The country has comfortable small towns and cities, as well as vast areas of unspoiled nature. Scraped flat by sheets of ice during several ice ages, Finland lacks the dramatic mountains and fjords of its Nordic neighbours but makes up for it with 188,000 lakes and a similar number of islands. The capital Helsinki with surroundings on the southern coast is by far the largest city, with some 1.6 million people (2023).
Finland extends into the Arctic, where the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun can be seen. The mythical mountain of Korvatunturi is said to be the home of Santa Claus, and there is a Santaland in Rovaniemi.
While Finland is a high-technology welfare state, Finns love to head to their summer cottages in the warmer months to enjoy all manner of relaxing pastimes including sauna, swimming, fishing and barbecuing during the short but bright summer. Finland has a distinctive language and culture that sets it apart from both Scandinavia and Russia. While Finnish culture is ancient, the country only became independent in 1917, shortly after the collapse of the Russian Empire.
|Southern Finland (Tavastia Proper, Päijänne Tavastia, Uusimaa, Kymenlaakso, South Karelia)|
The southern stretch of coastline up to the Russian border, including the capital Helsinki.
|West Coast (Central Ostrobothnia, Ostrobothnia, Southern Ostrobothnia, Satakunta, Finland Proper)|
The south-western coastal areas, the old capital Turku, and the southern parts of the historical province of Ostrobothnia (Pohjanmaa, Österbotten), with half of Finland's Swedish-speaking population.
|Finnish Lakeland (North Savonia, North Karelia, Central Finland, South Savonia, Pirkanmaa)|
Forests and lakes from the inland hub city Tampere all the way to the Russian border, including Savonia (Savo) and the Finnish side of Karelia (Karjala).
|Northern Finland (Finnish Lapland, Kainuu and Eastern Oulu region, Southern Oulu region, Western Oulu region)|
The northern half of Finland is sparsely inhabited, with large mires and deep forests, but also a few important cities like Oulu and Rovaniemi. This is where you find reindeer and fell landscapes, and where you go for winter sports or week-long hikes.
An autonomous, demilitarised and monolingually Swedish group of islands off the south-western coast, where the administration is centred in the port town of Mariehamn.
The current formal divisions of the country do not correspond well to geographical or cultural boundaries, and are not used here. Formerly regions and provinces did correspond; many people identify with their region (maakunta/landskap), but mostly according to historic boundaries. These regions include Tavastia (Häme/Tavastland), covering a large area of central Finland around Tampere, Savonia (Savo/Savolax) in the eastern part of the lakeland, Karelia (Karjala/Karelen) to the far east and Ostrobothnia (Pohjanmaa/Österbotten) comprising most of the west coast and some of the northern inland.
- 1 Helsinki — the "Daughter of the Baltic", Finland's capital and largest city by far
- 2 Jyväskylä — a university town in Central Finland
- 3 Oulu — a technology city at the end of the Gulf of Bothnia
- 4 Rauma — largest wooden old town in the Nordics and a UNESCO World Heritage site
- 5 Rovaniemi — gateway to Lapland and home of Santa Claus Village
- 6 Savonlinna — a small lakeside town with a big castle and a popular opera festival.
- 7 Tampere — a former industrial city becoming a hipster home of culture, music, art and museums
- 8 Turku — the former capital on the southwest coast. Medieval castle and cathedral.
- 9 Vaasa — a town with strong Swedish influences on the west coast, by the UNESCO world natural site Kvarken Archipelago
Other destinations edit
- 1 Archipelago Sea — hundreds and hundreds of islands from the mainland all the way to Åland
- Finnish national parks, other protected areas, hiking areas or wilderness areas , e.g.
- 2 Koli National Park — scenic national park in Eastern Finland, symbol for the nature of the country
- 3 Lemmenjoki National Park — gold digging grounds of Lapland, and one of the largest wilderness areas in Europe
- 4 Nuuksio National Park — pint-sized but pretty national park a stone's throw from Helsinki
- 5 Kilpisjärvi — "the Arm of Finland" offers scenic views and the highest hills in Finland
- 6 Levi, Saariselkä and Ylläs — popular winter sports resorts in Lapland
- Suomenlinna — island off the coast of Helsinki where there is a 18th century fort that you can visit by ferry
|Population||5.5 million (2022)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Schuko)|
|edit on Wikidata|
|“||Swedes we are no longer, Russians we do not want to become, let us therefore be Finns.||”|
—attributed to Adolf Ivar Arwidsson, Finnish national ideologist
Not much is known about Finland's early history, with archaeologists still debating when and where a tribe of Finno-Ugric speakers cropped up. The earliest certain evidence of human settlement is from 8900 BC. Roman historian Tacitus mentions a primitive and savage hunter tribe called Fenni in 100 AD, though there is no unanimity whether this means Finns or Sami. Even the Vikings chose not to settle, fearing the famed shamans of the area, and instead traded and plundered along the coasts.
In the mid-1100s Sweden started out to conquer and Christianise the Finnish pagans in earnest, with Birger jarl extending its rule from Finland Proper to Tavastia in the 13th century. The expansion continued, competing with the Orthodox of Novgorod. While the population was Finnish-speaking, the Swedish kings installed a Swedish-speaking class of clergy and nobles in Finland, and enforced Western Christianity, succeeding in eliminating local animism and to a large part even Russian Orthodoxy. Farmers and fishermen from Sweden settled along the coast. Finland remained an integral part of Sweden until the 19th century, although there was near-constant warfare with Russia on the eastern border and two brief occupations. Sweden converted to Lutheran Protestantism, which marked the end of the Middle Ages, led to widespread literacy in Finnish and still defines many aspects of Finnish culture. After Sweden's final disastrous defeat in the Finnish War of 1808–1809, Finland became an autonomous grand duchy under Russian rule.
The Finnish nation was built during the Russian time, while the Swedish heritage provided the political framework. The Finnish language, literature, music and arts developed, with active involvement by the (mostly Swedish speaking) educated class. Russian rule alternated between benevolence and repression and there was already a significant independence movement when Russia plunged into war and revolutionary chaos in 1917. Parliament seized the chance (after a few rounds of internal conflicts) and declared independence in December, quickly gaining Soviet assent, but the country promptly plunged into a brief but bitter civil war between the conservative Whites and the socialist Reds, eventually won by the Whites.
During World War II, Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union in the Winter War, but fought them to a standstill that saw the USSR conquer 12% of Finnish territory. Finland then allied with Germany in an attempt to repel the Soviets and regain the lost territory (the Continuation War), was defeated and, as a condition for peace, had to turn against Germany instead (the Lapland War). Thus Finland fought three separate wars during World War II. In the end, Finland lost much of Karelia and Finland's second city Vyborg (Viipuri, Viborg), but the Soviets paid a heavy price with over 300,000 dead. The lost territory was evacuated in a massive operation, in which the former inhabitants, and thus Karelian culture, were redistributed all over the country. The loss is still a sore topic among some of the evacuated and their descendants, and in some other circles.
After the war, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union (see Cold War Europe). The Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance committed Finland to resist armed attacks by "Germany or its allies" (read: the West), but also allowed Finland to stay neutral in the Cold War and avoid a Communist government or Warsaw Pact membership. In politics, there was a tendency to avoid any policies and statements that could be interpreted as anti-Soviet. This balancing act of Finlandization was humorously defined as "the art of bowing to the East without mooning the West". Practically, Finland was west of the Iron Curtain and travel to the West was easy. Thus, even many older people know English and German and have friends in the West, while Russian was not compulsory and is not widely spoken. Despite close relations with the Soviet Union, Finland managed to retain democratic multi-party elections and remained a Western European market economy, building close ties with its Nordic neighbours. While there were some tense moments, Finland pulled it off: in these decades the country made a remarkable transformation from a farm and forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy featuring high-tech giants like Nokia, and per capita income is now in the world top 15.
Following the collapse of the USSR, Finland joined the European Union in 1995, and was the only Nordic state to join the euro currency system at its initiation in January 1999. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 ended decades of debate over military neutrality, with Finland joining NATO in 2023.
Finland is a republic with a multi-party system. The President had a strong position until the 1980s, after which they gradually have lost most of their formal powers but remain influential. The President, the Parliament, the municipal councils and, since 2022, the "welfare area councils" are elected directly, the three latter in proportional elections (with province-sized electoral districts for the Parliament, no divisions for the other ones), where votes are cast for individual candidates but aggregated over the party or electoral alliance. The personal votes determine who get a party's (or alliance's) seats. There are also elections for the European Parliament as in all the EU. There have traditionally been three big parties (four since 2011), each with about 20% support, resulting in majority governments of varying coalitions and a search for consensus across most parties for many big questions. There is no constitutional court, but a non-political standing committee of the parliament judging whether proposed new legislation is constitutional and what amendments might be needed. Also, individual judges are free not to apply a law that they deem to be clearly unconstitutional in the context of a specific case.
The large parties as of 2022 are the National Coalition (Kokoomus/Samlingspartiet; right-wing), the Social Democrats (Sosiaalidemokraatit/Socialdemokraterna; centre-left), the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset/Sannfinländarna; conservative nationalistic populists) and the Centre Party (Keskusta/Centern; centre-right, with agrarian background). Other parties include the Left Alliance (left, greenish as of 2022), the Green League (liberal environmentalists), the Swedish People's Party (social liberal centre-right) and the Christian Democrats (Christian conservative right-wing), the former two with a support of some 10%, the latter of about 5%. The established minor parties often get a seat in the government to allow an alliance (formed after the elections) to gain the majority. The National Coalition, Social Democrats and Green League tend to have their support in the cities, while the Finns Party and Centre Party dominates in much of the countryside. The Swedish party dominates among Swedish-speakers, but also has some support across the language barrier.
The concept of right and left has to be seen in the context of Western Europe or the Nordic countries: the Nordic welfare state has a solid support among the people and any rhetoric will be adjusted to accommodate that consensus.
Unlike craggy Norway and Sweden, Finland consists mostly of low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills, with mountains (of a sort) only in the extreme north and Finland's highest point, Mount Halti, rising only to a modest 1,328 m. Finland sits squarely on the taiga zone, covered in coniferous forest, which is dotted with cultivated land, towns, lakes and bogs. Finland has 187,888 lakes according to the Geological Survey of Finland, making the moniker Land of a Thousand Lakes something of an understatement (a third of Europe's largest lakes are in Finland). Along the coast and in the lakes are – according to another estimate – 179,584 islands, making the country an excellent boating destination as well. The Lakeland is more or less a plateau, so the lakes make up labyrinths of islands, peninsulas, sounds and open water, and the coastal archipelagos follow suite.
Finland is not on the Scandinavian peninsula, so despite many cultural and historical links (including the Swedish language, which enjoys co-official status alongside Finnish), it is not considered to be part of Scandinavia. Even Finns rarely bother to make the distinction, but more correct terms that include Finland are the "Nordic countries" (Pohjoismaat, Norden) and "Fennoscandia".
Particularly in the eastern and northern parts of the country, which are densely forested and sparsely populated, you'll find more examples of traditional, rustic Finnish culture. Southern and western Finland, which have cultivated plains and fields, most of the Swedish-speaking and a higher population density, do indeed have very much in common with Scandinavia proper — this can clearly be seen in the capital, Helsinki, which has a lot of Scandinavian features, especially in terms of architecture.
- See also: Winter in the Nordic Countries
Finland has a temperate climate, which is actually mild for the latitude because of the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream. There are four distinct seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. Rains (or snowfall) occur now and then all year, although some periods tend to be drier than others. Winter is just as dark as everywhere in these latitudes, and temperatures can (very rarely) reach -30°C in the south and even dip down to −50°C (−60°F) in the north, with 0 to −25°C (+35 to −15°F) being normal in the south. Snow cover is common, but not guaranteed in the southern part of the country. Early spring (March–April) is when the snow starts to melt and Finns like to head north for skiing and winter sports. Later in the spring people flock at outdoor tables at cafés and bars, and along the waterfronts. The brief Finnish summer is pleasant, with day temperatures around +15 to +25°C (on occasion up to +35°C), and is generally the best time of year to visit. July is the warmest month. September brings cool weather (+5 to +15 °C), morning frosts and rains. The transition from autumn to winter in October–December – wet, rainy, sometimes cold, no staying snow but maybe slush and sleet, dark and generally miserable – is the worst time to visit. In Lapland September is a popular season, with the mosquitoes gone by the frosts and beautiful autumn colours. The northern winter may arrive in October, but it is dark and the natural snow cover is often thin until about Christmas. There is a noticeable difference between coastal and southern areas vs. inland and northern areas in the timing and length of these seasons: if travelling north in the winter, slush in Helsinki often turns to snow by Tampere.
Due to the extreme latitude, Finland experiences the famous midnight sun near the summer solstice, when (if above the Arctic Circle) the sun never sets during the night and even in southern Finland it never really gets dark. The flip side of the coin is the Arctic night (kaamos) in the winter, when the sun never comes up at all in the north (with good chances to see northern lights instead). In the south, daylight is limited to a few pitiful hours with the sun just barely climbing over the trees before it heads down again. In December, Finns compensate by lighting candles and eating confectionery together with some good friend, and enjoying the Christmas season.
Information on the climate and weather forecasts are available from the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Buffeted by its neighbours for centuries and absorbing influences from west, east and south, Finnish culture as a distinct identity was only born in the 19th century: "Swedes we are no longer, Russians we do not want to become, let us therefore be Finns."
The Finnish creation myth and national epic is the Kalevala, a collection of old Karelian stories and poems, to a large part from across the (at the time invisible) border to Russian Karelia, collated by Elias Lönnrot in 1835. In addition to the creation the book includes the adventures of Väinämöinen, a shamanistic hero with magical powers. Kalevalan themes such as the Sampo, a mythical cornucopia, have been a major inspiration for Finnish artists, and figures, scenes, and concepts from the epic continue to colour their works.
While Finland's state religion is Lutheranism, a branch of Protestant Christianity, the country has full freedom of religion and for the great majority everyday observance is lax or non-existent. Still, Luther's teachings of strong work ethic and a belief in equality remain strong, both in the good (women's rights, non-existent corruption) and the bad (conformity, high rates of depression and suicide). The Finnish character is often summed up with the word sisu, a mixture of admirable perseverance and pig-headed stubbornness in the face of adversity.
Finnish music is best known for classical composer Jean Sibelius, whose symphonies continue to grace concert halls around the world. Finnish pop, on the other hand, has only rarely ventured beyond the borders, but rock and heavy metal bands like Nightwish, Children Of Bodom, Sonata Arctica, Apocalyptica and HIM have become fairly big names in the global heavy music scene and latex monsters Lordi hit an exceedingly unlikely jackpot by taking home the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006.
In the other arts, Finland has produced noted architect and designer Alvar Aalto, authors Mika Waltari (The Egyptian) and Väinö Linna (The Unknown Soldier), and painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, known for his Kalevala illustrations. Also worth mentioning is the author and artist Tove Jansson, whose Moomin characters have become a strong part of Finnish culture.
Finland has a 5.5% Swedish-speaking minority and is officially bilingual, with both languages compulsory in school. Three Sámi languages (including Northern Sámi), Romani and Finnish sign language are also recognised in the constitution, but are not "national" languages. Maps and transport announcements often give both Finnish and Swedish names, e.g. Turku and Åbo are the same city. This helps the visitor, as English-speakers generally find the Swedish announcement easier to follow, especially if you have a smattering of German. Road signs often flip between versions, e.g. Turuntie and Åbovägen are both the same "Turku Road". This is common in Helsinki and the Swedish-speaking coastal areas, whereas Swedish is far less common inland. Away north in Lapland, you almost never see Swedish, but you may see signage in (mostly Northern) Sami. And if you navigate by Google Map, there's no telling what language it may conjure up.
Although the country was once ruled by a Swedish elite, most Swedish-speaking Finns have always been commoners: fishermen, farmers and industrial workers. The educated class has been bilingual since the national awakening, while population mixing with industrialisation did the rest. In the bilingual areas the language groups mix amicably. Even in Finnish speaking areas, such as Jyväskylä, Pori and Oulu, many Finnish speakers welcome the contacts with Swedish that the minority provides; the few Swedish schools in those areas have many Finnish pupils and language immersion daycare is popular. In politics bilingualism remains contentious: some Finnish speakers see it as a hangover from Swedish rule, while Swedish speakers are concerned at their language being marginalised, e.g. when small Swedish institutions are merged with bigger Finnish ones.
- See also: Nordic folk culture
Finns aren't typically very hot on big public carnivals; most holidays are spent at home with family. The most notable exception is Vappu on 30th April–1st May, as thousands of people (including the students) fill the streets. Important holidays and similar happenings include:
- New Year's Day (uudenvuodenpäivä and uudenvuodenaatto, nyårsdagen and nyårsafton), January 1. The President's speech, the Vienna concert and the Garmisch-Partenkirchen ski jumping.
- Epiphany (loppiainen, trettondag), January 6. The date coincides with 24 December in the Julian calendar used by the Russian church, contributing to lots of Russian tourists around this time (and thus to many shops being open despite the holiday) – except since they were banned in 2022.
- Easter (pääsiäinen, påsk), variable dates; Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays and many spend Easter, some including all the Holy Week, at ski resorts in Lapland or the Alps. Passion concerts in some churches and concert venues, in addition to services. If you want to visit an Orthodox service, the one in waiting for the grave to be found empty might be the most special one. Tied to Easter are laskiainen, fastlagstisdag, 40 days before Easter, nominally a holy day that kicks off the Lent, practically a time for children and university students to go sliding down snowy slopes, and Ascension Day (helatorstai, Kristi himmelsfärds dag) 40 days after, just another day for the shops to be closed.
- Walpurgis Night (vappuaatto, valborgsmässoafton) and May Day (vappu, första maj, the Finnish word often written with capital-W), originally a pagan tradition that coincides with a modern workers' celebration, has become a truly giant festival for university students, who wear their colourful signature overalls, white student caps, and roam the streets. Also the graduates use their white student caps between 18:00 at April 30 until the end of May 1st. Student choirs welcome the spring with free outdoor concerts (with a mingling audience). The latter day people gather to nurse their hangovers at open-air picnics, even if it's raining sleet! Definitely a fun celebration to witness as the students come up with most peculiar ways to celebrate. On 1 May there are also parades and talks arranged by the left-wing parties, and families go out buying balloons, whistles and other market fare. Small towns often arrange an open-air market or an event at a community centre, open to the public.
- Midsummer (juhannus, midsommar), Friday evening and Saturday between June 20th and June 26th. Held to celebrate the summer solstice, with plenty of bonfires, drinking and general merrymaking. Cities become almost empty as people rush to their summer cottages. It might be a good idea to visit one of the bigger cities just for the eerie feeling of an empty city – or a countryside village, where the locals vividly celebrate together. Careless use of alcohol during this particular weekend in the "country of thousand lakes" is seen in Finnish statistics as an annual peak in the number of people died by drowning. Midsummer is the beginning of the Finnish holiday season and in many summer-oriented destinations "on Season" means from the Midsummer until the schools open.
- Independence Day (itsenäisyyspäivä, självständighetsdagen), December 6. A fairly sombre celebration of Finland's independence. There are church services (the one from the cathedral in Helsinki, with national dignities, can be seen on TV), concerts, and a military parade arranged every year in some town. A 1955 movie, The Unknown Soldier, is shown on TV. The most popular event is in the evening: the independence day reception, when the President holds a ball for the important people (e.g. MPs, diplomats, merited Finnish sportspeople and artists) that the less important watch on TV – over 2 million Finns watch the ball from their homes.
- Little Christmas (pikkujoulu). People go pub crawling with their workmates throughout December. Not an official holiday, just a Viking-strength version of an office Christmas party season. Among the Swedish-speakers the lillajul ("little Christmas") is the Saturday at beginning of Advent and is mostly celebrated among families.
- Christmas (joulu, jul), December 24 to 26. The biggest holiday of the year, when pretty much everything closes for three days. Christmas Peace is declared in some Finnish cities, the event in Turku with a live audience of some 15,000 and broadcast on TV. Santa (Joulupukki, Julgubben) comes on Christmas Eve on December 24, ham is eaten and everyone goes to sauna. See also Winter in the Nordic countries#Christmas.
- New Year's Eve (uudenvuodenaatto, nyårsafton), December 31. Fireworks time!
Most shops and offices are closed on most of these holidays. Public transport stops for part of Christmas and Midsummer; on other holidays, timetables for Sundays are usually applied, sometimes with minor deviations.
Mother's Day (äitienpäivä, morsdag) is celebrated on the second Sunday of May, while Father's Day (isänpäivä, farsdag) is celebrated on the second Sunday of November. These don't have much relevance to travellers.
Halloween is not an official holiday in Finland. However, it is now very popular with the younger generation. The celebration of Halloween is largely focused in the American way on October 31 or around the next few days. In Finnish history, the closest equivalent to the Celtic-based Samhain festival is known as Kekri. All Saints' Day (pyhäinpäivä, allhelgonadag) is solemnly celebrated by visiting family graves. As the day is a Sunday anyway, it doesn't affect shopping or traffic.
Most Finns take their summer holidays in July, unlike elsewhere in Europe, where August is the main vacation season. People generally start their summer holidays around Midsummer. During these days, cities are likely to be less populated, as Finns head for their summer cottages. Schoolchildren start their summer holidays in the beginning of June and return to school in mid-August. The exact dates vary by year and municipality.
Get in edit
Finland is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
- There are normally no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most of the European Union and a few other countries.
- There are usually identity checks before boarding international flights or boats. Sometimes there are temporary border controls at land borders.
- A visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
- Please see Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works, which countries are members and what the requirements are for your nationality. You can also read more about the topic on the Finnish Border Guard's website.
