Experience Lapland for Less
“I can never afford those types of holidays”
Have you seen those offers of 3 nights in Lapland for more than 1000 EUR per person (including flights, transfers, half board and meet santa)?
I always thought that I would never be able to afford a trip here! Thankfully, Finnish Lapland is from my experience the cheapest of the Nordics. Although what I spent is considered as “expensive” on terms of budget travel, it was indeed significantly cheaper than booking a package: I spent 6 nights in Saariselkä (Finnish Lapland) and paid around 500€.
Incl flights Munich to Rovaniemi, hire car, house, all inclusive (self catering), based on 4 people in a 3 bedroom house with a sauna.
Subsequently, if you’re willing to cook, drive and organise tours for yourself, then you can do this for a lot cheaper. There is nothing wrong with the tour companies, they do a great job of organising packages, but unfortunately these are sometimes out of people’s price ranges.
Here are some typical costs for Finland in 2018:
- B&B: 50€ per person night in a twin room
- Bed in a dorm room in a Hostel: 30€ per night
- Restaurant meals: 10-15€ for a main course
- Local beer in a restaurant: 5€
- Local beer in a supermarket: 2€
- Domestic flight (1 way): 35 – 50€
- 5L bottle of water: get it from the tap – drinkable & free
- Northern lights tour: 100€ with a guide or free independently
This is more expensive than the UK or Germany, but a lot cheaper than Norway!
Did you ever think you couldn’t afford Lapland? Here are some ways that I learned how to get to Lapland for less!
Stay for free: you can camp anywhere in Finalnd thanks to Everyman’s Right. Unlike Norway, there are no set boundaries of how close you can camp to someone’s cabin, but use common sense and try not to disturb people. Additionally, you are unable to camp in someone’s garden, in fields with crops, industrial areas, certain nature reserves and military areas, plus a narrow zone along the Russian Finnish border.
B&B or Hostels: this option may be limited in rural areas; therefore, camping or self catering might be your only option if you would like to go off the beaten track. Bare in mind, if you book a B&B or Hostel, you’ll need to find somewhere to eat, which could push the boundaries of your budget.
Self catering: this is always the cheaper option and even more cost efficient when travelling in a group. There are limited numbers of self catering cabins in rural areas of Finland, but it is a great option to enable you to explore in summer and winter on a budget (albeit, camping is the ultimate budget option here!).
Food in a restaurant could set you back around 10-15€ for meal in a mid priced restaurant and 5€ for a beer. If you are staying in a remote location then your restaurant options will be limited, so self catering might be your only option.
To our surprise and unlike the other Nordic countries, there was a Lidl. The prices here were around the same as you’d expect back home. Check in advance if there is a Lidl at your end destination; we used a Lidl in Rovaniemi and glad we did as there wasn’t one in Saariselkä. For sure, this helped to keep the overall budget lower than if we had shopped in Saariselkä.
If you’re staying in a B&B or a hostel and really want a wild experience, you could take a gas stove and rehydrate food sachets. Then pick up a gas canister when you land and then cook your food while out and about.
Bring a reusable water bottle and fill up – the tap water in Finalnd is drinkable and free!
Some hotels will offer half board. This could be a cheaper and more comforatable option if you’d prefer to have someone else cook. Shop around and remember that drinks usually aren’t included, but remember that tap water is free!
When you’re out and about, prepare your own lunch, drinks and a flask of tea (or coffee). This will help to keep the costs down.
When we were hiking, we passed no where to buy lunch or a hot drink… glad we were prepared.
Renting a car in Finland will give you absolute freedom and the ability to see things for the cost of the rental and fuel.
We paid around 38€ per day for an Opel Astra. If you take a northern lights tour, it will cost you around 100€ per person (including hot drinks, a thermal suit, biscuits and photos from the trip). If you are looking to get out of your accommodation, then a rental car is a cost effective way to see Finland.
Damage Waivers for Rental Vehicles
When renting a vehicle, there is always the possibility that it could be damaged or stolen. In this case, you’ll be liable to pay the damage excess. This is similar to the excess you’d pay on your own car insurance if your car is damaged or stolen. This can be anywhere from 200 – 1500€.
At the car rental desk, they’ll ask if you’d like to purchase a “damage waiver” insurance, which means you won’t be liable for the excess if the car is damaged or stolen.
Be aware that you can purchase this type of insurance online.
I paid around 50€ for an annual European Union policy. The car rental company wanted to charge me 14€ per day (140€ for the 10 day rental!). As you can see, it is worth taking out an external policy. I used Insurance 4 Car Hire, but shop around for the best deal.
