Travel to Finland
Finland can be found in northern Europe, bordering Russia, Sweden and Norway. Finland is known for having thousands of lakes and a wide spread of forests. 10% of the country is covered in water while 75% is made up of forest. Travelers to Finland generally go for skiing in winter, hiking in summer or to spot the Northern Lights – which are visible in the northernmost part of the country in Lapland. There is something to enjoy each season in Finland.
Other Finland tourist attractions are the many saunas spread throughout the country, staying in quaint lakeside cottages and hopping around the design-focused capital city Helsinki.
Keep in mind that Finland is extremely cold in winter – especially in the northern Lapland area. During summer, the days are long with the sun staying up past 10pm. The opposite happens in winter, where the daylight hours are much shorter. This is why it’s the best time to see the Northern Lights in Lapland.
With its out-of-the way location and the fact that it’s quite an expensive country to visit, very few travelers are planning Finland holidays. Don’t be that person – there are so many amazing places to visit in Finland, with a hoard of activities on offer.
Visa Requirements for Finland
Finland is part of the Schengen agreement, which allows most of the EU citizens to enter the country with only their ID. Visitors from certain countries like the USA, Canada and New Zealand can visit visa-free for up to 90 days in Finland. A stay of longer than 90 days for non-EEA or non-Swiss citizens usually requires a visa, which you need to get before your trip.
Other nationals, like those from Russia, Asian countries and South Africa, will need to apply for a Schengen Visa before arriving in Finland. For more information on the Finland Schengen visa, visit this website.
Important Cultural Information
There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish which is the mother tongue for the large majority of the population and Swedish which is the home language of a small portion of the population. Swedish Finns have their own cultural identity and will often speak more English than Finnish. Around 2,000 people in Lapland speak one of the dialects of the Sami language while the Karelian dialects are still spoken amongst some of the eastern population.
Finns generally have a relaxed attitude towards manners, and you as a visitor are unlikely to offend them. They generally don’t have time for niceties, though are not being rude. They also don’t have a specific word for ‘please’ in Finnish, so often forget to use it when speaking English. Honesty is highly regarded in the Finnish culture, when you say that you will do something it is absolutely expected that you do it.
Handshaking is the standard greeting for most, while hugs are kept between family and close friends. Greeting with a kiss is a rare occurrence! When invited into a locals home it is important to not be late and to always remove your shoes before entering the house.
The cultural region to which Finland belongs is referred to as Nordic or North European.
Banking & Money in Finland
The Finnish Markka was replaced in 2002 with the euro, making Finland the only Nordic country to join the European single currency. 100 cents makes up 1 Euro. Each country can produce their own Euro coins, where one side of the coin has their own unique designs (the Finnish designs include a cloudberry), while the other side has a European standard design. You can use the Euro in any of the eurozone countries, without needing to exchange money when crossing the borders.
The largest banks in Finland include Nordea Bank Finland, SEB (Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken), Swedbank and Handelsbanken. Finnish banks don’t have their own ATM machines. OTTO is the country’s interbank network, connecting almost every bank in the region – so look out for OTTO ATM’s.
Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diner’s Club Cards are all widely accepted in Finland. Using credit and debit cards is the most popular way of paying for goods and services in the country. But it’s always useful to have a few Euro notes, especially when traveling to the more remote islands.
Medical Emergency Information
If there is an emergency, you can call 112 from any phone at no cost. This will get you in touch with the police, firefighters and ambulances.
If you’re looking for travel insurance, we are an affiliate of World Nomads.
Wi-Fi and Internet in Finland
There are three main network operators in Finland: Elisa (which sells SIM cards under the brand name Saunalahti), DNA and Telia. Telia is the largest telecoms operator in Finland, but Elisa tends to have slightly better coverage and data speeds.
You will find several shops selling SIM cards around Finland – either from the companies themselves or from a R-kioski (Finnish version of 7-Eleven).
Another option is to rent a mobile MiFi device, your own hotspot. These cost from around €5 per day. There are services, which you can pick up at the airport or which gets delivered to the hotel you are staying at.
When in Helsinki you will also easily find free Wi-Fi. The Finnish government has funded a network of free high-speed 4G Wi-Fi spots covering almost everywhere in the city and includes nearly all public buildings. Wi-Fi is also easily available at restaurants, cafes, hotels and some public spaces across the country. Look out for ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘@’ signs on the doors. Make sure to set-up a VPN (like ExpressVPN) before using public Wi-Fi spots.
You will also find a few coworking spots in Finland, with most based in Helsinki.
Arrival in Finland
If arriving to Finland by plane you will likely arrive at Helsinki Airport, which is located near Helsinki. Both Finnair and Norra (Nordic Regional Airlines Oy) are based at this airport, while another 30 other airlines also fly to Helsinki Airport.