Visa freedom applies to Schengen and EU nationals and nationals of countries with a visa-freedom agreement, for example United States citizens. By default, a visa is required; see the list to check if you need a visa. Visas cannot be issued at the border or at entry, but must be applied in advance, in person in the Finnish embassy in your country or in another designated place (see instructions); for some countries a commercial entity handles the applications. This means that visas cannot be applied for on the road. You will have to leave your fingerprints. An ID photograph, a passport, travel insurance (note specific requirements), and sufficient funds (considered to be at least €30 a day) is required, more paperwork for some nationalities. The visa fee is €35–70, even if the visa application is rejected.
Visa processing times tend to be quite lengthy and the process might be one of the more stringent ones overall. It's not uncommon to wait for a month or more to get a Finnish visa, so plan and prepare well. In simple cases the processing time should be at most 15 days, but 45 days may be needed. The application can be made at most half a year in advance.
For Russians, tourism isn't a valid reason to enter Finland (because of the Russian war on Ukraine) and multi-entry visas may be retracted. Tourist visas are still granted and valid for certain other types of visits; there are plans to create new visa types for these. See the Border Guard's information.
The Finland–Russia border, at a length of 1,340 km (830 mi), is a Schengen external border, and border controls apply. This border can be crossed only at designated border crossings; elsewhere there is a no-entry border zone on both sides, mostly a few kilometres in width on the Finnish side. Entering the border zones or trying to photograph there will result in an arrest and a fine. The Finnish-Norwegian and Finnish-Swedish borders may be crossed at any point without a permit, provided that you're not carrying anything requiring customs control. Generally, when travelling over the international waters between Finland and Estonia, border checks are not required. However, the Border Guard may conduct random or discretionary checks and is authorised to check the immigration status of any person or vessel at any time or location, regardless of the mode of entry.
As Finland is separated from Western and Central Europe by the Baltic Sea, the common arrival routes (in addition to flights) are via Sweden, with a one-night (or day) ferry passage, via Estonia, with a shorter ferry passage, or from Russia, over the land border. There are also ferries across all of the Baltic Sea, mainly those from Travemünde in Germany (two nights or two days).
By plane edit
Finland's main international hub is Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL IATA) near Helsinki. Finnair and SAS are based there, as is Norwegian Air Shuttle, offering domestic and international flights. Around 30 foreign airlines fly to Helsinki-Vantaa. Connections are good from major European hubs like Munich (MUC), Frankfurt (FRA), Amsterdam (AMS) and London Heathrow (LHR), and transfers can be made via Stockholm (ARN) and Copenhagen (CPH). There are flights from several East Asian cities, such as Beijing, Seoul (ICN), Shanghai and Tokyo, and some destinations in other parts of Asia, although Russian airspace closures have forced longer flight times and route cuts. In the other direction, New York City is served around the year and Chicago, Miami and San Francisco in the summer season.
International flights to other airports in Finland are scarce (Air Baltic and Ryanair have withdrawn most of their services to regional Finland). To Lapland there are seasonal scheduled flights (Dec–Mar) as well as direct charters (especially in December). There are direct flights all year to Tampere and Turku from a couple of foreign destinations, and to some other airports depending on whims of airlines.
If your destination is somewhere in southern Finland, there may be a cheap flight to Tallinn, with frequent ferry connections to Finland. Stockholm is a bit farther, but the ferry cruise from there may be a worthwhile experience.
By train edit
The trains from Russia have been suspended, because of the Russian war on Ukraine.
Eurail and Inter Rail passes are valid also on some buses replacing rail connections. On ferries from Sweden, you mostly get a 50% discount with them (on the normal price, you might find cheaper offers).
By bus edit
Buses are the cheapest but also the slowest and least comfortable way of travelling between Russia and Finland. As of 2022 some of the connections are suspended indefinitely and more might close down with short notice, check!
- Regular scheduled express buses run between Saint Petersburg, Vyborg and major southern Finnish towns like Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Jyväskylä and all the way west to Turku, check Matkahuolto for schedules. St. Petersburg–Helsinki is served 2–4 times daily and takes 7–8 hours.
- Various direct minibuses run between Saint Petersburg's Oktyabrskaya Hotel (opposite Moskovsky train station) and Helsinki's Tennispalatsi (Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, one block away from Kamppi). At €15 one-way, this is the cheapest option, but the minibuses leave only when full. Departures from Helsinki are most frequent in the morning (around 10:00), while departures from Saint Petersburg usually overnight (around 22:00).
- There is a daily service between Petrozavodsk and Joensuu.
- There is a service between Murmansk and Ivalo in northern Finland thrice a week (possibly suspended, check).
You can also use a bus from northern Sweden or Norway to Finland.
- Haparanda at the border in Sweden has bus connections to Tornio, Kemi, Oulu and Rovaniemi. See more from Matkahuolto and Haparanda#Get in.
- Eskelisen Lapinlinjat, Jbus and their partners offer bus connections from northern parts of Norway, some routes in summer only or otherwise seasonally.
- Tapanis Buss has a route from Stockholm to Tornio going along the E4 coastal route.
Or from Poland via the Baltic countries, to the ferry terminal across from Helsinki.
- FlixBus operates a route from Warsaw to Finland, via Helsinki, Espoo, Salo, Turku, Raisio, Rauma, Pori and Närpes to Vaasa.
By boat edit
One of the best ways to travel to and from Finland is by sea. The cruise ferries from Estonia and Sweden are giant, multi-story floating palaces with restaurants, department stores and entertainment. There are also more Spartan ropax ferries from Sweden and Germany, and there have been faster and smaller hydrofoils from Tallinn. Cheap prices are subsidised by sales of tax-free booze: a return trip from Tallinn to Helsinki or from Stockholm to Turku, including a cabin for up to four people can go as low as €30. Ordinary tickets are significantly more expensive, though. If travelling by Inter Rail, you can get 50% off deck fares on non-cruises. Note the "fuel fee" usually added to any advertised prices.
The passes over the Sea of Åland and Kvarken from Sweden, and the Gulf of Finland from Estonia, are short enough for any yacht on a calm day (many also come over the sea from Gotland). As Finland is famous for its archipelagos, especially the Archipelago Sea, coming with small craft is a good alternative.
Estonia and the Baltic states edit
Helsinki and Tallinn are only 80 km apart. Viking Line, Eckerö Line and Tallink Silja operate ferries all year round. Depending on the ferry type (many are cruise ferries similar to those from Stockholm) travel times are 2–3½ hours. Some services travel overnight and wait outside the harbour until morning.
The Tallink cruise ferry between Tallinn and Stockholm calls at Mariehamn (late in the night).
Finnlines operates from Travemünde near Lübeck and Hamburg to Helsinki, taking 27–36 hours one way. These are ropax ferries: primarily intended for freight and lorry drivers, but having some amenities also for normal passengers, including families (check whether having a car is compulsory). They are not party and shopping boats like some other Baltic ferries.
Traffic on this route was more lively in former times, the best example being the GTS Finnjet, which was the fastest and largest passenger ferry in the world in the 1970s. Freight and passengers could be transported between Helsinki and Travemünde in only 22 hours, reaching the rest of continental Europe west of the Iron Curtain much faster than any other (non-air) routes.
For years scheduled ferry services from Russia have been stop-and-go. As of 2023 connections are suspended because of the Russian war on Ukraine.
If coming by yacht from Russia (or via, as in using the Saimaa Canal), customs routes have to be followed, see Boating in Finland#Get in.
Both Silja (Tallink) and Viking offer overnight cruises from Stockholm to Helsinki and overnight as well as daytime cruises to Turku, all usually calling in the Åland islands along the way, in either Mariehamn or Långnäs. These are some of the largest and most luxurious ferries in the world, with as many as 14 floors and a whole slew of restaurants, bars, discos, pool and spa facilities, etcetera. The cheaper cabin classes below the car decks are rather Spartan, but the higher sea view cabins can be very nice indeed. As Åland is outside the EU tax area, the ferries can operate duty-free sales.
Due to crowds of rowdy youngsters, both Silja and Viking do not allow unaccompanied youth under 23 to cruise on Fridays or Saturdays. The age limit is 20 on other nights, and 18 for travellers not on same-day-return cruise packages. Silja does not offer deck class on its overnight services, while Viking does.
With Viking Line it often is cheaper to book a cruise instead of "route traffic". The cruise includes both ways with or without a day in between. If you want to stay longer you simply do not go back – it might still be cheaper than booking a one-way "route traffic" ticket. This accounts especially to last minute tickets (you could, e.g., get from Stockholm to Turku for around €10 over night – "route traffic" would be over €30 for a cabin with lower quality).
FinnLink (Finnlines) offers the cheapest ferry connection between Sweden and mainland Finland, from Kapellskär to Naantali, some of the services calling also in Åland. These are much more quiet, traditionally catering to lorry drivers, but increasingly also competing for other customers (new ships 15 Sep 2023 and January 2024). Buffet dinner included in the price.
There is also a car ferry connection between Umeå and Vaasa (Wasa line; 4 hours), without taxfree sales, but trying to achieve the same feeling as on the southerly routes. An additional one from Sundsvall is being planned as of 2023.
By car edit
The easiest ways to get by car from Sweden to Finland is by ferry (except in the far north). The European Route E18 includes a ferry line between Kapellskär and Naantali. There are 3–4 daily cruise ferries on the nearby pass Stockholm–Turku (half of them overnight) and two on the longer pass Stockholm–Helsinki (overnight). Farther north there is the Blue Highway/E12, with ferry (4 hours) from Umeå to Vaasa, where E12 forks off to Helsinki as Finnish national highway 3. See By boat above; all the cruise ferries take cars.
European Routes E8, E45 and E75 and some other roads connect northern Norway with Finland. There are border crossings at Kilpisjärvi, Kivilompolo (near Hetta), Karigasniemi, Utsjoki, Nuorgam and Näätämö. For central and southern parts of Norway, going through Sweden is more practical, e.g. by E10 (from Narvik via Kiruna, fork off somewhere in Sweden), E12 (from Mo i Rana via Umeå) or E18 (from Oslo via Stockholm or Kapellskär).
Because of the political situation, it is advisable to check last-minute information on any disturbances.
European route E18 (in Russia: route A181, formerly part of M10), goes from Saint Petersburg via Vyborg to Vaalimaa/Torfyanovka border station near Hamina. From there, E18 continues as Finnish national highway 7 to Helsinki, and from there, along the coast as highway 1 to Turku. In Vaalimaa, trucks will have to wait in a persistent truck queue, but this queue does not directly affect other vehicles.
From south to north, other border crossings can be found at Nuijamaa/Brusnichnoye (Lappeenranta), Imatra/Svetogorsk, Niirala (Tohmajärvi, near Joensuu), Vartius (Kuhmo), Kuusamo, Kelloselkä (Salla) and Raja-Jooseppi (Inari). The four last ones are very remote. Check opening hours; some are open only in weekdays, some only a few hours a day.
Some of the ferries between Tallinn and Helsinki take cars. They form an extension to European route E67, Via Baltica, which runs from the Polish capital Warsaw, via Kaunas in Lithuania and Riga in Latvia, to the Estonian capital Tallinn. The distance from Warsaw to Tallinn is about 970 kilometres, not including any detours. There is a car and cargo ferry service from Paldiski to Hanko.
By bicycle edit
Bikes can be taken on the ferries for a modest fee. You enter via the car deck, check when to show up. As you will leave the bike, have something to tie it up with (there may be heavy seas) and bags for taking what you need (and valuables) with you.
There are no special requirements on the land borders with Norway and Sweden. For crossing off-road, check that biking is allowed and possible on the intended route.
For Russia, check both that the border crossing will be open when you arrive and that crossing by bike is allowed. Mind the wide border zone on the Russian side.
On foot edit
Walk-in from Sweden and Norway is allowed anywhere (unless you have a pet or goods to declare, which can probably be handled beforehand), but crossing the Russian border by foot outside designated crossings is not – and even at those a vehicle may be required. The border is well patrolled, so expect to be arrested and fined if you try it. Additionally, most of it is in unforgiving wilderness, unpassable without proper skills and equipment.
Get around edit
Finland is a large country and travelling is relatively expensive. Public transportation is well organised and the equipment is always comfortable and often new, and advance bookings are rarely necessary outside the biggest holiday periods, but buying tickets on the net in advance (preferably as soon as you know your plans) may give significantly lower prices.
There are several route planners available. VR and Matkahuolto provide timetable service nationwide for trains and coaches, respectively, and there are several regional and local planners. As of 2020, Google Maps and Apple Maps have coverage nationally. Opas.matka.fi includes train traffic, domestic flights, local transport of many cities and towns and public service obligation traffic (i.e. services offered on behalf of the government) in the countryside. Matkahuolto Reittiopas is focused on local, regional and long-distance buses and trains. There are deficiencies in most or all of the planners, so try different names (perhaps an intermediate town, or one which should be later on the same coach line) and main stops if you don't get a connection, and do a sanity check when you get one. You might also want to check more than one when services shown are sparse or complicated. Knowing the municipality and the name in both Finnish and Swedish is useful. Sometimes the local connections are unknown to the digital services.
"Street addresses" work with many electronic maps also for the countryside. "Street numbers" outside built-up areas are based on the distance from the beginning of the road, in tens of metres, with even numbers on the left hand side: "Metsätie 101" is about a kilometre from the junction, on the right hand side, distance from the named road to the house not counted. Many roads change names at municipality borders; what is Posiontie in Ranua becomes Ranuantie in Posio. The names are unique in any given municipality. An address of "Rantakatu 12–16 A 15" means lots 12, 14 and 16 on that street, stairwell A (or house A), flat number 15. Most map services handle only single numbers. "Rantakatu 10 a" means the first lot of an original lot 10 that was split. The distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters is ignored in some applications.
By plane edit
Flights are the fastest but also the most expensive way of getting around, unless you find a bargain. Mostly flying makes sense only if the alternative would take all day or you will transfer from an international flight to Helsinki. However, there are flights from Helsinki to places all over the country, and a few other domestic services.
It's worth booking in advance if possible: on the Helsinki–Oulu sector, the country's busiest, a fully flexible return economy ticket costs a whopping €251 but an advance-purchase non-changeable one-way ticket can go as low as €39, less than a train ticket. Finnair has cheaper fares usually when you book at least three week before your planned trip and your trip includes at least three nights spent at the destination or one night between Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday. You may also be able to get discounted domestic tickets if you fly into Finland on Finnair and book combination ticket directly to your final destination. Finnair also has a youth ticket (16–25) and senior ticket (age above 65 years or pension decision) that is substantially cheaper and fixed price regardless of when you book.
There are two major airlines selling domestic flights:
- Finnair, the biggest by far. Serves nearly all of the country, with some flights operated by their subsidiary Nordic Regional Airlines..
- Norwegian Air Shuttle flies from Helsinki to Oulu and Rovaniemi.
In addition there's a handful of smaller airlines, often just flying from Helsinki to one airport each. These services tend to come and go.
By train edit
VR (Valtion Rautatiet, "State's Railways") operates the railway network. Trains are usually the most comfortable and fastest method of inter-city travel. From Helsinki to Tampere, Turku and Lahti, there are departures more or less every hour in daytime.
The following classes of service are available:
- Pendolino tilting trains (code S) often fastest; children and pets in normal cars
- InterCity (IC) and InterCity2 (IC2) express trains; the latter are two-storey, mostly with a family car with a playing corner for children.
- Ordinary express (pikajuna, P), old cars; some night trains and connections on remote routes
- Local and regional trains (lähiliikennejuna, lähijuna or taajamajuna), no surcharge, quite slow
While differences between Pendolino, IC and express trains aren't that crucial – if you need specific facilities you should check anyway – rules for regional trains (about pets, bikes and tickets) may differ from those on the long-distance trains, and some regional trains travel quite far.
The trains are generally very comfortable, especially the intercity and long distance services, which may have restaurant and family cars (with a playing space for children), power sockets, and free Wi-Fi connection. The accessible toilets on IC2 trains double as family rooms. Check the services of individual trains if you need them, e.g. facilities for families and wheelchair users vary considerably. Additional surcharges apply for travel in first class, branded "Extra" on some trains, which gets you more spacious seating, newspapers and possibly a snack. Wi-Fi is sometimes overloaded when many use the journey time for work, such as on morning trains to Helsinki.
Some trains (at least the IC2s) have "phone booths" for you to talk on your mobile phone, to spare others from your conversation. Talking with fellow passengers is no issue, as long as you don't get too loud (or in first class, which is designated a silent compartment).
Formally two large pieces of luggage (80×60×40 cm) are allowed for free in the Finnish trains, in addition to small hand luggage, and pram or wheelchair if applicable. Also a ski bag can be taken into your cabin for free. In practice, no one will check the allowance unless you cause trouble. For skis (max 30×30×220 cm), snowboards and other additional luggage (max 60×54×195 cm) transported in the luggage compartment €5/piece is charged.
Overnight sleepers are available for long-haul routes and very good value. Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided. The modern sleeper cars to Lapland have 2-berth cabins, some of which can be combined as a pair for a family. There are en suite showers in the upper floor cabins in the modern overnight trains, the base-floor cabins use shared showers. In the 3-berth cabins in the old "blue" sleeper cars there are no showers, only a small sink in the cabin; these cars are nowadays mostly used as supplement in the "P" trains in the busiest holiday periods. In each modern Finnish sleeper car, one cabin is for a disabled person and his or her assistant. An overnight journey from Helsinki to Lapland in a sleeper cabin costs about €150–250 for two people (as of 2022; you always book all the cabin).
The restaurant cars mostly serve snacks, coffee and beer. Shorter intercity routes usually just have a trolley with a similar assortment. On some routes (such as those to Lapland) you can get simple real meals (€10–13.50). Drinking alcoholic beverages you brought yourselves is not allowed. Own food at your seat should be no problem as long as you don't make a mess or spectacle out of it; bringing packed meals, other than for small children, has become rare.
Pets can be taken on trains (€5), but seats must be booked in the right compartments. If your pet is big, book a seat with extended legroom (or, on some trains, a separate seat for the pet). The pets travel on the floor (a blanket can be useful; bring water), other than for dogs a cage is mandatory. Vaccination etc. should be in order. For regional transport the rules are different. The sleeper trains have some cabins for passengers with pets (probably one upstairs and one halfway up in each modern sleeper car, some cabins in the older sleeper cars and probably some day department). For night trains, ask the conductor about stops where you can get out with your dog. If you bring a car, don't leave pets there.
Finland participates in the Inter Rail and Eurail systems. Residents of Europe can buy InterRail Finland passes offering 3–8 days of unlimited travel in one month for €109–229 (adult 2nd class), while the Eurail Finland pass for non-residents is €178–320 for 3–10 days. You would have to travel a lot to make any of these pay off though; by comparison, a full-fare InterCity return ticket across the entire country from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and back is €162. The price for a typical 2-hr journey, such as between Helsinki, Turku and Tampere, is about €20.
Seniors over 65 years old and students with Finnish student ID (ISIC cards etc. not accepted) get 50 % off. Children younger than 10 years travel for free in sleeper cabins if they share a bed with somebody else (bed width 75 cm, safety nets can be ordered, using a travel bed is allowed if it fits nicely). Otherwise children aged 4–16 pay a child fee on long-distance trains, those aged 7–16 on commuter trains, usually half the ordinary price. Carry your ID or passport to prove your age.
Train tickets can be purchased online, from ticketing machines on mid-sized and large stations, from manned booths on some of the largest stations and e.g. from R kiosks (not all tickets). A fee of €1–3 applies when buying over the counter or by phone. There are usually cheaper offers if you buy several days in advance, to get the cheapest tickets, buy them at least two weeks in advance. Usually tickets need to be bought before boarding; a seat is included in the fare.
This means that for walk-up travel at many mid-sized stations, you'll need to buy a ticket from the machine. This is easier if no-one tries to assist you! Otherwise, thinking to be helpful, they'll press Aloita and you'll be faced by a screen asking you to choose between Aikuinen, Eläkeläisen and Lapsi. So spurn their help, wind back to the beginning and press "Start" to get the process in English, including the bank card reader instructions. Or if you're feeling adventurous you can press Börja since you can figure out whether you're vuxen, pensionär or barn, but you'll have to choose "Åbo" to get a ticket to Turku. Larger machines take cash, but most provincial stations have only small ones for which you need a debit/credit card with chip.
The selling procedure offers a seat, but you can chose one yourself if you want. Usually half of the seats face forward, half of them backward. Seats with a wall behind them have less legroom when reclined, and don't recline as much. You may want to check the options on IC2 trains especially if you are a group or want privacy (four seats with a table in-between, cabins for two or four etc.). On most other trains options are limited.
In some situations your group or voyage does not make sense to the booking system (e.g. if you are a group and have a pet, it might believe you have one each). There are usually tricks to fool the system to allow what you want to do, but unless you find a solution, you might want to book by phone, to leave the problem to somebody more experienced.
Generally, the trains are most crowded at the beginning and end of the weekend, i.e. Friday and Sunday evening. Shortly before and at the end of major holidays like Christmas/New Year and Easter, trains are usually very busy, with car-and-sleeper tickets for the most popular services sold out immediately when booking opens. If you try booking for these days at a late time, you may find the seat you reserve to be among the least desirable, such as without recline – and many services sold out altogether.
While VR's trains may be slick, but delayed trains are not uncommon. As much of the network is single-track, delays tend to become compounded as oncoming trains have to wait in the passing loop. If you are trying to catch a transfer connection, talk to the conductor (while they need to be understanding only if you reserved enough transfer time, they tend to be also otherwise). For severe delays, the EU rules apply. There is real-time train traffic data for every train station in Finland available on the net and in an iOS app.
By bus edit
There are coach connections along the main roads to practically all parts of Finland. This is also the only way to travel in most of Lapland, since the rail network doesn't extend to the extreme north. Connections may be scarce between the thoroughfares.
