About Helsinki Airport (HEL)
Address: Helsinki International Airport Corridor Between Term.1 And Term.2, Helsinki Vantaa, 01530
If you’re headed to Finland, there’s a better-than-average chance that you’ll arrive via Helsinki Airport (HEL), the primary entry point for the city of Helsinki and the rest of the Uusimaa region. Ninety percent of international travelers pass through (HEL) and many of them stop at one of six major airport car rental companies located in the atrium corridor between Terminals 1 and 2. Car hires from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt can be retrieved from Parking Hall 3.
Helsinki Airport is located approximately 11 miles (17 km) north of central Helsinki, and aside from having good directions or GPS, getting there should be exceptionally hassle-free. The traffic snarl of comparably sized major cities doesn’t exist in Finland, mainly because locals are very fond of public transportation. And that’s great news for anybody who wants to rent a car and explore Helsinki and the surrounding landscape.
However, there are some challenges to getting around Helsinki in a car hire. First, all road signs are in Finnish and Swedish. You’ll want to get familiar with terms like “sisaantulo” (entrance) and “uloskaynti” (exit). The roads are in great condition but take extra caution if venturing out into rural areas. If something goes wrong, it might take a while for roadside assistance to arrive.
Choosing your car
The airport car rental companies have your back at (HEL). They have whatever type of vehicle suits your needs. For straight city driving with minimal gear, you can choose a Toyota economy, Opel compact, or Mini Cooper minicar. For a mix of urban and rural driving, you may want to rent a midsized Skoda, or premium Mercedes-Benz sedan. Families should consider a Nissan SUV or a Volkswagen 7-9 seater minivan.
Tips and advice
You’re more than likely to encounter an oncoming car that’s flashing its headlights at you, and it could mean one of several things. First, it could mean there’s an elk or a moose on the road up ahead. Second, there’s an accident also up ahead. And third, it could mean you don’t have your running headlights on, which is the law.
Finland’s default urban speed limit is 50 km/h and 80 km/h in the outlying areas. On major thoroughfares, the speed limit is 120 km only during the summer months, and gets cut down to 100 km/ h during Finland’s long winter — which will be discussed below.
Driving in Finland during winter can be dangerous, and Finland’s location means winter lasts from December to the middle of April. Snow (winter) tires are required to operate all vehicles during the winter months. Your (HEL) airport car rental provider should have this covered, but always double check — especially for long road trips to Lapland.
There’s a Finnish joke that goes, “How can you spot a foreign tourist?” Answer: By looking for cars left by the pump at fuel stations. When filling their tanks, Finns move their cars to the side before entering the “huoltoasema” (gas station) to pay. Some petrol stations may have pay-at-the-pump kiosks, but it’s not common outside of central Helsinki.
For Police, Fire, or Ambulance service, dial: 112
Parking is ample and convenient in Helsinki, but comes with the usual litany of local restrictions. Most street parking spots have a time limit and parking vouchers must be purchased from vending machines located nearby.