Bargaining is only acceptable at flea markets (even then, you might find it tough to get the price lowered). In all other cases you're expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Finland is a safe country and travellers exercising common sense shouldn't experience any problems. The natural environment poses the main issues.
- Winter temperatures can be seriously low; it's vital to make sure you're well equipped with suitable clothing if you're heading outdoors.
- Parts of Finland are very remote; if you're hiking in the wilderness, have a map and compass (and know how to use them) and inform someone of your plans.
- After the snowmelt, rivers can be prone to flooding.
- Mosquitoes and other biting insects are especially fierce around July; strong repellent is essential.
- Watch out for reindeer on roads.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Eliminate the initial zero from area/mobile codes if dialling from abroad.
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Finland is a breeze and you'll experience no problems if your papers are in order.
Travellers arriving from outside the EU by air or sea can bring duty-free goods up to the value of €430 without declaration (€300 if arriving from outside the EU by bus, car or train). You can also bring in up to 16L of beer, 4L of wine, 2L of liquor not exceeding 22% vol or 1L of spirits, or 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco.
If you’re coming from another EU country, there's no restriction on the value of gifts or purchases for personal use.
Although technically part of the EU, arriving on or from the Åland archipelago carries the same import restrictions as arriving from a non-EU country.
Finland has no issues with any previous visas or stamps you may have in your passport.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days; some nationalities will need a Schengen visa.
A valid passport or EU identity card is required to enter Finland. Most Western nationals don’t need a tourist visa for stays of less than three months. South Africans, Indians and Chinese, however, are among those who need a Schengen visa. For more information, contact the nearest Finnish embassy or consulate, or check the website www.formin.finland.fi.
Finland is a very easy-going place and visitors are unlikely to be at risk of making any social faux pas.
- Greetings Greet men, women and children with a brief but firm handshake and make eye contact.
- Language In Swedophone areas, address locals in Swedish.
- Small talk Finns value conversation, but don't engage in small talk; silence is considered preferable.
- Saunas Shower before entering a sauna. Nudity is the norm (a towel is required in mixed saunas), but check first. Saunas are strictly nonsexual.
- Punctuality Finns are very punctual and expect the same in return.
Finland’s cities are open, tolerant places. Helsinki has a small but welcoming gay scene and the country's largest pride festival. Tampere and Turku also host pride festivals. Same-sex marriage became legal in Finland on 1 March 2017.
The tourist-board website, www.visitfinland.com, is a good starting point for information.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, personal liability, loss, cancellations and delays in travel arrangements and medical problems is strongly recommended.
- Buy insurance as early as possible. If you buy it the week before you are due to fly, you may find that you’re not covered for delays to your flight caused by strikes or other industrial actions that may have been in force before you took out the insurance.
- Paying for your airline ticket with a credit card often provides limited travel-accident insurance, and you may be able to reclaim the payment if the operator doesn’t deliver.
- Certain bank accounts offer their holders automatic travel insurance.
- Make sure you get a policy that covers you for the worst possible health scenario if you aren’t already covered. Ensure it covers you for any activities you plan to do, such as skiing. Be sure to check the small print.
- Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Wireless internet access is widespread. Several cities have extensive free networks and nearly all hotels, as well as many restaurants, cafes and bars, offer free access to customers and guests.
Data is very cheap. If you have an unlocked smartphone, you can pick up a local SIM card for a few euros and charge it with a month's worth of data at a decent speed for under €20. Ask at R-kioski shops for the latest deals.
Finnish police have the power to impose a fine or arrest you; you're entitled to a interpreter. If you are arrested, you can be detained for three days (longer if the matter is serious) and you should face court within four days.
Police must notify your consulate if you're not a Finnish citizen. You can request they contact a family member or other designated person, but this may be refused if it's considered to jeopardise the investigation. You're presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- Newspapers & magazines Helsingin Sanomat (www.hs.fi/english) is the main daily paper in Finland. The Helsinki Times (www.helsinkitimes.fi) is an English-language weekly. Foreign newspapers and magazines are widely available.
- Radio The national radio broadcaster is YLE (www.yle.fi), which has a number of stations offering news and various types of music.
- TV National TV networks broadcast plenty of English-language programs, subtitled in Finnish.
Credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are prevalent.
Credit cards are widely accepted and Finns are dedicated users of plastic, even to buy a beer or cup of coffee.
Using ATMs with a credit or debit card is by far the easiest way of getting cash in Finland. ATMs have a name, Otto, and can be found even in small villages.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Finland adopted the euro (€) in 2002. Euro notes come in five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 denominations and coins in five, 10, 20 and 50 cents and €1 and €2. The one- and two-cent coins used in most other Eurozone nations are not accepted in Finland.