Long haul coaches are generally quite comfortable, with toilets, reclining seats, AC, sometimes a coffee machine and perhaps a few newspapers to read (often only in Finnish, though). Wi-Fi and power outlets (USB or 230 V) are getting common. Some long-haul services stop at an intermediate destination long enough for you to buy a sandwich or eat an ice cream. Coaches seldom restrict the amount of luggage. They have fees for luggage transport, but these are generally not invoked for any you would carry. Bulky luggage is usually placed in a separate luggage compartment, at least if the coach is more than half-full.
There are many operators, but Matkahuolto maintains some services across companies, such as timetables (see below), ticket sale and freight. Their browser-based route planner, with address based routing for coaches, is available (sometimes useful, but often suggests convoluted connections despite there being direct ones). Their Trips and Tickets mobile app also has address-based routing and a ticket purchase option. Some regional public service obligation bus routes are missing. You can try to search them on the opas.matka.fi route planner, or on the web site of the local bus company or the municipality (often well hidden in Finnish only). There are Matkahuolto service points at more or less every bus station, often by cooperation with a local business. Although the staff is generally helpful, they and their tools may not know very much about local conditions in other parts of the country; checking with locals (such as the local host or local bus company) for any quirks is sometimes advantageous.
For the Matkahuolto main page search results, click (i) for a service, and the link that appears, to get more information on it, including a stop list and days of validity. For most services all stops are listed, with a Here map available; for non-express services sometimes only part of the stops are listed. The main search page sometimes doesn't find a route that includes transfers, and is quite particular about start and end points (using the city name rather than the bus station can help in cases where the bus starts from elsewhere). Especially the English interface often uses Finnish names also for Swedish-speaking towns – it usually finds the Swedish ones, but might tell only the Finnish name. Searching in Swedish often helps in those cases.
Most coaches between bigger towns are express services (pikavuoro/snabbtur), having fewer stops than the "standard" (vakiovuoro/reguljär tur) coaches, near extinction on some routes. Between some big cities there are also special express (erikoispikavuoro/express) coaches with hardly any stops between the cities. Using coaches to reach the countryside you should check not only that there are services along the right road, but also that any express service you are going to use stops not too far away from where you intend to get off or on, and that any service runs on the right day of the week. Non-express services have stops at most a few kilometres apart and often make detours to settlements off the main road.
Coaches are generally slightly higher priced than trains, although on routes with direct train competition they can be slightly cheaper. Speeds are usually slower than trains, sometimes very much so (from Helsinki to Oulu), sometimes even faster (from Helsinki to Kotka and Pori). On many routes, though, coaches are more frequent, so you may still get to your destination faster than if you wait for the next train. Tickets can be bought in advance (bargains are possible on some routes), with the option to reserve seats on some routes, although paying to the driver is common (there are few if any conductors left). Credit and debit cards should be accepted on the main express and long-haul services (and when buying tickets in advance), on "regular" services on short distances you are more likely to need cash (which Onnibus does not accept).
Pets are usually accepted on coaches as well as buses (except on Onnibus), but not very common. In buses, bigger dogs often travel in the area for prams and wheelchairs. There is a fee for some pets on some services (Koiviston auto: €5 in cash unless they can fit on your lap).
Onnibus offers a cheaper alternative (often €5–10 even for long rides if bought early enough) with double-deckers on routes between major cities in Finland ("Onnibus mega"), and has near monopoly on some of these routes. Tickets must be bought online as they do not accept cash; with cash it is possible to buy Onnibus tickets only from R-kioski shops and from Matkahuolto partners. Online tickets can be bought from Matkahuolto, but other Matkahuolto tickets are not accepted. Passengers need to be on the stop beforehand (15 min recommended), bikes and pets are not accepted, and 12–14 years old children can travel independently only with written consent from their parent or guardian using Onnibus's form; otherwise children need to be accompanied by somebody at least 15 years old. Onnibuses include free unencrypted Wi-Fi and 220 V power sockets. The general standard is lower than on other coaches and there is less legroom than in any other buses in Finland (unless you book a more expensive seat). Also the overhead racks are tight, so put everything you do not need in the luggage compartment (one normal-size 20 kg item or according to special rules). Note that the routes do not necessarily serve the centres of intermediate destinations; often they have their stop by the thoroughfare some distance away.
Onnibus also has normal coaches, by themselves or by cooperation ("Onnibux flex"). Standard, practises and prices on these are mostly the same as usually on coaches, not those of Onnibus mega. Onnibus recommends reserving 1½ or 2½ hr for transfers not included on their web site.
Senior discounts are for those over 65 years old or with Finnish pension decision.
As with trains, student discounts are available only for Finnish students or foreign students at Finnish institutions. You need either a Matkahuolto/VR student discount card (€5) or a student card with the Matkahuolto logo.
For coaches, children aged 4–11 pay about half the price (infants free), juniors (12–16) get a reduction of up to 30 % or 50 % on long non-return trips. On city buses age limits vary from one city or region to another, often children fees apply for 7–14 years old. An infant in a baby carriage gives one adult a free ride in e.g. Helsinki and Turku (but entering may be difficult in rush hours).
You can get the BusPass travel pass from Matkahuolto, which offers unlimited travel for a specified time, priced at €149 for 7 days and €249 for 14 days. The pass is not accepted by Onnibus.
Local transport edit
Local transport networks are well-developed in the regions around Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Kuopio, Jyväskylä and Lahti. In other big towns public transport networks are often usable on workdays, but sparse on weekends and during the summer, while many small towns only have rudimentary services. For information about local transport in cities and some regions around Finland, see the link list provided by Matkahuolto (in Finnish; scroll to the bottom of the page).
In the countryside there are sometimes line taxis (kutsutaksi), paratransit (palvelulinja, palveluliikenne) or similar arrangements, where the municipality sponsors taxis driving by schedule, but only when the service has been requested. Usually you contact the taxi company the day before to ask for the service and pay according to normal coach or bus fares. Sometimes the taxi can deviate from the route to pick you up from a more convenient point or drive you to your real destination. The added distance is sometimes included, and sometimes paid as a normal taxi voyage (depending on length, municipality and other circumstances). These services are sparse (from a few times daily to weekly) and schedules are made to suit the target audience, often the elderly, but can be the only way to reach some destinations for a reasonable price without one's own vehicle. Some school buses also take outsiders, and sometimes what seems to be a normal bus connection is in fact such a school bus, open for others to use.
The dial-a-ride services in many sparsely populated areas typically drive twice weekly according to an approximate timetable, sometimes doing detours to fetch passengers from their homes (don't expect a fast drive). Mostly these go to a municipal centre in the morning and return in the afternoon, allowing people to visit the healthcare centre, the library, shops and the like. The rides have to be ordered in advance, often the preceding day, and you can check details when calling the driver. The price is about that of a normal bus ticket, i.e. orders of magnitude cheaper than a taxi ride, and the ride may give insights in local life tourists seldom get otherwise, at least if you understand the local language (passengers chatting with the driver is not uncommon).
There are also route planners covering many regions: Opas.matka.fi[dead link] covers most cities (Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Iisalmi, Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Järvenpää, Kajaani, Kotka, Kouvola, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Oulu, Pieksämäki, Pori, Rovaniemi, Salo, Seinäjoki, Tampere, Turku, Vaasa, Valkeakoski, Varkaus). Some of the remaining cities are included in the Matkahuolto Route Planner (Hyvinkää, Kemi, Kokkola, Lohja, Loviisa, Porvoo, Raahe, Rauma, Riihimäki, Savonlinna, Tornio).
As for smartphone apps, Nysse and Moovit have a route planner for local transport services of many cities (Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Iisalmi, Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kokkola, Kotka, Kouvola, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Oulu, Pori, Rovaniemi, Sastamala, Seinäjoki, Tampere, Turku, Vaasa and Varkaus). Matkahuolto Trips and Tickets app is able to first plan the trip and after it sell the right ticket for it for specific cities (Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Iisalmi, Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kemi, Kokkola, Kotka, Kouvola, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Pieksämäki, Riihimäki, Rovaniemi, Salo, Savonlinna, Seinäjoki, Tampere and Varkaus).
General advice edit
Both coaches and city buses are stopped for boarding by putting your arm out at a bus stop (blue sign for coaches, yellow for city buses; a reflector or source of light, such as a smartphone screen, is useful in the dusk and night). Whether stops for regional buses are classified as coach or bus stops depends on municipality and the phase of the moon at decision time, and can vary between similar lines (and for the same line across municipality border). In some rural areas, such as northern Lapland, you may have luck also where there is no official stop (and not even official stops are necessarily marked there).
You pay or show your ticket to the driver (or to the machine near the driver). On buses, those with pram or wheelchair usually enter through the middle door. On coaches, the driver will often step out to let you put most of your luggage (including prams) in the luggage compartment – have what you want to have with you in a more handy bag.
Ring the bell by pushing a button when you want to get off, and the bus will stop at the next stop. Often the driver knows the route well and can be asked to let you off at the right stop, and even if not (more common now, when the cheapest bidder often gets to drive a service), drivers usually try their best. This works less well though on busy city buses.
Local and regional transport outside cities often uses minibuses or minivans instead of normal buses. Don't miss them just because they don't look like what you expected. In some, the destination sign is just an A4 paper at the windscreen, if that. Make it obvious that you try to find out whether it is your bus.
Abbreviations and terms often used in timetables include:
- M, Ti, K, To, P, L, S: M–Su, where S includes holidays treated as Sundays
- SS: like S, but does not drive if the following day is an S
- tarvittaessa ("if needed"): by request
- koulupäivinä: on schooldays
- koulujen lomina: on school holidays
- "|": does not stop or drives another route
- vaihto (often "_"): transfer
By boat edit
- See also: Boating in Finland
As a country with many lakes, a long coast and large archipelagos, Finland is a good destination for boating. There are some 165,000 registered motorboats, some 14,000 sailing yachts and some 600,000 rowing boats and small motorboats owned by locals, i.e. a boat on every seventh Finn. If you stay at a cottage, chances are there is a rowing boat available.
Yachts and motorboats are available for charter in most bigger towns at suitable waterways. You may also want to rent a canoe or kayak, for exploring the archipelagos, canoeing along calm rivers or going down rapid-filled ones.
By ferry edit
In summertime, lake and archipelago cruises are a great way to see the scenery of Finland, although many of them only do circular sightseeing loops and thus aren't particularly useful for getting somewhere. Most cruise ships carry 100–200 passengers (book ahead on weekends!), and many are historical steam boats. Popular routes include Turku–Naantali, Helsinki–Porvoo and various routes on Saimaa and the other big lakes. Child tickets often have lower age limits than on other kinds of transport (such as 3–12 years).
The archipelago of Åland and the Archipelago Sea have many inhabited islands dependant on ferry connections. As these are maintained as a public service they are mostly free, even the half-a-day lines. Some are useful as cruises, although there is little entertainment except the scenery. These are meant for getting somewhere, so make sure you have somewhere to sleep after having got off.
There is a distinction between "road ferries" (yellow, typically on short routes, with an open car deck and few facilities), which are regarded as part of the road network and free, and other ferries (usually with a more ship-like look and primarily serving car-less passengers). Whether the latter are free, heavily subsidised or fully paid by passengers varies. See Archipelago Sea for some discussion. Åland has its own system, see Åland#Archipelago ferries.
By car edit
- Main article: Driving in Finland
Traffic drives on the right. Main roads are usually fairly well maintained and extensive, although motorways are limited to the south of the country and near the bigger cities.
Speed limits default to 50 km/h in built-up areas (look for the yellow-black coloured sign with a town skyline) and 80 km/h elsewhere. Other limits are always signposted.
A few unusual or unobvious rules to be aware of:
- Headlights or DRLs are mandatory even during daylight. New cars usually come with headlight-related automatics that do not always work properly. Particularly: make sure that the tail lights are lit in winter and dusk.
- Always give way to the right, unless signposted otherwise. The concept of minor road refers only to exits from parking lots and such (a decent rule of thumb is whether the exit crosses over a curb).
- Turning right on red at traffic lights is illegal. Intersections may have a separate sets of traffic lights for those turning.
- Trams (present in Helsinki and Tampere) always have the right of way over other vehicles.
- Vehicles are required by law to stop at zebra crossings if a pedestrian intends to cross the road or if another vehicle has already stopped (to presumably give way).
- Using seat belts is mandatory. Children under 135 cm tall must use booster seats or other safety equipment (the requirement is waived for taxis, except for children under 3 years of age).
A blood alcohol level of over 0.05 % is considered drunk driving. Finnish police strictly enforce this by random roadblocks and sobriety tests.
Car hire in Finland is expensive, with rates generally upwards of €80/day, although rates go down for longer hire.
VR's overnight car carrier trains are popular for skipping the long slog from the south up to Lapland and getting a good night's sleep instead: a Helsinki–Rovaniemi trip (one way) with car and cabin for 1–3 people starts from €215.
Look out for wild animals, particularly at dawn and dusk. Animal collisions are common and sometimes fatal. If an animal might have been injured, note where and call 112.
Winter driving can be risky, especially for drivers unused to cold weather conditions. Winter tyres are compulsory in wintry conditions November–March. The most dangerous weather is around freezing, when slippery but near-invisible black ice forms on the roads, and on the first day of the cold season, which can catch drivers by surprise.
By taxi edit
Taxis are widely available and comfortable, although in the countryside night you may nowadays be out of luck (call in advance). The taxi market was largely deregulated in 2018, causing a significant rise in already expensive prices – and cut income for the drivers. Most companies have a flag fall of €4–9 (differing between daytime in weekdays and nights and weekends) and the meter ticking up by €2–4 per km or so (including a time based fare of around €1/min). Some companies have a minimum fee of €10–20. Pre-booking is free with some companies, while some call centres add €7 or so. Fares have to be clearly posted; while comparing price schemes is convoluted, getting ripped off is rare. Using the meter is not mandatory, but by law any fixed fares have to be stated in advance and you have to be warned if the fare might exceed €100. The fare for an example 10-km 15-min trip is clearly stated and should be around €35.
Once mostly plush Mercedes sedans, taxis can now come in any colour or shape, but they have a yellow taxi sign on the roof (usually with the spelling "TAKSI"), lit when the car is vacant. A normal taxi will carry 4 passengers and a moderate amount of luggage. For significant amounts of luggage, you can order a farmari taxi, an estate/wagon car with a roomier luggage compartment. There is also a third common type of taxi available, the tilataksi, a van which will comfortably carry about 8 people (if you ask for one, you are often charged for 5+ people, but not if you just happen to get one). Tilataksis are usually equipped for taking also a person in wheelchair (ask specifically if you need that service, and prepare for a surplus fee).
If you want child seats, mention that when ordering, you may be lucky. Transporting a child under 3 years of age without an appropriate device is illegal.
The usual ways to get a taxi are to find a taxi rank, order by phone (which is expensive by some call centres) or, increasingly, use a smartphone app (there is often also a similar web page). The apps and web pages usually tell you the total fare (an estimate or a fixed price based on estimates). Street hailing is legal but uncommon, there just aren't that many empty cabs driving around. Any pub or restaurant can also help you get a taxi, expect to pay €2 for the call.
Apps and call centres with taxis available in many cities include:
- Taksi Helsinki. Uses the Valopilkku smart phone app.
- 02 Taksi, ☏ (€1.25/call+€3/min). Call centre and smart phone app offers address based routing and gives price offers from one or more taxi companies (mainly big companies, i.e. useful mostly in cities, towns and around them). Price or price logic told when booking.
- Menevä, ☏ (head of office), toll-free: 0800-02120 (booking), email@example.com. Smart phone app offers address based routing and calculates price according to them.
- Taksini. Smartphone app with most coverage in the Ostrobothnian regions, but also in several other areas (130 of Finland's 300 municipalities).
In city centres, long waiting times can be expected in Friday and Saturday nights. The same is true at ferry harbours, railway stations and the like when a service arrives; there is usually a queue of taxis when the ferry arrives, but with all filled up it takes a while before any of them return. It is not uncommon to share a taxi with strangers, if going towards the same general direction. At airports, railway stations and other locations from where many people are going to the same direction at the same time, there may also be kimppataksi minivans publicly offering rides with strangers. They are as comfortable as other taxis and will leave without much delay.
In the countryside, there may only be a single taxi company and they may have to drive a long way to get to you, so pre-booking is strongly recommended if you need to catch a train or flight, or you need one in the night (when no driver might be awake to answer a call). Calling a local driver is safer than booking through a call centre, which might not find any driver when the time is come. For a short trip in a remote location, you might want to tip generously, as the fare doesn't cover the fetching distance. Taksit.fi is an (incomplete) catalogue for finding local taxi companies. For those not listed, check locally.
By ridesharing edit
Uber operates in Helsinki and sparsely in a few other cities (Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Lahti). They are formally taxis, with the same requirements on equipment and licensing.
For inter-city trips, you can try your luck on peer-to-peer ridesharing services:
- kyydit.net – Carpooling site with search engine
By thumb edit
Hitchhiking is possible, albeit unusual, as the harsh climate does not exactly encourage standing around and waiting for cars. The thumb-up sign is the one to use. Spring and summer offer long light hours, but in the darker seasons you should plan your time. The most difficult task is getting out of Helsinki.
Many middle age and elderly people hitchhiked when they were young, but in the last decades high standards of living and stories about abuse have had a deterring effect. The highway between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg has a high percentage of Russians among truck drivers. See also Finland article on Hitchwiki.
Pedestrians walking in the dark on shoulders of unlit roads are required by law to use safety reflectors. Their use is generally recommended, since the visibility of pedestrians with reflectors improves greatly. Controlled-access highways (green signs) are off limits for pedestrians.
By bicycle edit
Most Finnish cities have good cycleways especially outside the centres, and taking a bike can be a quick, healthy and environmentally friendly method of getting around locally. Farther from cities, where the cycleways end, not all major roads allow safe biking. You can often find suitable quiet routes, but sometimes this requires an effort. Locals often drive quite fast on low-traffic gravel roads; be alert and keep to the right. There are cyclists' maps for many areas.
Biking off-road is regarded as part of the right to access, but biking may cause erosion or other harm, so choose your route with consideration and unmount your bike at sensitive sections. There are some routes explicitly meant (also) for off-road bikes, e.g. at some national parks.
Children under 12 years can use the pavement where there is no cycleway, as long as they do not unreasonably disturb pedestrians. Bikes on cycleways have to yield for cars on crossing roads unless there is a yield sign, the car is turning or the cycleway is marked as continuing over the crossing street (be careful, not all drivers watch out for cyclists). Leading your bike you are a pedestrian.
The roads are generally paved well, although gravel roads are sometimes unavoidable. As long as you don't go off-road, you will not need suspension or grooved tyres.
Beware that a good cycleway can end abruptly and force you out among the cars; the bike network building efforts are not too well coordinated. Also at road works, directions for cyclists are often neglected.
Due to the relatively gentle topographic relief, too hilly terrain is rarely a problem, but in the cold months, wind chill and sweat require more careful choice of clothing than in walking. In some municipalities bike paths are well maintained in winter, in others they are not. Biking among the cars in winter is usually too dangerous (some locals do, but they know the circumstances). In dark hours headlight, rear light and a rear reflector are obligatory; side reflectors are recommended. Using a helmet is formally required "in general", and wise, but if you don't have one, the police won't trouble you.
Because of the long distances, long-haul bikers are advised to plan well and be prepared to use public transport for the less interesting stretches. Coaches are well-equipped to take a few bicycles on board (Onnibus Mega does not accept them, Onnibus Flex accepts like any other company). Fares vary by company and distance, typically about half of an ordinary ticket (which may be the same as your adult reduced-price one), or a flat €6. Packing the bike is not needed, but getting on at the bus station and arriving in time may help finding room for the bike. On some lines you should check the day before. If you buy tickets on the net, you should book bike slots at the same time, if possible.
Trains take bicycles for €5 if there is enough space in the racks (varies by train type, on some trains advance booking is necessary; on IC trains you also need a 50c coin; tandem bikes or bikes with trailers fit only on some trains, €10). Packed bikes are free if the package is small enough (requires taking the bike apart, exact dimensions vary by train type). If you have your bike in a bike rack behind your car, you can get it for free on car-carrier trains, but take the larger dimensions into account when booking your car slot (and if you need a bigger slot, booking the bike separately may be cheaper). On the trains from Russia (suspended in 2022) packing the bikes is necessary (100 cm x 60 cm x 40 cm). Bikes are free also unpacked on local trains in the Helsinki region, but are allowed only if there is enough space.
Road ferries (yellow open-deck ones) don't have fees. Fees on other ferries vary. For Åland and the Archipelago Sea, see the specific articles. Tour boats do not necessarily take bikes, even when they can be used one-way.
Renting a bike at your destination should be possible. In several towns, including Helsinki and Turku, there are also municipal bike-sharing systems. Some of the available bikes have an electric booster motor.
Bikes are often stolen, at least in cities, so have a lock and use it, and try to avoid leaving the bike in unsafe places.
By motorised scooter edit
In many cities there are electric kick scooters for hire; you will need to install a smartphone app. Check where the nearest scooter is, check the price and allowed areas, unlock with the app, ride, park it in an allowed sensible location (mind the vision impaired) and release it with the app. The scooters have a maximum speed of 20–25 km/h (12–16 mph), which is plenty; acquaint yourself with the scooter and its controls somewhere safe. There is a handful of companies, some active in more cities than others.
The scooters are legally counted as bikes, with an operator-imposed minimum rider age of 18. Whilst common, driving on the pavement is illegal. Wearing a helmet is recommended by the operators, sort of mandated by law (wearing one is "generally" required) and going without one is dangerous – however, seeing somebody wear one is quite rare.
