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Table of Contents
- Road Trip in Finland
- First Driving Day
- Second Driving Day
- Important Remarks about Tromso
- What to See in Tromso?
- Things to See around Tromso
- Way Back to Helsinki
- Tips for a Road Trip in Finland and Norway
- Insurances for a Road Trip
- Rental Cars in Finland
- Bottom Line
Road Trip in Finland
This year's summer was exceptional for all avid travellers including us. Speaking of our summer vacation, we hadn't many options where to travel. The pandemic situation due to COVID-19 in Europe was getting better after the spring but the infection rate in many countries was still too high preventing almost everyone from travelling to sunny European beach destinations. By flying to South Europe, where we usually spend our summer vacations, we would have had a real risk of getting infected and we would also have required to stay two weeks in quarantine upon returning home to Finland.
The pandemic was well in control in Finland so we decided to travel domestically. Also, our Nordic neighbour Norway had a low infection rate of the Corona virus and that is why we finally decided to combine a visit to Finnish Lapland and to Norway. Driving with our own car was a very practical solution.
Driving from Helsinki to Lapland
Finland's map is stretch to 1,160 km from South to North. Therefore, driving from Helsinki to Finnish Lapland takes more than 1000 kilometres and from the Finnish border, an additional few hundred kilometres before reaching the city of Tromso in Norway. Luckily in the summer, there was a plenty of daylight which made the driving a lot easier.
The Whole Route to Tromso
We didn't want to stay the whole summer holiday in Finland so the road trips's destination, Tromso, was in Norway. Google Maps helped us in planning the driving route. We compared accommondation prices on a few hotel booking sites. For example, Booking.com has good a selection and affordable rates. The goal was to drive as straight as possible but based on the hotel prices, we made minor route adjustments to save some money. Our final driving route was Helsinki - Jyväskylä - Kemi - Kilpisjärvi - Tromso. On the outbound journey, we kept an overnight stop in Kemi, which was practically on the halfway to Kilpisjärvi.
First Driving Day
It was necessary to stop every now and then. Driving long distance isn't safe without enough rest. Having two shifting drivers made it also a safe travel on the road.
Refuelling Stops: First One near Lahti
Our first refueling stop was just after Lahti, only about 150 kilometres from Helsinki. Teboil sold affordable fuel and with their membership card, we got also extra discount.
During the whole trip, we consumed about 200 litres of fuel. The fuel price in Finland varies from a petrol station to another so it is possible to save from 5 to 10 percent by refueling only less expensive fuel. That is why we continuously monitored fuel prices and stopped along the way to refuel at a gas station with the cheapest price.
Lunch at Jyväskylä
After 4 hours of driving, we had our first lunch break in Jyväskylä, the city of world-famous architect Alvar Aalto. Jyväskylä is a medium-sized city so we had many choices where to eat. We ended up eating street food in Restaurant Taikuri. The food was tasty but served portions were quite small. Since we were a little late from our driving schedule, we continued driving immediately after the lunch.
Coffee at ABC Pulkkila
Our next stop was at ABC Pulkkila to buy snacks and ice cream. ABC is a gas station chain in Finland which usually has a supermarket and restaurant. We do not recommend refueling at ABC because the fuel is always pricey. Otherwise, the ABC chain is a nice option to have a lunch or coffee break.
Overnight in Kemi
We arrived to our first overnight stop in Kemi late in the evening at 10 PM. The weather was rainy and foggy slowing down our arrival to Kemi. Also, at times, reindeer were walking from one side of the forest across the road which prompted drivers including us to to slow down or stop at times. Kemi is a small coastal town in the middle of Finland. Finding our hotel was easy with the help of a navigator.
Hotel Toivola was a great choice to stay. The room on the hostel side cost only 49 euros but it was really cosy. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and the hotel had a free parking area. The hotel had also a restaurant but unfortunately, it was just closing when we arrived. We can recommend Hotel Toivola to anyone who needs a clean, cosy and affordable hotel or hostel to relax. In addition, they have a sauna free of charge.
Check the current prices of Hotel / Hostel Toivola.
Second Driving Day
Lunch at Muonio
In the next morning of our road trip, we continued driving to the North. On the route E8 close to the Finland - Sweden border, we were able to see Sweden almost all the time. Normally, it would be allowed to cross the border to Sweden anywhere but during our holiday, Finland had border restrictions lifted because of the pandemic.
We stopped to eat our first reindeer burgers in Muonio at Restaurant Hyvä Pata. The food was delightful, the restaurant itself was like from 80's making it somehow exotic.
