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Passenger trains leave Helsinki twice daily for St. Petersburg (5½ hours) and once daily on an overnighter to Moscow (13 hours). Remember that you need a visa to travel to Russia. To get to northern Sweden or Norway, you must combine train–bus or train–boat travel.
The Finnish State Railways, or VR, serve southern Finland well, but connections in the central and northern sections are scarcer and are supplemented by buses. Helsinki is the main junction, with Riihimäki to the north a major hub. You can get as far north as Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi by rail, but to penetrate farther into Lapland, you'll need to rely on buses, domestic flights, or local taxis.
Note that all train travelers in Finland must have a reserved seat, but it is possible to buy a seat ticket on the train. Special fast trains (Intercity and the Helsinki-Turku Pendolino) are more expensive but also more comfortable. First- and second-class seats are available on all express trains.
Finnish Railways (0600/41–902 €1 plus local network charge. www.vr.fi.)
Rail Europe (888/382–7245. 800/622–8600 in the United States. www.raileurope.com.)
Travelers posting in the Travel Talk Forums at Fodors.com recommend the following budget saving tips.
For trips on Matkahuolto (the Finnish bus network) that are longer than 80 km (50 mi) one-way, children ages 4-11 get a discount of 50%; senior citizens and teens between 12 and 16 get 30%. Adults in groups of three or more are entitled to a 25% discount. Children under 4 travel free with an adult.
For car rentals, look into package rates for three- and seven-day trips, and watch for weekend and summer discounts. It's cheaper to rent directly from the United States before coming to Finland; most agencies allow booking through their Web sites. Some Finnish service stations also offer car rentals at reduced rates.
Children ages 6-16 travel half-fare. There is a 15% reduction when 3-10 people travel together and a 20% discount for groups of 11 or more. Senior citizens (over 65) can get 50% discounts on train fares. With a Familyticket, children under 17 travel free when accompanied by an adult with a full-priced ticket.
The Finnrail Pass gives unlimited first- or second-class travel within a month's time for passengers living permanently outside Finland; the 3-day pass costs €131, the 5-day pass €175, and the 10-day pass €237 (€195, €260, and €353, respectively, for first-class). Children under 17 receive a 50-percent discount. Passes can be purchased from the Finnish Railways, or VR. TourExpert at the Helsinki City Tourist Office also sells Finnrail passes.
Eurail's Scandinavia rail pass allows unlimited second-class travel throughout Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and comes in various denominations. It is valid for 4 days of unlimited travel in any two-month period ($367); 5 days of unlimited travel in two months ($407); 6 days in two months ($463); 8 days ($515); 10 days ($571). It must be used within six months of purchase. A rail pass with similar conditions is available for travel solely within Finland.
DER Travel Services (800/782–2424. www.der.com.)
Residents of countries outside the EU can recover 10% to 16% of the value-added tax (VAT) by going through the "tax-free for tourists" procedure: when you ask for your tax rebate—and be sure to ask for it at the point of purchase—you'll get a tax-free voucher and your goods in a sealed bag. The minimum purchase required is €40. Present the voucher and unopened bag at tax-free cashiers when leaving Finland or when departing the EU. These are located at most major airports, at the departure terminals for most long-distance ferries, and at major overland crossings into Norway and Russia. The tax refund can also be credited to a credit card account.