To reduce number and severity of accidents, lower speed may be enforced in the night (such as 15 km/h) and in some locations (5 km/h). In some municipalities the scooters are unavailable for some hours in weekend nights. Some companies ask you to take a photo of the scooter after parking it and might take action if it was left carelessly.
The price for a ride is typically significantly higher than by bus on any distance you couldn't walk (and typically used for short distances), but they are handy and cheaper than taxis.
By foot edit
There are usually adequate pavements and zebra crossings in towns. Cars are in principle obliged to stop at zebra crossings if a pedestrian intends to cross the road – but as most cross the road only when there is a sufficiently large gap in the traffic, drivers may assume you "do not intend to cross right now", and not stop. Do not leave a shadow of a doubt that you will cross the road, and cars will mostly stop. With some practice, this works out smoothly, efficiently and without taking undue risks. Don't try this when drivers cannot see you in time, and remember some will have their eyes on something else.
Often the pavement is combined with a cycleway, and some cyclists (and especially e-scooter drivers) expect you not to take a step sideways. Watch out if you have children or a pet, and when crossing the cycleway, especially if you have been standing and your starting to move may be unanticipated.
When walking on a road without a separate footpath, it is safest to walk on the left-hand side of the road so you can see oncoming cars.
In the night and dusk reflectors are in theory mandatory – and they are immensely useful for being seen by drivers. They are especially important on country roads with narrow shoulders, where also reflective vests (or similar arrangements) are recommended.
Finland has two "national languages", Finnish (suomi) and Swedish (svenska), and both are compulsory in nearly all schools (with varying results). Also Sámi, Romani and Finnish Sign Language are recognised in the constitution, but they are not spoken outside their respective communities and the speakers are bilingual with Finnish. Nearly anybody above 12 years speaks English and many above school age at least the basics of one or two other foreign languages.
Road signs and the like mostly use the language or languages of the municipality, so names on road signs can sometimes be confusing unless you know both names, and online maps can use either with little logic. Also elsewhere a name in the other language may turn up unexpectedly. Sometimes the names are very different.
Finnish, the mother tongue of 92 percent of the population, is not related to Swedish, Russian, English or any other Indo-European language. Instead it belongs to the Uralic group of languages (which includes Hungarian, Estonian, Sámi and several minority languages of Russia), making it hard for speakers of most other European languages to learn. While Finnish bears some degree of mutual intelligibility with Estonian and especially Karelian, the similarities between Hungarian and Finnish are mainly in grammatical features rather than in similar words and endings.
Reading signboards can be difficult, as Finnish uses relatively few loan words. Finnish words also conjugate extensively, which makes looking them up in a dictionary challenging – and for more complicated texts, you don't get anywhere by just translating words, as much of the sentence structure is encoded into the endings. On the upside, once you've mastered the pronunciation (admittedly a challenge for most English speakers), the spelling system is very logical.
The Finnish language has few exceptions but quite a lot of rules – where some rules might be considered cleverly disguised exceptions. There are 15 grammatical cases for "getting some coffee and getting the coffee, going into a pub, being in a pub, getting out of the pub, being on the roof, getting onto the roof, getting off the roof, using something as a roof and so on, which are encoded into the word endings (kahvia, kahvi, pubiin, pubissa, pubista, katolle, katolta, kattona). The conjugation of verbs is unfortunately somewhat more complex. Many different words are formed from the same root by other endings: kirjain, kirjasin, kirjuri, kirjoitin, kirje, kirjelmä, kirjasto and kirjaamo are all nouns related to kirja, "book" (letter, font, bookkeeper, printer, ...), and then there are related verbs and adjectives.
Swedish, Germanic like English and closely related to Norwegian and Danish, is the mother tongue for 5.6 % of Finns. About half the population regard themselves conversant in Swedish, including nearly all national-level politicians. A lot of written material from public institutions (e.g. city governments, parliament, public museums) is available in Swedish, and street signs in bilingual areas are mostly bilingual. As the language has many cognates with English, fragments can be intelligible to an English speaker.
The Swedish speakers are concentrated along most of the coast, with smaller communities in some cities elsewhere. The larger cities nowadays all have Finnish majorities, but e.g. the municipalities of Korsnäs and Larsmo are more or less exclusively Swedish-speaking, as is much of the countryside elsewhere in Swedish-speaking regions. In the small autonomous province of Åland and in the Swedish parts of Ostrobothnia, people typically speak little or no Finnish; Åland is officially monolingual. In traditionally Swedish-majority towns like Vaasa (Vasa) and Porvoo (Borgå) nearly half the population is Swedish-speaking and service in Swedish is expected by many Swedish-speaking locals. In cities like Helsinki and Turku, on the other hand, there is a lively Swedish cultural scene and most people know enough Swedish to deal with simple conversations you engage in as a tourist and often at least somewhat beyond, but living would be quite tough without knowledge of Finnish. Most larger hotels and restaurants in areas where Swedish is widely spoken do have Swedish-proficient staff. In the Finnish-speaking hinterland, it is less common to find somebody fluent in Swedish by chance.
Almost all Finns speak English, so you should have no serious language problems. You might find old people who don't speak English at all, and at some off places you might not find anyone who can hold a conversation in English, but even then you'd get along – and even there you might as well find that your host's or driver's English is excellent. Don't hesitate to ask for help: Finns can be shy, but will mostly be glad to be able to help, and if you have real problems off the beaten path, they will indeed go out of their way to help you. Businesses with a domestic customer base often have their web pages and other marketing materials in Finnish only. This is not an indication that they cannot provide service in English (although they might have to improvise more than businesses used to foreigners). If the business seems interesting, just call them to get the information you need.
Russian is spoken in shops and hotels that cater to Russian tourists, especially in towns close to the Russian border such as Lappeenranta, Imatra and Joensuu; also for Helsinki shopping tourists from Russia are important, and service in Russian available in select locations. Russians are one of the largest immigrant groups in Finland: 1.5% of the population.
Besides the languages above, some Finns can speak German (18% conversant) or French (3% conversant). Other secondary languages such as Spanish and Italian are rarer. However, some tourist services are also offered in a wider variety of languages, including for example Chinese and Japanese: tour packages often have guides proficient in them, and there are often brochures, web pages and similar for the most important destinations and sights.
Foreign TV programs and films, including segments of local shows with foreign language dialogue, are nearly always shown with audio in the original language but subtitled into Finnish or Swedish. Only children's programmes, children's films, certain types of documentaries (the narrator part) and nature films get dubbed into Finnish or Swedish.
Tourist commonly head for Helsinki, Lapland, the Lakeland or the Archipelago Sea. While it is more easy to find package tours and businesses used to foreigners at those locations, there are many interesting places elsewhere, and you can pick destinations off the beaten path also in those regions.
A selection of top sights in Finland:
- Central Helsinki, the Daughter of the Baltic, on a warm and sunny summer day
- The historical sites of Turku and the Archipelago Sea around it, best viewed from a yacht or from the deck of a giant car ferry.
- Puttering around the picturesque wooden houses of Porvoo, Finland's second-oldest city, near Helsinki
- Renting a car and exploring the Lakeland of Eastern Finland, an area dotted with around 60,000 lakes with a similar number of islands, which in turn have their own lakes...
- Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna, Finland's most atmospheric castle, especially during the yearly Opera Festival
- Hämeenlinna Castle in Hämeenlinna is Finland's oldest castle. Built in 13th century.
- Icebreaker cruising and the world's biggest snow castle in Kemi
- Seeing the Northern Lights and trying your hand sledding down a mile-long track at Saariselkä
- A ride on the historical wooden roller coaster of the Linnanmäki amusement park (Helsinki). Unlike modern designs, only gravity keeps it on the track, and it requires a driver on each train to operate the brakes.
There is a museum card (museokortti), which gives free entrance to most bigger museums for a week for €40. There are 40 participating museums in the capital region, 250 in all the country. There is also a one-year version, for €65.
- Archipelago Trail, by road and ferry through the Archipelago Sea
- Blue Highway, a road from Norway to Russia, by lakes and rivers
- E8 through Finland and Norway, the main road of Finland's west coast
- E18, a highway running from Turku to the Russian border via the capital region
- Finland in ten days by car, a suggested route showing some of the most important sights in Finland
- Highway 4 (Finland), part of the European route E75, stretching almost the full length of the country from south to north
- Hanko-Uusikaupunki by boat, the main leisure fairway through the Archipelago Sea
- Hämeen Härkätie, a historic route from Turku to the inland
- King's Road (Finland), the old postal route along the south coast
- Nordkalottleden, a long-distance hiking trail through the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area
Notably lacking in craggy mountains or crenellated fjords, Finland is not the adrenalin-laden winter sports paradise you might expect: the traditional Finnish pastime is cross-country skiing through more or less flat terrain. If you're looking for downhill skiing, snowboarding etc., you'll need to head up to Lapland and resorts like Levi and Saariselkä.
The king of sports in Finland is ice hockey (jääkiekko), and winning the Ice Hockey World Championship is as close to nirvana as the country gets – especially if they defeat arch-rivals Sweden, as they did in 1995 and 2011. The yearly national championship is the Liiga, where 15 teams battle it out. If you're visiting in season (September to March), catching a game is worthwhile. Tickets start from around €16, and while the action on the ice is brutal, fans are generally well behaved (if not necessarily sober). If you happen to be in Finland when they win the World Championship, the traffic in the city centres might be messy, as the fans are running in the streets celebrating, usually intoxicated.
The national sport of Finland, though, is pesäpallo, which translates literally as "baseball", but looks and plays rather differently to its American forebear. The single most notable difference is that the pitcher stands at the home plate together with the batter and pitches directly upward, making hitting the ball easier and catching it harder. The Superpesis league plays for the yearly championship in summer, with both men's and women's teams. More about pesäpallo, see Pesäpalloliitto.
And if you'd like to try your hand at something uniquely Finnish, don't miss the plethora of bizarre sports contests in the summer, including:
- Air Guitar World Championships. August, Oulu. Bring out your inner guitar hero!
- World Fart Championships. July, Utajärvi. Yes, you read correctly.
- Mobile Phone Throwing Championship. Suspended 2016. August, Savonlinna. Recycle your Nokia!
- Swamp Soccer World Championship. July, Hyrynsalmi. Probably the messiest sporting event in the world. They also arrange a snow soccer world championships each February.
- Wife Carrying World Championship. July, Sonkajärvi. The grand prize is the wife's weight in beer.
- Sulkavan Suursoudut. July, Sulkava Finland's biggest rowing event
Outdoor life edit
During the short summer you can swim, canoe, row or sail in the lakes or in the sea. The water is at its warmest around 20 July, with temperatures about 20 °C (68 °F). Local newspapers usually have the current surface temperatures, and a map of the surface temperatures can also be found from the Environment Ministry website. During the warmest weeks, the water can feel pleasantly refreshing – and late at night or early in the morning it can feel warm, as the air temperature is lower than the water's. Most towns also have swimming halls with slightly warmer water, but these are often closed during the summer. Many Finns swim outdoors in winter also. There are lifeguards in busy hours at some beaches, but non-obvious risks are rare; nearly any shore can be used as long as you do not jump in without checking for obstacles. A poisonous algal bloom (sinilevä/cyanobakterier) can happen during the warmest period, so if the water seems to contain massive amounts of blue-green flakes, do not swim or use the water, and do not let children or pets into it (this shouldn't be confused with pollen, which can look similar).
The right to access and the sparse population makes it easy to go hiking wherever you are. If you are serious about it, you might want to check Hiking in the Nordic countries for advice and Finnish National Parks for destinations. There are trails for easy day trips as well as for week-long hikes – and large backwoods for the experienced. The best season for hiking is early fall, after most mosquitoes have died off and the autumn colours have come out, but summer is good too, and all seasons possible. Making an open fire requires landowner permission (which you have at campfire sites at most hiking destinations) and is forbidden during wildfire warnings regardless of such permission.
A lighter version of being outdoors is to go berry picking in some nearby forest. Also in bigger cities, there are usually suitable woods interspersed with the suburbs (i.e. within half a kilometre from a local bus stop). Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, mustikka/blåbär, closely related to the blueberry) is common enough that you nearly anywhere (in July–August) quickly will find berries for your morning porridge for all the week and for pies and deserts with cream and sugar. Other common berries include wild strawberry (metsämansikka/smultron, from late June), lingonberry (puolukka/lingon, August–September), bog bilberry (juolukka/odon), raspberry (vadelma/hallon) and crowberry (variksenmarja/kråkbär/čáhppesmuorji). On bogs you may find cloudberry (lakka/hjortron/luomi) and cranberry (karpalo/tranbär), the latter picked late in autumn. You can even sell excess berries at a local market (though this may be restricted for cloudberries in Lapland).
Many Finns also pick mushrooms, but doing that requires that you know what you are doing, as there are deadly ones, including the death cap and the European destroying angel, easy to mistake for an Agaricus (field/button/common mushroom and the like). A good rule of thumb is to never pick any white mushrooms, mushrooms growing on stumps or Cortinarius species, which have a cortina (a web of fibres resembling a cobweb) and usually reddish gills. You should of course not pick any mushrooms you do not know, but edible mushrooms in these categories are easily confused with common deadly ones.
In winter (and spring in the north) the way to go is of course cross-country skiing. There are maintained tracks around most cities, as well as around winter sports centres and in national parks. Wilderness back-packers use larger skis and do not rely on pre-existing tracks. You can of course go downhill also. Most ski resorts are in Lapland, but modest ones can be found even in the south.
Many Finns are keen fishermen and recreational fishing is equally available to foreigners. For most species there are regulations on allowed size and closed seasons, and it is your responsibility to check the general regulations and any local ones. In most still waters rod and hook fishing is free. Fishing with (single) reel and lure is allowed in most still waters, provided a national fisheries management fee has been paid, at a Metsähallitus service point (such as a national park visitor centre), in an R-kiosk, in the web shop or by bank giro (2023–2027: €47 for a year, €16 for a week, €6 for a day, plus any bank or kiosk surcharge; children under 18 and elderly over 64 exempted). Report wanted starting date when paying and show the receipt on request. For streaming waters rich in salmon or related species and some specially regulated waters, also separate permits have to be bought. With the national permit and permission from the owner of the waters you can fish with most legal methods; most land-owners in the countryside have a share, and many towns and other municipalities sell permits for some fishing in their waters. Check the regulations, including the local ones, e.g. when getting the permit, from a visitor centre or a suitable business. More information from 020-69-2424 (08:00–16:00), the web shop or e.g. ahven.net. Moving between certain waters you should disinfect your equipment, including boat and boots, and be careful in handling water and entrails (there are salmon parasites and crayfish plague). Many small businesses arrange fishing excursions. Catch-and-release fishing is not practised (but undersized fish is released if not badly hurt).
Åland has its own fishing law, where nearly all fishing requires permission from the owner of the waters, which you can get for many specific areas by paying a fee. Residents may fish by rod and hook in their home municipality except 15.4–15.6 and Nordic residents may fish for household use by any legal means in waters without an owner (far enough from inhabited islands).
Hunting is practised in the countryside. You may be able to partake if you have a suitable host or by the services of a suitable business. See Hunting#Finland and Hiking in the Nordic countries#Hunting.
The Forestry Administration (Metsähallitus) maintains an online Excursion Map with their trails and huts marked.
- See also: Nordic music
Popular music edit
Finland hosts many festivals of popular music (festari) during the summer. Notable ones include:
- Sauna Open Air (Tampere). Early June. Heavy metal.
- Provinssirock (Seinäjoki). Mid-June. Rock.
- Nummirock (Nummijärvi, near Kauhajoki). Midsummer. Heavy metal.
- Raumanmeren juhannus (Pori). Midsummer. Pop/disco music.
- Tuska Open Air (Helsinki). Late June. Heavy metal.
- Ruisrock (Turku). July. Rock.
- Ilosaarirock (Joensuu). Mid-July. Rock, pop, reggae.
- Kuopiorock (Kuopio). Late-July. Heavy metal, rock, pop.
- Pori Jazz (Pori). Mid-July. Jazz and world music.
- Flow (Helsinki). Mid-August. Indie/electronic/urban.
- Qstock (Oulu). End of July. Rock, pop, rap.
Most of the festivals last 2–4 days and are very well organised, with many different bands playing, with e.g. Foo Fighters and Linkin Park headlining at Provinssirock in 2008. The normal full ticket (all days) price is about €60–100, which includes a camp site where you can sleep, eat and meet other festival guests. The atmosphere at festivals is great and probably you'll find new friends there. Of course drinking a lot of beer is a part of the experience.
While tango was born in Argentina, Finland's own variant has been very important on the non-rock popular music scene:
Folk music edit
Folk music is very much alive, although mostly hidden from outsiders. The best place to immerse is Kaustinen:
- Kaustinen Folk Music Festival (Kaustinen). A massive event and an important meeting place for folk musicians from around the country and from farther away; despite the thousands of attendants, many concerts are at small venues, with an intimate atmosphere.
Classical music edit
The national identity of Finland was formed in the 19th century, with romantic classical composers such as Jean Sibelius as important contributors. Classical music continues to be strong in Finland, with the musical education internationally famous and classical "music festivals" in summer consisting of concert series of one or a few weeks arranged in most cities and even in some minor towns and villages, beside the ordinary concert program in cities in the winter season.
Yearly events with a significant international audience:
- Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival (Kuhmon Kamarimusiikki) (Kuhmo). Mid-July.
- Savonlinna Opera Festival (Savonlinnan Oopperajuhlat) (Savonlinna). July. Opera in the courtyard of the medieval castle.
The International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, the Mirjam Helin Competition (singers) and the International Maj Lind Piano Competition, take place in Helsinki every three to five years each, gathering skilful young artists from around the world – well worth attending for those who happen to be around and are interested in the genre. They are also broadcast on national radio and TV.
Other events edit
- Finncon, Helsinki, Turku, Tampere or Jyväskylä. Finland's biggest sci-fi convention and the only major sci-fi convention in the world to be completely free of charge. Held on a weekend in summer, usually in middle July. Free of charge.
Northern Lights edit
Spotting the eerie Northern Lights (Finnish: revontulet, Northern Sámi: guovssahas, Swedish: norrsken) glowing in the sky is on the agenda of many visitors. Far north Lapland in Finland is one of the best places to observe aurorae, as it has good accessibility, high-quality accommodation and inland Finland has relatively clear skies, compared e.g. to coastal Norway.
In the south, northern lights are seldom seen. In e.g. Helsinki there are northern lights about once a month, but you are likely to be somewhere with too much light pollution. In the winter in northern Lapland, on the other hand, the probability of some northern lights is 50–70 % every night with clear skies, and light pollution is quite easy to avoid there.
To have a good chance to see the northern lights, you should stay at least a few days, preferably a week or more, in the far north in the right season (from September to April). The likelihood of northern lights is highest around latitude 70° N such as in Kilpisjärvi, Inari or Utsjoki. Statistically, the northern lights occur on up to three nights out of four in Kilpisjärvi and on every other night at the latitude of Kolari or Sodankylä. However, you need a cloudless sky to see them. They follow a clear circadian rhythm: they are likely to be seen from the evening to the small hours of the night (late in the season, wall clock time is an hour early).
You can check aurora forecasts on the Finnish Meteorological Institute's space weather page or by the My Aurora Borealis app. Aurora forecasts are based on measurements of solar activity and can be used to predict the probability of an auroral display; they might be seen even if the forecast says the probability is low.
- Main article: Sauna
The sauna is an essential part of Finnish life and the Finnish society. According to an oft-quoted statistic this nation of 5 million has no less than 2 million saunas, in apartments, offices, summer cottages and even Parliament. Many agreements in business and politics are reached informally after a sauna bath. In Finland, a sauna is a place for relaxation and maybe quiet conversation. They are not associated with romance or sex, and even drinking usually happens outside after the sauna, not within it.
The sauna is essentially a room heated to 70–120°C, with water thrown on the stove for an additional rush of heat. The sauna bath is used for relaxation and refreshment – and for socialising. Often there is an adjacent room with a fireplace, where participants gather after the sauna, especially in places where there are separate women's and men's saunas – a common way to end the evening of a company getaway, a business visit or the like.
If you are invited to visit a Finnish home or cottage, you may also be invited to bathe in the sauna — this is an honour and should be treated as such, although Finns do understand that some foreigners may not be keen about the idea.
Social dancing edit
If you like traditional social dancing – foxtrot, waltz, jive, cha cha etc. – you should try the dance pavilions (Finnish: lavatanssit at a tanssilava), usually by a lake or in some other nice countryside setting, with live music. They have lost popularity since the 1950s, but do have a faithful audience, also among the young. Similar dances are arranged in many rural community centres. The price of a night is usually €12–25 (as of 2023). There are of course also discos, at other venues, see city articles or take a Friday night cruise to Sweden.
In the summer there are dances at most dance pavilions at least weekly and often a dance somewhere in the region most days. Valasranta arranges a week of dance courses and dances in July, in addition to the weekly dances. See also Tangomarkkinat, the tango festival of Seinäjoki. In the winter you can find part of the same crowd in heated indoor locations (mostly community centres, a few of the pavilions, some dance restaurants). In the Swedish-speaking parts of the country, dancing seems to be more in decline, with proper dances arranged less regularly and the music often less varied (mostly bugg/foxstrot); there may be no formal asking scheme.
Some dance with their partners or friends (like most do at dance restaurants), but at the dance pavilions most participate in a scheme where men ask women (who line up by one of the walls) to dance, with a women's hour at some point (when women ask), and at some venues also mixed asking part of or even all the night (there are usually signs lit to tell whose turn it is: miestenhaku/naistenhaku). Some venues have women's nights (naistentanssit), where women do all or most of the asking. Regardless of who asks, one is always expected to dance a pair of dances. There are usually more women than men and if so, some women dance also with each other. Knowing waltz and foxtrot (or waltz, fusku and bugg) you can dance most dances, regardless of the nominal dance; jenkka/schottische, polka and mazurka are mostly left to those who know them (note the dance floor getting half-empty). Unlike in Sweden, bugg is never danced all night in Finnish Finland; it is just one among several dances. Waltz is usually played as first and last pieces (extras not counted).