I have had cases where a certain global rental company (while renting in Germany) tried to scare me into paying their whopping excess waiver by saying that I’d be liable for the entire cost of the car if it was damaged or stolen. This is not the case, they’d pay an excess to their insurer who would then replace or reimburse the amount for the car. Don’t be cornered by scare tactics.
If you refuse the car rental’s damage waiver, they will freeze an amount on your credit card, which could be the amount of the excess. This is unfrozen after the car is returned undamaged.
Finnair vs Scandanavian Airlines (SAS)
Believe it or not, getting to Finalnd is more affordable than you think. Finnair and SAS have daily flights from major airports such as Manchester or London.
Finnair can be the pricey option; a flight Manchester – Kittilä (via Helsinki) could set you back around 300€.
SAS offer flights Manchester – Tromso (via Oslo) for around 200€, then it is a 3 hour drive to the Finnish border. If there are 2 or more traveling then this could be a good option. I flew into Rovaniemi and then drove 3 hours to Saariselkä as this was the cheapest route.
If you fly into Norway or Sweden and plan to cross into another country, your car rental company may charge you a cross border fee – be sure to check this.
*flight prices are dependent on when you book. The costs above were based on booking 4 months in advance.
Book in advance
If you opt to use public transport or rent a car, like in the UK and other European countries, they are usually cheaper in Finland when you book them in advance.
Finalnd is known as land of a thousand lakes and in addition to this, there is the option to enjoy free activities and experience Finland at its best. Of course for this you should head for the rural areas. There are some free attractions within the cities, but cities are generally more expensive and Finalnd is home to vast amounts of nature outside of the cities.
There are costly activities that you can do such as reindeer and dog sledding, snow mobiling and visiting santa, but I have outlined some free activities.
Did you know that you can see Reindeer walking through the forests and by the road when driving through the Nordic countries? During our stay in Sarisielka, we saw so many on the drive from Rovenemi – Sarisielka.
Finnish Lapland is known as the land of a thousand lakes as well as hosting plenty of forests and mountains (in some areas). If you appreciate natural beauty and tranquillity then you won’t be disappointed.
Finland is full of beautiful hikes. We did a few around the Saariselkä area and they were all signposted. However, visibility was very poor and this can lead to some navigation problems. It is therefore advisable to take a map and compass, or if you aren’t confident using these then take a guide.
Be sure to wear bright colours and stick to the main paths, especially in forested areas. We came across several hunters in the areas and would not like to be mistaken for animals.
If the weather isn’t on your side (like it wasn’t for me), take the time to relax. Put on some cosy clothes, fluffy socks and drink a cup of tea while enjoying a book..
The northern lights can be done independently if you have your own transport or if you are staying in a rural area with no light pollution. If you are a beginner at hunting the northern lights, you can read more about chasing and photographing the northern lights here.
– Independent Travel –
Sightseeing in Finland can be done independently and free. This is a more flexible way to travel. We rented a car and used this to explore the surrounding areas and access trail heads. Additionally, this is great if you want to see the northern lights independently!
– Buddy up –
Things are cheaper in bulk: renting a car, room, guide and cooking is cheaper when you do this with a group. So buddy up and help to avoid more costs by doing things alone.
Transport to the cities
If you opt to have a stop over in Helsinki, then you will need to get from the airport to the city.
There are 2 main trains; trains I and trains P which depart every 30 minutes and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes to the main station in Helsinki. One way will cost around 3€. Tickets can be bought within the airport near the airport station.
Finnair offer an airport – city bus, which departs every 20 minutes from the main station. The journey takes around 35-45 minutes and costs around 6.50€.
If there is a big group, then check at the taxi rank for the cost of a minibus, this could work out cheaper for larger groups.
In the cities and towns, there is an abundance of ATM’s. However, if you are travelling to rural areas, bring cash. Not every village will accept credit cards or have an ATM. The currency is Euro (€).
Wi-Fi and phone connections in Finland are really great, but if you’re heading to a rural area then expect to be disconnected for a little while. This is the best part!
If Wi-Fi is a must, then check with your accommodation prior to booking.
Get away from the tourist crowds
If you really want an authentic Lapland experience, venture away from the typical tourist spots and backpacker meccas. Do your own northern lights trips, book a cabin in the middle of nowhere and watch the stars and northern lights from your hut.
It is recommended to use a guide for adventures that require specialist local knowledge such as ski touring, climbing and snow mobiling.
Bring a portable battery
There really is nothing worse than being out all day and then the photo opportunity of a lifetime appears, then you whip off the camera lens to find out you’re out of battery! Be prepared and bring a spare or portable charger.
Some areas of Finland are well off the tourist grid, which can expose you to some of the quietest and most authentic areas.
Have you got any experience in Lapland? I’d love to hear from you 🙂