Finland travel guide
The sun never quite sets in Finland in summer time but it also never quite rises during the winter in this scenic country of lakes, islands, forests, pristine wilderness and super-modern technology. This is because Finland extends well into the Arctic Circle.
This land of contrasts is full of plenty to delight, amuse, inform and enchant the visitor, from its forbidding castles and onion-domed Slavic churches to the reindeer herds of the indigenous Sami people in Lapland in the north. The lively, modern capital city of Helsinki is packed with galleries, museums and cafes, but beyond, in the countryside, there are miles of pristine wilderness to explore in the rare clean, clear air as 69 percent of the country is covered in forest and there are 35 national parks.
You can come in from the cold to a sauna, as Finland invented them. In fact, the country has an unbelievable 1.6 million, so you'll be hard-pressed to avoid them.
Despite its seemingly rugged nature, Finland is by no means a backward country. In fact it is regarded as being one of the most hi-tech societies in the world, with Internet connections per person surpassing that of the United States and United Kingdom.
Dine on reindeer steaks, visit Santa Claus in his northern Arctic home, ski or dog sled across miles of virgin snow, or tap your toes at one of the numerous music and folk festivals held throughout the year. It is not surprising that Finland has been described as the most underrated tourist destination in Europe.
The official currency of Finland is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Banks, ATMs and bureaux de change are available in all cities and airports; banks are closed on weekends. American Express, Diner's Club, Eurocard, Access, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in hotels, restaurants and larger shops. ATMs are the easiest and most economical way to get cash.
Language : Finnish and Swedish share status as Finlands official languages. Sami is spoken by the isolated population group in Lapland. English is taught at schools and is widely understood.
Electricity : Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Standard European two-pin plugs are in use.
Entry Requirements :
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Finland. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days in a six-month period.
British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, only need to be valid for period of intended stay in Finland. All other endorsements require at least three months validity beyond the period of intended stay in Finland.
A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days in a half-year period for holders of passports with any other endorsement.
Holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom', do not require a visa to visit Finland.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Finland. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days in a six-month period.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Finland. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days in a six-month period.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the intended period of stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Finland.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Finland. No visa is required.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Finland. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days in a six-month period.
Passport/Visa Note :
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Additionally, travellers to Finland must hold sufficient funds for their duration of stay in the country, a return or onward ticket, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Also note that joint passports must include a photograph of the spouse and, if issued after May 1, 2004, a photograph of each child over seven years of age and up to and including 15 years of age. Otherwise, a photo identification card showing the child's name, date of birth and nationality must be presented, together with the passport. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health :
There are no health risks associated with travel to Finland. Visitors to the Aland Islands in the summer months should be cautious of tick-borne encephalitis. A tetanus-diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all travellers who have not received one within the last 10 years. Tap water is safe to drink in Finland. Medical care is of a good standard and medication is easy to find. British, and other EU nationals, should ensure they take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles citizens to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Finnish citizens. Comprehensive travel insurance is advised.
Tips are not expected in Finland because a service charge is generally added to restaurant, bar and hotel bills, but customers often choose to round up the bill when paying in cash. Taxi drivers also appreciate any small change or coins that are added to round up the fare.
Safety Information :
Crime levels are low in Finland and visitors can be assured of a trouble-free vacation. Drug offences and drinking and driving are dealt with very harshly. The main danger in the country is driving during the winter months, when icy roads are a hazard and cars must be fitted with snow tyres.
Local Customs :
A Finnish way of life, the sauna is a popular activity in Finland, so expect to encounter one. Words are taken seriously in Finland and people are held to what they say, so think before you speak.
Business is conducted formally in Finland. A formal, understated sense of dress is important. Punctuality is also very important in Finland and being late is considered rude. Appointments should always be made and confirmed. Meetings are often strictly business and are not often over lunch. Finns do not require a strong relationship prior to doing business, and business often takes place over the phone, fax and via e-mail. However, the sauna is an important part of the culture and it is not unusual for business to be discussed in this environment on a more sociable level. Finns are very direct and prefer getting straight to the point. Often a verbal agreement may hold. At meetings business cards are exchanged and should have, on the alternate side, details in Finnish. Business hours are generally 8am to 4.15pm Monday to Friday.
The international country dialling code for Finland is +358. Mobile phone networks cover much of the country; the network operators use GSM networks, which are compatible with most international mobile operators. Besides public telephone booths and hotels, calls can be made from post and tele offices. Internet cafes are available in major towns and cities.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Finland arriving from the EU can enter Finland without restrictions on the quantity of purchases, provided they have been bought in the EU for personal consumption or as gift items. No restrictions are placed on meat and dairy products. Some restrictions may apply to selected tobacco products. Travellers over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries are allowed to bring in the following items without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cheroots, or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco. Travellers over 20 years can bring in 1 litre of spirits with maximum 22 percent alcohol content, or 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine not exceeding 22 percent alcohol content, and 2 litres of non-sparkling wine and 16 litres of beer; perfume up to 50g and 250ml of eau de toilette; and other goods for personal consumption to the value of €175.
Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport
Location: The airport is situated about 11 miles (17km) from Helsinki city centre.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +358 200 14636 or (0)9 82 771.
Transfer between terminals: Terminals are in the same building and within easy walking distance of one another.
Getting to the city: There are regular bus services between Helsinki, the Tikkurila railway station and the airport. Bus transfers from the airport to local hotels and parking areas are free of charge. The Finnair City Bus also transfers passengers to downtown Helsinki.
Car rental: Avis, Budget, Hertz and Europcar are represented at the airport. Service desks are located in the corridor between the two terminals.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at ranks outside the Arrivals hall of both domestic and international terminals. Expect to pay around €45 to €50 for the 30-minute journey into the city centre.
Facilities: The airport has several banks with exchange facilities, and there are ATMs throughout the airport. Numerous restaurants and cafes are available in the terminals, as well as duty-free shops and three shopping areas with a variety of retail outlets. Travel agencies, a pharmacy and luggage storage are also available.
Parking: Parking at Helsinki Vantaa International Airport is charged at rates ranging from €10 to €30 per day for up to three days, after which it's €3 to €10 per day. Short-term parking for pick-ups and drop-offs is charged at €1 every 10 minutes.
Departure tax: None.
Location: The airport is located nine miles (15km) from Oulu city centre.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3, Apr - Oct)
Getting to the city: Buses are available between the city and the airport and are reasonably priced.
Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Scandia and Sixt.
Airport Taxis: Airport taxis are available at the taxi ranks to transport passengers to their required destination.
Facilities: Airport facilities include a children's playroom, ATMs, postal services, shopping, a smoking room, a cafe, restaurants and rocking chairs for waiting passengers.
Parking: Two parking lots (P1 and P2) are available at the airport and are located in front of the terminal. P1 has heating and P2 has 20 minutes free parking. Handicapped spaces are located in front of the terminal. P1 parking costs about €2 for one hour, €5 for two hours and about €17 for eight to 24 hours. P2 parking costs about €2 for one hour, about €4 for two hours and about €10 for five to 24 hours.
Location: The airport is located six miles (9km) from Vaasa city centre.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).
Getting to the city: Bus services are available to the city centre.
Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Scandia Rent and Sixt.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the taxi stand. The airport has two taxi phones which are free of charge, one inside the terminal and the other outside the terminal.
Facilities: Airport facilities include shops, cafes, meeting rooms, childcare facilities and services for people with disabilities. There is no ATM at the airport.
Parking: Parking is available at the airport and costs €2 for the first hour and €2 per hour thereafter up to a daily maximum of €12.
Departure tax: www.finavia.fi
Considering how far north Finland is the country has a milder climate than one might expect. In general Finland has an extreme swing between summer and winter, with bitterly cold winters when temperatures drop to -4ºF (-20ºC) in many areas, particularly in northern Lapland. Summer, by contrast, can be surprisingly warm with temperatures rising to 68ºF (20ºC) or more. Temperatures as high as 86ºF (30ºC) are possible in the south and east of the country. The capital, Helsinki, remains fairly temperate varying between an average of 63ºF (17ºC) in July to 23ºF (-5ºC) in February. February is the coldest month in Finland and July is the warmest. Snow usually covers the ground in southern Finland from December to April, and northern Finland is snowbound from October to April. In the far north the sun does not set for about 73 days during summer, while in winter the sun remains below the horizon for a 51-day stretch. The winter night sky - especially in the northern areas of Finland - is often lit up with the seemingly magical light displays of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights. The best time to visit Finland is between May and September, if you want the mildest weather, but when you should go is dependent on what you want out of your holiday.
Finnish Tourist Board, Helsinki: +358 (0)10 605 8000 or
United States Embassy, Helsinki: +358 (0)9 616 250.
British Embassy, Helsinki: +358 (0)9 2286 5100.
Canadian Embassy, Helsinki: +358 (0)9 228 530.
Australian Honorary Consulate, Helsinki: +358 (0)10 42 04 492
South African Embassy, Helsinki: +358 (0)9 6860 3100.
Irish Embassy, Helsinki: +358 (0)9 6820 4240.
New Zealand Embassy, The Hague, Netherlands (also responsible for Finland): +31 (0)70 346 9324.
Embassy of Finland, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 298
Foreign Embassies in Finland
Embassy of Finland, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7838 6200.
Embassy of Finland, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 288 2233.
Embassy of Finland, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 3800.
Embassy of Finland, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 343 0275.
Embassy of Finland, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 478 1344.
Consulate-General of Finland, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 924 3416.
Finland Emergency Numbers
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