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Public transport in Helsinki

Man with bus driver on a Helsinki bus

Public transport in Helsinki is efficient and reliable, making it one of Helsinki’s greatest strengths. The network of different transport options makes it easy for residents to travel to every corner of the capital region. 

The convenient service also offsets the environmental impact of heavy traffic. At least one form of regular transport serves every neighbourhood in the region, meaning that even those living far from the city centre can get around easily without a car. The City of Helsinki is investing heavily in expanding its public transport system to support sustainable growth. It aims to eliminate 69 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from traffic by the year 2035.

Helsinki Region Transport (HSL)

Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) is the capital city area’s public transport operator. It is in charge of buses, trams, an underground metro service, commuter trains and even city bikes and ferries.

Route information can be found with HSL’s Journey Planner. After you enter two locations anywhere in the capital area, the planner quickly calculates the best route for you.

You can specify what time you wish to depart or arrive, indicate if you use a wheelchair, or if you would prefer a certain mode of transportation. The Journey Planner will then generate a connection to meet your criteria. It even adds in your walking time to and from the stops, so you have a real-time schedule to follow. 

HSL app and card

The HSL app is a free application that allows you to plan trips and buy tickets on your mobile phone or other electronic device. Among its many features, it allows you to customize the Journey Planner service, so it always provides your home or work address by default. The app’s mobile tickets are valid on all modes of public transport in the Helsinki area. The HSL area is divided into four travel zones, and most of Helsinki is in the AB zone.

Alternatively, you can purchase an HSL card, which costs EUR 5 at the outset and can hold either value or a season ticket. Season tickets for public transport in Helsinki have a set price for unlimited travel within a certain period of time, available as a one-off purchase or an auto-renewing subscription. You can top up the HSL card anytime online.

HSL grants discounts to children, students, pensioners, customers over 70 years of age and people with reduced mobility. Customers with impaired visibility and those that use a wheelchair can use the services for free. Those who are travelling with a child aged between 0 and 6 years in a pram, stroller or bicycle trailer can also use HSL services without charge.

If you only need a ticket for a few days, for example if you’re visiting as a tourist, HSL sells day tickets for 1 to 13 days on the app, from service points and ticket machines.

How much does an HSL ticket cost?

In the AB zone, for example, single tickets (good for 80 minutes) sell for EUR 2.80, while an adult season ticket can be purchased for near EUR 53 monthly, if you commit for a year. See HSL’s Tickets and fares for more information.

Buses 

Buses are the most widely used form of motorised public transport in the capital area. They serve all neighbourhoods regularly, and nearly all housing units have at least one bus stop within a short walking distance. 

If you catch a bus from a stop that is not the first or last on the route, you must stand at the stop and hail the bus (raise your hand, wave if it seems the driver doesn’t see you) if you want the bus to stop for you.

You should enter the bus from the front door and either show your ticket or validate your HSL card with the card reader before you take your seat. Orange trunk route buses are an exception, in these buses you enter through the middle doors and do not need to use the card reader.

Push the red button near your seat in good time if you plan to get off at the next stop. The bus will only stop if a passenger has pushed the button or someone at the stop has hailed the bus. Bus drivers do not sell tickets or cards onboard; they must be purchased in advance.

When do I need to validate my ticket or HSL card?

Always buy your ticket before you enter a HSL vehicle, even earlier if you use the metro. On buses, HSL card holders must validate their card on the card reader immediately after they board. Drivers do not sell tickets and inspectors may board at any time. The penalty for riding without a valid ticket or card is EUR 80.

How can I make sure the driver can see me when it is dark?

Especially during the winter months, wearing a reflector significantly improves your visibility. Use one at all times when it is dark, as it just might save your life in traffic. 

Trams 

Public transport within the city centre of Helsinki relies primarily on eleven different tram routes and the underground metro system. The trams work in largely the same way as buses, although you can enter through any door once everyone who wishes to exit has left the car. Safety features prohibit the doors from closing if something is blocking them. 

HSL trams use the same card readers as HSL buses. At the busiest tram stops in the city, displays use GPS to show projected arrival times.

Do I always need to show my card or ticket?

The answer is yes for passengers on most buses, but on trams, the metro, commuter trains and orange trunk route buses, it is not necessary to show a valid card or ticket unless an inspector, driver or conductor asks you to do so.

Metro 

The metro, Helsinki’s subway or underground system, is a very fast and easy form of public transport. It has two east-west lines that serve 25 stations, linking districts in the eastern part of Helsinki to destinations west of the city. The lines pass under the Kamppi long-distance bus terminal and the Helsinki Central Railway Station, making it easy to transfer to other routes and carriers.

Metro users must be carrying a valid ticket or card after they pass the card readers, often located before the station’s escalators or steps. If you order a ticket on the HSL app, it should be valid on your mobile phone already when you enter this area. 

Allow passengers to step off the metro train before you board. A sound will play before the doors close. Metros and commuter trains in Helsinki stop at every stop on their route. Stand on the right side of escalators in the metro network, so people in a hurry can pass you on the left.

Like HSL says: the best journeys in Helsinki are made together.

Commuter trains

The 14 routes of the Helsinki area’s commuter train network are jointly operated by HSL and VR, the state-owned national railway company. They operate on four branches, three north-south lines and one route to the west. Some of the branches combine in a ring rail line that connects the Helsinki Airport with the city centre. Each route serves the Helsinki Central Railway Station

This form of public transport in Helsinki enables people living farther away to get to the city center easily. The trains are environmentally friendly, as they run on electricity and part of their braking energy is fed back into the power grid. Most are low-floor trains with spacious coaches, which makes it easy to travel with assistive devices, bikes and children in prams. There are no seat reservations, so passengers are free to sit where they like. 

Note that tickets and cards for commuter trains in Helsinki must be purchased beforehand from ticket-vending machines, kiosks or via mobile phone. HSL cards allow their holders to use commuter trains within the zone for which the card is valid. Inspectors will remove passengers who have boarded without a valid ticket or card.

Can I take my bike on the train?

Commuter trains allow bicycles on board at no cost, while long-distance trains require a small fee. The Park & Ride service allows you to park your car or bike safely and continue downtown on a speedy train.

City bikes

See our section on Cycling in Helsinki to learn more about Helsinki’s excellent and inexpensive bike sharing service.

Ferries to Helsinki’s historic fortress

HSL also operates two ferries to a UNESCO World Heritage site off the coast of Helsinki, the historic sea fortress of Suomenlinna. One ferry leaves from the Helsinki Market Square, while the other is based in Helsinki’s nearby Katajanokka district.

Suomenlinna has about 900 permanent inhabitants and 350 people work there year-round, so the HSL ferry service also provides these people with an important regular connection to the mainland. 

Are you planning to travel outside the capital city area by bus or train?

If you wish to travel outside the Helsinki metropolitan area, the online service matka.fi can help you make plans. It uses the same handy template as HSL’s Journey Planner.

Service to the Helsinki Airport

The P and I commuter trains connect the Helsinki Airport with the Central Railway Station in the city centre. The journey on both trains takes approximately 30 minutes. Several HSL buses also serve the airport, as do many long-distance buses. Check the Helsinki Airport website for timetables. Another option is a taxi service, but they are more expensive.

Do you have questions about public transport in Helsinki?

Call HSL’s customer service at +358 9 4766 4000 Mon-Fri 7:30-19, Sat-Sun 9:30-17.