Lapland Luxury on a €150 Budget? The Secret is Sharing Costs
Cost is a huge consideration when I’m booking trips. The main reason I haven’t explored a lot of Scandinavia yet is because I’ve always been told by other travellers of the astronomical prices and less-than-ideal currency conversion rates. To be honest, I was always under the impression that a holiday there would cost me an arm and a leg and drain my bank account, especially if I chose to travel there alone.
As much as I love solo travel the reality is that it can be very expensive. That’s why I opt to save money by staying in shared hostel dormitories and try to keep my food costs to a minimum by eating at cheaper places or occasionally living off pasta cooked in the hostel kitchen. This can sometimes be disappointing because it means no splurging on expensive restaurant meals or wasting money trying all the desserts on the menu (both of which I would love to do)! That’s why when a group of my friends organised a trip to Finnish Lapland for January 2019 I decided to bite the bullet and commit to going – at least if it did cost us a fortune then we were in it together.
Our trip began by flying from London to a small airport in Rovaniemi, a small town located in the Arctic Circle and the capital of Lapland, Northern Finland. When we arrived and were greeted with a huge sign in the airport terminal proclaiming it as “Santa’s Official Home” we knew it was going to be a very unique holiday.
Instead of paying for individual rooms in a huge hotel my friends found an incredible Airbnb about 45 minutes away from the airport in a place called Marraskoski. It is probably the best accommodation I’ve ever stayed in: a beautiful huge house, fire hut, private sauna and all located next to a massive frozen lake. By staying in an Airbnb we had full access to kitchen and laundry facilities as well as having access to a massive property where we could enjoy the snow, go tobogganing and try ice fishing on the frozen lake. By travelling with others, we were able to afford to stay in this amazing location in a country that is renowned for being expensive.
The landscape and terrain of Lapland in winter is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There’s a thick white blanket of sparkling snow covering every inch and limited hours of daylight each day, with the sun rising at 10am and setting by 3pm. This restricted the amount of activities we could do each day but it was also a nice surprise waking up every morning and and being able to watch the stunning sunrise – I can never normally be bothered to get up early enough.
Due to the restricted amount of daylight and wanting to make the most of our time, my friends and I sat down on our first day and made a list of the main things we wanted to do and see. Another benefit of travelling with other people is that we all brought different ideas and suggestions to the discussion and we came up with a list of Lapland ‘must dos’. I’ll include this list later on! (Keep in mind that the busiest time of year for Lapland tourism is just before Christmas so if you plan to go in December some of these activities may need to be booked in advance.)
Other than the money we spent on these activities (which surprisingly weren’t that expensive) we managed to keep costs low by hiring our own cars and driving ourselves everywhere. This avoided the crazy cost of airport transfers and catching taxis everywhere and, once split amongst the group, amounted to less than €80 each for the week. This gave us the freedom to go where we wanted on our own schedule and we only used one tank of petrol.
The price of food was one of our main concerns before the trip and we even brought supplies (tea, coffee, snacks, pot noodles etc) with us from home anticipating that it would be our main source of expense. However we were pleasantly surprised when we went to the local supermarkets and prices weren’t as terrible as expected. As a group we cooked every meal ourselves at our Airbnb and split the cost of groceries using the Splitwise app (an absolute godsend for keeping track of purchases and splitting the final cost with others!)
This saved us plenty of cash to spend on other fun things like:
This magical village is recognised as the official home of Santa Claus and was a fantastic place to visit, regardless of age. Here you can meet Santa and get your photo taken with him, visit a husky park, see reindeer, go snowmobiling and book northern lights safaris. Entry to the park is free and each activity can be booked at the reception building at the entrance to the village.
Husky sledding is a once in a lifetime experience but make sure you wear the warmest clothing you own and an extra warm pair of gloves if you want to avoid getting frostbite. When we went it was -20 degrees outside! I recommend investing in some hand and feet warmers which you can pick up from any sports or camping store- they’re lifesavers in this climate.
There are three options to choose from: 500m, 2km or 5km. I saved some money by opting for the 2km ride and in my opinion is was the perfect distance given the sub zero temperatures.
There are reindeer sleigh rides available at Santa’s village but we decided to venture out of the main town to visit an actual reindeer farm. We were able to feed and interact with the reindeer and learn about their history in Finnish Lapland. I couldn’t believe that there are 200 000 reindeer in Lapland (that’s more reindeer than people!)
The particular farm we went to needs to be booked in advance but is far cheaper than other ones we researched. For a tour of the farm, feeding, sleigh ride and afternoon tea it cost €29.50 each. But again, be sure to rug up!
Chasing the Northern Lights
Lapland is known to be an ideal location to catch a glimpse of the incredible northern lights. You can book northern lights safaris where a guide transports you by bus to well known viewing spots but you can just as easily do this by yourself. We saved money by doing research online, using tracking apps (AuroraAlerts and Aurora) and compiling a list of locations frequented by tour companies and then used our hire cars. Unfortunately, solar activity wasn’t strong during our time there so we didn’t see the lights. It just goes to show that no matter how prepared you think you are sometimes it’s just a matter of luck and not everything always goes to plan when travelling.
Overall, Finnish Lapland is an brilliant place and one that I can’t recommend enough. So if the only thing stopping you is money then consider travelling with others to split the costs. Grab a group of mates from back home or, if they’re all busy or can’t get time off work or keep making up excuses, perhaps use TravlTalk as a tool to strike up a conversation with fellow travellers and make that trip a reality!