If you know me well then you know the 2 biggest influences in my life are Yu Yu Hakusho & the band HIM.
One of my biggest dreams (unordinary, I know) as a kid was to see my favorite band play live in their homeland of Finland, not even Helsinki. I grew up with constant anxiety, and my ideal ether at that time in my life was to feel completely comfortable in a foreign space with something that I could always depend on right beside me. At a young age the idea of being in an unfamiliar land while listening to my favorite band live and having the feeling of being safe, secure, and content felt like it would be the experience that would really transform me into the person that I should be. A confident person that no longer actively relies on her longest standing support system to constantly provide for her. I mean I could always go back and listen to their music at any time, but I felt that if I knew they were no longer active and I went out and had this life changing experience that I would truly be comfortable with myself and the world. I wanted to have this experience at any cost, so when my support system announced that they would be splitting up at the end of this year my sights were set on nothing but making that dream come true.
Let me start from the beginning of this journey.
A few days before my 24th birthday, March 5th, a spokesperson for the band announced on Finnish radio that the band would be splitting up this year. I believe at that point they only announced that they would be playing their last show at Tavastia in Helsinki, so I was already making plans to visit Finland around New Years day. I believe it was a few days after the radio statement when they announced that they would be playing on the 2nd day of Tuska 2017, so I immediately bought my tickets.
I purchased the Turbo VIP – 3 Days ticket (of course) through the Festicket website, but waited on booking a hostel. My friend Leslie wanted to come along too since she digs some of the other bands that were playing during the festival (also a HIM fan), so we planned all of this out together.
I’m planning on making separate posts for each day that I was in Finland for this trip, but here is a breakdown of how I got there, what Tuska is, and the culture I experienced within a week in these countries I visited.
Is basically a 3 day metal festival at the end of July with amazing bands from around the world (not Finland specific.) The first 2 days of the festival start at 13:00 (gates open at 1pm, end around midnight (gates close at 1am), and the last day opens at 2pm and ends around 10pm. There are a lot of ticket options from 1 day standard to the 3 day Turbo VIP that I purchased. The VIP tickets will give you 1 free meal from specific food vendors at the festival (there’s a lot), free Tuska merch (I got an infinity scarf, tote bag, magazine with the artists, lanyard, wrist band, sweat band, and a card with the line up schedule), access to the VIP area (where the artists chill wtf) that includes separate toilets, a food kiosk, 2 bars, and a sit down eating area that will save your soul from the chilly wind lol
There are 3 stages: The Radio Rock main stage, the Väkevä stage (tented), and the Inferno stage that is inside of a 2 story building (with a restroom!)
Food kiosks and stages aside there is a sauna near the entrance, a first aid tent, random vendors (clothes & music), a small convenience store (Alepa, a life saver since the stores in the area don’t have much/are not convenient lol), a huge merch stand right as you walk inside, and next to that a place where you can check in a bag. Also the nearest (Otto) ATM that we found (you can only purchase merch with cash, not card), the ATM at the festival broke down before the festival started, was at this convenience store not far away from the venue (not ABC gas station.)
My friend and I are American and we were HELLA worried about when Visa regulations would change (because of the orange emperor🙄) so we had to follow the news pretty closely before departure. Luckily nothing drastic changed so we didn’t need a Visa since we were staying in the country for less than 90 days. We also visited countries in the Schengen Area so when we entered Sweden they processed us and when we landed in Finland we could walk straight out into the world. Also keep in mind the processing time it takes to get into a country if you have layovers.
If you are also planning an international trip to see your favorite band play live in their homeland (so specific gdi), and you know in advance when they are playing I highly suggest that you download the Hopper app. It’s free and it’ll send you notifications on when flights to your destination will be the cheapest to book. I looked up flights to Helsinki immediately after buying my Tuska ticket, but I didn’t buy them. I waited about 3 weeks when they price went from ~$1,200 to ~$950. Not sponsored btw.
