How to Get Around Helsinki, Finland in a Wheelchair

Helsinki, the charming capital of Finland, is this Nordic country’s most exciting and accessible destination. I know this because I recently traveled there myself and discovered that it’s a pleasantly accessible city as well as an amazing place to see. Whenever I’m planning a trip, transportation is the first thing that I research because without wheelchair accessible taxis and public transportation, I’m stuck. It’s usually not quite as easy for us, as wheelchair users, to get around as everyone else does, but in Helsinki we’re all equal. There is plenty of accessible transportation and I thought that Helsinki was one of the easiest cities for me to get around in… ever! wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

From the artsy culture to the art deco architecture, rich Finnish cuisine and intriguing museums, this post will show you how to navigate Helsinki on wheels, so that you can make the most of your time in this captivating city.

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Walking and Rolling

 

 wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Downtown Helsinki is where much of the city’s treasures lie, and it’s largely navigable by wheelchair on a nice day. It’s also a very clean city, which makes strolling along the streets an entirely enjoyable experience. Helsinki’s plentiful curb cuts make sidewalks easy to traverse, and its reputation as a so-called “pocket-sized metropolis” is fairly accurate. This means that although there’s a lot to see in Helsinki, the city’s small and compact size makes it manageable for wheelchair users.

Climate is one factor that should definitely be a consideration for wheelchair users, but I actually found the snow to not be a hindrance during my winter visit. My powered wheelchair just glided right over it with no problems. Most of the time, Helsinki’s climate is surprisingly agreeable and even averages around 24 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Thus, ideally, weather won’t interfere with you having a great time in the heart of Finland.

So, what’s there to see in this tiny but teeming city? Aside from the excitement that comes along with any fast-growing city, Helsinki combines historical intrigue with Baltic Sea beauty. An entire third of Helsinki’s land area is kept for parks, so it’s a vibrantly green city. Located on the coast, much of its land area lies on a peninsula stretching out into the water.

As a tourist, you’ll want to see the different parks and landscapes and enjoy the maritime vibe present throughout the entire cityscape. Be sure to make your way to Senate Square, which boasts impressive cathedrals. Helsinki has had wheelchair accessibility in its sights for nearly 50 years now, which means that even many of its historical buildings have made great strides when it comes to accessibility. Learn more about what to do in Helsinki by clicking here.

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Accessible Taxis

 

 wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

During my time in Helsinki, I relied a lot on wheelchair friendly taxis. I kept coming back to this efficient form of transportation because aside from being very convenient, these taxis would show up a quick five to ten minutes after I called them, so I’d be on my way in no time!

The company I used was Taksi Helsinki, and their service was absolutely excellent. Their fleet consists of comfortable, modern cars and around 100 wheelchair accessible taxis. All the drivers I had were friendly and punctual. One driver told me that overall, the city has 300 accessible taxis – but whether or not this is true, the size of Taksi Helsinki’s accessible fleet is impressive enough. Just keep their phone number on you while out and about and if you need them, most restaurants would be happy to call a taxi for you. Taksi Helsinki’s phone number is 0100 85 500

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Public Transportation: Buses

 

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

 

Finland’s public transportation system is considered by many to be Europe’s finest. Residents of the city certainly love it, with over 70% of commuters relying on public transport to make their way into the city center each day. And among European cities, many of which excel in this area, Helsinki has the highest resident approval rating when it comes to public transport. This much-lauded system is at the disposal of tourists as well, and as a wheelchair user, I felt that it definitely deserves the praise it gets.

One of the best parts of the system is that if you use a wheelchair, whether it’s manual or electric, you can always travel without a ticket – though any of your travel companions who don’t use wheelchairs will need one. Wheelchair users can ride any bus, but if you use a mobility scooter, it may not fit in the space designated for wheelchair users on buses. (If this is the case, you can still use trains and the metro system.)

Most of the city’s buses have low floors, and the bus timetables indicate which buses have and don’t have low floors, so that you can plan your trip accordingly. In fact, studying the bus routes and planning your trips beforehand is essential to do, since it’s easy to get confused by the maze of public transportation in foreign cities.

While considering routes beforehand is necessary, it’s not too hard to find one that’s right for you. Buses in Helsinki stop frequently in order to minimize the need to walk, so you should be able to find a stop close to your desired destination. Once you’re on board, it’s important to note that all buses have seats reserved for those with mobility issues, and though they’re not always clearly marked, they’ll be near the front.

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Public Transportation: Trams and the Metro

 

 wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Helsinki’s metro system is a dream for those who travel in wheelchairs. Every metro station has an accessible lift and refreshingly level platforms. All inner-city trains are equipped for wheelchair users, and if you have a personal assistant, he or she can travel for free. Suburban trains are quickly following suit and incorporating similar accessible features on new trains. While the older trains still in service may present a problem in the suburbs, you should have no trouble using the metro to get around the heart of Helsinki.

Over half of Helsinki’s trams have low floors, but the trams are unable to accommodate mobility scooters. Regular wheelchairs are fine, but if you have a scooter with separate handlebars, you’ll need to take a metro train or commuter train instead. The ferry can accommodate mobility scooters, as well.

Another thing to note is that it’s quite easy to use public transport in Helsinki, as a single ticket can grant you access to trains, trams, buses, and even the ferry to Suomenlinna, which I’ll talk about next. (Although, as mentioned before, wheelchair users can travel without tickets.) If you’re planning on using any form of public transportation in Helsinki, you’ll definitely want to click here to take advantage of a handy trip-planning tool.

A final positive feature of Helsinki’s trains is that you can take them straight from the airport. I did this on my trip, taking the P train from the Helsinki airport to the city center where I was staying. It was an incredibly convenient ride that took less than a half hour, and I had no problems at all!

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Ferry to Suomenlinna

 

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Helsinki is home to over 11,000 boat moorings, so it’s no secret that ferries and ships are a staple of local transportation. Visitors and locals can take boats to travel within Helsinki itself (since many of its suburbs are located on islands) or as far away as other European cities, such as Tallinn, Estonia which I also visited for a day trip. However, the ferry to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress – one of Helsinki’s most popular attractions – is one boat that anyone visiting the Finnish capital should take.

An 18th-century fortress standing sentry at the entrance to Helsinki’s harbor, it’s an exemplary example of European military architecture from the era. It’s also just a truly incredible sight to see, sailing up to this historic wonder from the mainland. You can catch the ferry here from Market Square, and fortunately the ferries are completely wheelchair accessible!

Wheelchair users understandably have a lot of concerns about boat travel, but my journey to this stately fortress was smooth sailing all the way. I entered the boat with no difficulties at all and found seating inside to escape the biting cold. However, even from the warm interior I could still enjoy the incredible views afforded by this passage through the icy water.

Once you get to Suomenlinna, the terrain can be a bit difficult to navigate in a wheelchair, especially if the weather isn’t so nice. However, the fortress does have a special wheelchair accessible route and a number of accessible bathrooms and restaurants, so it’s easy to enjoy your time wheeling around here. Learn more about my visit to Suomenlinna by clicking here.

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

Helsinki: Well Worth Wheeling Around

All in all, this historic city has done an admirable job upgrading its infrastructure to accommodate wheelchairs. From transportation to tourist sights, Helsinki is well worth wheeling, bussing, cruising, and train-ing around. And if you’re a wheelchair user who has been to Finland’s harborside capital, I’d love to hear about your favorite modes of transportation!

 

wheelchair accessible taxi transportation helsinki finland

 

 

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