Currency can be exchanged at banks and, in the big cities, independent exchange facilities such as Forex (www.forex.fi).
Travellers cheques are very rarely used but can usually be changed at the same places.
- Service is considered to be included in bills, so there’s no need to tip at all unless you want to reward exceptional service.
- Doormen in bars and restaurants expect a cloakroom tip (around €2) if there’s no mandatory coat charge.
Many attractions in Finland only open for a short summer season, typically mid-June to late August. Opening hours tend to shorten in winter in general.
Alko (state alcohol store) 9am–8pm Monday to Friday, to 6pm Saturday
Banks 9am–4.15pm Monday to Friday
Businesses and Shops 9am–6pm Monday to Friday, to 3pm Saturday
Nightclubs 10pm–4am Wednesday to Saturday
Pubs 11am–1am (often later on Friday and Saturday)
Restaurants 11am–10pm, lunch 11am–3pm. Last orders are generally an hour before closing.
Post offices can be found in cities, towns and some villages. The website www.posti.fi lists locations.
Finland grinds to a halt twice a year: around Christmas and New Year, and during the midsummer weekend.
National public holidays:
New Year’s Day 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
Good Friday March/April
Easter Sunday & Monday March/April
May Day 1 May
Ascension Day May
Whitsunday Late May or early June
Midsummer’s Eve & Day Weekend in June closest to 24 June
All Saints Day First Saturday in November
Independence Day 6 December
Christmas Eve 24 December
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
- Smoking Forbidden in all enclosed public places in Finland.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is levied at 10% for books, medicines, passenger transport, accommodation services and cultural and entertainment events, 14% for restaurants and 24% for most other items. It should already be included in stated prices.
Non-EU residents may be able to claim a refund on a minimum €40 spent per shop per day. The website www.vero.fi has details.
Public telephones basically no longer exist in Finland.
The country code for Finland is 358. To dial abroad first dial 00.
Purchasing a Finnish SIM card at any R-kioski shop for your own phone (provided it's unlocked) is cheapest. Top the credit up at the same outlets, online or at ATMs. Roaming charges within the EU have been abolished.
Finland is on Eastern European Time (EET), an hour ahead of Sweden and Norway. In winter it's two hours ahead of UTC/GMT; from 3am on the last Sunday in March to 3am on the last Sunday in October, the clocks go forward an hour to three hours ahead of UTC/GMT.
Public toilets are widespread in Finland, but expensive – often €1 a time. On doors, ‘M’ is for men, while ‘N’ is for women.
The main website of the Finnish Tourist Board is www.visitfinland.com. Cities, large towns and major tourist destinations have tourist offices.
Travel with Children
Finland is incredibly child friendly, and is a terrific place to holiday with kids. Domestic tourism is largely dictated by children’s needs, and child-friendly attractions abound in the height of summer, while winter brings its own snowy delights, including Santa.
Best Regions for Kids
Many attractions, with trams, boats, zoo, Suomenlinna fortress, Linnanmäki amusement park and Serena water park at Espoo. Most museums and galleries have child-friendly exhibits.
- Åland Archipelago
Flat archipelago perfect for family cycling and gentle beaches; also has forts and castles both stone and bouncy.
- The Lakeland
The castle at Savonlinna and scope for watery activities make this region one of the best for children.
- West Coast
Water slides at Vaasa, sandy beaches at Yyteri and Kalajoki, and tranquil shores.
- Turku & the South Coast
Moominworld at Naantali is a magnet for the young, who drag their parents here from all over the northern lands. Turku itself offers rope courses and skiing, while the Sirius Sport Resort in the southeast has flying, surfing and more.
A winter wonderland with Kemi’s snow castle, sled trips and children’s ski runs. In summer there’s gold-panning, meeting reindeer or huskies, and national parks. The region’s most famous resident, Santa, is at Napapiiri year-round.
Finland For Kids
As it’s such an outdoors-focused destination, planning a trip for kids could include splashing about on lakes and rivers, hikes in national parks, and cycling. In winter the reliable snow opens up a world of outdoor possibilities, and there’s also the Santa Claus angle in Lapland. There are several standout theme parks across the country, and even potentially stuffy museums make the effort to engage kids, with simplified child-height information, hands-on activities and interactive displays or activity sheets in English.
Activities such as boat trips, canoeing and fishing are available almost everywhere, and large towns all have a swimming complex that includes water slides and Jacuzzis; excellent for all ages year-round.
Castles & Fortresses
- Ice Skating Strap the skates on at outdoor rinks including Helsinkii's Jääpuisto.
- Skiing Tackle the family-friendly slopes at ski resorts such as Levi, Ruka, Pyhä-Luosto or Jyväskylä.