I also want to point out that you should be cognizant of your layovers. The most common option I had for flights were to have at least two 3 hour (each) layovers in random places in the US and in Stockholm. I knew that 3 hours would just leave me sitting in the airport, so I chose the option where I would have one ~7 hour layover in Stockholm both ways. I’m so glad that we chose this option since my friend and I got to experience Stockholm twice (once going to Finland and again coming back to the US) even if it was only for a few hours!
Finding a Hostel
If you have friends or family that have visited the place that you’re booking for then ask them on any recommendations first. All hostels look clean and tidy online, but I’ve had my fair share of dirty hostels. The one I stayed at in London last year shut down due to health concerns wtf. Festicket (the website I bought my Tuska tickets from) offered a package deal for hostels + tickets. Depending on what tickets you bought you would get at least 4 days at specific hostels for a discount that were near the venue. My friend and I kept these hostels in mind and actually ended up booking one listed, but we needed a longer stay so we didn’t get the discount.
If you’re specifically going to Helsinki I think it’s safe to say that most hostels are going to be clean. The city is damn clean itself. One night around midnight I literally saw a drunk guy pick up an empty beer can from the ground left by someone else and put it in the nearest trash can w t f. Just do your research (Hostel World is a good resource) and you’ll be fine.
Or if you’re ballin’ then book a hotel/Air BnB.
My friend and I are very organized and prepared people, so we started packing at least a week in advance. Our plane tickets included a free carry on and since we were only planning on staying in Finland for 1 week we decided not to get a checked in bag. The carry on was more than enough for both of us each and I brought hella clothes since the weather was cold in my consideration.
Bonus Info: If you’re vegan like me you can totally pack food into your carry on! I filled one side of my carry on + a backpack purse with hella snacks, and I didn’t run out during my trip. I even had extra to give away to random people staying at our hostel lol. I wasn’t planning on buying any food on the plane (meals or snacks) so I made sure that I had more than enough food for the actual plane ride and for my trip in case there weren’t many vegan options (totally not the case btw!) Unfrosted poptarts, original Chex Mix, and hella protein bars are more than enough to give you energy throughout your trip. You’ll probably be running on adrenaline like I was, so I didn’t eat during both of my 10 hour flights o_o
Please call your phone company at least a week before your trip. You’ll get charged for roaming and it’s not something that you want to come back to after your vacation. I’m on a family plan with AT&T so I opted for the International Day Pass plan. It essentially gave me my current plan in the states, but abroad without any additional fees for $10 each day I used it abroad. It was activated during the dates I needed and is now deactivated since my trip is over. Just remember to restart (turn on/off) your phone once you land abroad and again when you land in the states. It’s also helpful if you turn on the “Ask to Join Networks” option in your (iPhone) phone. This will show you a pop up notification every time you’re around wifi spots (free and password protected) which is super helpful when you’re walking around a foreign place trying to get somewhere.
I would notify your bank where and when you will be traveling 2 weeks before then call again a week before you leave to make sure they are aware of your vacation to avoid getting your accounts frozen while you are abroad. Also ask about the fees associated with Pin and non Pin transactions. They can add up if you’re not prepared. I usually take out ~$300 in whatever country I’m visiting just in case my card gets frozen and something ridiculous happens, but I didn’t during this trip and everything went smoothly. If you’re traveling to multiple countries in a certain region of the world (i.e. Europe, Asia, etc) don’t assume that every country you are visiting uses the same currency. When I visited Stockholm I used Krona, but in Finland and Estonia I used Euros.
The Arlanda airport in Sweden is 20 minutes away from Stockholm so my friend and I had to book tickets for the train, Arlanda Express, in advance (it would have cost more if we bought it the day of.) These tickets are valid for any time of the day, but they are day specific. We got 2 round trip tickets for ~28€ each.
Helsinki specifically has a really wonderful transportation system in place. You can take the metro (which is literally going left or right), the bus, or the tram. I got a travel card at my hostel for 30€ for the week and all I had to do was swipe it across the machine every time I used either mode. There’s Uber too, but try to save money. The bus from the airport to our hostel (~30 minutes away) cost us 6€ if you want to use that as a benchmark for transportation costs.
