My family and I want to travel from Portugal to Finland. Since my daughter is afraid of planes, we need to go by car. We want to make at least 1 layover somewhere. How should we drive to get there as fast as possible?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Willeke, David Richerby, blackbird, Kate Gregory, Gayot Fow Jun 11 '16 at 20:18

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    Have you consulted Google Maps yet? – user13044 Jun 5 '16 at 7:05
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    It is a 50(!) hour trip. You'll have to plan more than one layover. What is the specific question you have? – Burhan Khalid Jun 5 '16 at 8:15
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    This isn't an answer to your question, so I'll post it as a comment. Perhaps you could consider addressing your child's fear of flying. For instance there is this course flyingwithconfidence.com/courses/types/childrens but it's in the UK. Perhaps there's one similar near you? – Berwyn Jun 5 '16 at 9:31
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    Driving from Portugal to Finland "as fast as possible" is like buying a 20-room house "as cheap as possible". Sure, you can do it in the shortest possible time, or for the lowest possible price, but nobody would call those things "fast" or "cheap". It will take you at least four days to drive to Finland, and the same amount of time to drive back. Is Finland really so exciting that you're willing to drive for eight days to get there? There are so many other places to visit. – David Richerby Jun 5 '16 at 10:06
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    Note too that if, remarkably, one was going to do this, you might as well try to drive "all around Europe!" travel.stackexchange.com/a/38154/19233 notice the second map with the pink route (not the first one with the gold route). Cheers – Fattie Jun 5 '16 at 14:15

I fear you may be drastically underestimating how long this drive is, so it is possible this QA is not of much help to you.

It will take you, at the minimum, five overnight stops in hotels. Normally it will take "ten days" for a drive like this if you have children.

(Note too that it will cost about 1000- in fuel and motoring costs, and say 1000-2000 for hotels ... and you're putting "about 10,000 km" (!) on your vehicle.)

To drive from Porto to Helsinki you "simply" drive from Porto to



and then take the ferry to Helsinki.

Just to be clear, note that for a European to "drive to Helsinki" is essentially the same as saying "drive to Tallinn". You nip back and fore between those two cities on a ferry (much like Dover - Calais.)

So essentially this question is "How to drive from Porto to Tallinn."

The only choice to be made is when you go through France: you can either go (A) through Paris, (B) through Burgundy, or (C) the south of France and Switzerland. You can clearly see the three options, simply on Google maps...

All things considered, I'd take the middle one.

(The southern one is, of course, one the world's most beautiful routes: the Italian and French rivieras, the amazing autoroute engineering, "the Alps", and so on.)

If you haven't driven around Europe before, in short the freeways are: in Portugal/Spain - not very good. In France, A+. In Germany, B. In Poland and onwards, not very good.

Regarding your subquestion, "where to stop overnight?" it is not a sensible question in terms of a week+ drive. There are 100s of possible stopping points for your many stopovers. Note that it would be difficult/impossible to plan your stopovers ahead. You never know what's going to happen when driving thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of kilometers.

Generally, choose small towns to stay in. Avoid cities. Totally avoid the various major world capitals you pass near.

enter image description here

A fascinating point raised by this question is that Europe is really, really, big - particularly the Northern part. (There could be a "map projection" issue at hand: whenever anyone drives from say France to Scandinavia, they are always surprised by how far it is.)

Finally as mentioned in a comment, Finland is enormous - I just assume Helsinki since you didn't say.

Just to be clear ... "We want to make at least 1 layover somewhere". That is not meaningful. You're talking one or two weeks travels with children in the car.

It must be said that another alternative on this monumental globe-crossing is to drive up to Stockholm vicinity, and take one of the shorter ferries across the gulf. Pont below has pointed out that the shorter ferries are not expensive.

enter image description here

By the way when returning heading south, you can detour just a little on the autoroute near Chalon and see, the best "aire" / playground for children in Europe!

Aire des Jugy

Very charming.

