Since I have a profound fondness for driving (not necessarily fast) because it allows you to view more of a country or region, it was clear that driving would be it.
Multiple routes are available:
- Brussels – Stockholm: driving via the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and then onto the ferry/cruise to Turku. 1835 km driving + 11h of boat
- Alternatively there is the option to use the boat from Kapellskår to Naantali, an island near Turku. 1930 km driving + 9 h of boat
- Brussels – Travemunde: driving via the Netherlands, Germany and then onto the ferry to Helsinki. 600 km driving and 30 h of boat
- Brussels – Kallo: driving via the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden. 2875 km of driving.
To be fair, I have to add the flying routes.
- Brussels – Helsinki – Turku
- Brussels – Stockholm – Turku
- Brussels – Kittilä
So while I prefer to drive, Nina flies most of the time. Comfort and time being the main factors. But I can tell you that the full drive from Brussels to Lapland (or back for that matter) is genuinely long and tedious. As much as I love the driving through the nordics, the roads are very monotone also.
So when we travel, except for the weekends, we take along our dogs and cats. The dogs have a fully equipped trailer, and the cats travel in a large cat-cage in the trunk of the car. Once on the boat the cats join me in the cabin, while the dogs stay in the trailer and get attended by every 4 hours. They get loads of deck space. They are sleddogs, so not used to come inside at all.
When we drive, we stop every 2-3 hours to give the dogs a stretch. This slows us down, but also ensures our rest too.
The ferry/cruise boats between Stockholm and Turku are surprisingly cheap compared to the Germany-Sweden/Finland ones. Tallink-Silja and Viking often have promotions with prices as low as 25 Euro per passenger. Finnlines is pricier on the Germany-Helsinki route. But that saves you a lot of driving and fuel. All the boats have all kinds of entertainment onboard, restaurants of course, but also tax-free shopping, casino, wellness etc.
Total cost depends on your vehicle, type of fuel, route etc, but in our case it doesn’t make much of a difference. Time difference is +-2 hours only between the routes, and while the Travemunde-Helsinki boat is much more expensive, we save a lot of gas, are able to rest and the dogs have a comfortable trip too
Flying is a lot less hassle of course. Living so close to Brussels Airport does have its advantages, but downside is the price. Brussels means EU, and the tickets to Helsinki are at least 200 EUR. Most of the time it’s cheaper to fly to Stockholm (SAS) and then hop with a prop plane to Turku. Bumpy 45 min but worth the risk! Other option is to fly out of Amsterdam, but that adds a 1-hour train ride.
During the winter season there are direct flights (charters) from Brussels to Kittilä. Early booking is required. Other option is to fly to Kittilä via Ivalo with Finnair, but not cheap either.
So you can see why we drive with our family and dogs…
Schedule permitting, I prefer driving nighttime. Less traffic, calmer, more fluid driving. And a lot less traffic jams! Mostly Germany in the South-West has some very dense traffic, and lots of roadworks. Always present, and they have a knack for making them long. Literally 10-12 km on narrow bands split out is no exception.
I can’t put a finger on it but once in Finland, the stress of driving is gone. I know, there’s a lot less cars driving, and 5 cars at a red light could be considered a traffic jam, but rarely somebody will cut you off, overtake you on the last second, speeding is limited to 5-6 km/h, and burning a red light is not done at all. Yes, the fines are steep but the mentality here is very different. And when the herd is calm, all individuals are calm…
The last leg up North, is usually split in two. We leave the Turku area as early as 8 AM, and try to make it to the Oulu or even Tornio region by night. AirBnb is our best option, but we need sometimes to negotiate a bit for the dogs. They stay outside all the time, summer or winter, but need some space and a small backyard won’t do.
The second day we follow mostly the Tome River, which is also the Finnish-Swedish border, until Kolari, and then inland to Kallojärvi.
Coming up: blog entries about the boat trip, arriving at the cottage, hiking in Lapland, …