Flying in winter -- Scandinavia's off season -- is cheapest; summer is the most expensive. In any season, midweek fares (Mon-Thurs) are the lowest.
SAS (Scandinavian Airlines Systems; tel. 800/221-2350 in the U.S., or 0870/6072-7727 in the U.K.; www.flysas.com) has more nonstop flights to Scandinavia from more North American cities than any other airline, and it has more flights to and from Denmark and within Scandinavia than any other airline in the world. From Seattle and Chicago, SAS offers nonstop flights to Copenhagen daily in midsummer and almost every day in winter; from Newark, New Jersey, there are daily flights year-round to Copenhagen.
People traveling from Britain can fly SAS (tel. 0870/6072-77-27; www.flysas.com in London) from London's Heathrow to Stockholm on any of five daily nonstop flights. Flying time is about 2 1/2 hours each way. Likewise, SAS flies daily to Stockholm from Manchester, making a brief stop in Copenhagen en route. Flight time from Manchester to Stockholm is about 3 1/2 hours each way.
With more flights to Helsinki from more parts of the world (including Europe, Asia, and North America) than any other airline, Finnair (tel. 800/950-5000 in the U.S.; www.finnair.com) is the only airline flying nonstop from North America to Finland (an 8-hr. trip). From New York, Finnair flies to Helsinki every day. The airline also maintains twice-weekly nonstop service to Helsinki throughout the year from Miami.
Finnair (tel. 0870/241-4411 in London; www.finnair.com) also offers more frequent service to Helsinki from several airports in Britain; there are three or four daily nonstop flights from either Heathrow or Stanstead Airport, and one or two daily flights from Manchester. Flight time from London to Helsinki is 2 hours, 50 minutes; from Manchester, it's 3 hours, 40 minutes.
Several other airlines fly from all parts of the world to gateway European cities and then connect to Helsinki. Foremost among these is British Airways (BA; tel. 800/AIRWAYS [247-9297] in the U.S., or 0870/850-9850; www.britishairways.com), which offers hundreds of daily flights into the U.K. from all over the world. From London's Heathrow, BA offers one or two daily nonstop flights to Helsinki, depending on the day of the week.
From the U.K. -- British Airways (tel. 800/AIRWAYS [247-9297], or 0870/850-9850 in the U.K.; www.britishairways.com) offers convenient connections through Heathrow and Gatwick to Copenhagen. The price structure (and discounted prices on hotel packages) sometimes makes a stopover in Britain less expensive than you might have thought. SAS offers five daily nonstop flights to Copenhagen from Heathrow (1 3/4 hr.), two daily nonstops from Glasgow (2 hr.), and three daily nonstops from Manchester (2 hr., 20 min.). Other European airlines with connections through their home countries to Copenhagen include Icelandair (tel. 800/223-5500 in the U.S., or 0870/787-4020 in the U.K.; www.icelandair.com); KLM (tel. 800/225-2525 in the U.S., or 0870/507-4074 in the U.K.; www.klm.com); and Lufthansa (tel. 800/645-3880 in the U.S., or 0870/8377-747 in the U.K.; www.lufthansa.com). Be aware, however, that unless you make all your flight arrangements in North America before you go, you might find some of these flights prohibitively expensive.
For Norway-bound passengers from the U.K., British Airways (tel. 0844/493-0787 in the U.K.) operates at least four daily nonstops to Oslo from London. SAS (tel. 0870/6072-7727 in the U.K.) runs four daily flights from Heathrow to Oslo. Flying time from London to Oslo on any airline is around 2 hours.
A rail and ferryboat link between London and Helsinki goes via Ostende (Belgium), Cologne, Hamburg, and Stockholm. If you've taken the ferry from Stockholm and are arriving at Turku, on the west coast of Finland, you can catch one of the seven daily trains (including the high-speed Pendolino) that take you across southern Finland to Helsinki. The trip takes 2 1/4 hours. Rail connections are also possible from London to Hook of Holland (the Netherlands), Bremen, Hamburg, and Stockholm. However, each of these itineraries takes about 50 hours, plus a 2-hour stopover in Stockholm. It's possible to reserve sleepers and couchettes, but do so as far in advance as possible. Helsinki is also linked by rail to the major cities of Finland.
Rail Passes for North American Travelers
Eurailpass -- The Eurailpass permits unlimited first-class rail travel in any country in western Europe except the British Isles (good in Ireland). Passes are available for purchase online (www.eurail.com) and at various offices/agents around the world. Travel agents and railway agents in such cities as New York, Montreal, and Los Angeles sell Eurailpasses. You can purchase them at the North American offices of CIT Travel Service, the French National Railroads, the German Federal Railroads, and the Swiss Federal Railways. It is strongly recommended that you purchase passes before you leave home as not all passes are available in Europe; also, passes purchased in Europe will cost about 20% more. Numerous options are available for travel in France.
The Eurail Global Pass allows you unlimited travel in 20 Eurail-affiliated countries. You can travel on any of the days within the validity period which is available for 15 days, 21 days, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, and some other possibilities as well. Prices for first-class adult travel are US$745 for 15 days, US$965 for 21 days, US$1,199 for 1 month, US$1,695 for 2 months, and US$2,089 for 3 months. Children 4 to 11 pay half fare; those 3 and under travel for free.
A Eurail Global Pass Saver, also valid for first-class travel in 20 countries, offers a special deal for two or more people traveling together. This pass costs US$629 for 15 days, US$819 for 21 days, US$1,019 for 1 month, US$1,439 for 2 months, and US$1,785 for 3 months.
