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Today I’m writing on something very practical – but hopefully not too dull.  The topic transportation around Helsinki and the region.

We knew coming to Finland that we would not be driving, but rather relying public transportation.  We had heard so many good things about the public transportation system.  So, now that we’ve been here for a week and a half….

So here goes.  First, it was a bit confusing.  I think part of this is because we were new and so we didn’t know where we were heading.  The other part of it is that all the street names and locations are in Finnish (duh!).

But….You get over that pretty quick.  The public transportation has been great.  Talk about easy to use.  Here’s a few highlights of what I think a great things.

1. Mothers and fathers with children in strollers are free.  Yes, free!  This is a huge savings.  We just discovered this too.  I think the idea is to encourage mothers to take their children out and visit things, go shopping, etc.  Plus there is a big emphasis on family here in Finland, so this a great way to show in policy that you actually care about families.

2. One card for just about all transportation.  Whether it’s the bus, metro, train, or tram, you use one card, scan it and off you go.  It’s really that easy.  The Finnish have done an awesome job of making the system user-friendly.

3. Public transportation is well used.  Rush hour looks different here.  Yes there are lines of cars, but not nearly as many as a city the same size in the US.  People use public transportation here.  It does not have a bad reputation.  People don’t look down on it either.  Everyone uses it.

4. It’s well-organized.  There’s even a great website in which you put in a start and end address and it will tell you what routes to take and how long it takes to get there.  The transfer from bus to train to tram to Metro is easy, the routes make sense and the times are listed.

5. People respect the bus lanes.  Yes, people driving do not drive in the bus lanes…ever.  This speaks to a larger issue – trust and respect, but I’ll save those for another post.

Overall, getting around the greater Helsinki area is pretty easy.  Now if I could just pick up the language so I could read the street names!  LOL.