Other airports in Finland include Tampere in central Finland and Lappeenranta in the east (both hubs for Ryanair) and Turku in the southwest. In the winter season, there are occasional charter flights and seasonal scheduled flights to Lapland (December to March).
Search for flights to Finland on Expedia.
Another way to enter Finland is via train. VR and Russian Railways operate services between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg, with stops at Lahti, Kouvola and Vyborg. You can also take the slow overnight sleeper train from Moscow. There are no direct Finland trains to Sweden or Norway.
Traveling to Finland by bus is possibly the cheapest option, though also the slowest and least comfortable. There are regular buses from major Russian cities to towns like Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Jyväskylä and all the way west to Turku. You can also take a bus from Sweden or Norway to Finland. Matkahuolto runs the bus routes from Sweden and Eskelisen Lapinlinjat runs to the routes from Norway.
Another option is arrive via boat. The boats to Estonia and Sweden are giant, multi-story floating palaces and department stores – making for a fun travel option. There are boat services to Finland from Estonia, Germany, Russia and Sweden.
You can arrive via car from neighboring Russia, Sweden and Norway. Consider Europcar for car hire in Finland.
Areas of Finland
The capital city of Finland is Helsinki, with other major cities in Finland include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Espoo and Vantaa. The main areas of Finland can be broken up as below.
Helsinki & Southern Finland
Southern Finland includes the southern stretch of the coastline, up until the Russian border. It is also home to Finland’s southern capital, Helsinki as well as the historical province of Uusimaa.
Western Finland is made up of the Southwest coastal areas along with the old capital of Turku, the historical province of Central Finland and its capital Jyväskylä, the hub city of Tampere, southern parts of the Ostrobothnia province and Seinäjoki. Seinäjoki is the fastest growing city in Finland.
Eastern Finland, bordering Russia is made up of forests and lakes. Including Savonia (Savo) and the Finnish side of Karelia (Karjala).
Oulu (Northern Finland)
Kajanaland (Kainuu) and northern Ostrobothnia, named after the technology city of Oulu.
The Finnish Lapland is the ultimate snowy destination. Tundra, reindeer and the biggest skiing resorts above the Arctic Circle are all found here. It is also the place to see the Northern Lights during the winter months.
This area is an autonomous and monolingually Swedish group of islands off the southwestern coast of Finland.
Transportation in Finland
There is an extensive rail network throughout Finland, operated by VR. There are regular Finland train routes from Helsinki to Tampere, Turku and Tahti. There are 5,919 km of railways in Finland. There are however no train routes to Lapland. Travelers will need to make use of the long-distance coach connections, these are run by Matkahuolto. Onnibus offers a cheaper alternative for long-distance coaches in Finland – covering the whole country.
Besides from the Finland train and long-distance trains, each major city and town will have their own public transport system. Helsinki is the only city in Finland with a metro system. Additional Helsinki public transport includes trams, busses, commuter trains and even a ferry. Tampere and Oulu both have extensive bus networks.
Another option to get around Finland is by hiring a car and driving yourself – it can get quite expensive though. There are of course also taxis available in all major cities.
Accommodations in Finland
There is a variety of options available in terms of accommodation in Finland. There is a mix of hotels, B&B’s, resorts and camping. Accommodation tends to be quite expensive in Finland, especially during the winter months. In terms of chain hotels, the usual international chains are available while local hotel chains include Cumulus, Scandic, Finlandia and Sokos.
Guest houses, known as matkakoti are often a more affordable option – ranging from basic rooms with shared bathrooms to cosy family homes renting en-suite rooms. For hostels, the Finnish Youth Hostel Association has a comprehensive network of hostels throughout the country.
One of the most famous accommodations in Finland is Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, tucked away in the wilderness. The resort is made up of glass igloos that let you look up directly at the Northern Lights.
For those venturing out to the countryside, staying in a cottage is a great option. There are many dotted along the lakes (great for summer) and around Lapland’s ski resorts (best in winter months).
Check out our guide on Hossa National Park accommodation.
If traveling in the high season (winter), make sure to book your accommodation well in advance. We recommend booking accommodation on either Booking.com or Agoda.
What to Eat and Drink in Finland
The main staples of food in Finland are potatoes and bread, with various fish and meat dishes on the side. Milk and cream is a common ingredient in most foods. Cheese is also quite popular with the most common varieties being mild hard cheeses like Edam and Emmental. Bread is served with most dishes in Finland, with the rye variety being the most popular. While the Finnish food is famously bland, there has been a lot of new experimenting with local ingredients in the last few years.
Traditional Finland cuisine is usually seasonal, differing in summer, winter, autumn and spring. A lot of Finnish restaurants use seasonal produce, creating specific menus with them.
A common Finnish breakfast features a sandwich on Finnish rye bread with cheese and ham. Another popular breakfast is Riisipuuro – a basic rice porridge made with a mixture of water, full-fat milk, and rice.