Full Day Stop at Kilpisjärvi
We arrived to our next overnight place, Kilpisjärvi, half past 7 in the evening. We had booked a really small cabin called Unna from Tundrea Holiday Resort. Accommodation prices in Kilpisjärvi are always high due to high demand for travellers to Norway and those visiting Finland. Our mini cabin was one of the most affordable choices. Otherwise, we would have paid more than 200 euros per night which would have been too much. Our mini wooden cabin which was located under tall trees had two single beds and electricity. Linens were not included. Just outside our cabin, there was a camping site and below the reception building, there was a separate structure in-housing with a common kitchen free to use, toilets and shower facilities. Bathing area had also sauna rooms for two genders. Showering cost 2 euros per 4 minutes.
In Kilpisjärvi, our first priority was to conquer Saana Fell, one of the tallest fells in Finland. The only way to visit the summit is to walk up. It took us about 2 hours to climb up and 1 hour more to come down. The path up is steep so good hiking shoes are highly recommended. Remember to carry drinks and snacks with. There was also a cold breeze so dressing warmly was necessary.
We visited also Lake Kilpisjärvi, Tshahkal Waterfall and Kilpis Center. If we would have had a little more time, we would absolutely have visited 3-country Cairn. A short boat ride would have taken us to a point where it is possible to step into Finland, Sweden and Norway at the same time.
After the full day in Kilpisjärvi, we crossed the border from Finland to Norway. There was not any kind of border inspection even though we exited European Union. It took about 2 and half hours more to reach Tromso. Roads on the Norway side were in good condition but they were curvy. Careful driving is absolutely needed.
Finally, we arrived to Tromso in the evening. We had booked a room at Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromso in the city center. The hotel is self-service hotel having only basic services but it is really well-located. If the price matches, this hotel is a good choice.
Use Booking.com to find hotels all over the world.
Important Remarks about Tromso
Anyone going to Tromso is good to understand two important things: parking and eating.
Parking in Tromso
Parking in Tromso is expensive. Hotels do not have their own parking areas. It is free to park on the street during the night time but finding a free slot takes a lot of time. During the day time, only 1 to 2 hours parking is allowed and you have to pay a high hourly rate.
The easiest way to park is to drive to a parking tunnel. There are two of them in Tromso: Fjellet and Seminaret. Overnight parking in a tunnel costs about 10 to 20 euros but the day rate is much higher. It's better to leave early morning to save some parking budget.
Easypark is a handy app to pay parking in Tromso. In the tunnels, you need to pay to a machine before driving out.
Food Price in Norway
Eating in Norway drains you budget fast. Expect to pay from 15 to 20 euros for a good meal in Burger King. In a normal restaurant, a meal costs double. In summer time, having a picnic outside is a recommended choice to save money.
What to See in Tromso?
Tromso is a small city but there is still much to see. We visited the following places which can be recommended to every Tromso visitor.
Arctic Cathedral is a paris church in Tromso. The church is small but it has beautiful architecture. There you can unwind and take a few selfies with the beautiful background.
From Arctic Cathedral, it is only a few steps to Tromso Cable Car, which takes you to Fjellheisen. This mountain is half kilometre high and a popular hiking spot. Paths are easy to walk and safe to adults. But if you are travelling with small children, they must be supervised well. There are many places where you can fall down. The mountain has also a panorama cafe.
On summer days, visiting Tromso Southern Beach is absolutely a must. It is a lively beach and usually crowded with young people. The days in the summer are long and people stay on the beach until the midnight. If you are brave enough, dipping into the refreshing cold Arctic Sea water is great. Be aware of greedy seagulls that can steal your ice cream.
Flower lovers can head to Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden. It is not the largest botanical garden you have seen but it still deserves your visit.
Norway is not a paradise for shopping if you are meticulous about your budget. Souvenirs can be bought from the city centre but for more shopping, you need to head to a shopping mall. We visited Jekta Storsenter. It had free parking, many shops and restaurants.
Things to See around Tromso
We recommend roaming around Tromso, too. With a car, Sommaray is only 1 hour driving away from Tromso. The route is super-scenic and easy to drive. Beautiful fjords will absolutely make the driving experience more enjoyable one. Visiting Sommaray is best during a sunny day.
You will find many white sandy beaches with crystal clear water of Arctic Sea. A white beach is a perfect place to dip after exposure to the tormenting sun. Even though the water is extremely cold, you can tolerate it under the sunshine.
We had a lunch at Anne-Grete Jensen Restaurant, which is an idyllic country side cafe. Do not skip it!
