Long Distance Public Transport in Finland

Long distance public transport in Finland is modern, comfortable and punctual. Trains are air-conditioned with reclining seats and bathrooms, and buses have free power and Wi-Fi.

The nearest airport is in Kajaani, and there are several daily flights from Helsinki. Alternatively, you can rent a car to get around.


The distance between the two points is 139 km=86 miles. Travel time is on average 2h 9m.

The line is operated by the state owned monopoly VR. Traffic is a mix of passenger and freight trains. The line is best known for its heavy taconite unit trains to Kokkola where the ore is loaded in bulk ships to sail to the Russian coast and then back to Finland.

Interestingly (or not) VR is permitted to keep its passenger rail monopoly although there appears to be no intensive effort to reopen routes such as Turku-Uusikaupunki or Kerava-Nikkila despite strong demand from business travellers. Politics seems to trump all. The closure of commuter routes into Helsinki and the very contentious closing of Suintio station despite local commune investment in housing around the station are also examples.

Within the Helsinki metropolitan area tickets can only be bought in advance, but on other lines and long distance trains (and Jokeri light rail) they can be purchased on board if there is enough space.


The National Railways of Finland (VR) website is a good resource for planning your journeys. Their point-to-point long-distance journey planner allows you to enter your starting and ending points and then displays a variety of flights, train and bus options with their times.

The site also contains information on the country’s railway network with working timetable PDFs and diagrammatic route maps. The “Kaukoliikenteen aikataulut” page provides a combined long-distance timetable with table numbers based on the EGTRE system, whereas the “Juna-aikataulut” leads to individual routes from a dropdown list and uses Finnish table numbering.

The railway is mainly used by freight trains carrying timber and pulpwood, but there are passenger services to Oulu and Kajaani from Helsinki. The north-south routes are particularly important to the region as a whole, but the focus on cutting rail travel time between Helsinki and Turku has meant that the northern lines are receiving less funding. Jenni Pitko, Green League MP for the area, has raised a question in parliament about this, arguing that the government is selling off billions of euros worth of state assets and that some of these should go towards rail line improvements.

Getting there

Long-distance buses are clean, comfortable and modern, with individual power outlets and Wi-Fi on most services. Ticket prices vary, and are often cheaper than flying (although flight times can be longer). Check the Finnish versions of sites for magic words like tarjous or tarjoukset which indicate specials.

The IC1 train from Helsinki to Joensuu runs close to the Russian border, with beautiful lakes and forests along the way. It is easy to make a day trip, but the township of Nurmes is so attractive that a stay of a night or two is ideal.

The railway system is owned by VR = Valtion Rautatiet which operates both passenger and freight services. It has a monopoly on passenger services, but freight is open to private operators. The main line is electrified to Kontiomaki (see Network Statement), and work continues to modernise it to Iisalmi. The kemijarvi – Kelloselka line closed in 2010. In addition, the main railway station in Kajaani is within walking distance of the centre.

Getting around

There are regular bus and coach services throughout Finland and the buses are comfortable, clean, modern with air conditioning, reclining seats, bathrooms and free power. Check out the Finnish Transport Agency’s (Reittiopas) point-to-point long distance journey planner for flights, train and bus connections – you can even save your routes for later searches.

From the Oulu railway station there are trains to Kontiomaki in Paltamo and beyond to Ammansaari. At Haapajarvi a line runs parallel to the Russian frontier and joins the main line from the Far North, which is currently threatened with closure along with another line to Jyvaskyla via Seinajoki.

Car hire is a practical option in this area of northern Finland, with plenty of parking. However, roads can get busy between the cities and there are very few multi-lane motorways. Watch out for elk, reindeer and other animals on the roads and always drive with snow tyres from December to February. Several car rental companies operate throughout Finland.

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