- Rovaniemi Get into the Christmas spirit around this town where Santa can be visited year-round, or at his seaside office in Kemi.
- Snow structures Visit the snow castle at Kemi or the snow village at Ylläs.
- Snow rides Take a ride pulled by huskies or reindeer in Lapland, or rev up a snowmobile and go for a spin.
- Ice hockey Soak in the atmosphere of a game in Helsinki.
- Linnanmäki, Helsinki Stomach-churning roller coasters, free-fall drops and more.
- Serena Water Park, Espoo Water slides galore near Helsinki.
- Särkänniemi, Tampere Dozens of rides, an observation tower, aquarium, farm zoo, planetarium and more.
- Muumimaailma (Moominworld), Naantali Enchanting Moomin-themed park.
- Tropiclandia, Vaasa Water slides and wave machines on Finland's west coast.
On the Water
- Hietaranta Helsinki’s best city beach.
- Hanko Numerous beaches, ranging from paddleable to windsurfable.
- Åland Has a wealth of beaches and hidden coves.
- Hiekkalinna, Lappeenranta Check out this amazing sandcastle.
- Yyteri Has a great variety of beaches.
- Kalajoki This resort near Oulu, along with Hailuoto island, is excellent for families.
- Outdoor museums These exhibit traditional buildings and have plenty of demonstrations and activities in summer; there are good ones in Helsinki and Turku and at Turkansaari near Oulu.
- Heureka, Vantaa Hands-on science centre near Helsinki's airport.
- Tietomaa, Oulu Excellent science museum with a giant IMAX cinema screen.
- Hiihtomuseo, Lahti Ski museum with interactive exhibits.
- Mekaanisen Musiikin Museo, Varkaus Mechanical musical instruments.
- Kierikkikeskus, near Oulu Paddling in a Stone Age canoe is among the kid-friendly options here.
- Vakoilumuseo, Tampere Offbeat spy museum with lots of Bond-style gadgets.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
When to Go
Finnish children are on holidays from mid-June to early August, and many child-oriented activities are closed outside this period. This is when campgrounds are buzzing with Finnish families – an instant social life for your kids – and temperatures are usually reliably warm.
Winter is also a great time to take the family to Finland, especially to the north. December sees all sorts of Christmasy things spring up in Lapland, with Santas, elves and reindeer galore. But if your kids are older and you want to get active in the snow, March or April are the months to go: there’s plenty of daylight, better snow and not such extreme cold.
Self-catering is huge in Finland, and the wide network of rental cabins, apartments and cottages – ranging from simple huts with bunks to luxurious bungalows with fully equipped kitchen and electric sauna – make excellent family bases. Campgrounds are also particularly good, with cabins, rowboats and bikes available for hire, and often a lake beach. There are always things to do and other children in these places, and larger ones offer activity programs.
Most Finnish hotels and hostels will put an extra bed in a room for little extra cost – and kids under 12 often sleep free. Many hotel rooms have sofas that can fold out into beds or family suites, and hostels often have connecting rooms. The Holiday Club (www.holidayclub.fi) chain of spa hotels is especially child-friendly. These and other resort hotels always have family-friendly restaurants with a menu for the kids, or deals where children eat free if accompanied by adults.
- Local tourist information booklets and websites highlight attractions with family appeal.
- Car-hire firms have child safety seats for hire, but it is essential that you book them in advance.
- High chairs and cots (cribs) are standard in many restaurants and hotels, but numbers may be limited.
- Entrance fees and transport tickets for children tend to be around 60% of the adult charge.
- Most museums in Helsinki are free for kids.
- Nappies (diapers) and baby food are widely available.
- Public breast feeding is normal practice.
By law, most Finnish institutions must provide ramps, lifts and special toilets for travellers with limited mobility, and all new hotels and restaurants must install disabled facilities. Trains and city buses are also accessible by wheelchair. Some national parks offer accessible nature trails, and Helsinki and other cities have ongoing projects in place designed to maximise access for people with disabilities in all aspects of urban life.
Before leaving home, get in touch with your national support organisation. The website www.finlandforall.fi has a searchable database of accessible attractions, accommodation and restaurants. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Check first with the Finnish embassy or consulate in your home country to find out whether volunteering affects your visa status.
Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) lists volunteering opportunities in Finland.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & measures Finland uses the metric system. Decimals are indicated by commas.
In most cases a residence permit is required to work in Finland, but there are exceptions, such as fruit- and berry-picking jobs of no more than 90 days. Comprehensive information is available at www.migri.fi. Contact the Finnish embassy or consulate in your home country well in advance of travelling.
Australian citizens aged between 18 and 30 and New Zealand citizens aged between 18 and 35 can apply for a 12-month working-holiday visa under a reciprocal agreement – contact the Finnish embassy in your home country.