Cheap Monday
September 23, 2011 5:26 AM   Subscribe

We're booking a trip to Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm. Any recommendations on where to stay? How about ferry trips?

We're on a budget, and happy with hostels, although I've never stayed in one - we're also grown-ups and aren't keen on being kept awake by drunk bongo-players all night. Any recommendations for places? I know Finland and Sweden are very expensive and we don't want to pay more than £60 a night if possible or it'll really cut down on how long we can stay or the things we can do. If you know of good hostels with double rather than twin beds, even better. I've looked into Formule1 in Stockholm as we liked the one we stayed in in Paris, but it doesn't seem to be booking for next year. Would it be worth taking our own sheets for hostels that require them or is that taking penny-pinching too far?

Also, we want to take a ferry from either Helsinki or Turku into Stockholm. I originally planned that we'd stay in Turku or somewhere on the route (there's a lovely B+B near Rasenborg which would allow us to take a walk in the forest and relax between cities) and then take the ferry over, but apparently it's an overnight/all-day crossing and not the few hours on a passenger ferry from Turku that I thought it was. From Helsinki, it takes 17hrs and appears to be a proper cruise ship, complete with 'entertainment' and very expensive buffet.

Is it better to go from Helsinki, or to spend the train fare to Turku and take a less expensive, shorter crossing? Is Turku itself worth seeing? We would be going overnight from either destination.

Finally, for two people who are happy eating on the cheap and want to do a few touristy things and some minor shopping, what sort of daily budget should we expect to need? I'm prepared for it to be expensive but then I live in London which is said to be an enormously expensive city! I'd like to do the saving up before we head off in March.
posted by mippy to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might talk to a travel agent in Helsinki about accommodations in Tallinn. When I went, it was with a Finnish friend and she had purchased a shockingly cheap package of ferry tickets and a room at the Hotel Viru, which was actually pretty nice despite its Soviet poured concrete origins.

This was a few years ago and Estonia's been on the grow, but compared to Finland, Estonia was extremely affordable in general.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:36 AM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: We're flying into Tallinn, so this may not work!
posted by mippy at 5:42 AM on September 23, 2011

My wife and I have stayed on the Red Boat in Stockholm, and thought it was pretty neat. Looks like they've upgraded it since we went, too, not sure how the prices are now.
posted by Grither at 5:42 AM on September 23, 2011

A nice hostel is Skanstulls Vandrarhem where they advertise beds from 235 SEK (About €25) per person per night. It's located next to the Skanstull underground station. I have had guests stay there and they said it was clean and nice.

A little more dramatic and a bit more expensive is the af Chapman which is permanently moored at Skeppsholmen.

Stockholm is not cheap even in the best of times and with the Swedish crown being all musclebound as it is now, prices are dear if you are calculating in Euro. Eating on the cheap is quite possible. Drinking on the cheap is not. Buy your booze in Estonia and bring it with you to Stockholm.

I live in Stockholm so if you have specific questions please mefi-mail me.
posted by three blind mice at 6:53 AM on September 23, 2011

In Stockholm, I second the Af Chapman, a hostel on a beautiful old 3-masted ship in the heart of the city. Looks like they have doubles from 295 SEK (28 GBP) per person. A friend enjoyed staying there, and I've been to their café (on land next to the ship) plenty of times; it's a great spot to have a beer and take in the city.

For shopping and cafes, I'd recommend visiting the SoFo neighborhood. There's a vegetarian restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet overlooking my favorite view of the city. The food is decent but the view is spectactular.

I would say Stockholm prices are roughly comparable to London. I would budget 100-150 SEK for lunch and 200-250 SEK for dinner per person per day, more with booze. You can certainly pay much more than this, but not significantly less unless you do the grocery store thing. Subway and bus rides are 30 SEK each, but frankly the city is quite compact and walkable so you won't need it that much.

As for the ferry between Helsinki or Turku and Stockholm, there's Tallink Silja. It's cheap, but it's a long trip and the boat I went on was disgusting, so personally I don't think the Baltic crossing is worth it. You can get cheap flights (600 SEK per person) all day long, and that only takes an hour.
posted by davemessina at 6:58 AM on September 23, 2011

Turku is worth seeing, I believe its still the Cultural Capital of Europe this year so there's quite a bit going on. My friend's sister who lives there prefers it to Helsinki. If you had to choose between the two, I'd go for Turku. (Then again I lived in Helsinki until this July so it could simply be the blah :) Try to see if you can get on a ferry that will take you to Stockholm via Mariehamn in the Aland islands - a stop that's wholly worthwhile from what I've heard.

