Driving in Helsinki is generally easy. The traffic signs are clear, drivers respect each other and drive well and it is not impossible to find available parking spots. The center is quite crowded however, especially during rush hours. If you don’t have a strong reason to go to the center by car, the best advice is to park the car at your hotel or in an underground parking and travel by public transport or by foot.
As a driver in Helsinki, you have to be careful to a lot of things. Trams have right of way in intersections, while buses have right of way while pulling out from a bus stop. Pedestrians and cyclists also have right of way in many situations in the intersections. Obviously, you are not allowed to use lanes dedicated to public transport. In residential areas marked as such with a sign showing some people playing you are allowed to drive only at walking pace. If you are driving in Helsinki during winter, you are required to have winter tyres.
Parking in Helsinki is available almost everywhere, but it is expensive. You have to pay from Monday to Friday in the 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. interval. Some parking areas require payment also on Saturday. It is a good idea to have a parking disc with you, as many parking facilities are limited in time and you have to indicate when you arrived. The signs showing parking regulations for different days of the week are not obvious, but here is how to read them. If there is a time interval displayed in black, this refers to Monday to Friday. If the interval is additionally in parentheses, this refers to Saturday. A red time interval without parentheses refers to Sundays.
The city is organized in three parking zones. Zone 1 covers most of the city center. The current hourly parking fees are €4 in Zone 1, €2 for Zone 2 and €1 for Zone 3. Within these zones you are allowed to park only in the marked areas. In the city outskirts, which are out of these parking zones, you are allowed to park on the right side of the road if there are no other restrictions.
Helsinki has park and ride facilities. These are great for tourists coming in the Finnish capital by car, as you are allowed to park usually for free and continue your journey with public transport. These park and ride areas are marked with a normal P sign that also has a train on it.
Besides the public parking, Helsinki has many private garages too. These are not cheap either, but may be more convenient for longer stays. It is probably best to stay in a hotel with parking and use public transportation to move around.
If you want to find out more on parking in Helsinki, the authorities provide a great website, including many useful maps.