Way Back to Helsinki
After almost four days in Tromso, we started driving back to Finland. Before reaching Kilpisjärvi, the first town in Finland, we stopped to see Rovijok Waterfall.
Night at Ranua
Along our driving route back to Helsinki, we had an overnight stop at a new location. We headed to Ranua, which is famous for its zoo and pandas. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit the zoo but we just slept in the hostel part of Lapland Northern Lights Hotel Ilveslinna.
Check current prices of Lapland Northern Lights Hotel Ilveslinna.
The second driving day back to home was a long ride. We drove the whole day from Ranua via Oulu to Helsinki. Because the distance was long, we had only short eating and coffee breaks.
Tips for a Road Trip in Finland and Norway
We have collected some driving tips for people planning to drive from South Finland to Lapland and maybe to Norway.
Roads in Finland and Norway
In Southern Finland, the roads are wide and in good condition. Driving is easy. The norther you go, the more narrow the roads get. The surface is not perfect but in overall, the roads are well maintained. The speed limit on highways in Finland varies between 80 and 100 km/h. Southern highways have a limit of 120 km/h.
On the Norway side, the roads are really well maintained. There are more up and downhills but they are not steep. The speed limit around Tromso varies from 70 to 90 km/h. The roads are quite narrow and curvy.
Finnish and Norwegian roads are normally not congested. We drove along the roads E75 and E7 which were the fastest routes. It was possible to drive long time without seeing any other car. Drivers in Finland follow traffic rules well because fines are extremely high.
Overtaking slower cars must be done carefully. Never try overtaking when it's forbidden by a traffic sign or by a solid white or yellow line. Enough space must be reserved for overtaking and over speeding is absolutely a NO. In Southern Finland, major roads have overtaking lanes appearing every 10 kilometres.
There are many speed cameras spread along the way when driving between Finland and Norway. Many of these speed cameras can follow your car's speed long time so it is not enough to slow down just before the camera. Respect the speed limits to avoid super expensive speeding fines.
In Southern Finland, big moose make a realistic risk. We didn't see any moose during our trip. It is unlikely that you will encounter them as well. However, in Lapland, it is common to see herd of reindeer walking on the road every now and then. They are moving quite slowly and in many cases, they are easy to spot early. It is still necessary to be extra careful because you will meet a reindeer at least once per hour. They love to wander around, especially late in the evening.
We meet also a pheasant and a capricorn. The animals just jump to the road and it was the driver's responsibility to avoid them.
If you happen to hit any animal, calling the police is recommended. The general emergency number is 112. We recommend to install Finnish 112 app that delivers automatically coordinates to the police during an emergency call.
Insurances for a Road Trip
It is never wise to travel without a travel insurance because healthcare expenses may grow big easily. Finland has a good private healthcare section but prices are high. European Union citizens may also visit cheaper public doctors but the quality does not meet the private healthcare quality.
Why not to check SafetyWing travel insurance which can be bought easily online.
Rental Cars in Finland
If you are planning for a road trip between Finland and Norway or Sweden, make sure that your own car is absolutely in good condition. Otherwise you may rent a car from any of the different car rental companies in Helsinki. We advise you to compare prices and insurance terms carefully before signing any agreement.
Read our helpful tips How to Rent a Car.
Having a road trip in Finland and Norway is a great experience. Considering the different road structure of the roads, the presence of animals lingering around and other people's driving habits, one must always be alert and extremely careful while driving. If possible, a second driver is recommended. It is wise to prepare well and make good itinerary before your road trip. Booking accommodation early is needed to get the best rates, and to make the trip less stressful.
If you rent a car, you need to understand the insurance terms well. The cheapest car may not be always the best choice. A personal travel insurance is always necessary especially when travelling outside your home country.
Our first road trip from Helsinki to Tromso was successful. Implementing a similar trip in winter time would be more challenging. That is why we recommend doing the first road trip when the weather is good.
Have you been driving in Finland or Norway? Comment below!
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Tips For Your Next Journey...
Book hotels from a reliable booking site
It is wise to book hotels on a reliable booking site. We recommend European booking.com that has good booking conditions, excellent customer service and offers the best prices.
Ensure your booking payments refundable
While there is always a risk that flights can be cancelled anytime by airlines, you should ensure your booking payments to be refundable in case of such cancellation. We use a reliable payment card which gives additional security and savings while travelling and so we recommend you getting your own Curve Card.
Don´t miss unforgettable activities and tours
Whether you are travelling near or far, make your trips more memorable by attending organized activities and tours. On GetYourGuide, you will easily find after sought sight seeings and tours at your destination.