It is difficult to make comparisons of Finnish hotels with international star ratings. Star ratings have to be taken into context and what is one country’s 4-star may be another country’s 3-star. Therefore, the comments that are made in the next few lines are very subjective and are my opinion, and not necessarily the «official line» printed elsewhere. My observations are biased towards comparing star ratings within the UK and traveling within Europe.
There are luxury hotels, but they are few. In Helsinki, the most luxurious are probably Hotel Kamp, opened originally in 1887 to bring a taste of great European cities to Helsinki; it has recently had a faithful restoration. Most hotels are geared towards catering for business people and belong to a few national chains of hotels: Scandic, Sokos, and Cumulus. I would tend to put these into a lower 4-star bracket. Generally speaking, these will have a swimming pool and saunas, restaurants and nightclubs (which may well be the most popular in the vicinity). Do be warned that Finnish hotel swimming pools are freezing! Don’t do as I did on my first visit and plunge into the pool expecting to have a nice leisurely swim. The swimming pools are there for people to plunge into straight from the sauna to cool themselves down. Of course, the other reason for their existence is to amuse the Finns when foreigners like me jump in and scream from the shock!
There is a group of independently owned hotels called the Finlandia Group. In reality, these are equivalent to 2/3-star accommodation elsewhere. Sometimes, first impressions may not be too good, but do not under any circumstances let this put you off. In my experience, the bedrooms are always more than adequate, and of course being Finnish, everything is immaculately clean. These hotels are modestly priced, and whilst they may not have many public facilities, they will have a restaurant. My friend Leena owns The Amado Hotel in Pori, a member of this Finlandia group, and she stakes the reputation of her hotel on the food she serves. Her restaurant has been voted the best restaurant in town three years running and the National Sales Representatives Association has just awarded the hotel ‘the Best Value for Money in Finland» accolade.
Towards the end of the summer, hotels rates are reduced quite heavily. This also applies to the weekends, Friday night through to Sunday.
Breakfast in Finland is always a buffet consisting of cheese, ham, boiled eggs, pickled fish, fresh salad vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, cereal, oats, and porridge. Quite often, there is a hot choice which will be a Finnish version of scrambled egg and either meatballs or tiny cocktail-sized frankfurters. Finnish bread is tasty and of multiple varieties and the butter is delicious. Being Finland, there is always a large dish of natural yogurt around and hot porridge.
A Word about Curtains…
Because Finnish buildings are triple glazed, there is no need to have thick curtains at the windows to stop heat loss such as in the UK. Also, because Finland hasn’t been used to having many foreigners, there has been no custom of having thick curtains to shut out the light during the summer (the Finns are used to this). It is still extremely common to go into a hotel bedroom and find very thin cotton curtains hanging at the window. Nowadays, Helsinki hotels and the better hotels have recognised the need to provide more sumptuous and plush soft-furnishings. These hotels hang heavy curtains and behind them they have metallic drapes or blinds, such as they have in Spain, to create total darkness.
When checking into a hotel, you will always be asked whether you want a smoking or non-smoking room. The Finns are very fastidious about this. If you want a bath in your hotel room, you will have to request it. All rooms have showers, but very few have baths. A carpet in a hotel bedroom is a real rarity, so it is advisable to take slippers with you to wear. From experience, I would say that the temperature in Finnish hotel bedrooms is not as high as you might imagine and it is easy to get cold just sitting around. The secret of being warm in Finland is not to allow yourself to get cold. The quilts on the bed are extremely lightweight and at first do not seem at all cozy or warm. However, once you and the bed have warmed up, you»ll be as warm as toast. I always take a hot water bottle with me.
Although I have the first-hand experience of all sorts of hotels throughout Finland, I have no experience of either the hostels or guesthouses. However, perhaps the following information will provide guidelines for anyone wishing to stay at these establishments. The Finnish youth hostel associations own the majority of hostels. You will be required to bring your own sheets and pillowcases, but there are occasions to rent them if you haven’t got any. Quite often, there are special family size rooms that can be rented. Breakfast will not be included in the price of the room. Guesthouses should always be inspected before you decide to stay. These tend to be found in town centers and near train stations. If you are in one of Finland’s old villages, you might find that the guesthouse is an old wooden house.
If you are visiting Finland during the summer, consider renting a Finnish summer cottage. This will be the true way to experience Finland. A summer cottage will normally be located near a lake and comes supplied with the compulsory rowing boat and a sauna. Apart from that, many rental cottages come fully equipped with cooking utensils, a fridge, television, and telephone. You will have to check carefully because not all of them will have electricity and running water. If you fancy experiencing the tranquillity of the countryside, these summer cottages can be booked through regional tourist offices.
Traditional Lappish dwellings are either log cabins or tents made from reindeer skins. They are sturdy and heated by a central open fire.
Other possibilities are to stay at farmhouses, rented accommodation or even in wilderness huts while out trekking. Further information about these can be obtained from regional tourist offices.