A Eurail Global Youth Pass for those 12 to 25 allows second-class travel in 18 countries. This pass costs US$485 for 15 days, US$625 for 21 days, US$779 for 1 month, US$1,099 for 2 months, and US$1,359 for 3 months.
The Eurail Select Pass offers unlimited travel on the national rail networks of any three, four, or five bordering countries out of the 22 Eurail nations linked by train or ship. Two or more passengers can travel together for big discounts, getting 5, 6, 8, 10, or 15 days of rail travel within any 2-month period on the national rail networks of any three, four, or five adjoining Eurail countries linked by train or ship. A sample fare: for 5 days in 2 months you pay US$469 for three countries. Eurail Select Pass Youth for travelers under 26 allow second-class travel within the same guidelines as Eurail Select Pass, with fees starting at US$305. Eurail Select Pass Saver offers discounts for two or more people traveling together, first-class travel within the same guidelines as Eurail Select Pass, with fees starting at US$399.
Where to Buy Rail Passes -- Travel agents in all towns and railway agents in major North American cities sell all these tickets, but the biggest supplier is Rail Europe (tel. 877/272-RAIL [272-7245]; www.raileurope.com), which can also give you informational brochures.
Many different rail passes are available in the United Kingdom for travel in Britain and continental Europe. Stop in at the International Rail Centre, Victoria Station, London SWIV 1JY (tel. 0870/5848-848 in the U.K.). Some of the most popular passes, including Inter-Rail and Euro Youth, are offered only to travelers under 26 years of age; these allow unlimited second-class travel through most European countries.
Scanrail Pass -- If your visit to Europe will be primarily in Scandinavia, the Scanrail pass may be better and cheaper than the Eurailpass. This pass allows its owner a designated number of days of free rail travel within a larger time block. (Presumably, this allows for days devoted to sightseeing scattered among days of rail transfers between cities or sites of interest.) You can choose a total of any 5 days of unlimited rail travel during a 15-day period, 10 days of rail travel within a 1-month period, or 1 month of unlimited rail travel. The pass, which is valid on all lines of the state railways of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, offers discounts or free travel on some (but not all) of the region's ferry lines as well. The pass can be purchased only in North America. It's available from any office of RailEurope (tel. 800/848-7245) or ScanAm World Tours, 108 N. Main St., Cranbury, NJ 08512 (tel. 800/545-2204; www.scandinaviantravel.com).
Depending on whether you choose first- or second-class rail transport, 5 days in 10 days costs $249 to $329, 8 days out of 2 months costs $180 to $360, 10 days out of 22 days costs $359 to $489, and 21 consecutive days of unlimited travel costs $469 to $629. Seniors get an 11% discount, and students receive a 30% discount.
Rail Passes for British Travelers
If you plan to do a lot of exploring, you may prefer one of the three rail passes designed for unlimited train travel within a designated region during a predetermined number of days. These passes are sold in Britain and several other European countries.
An InterRail Pass is available to passengers of any nationality, with some restrictions -- they must be under age 26 and able to prove residency in a European or North African country (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) for at least 6 months before buying the pass. It allows unlimited travel through Europe, except Albania and the republics of the former Soviet Union. Prices are complicated and vary depending on the countries you want to include. For pricing purposes, Europe is divided into eight zones; the cost depends on the number of zones you include. For ages 25 and under, the most expensive option (£399) allows 1 month of unlimited travel in all eight zones and is known to the staff as a "global." The least expensive option (£159) allows 5 days of travel within 10 days.
Passengers age 26 and older can buy an InterRail 26-Plus Pass. The cost varies from £359 to £489 for 16 days to £599 to £809 for 1 month. Passengers must meet the same residency requirements that apply to the InterRail Pass.
For information on buying individual rail tickets or any of the just-mentioned passes, contact National Rail Inquiries, Victoria Station, London (tel. 08705/848-848). Tickets and passes also are available at any of the larger railway stations, as well as selected travel agencies throughout Britain and the rest of Europe.
From Western Scandinavia -- The quickest routes to Finland are the E-3 or E-4 to Stockholm, and the year-round 14- to 16-hour ferry from there to Helsinki.
From Germany -- From Travemünde there's a year-round high-speed car ferry that takes 22 hours to reach Helsinki.
From Denmark -- Take the car ferry from Helsingør to Helsingborg in Sweden or the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö, and then drive to Stockholm and catch the car ferry to Helsinki or Turku.
Although there are international bus links to Finland, this is the least convenient mode of transportation. One of the most popular is a bus connection from Stockholm -- it includes a sea crossing to Turku, with continuing land service to Helsinki.
It's also possible to take coaches from Gothenburg going cross-country to Stockholm and to the ferry dock beyond, with land travel resuming after Turku on the same bus all the way to Helsinki.
For information about international bus connections and reservations, contact Oy Matkahuolto Ab, Simonkatu 3, FIN-00101 Helsinki (tel. 09/682-701; www.matkahuolto.fi).
By Ship & Ferry
From Sweden -- Frequent ferries run between Sweden and Finland, especially between Stockholm and Helsinki. Service is on either the Viking or Silja Line. Each company also operates a twice-daily service from Stockholm to Turku on Finland's west coast.
From Germany -- The Silja Line also maintains regular passenger service from June 5 to September 15 between Travemünde (Germany) and Helsinki. You can get information about the Silja Line at Mannerheimintie 2, FIN-00101 Helsinki (tel. 8600/15-700; www.tallinksilja.com). Information on the Viking Line is available at Mannerheimintie 14, FIN-00101 Helsinki (tel. 09/123-51; www.vikingline.fi).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.