FINLAND

Meet me at the Finnish line.

WATCH FULL VIDEO: 9 Must-Do’s In Lapland: Northern Lights & Reindeers!

Dubbed as the "poor man's pharmacy," there are more saunas than cars in Finland.

Finland is on Eastern European Standard Time (GMT +2). Without calculating for daylight savings, it’s roughly 2 hours ahead of London, and 7 hours ahead of New York City.

Finland is a member of the Schengen Agreement, so check Schengen Visa for details on various types of visas you may need. To enter and travel around Finland, U.S. citizens are required to have an approved ETIAS visa waiver. 

In addition, you may enter for Finland for up to 90 days for tourist purposes without a visa. For more details on travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet.  

Planning a trip to Finland means that you’ll most likely land in Helsinki Airport since it’s the country’s largest hub out of 27 airports. But for heading to Lapland, Rovaniemi is the airport you’d want to arrive in. From here, you can also travel to Northwest Russia, Northern Sweden and Norway.

Since Finland has one of the best public transportation systems, you don’t need to rent a car to get around.

BY TRAIN: The trains are clean and comfortable, even if you have to take an overnight train traveling from Helsinki to Lapland (Kolari station,) or from Helsinki to Rovaniemi requires approximately about 8 hours. Valtion Rautatiet runs Finnish trains. It’s a fast and efficient service, with prices roughly equivalent to buses on the same route.  VR’s website offers comprehensive timetable information, and major stations have ticket machines. Tickets can also be purchased online, where there are discounted advance fares. You can board and pay the conductor, but if the station where you boarded had ticket-purchasing facilities, you’ll be charged a small penalty fee (€2 to €5). The main types of trains are the high-speed Pendolino (the fastest and most expensive class), fast Intercity (IC), Express and 2nd-class-only Regional trains (H on the timetable). Eurail and InterRail each offer their own “Country” and “Global” passes, which offer travel within 28-30 European countries. Be sure to check out the websites for eligibility and discount information.    

BY FERRY / BOAT: There are many ferry lines (Viking, Tallink, Finnlines…etc.) traveling over the Baltic Sea, between Finland, Estonia and Russia.

BY BUS: There are also many express coach lines (Matkahuolto, Onnibus, ExpressBus) that can reach from big cities to smaller villages and towns. Departures range from every 10 to 15 minutes in cities, and every 30 to 60 minutes in small towns. Fares keep around €2.50 to €3.50 and payment goes directly to the driver.  

BY CAR: During summertime, renting a car and driving through Finland offers beautiful scenery around the way. During winter months, however, it’s not recommended to rent a car if you’re not familiar with snowy and slippery roads. Finland follows right-handed traffic, and headlights must be turned on at all times. Caution must be taken since elks and reindeer that are active during evenings and wander freely on the roads. The taxi (taksi) in Finland is more expensive, particularly for short rides. There’s an initial charge of €3.90 in Helsinki (often more elsewhere) with a minimum of €7 and a per-kilometre charge of up to €1.09. Fares increase with 4 or more passengers, and there’s a surcharge for night and weekend services.   

Finland is very safe for female solo travelers, since the country has low crime rates and locals are extremely hospitable. It is statistically the least dangerous place on Earth, and was recently rated the happiest country worldwide. However, you should always follow normal travel rules, and guard your bags, wallets and other personal effects.

The Finns are extremely friendly, so anytime you feel like you’re in danger or need help, locals will be more than willing to assist.  

Finland also ranks first in reliable police services. The average pickup time for emergency calls is 5 seconds. To get a hold of police, fire and ambulance services, be sure to contact the emergency number 112.  

The weather in Finland is quite diverse. In fact, the country is considered to have both a maritime and continental climate.   

If you love winter activities, then December to March is the best period to visit Finland. If you prefer spring activities, then aim for April and May. The warmest month in Finland is typically July, and the coldest is February.

Finland’s weather is variable and can change very quickly, which is common for weather in Scandinavia.    

These are the estimated local temperatures according to seasons:

  • Spring: 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)
  • Summer: 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius)
  • Autumn: 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius)
  • Winter: -45°C to -50°C in Lapland, -35°C to -45°C in other regions.

