Friday, August 23, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Girl with No Car

matkakortti & card reader
One of the things I love about Finland is public transportation.  Buses, trains, trams, and the metro are something that don't exist where I lived in the States.  Traveling this way has it's upside and downside.  On the upside, I don't have to drive. I can read, listen to my Ipod, or just close my eyes and rest for a while. I can effortlessly sit without worrying about other drivers or finding a parking spot.  Plus, I don't have to buy gas! On the downside, taking different modes of transportation can take longer.  I'm not on my schedule, I'm on theirs.  Even though there's a schedule, trains can run late. (I had a train almost 2 hours late one time! This extreme is rare though.) Don't get me wrong, using transportation costs money too.  Luckily, I have a travel card (matkakortti) that lets me buy days and switch modes of transport while only paying 1 base price per day, and I get 50% discount because I'm a student.

So if you are sitting there wondering what it's like to take public transportation every day, let me take you through my typical day.

To Finnish class...

Phase 1:  Walking (now biking)
I leave the house 20 minutes early to have enough time to walk to the train station.  I find this horribly inconvenient just because it takes so long.  Luckily, yesterday I got a bike, which takes a third of the time as walking.

Phase 2:  Train | VR website
I catch the train at the station.  Fortunately, there are many trains from Kerava to Helsinki in the mornings.  I can ride a fast train (21 min.) or a slow train (36 min.), both of which end up in Helsinki, Naturally I take the fast one.  I like riding the train.  I can relax, read, listen to music, and most importantly listen to people speaking Finnish.  The only problem is that the morning trains are super crowded with people commuting to work and students going to class.

Note to the noobies: Make sure you always have a ticket on the train and tram! If you are caught without a ticket, you will be fined 80 euros.

Phase 3: Tram | HSL website
From the central railway station in Helsinki, I walk about 3-4 minutes to my tram stop. Learning to navigate the tram system can be a bit mind boggling at first: but once you get the hang of it, it's a piece of cake.  My tram takes about 11 minutes to get me to my stop.

Phase 4: Walking
Luckily, my tram stop is very close to my Finnish course building.  I only have to walk about 2 minutes from the stop to the door.

... now repeat in reverse.  It takes me roughly an hour from my house door to final destination.

If I go to my gym in the evenings...

Phase 1 & 2: Walking & Train
Same as above, except there are less fast trains in the afternoon, so I may have to leave even earlier than necessary.

Phase 3: Metro | HSL website
The Helsinki metro is located underneath the central railway station.  Metro trains run every 4-5 minutes and it only takes me 6 minutes to get to my metro stop.

Phase 4:  Walking
Again, I got lucky in that my gym is only about 2 minutes from the metro stop.

... to go home, repeat in reverse.  Overall travel time to gym is about 45 minutes.

As you can see, I spend a LOT of time in transit because I have class in the mornings and workout classes in the evenings.  I'm currently looking for a suitable gym closer to home to help with this issue.

Some things you will notice about public transportation users:

  • They wear comfortable shoes.  With all that walking, you can't afford to wear something that blisters easily. 
  • Most carry backpacks. Traveling is much easier when you can pile all of your things in one bag and sling it on your back.  I, for one, carry my backpack with me almost everywhere. 
  • They always carry/wear a light jacket (except maybe in the middle of summer).  Mornings are chilly, but it warms up throughout the day, and goes back down at night.

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