What to know if you go

Once in Helsinki, visitors will find tourist information easy to obtain, in the form of English-language magazines, weekly calendar guides, and tourist brochures. During summer months, green-jacketed tourist "officers" wander the city, giving advice and suggestions to visitors.

Budget-minded travelers staying in Helsinki should look into hostels. For a more upscale place, ask your agent about Finncheques, which cost FIM 200 (roughly $36) each and are used toward hotels throughout the capital. They are valid from May to September.

The Helsinki train station is centrally located, and offers easy access to the rest of the country. Bikes are allowed on many, if not most trains, but check with the station agent. Second-class cars are pleasant enough, but are often quite crowded in the summertime. For an additional $10 to $20 you can move up to the first-class car, which offers slightly more comfortable and spacious seating. Finnish Railways (known as VR) is now accessible online at www.vr.fi, with a comprehensive English-language section.

Virtually everyone speaks English to varying degrees, especially in the bigger cities and towns. If you're traveling to the more rural regions, however, it wouldn't hurt to pick up a few key phrases. Finns are especially delighted to talk to visitors who are willing to try to pronounce their difficult language. Visit travlang (www.travlang.com/

languages/) for a phrase dictionary that includes Finnish.

For information on more than 140 summer hotels, Finnhostels and youth hostels, contact Hostelling International Finland, Yrjnkatu 38 B, 00100 Helsinki (Tel: 011-358-9-694-0377).

For information on more than 350 camping sites and cottages, contact Finnish Travel Association, Mikonkatu 25, P.O. Box 776, 00101 Helsinki (Tel: 011-358-9-622-6280). (A word of warning: Mosquitoes are plentiful, so bring bug spray.)

For information on fully furnished "holiday" cottages with saunas, stays at farmhouses, and B&Bs, contact Finnish Country Holidays, Malminkaari 23 C, 00700 Helsinki (Tel: 011-358-9-3516-1321).

The FinnHospitality site (www. finnhospitality.net/english/) also contains links to many hotels and hostels.

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