When you come to Finland you need to know where to shop, both food as well as clothes and household items. Helsinki, as the capital, boasts a wide range of stores, some expensive, some not. On these pages, we try to tell you about the cheaper alternatives. You'll also find most of the stores mentioned on these pages in Porvoo.
In your new student room, you'll find basic furniture such as a bed, desk, chair, wardrobe etc. You will still need to buy some bedding or bring it with you, other things you can find at a hypermarket or household store.
In Helsinki you'll also find many well-known clothes stores, sport shops and food stores. There are also a lot of shopping malls in the center, for example Forum and Kamppi. Anyway, you can find shopping centers outside of the city center too, for example, the Itis shopping center in the east of Helsinki (one of the largest shopping centers in the Nordic Countries), which can easily be reached by metro.
Currency and Payments
Finland uses Euro (€, EUR, E, e) as its currency. Note that 1 and 2 cent coins are not used in Finland and you will not receive them as change. Instead the amounts are rounded to the nearest 5 cent. Many shops don't accept the 1 and 2 cnt coins either. For example, if something costs 1,92 € you pay only 1,90 € in cash, if it costs 1,93 €, you pay 1,95 € in cash. When you pay by debit or credit card, the rounding does not apply and if a store rounds your credit card payment to the nearest 5 cents they are breaking the law and can be fined.
Most stores accept Visa, MasterCard and debit cards. With the exception of some small stores and certain clothing stores you can also use your Visa Electron or Maestro card in Finland. In general Finns tend to prefer to pay by card and many shops prefer you pay by card.
If you need cash, you can obtain it from a cash machine in the Otto Network. Otto machines (ATM's) work with international cards bearing the following symbols: Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, Maestro, EC, Cirrus and Plus. These are also easy to find, as they are all equipped with bright orange signs.
Food - Some Alternatives
There are several Lidl stores all over Helsinki and one in Porvoo. Note, Lidl accepts cash and Finnish bank debit cards, also Visa (Credit/Debit/Electron), Mastercard & Maestro. The closest Lidl stores are:
Lidl Pasila, Ratapihantie 3, 00520 Helsinki. Close to the Pasila Railway Station, next to Alko.
Lidl Malmi, Malminkauppatie 18, 00700 Helsinki. In the Malmintori centre, opposite Prisma hypermarket. Local trains K, I, N, T.
There is a Prisma hypermarket in Malmi (local trains K, P, I, N, T) offering food at fair prices. There is also a huge Prisma in Kannelmäki.
There are several K-Citymarket hypermarkets in Helsinki that sell food at fair prices. Look for the Euro Shopper brands for the lowest prices. Pirkka is the K-Store's own brand. There is a store in Ruoholahti (metro), one in the east at Itis Shopping Centre (metro) and one in the north in Malmi (local trains K, P, I, N, T). Citymarkets are operated by franchise holders and therefore the prices can differ from store to store, the Itäkeskus store is usually cheapest.
There is a Citymarket in Porvoo town center.
Household and Personal Care
Large household stores selling everything from bedding and clothing to kitchenware and cleaning products. These stores also sell branded personal care products such as shampoo, soap, deodorants etc. at lower prices than the supermarkets. Stores in the city centre at Kaisaniemi, in the east at Itäkeskus and in the north at Malmi.
In addition to a big range of food at low prices, hypermarkets such as Prisma and Citymarket also sell household goods, electrical products, clothes and shoes.
The cheap Swedish chain for household items is a good option for buying things for your home. You'll find the closest stores in Espoo and Vantaa. There's free IKEA buses going to both stores from the city center and back. To IKEA Vantaa, you can go also from Itäkeskus. Another option is to take a normal HSL bus but remember to pay a regional ticket.
The legal drinking age in Finland is 18.
You can buy beers, ciders and long drinks under 4,8% alcohol by volume at supermarkets and kiosks until 21:00 every day. Stronger beers and ciders as well as wines and spirits can only be purchased at the state owned Alko stores (open weekdays 9-20 and Saturdays 9-18). You must be over 20 years of age to be able to buy strong alcoholic drinks (over 20% alcohol by volume).
Bars and restaurants sell alcohol for consumption on the premises from 09:00 - 02:00, night clubs until 03:00/03:30.
Alcohol is fairly expensive in Finland. However, Estonia, where it is cheaper, is a short ferry trip away. Furthermore, the boats between Finland and Sweden are still able to sell tax-free on board because the boats stop in Åland, an autonomous island belonging to Finland but not a member of the European Union tax system. The cheapest alcohol can be bought on the ferries to Tallin. You may only bring alcohol for personal consumption, not e.g. for a friend unless you give it as a gift.
Good to Know
When you buy soft drinks such as Fanta, Coca-Cola and ciders in strong plastic bottles as well as beer, ciders etc. in glass bottles and all drinks in cans from Finnish stores, you also pay a deposit. The deposit can be from 10 cents to 40 cents depending on the bottle and 15 cents for a can. There is also a deposit on bottles from Alko. DO NOT THROW THE BOTTLES OR CANS AWAY. Keep your bottles and cans, take them back to any supermarket. You will find a machine under a sign that says "pullon- ja tölkinpalautus" or just "pullonpalautus". Put the bottles in the machine and you will either be given the deposit back in cash or in the form of a receipt, which you can use in the store when paying at the checkout. Remember to press the green button on the machine. If you press the yellow button, your deposit money will be given to charity.
Lidl is not a member of the system, you need to take Lidl bottles and cans back to Lidl stores only. You'll get the deposit there only. Anyway, you can take all your bottles and cans to Lidl (also those bought at other supermarkets) and get the deposit money. Wine and spirit bottles need to be taken back to Alko stores or a supermarket with an Alko in it.
It is good to find out about the recycling system in Finland in general. The recommendations may vary by where you live.
In Finland you cannot drink alcohol on public places like in the park or on the street, if the police see you do that they can fine you.