We also took a ferry to Estonia rather than an airplane. We wanted to have that experience, and it was the cheaper option ($70). We used Direct Ferries to book our ferry in advance and it took us 2 hours travel time each way to and from Tallinn. When you book your ferry do a Google search on the name of the ship in the city that you are departing. That’ll give you the terminal and address if they email they sent you didn’t include it. The only thing I didn’t like about the ferry were the departure times. You have to check in 45 minutes early at the terminal and we were leaving to Tallinn at 7:30am. The options for coming back to Helsinki were 6pm, 11pm, or 9am the next day. I mean it’s a huge ferry so I don’t blame them, but keep these times in mind. You also have to book your ticket for specific times and days, and it’s much cheaper if you book online in advance. There’s also the option to pick up/check in the day before your trip (but we didn’t do that because Tuska kept us up late lol) Oh and in Helsinki specifically there are 2 terminals. The Terminal that we were supposed to check into was closed so we waited around for 10 minutes there until someone appeared (that spoke English) that could tell us that we should check into Terminal 2 (~5 minute walk away.) That wasn’t cool, but it happens.
This is the address to Terminal 1 (Terminal 2 is right next to it) and you can take the Tram there:
I think I’ve covered everything on how I got to Finland, so I’ll talk about the ~cultural~ aspects of the places I visited briefly.
I really felt at home here even if I visited for a few hours at a time! It’s so mind blowing how clean the city is and the people are super nice and friendly! There was a Guns N’ Roses concert that day so there were a lot of punks/metalheads walking around and it honestly felt like I belonged there! I didn’t have a bad experience at all during my time there honestly. Really, the people there are so nice.
Sweden and Helsinki are similar in terms of friendliness and cleanliness. On our way to the hostel from the airport my friend & I were the only 2 foreigners on the bus at midnight & we were SO lost on which stop to get off at. I kept telling the bus driver the stop name (bus drivers in Helsinki don’t speak good English btw), but he didn’t understand what I was saying. A woman asked us if we needed help & when I told her the stop she said that she was also getting off there. She literally walked us to our hostel (she was staying there too) and helped us check in! The rest of the trip afterwards has been pretty similar to that type of kindness and hospitality.
I will point out however that sometimes I felt like I was slightly off-putting to people because of my appearance. Everyday when I looked around I would be the only brown person in the area. When I would ask someone a question, politely mind you, they would turn to my white friend and answer back to her. They were being nice about it, so I took it as they weren’t used to speaking to a brown person and had a mini freak out and didn’t want to address me directly. I noticed this happened with older people and much less with younger people. The people my age were cool though.
Tallinn. I don’t know man. It was a cute place whose tourist attraction centered around the town being Medieval. It’s a really touristy place to go to in Estonia, so I’m confused as to why there were so many business owners that didn’t speak English. We were literally surrounded by tourists from all over the world, so there were white, asian, black (less but they were there), and almost every other type of diverse person there. That little town was filled to the brim with tourists even though it rained during the first half of the day.
This concept is similar to the one I experienced in Helsinki. The older people didn’t address me directly, but the younger people could hold a nice conversation with me. There were MANY times where I would ask an older person a question, about their business or how to get somewhere, and they would either ask “What?” to my white friend or just completely ignore me (which pissed me off.) The people at the counters of museums and stores were also kind of rude, but I think that’s because they have to deal with touristy people that don’t read or listen to them well. Even if their business weren’t busy they would try to get you out of their face as fast as possible and talk over you. I did meet a cool younger girl at a cafe though and that made up for all the rude ass people that ignored me. Like don’t live in a literal tourist zone if you don’t want to interact with tourists.🙄
I hope that this breakdown helped anyone looking to travel for a festival from America to Europe (or any other country). I’ll put links down below to related blog posts about this trip, and spoiler alert: I met a lot of band members and Ville Valo’s dad! So get excited~