The names "tango" and "rumba" are used for several dances internationally. In Finland, tango is mostly danced with foxtrot-like steps, while rumba (bolero) is danced in the rhythm 1-(2)-3-4. Waltz is played fast or slow: the traditional waltzes are somewhat slower than Viennese waltz, while slow waltz (danced as English waltz) is played about equally often at many venues. Humppa is a Finnish innovation, danced either with fast jumpy steps or as a figure dance with walk-like basic steps. Fusku (single swing) is a simplified jive in foxtrot-like rhythm, bugg one with an even four-paced rhythm. Several swing and Latino dances are popular in part of the dancing crowd, while others skip the pieces or dance them as foxtrot, fusku or bugg. Some slow dances are also played and danced in varying styles.
At some venues, an unfamiliar woman can have difficulties getting asked to dance (men ask themselves most of the night, so don't have this problem). If you can talk to some local – preferably a skilled dancer – to have him dance with you, that may help to introduce you. Male company of your own can do the same, and at least lets you dance part of the night. Use the women's and mixed hour(s) both to get to dance and to find men who might ask you to later. Don't be shy and avoid showing any frustration; a smile can save your night.
Most dance pavilions have a café or a kiosk with at least coffee and snacks, and mostly free water. Some serve alcohol (which usually means an age limit of 18), but getting drunk at these places is frowned upon. The dress code is relaxed even though people dress carefully, with a nice short-sleeved shirt common among men and a light dress common among women. Think twice if you consider high heels (and don't use wet outdoor shoes). Leave any bag in your car, in the cloakroom or wherever other dancers leave theirs (often by the stage or just by the bench or chairs) – on the dance floor it gets in the way.
The same dances (or rather the most common among them) are often danced at the end of certain types of formal parties, such as student union anniversaries and weddings. At some such events some other dances, such as walking polonaise, are also danced (if they are challenging, an advance course may be arranged).
Finnish folk dances (kansantanssi, tanhu/folkdans) aren't any more a living tradition among the general public, but if you are interested in them, you can probably find a local club. The heritage is nowadays shared between Finland, Scandinavia and, to some extent, the rest of the Nordic countries. At least in the biggest cities there are also clubs dancing Argentinian tango, U.S. country dances and other specific foreign genres.
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Finland uses the euro, like several other European countries. One euro is divided into 100 cents. The official symbol for the euro is €, and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.
All banknotes and coins of this common currency are legal tender within all the countries, except that low-denomination coins (one and two cent) are phased out in some of them. The banknotes look the same across countries, while coins have a standard common design on the reverse, expressing the value, and a national country-specific design on the obverse. The obverse is also used for different designs of commemorative coins. The design of the obverse does not affect the coin's acceptability .
In cash transactions in Finland all sums are rounded to the nearest five cents. Thus one and two cent coins are seldom used (although legal tender) and the rare Finnish ones are collectors' items. When paying with a card, the payment is honoured to the cent. Prices are usually given without explicitly stating the currency. Cents are told after a comma, which is the decimal separator. Thus 5,50 means five euros and fifty cents, while 5,– means five euros.
Most places accept the major credit cards (with chip, ID may be needed). On some local and regional buses and at some small-scale businesses, such as some stalls at open-air markets, only cash is accepted, while train conductors and a few businesses do not accept cash. Cheques are never used. Notes of €100, €200 and €500 are not dispensed by ATMs and are rarely actually used. Prepare for a hassle if trying to pay with them; buses and many types of smaller kiosks often do not accept them, local buses sometimes not even notes of €50. Small stalls may be happy for you to pay by small money or close to exact change.
Most Finns use a chipped debit card for their daily purchases. EMV contactless payment readers are commonplace for purchases under €50. You will need your PIN for the terminals for purchases over €50 and now and then for the contactless ones. An ID isn't normally needed, as long as you can confirm your identity with your PIN – which means that anybody that gets your PIN can use your card.
Credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, sometimes other cards) are widely accepted. Visa Electron and Visa Debit card readers are found in all major and most minor shops, so carrying large amounts of cash is not usually necessary. Using a foreign card might become an issue if your card is not chip-based; many vendors require PIN. Many Finns use a card even for small purchases, and the use of cash is rapidly decreasing. For small businesses, what shows up on your balance may not match the one you visited; keep the receipts or note what to expect not to get confused later.
For open air markets, small accommodation businesses, for buying handicraft at the workshop and similar, have cash (käteinen) or check in advance. A sign reading "Vain käteinen" means "Cash only".
Currencies other than the euro are generally not accepted, although the Swedish krona may be accepted in Åland and northern border towns like Tornio (and Norwegian crowns likewise in the extreme north). As an exception, Stockmann accepts U.S. dollars, pound sterling and Swedish krona. Also on the ferries from Sweden and Estonia many currencies may be accepted.
Getting money is rarely a problem in cities, as ATMs (pankkiautomaatti, bankautomat) are common and they can be operated with international credit and debit cards (Visa, Visa Electron, MasterCard, Maestro). Most ATMs belong to the Otto system, some to the Nosto (both names can be interpreted as "draw"). The former is a cooperation between the banks, the latter, often found at S markets, an independent new competitor. In the countryside ATMs are harder to find. Cash can be got with some cards at some shops. Exchange bureaux can be found in the bigger cities and near borders and typically have longer opening hours and faster service than banks – but little competition, so don't expect good rates. Some bank offices do not handle cash at all, and those that do may still not handle currency exchange. Because of widespread electronic banking, routine bill payment and other banking tasks are rarely conducted at a bank office. Banks have scaled down their office network and personal service, so that you might have to queue for that, and pay significant fees.
Finland is a part of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), which covers EU and EEA, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland. Any chipped credit or debit card issued by a SEPA bank should work, and money can be transferred between banks by giro over the whole SEPA area. Nevertheless, if you're moving into the country, get a Finnish bank account (pankkitili, bankkonto), because Finnish banks do not charge fees for giros within Finland if they are submitted online, and bank giro (pankkisiirto, bankgiro) is – for all intents and purposes – the only method to pay bills and get salaries paid. You will be issued electronic banking credentials, which can be used to execute most daily banking tasks including giro payments. Many vendors offer "electronic bills" (e-lasku, e-räkning), which sends the bill directly to your user account at the bank for approval, and you can also have the bank pay the bill automatically at a specified date, useful for e.g. rent. Banking credentials also serve as identity checks for e.g. insurance or government electronic services.
As a rule, tipping is entirely optional and never necessary in Finland; restaurant bills already include service charges. Indeed tipping is almost unheard of outside restaurants with table service and taxi fares; the latter are occasionally rounded up to the next convenient number. Cloakrooms (narikka) in nightclubs and better restaurants often have non-negotiable fees (usually clearly signposted, €2 is standard), and – in the few hotels that employ them – hotel porters will expect around the same per bag. Bar patrons may tip the bouncer when leaving for satisfactory service in the establishment in general. Consequently tips are most often pooled. Bars often have a brass tippikello (tip bell) near the counter. Upon receiving a tip, the service person strikes it with the largest denomination of coin given in the tip.
Tipping government and municipality personnel for any service will not be accepted, as it could be considered a bribe.
The inflation in 2022 was close to 10% (from close to zero previous years), which means that some prices might have gone up significantly. Check current situation before relying on price estimates.
Declared the world's most expensive country in 1990, prices have since abated somewhat but are still steep by most standards, though somewhat cheaper than Norway; Norwegians living near the border often drive into Finland to purchase groceries. Rock-bottom travelling if staying in hostel dorms and self-catering costs at least €25/day and it's safer to assume double that amount (to get a visa, you need to demonstrate funds of €30/day). Groceries in Finland cost approximately 20% over the EU average. The cheapest hotels cost about €50 per night (without breakfast) and more regular hotels start from about €80–100. Instead of hotels or hostels, look for holiday cottages, especially when travelling in a group and off-season; you can find a full-equipped cottage for €10–15 per person a night. Camp-sites typically cost €10–20 per tent or caravan, plus about €5/2 per person.
Museums and tourist attractions have an entrance fee in the range of €5–25. Using public transport costs a few euros per day and depends on the city. One-way travel between major cities by train or by bus costs €20–100, depending on the distance. Children, by varying definitions, often pay about half price or less (small children free), except at children's attractions.
A VAT of 24% is charged for nearly everything (the main exception being food at 14 %), but by law this must be included in the displayed price. Non-EU residents can get a tax refund for purchases not intended for local use above €40 at participating outlets, just look for the Tax-Free Shopping logo and check how to get the refund.
As you might expect given the general price level, souvenir shopping in Finland isn't exactly cheap. Traditional buys include Finnish puukko knives and handwoven ryijy rugs. Handicraft (domestic as well as from e.g. Estonia) is most easily found at certain fairs, such as the Christmas markets – although you might stumble over small handicraft shops at any time. For any Lappish handicrafts, look for the "Sámi Duodji" label that certifies it as authentic. Popular foods to try or to bring home to astonish your friends include every conceivable part of a reindeer, lye-soaked lutefisk (lipeäkala), and pine tar (terva) syrup. If you can't bring yourself to try terva on your pancakes, then you can also get soap scented with it in nearly any grocery or drug store. There are also candies with tar flavour, the most common being the Leijona Lakritsi candies.
Popular brands for modern (or timeless) Finnish design include Marimekko clothing, Iittala glass, Arabia ceramics (especially their Moomin mugs are a must), Kalevala Koru jewelry, Pentik interior design and, if you don't mind the shipping costs, Artek furniture by renowned architect and designer Alvar Aalto. Kids, and more than a few adults, love Moomin characters, which fill up souvenir store shelves. Antique shops (see Second hand below) may have tableware or similar items from the Russian Empire.
Shopping hours are not regulated any more, and depend on the location, size and type of shop: it is best to check their websites for opening hours of the day. The most available are grocery stores, such as Sale, Alepa or K-Market, which usually are open 07:00–23:00, in some cases around the clock. Larger shops (such as Prisma and K-Citymarket), shopping centres and department stores are generally open until 20:00 or 21:00 on weekdays and 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Many shops open a bit late in Sunday mornings. For small and speciality shops, normal weekday opening hours are from 9:00 or later to 17:00 or 18:00, but most of them close early on Saturday and are closed entirely on Sundays, and in the countryside some may not even be open all weekdays. Shopping hours in Helsinki are the longest, with some department stores open around the clock. Shopping hours in the countryside and small cities are shorter, although most national chains keep the same hours throughout the country (except for 24 hr operations). During national holidays, almost all stores are closed; some grocery stores may remain open. Finally, shops may operate longer than usual hours during the Christmas shopping season.
Convenience stores like the ubiquitous R-Kioski keep quite long hours, but still tend to be closed when you most need them. If in desperate need of basic supplies, fuel station convenience stores (Shell, Neste, Teboil, ABC) are usually open on weekends and until late at night, and especially stores in ABC stations commonly operate around the clock. Supermarkets in Helsinki's Asematunneli, underneath the Central Railway Station, are open until 22:00 every day of the year, except on Christmas Day.
When buying products in loose sale, such as often vegetables and fruits, in supermarkets you should usually put them on a nearby scale and push the button for the code shown adjacent to the price, to get a sticker for the cashier. Lidl is an exception, there the scale is at the cashier and handled by them.
For many packed groceries, there are several brands or variants, often with prices related to targeted consumers rather than quality. Check low and high shelves. Some offers require a consumer loyalty card, with the price for others given in the fine print.
For alcohol, see Drink below.
Most products need to be imported, and unfortunately this shows in the selection of goods and the pricing. It is not uncommon to see exactly the same product in different shops, at exactly the same price. When buying consumer electronics, one should be aware that the shelf life of products can be rather long, especially if the shop isn't specialised in consumer electronics. There is a risk of buying an overpriced product that has already been discontinued by the manufacturer or replaced with a newer model.
While shopkeepers may vehemently deny this to a foreigner, prices in smaller stores are by no means fixed. When buying hobby equipment, it is not uncommon to get 30% discount (hint: find the international price level from a web shop and print it out). In the kinds of shops where such ad hoc discounts are possible, you could at least ask for the price to be rounded down some 5%, or to get some lesser product included. This is not like the bargaining in some other countries – you should mostly ask for the price you hope to get, or just suggest you'd appreciate a reduced price.
At sales, shops often advertise discounts of jopa some percentage. This means some (a few?) products will have that discount – possibly counted on an inflated original price. While misleading advertising is forbidden, marketers often stretch the limits, and sometimes outright cross them. If you feel having been cheated, you might be able to cancel the deal by friendly pointing out the error, then firmly if that doesn't help. There are instances you can try before going to court (differing by subject matter), but the process is often tedious and slow. Real scams are unusual other than on the net or approaching you by phone.
Second hand is sold in a few different kinds of shops (and some people spend a summer's day selling things they don't need at an open-air market). Antique shops (look for antiikkia/antik) concentrate on good quality old things, not necessarily antique, knowing their value. Bargains are few, but prices not necessarily higher than for modern goods of lower quality. If you want some tableware from the Russian Empire, this is where to look. There are also dedicated second-hand shops selling clothes, music records or some other specific kind of wares, antiquarian bookshops (antikvariaatti/antikvariat) being the prime example, working as they always did. Then we have different flea market-like shops (kirpputori/lopptorg). Charity shops – with UFF, the Red Cross ("Kontti" shops) and the Salvation Army (most shops branded "iCare") probably the biggest players – have some vintage but also quite a lot of more or less contemporary stuff. Prices are low. UFF tries to resemble an ordinary clothes store, just with bigger variation (you seldom find different sizes for one model). The half-municipal recycling centres (kierrätyskeskus) don't have clothes, but should be your first stop if you are trying to get a household running. Most second hand shopping is through commercial actors who just provide rack space and a point of sale, which means presentation and assortment are a bit chaotic. Some of these latter – in addition to the net – are the main places where to find used baby (vauva) and toddler (taapero) stuff, such as clothing and reusable nappies, but their main goods are youth and adult clothes, and they have smaller volumes of anything not too bulky.
- Main article: Finnish cuisine
Finnish cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours (see Nordic cuisine and Russian cuisine), the main staples being potatoes and bread with various fish and meat dishes on the side. Dairy products are also important, with a wide variety of cheeses, and milk a common beverage even for adults. Due to the harsh climate, spices in Finland were historically largely limited to salt and pepper, with lashings of dill in the summer. While traditional Finnish food is famously bland, there was a culinary revolution in the 1990s, with a boom in classy restaurants experimenting with local ingredients, often with excellent results. Contemporary Finnish cuisine includes tastes and influences from all over the world, and the dining scene in larger cities has become quite cosmopolitan.
As the ingredients make much of the food, in Finland, the agricultural products might suffer of the cold climate, which requires many of them to be imported or grown with little natural light off season. Yet in summer, many products benefit from the nearly eternal sunlight. The fish, while small in size, are tasty.
In working days locals typically eat a substantial breakfast, lunch (at a workplace cafeteria, a nearby restaurant, or packed), dinner after work, and a light evening meal before going to bed. If eating the dinner out, it is eaten later and the evening meal skipped. In weekends lunch and dinner are often combined. Full board lodging may include the evening meal, sometimes as a basket to eat at your room or in communal areas.
In proper hotels the included breakfast is extensive. In other lodgings, if breakfast is included, it is usually sufficient to keep you going until a late lunch. It at least includes bread with toppings and coffee or tea, often also other fare. In some "B&B"s breakfast isn't included, but must be ordered separately and might be self-service.
With tens of thousands of lakes and a long coastline, fish is a Finnish staple, and there's a lot more on that menu than just salmon (lohi/lax). However, most fish found in shops is nowadays imported; most salmon is farmed in Norway. Domestic fish is found at some markets, in shops with a dedicated fish counter, at some lodgings and in some restaurants.
Seize the chance when there is freshly caught and prepared fish from the archipelagos or one of the thousand lakes. Local fish include zander (kuha/gös), pike (hauki/gädda), flounder (kampela/flundra) and perch (ahven/abborre).
Also sample herring (Baltic herring and pickled Atlantic herring) served in many varieties, warm-smoked salmon and vendace ("muikku", a staple at festivals and markets). Savonia's kalakukko, a bread-like rye pie filled with small whole fish (often vendace), is available at markets around the country, and any time in Savonia.
If you're in Finland around September–October, keep an eye out for the Herring Fair (silakkamarkkinat/strömmingsmarknad), celebrated in most larger coastal cities. Other than just fish products there are plenty of other delicacies, handicraft and general market fare for sale in such markets.
Meat dishes edit
Most meat dishes are common European cuisine. At special occasions you may be served Karelian stew (karjalanpaisti; a version made using shortcuts is common at cafeterias).
Everyday food includes Liver casserole (maksalaatikko/leverlåda), which is found in any grocery store and tastes rather different from what you'd expect; sausages (makkara/korv) in countless varieties; meat balls (lihapullat, lihapyörykät/köttbullar), as tasty as in the neighbouring Sweden; and Swedish hash (pyttipannu/pytt i panna), a hearty dish of chopped potatoes, chopped onions and any meaty leftovers on hand, available from many grill kiosks.
Reindeer (poro) dishes aren't part of the everyday Finnish diet (other than locally), but a tourist staple.
Milk products edit
Cheese and other milk products are very popular in Finland. Large quantities of cheese (juusto/ost) are consumed, much of it locally produced mild to medium matured. Imported cheeses are available and local farm cheeses can be sampled and purchased at open air markets (tori/torg) and year round market halls.
Specialities include the flat, fried "bread-cheese" (leipäjuusto), usually eaten cold in a salad or slightly softened and with (cloudberry) jam as a dessert, and "home cheese" (kotijuusto), commonly available in buffet restaurants, especially during the Christmas season.
Fermented dairy products help stabilise the digestion system, so if your system is upset, give them a try:
- Piimä (surmjölk), a type of buttermilk beverage, thick and sour and contains naturally healthy lactic acid bacteria; nowadays some are often explicitly added ("AB").
- Rahka (kvarg), a dense dairy product halfway between yoghurt and cheese. Commonly used in pies and tarts, but also available ready to eat with fruit or berries mixed in.
- Viili (fil, filbunke), a type of curd, acts like super-stretchy liquid bubble gum but is similar to plain yoghurt in taste. It is traditionally eaten with cinnamon and sugar on top.
Yoghurt (jugurtti), often premixed with jam, is commonly eaten. Kefir, a Russian yoghurt drink, is available in many flavours.
Other dishes edit
- Pea soup (hernekeitto/ärtsoppa) competes with salmon soup as an easy-to-make dish where kitchen facilities are limited, but is also traditionally served on Thursdays with a piece of pancake as a dessert. Eaten with a dab of mustard and some chopped onion. Found in canned version in every single grocery store; add half a can of water when heating it.
- Karelian pie (karjalanpiirakka) — an oval 7 by 10 cm baked pastry, traditionally baked with rye flour, containing rice porridge or mashed potato, ideally eaten topped with a mixture of butter and chopped egg (munavoi). Imitations are sold as riisipiirakka ("rice pie") or perunapiirakka ("potato pie").
- Porridge (puuro/gröt), usually made from oats (kaura), barley (ohra), rice (riisi), wheat (in this context: manna) or rye (ruis). Finnish oat porridge (kaurapuuro), a very common dish for breakfast, is typically made with water (although milk is common in Finland Proper) and topped with berries or a pat of salty butter. Sour rye porridge with lingonberries (ruis-puolukkapuuro) is a traditional lunch meal in Finnish schools.
Bread (leipä/bröd) is served with every meal in Finland, and comes in a vast array of varieties. Different types of rye bread (ruisleipä, rågbröd) are popular and much darker, heavier, and chewier than American- or Swedish-style mixed wheat-rye bread. Some are sour or even bitter. Specialities include the heavy and sweet "black bread" (svartbröd) of Åland, the less extreme "archipelago bread" (skärgårdslimpa) from the Archipelago Sea, the unleavened rieska, and crispy flatbreads.
Seasonal specialities edit
The Runeberg torte (Runebergintorttu, Runebergstårta) is a cylindrical pastry with a patch of jam surrounded by a ring of sugar paste on top. It is a strictly seasonal pastry available only during a few weeks in February, close to Finland's national poet J.L. Runeberg's Day.
There are no Mardi Gras parties in Finland, but the occasion is celebrated with a lunch of pea soup with a pancake and jam. This is also the season for the laskiaispulla/fastlagsbulle, a bun filled with whipped cream and either jam or almond paste, sometimes served with hot milk.
Around Easter keep an eye out for mämmi (memma), a type of brown sweet rye and malt pudding. It looks famously unpleasant but actually tastes quite good (best eaten with creamy milk and sugar). Another Easter delicacy of Russian origin is paskha (pasha), a sweet but sour-ish quark-based dessert. A sweet speciality for May Day is tippaleipä (struva), a palm sized funnel cake traditionally enjoyed with mead.
During the Midsummer celebration in late June it is common to serve the first potatoes of that years' harvest with herring. From the end of July until September it's worthwhile to ask for crayfish (rapu/kräfta) menus and prices at better restaurants. It's not cheap, you won't get full from the crayfish alone, and there are many rituals involved, most of which involve large quantities of ice-cold vodka, but it should be tried at least once.
Around Christmas, a baked Christmas ham (joulukinkku/julskinka) is the traditional star of the dinner table, with a constellation of casseroles around it. Some restaurants serve Christmas buffets for some days before the holiday.