Helsinki is expensive but there is a reasonably priced hotel that I know of - I put up a colleague there once on a project for about ten days and she didn't have any complaints but its way out of the center (3km) though well connected by both trams and buses from the main road.

In Tallinn, one way I found affordable (less than 60 euros a night) accomodation was by looking at the hotel suggestions made by the Tallink (ferry) website which offers these packages. But I did not end up making a booking as that trip was cancelled.

Hotels in Tallinn
About 61 -65 e for 2 beds plus free baby
posted by infini at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2011

As a visitor in hotels and serviced apartments in both Stockholm and Helsinki (cost of living is significantly cheaper in Estonia) I found that the most cost effective way to save on food and restaurants (very expensive) was to pick up rye bread, pate, cheese, fruit, beer from supermarkets and have a meal 'at home'. If you end up having access to a microwave then Finnish supermarket ready to eat meals are really very good. The Swedes aren't too far behind ;p Stockmann's in the center has an excellent deli and fresh cooked food counter.

Also affordable are the food courts - there's one in Kamppi in the center of Helsinki for eg but even then you're looking at a basic meal costing around 10e per head. Alcohol is very expensive in pubs and bars. Alko is the state run shop open until 8pm M-F (ma-pe in finnish) and until 6pm on Sat. (la) Avoinna is the sign you want to look for in shops, museums and restaurants etc - it means open (or opening hours), and saasta means discount ;p

Keep in mind that Sunday most everything is closed including many restaurants serving food.
posted by infini at 7:47 AM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so far - we're booking for March/April next year, and I have already decided that avoiding Easter might be wise.
posted by mippy at 9:10 AM on September 23, 2011

Be aware that although the Finns think of April as the start of Spring, it can feel suspiciously like Winter to outsiders.
posted by incster at 9:33 AM on September 23, 2011

Yes, the snow won't start melting in the parks until May.
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2011

Have you toyed with the idea of using I wish I could say that I used it a lot while traveling, but my partner at the time when I was doing a lot of it in Europe hated the idea (he only wanted to stay in four or five star hotels that had views of UNESCO world heritage sites-- we were very different people, ha).

That said, now that I'm single I have used it to surf a few times and hosted a bunch of people and it is amazing! You really get an insight into the culture and customs of the person you're staying with which, to me, is always more interesting than whatever tourist sights may be bullet pointed in Lonely Planet.

I have had the best experiences with it. For instance, the one time I did surf abroad it was in Copenhagen with a guy who built and restored replica viking ships. I ended up taking a three day cruise on one, free of charge, and steering the thing most of the way up the Danish fjords and back. No hotel is going to give you that opportunity!

I did "repay" him by buying him dinner, chocolates, a book, etc. But that wound up being way cheaper than any hotel and an infinitely richer experience.

Still, of course, it's not for everyone. If you decide to go this route, I know a couple of people on CS in Stockholm and Helsinki that might be able to put you up. Mail me and I'll give you links to their profiles.

Also, for transit planning I have found that Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum is a great resource if you don't find all the answers you need here.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by telomere at 12:32 PM on September 23, 2011

When I lived in Helsinki, my friends from the US who visited stayed at the Apple Hotel (Omenahotelli), which was bare bones and self-service, but clean, affordable, and very centrally located. And I would second the recommendation for checking out the Couchsurfing group if that's something you're comfortable - as an expatriates I spent a lot of time going to their social outings, and it was a great group of people, very welcoming and really happy to give a lot of travel advice. (I also really liked Turku, but that was after living in Helsinki for a year; I am not sure if I would have felt the same way if I had less time.)
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:46 PM on September 23, 2011

Just went to those countries this past June and have the following recommendations:

Tallinn: Old House Apartments are amazing. There should be one in your price range, and if you pay in advance you get 5% off. The apartment we stayed in (Vene N) was just as the photo showed and in a great Old Town location. I really cannot praise their apartments enough.

Helsinki: OmenaHotelli. We stayed in Eerikinkaatu, which was a great location, for, like 79 euro, but it is cheaper when you book further ahead. It was super clean, convenient, etc.

If the Red Boat in Stockhom is booked (it books really quickly), the next door Rygerfjord boat hotel is also good. The rooms are tiiiiiiiiiiny (because of the ship thing; the shower is literally the whole bathroom... but there is also a sink and a toilet in there), but the views are amazing. Stockholm hotels/hostels are pricey.

The ferry we took between Stockholm and Helsinki was Tallink as well, and was clean but ... kind of bizarre because of the cruise ship thing. The duty free was a zoo. It is nice, though, that you get a night's worth of lodging out of it, as well as the transportation, but can make checking into a hotel kind of awkward because you arrive early in the morning - but the ferry terminals have lockers you can check your bag into for the day.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:02 PM on September 27, 2011

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