Written by Antonio Diaz
So here you are! You just arrived to the capital of Finland. It can be for studying a few months or a few years, for visiting a friend, a relative or a lover, just for a few hours before continuing your trip somewhere else, a new job, a permanent life here… In any case, once you step out of the airport, bus or train station, there is a lively city out there to discover and probably some distance to your destination.
Taxi prices in Helsinki can be considered everything but cheap, tram is nice for a ride but extremely slow, train network is improving but still insufficient… so there they are! Painted in white and blue, reaching all neighborhoods of the big capital area and running almost at any time of the day and night: the public buses!
FREE! Magazine gives you 20 helpful and funny tips so from the first time you step on a bus in Helsinki, you can feel at ease like a local!
1. The main Helsinki Public Transportation office is located at the heart of the city in the metro station down the Railway Station. If you will stay for long time, the easiest way to travel is getting a transport card that can be loaded with just a selected amount of money or monthly. And they allow you to choose your favorite color, how cool is that!
2. Students (holding Finnish student cards) get half the price when loading the transportation card. In general, they always get 50% of discount traveling around Finland. So find any excuse to start or never leave your studies! And second saving money tip, line 615 will also take you to and from the Vantaa airport to Helsinki centre much cheaper than the buses provided by the flight companies.
3. So now you are at the bus stop ready for your first bus trip. Congratulations! Many around the city count with a digital board where you can easily check the minutes remaining for the bus to arrive, controlled by GPS. But watch out, although they usually work like charm, they are not always accurate. Technology is not always an exact science! Just in case, you will also find paper printed timetables in every bus stop.
4. Buses are VERY punctual in Helsinki. If it is written that will leave at 15:38, it will leave at 15:38. So be punctual to be on time at the stop. Of course as good Murphy’s Law, when some foreign friends come to visit you and you brag about the great punctuality of the buses, then the bus will be exceptionally late and you and your friends will freeze your asses at -25 degrees waiting half an hour for the next one…
5. There is a very easy to use mobile application called “Reittiopas” that will show you the fastest route on your phone when you just type your destination address.
6. At winter while you wait for the bus with your nose getting frozen, you would expect at least a small shelter in every bus stop that would protect you from that hard snowstorm falling, right? Nope, forget about it, a simple post marking the stop point will suffice and you will find no cover in the middle of the forest from the snow trying to bury you alive. Thankfully as we pointed before, the buses are punctual, so try to be on time, but do not try to be too early when it is minus 30 degrees out there and it is snowing like there is no tomorrow!
7. The non-written rule while waiting the bus is to keep as much distance as possible from the other people waiting. Do not expect a clear organization to form the queue; it does not matter if you were the first one waiting for the bus. People do not mind trying to enter from any direction once the bus approach, so sharpen your skill to foresee the exact spot where the bus will stop!
8. Do not worry if you do not speak perfect Finnish when trying to communicate with the bus driver. Many of them are actually foreigners and in general almost all of them can speak good English. In any case, if you do not have to buy the ticket directly from them, your only interaction is placing your card in front of the reader at the entrance of the bus and, optionally, telling “moi” to the driver. It is up to the good or bad mood of the driver to answer back…
9. Remember what we say about keeping as much space as possible from the other passengers while waiting the bus? Well, now when you step inside the bus, remember one of the most important rules if you do not want to assist to public suicides inside the vehicle: you NEVER sit close to another person as far as there are 2 free seats in another row of the bus. We repeat, NEVER. If you do so, God will erase all the kitten photos from Facebook and Swedish will replace Finnish as the official language of the country. Do not say later we did not tell you!
10. If the bus is full, there will be 3 or more people around you using their mobile phones. If those people are teenage girls, be sure 100% of them will be using their mobile phones.
11. Just because that boy and that girl sitting together in front of you have not exchanged a single word during the whole bus trip, it does not mean they are not happily dating.
12. Alcohol consumption inside the bus is prohibited. However, the rule gets more relaxed during the weekend, depending also how strict the bus driver is. If you do not make a mess and drink sneakily at the bottom of the bus, and you manage not to puke around, everything should be fine. But remember not to smoke inside the bus that will end up no other way than hated by all other passengers and with your bones quickly thrown away outside the bus.
13. Since last couple of years, now if you hold a monthly transport card, you do not need to pay any extra fee for night tickets. A very convenient change, taking into account the extremely expensive prices of taxis in the city. The down side is that it has killed quite a few opportunities to flirt at night with that stranger who wanted to share a cab or was looking at you with puppy eyes to help him/her to pay the night fee ticket.
14. Do not expect that the passenger sitting close to you who needs you to stand aside to exit will communicate this verbally to you. Listening to a small cough, watching him/her punch the stop button or observing the beginning of his body movement separating the ass from the seat should be enough for you to understand that you need to move. Who said verbal communication is needed inside a bus?
15. If there are teenagers sitting close to you in a bus and they happen to be of the talkative kind, you will hear the word “vittu” at least 3 times every 30 seconds.
16. If the driver forgets to stop in the requested stop or open the door, passengers will patiently wait a few seconds before (maybe) managing the braveness to shout at him for the mistake.
17. When there is a sudden break due to an almost accident on the road, you will notice clearly the dissatisfaction of the other passengers listening only to their grunting.
18. If there is an old lady (mummo in Finnish) just trying to punch the transport card in the system, you will always have to wait 1 more minute than normal to enter the bus until the driver finally takes her out of her misery and punches the transport card for her.
19. School children also use public buses to move around the city under the surveillance of their teachers. This probably would be a nightmarish thought for any other adult passenger. However, they usually behave well and make not much noise or hassle. It must be due to the fact that Finnish children do not usually sing in the bus when going on excursions… They wait until they become teenagers to join a heavy metal band.
20. Some people even shout “thanks” before jumping out of the bus, although is not always required. Be nice and show kindness to the driver. You arrive safely and cheaply to your destination! Until the next bus ride!