During the winter months, blini's are often available in restaurants. These are small, soft, pancakes of Russian origin, eaten with fish roe, sour cream and onion.
For dessert or just as a snack, Finnish pastries abound and are often taken with coffee after a meal.
In summer, a wide range of fresh berries are available, including the delectable but expensive cloudberry (Finnish: lakka/hilla/muurain/valokki, depending on location; Swedish:hjortron, Sámi: luomi), and a number of wild berry products are available throughout the year as jam (hillo/sylt), soup (keitto/soppa), candy (makeinen/godis), and a type of a gooey, clear pudding known as kiisseli (kräm).
To get fresh berries, unless you pick them yourselves, check the local open-air market. There are often stalls also outside some supermarkets. The berries can be used as such, with some cream (and sugar, depending on species and your taste), with vanilla ice cream, on a pie, as jam, or any way you like them. Lingonberries are usually mashed, mixed with sugar and used as jam with a meal, but can also be eaten as such, like the others. Crowberries have big seeds and are mostly used as juice or jam, with the seeds removed.
Finnish chocolate is also rather good, with Fazer products including their iconic Sininen ("Blue") bar and Geisha candies exported around the world. A Finnish speciality is the wide use of licorice (lakritsi/lakrits). The Finns are particularly craving for the strong salty liquorice (salmiakki/salmiak) which gets its unique (and acquired, be warned) taste from ammonium chloride.
After a meal it's common to chomp chewing gum (purukumi/tuggummi) including xylitol, which is good for dental health. Jenkki is a popular domestic brand. Many flavours are available.
Places to eat edit
Finna eat out a lot at lunchtime, when thanks to a government-sponsored lunch coupon system company cafeterias and nearly every restaurant in town offers set lunches (lounas/lunch), usually consisting of a main course, salad bar, bread table and a drink, for €8–15, with proper restaurants in the upper end of the range. Cafés might offer a simpler meal with salad, soup, bread and coffee. University cafeterias, many of which are open to all, are particularly good value with meals for outsiders for about €9 (€3.20 for the main option for students with Finnish student ID). There are also public cafeterias in office areas that are open only during lunch hours on working days. While not particularly stylish and sometimes hard to find, those usually offer high-quality buffet lunch at a reasonable price. Actually, workplace and university eateries may be the best places to sample what Finns actually eat: much of their food is what people cook for normal meals at home. Any lunch eatery will have lunch offers M–F 11:00–14:00, while some have them e.g. 10:30–15:00, very few until dinner time, and very few in weekends. There are some websites which list lunch offers for the day for several restaurants of a particular city, for example Lounasmenu. You can find many of them by searching with the word lounaslistat (lunch lists).
Eating out for dinner is more of an occasion and "nice" restaurants tend to charge over €20 for a meal. In rural localities and smaller towns, such restaurants are often limited to the local hotel; hotel restaurants do welcome customers not staying there, but they may close early (and there may be no hotel around). Despite the high prices, portions tend to be quite small, at least when compared to USA and Canada, and even many European countries. Finns are used to eating a substantial breakfast (included in the price of hotels and some other lodgings) and lunch, so the dinner doesn't need to be very heavy, and can be two- or single-course. Dinner is eaten rather early, sometimes as early as 16:00, but usually starting between 17:00 and 18:00.
Most restaurants try to cater also to families with children, some making a greater effort than others. There is often a children's menu, typically meatballs, chicken nuggets and simple pastas, although some offer the option of a child size portion from the normal menu to a reduced price.
The Finnish word for buffet is seisova pöytä ("standing table"), and while increasingly used to refer to budget all-you-can-eat restaurants, the traditional meaning is akin to Sweden's smörgåsbord: a good-sized selection of sandwiches, fish, meats and pastries. It's traditionally eaten in three rounds: first the fish, then the cold meats, and finally warm dishes – and it's usually the first that is the star of the show. Though expensive and not very common in a restaurant setting, if you are fortunate enough to be formally invited to a Finn's home, they might have prepared a spread for their guests, along with plenty of coffee. Breakfast at better hotels is also along these lines and it's easy to eat enough to cover lunch as well!
The sushi buffet has taken Finland by storm in the 2020s and any town worth its wasabi has several. The concept is simple: pay a flat fee of €12-20 (dinner tends to cost more) and stuff yourself silly with premade sushi and Chinese standbys like fried rice and sweet and sour pork. The quality tends to be mediocre at best, but it's arguably healthier than most fast-food alternatives and there are typically reasonable vegetarian options too. Major chains include Luckiefun's and Konnichiwa.
Cheaper options are largely limited to generic fast food (pizza, hamburgers, kebabs and such) in the €7–12 range. For eating on the move, look for grill kiosks (grilli), which serve sausages, hamburgers and other portable if not terribly health-conscious fare late into the night at reasonable prices, with local atmosphere as a bonus. In addition to the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, look for meat pies (lihapiirakka/köttpirog), akin to a giant savoury doughnut stuffed with minced meat and your choice of sausage, fried eggs and condiments. Hesburger is the local fast-food equivalent of McDonald's, with a similar menu. Also most international fast food chains are present. The grills and hamburger chains may offer "Finnish" interpretations of some dishes, such as reindeer burgers in Lapland, or substituting sandwich buns with a sour-rye bun on request. Also pizzas are sometimes offered with similar twists.
If you're really on a budget, you can save a considerable amount of money by self-catering. Ready-to-eat casseroles and other basic fare that can be quickly prepared in a microwave can be bought for a few euros in any supermarket. Note that you're usually expected to weigh and label any fruits or vegetables yourself (bag them, note the number at the price tag, place them on the scale and press the numbered button). Green signs mostly mean possibly tastier but certainly more expensive organic (luomu/ekologisk) produce. Many shops tag produce at or near the "best before" date for a discount of 30% or so, often doubled in the late evening. Often there are several brands of the same produce, with sometimes very different prices; when you have found the right shelf, look around.
Dietary restrictions edit
Traditional Finnish cuisine relies heavily on meat and fish, but vegetarianism (kasvissyönti/vegetarianism) is increasingly popular and well-understood, and will rarely pose a problem for travellers. Practically all restaurants offer vegetarian options, often marked with a "V" on menus. Some cafeterias have a separate line for the vegan and vegetarian dishes. Take note that egg (kananmuna or muna/ägg) is found in many prepared foods, ready meals and baked goods, so vegan meals are not common outside selected restaurants, but the selection of raw ingredients, speciality grains and health foods is adequate for preparing your own. Likewise gelatine (liivate) in yoghurt, jellies and sweets is common. Both will always be indicated on labels.
Two ailments most commonly found among Finns themselves are lactose intolerance (laktoosi-intoleranssi, inability to digest the milk sugar lactose) and coeliac disease (keliakia/celiaki, inability to digest gluten). In restaurants, lactose-free selections are often tagged "L". Low-lactose products are sometimes called "Hyla" or marked with "VL". (Notice that low-lactose VL has nothing to do with vegetarian V.) The gluten-free options are marked with "G". However, hydrolysed lactose (EILA, or HYLA brand) milk or lactose-free milk drink for the lactose intolerant is widely available, which also means that a lactose-free dish is not necessarily milk-free. Allergies are quite common among Finnish people, too, so restaurant workers are usually quite knowledgeable on what goes into each dish and often it is possible to get the dish without certain ingredients if specified.
Kosher and halal food are rare in Finland and generally not available outside very limited speciality shops and restaurants catering to the tiny Jewish and Islamic communities. Watch out for minced meat dishes like meatballs, which very commonly use a mix of beef and pork. The Jewish Community of Helsinki runs a small kosher deli in Helsinki.
A range of ingredients that have more common allergies and dietary restrictions associated with them may be printed in bold text in the list of ingredients (ainekset or ainesosat/ingredienser) on all packaged goods, at restaurants and markets you will have to ask. A problem when self-catering is that lots of products contain traces of allergens (e.g. most chocolate will have traces of nuts, most oats traces of gluten etc.), which means you might have to buy expensive food items specifically for those with your diet. The Swedish version of the list may be easier for an English-speaker, but check the names of foodstuff you want to avoid.
Thanks to its thousands of lakes, Finland has plenty of water supplies and tap water is always potable – except on trains and the like, where this is clearly indicated (see Stay healthy below). In fact, never buy bottled water if you can get tap water!
The usual soft drinks and juices are widely available, but there is also a wide array of berry juices (marjamehu), especially in summer, as well as Pommac, an unusual soda made from (according to the label) "mixed fruits", which you'll either love or hate. Juice from many berries is to be mixed with water, also when not bought as concentrate; sugar is often already added. Note the difference between mehu (juice) and mehujuoma (saftdryck), where the latter may have only traces of the nominal ingredient.
Coffee and tea edit
Finns are the world's heaviest coffee (kahvi/kaffe) drinkers, averaging 3–4 cups per day. Most Finns drink it strong and black, but sugar and milk for coffee are always available and variants such as espresso and cappuccino are becoming all the more common especially in the bigger cities. All the biggest towns have had French-style fancy cafés for quite some time and modern competitors, like Wayne's, Robert's Coffee or Espresso House, are springing up in the mix. Most cafés close early. For a quick caffeine fix, you can just pop into any convenience store, which will pour you a cuppa for €2 or so. Tea hasn't quite caught on in quite the same way, although finding hot water and a bag of Lipton Yellow Label won't be a problem. For brewed tea, check out some of the finer cafés or tea rooms in the city centres.
Finnish coffee, however, is usually prepared using filters ("sumppi"), producing rather mild substance, and Finnish coffee is traditionally mildly roasted. Strong high pressure espressos are not found in all cafés and at few eateries. The more traditional option for the filtered coffee in Finland is the Eastern style "mud coffee". In that preparation the grounded coffee beans are boiled in a large pot. Before serving, the grounded coffee is let to calm down, before serving the smooth flavoured coffee on the top. Today, one might not be able to find this kind of pannukahvi in finer cafés (in big cities), but it is available here and there elsewhere. The coffee grounded for this purpose is widely available in stores, marked with a coffee pot ("pannmalet") instead of a brewer ("bryggmalet"). Imported brands are for the brewer (or espresso) and not marked. It is specially tasty with cream, rather than milk.
In Finland it is quite common for people of all ages to drink milk (maito, mjölk) as an accompaniment to food. It is absolutely normal to see businessmen having a lunch and drinking milk. Another popular option is piimä (buttermilk, Swedish: surmjölk).
- Main article: Finnish cuisine
Alcohol is very expensive in Finland compared to most countries (though not to its Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway). Basic beers start from €5–6 in bars or pubs, or around €2 in a supermarket. While beer and cider are available in any supermarket or convenience store – between 09:00 and 21:00 – the state monopoly Alko is where to go for wine or anything stronger.
The legal drinking age is 18 for milder drinks, while to buy or carry spirits (above 20%) you need to be 20. Providing alcohol to somebody underage is a crime. Bars and restaurants are allowed to serve all alcohols to customers over 18 within their premises. ID is usually requested from all young-looking clients (nowadays all looking to be under 30). In practice, the age limit of 18 applies also to entering nightclubs and other premises where serving alcohol is central, and many of them maintain higher age requirements of their own, sometimes flexible, such as at quiet times or towards customers seen as attractive.
Despite the unusually high cost of booze, Finnish people are well known to drink heavily at parties.
While Finnish people tend to stick to individual bills in the bar, when you get with them into the summer cottage, things usually turn the other way around and everyone enjoys together what there is on the table. Abstaining from alcohol is socially acceptable and alcohol-free drinks are increasingly popular. Many Swedish-speaking share the Swedish culture of drinking songs
Beer (olut or more softly kalja; Swedish: öl) is very popular. Standard Finnish beers are 4.5–4.7% ABV, and in grocery stores you will not find any drinks with more than 5.5% alcohol (but you will find some 0%-beers). You may also encounter kvass or kotikalja (literally "home beer"), a dark brown beer-like but very low-alcohol beverage. Imported beers are available in bigger grocery stores, most pubs and bars, and Czech beers in particular are popular and only slightly more expensive than local ones. Some microbreweries are gaining foothold with their domestic dark lagers, wheat beers and ales.
A modern development (from the 1980s?) is ciders (siideri, Swedish: cider). Most of these are artificially flavoured sweet concoctions, which are quite different from the English or French kinds, although the more authentic varieties are gaining market share. The ever-popular gin long drink or lonkero ("tentacle"), a pre-bottled mix of gin and grapefruit soda, tastes better than it sounds.
During the winter, do not miss glögi (Swedish: glögg), a type of spiced mulled wine most often served with almonds and raisins. Although it was originally made of old wine the bottled stuff in grocery stores is usually alcohol free and Finns will very often mix in some wine or spirits. In restaurants, glögi is served either alcohol-free, or with 4 cl vodka added. Fresh, hot glögi can, for example, be found at the Christmas markets and somewhat every bar and restaurant during the season.
Finnish wines are made of cultivated or natural berries instead of grapes. The ones made of blackcurrant form a fruity alternative for grape wines. Alko stores have quite an impressive selection of foreign wines, and these are much more commonly drunk than their few domestic rivals. Due to Alko's volumes and to taxes being mainly on the alcohol content, premium wines are actually relatively cheap in Finland. The largest selection is in the range €10–15/bottle.
Quite a few unusual liquors (likööri) made from berries are available, although they're uniformly very sweet and usually served with dessert. Cloudberry liquor (lakkalikööri) is worth a shot even if you don't like the berries fresh.
You may be offered home-made spirits (pontikka, Swedish: hembränt), especially in the countryside – politely decline the offer.
Finally, there is traditional beverage worth looking for: the mead (sima, Swedish: mjöd). Sima is an age-old wine-like sweet brew nowadays usually made from brown sugar, lemon and yeast and consumed particularly around Mayday (Vappu). If you are lucky you might encounter some varieties of sima such as one spiced with meadow-sweet. Try them!
Accommodation in Finland is expensive, with typical hotel rooms about €100/night or more. Many large hotels are cheaper during the weekends and in summer. Foreign hotel chains are rare outside the capital; most of the hotels are run either by locals or by some domestic brand. So do not expect to accumulate your points when staying anywhere but in major cities. More or less national hotel chains include Scandic, Finlandia and Sokos. The Omena chain offers self-service hotels, where you book online and get a keycode for your room, with no check-in of any kind needed (and little service available). If you insist on a five-star hotel, the rating is up to the individual hotelier.
When searching for budget options – and outside cities – check whether breakfast and linen are included, they are in regular hotels, but not in many budget options. Extras, such as sauna, are sometimes included also in cheap prices, and virtually all accommodations (except remote cottages) nowadays have free Wi-Fi.
Bed and breakfast is not well-known in Finland. In the countryside there are lodgings that are similar, or use the term, but neither does guarantee any specifics. They are often nice, and might be your only option, but check what to expect, such as whether breakfast is included or you are supposed to self-cater. Some B&Bs border to agritourism. Some offer dinner on advance request.
Homestays are available in many mid-size to big cities, both traditional ones, where you can stay in somebody's home, and dedicated flats or a room separate from the owners' home. Airbnb is legal in Finland if hosts have applied for a permit, and a cost-competitive option particularly if you are traveling with a larger group or would like to self-cater.
One of the few ways to not spend too much is to stay in youth hostels (retkeilymaja/vandrarhem or hostelli), as the Hostelling International has a fairly comprehensive network in the cities, and a dorm bed usually costs less than €20 per night. Many hostels also have private rooms for as little as €30, which are a great deal if you want a little extra privacy.
There are also camping grounds all around the country. Typical prices are €10–20 per tent or caravan + €4–6/€2 per person, although there are some more expensive locations. A discount card may be worthwhile. Night temperatures are seldom an issue in season (typically 5–15°C, although freezing temperatures are possible also in midsummer, at least in Lapland). Most campsites are closed in winter, unless they have cottages adequate for the cold season.
An even cheaper option is to take advantage of Finland's right to access, or "Every Man's Right" (jokamiehenoikeus/allemansrätten), which allows wild camping. Keep out of sight, don't disturb wildlife, stay for at most two nights, make no campfires and leave no trace. A berry picker finding you is no issue, but they shouldn't have been alarmed by noise, and your campsite should be tidy. In Åland the right to access is somewhat more limited than on the mainland. Note that making an open fire always requires landowner's permission and is never allowed during wildfire warnings, which are common in summer. Also, near cities wild camping isn't expected, other than along hiking routes (where there may be designated free sites). Going for multi-day hikes in the north, there are usually free Spartan "open wilderness huts" (autiotupa), see below.
Virtually every lodging in Finland includes a sauna for guests — don't miss it! Check operating hours though, as they're often only heated in the evenings and there may be separate shifts of men and women. In hotels there is often a free "morning sauna", while sauna in the evening may have to be booked and paid.
For a taste of the Finnish countryside, an excellent option is to stay at a cottage or cabin (Finnish: mökki; Swedish: stuga, Ostrobothnia: villa), thousands of which dot the lake and sea shores. These are generally best in summer (and many are closed in winter), but there are also many cottages around Lapland's ski resorts. In fact, at some localities hiring a cabin is not just the cheapest but perhaps the only option. The standard varies from very small or basic to fully equipped luxury ones, with most amenities you'd expect from a home or hotel and some extra.
When making the reservation, check carefully what will be included or otherwise provided. Cleaning after your stay yourself is usually required, sometimes the service is available for a fee. Likewise, linens are seldom included but sometimes available as an add-on.
While all but the most basic cottages will have electricity, it is very common for them to lack running water! Also, the cottage might have a shared toilet, either a standard one in a service building or an outhouse dry toilet. You are probably expected to use a shared shower or a sauna for cleaning yourself. Saunas at cottages are often heated with wood; you should ask for instructions unless you know the drill or the hosts take care of heating and drying. At campsites and in "cottage villages" the sauna is usually heated daily or weekly, with separate shifts for men and women, and an opportunity to book it for yourselves at other times. Some cottages may have their own saunas, and most any cottage not at a campsite or in a "cottage village" will.
Into the 1990s most cottages for rent were originally built for private use, and although facilities were very basic, they were fairly roomy. Some of these are former farm houses, with kitchen serving as living room (perhaps also with beds), a bedroom, and possibly other rooms. Other ones were built as cottages, with combined kitchen and living room plus one or two minimal bedrooms being fairly common. Small outhouses built as guest rooms for summer use are also quite common. As these houses and cottages were built for private use in the countryside, by a single family, they are often off the beaten path and the host may live at a distance, visiting only as needed.
In later years private cottages have got increasingly good facilities, with electricity and running water ubiquitous in new and installed in many older ones (although many Finns like going back to basics, and refuse any of this). These may be available for rent when not in use by the owners. On the other hand many cottages are built for paying guests, often at campsites, and these are often minimal – 6 m² for two persons is not uncommon – unless targeted at the luxury market. Usually these cottages are arranged in groups to ease administration and service, sometimes with just enough spacing to provide privacy, sometimes in a row near the parking and the shared facilities. There may be a few cottages a bit farther, perhaps built earlier, for those who want more space and privacy. Shared facilities typically include kitchen (often with a minimal kitchenette in the cabin), water toilet, showers, sauna, and perhaps a café and kiosk. There may be a rowing boat, some kind of playground and similar activity infrastructure. Most have some kind of jetty or beach for swimming and cooling down after sauna sessions. Some are a focal point also for locals, perhaps with a bar and live music on Saturday nights.
Cottages for use in winter and shoulder season are larger, as thermal insulation and heating get relatively more economic by size, and indoor facilities are more important in autumn and winter. They may be the old kind (see above), or built at ski resorts or as base for fishing or hunting. Some are former wilderness huts (for use by the public or the border guard), remote enough that their maintenance for public use was deemed uneconomical. All these cottages are of course available also in summer.
Prices vary widely based on facilities, location, season and random factors: simple cottages with beds and cooking facilities can go for as little as €20/night, although €40–80 is more typical. There are also expensive big and even fairly luxurious ones costing several hundred euros per night. The price at winter resorts may more than double when there is a winter holiday season in schools, and many cottages are more expensive at Midsummer. Not all cottages are available for a single night, sometimes you need to stay at least two nights or a week, the latter especially in summer. In shoulder season single nights may be available in the week, while weekends are rented as units.
Renting a car or bike might be necessary since there might be no facilities (shops, restaurants, etc.) within walking distance and buses do not run too often in rural Finland. Decide whether you want to get a cottage far from people, close to an ordinary village, at a "cottage village" or some compromise.
The largest cottage rental services are Lomarengas and Nettimökki, both of which have English interfaces. Cottages at campsites, in "cottage villages" and by a tourist business are often booked through their own website or a service linked from there.
In national parks, wilderness areas, and by popular hiking routes, the Finnish Forest Administration (Metsähallitus/Forststyrelsen) maintains wilderness huts, especially in the north, most of them open and free to use for a day or two without fees by anybody coming independently by foot, ski or canoe (self-service, some serviced only biennially). Latecomers have an indisputable right to stay in the open huts, so if coming early you might want to put up your tent. There are also locked huts with reservable beds. These are all very Spartan, see Finnish National Parks#Sleep and Hiking in the Nordic countries#Sleep for what to expect.
Finland's universities are generally well-regarded and offer many exchange programmes. Although Finland is not one of the big study destinations, in relation to the local population there are quite some international students at most universities. Exchange programs are often in English, as are some advanced courses. While other lectures are usually conducted in Finnish (or Swedish as in Åbo Akademi or Novia), most advanced text books are in English, except where international literature is less relevant. It is often possible to complete all courses through assignments and exams in English. Universities also offer the option to study Finnish (or Swedish) at various levels.
For visitors, the open universities may be of special interest. These may be run directly by the universities or by other institutions employing university teachers for the courses. The primary audience is the academically interested public, including professionals who want to broaden their competence and people who want to deepen their understanding of current issues. In the semesters, the courses are held more or less as any other ones (although often in evenings), in summer there are "summer universities" in summer destinations such as Hangö and Mariehamn. The open university courses are not free, but the fees are modest.
