a brief note on buying a local SIM card in Finland
after landing at Helsinki Airport, you can find an R-Kioski (it’s like a 7-Eleven) on the upper (departures) level of Terminal 2 — if you land at Terminal 1, they’re connected by a walkway outside security.
you have a choice of providers, but i went with Elisa’s Saunalahti because it has truly unlimited data with no fair usage policy, meaning they won’t throttle your speed if you exceed a certain amount of data traffic per day (though i’m always a fair user, thank you very much). the SIM (which is a nano, micro, and regular size all in one) costs €4,90 and comes with €6 of credit. activation is immediate and you don’t need to sign any forms or give your passport or anything.
once you pop the SIM card in, it will prompt you to select a language, then you can send off a text message (see the Prepaid with Data wiki for options) to purchase your desired data plan. i chose the 1 week package for €6,60. note that this means you need to add additional value to the card because it only comes with €6 — they can do that immediately at the time of purchase.
i tried the 50% off thing described on the wiki page but couldn’t get it to work; you might have better luck.
in any case, activation and the data pack application were immediate and i was on 4G in no time. service seems to be pretty reliable and quite speedy, except in my Airbnb because i’m in the middle of a mini-concrete jungle.
paying for transit via text message
if you’re going to be taking the subway, it might be a good idea to load on some extra value to your SIM card. why? because you can pay for transit tickets at a slight discount. note that if you will be using the tram, it’s cheaper to buy a tram ticket with cash, and if you’re going to be using transit a lot, it might be cheaper to get a €5 reloadable travel card since prices on that are significantly cheaper.
more than likely you won’t need to take much public transportation at all if you’re a walker since everything is withing walking distance of the city center, but if you’re a transit geek like me…
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) May 19, 2015
you can save 10 cents (so €2,40) by buying your transit ticket via your phone. note (from the price page linked to above): “The ticket is valid in Helsinki on the Metro, trams, commuter trains and the Suomenlinna ferry but only on certain bus routes.” — NOTE ALMOST NO BUSES. the ticket is valid for one hour on any combination of these services, but note that tram-only tickets are only €2,20 from a machine, so make an informed decision. this does require pre-planning to load a suitable value on your SIM card.
all you have to do is send “A1” (no quotes) to 16355 — and within 10 seconds you’ll get a text message that is your ticket. the stuff in the middle of the message is the transit options it’s valid on (i think those numbers are the bus lines it’s valid on), but what you want to pay attention to is the expiration time listed after the date and “klo” — you’ll see it’s one hour from when you get the message.
and that’s it! no cash, no fuss, no muss. (i used two tickets today, hence the two A1 messages)
and that’s it! just don’t delete the text message until you’re done with your transit adventure in case anyone wants to check.