Life

What it's like riding across Finland on a state-owned train that was comfy and cost $60 for a three-hour trip

Business Insider US
A series of images from my train ride in Finland in June 2022.
  • I traveled halfway across Finland, from Pori to Helsinki, using its state-owned rail service. 
  • The amenities were great, from a restaurant car with swivel chairs to private cabins onboard.
  • A 3-hour ride cost $60 (R948) with some extras.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

My ride was from Pori to the capital Helsinki, with a change in Tampere.

To get to Helsinki, I would take two trains changing at Tampere, for a total trip under 4 h long.

I'd been on a reporting trip and needed to get back to Helsinki for the flight home.

Pori to Helsinki by car is about 151 miles (243km).

By car that's about three hours, or half an hour more by train.

I got tickets online. It was about $60 (R948) to book at short notice.

I got the tickets online. A friendly controller came to check the tickets at every stop.

I left Pori at 10:00 and was due to arrive at Helsinki at 13:35.

The base cost of the ticket was €45 ($47 or so — a euro is worth $1.05) or R751.

I also got upgraded seats on the first leg for €6.90  (R115) and on the second for €5.90 (R98).

That gave me a total price of €57.80 or $61 (R948).

The train was a double-decker. Like every passenger train in Finland, it is run by the state.

The train on arrival in Tampere.

The train was operated by VR, the government-owned Finnish train company

My extra fee for the first leg meant I could ride on the top floor to get better views

On my way!

Leaving Pori

The upper section was up a little stairway.

The train is a double decker. I chose to ride upstairs for a small premium

This is what the cabin looked like.

The upper cabin is not too crowded, with space to put your small luggage over head.

There were functional toilets at the end of the carriage

On the bottom, the seats were similar. The train also had a place you can park your bike if you book ahead of time. 

Between the main carriages, you could book little private booths.

There were small private cabins that you could rent for a small premium.

These are two-person booths that were empty when I boarded the train.

Finns like quiet — at the end of the carriage there was a special booth for taking phone calls without disturbing people.

There was a telephone booth, to avoid bothering people in the carriage.

This is what the phone booth looked like on the inside.

This is what the phone booth looked like on the inside.

There were little onboard locker for valuables.

Marianne Guenot/Insider

They could be used for a small deposit.

The seats were functional and comfortable, with adjustable headrests.

The seats could also be reclined.

The seats could be reclined. There was a little foldaway table and a trash bag next to each chair. 

I'm pretty tall and even I could fit well in the seats, with decent leg space.

I'm reasonnably tall and could fit well in the seats, with adequate leg space.

The train was lovely and quiet. Though it was quite busy, people kept noise to a minimum.

A friendly train controller came to check tickets at each stage of the journey.

Being quiet is a Finnish national trait, and Finns are known for avoiding small talk.

From here I could enjoy the Finnish countryside passing by.

Green grass growing everywhere.

Finland is full of lakes, like this one we passed.

Marianne Guenot/Insider

These huts by the tracks are in a classic Nordic style.

I could enjoy the lovely view from the windows.

And we went by a river near some woods.

Forests stretching as far as the eye can see.

The trains made several stops between Pori and Tampere. Here was one.

When the train was still going through the countryside, I came across some lovely wooden train stations.

And I had time to chat with a Finn!

A friendly Finn sat down next to me halfway to Tampere.

I had read that it could be construed as impolite to start a conversation, but he initiated the chat, so I went along with it. We talked about Finland, Tampere, traffic laws, differences between French, British, and Finnish cultures, and other things for about 20 minutes.

I learned that just because a Finn hasn't spoken for a few minutes it doesn't mean the conversation is over.

Finns seem to be much more accustomed to taking a moment to reflect on their thoughts before carrying on. 

I made a change in Tampere and waited 24 minutes for the new train.

The train I had just got off.

Onto the next train.

Helpful signage to indicate where I should go.

On the train from Tampere to Helsinki, I booked a ticket for the restaurant car.

There was a row of four-seater tables on one side of the carriage, single seats facing the window on the other.

I sat on one of the single chairs that faced the windows.

I sat on one of the single chairs in the restaurant cars.

The seats in the carriage were leather-bound and comfortable. They can also swivel all the way round.

These chairs are leather-bound and can swivel all the way around. People sitting next to me used it to have a leasurely drink with their friends who were sat at a table behind the chair.

The chair swivel is practical if you want to face more towards the direction of travel.

This is the view when the chai is swivelled towards the front.

It's also a way to stay sociable with your friends if they are sitting at a table near you. The person next to me had her chair turned all the way around to join in with someone else.

A little pull-away table was tucked under the desk in front of the chair.

The chair faced the window, with a little pull away table.

It was a great place to get a little work done.

My laptop fit perfectly.

Power outlets at the table came in handy.

Convenient outlets helped with the work setting.

The atmosphere was definitely a little more lively than on the quiet countryside train from Pori.

The atmosphere in this carriage was definitely a little more rowdy than in the quiet countryside train from Pori.

The carriage filled up quickly, and people were definitely a little more animated. Some were playing cards, others having a laugh around a drink. 

A sign on the wall said that you can rent the whole carriage out for a party or a conference. 

At lunchtime, I headed to the lower level of the carriage to buy food.

These lead to a bar downstairs

Below the restaurant carriage is a bar where you can buy food and drinks. 

This one had a phone booth too.

This train had a phone booth as well.

There was a queue at the bar. I learned later that you can avoid this by booking food to be brought to you.

There was a queue at the bar, at that time it was already lunchtime. I learned later I could have had my food delivered to my table.

In the meantime, I could still enjoy the view.

In the meantime, I could still enjoy the view.

There was a wide selection of foods available, with a menu in Finnish and English.

There was a wide selection of foods available. Too bad I couldn't read Finnish!

I saw other passengers eat hot dishes, but I stuck with the sandwiches I could see in this case.

I saw other passengers eat hot dishes, but I stuck with the sandwiches I could see in this case.

I decided for a rye bread sandwich and some wine.

I decided for a rye bread sandwich and some wine.

The sandwich was €4.90 (R82) and the wine — famously expensive in Finland — was about €10 (R167).

And there were more lakes and forests to check out.

Another lake.

While enjoying the lovely views.

I arrived at the Helsinki train station on time.

Arrival in Helsinki.

Here I am on the platform.

Here I am, in Helsinki!

Helsinki's main station is in the middle of the city, a good spot to keep exploring.

Ready to visit Helsinki!

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