Another educational institution for the public are the so called workers' or citizens' institutes (Finnish: työväenopisto, kansalaisopisto; Swedish: arbetarinstitut, medborgarinstitut). These offer courses in languages, handicraft, basic computer usage, current issues and much more. Most courses last a semester and you often have to be quick when enrolment starts. There are also individual shorter courses and individual lectures. Fees are very modest.
There are no tuition fees for regular degree students, including foreign degree students studying in Finnish or Swedish and exchange students, but tuition fees (in the range €4,000–18,000/year in 2020) were introduced in 2017 for new non-EU/EEA students studying in English for a bachelor's or master's degree. A system with scholarships was also set up. As of 2023, it seems that the fees are going to be sharply raised in the future.
In the 1990s, privately paid education emerged, and later foreign-paid "education export" became a thing. In these programmes, educational institutions act like businesses and normal rules on e.g. validity of exams and social security of students don't apply, and there have been some scandals about students left to care for themselves, with huge bills. Read the fine print and check whether you trust all involved parties. Better yet: keep to the programmes financed through tax money (whether or not you personally pay tuition fees). Some programmes with businesses or external funding involved are indeed good, but the general assumption that things work as they should in Finland may not hold.
There are usually quite a lot of activities for students from abroad, arranged by the student unions and exchange student associations, including social activities and excursions to other parts of the country or other interesting destinations (Lapland, Tallinn, Stockholm and Saint Petersburg being typical), in additions to all the activities for students in general.
The Finnish higher education system follows the German model, which means there are two kinds of universities: academic (yliopisto/universitet) and vocational (ammattikorkeakoulu/yrkeshögskola, abbreviated AMK in Finnish; many of these were formerly known as polytechnics). Yliopisto students are mostly expected to graduate with a master's degree; the university bachelor's degree is meant as an intermediate step, except for a few usable exams (such as for pharmacists, only some of which take the master's). For foreigners, there are some master's programs in English. AMK students are expected to graduate as bachelors and enter the workforce directly. An AMK bachelor does not directly qualify for academic master's programs; if accepted, about a year's worth of additional bridging studies are needed.
A reasonable monthly budget (including dorm housing) would be €700–1,000. Student union membership at around €100/year is obligatory for undergraduate studies. In exchange programs and similar housing may be arranged, but otherwise getting housing is the responsibility of the student. Housing is scarce when students arrive in autumn (or from when first-year students get to know they are accepted); there are waiting lists and some years emergency housing in shared rooms. All people from out of town are often prioritised, and coming from abroad you may be allowed to jump the queue. Many exchange programs fully or partly subsidise accommodation in student dorms.
Student housing is usually in locations owned by the student unions either directly or through foundations, and costs from about €250–400/month in a room with shared kitchen and bathroom (nowadays mostly 3-person apartments, which often results in getting two friends) to about €500–700/month for independent one-room apartments (also larger apartments are available, primarily for families). Rents on the private market vary depending on location such that in Greater Helsinki and particularly Helsinki proper prices may easily be two times that of cheaper locations or student housing. A couple of friends sharing a bigger apartment is quite common, but check how to write the contract to avoid pitfalls. If you are (counted as) a cohabiting couple, your partner's incomes will be taken into account in possible living grants, and in some configurations you may become responsible for unpaid rents etc.
Basic health care for domestic students (including AMK ones) is arranged by a foundation founded by the student unions. From 2021 the yearly fee is paid to Kela/Fpa instead of being included in the student union membership fee. The service is comparable to that at municipal health care centres, but also basic dentistry is included. Only regular degree students (for bachelor or master) in mainland Finland are served, not those studying in Åland, exchange students, or students of non-degree programs. Check details.
EU/EEA citizens can simply enter the country and register as a student after arrival (if accepted to some programme), while students from elsewhere will need to arrange their residence permit beforehand. CIMO (Centre for International Mobility) administers exchange programs and can arrange scholarships and traineeships in Finland, while the Finnish National Board of Education offers basic information about study opportunities.
Education for children is at a very good level, as several top results in the Pisa tests show. Teachers are equipped to see and cater to the individuals in heterogeneous groups, so a child from abroad will probably be seen as enriching the class rather than as a problem, as long as the child is cooperating (in schools with many immigrants, they may pose enough of a challenge already, and a child from one more culture is probably seen differently than in more homogeneous groups). Immigrants usually have half a year of preparing education, but pupils on an exchange are quite common on higher classes. Knowing English is definitively an advantage.
There is a choice of language: along most of the coast (and in Tampere) there are schools with Finnish and those with Swedish as language of instruction (in the far north, instruction in Sámi is also an option, though mostly relevant for those who know at least some Sámi from before). For those who know English or another Indo-European language, Swedish is easier, and opens doors to all the Nordic countries, while Finnish is the more relevant language for inland Finland (where you can choose: while Finnish may be the majority language, a step into the tighter Swedish community has other advantages). The biggest cities also have schools with instruction in another language, mostly English (and then with the International Baccalaureate as target for the last years – although there is stiff competition for access to post-9th grade education in English). Schools with many pupils studying some foreign language other than English early may be a good choice for children who know that language, also where instruction otherwise is in Finnish.
Citizens of the European Union, the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Liechtenstein can work freely in Finland, but for those from other countries acquiring a work permit means doing battle with the infamous Finnish Immigration Service (Maahanmuuttovirasto). Generally, to get a work permit there needs to be a shortage of people in your profession (which is true in many fields, but has to be demonstrated). The right-wing government of 2023 intends to introduce minimum monthly wages for getting work-based visas (making the lowest paid jobs and many part-time jobs not count) and to withdraw the visas for people who become unemployed for more than three months. Students permitted to study full-time in Finland are allowed work part-time (up to 25 h/week, as long as they are able to succeed in their studies) or even full-time during holiday periods. If you have Finnish social security of some sort, check whether income above some level will affect it.
Finnish unionisation rate is high (70%), salaries are reasonably good even for simple jobs and employment laws are strict. One draw is the generous welfare state, especially significant for families with young children (or seeing forward to having children). Children mostly grow up in a safe and healthy environment, with green spaces available also in urban settings, good education – and generous parental leaves.
On the flipside, actually getting a job can be difficult – and living, and especially housing in the capital region, is expensive, while taxes on well-paid jobs are high, although there may be special arrangements for foreigners. There is little informal work to be found and some classes of jobs require at least a remedial level of Finnish and Swedish (although foreigners may be exempted from the requirement). Many jobs require recognised formal qualifications; an appropriate exam and work experience from abroad may not count. For some jobs you just need to pass a test, which may be easy for somebody in the field, and your to-be employer may help you. For other jobs you may need a year or more of additional studies to get the equivalent Finnish qualification.
In addition to the permit to work and any position-specific formal qualifications (or dispensation, e.g. regarding language requirements), you will need a bank account (to get your wage) and an "income tax card" (verokortti/skattekort) from the taxation authorities. To get these you probably need a Finnish social security number. To deal electronically with the authorities (which you will want to do), you need digital ID codes, usually the same that you use to administer your bank account. Be prepared for the bureaucracy and possible Catch-22 situations.
Finland is known for the low intake of immigrants, compared to neighbouring countries. Still there are communities of foreigners from many countries in most university towns and in some more rural municipalities. In some trades professionals from abroad are quite common.
For jobs, you might want to check out the Ministry of Labour. Most of the posted jobs are described in Finnish so you may need some help in translation, but some jobs are in English. Publicly posted positions are usually highly competitive, and usually require both a degree or a professional qualification and specific work experience. Thus, informal channels or assistance from an experienced local are valuable. Directly contacting possible employers can turn up jobs not published anywhere. Seasonal work at resorts is often available, if you have the right attitude and skills, and make the contact early enough.
As locals generally speak good English, a position teaching English generally requires special qualifications; foreigners are not recruited for basic teaching, but in some scenarios. Most positions for foreigners are in private language schools for children and students, on adult ESP courses, in preschools and in a few international schools. For teacher's jobs in ordinary schools you need a locally recognised teacher's exam. The pupils are usually motivated. A public school teacher's salary is €2,600–4,300/month (including summer holiday, but temporary teachers may not get that). In comprehensive school expect about 20 hr/week in class and about the same of preparation and other related work, with overtime in class paid for, overtime for the rest usually not. As a foreign visitor you are unlikely to get a full time job, so an average of €1,200–2,000/month may be realistic. This can include private lessons for €10–30/hr.
A rapidly growing trend in Finland, especially for the younger generation, is to work for placement agencies. Although there has been a massive surge of public companies going private in the last ten years, this trend seems to be fuelled by the increased demand for more flexible work schedules as well as the freedom to work seasonally or sporadically – and the difficulty in getting regular jobs. Due to the nature of these types of agencies as well as the types of work they provide, it is common for them to hire non-Finns. Some agencies include Adecco, Staff Point, Manpower, Aaltovoima and Biisoni.
For summer jobs, such as trainee positions for university students and summer jobs at hotels and cafés, the search begins very early, around January, and application periods end in late March. Last-minute positions opening in May are very few and quickly taken.
For Nordic youth (18–28/30) – or other EU/EEA citizens who know Swedish, Norwegian or Danish – there is the Nordjobb. Focusing on summer jobs as cultural exchange, it now offers also some other positions.
If you are invited to a job interview, remember that modesty is a virtue in Finland. Finns appreciate facts and directness, so stay on topic and be truthful. Exaggeration and bragging is usually associated with lying. You can check expected salaries with the union for your field; they usually have defined minimum wages – there is no national minimum wage except for these, but €10/hr, corresponding to €1640/month, has been suggested. Salaries range from €1,200 to €6,500 per month (2010) for most full-time jobs, the median being €3,000–€3,500. Fees for mandatory insurance, social security and pensions are shared between employer and employee and cannot be selected or managed by the employee (there may also be voluntary negotiable benefits). Also income taxes of about 30% (increasing by income level) is deducted from the nominal salaries. Full-time work is nominally 36–40 hr/week, with overtime, night and Sunday work compensated for blue- and lower white-collar staff. The lunch break may or may not be included, depending on industry. Minors may not work overtime or in the night, those under 15 only reduced hours.
One category of informal work is berry picking, either on a farm or picking wild berries. To get such a job you mostly have to convince the employer you are going to work hard, harder than most Finns are willing to. Picking wild berries and selling them is exempted from tax and you are free to do the business yourself (like the locals), but you would probably do so only if wanting a fun way to get pocket money. If coming for the income you will have somebody arrange everything (including accommodation and transport) and you will be independent only formally (taking the economic risk: no wage, just somebody buying the berries; you might be able to prove a de facto employment, but only with a good lawyer). Nowadays you should be guaranteed a minimum net income. Due to widespread abuse, the laws surrounding picking of wild berries are in a flux as of 2023; check the latest developments. Working on a farm you should be formally employed: still low-paid piece work, but employment law applies; some employers have tried to dodge even these obligations.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of cooks, waiters and other café and restaurant staff, to the degree that knowing Finnish or Swedish isn't always required, especially in the summer season. While you are mostly competing with students seeking summer jobs, a recognised professional exam or the "hygiene passport" may be needed. The certificate test is often taken at the end of a weekend course; gymnasium-level microbiology knowledge may be enough to take the test after a cursory reading of the course material: example test.
You should always ask for a written employment contract. It is not compulsory, but no serious employer should object to giving you one and as somebody less acquainted to the Finnish job market you are more likely to get in contact with those not playing by the rules (keep a copy somewhere safe if you don't trust your employer, or just in case). A concerning trend in the 2020s is contracting workers as entrepreneurs rather than employees, which much fewer rights, sometimes without telling you. An employment contract is nice evidence that you really were employed, although de facto employment counts, regardless of paperwork. Ask your union (or a local friend) to check the contract at least superficially if you have doubts, and ask them for help if you have been cheated – although they mostly serve their members, they have an interest in keeping a black market at bay.
Overtime and night-time work (and compensation for them), vacations, insurance, social benefits (including pension fees), termination of contracts etc. are strictly regulated. Unless specified in the contract, check the collective agreement (if applicable) or the relevant laws. You should regularly get documentation on your wage and associated social security fees and taxes paid by your employer. There may be some unofficial flexibility e.g. in working hours, but there should be corresponding flexibility when you need some time off – and you should be happy with any deviations from what was originally agreed on and stated in the contract. You should be free in your free time. Keep notes and save evidence about any unreasonable or unexpected demands; they might prove valuable if your contract gets illegitimately terminated. Feel free to discuss the arrangements with colleagues and to get outside advice – if there are hints on such being disallowed, it is time to get serious help. If you are afraid of being deported or your working permit being revoked, you might want to contact a group that helps paperless people – they should understand your situation and might be able to give advice on those risks. E.g. the Red Cross or the Church should be able to confidentially arrange contacts.
Cash payment is usually not possible (too much trouble for the employer), so you will need a Finnish bank account. Unfortunately the willingness of different banks to issue them to foreigners varies. You may also need a Finnish social security number (henkilötunnus) from the local maistraatti (register office); see the register office website for information. For construction sites, a tax number is needed; see Tax Administration's information on tax numbers.
Read more about the topic on Work in Finland.
Stay safe edit
Risks in Finland
Finland enjoys a comparatively low crime rate and is, generally, a very safe place to travel. There are no no-go neighbourhoods even in the night.
Use common sense at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday when the youth of Finland hit the streets to get drunk and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. Don't leave valuables or your drink unguarded at night clubs.
Racism is generally not a concern for tourists, but some drunk people looking for trouble may be more likely to target foreign looking people. Avoiding arguments with drunk gangs may be more important if you fit that description. There has been a rise in racist opinions, with even some members of parliament convicted of hate speech, but you should usually be safe in the street.
There is organised pickpocketing, especially in the busy tourist months in the summer. In restaurants, including at hotel breakfasts, never leave your phone, laptop, tablet, keys or wallet unattended.
Bicycle thieves are everywhere. Never leave your bike unlocked even for a minute.
Self defence is generally allowed only as a last escape and excess force must not be used. Weapons for self defence (including pepper spray) are not allowed.
Finnish police (poliisi/polis) are respected by the public, respectful even to drunkards and thieves, and not corrupt. Should something happen, do not hesitate to get in contact with them. In addition to the police proper, the border guard (rajavartiolaitos/gränsbevakningsväsendet) and customs officials (tulli/tull) have police powers; the border guard acts on behalf of the police in some sparsely populated areas. All these should normally be in uniform. They have the right to check your identity and your right to stay in the country. If you feel that some question could compromise your privacy, feel free to politely say so. If you get fined, payment on the spot is never possible. A "police officer" asking for money would be a dead giveaway that they aren't real police.
Customs and the police are strict on drugs, including cannabis. Sniffer dogs are used in ports and airports and a positive marking will always result in a full search. Cannabis use is not generally tolerated among the population.
Private security staff such as nightclub bouncers should have a badge, vest or clearly visible band. Count on them being authorised to deny you access, throw you out or detain you until the police arrives. They should not be violent, but don't give then a reason to. They are allowed to search you in very limited cases, such as if they need to detain you safely.
Prostitution is not illegal and is mostly unregulated. However, it is illegal to use the services of a prostitute who is a victim of human trafficking, a minor or otherwise unable to legally consent. The age of consent in other contexts is generally 16.
There are few serious health risks in Finland. Your primary enemy will be the cold, especially in wintertime and at sea. Many forecasts only cite day temperatures, while it often is 10–15°C (20–30°F) colder in the night and early morning.
Finland is a sparsely populated country and, if heading out into the wilderness, it is imperative that you are adequately equipped and register your plans with somebody who will contact rescue services if you fail to return at an agreed hard deadline. Prepare for possible changes in weather, carry a compass and note where to head if you get lost.
In winter, lakes and the sea are frozen. Walking, skating or even driving a car on the ice is commonly seen, but fatal accidents are not unheard of either, so ask and heed local advice. Skiing in the spring, don't ignore the risk of snow blindness, especially if you plan to spend whole days outdoors.
If out on the lakes and sea, remember that wind and water will cool you faster than cold air. Safety in small boats: Don't drink alcohol, keep seated (move one at a time if needed) and wear a life vest at all times. If your boat capsizes – keep clothes on to stay warm and cling to the boat. Small boats are made to be unsinkable.
There is one poisonous snake, the adder. Their bites are seldom dangerous to healthy adults, but if you get bitten, you should stay calm, call 112 for advice and get to a healthcare station. Waiting for transport, just rest.
Wasps, hornets, bees and bumblebees can sting. Usually that's just painful, but be careful if there are wasps sharing a sandwich or drink with you, as a sting near the trachea can be dangerous. Keep calm and mostly they will too. In late summer, wasps can become a nuisance, but otherwise these insects tend to leave people alone if not disturbed.
As for other dangerous wildlife, brown bears wolves, lynxes and wolverines occur across Finland, but you are lucky if you see any of these large carnivores! Talking with your company while in the forest should be enough to make them keep away, especially to avoid getting between a bear and her cubs. If you do see a bear, back off calmly.
Keep your distance also to other wildlife, such as elk – or birds defending their nests. The worst risk is however running into one on the road. Always call 112 after a collision even if you did not get hurt, as the animal probably did.
Stinging nettles (nokkonen) are very common in summer, with a particular liking for sunny spots like the sides of pedestrian paths. If stung, avoid rubbing. You can pour water over the area to wash away the hairs – or go for a swim. Even better: sauna, as the sweat wash away the hairs as well as the injected substances. Sauna is a good cure also for mosquito bites.
In case of emergency edit
112 is the national phone number for all emergency services, including police and social services, and it does not require an area code, regardless of what kind of phone you are using. The number works on any mobile phone, whether it is keylocked or not, and with or without a SIM card. If a cellphone challenges you with a PIN code, you can simply type in 112 as a PIN code – most phones will give a choice to call the number (or call without asking). The operator will answer in Finnish or Swedish, but your switching to English should be no problem. They will ask for address and municipality and localise your address (or GPS coordinates, preferably in degrees and minutes, if you don't have an address) on a large screen, so when an address isn't adequate or you want to make sure there is no confusion, you can refer to features that would show on their map.
There is a 112 app, which will use your GPS to get your position when you use it to call the emergency services. The app knows also some related phone numbers. The updated version is available for android and iPhone in the respective app stores. Have it installed before you need it! It relies on mobile data, so is not reliable in some remote areas, and the GPS position is unreliable unless the GPS has been on for some time. But along the main roads, where you are most likely not to know your position, mobile coverage is good.
For inquiries about poisons or toxins (from mushrooms, plants, medicine or other chemicals) call the national Toxin Information Office at +358 9 471-977.
The time for help to arrive can be quite long in sparsely populated areas (around an hour, more in extreme areas; in cities just minutes), so it makes sense to have basic first-aid supplies at hand when visiting cottages or the wilderness. First aid training is quite common, so amateur help may be available. In case of cardiac arrest, public defibrillators (Finnish: defibrillaattori) are often available; still begin CPR immediately to the best of your ability, after telling someone to call 112.
Stay healthy edit
Signs to watch out for (in Finnish and Swedish)
You're unlikely to have tummy troubles in Finland, since tap water is always drinkable (except on trains etc., and there will be warnings in those cases) and generally quite tasty as well, and hygiene standards in restaurants are strict. Diary products are nearly always pasteurised. If you have any sort of allergies, many restaurants often display in the menu the most common ingredients that people typically are allergic to. Examples: (L) = Lactose free, (VL) = Low Lactose, (G) = Gluten free, if you are unsure just ask the waitress or other restaurant staff.
At cottages and in the wilderness different considerations apply; quality of water from local sources varies. In much of the country even water of lakes and rivers is potable and tasty, but this varies and there is no guarantee. Usually boiling it for a few minutes is recommended, although hikers often drink good-looking water untreated. If there is tap water from a local well, your host should be able to tell whether it is safe to drink (this information is included in wilderness hut information folders).
The most dangerous pests are the ticks (Finnish: puutiainen or colloquially punkki, Swedish: fästing), which may carry Lyme's disease (borreliosis) or tick-borne viral encephalitis (TBE). They are common in some areas, but can be encountered in most of the country, up to Simo, and are active when the temperature climbs over +5°C.
There are also a number of irritating insects, but if you are planning to stay in the centres of major cities, you are unlikely to encounter them. A serious nuisance in summer are mosquitoes (hyttynen, mygga, Sámi: čuoika), hordes of which appear in summer – particularly in northern Finland, where it and its colleagues are known as räkkä. There are also blackflies (mäkärä, knott, muogir), much smaller and also abundant in Lapland, and gadflies (paarma, broms; common where there is cattle). The deer keds (hirvikärpänen, älgfluga), appearing in late summer, seldom bite, but crawl around after losing its wings and are hard to get rid of.
Wasps sometimes gather to share your outdoor snack. Don't eat them together with the ham and juice (making their sting dangerous), but take turns getting bites – they are fascinating, flying away with a big load of tiny ham cubes – or go away if you cannot stand them. Also bumblebees and bees may sting, but only as provoked. In autumn wasps are irritable and best let alone altogether.
Air quality edit
Air quality is mostly good in cities and excellent outside city centres, but in cities there may be problematic streets and problematic times. A few weeks in spring is the worst time in many cities, when the snow is gone and the streets are dry, but dust from the winter remains. Inversion occurs in some cities but is usually a minor problem. The meteorological institute monitors the air quality.
Medicines are strictly regulated. Any non-trivial medications, such as antibiotics, require a prescription. Also most prescription-free pharmaceuticals have to be bought at pharmacies (or by special arrangements in remote areas). If bringing your own, have the original packaging and your prescription. Especially if you bought a drug without prescription or the medication can be seen as narcotics (such as cannabis), check the rules. You mostly cannot order medicines from abroad.