Winters are long and cold. In northern parts of Finland, you can find snow on the ground for upwards of 90 days each year. This weather is perfect if your bucket list entails visiting reindeer farms, steaming in saunas nestled into snow-capped mountains, or viewing the northern lights. The mildest weather in winter is found in southwestern Finland, amongst the countless islands in the Baltic Sea.  

Finnish is the first official language of Finland, spoken by 93% of the country’s 5 million inhabitants. It’s renowned as one of the most difficult languages to learn since it’s theoretically related to Hungarian, but locals speak English in most tourist areas. As opposed to other Scandinavian countries that have similar Germanic roots, the Finnish language is closer to Russian than it is to Swedish, Norwegian or Danish.

Swedish is spoken by around 6% of the population, most of whom live in the southwest.   

Sámi is a minority language in the Nordic countries which is spoken by around 2,000 people in the north of Finland, making up about 0.03% of the population.  

Here are a few basic words and phrases to learn:

Hello = Hei (pronounced “hey”)

Goodbye = Hei Hei (“hey hey”)  

Yes = Kyllä (ku-yu-la)

No = Ei (pronounced like the letter “a”)

Thank you = Kiitos  

You are welcome = Ei kestä   

Excuse me = Anteeksi (sounds like “aun-taxi”)  

My name is … = Nimeni on … (“knee-many on”)  

Nice to meet you = Hauska tavata  

Hotel = Hotelli  

Airport = Lentokenttä  

Train = Juna  

Bus = Bussi  

Subway = Metro  

Ticket = Lippu (“leap-o”)  

Before you head to Finland, understand these local customs:

  1. Finland is an easy country to visit. Customs and manners are clearly European, with only a few national variations, and attitudes are generally liberal. 
  2. Finland is considered Nordic, rather than Scandinavian. It may share major social values with other Scandinavian countries but there are subtle differences.
  3. When greeting one another, Finns shake hands and make eye contact. Handshakes are brief and firm, and involve no supporting gestures. Embracing people when greeting them is rare.  
  4. In Finland, both men and women bathe in the sauna, but never together except within the family. There are no mixed public saunas in Finland. A visitor hesitant to try a sauna should remember that if it has been heated specifically for him or her, it is considered rude to refuse (unless they have legitimate medical constraints).  
  5. Finns are very modest and don’t call themselves out to attention, so try not to interrupt in conversations and don’t be too loud.
  6. The Finnish society is egalitarian, so there are many words that are gender-neutral. If you’re introduced to a couple, always greet the female first.
  7. Saunas are part of the local way of life, similar to onsen in Japan, even business meetings can be conducted in saunas at times.

Finland’s unit of currency is Euros. Though the most common use of payment is via debit or credit cards, there are plenty of ATMs—especially in the cities—and most machines will accept cards issued by major international banks. US, UK and Australian cards are widely accepted in Finnish hotels, restaurants, stores and markets. Visa, Mastercard and Maestro are most common, and American Express is accepted in most places as well.  

As a rule, service is included in restaurant bills. Therefore, tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. You can feel safe that while nobody will object, very few will mind not being tipped.   

Tipping! Restaurants typically include a service charge so tipping isn’t necessary. Always check the bill and you can always tip more for excellent service but it is not expected.

Like the rest of Europe, Finland uses one of the two European standard electrical socket types, with voltage of 220-240 Volts (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts.) Your converter should look like one of these:  

Tap water in Finland is considered to be among the healthiest in the world, and needs no treatment in most areas. It is available almost anywhere free of charge.  

Most hotels, bars, restaurants will offer free WiFi 

In addition to being optimally safe and happy, Finland also happens to be one of the most gay-friendly places on the map.  

Homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1971, and gay marriage has been legal since 2017, so most of the locals are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.   

Helsinki Pride’s 100,000+ annual attendees are a testament to the country’s thriving queer scene.   

For added assurance, though, you can look for Gay Travel Finland’s We Speak Gay certification, which is granted only to companies that have proven to be inclusive to LGBTQ+ customers. 

Finland is possibly one of the most eco-friendly destinations to visit, especially with its low population paired with nature conservation for its beautiful landscape.

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