen, which is harder to get to but tends to be emptier. Saunas are present at a few of the lake beaches and can be a top way to spend both days and evenings without spending a packet.
Most Fins will tell you that property prices and the cost of living generally gets higher the closer to the capital you go. But we include Helsinki on our list of the cheapest places in Finland because it can be traveled on the cheap if you know where to go and what to do. So long as you’re not hunting for a luxury break in five-star hotels or want to bag yourself a multi-room condo overlooking the marina, you should be able to get by in this Baltic town without spending too much…
First off, look to the bargain accommodation options. The good news is that Helsinki has arguably the best array of backpacker hostels of anywhere in the country. They can be pretty nice, too. Options like the YARD hostel ($-$$) come with boho lounges filled with wicker poofs and pod beds where you can score extra privacy. Then there even more bargain stays, like the CheapSleep ($), which are only the bare minimum – a bed and a bathroom. Costs in these range from about $20 to about $70 a night.
There are also plenty of free things to do in Helsinki. During the summer, there are open-air baths around the harbor area, while ferries out to the Helsinki Archipelago usually cost just a couple of dollars a pop and open up a world of pebble beaches and wooded hiking paths. If the weather’s not so good (and it’s often not!), you could visit the striking Kamppi Chapel of Silence or go full bookworm in the National Library of Finland – both are free.
Back on our LivingCost.org list, the small town of Seinajoki manages to trump a whole load of other Finnish destinations to offer estimated monthly outgoings that drop to under $1,200 per person. That’s a load less than, say, Helsinki, which pushes the average cost of living to over $1,700 per person. But what’s on offer in Seinajoki for travelers? Great question…
Wedged between the edge of the central Finnish lake district and the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia in the region of South Ostrobothnia, this town is a vision of a bustling, provincial hub. It grew out of two gunpowder foundries that made their home here in the late 1700s but quickly emerged as a handy stopover on the route north from the Baltic ports to Oulu and the Arctic Circle. And so it remains today: A convenient place to pitstop for a couple of nights before hitting the Northern Lights, and without blasting the whole travel budget.
The main draws here are the combo of the Civil Guard and Lotta Svard museums, which tell the story of the region’s defense force, and the parks that clutch the sides of two rivers flowing along either end of the center. The town has also emerged as something of a shopping hub – the sprawling mall of Torikeskus sees to it that there’s more retail square meterage than you can get through in a single trip. Oh, and there a loads of summer festivals, including one that’s 100% dedicated to tango dancing.
The cheapest places in Finland for travelers – our conclusion
When it comes to finding the cheapest places in Finland, there aren’t actually all that many options when you weigh things up against other countries in the Baltic region – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia especially. However, there are spots that do let you travel on the cheap. Some say the best bargain of all is an off-the-beaten-track jaunt to the largely unknown town of Oulu, a vibrant tech hub in the north. However, we think you can also do the mainstay sights of Helsinki without sinking too much of the piggy bank, you just have to know where to look.