Health & safety
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens are entitled to free medical care in Finland, but you should carry proof of this entitlement. This comes in the form of the EHIC, the European Health Insurance Card, which has replaced the E111 form in most EU countries.
If you don't fall into this category, a travel-insurance policy is a good idea. Some policies offer a range of medical- expense options; the higher ones are chiefly for countries such as the USA, which have extremely high medical costs. There is a wide variety of policies available, so check the small print.
Some policies specifically exclude 'dangerous activities', which can include skiing, snowmobiling, even trekking. You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later make sure you keep all documentation. Some policies ask you to call back (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country where an immediate assessment of your problem is made.
Although EU citizens are covered for medical care, you may want to consider travel insurance to cover loss/theft.
Powered by: recommended by Lonely Planet
Finland is a very safe, nonthreatening country to travel in but there are some potential risks to consider.
Weather extremes, especially in Lapland, can cause unexpected danger at any time of the year. Extreme cold kills lone trekkers almost every winter in the wilderness, and cold rain can also be a problem in summer.
June and July are the worst months for mosquitoes, which are a major nuisance in the country, particularly in Lapland. Insect repellent or those beautiful hat-nets are essential.
In more remote places you may run across eccentric people, who you will have to accept as they are: sometimes suspicious of outsiders. The gloomy winter may lead to unpredictable behaviour and alcohol abuse.
In urban areas, violence mostly occurs in association with intoxicated local males, who are normally rowdy and intimidating rather than outright aggressive.
Availability & cost of health care
Apteekki (local pharmacies) - of which there are many in all Finnish cities and towns - and neighbourhood health care centres are good places to visit if you have a minor medical problem and can explain what it is. Visitors whose home countries have reciprocal medical-care agreements with Finland and who can produce a passport (or sickness insurance card or EHIC for those from EU countries) are charged the same as Finns for medical assistance: €8 to visit a doctor, €21 per day for hospitalisation. Those from other countries are charged the full cost of treatment. Tourist offices and hotels can put you in touch with a doctor or dentist; in Helsinki your embassy will probably know one who speaks your language.
Simple things like a change of water, food or climate can all cause a mild bout of diarrhoea, but a few rushed toilet trips with no other symptoms is not indicative of a major problem.
Dehydration is the main danger with any diarrhoea, particularly in children or the elderly as it can occur quite quickly. Under all circumstances fluid replacement (at least equal to the volume being lost) is the most important thing to remember. Weak black tea with a little sugar, soda water, or soft drinks allowed to go flat and diluted 50% with clean water are all good.
Cuts & scratches
Wash well and treat any cut with an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine. Where possible avoid bandages and Band-Aids, which can keep wounds wet.
Finnish food is of a very high hygiene standard. Mushroom and berry-picking is a favourite pastime in this part of the world, but make sure you don't eat any that haven't been positively identified as safe.
If you are trekking in Lapland or simply staying outdoors for long periods, particularly in winter, be prepared for the cold. In fact, if you are out walking or hitching, be prepared for cold, wet or windy conditions even in summer.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it and the core temperature of the body falls. It is surprisingly easy to progress from very cold to dangerously cold due to a combination of wind, wet clothing, fatigue and hunger, even if the air temperature is above freezing. It is best to dress in layers; silk, wool and some of the new artificial fibres are all good insulating materials. A hat is important, as a lot of heat is lost through the head. A strong, waterproof outer layer (and a 'space' blanket for emergencies) is essential. Carry basic supplies, including food containing simple sugars to generate heat quickly and fluid to drink.
Symptoms of hypothermia are exhaustion, numb skin (particularly toes and fingers), shivering, slurred speech, irrational or violent behaviour, lethargy, stumbling, dizzy spells, muscle cramps and violent bursts of energy. Irrationality may take the form of sufferers claiming they are warm and trying to take off their clothes.
To treat mild hypothermia, first get the person out of the wind and/or rain, remove their clothing if it's wet and replace it with dry, warm clothing. Give them hot liquids - not alcohol - and some high-kilojoule, easily digestible food. Do not rub victims, but instead allow them to slowly warm themselves. This should be enough to treat the early stages of hypothermia. The early recognition and treatment of mild hypothermia is the only way to prevent severe hypothermia, which is a critical condition.
Insect bites & stings
In Finland, the mosquito breeding season is very short (about six weeks in July and August), but the mosquitoes make good use of the time. They are a major nuisance in most parts of Finland, and those in Lapland are particularly large, fierce and persistent.
The best way to handle the mosquito problem is through prevention. From June to August, travellers are advised to wear light-coloured clothing, particularly long pants and long sleeved shirts, and avoid highly scented perfumes or aftershave. Use ohvi (mosquito repellent) liberally; the 'Off' brand seems to be particularly effective. If you have a mosquito net, use this too. There are net hats available in sports shops; if you don't mind how absurd they look these are useful for treks and outdoor activities.
When all else fails and the pesky suckers have had their piece of you, look for Etono, a concentrated antihistamine salve that is sold in stick form, for relief from bites. It is available at most pharmacies.
You should always check all over your body if you have been walking through a potentially tick-infested area - this would include rural areas of the Åland islands and in any forested areas - as ticks can cause skin infections and other more serious diseases. If a tick is found attached, press down around the tick's head with tweezers, grab the head and gently pull upwards. Avoid pulling the rear of the body as this may squeeze the tick's gut contents through the attached mouth parts into the skin, increasing the risk of infection and disease. Smearing chemicals on the tick will not make it let go and is not recommended.
The only venomous snake in Finland is the common viper, and human deaths from viper bites are extremely rare. All snakes hibernate from autumn to spring. To minimise your chances of being bitten always wear boots, socks and long trousers when walking through undergrowth where snakes may be present.
You can get sunburnt surprisingly quickly, even through cloud, or in sub-zero temperatures. Use sunscreen, hat and barrier cream for your nose and lips. Calamine lotion or Stingose are good for mild sunburn. Protect your eyes with good-quality sunglasses, particularly if you are going near water, sand or snow.
You can drink the tap water in all Finnish towns and villages, and it's usually delicious. Always be wary of drinking natural water; a recent survey ranked Finland's lakes and rivers among some of the most polluted in Europe. A burbling stream may look crystal clear and very inviting, but there may be pulp factories, people or sheep lurking upstream. Many trekkers in the wilderness of eastern Lapland claim that springs there are safe to drink from without purifying - use your own best judgment as to whether you'd care to follow that advice. The simplest way to purify water is to boil it, use a water filter, or add purification tablets.