Finnish healthcare is mostly public, in particular intensive, advanced and emergency healthcare. It is now administered through regional "welfare areas", usually with a central hospital (keskussairaala/centralsjukhus¨; often a university hospital) in the main city and one or more clinics in each municipality (terveysasema/hälsocentral). Dentists work outside this system and are mostly private.
There are also private clinics (lääkäriasema/läkarstation or lääkärikeskus/läkarcentral), which often can schedule an appointment with less queuing, with more substantial fees (residents usually get reimbursements). If you are not an EU/EEA resident the difference in price may be less significant, as you'll pay the costs of public care yourself; check with your insurance company. The clinics may however have to refer the patient to a public hospital anyway, if advanced services are needed.
For emergencies, call 112. Otherwise contact the terveyskeskus or a private clinic. Every municipality should have a 24/7 clinic, but it is sometimes in a nearby city, while the local clinic has limited hours where population is sparse. You can get advice over the phone. Visits to a doctor must usually be booked, while you may be able to see a nurse just walking in (ask over the phone). The time booking numbers often work by a nurse calling back (usually in an hour or so) after a machine has answered your call and given you a chance to specify what service you need. Just letting it talk until it hangs up may be enough to get the call registered.
University and AMK degree students have access to basic health care arranged by the student unions, including dental care. The services, however, are no more available to exchange students. See Learn above.
EU/EEA and Swiss citizens can access emergency and urgent health services with their European Health Insurance Card, which means nominal fees for public healthcare in most cases (seeing a doctor usually €15–30, minors free, day surgery €100; some related costs can be reimbursed). The services include regular monitoring of pregnancy (planned delivery on a holiday trip requires authorisation from your home country). Canadian and Australian citizens residing in Finland because of studies (Canada only) or employment may be treated like locals (depending of the nature of the employment or studies) regarding urgent care. Other foreigners are also given urgently needed treatment (where "urgent" may or may not be interpreted liberally; anything related to pregnancy should be covered), but may have to pay all costs. See more information at Contact Point for Cross-Border Healthcare.
Pharmacies work supermarket-style, but the personnel is attentive. Prescriptions are handled separately: take a queue ticket. In bigger cities some pharmacy usually has long hours, but if you get a prescription when they are closed, you might get a small packet of your medicine from the doctor. You could ask about the handiest pharmacy when you get the prescription. In the countryside, where pharmacies are scarce, drugs can be delivered to some other business by special arrangements, ask if relevant.
Most prescriptions are electronic. The prescriptions can be on a generic drug or a specific brand; the pharmacist might ask whether you want the cheapest instead of the prescribed one, so ask the doctor what they prescribed and why – some use the brand name out of sloppiness.
Finns generally have a relaxed attitude towards manners and dressing up, and a visitor is unlikely to offend them by accident. Common sense is quite enough in most situations, but there are a couple of things that one should keep in mind:
Finns are a famously taciturn people who have little time for small talk or social niceties, so don't expect to hear phrases like "thank you" or "you're welcome" too often. They usually go straight to business. The Finnish language lacks a specific word for "please" so Finns sometimes forget to use it when speaking English, with no intention to be rude. Also lacking in Finnish is the distinction between "he" and "she", which may lead to confusing errors. Loud speaking and loud laughing is not normal in Finland and may irritate some Finns. Occasional silence is considered a part of the conversation, not a sign of hostility or irritation. Indeed, you may need to keep quiet for a while now and then for your Finnish acquaintances to talk.
Notice that although the phrase mitä kuuluu translates to "how are you", it has a literal meaning in Finnish, i.e. a longer discussion is expected; it is not a part of the greeting as in English, and asking about health or relatives is not expected from strangers.
That said, Finns are generally helpful and polite, and glad to help confused tourists if asked. The lack of niceties has more to do with the fact that in Finnish culture, honesty is highly regarded; one should open one's mouth only to mean what one is about to say. Do not say "maybe later" when there is no later time to be expected. A visitor is unlikely to receive many compliments from Finns, but can be fairly sure that the compliments received are genuine.
Another highly regarded virtue in Finland is punctuality. A visitor should apologise even for being a few minutes late. Being late for longer usually requires a short explanation. Ten minutes is usually considered the threshold between being "acceptably" late and very late. Some will leave arranged meeting points after fifteen minutes. With the advent of mobile phones, sending a text message even if you are only a few minutes late is nowadays a norm. Being late for a business meeting, even by one or two minutes, is considered rude.
The standard greeting is a handshake. Hugs are only exchanged between family members and close friends in some situations, kisses, even on the cheek, practically never. Touching is generally restricted to family members. The distance between strangers is ca. 1.2 m and between friends ca. 70 cm.
If you are invited to a Finnish home, the only bad mistake visitors can make is not to remove their shoes. For much of the year, shoes will carry a lot of snow or mud. Therefore, it is customary to remove them, even during the summer. During the wet season you can ask to put your shoes somewhere to dry during your stay. Very formal occasions at private homes, such as baptisms (often conducted at home in Finland) or somebody's 50th birthday party, are exceptions to these rules. In the wintertime, this sometimes means that the guests bring separate clean shoes and put them on while leaving outdoor shoes in the hall. Bringing gifts such as pastry, wine, or flowers to the host is appreciated, but not required.
In Finland, there is little in the way of a dress code. The general attire is casual and even in business meetings the attire is somewhat more relaxed than in some other countries, although sport clothing in a business meeting would still be bad form. Female topless sunbathing is accepted but not very common on beaches in the summer. While going au naturel is common in saunas and even swimming by lake- or seaside cottages, Finns aren't big on nudism in itself, and there are very few dedicated nudist beaches. At normal public beaches swimwear is expected for anybody over 6 years old.
Finns are highly egalitarian. Women participate in society, also in leading roles up to the Presidency. Equal respect is to be given to any gender, and there is little formal sex segregation. Social rank is not usually an important part of social code, thus a Dr. Roger Spencer is usually referred to as simply "Spencer", or even as "Roger" among co-workers, rather than "tohtori Spencer" or "herra Spencer", without meaning any disrespect.
Finns are rather nationalistic. They are neither Swedes (not even the Swedish speaking) nor Russians, nor a mixture of the two. Despite their shared long history with their neighbouring countries, many Finns are proud of their Finno-Ugrian roots and national identity.
When travelling with public transport, sitting down by a stranger when there are still empty benches is unusual. Don't expect people to give a seat to you, even if you are in need of one – you might have to ask "is this seat free?" to get a person to remove their bag. Starting a conversation with a stranger is unusual; some will enjoy talking to you, but note any hints to the contrary. When talking with friends, keep your voices down – no need to whisper, just don't shout or laugh too loud.
By snail mail edit
Finland's mail service is run by Posti, nowadays a state owned business concentrating on parcels (where they compete with Postnord, Matkahuolto and courier services); the delivery time of normal domestic letters has increased to four days. A stamp for a postcard or normal letter (max 50g domestic, max 20g abroad; as of 2020) costs €1.75. Most stamps are "no-value" (ikimerkki, fixvärdesmärke), which means they are supposed to be valid indefinitely for a given service. Real post offices are all but extinct, with the services mostly handled by local businesses and automatic kiosks. Stamps etc. can be got from many businesses, including these and e.g. book stores.
There are Poste restante services in the cities, but often a better option is to get the post to some trusted address, e.g. your accommodation.
Åland has its own mail service, with stamps of its own.
By phone edit
As you'd expect from Nokia's home country, mobile phones are ubiquitous in Finland. Modern 4G/5G networks blanket the country, although it's still possible to find wilderness areas with poor signal, typically in Lapland and the outer archipelago, and the net may at times be congested elsewhere. The largest operators are Telia, Elisa (a Vodafone partner) and DNA. Most locals use packages with data, messages and normal calls included in the monthly fee (from €20, as of 2022).
Most 3G networks are being shut down as of 2023–2024. A fallback to 2G (GSM) may remain available, but go for full 4G capability to be safe. In major cities and some other places, also 5G is widely available.
Prepaid packages cost from about €5, including all the price as value. Ask at any convenience store for a list of prices and special offers. Finland has an exception to the EU roaming rules because of low domestic prices, so if you need to use the SIM abroad, check the fine print (EU roaming is treated separately, may cost more than the EU norm and may not even be included; Telia has own nets in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and some other EEA countries and may offer better roaming deals to those areas). Also note prices for calling abroad (home) – you are typically referred to the internet, but might want to insist on the clerk finding the right page and translating if needed. For data (nominally 100 Mbit/s in most packages), you typically pay €1/day (days in use, even for a second, or days from activation) or €0.01/MB, sometimes max €1/day, for normal domestic calls €0.066/min (surcharge for service numbers often more), for SMS à €0.066 (as of 2022). 5G cards may cost a little more. If your card is an "all included" one, paid per day, reserve some leeway for calls not included (service and business numbers, foreign calls). The prepaid cards are usually valid for half a year, or a year from last top-up (of a minimum of €10). Upgrading may cost less than topping up frequently; there are prepaid options more suited for extended use (as add-ons or separately).
Public telephones are close to extinction in Finland, although a few can still be found at airports, major train/bus stations and the like. It is best to bring along a phone or buy one – a simple GSM model can cost less than €40 (be very clear about wanting a cheap, possibly used one: the shops might otherwise not suggest their cheapest options). Phones for sale are not locked to one operator, although there are deals where you lease a phone coupled to a 2-year plan. People are reluctant to lend their phones, even for a single call, as anyone is assumed to be carrying their own.
The area codes (one or more digits following the +358) are prefixed by 0 when used without the country code, i.e. +358 9 123-456 (a land line number in Helsinki) can be dialled as 09 123 456 (123 456 from local land lines), and is often written "(09) 123 456", sometimes "+358 (0) 9 123 456". Mobile phone numbers – like other numbers without true area codes – are always written without the parenthesis: "0400 123 456" for +358 400-123-456. Mobile phone numbers usually start with 04x or 050 as in the example. If you have a local SIM, note that any service numbers, including the 020 numbers, may have an inflated operator's surcharge, and are usually not included in the "all included" packages.
Numbers starting with 0800 or 116 are toll free with domestic phones. Numbers starting with 0700 are possibly expensive entertainment services. There is no guarantee that any service number is reasonably priced – e.g. Eniro number and timetable information is €6/min, with the price told in Finnish only – but prices should be indicated where the number is advertised; "pvm/mpm" or "lsa/lna" stands for your operator's surcharge, for landlines the price of a normal local call, for mobile phones often slightly more. Queuing may or may not be free. Service numbers usually start with 010, 020, 030, 060, 070 or 075 (here including the "area code" prefix 0) or 10 (without 0). There are also service numbers prefixed with a true area code (such as some taxi call centres). Some service numbers may be unavailable from abroad.
The prefix for international calls (from local land lines) is 00, as in the rest of EU. Other prefixes (directing the call through a specific operator) may be available.
Telephone numbers can be enquired from e.g. the service numbers 0200 16100, 020202, 0100 100, 0300 3000 and 118, with hard to discover varying costs (often given per 10s instead of per minute), e.g. €1–2/call+€1–6/min with some combinations of operators, service and time of day. Having the service connect the call usually costs extra, especially for long calls. For the moment (February 2021) e.g. 0200 16100 costs €1.84/call+€2,5/min (€0.084/min+mpm during a connected call). Some services have a maximum cost of e.g. €24/call.
All of the main carriers offer good roaming services, so using your foreign SIM card should not be an issue. However the costs can be rather impressive. The European Union has agreed on the abolishing of roaming charges; domestic calls with an EU SIM via an EU operator should cost as domestic calls in the country of origin (and likewise with SMS and data), but again, check the fine print as some operators have "fair use limits" or exceptions to the policy completely, allowing them to surcharge for roaming use. The Finnish operators have been granted an exception from this policy, although as of 2021, most have implemented surcharge-free roaming in some form. However, each provider's policy varies. Telia, for instance, only allows prepaid roaming in certain EU countries. Aside from the countries they operate in, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece, it will not work at all, even for an extra charge. Elisa has different rules depending on the package you buy and where you are going. DNA has a fair use limit on their plans that applies uniformly in all EU/EEA countries. In addition, for Åland, check that article.
By net edit
Internet cafés are sparse on the ground in this country where everybody logs on at home and in the office, but nearly every public library in the country has computers with free Internet access, although you will often have to register for a time slot in advance or queue, unless there is Wi-Fi and you are using your own device.
Wi-Fi hotspots are increasingly common: in cafés, public transport, marinas, what have you (often called "WLAN"). University staff and students from institutions in the Eduroam cooperation have access to that net on most campuses and at some other locations.
Mobile phone networks are another option, either for your smartphone (which then can act as hotspot) or for a 3G/4G dongle for your laptop. The typical €5 prepaid packages (topped up for longer stays) are often enough, but there are other options, see above. The dongles themselves (mokkula) are usually sold as part of a 24 months' subscription, so check how to get one if using this option. At least Elisa/Saunalahti and DNA offer a dongle with a prepaid subscription, likely a better alternative for most travellers. There are used ones to be bought on the net (tori.fi, huuto.net etc.), with seemingly random prices.
Finland has 230V 50Hz AC electricity as standard. Modern installations use Schuko outlets (CEE 7/3, "type F"), used with Schuko plugs (grounded, max 16 A) or "Europlugs" (ungrounded, max 2.5 A, compatible with all outlets in continental Europe). Old installations (from before 1997) may use ungrounded outlets in most rooms (with Schuko in kitchen and bathroom). These accept also ungrounded type C plugs. A few three-phase outlets (such as at the distribution board and the garage wall) are common in new installations. Many outlets (and extension cords) have child protection that require you to insert the plug straightly; this can sometimes be tricky, but don't destroy your plugs by using excess force.
Outlets dedicated for lamps use their own smaller 230V/50Hz plugs, in old installations just screw terminals. The lightbulbs themselves use 14 or 27 mm Edison screw connectors (with several other connectors used for special-use or non-lightbulb lamps).
USB outlets can be found in some coaches – and even some city buses – and in some solar powered cottages. Trains and some coaches have normal AC outlets, although power quality varies. Remote cottages may not have electricity at all.
Electricity is mostly reliable, although rural areas with overhead lines may have outages of at worst a few days in connection with wind storms or heavy snow (when trees or branches fall over the cables).
The state churches of Finland are the Evangelic-Lutheran (often called just Lutheran) and the Orthodox. An ever-increasing portion of the population (32% in 2023) does not belong to any church, and many of those that do belong are rarely seen in one outside baptisms, weddings and funerals. The Orthodox community is small (1%) and largely of Russian descent, but not officially affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Most Finnish cities have small but growing Islamic communities, composed both of Tatars who migrated in the 19th century as well as newer arrivals. There are also small Jewish communities in Helsinki and Turku.
There is a system of "road churches": churches that have long hours in the summer, to be available for people who want to pray or meditate (or just take a look). Otherwise some churches are open for visits during the day (mainly those attracting many visitors), others only in connection with services or by request. Visiting a church is nearly always free, although there may be a fee for a museum in connection to the church, and most concerts have entrance fees (or a programme folder that most should buy). If you attend a service, you might want to have a few euros in cash for the offering. Although doors are open also at family events, such as weddings and funerals, you should probably leave your visit to another time. Posted opening hours do not take into consideration such events, concerts or services.
There are usually newspapers available in libraries for the public to read. In bigger towns these often include a few in foreign languages, including English. Foreign language newspapers are also on sale in some book stores and in some R kiosks. The biggest newspapers in Finnish are Helsingin Sanomat of Helsinki, Aamulehti of Tampere and Turun Sanomat of Turku, the biggest in Swedish Hufvudstadsbladet of Helsinki and Vasabladet of Vaasa.
Some big newspaper covering national and international news should be available anywhere in the country, e.g. in libraries and R kiosks. Small local papers may have little coverage on issues outside the area, and are usually just a complement to other news sources.
There are also a few useful online newspapers to find out more quickly about the happening in the country; the daily online newspaper Helsinki Times provides news about Finland for English-speaking readers. Also the national broadcasting company publishes written news in English: Yle News.
Most stations are on analogue FM channels.
The public broadcasting company YLE sends short news in English 15:55 on Yle Radio 1 (87.9 or 90.9 FM) and 15:29 or 15:30 on Yle Mondo, the latter a multilingual channel aired only in the Helsinki region. There are programmes also in Swedish (own channels), Sámi (Northern, Inari and Skolt) and Russian, and weekly news in Karelian (the Latin Nuntii Latini was discontinued in 2019). The programmes can be heard also by Internet (arenan.yle.fi/audio/guide for today's radio programmes; add "?t=yyyy-mm-dd" for a specific day), usually up to a month after they were aired. Yle also publishes written news.
Finland is among the safest and healthiest countries for children to live in, and also as visitor you can benefit from some of that. There is usually no reason to be concerned about crime (children often walk, cycle or take the bus to the school by themselves after a few days or weeks of training in the start of the first grade; teenagers and the city night may be a different issue though), and air pollution is mostly a concern just for a few weeks a year in the busiest streets. There are parks or woods close by nearly anywhere, the former usually with an enclosed playing site for children (with climbing frames, sandbox, swings etc.). If you are staying a longer time, see also Learn above.
Public breastfeeding is accepted, since the 1990s even in Parliament, although generally done discreetly. Most restaurants have a (short) children's menu and infants having their own food is no issue, although children dining late in the evening is not common and may cause some raised eyebrows.
Contraception and pregnancy edit
Condoms are widely available in supermarkets, convenience stores and elsewhere. Most other contraception methods (including contraceptive pills) require a prescription, which should be reasonably easy to get. Emergency contraceptive pills ("morning-after pills") are available from pharmacies without prescription (perhaps in person only, call to check). Pregnancy tests are available from supermarkets. Abortion is allowed until the twelfth week (counted from last menstruation) for social as well as medical reasons; the requirement of support from two doctors has been abolished. Later abortion requires special circumstances (easier after 1 Sep 2023, still mostly for medical reasons).
If you get pregnant, you are entitled to examinations and care, and possibly social benefits; register once you notice the pregnancy or suspect it, and check details. Some benefits require reasonably early registration. Travel to Finland for planned childbirth usually requires an agreement, but most maternal care is viewed as urgent and thus available regardless.
Laundry is problematic.
- Most households have a washing machine, so when staying in a normal flat or private house, you could ask whether you can use theirs. Some housing companies offer communal facilities in the basement, which may or may not be easily bookable.
- Laundry services are expensive: clothes are usually paid for per piece, including at places where there are per weight fees for sheets and the like.
- Laundrettes are found at some campsites and bigger marinas, perhaps at hostels, and possibly in student housing areas, although not necessarily available for those not residing there.
- 24pesula. Laundrettes in some thirty cities, mostly at large supermarkets. A few different machine sizes, a few different cycle options (all 30 min). Detergent included. 9 kg: €6, tumbler +€4/30 min.
Toilets are usually marked with "WC", image of rooster (and hen, if separate), pictograms for men and women (now sometimes also unisex pictograms) or the letters "M" (miehet, men) and "N" (naiset, women). Single toilets can also often be recognized just by a green (vacant) or red (in use) colour by the lock. Where there is more than one toilet, there is usually also an accessible toilet marked with a wheelchair pictogram, equipped for use with wheelchair, for changing nappies and for small children. A family room can also have its own pictogram. Trans people using the gender-appropriate toilet should be no issue. If your "biological sex" by some definition obviously differs from your gender and the toilet is busy, then you might get some disapproving looks, seldom anything worse, other than in LGBT-hostile environments.
There should be toilet paper, sink and soap, some method for drying your hands, a waste basket for paper towels (and general waste) and often one with lid and pedal for used sanitary napkins. Bidet showers are nowadays common. At cottages without running water there are usually only outhouses of varying standard: at some summer cottages they are a sight, with carpet, lace curtains and a nice view, for wilderness huts, campfire sites and rest stops you might need to bring toilet paper and take care of hand washing on your own (you might want to carry hand sanitiser).
Toilets in public buildings are free, while toilets in the street (quite rare), at bus stations, in shopping malls and the like usually require a suitable coin (€0.50–2) or calling a posted number, which adds the equivalent to the telephony invoice. There are toilets for the customers in all restaurants and cafés, while others often can use them for a token fee – but it is more polite to become a real customer. At festivals there are usually free (and stinky) portable toilets. Also toilets at rest stops are sometimes in bad condition.
- See also dress code in Respect above.
Communal showers, changing rooms and the like often do not have privacy dividers; being nude in front of people of the same sex in such contexts is considered normal. If you are shy, use your towel; sometimes there are also more private facilities available. In some circles, going to sauna or swimming nude in mixed-sex groups is also practised (and regarded normal by most); in these situations also some Finns abstain or take appropriate steps not to show too much, and as a foreigner you could discreetly ask for advice.
As most Finns are quite relaxed about nudity and mingling between sexes, accommodation may be shared e.g. when a group goes to a cottage, even with strangers at wilderness huts (and some other primitive accommodations). People discreetly keep any level of privacy they want, but you shouldn't be shocked if you see somebody in their underwear when they are changing clothes; just discretely look elsewhere.
In contrast, at public beaches, swimsuits are used by anybody above six years. Toplessness is rare and nudity is reserved for a handful of dedicated nude beaches.
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- Russia to the east. However, due to the Russian war on Ukraine, as of 2022 most transport options are suspended, and existing ones may be closed with short notice.
- Sweden, of which Finland was part for 650 years, is reachable by an overnight (or day) cruise, or overland from Lapland.
- Estonia, a couple of hours away from Helsinki.
- Norway's county of Finnmark and Troms can be accessed overland from Lapland.
- Åland, an autonomous region on the Archipelago Sea between Finland and Sweden.