  • Motorways in Spain tend to be of high quality, once you're off main routes and onto the local road network the quality is much more variable, but the Spanish A-52 (on your route) looks like goo.gl/maps/fWChvfDrEC52 – Edd Jul 8 '17 at 16:36
  • Just saying, the Ferry from Kapellskär goes to Naadendal, not Helsinki – Crazydre Jul 9 '17 at 17:09
  • right, as it says "one of the shorter ferries across the gulf". An interesting thing, looking at the second map image there - perhaps instead drive to - oh - Dubai or Kenya, it's about the same chunk of the planet! :) – Fattie Jul 9 '17 at 17:13
  • Whenever driving across many different countries in Europe, please never forget two things: Non-EU-countries (Switzerland, Serbia) on the way and road toll, which may significantly add to your cost. For example, Switzerland wants you to buy a badge to drive on their highways and they only sell 1-year-badges. When choosing Austria (on a north-south-trip) instead of Switzerland, you will need a general badge for the highway plus you have to pay for specific parts extra, like for the Brenner (Brennario) highway. – TorstenS Sep 18 '17 at 8:52

I took a look at google maps and used Porto to Helsinki, which are 45 hours of driving apart, plus delays and stops. It gives the suggestion of driving through Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Lituania, Latvia and Estonia before taking the ferry to Finland.

Having heard stories about road conditions in that route from Poland north, I looked for an alternative.
If you are willing to spend more on ferries, you can drive a more northern route, going through the same countries till Germany but from there you take Denmark, Sweden and a ferry to Finland.
This route has a ferry where you cross from Germany into Denmark and one from Sweden to Finland.

You can of course take several different routes through the countries mentioned, or take roads that take you through other countries. Most people I know tend to plan the routes such that they avoid countries where you need a vignet (yearly toll for the motorways) and where toll roads are scarce or non existend, as such doing as little as possible in France, avoid Switzerland and do more in Germany instead.

I would suggest stopping for a good night of sleep at least after 16 hours of driving, if driving with two people, or after at most 12 hours if having to drive alone. Even if you are experienced in driving long distances and have done a few 16 hour ones, you will find that 45 hours in a few days are going to be much more tiring.
On such a long travel I would not book ahead but rely on what is available when you are traveling. If you travel on a popular date, use internet and book your motel while driving towards it, allowing you a much wider choice than when you have to stop at each possible one.

With such a long journey and the ferry (or ferries) near the end of them, I would not book ahead for them and just take the first available place on the ferry when you arrive.

But if you have to be in Finland for a given date, you may well plan your journey from that, allowing more time than you need and plan spend the last day before your ferry booking sight seeing near the departure port, which will allow for unplanned delays.


Google maps (from "Portugal" to "Finland", not very specific, but we don't have any details) has three suggestions that they all claim tke 47 hours (if you're now slowed by traffic).

For a drive that long I don't think "as fast as possible" makes sense, you'll have several layovers, and in determining the length of each section you will probably have several things to consider. Like is it only you that will be driving or can you drive for 8 hours and then let your wife drive for another 8?

If one person has to do all the driving I think the fastest that's fairly safe (thinking about e.g. awareness behind the wheel after many hours of driving) is taking the route through Denmark and Sweden (that's the shorter one, and gives two breaks on ferries) and cut it into 4, that suggests a layover somewhere in the middle of France, somewhere in Germany and somewhere in Sweden.

Addition 1: It seems there are actually two ferries involved in going from Sweden to Finland. So it might be a little more complicated and expensive.

Addition 2: The drive through Denmark and Sweden doesn't look longer than what would be possible without a layover, but then you should check when the ferries go (do they go every hour all night?) and possibly time your journey. Also it might not be all that fun to arrive at your destination in Finland in the middle of the night and then having to sleep away the first day you'll actually be in Finland.

Addition 3: All the mentioned countries in both mine and Willekes answer are Schengen countries so at least you shouldn't have to worry about visas, but if you decide on the route through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and choose to deviate from the major roads be aware that the border between Poland and Lithuania ain't that long (just over 100 km) and if you go too far east you'll hit Belarus and if you go to far west you'll hit Russia.

  • With the ferries between Germany and Denmark and between Sweden and Finland, I think it is acceptable to skip the stop in Sweden, if rested well on the ferry that is. – Willeke Jun 5 '16 at 9:17
  • Possibly yes, but then the OP will probably end up driving the last stretch at night. That's also something to consider. – Henrik Jun 5 '16 at 9:24
  • "can you drive for 8 hours and then let your wife drive for another 8?" with a whole family in the car !?!?!? – Fattie Jun 5 '16 at 13:07
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    "I need a pee break" "Okay, we'll stop" after a pee break "Everyone ready?" "Ready." 10 minutes later "Actually, I need a pee break" – John Dvorak Jun 5 '16 at 14:00
  • Heh. BTW the highlight of the entire drive, for children - well at least English-speaking children - is that: you get to drive through a place called Middlefart. :) They wait days for that :) – Fattie Jun 5 '16 at 14:05

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