Other traditional Finnish foods include:
- Hernekeitto Ja Pannukakku – pea soup with a pancake. This dish is typically served every Thursday in Finnish restaurants.
- Lohikeitto – salmon soup.
- Siskonmakkarakeitto – sausage soup.
- Lihapullat – meatballs, often served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.
- Karelian stew (karjalanpaisti) – a heavy stew usually made from beef and pork, cooked with carrots, onions and potatoes.
- Loop sausage – a large, mildly flavored sausage. Best when grilled and topped with a dab of sweet Finnish mustard (sinappi), and beer.
- Reindeer (poro) dishes – these aren’t a common dish amongst the Finnish but tourists often try them out.
- Makkara – traditional Finnish sausage. Affectionately called “the Finnish man’s vegetable” since the actual meat content may be rather low.
What to eat and drink in Finland
Things to Do and See in Finland
There are some beautiful places to visit in Finland! Absolutely all Finland holidays need to include a bit of lake and forest exploring – whether you’re there in the summer or winter months. The breathtaking Finnish scenery is what you’re there for.
If you’re visiting Finland in winter then some of the best things to do include meeting Mr. and Mrs. Claus at SantaPark, visiting the Lumilinna Snow Castle of Kemi, going skiing (Levi is one of the most popular ski resorts in Finland), meet the reindeers at Salla Reindeer Park, visiting a snow village or ice hotel and go in search for the Northern Lights. Join one of the trips to Lapland to enjoy all that this wintery destination has to offer – we like the look of this one with IntrepidTravel!
If you are in Finland in summer then include a visit to Archipelago National Park where you can spend your days kayaking, sailing and island hopping while checking out the aquatic life.
Pyhä-Luosto National Park is great to visit year-round with 90 miles of walking trails and 75 miles of ski trails where you can go snowmobiling or enjoy a reindeer sleigh ride. Hossa National Park is another great park to visit (read our guides on hiking in Hossa National Park and eating your way through the park). Plus, read our guide on things to do in the Hossa region.
For those interested in a bit of history and culture then you need to include a visit to the Siida Museum – located on the gorgeous Lake Inari. The museum tells the story of the Sami, or the Laplanders of Finland who were a semi-nomadic tribe.
Olavinlinna castle is another popular spot to visit, this castle sits in Savonlinna and dates from the 15th century. The Imatrankoski Rapids are one of the most popular Finland tourist attractions.
Suomenlinna Fortress is a great day trip from Helsinki. The fortress is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and was built in 1748. Another day trip from Helsinki is Seurasaari Island which is a really interesting open air museum highlighting the traditional life in Finland.
Things to do in Helsinki includes the Helsinki Zoo, Linnanmäki Amusement Park, the SkyWheel, the Design Museum and the Helsinki cathedral. Going for a Finnish sauna experience is amongst the must-do things to do in Finland. Head to Löyly in Helsinki where you can add a dip into the freezing cold Baltic Sea then head back into the sauna. A true Finnish experience!
Things to do & see in Finland
Shopping in Finland
Finland isn’t considered a cheap place for shopping, though it definitely ranks high for offering high quality goods. The country is world-renowned in the field of design, and its glassware, homeware, ceramics and furniture are much sought after.
Helsinki is notably the shopping hub of Finland. Market Square (also known as Kauppatori) in Helsinki is the main square of the city and host to one of the most popular markets in northern Europe. Shop for flowers, vegetables, fruits, delicious baked goods and interesting arts and crafts while overlooking the Baltic Sea.
With Finland being known as the design capital, you might want to take home a piece of classic Finnish design. The Iittala & Arabia Design Centre, just outside of Helsinki, offers classic and contemporary glassware.
Finland is also famous for its traditional handicrafts, in particular Sámi jewelry, hunting and fishing knives, and hand woven ryijy rugs. Handcrafts from Lapland are also popular amongst tourists, particularly the traditional Lappish cups carved from birch wood (known as kuksa).
Nightlife in Finland
Going out at night in Finland is often a lively affair. The weekends are the big party nights, though some locals enjoy going out on Wednesday nights for ‘little Saturday’, when things can get just as lively.
All large towns and cities have a range of nightclubs and bars, while the smaller villages have restaurants that turn into bars later in the evening. Clubs will often feature live bands and DJs playing a mix of dance music and Finnish pop. Vodka bars are trendy amongst the youth, while in the rural areas you will still come across traditional ‘country dances’.
Safety Tips for Finland
Crime levels are low in Finland. Though, petty crime like pick-pockets pick up during tourist season, particularly in the busy tourist areas. Make sure to keep your valuables close by and remain aware.
Another safety warning for Finland is driving in the winter months. Driving in Finland in winter can be hazardous with the icy road conditions. Make sure that your car has winter types (these are a legal requirement from 1 December to 28 February) and always keep an eye on the weather reports.
With over 179,000 islands and more trees than anyone could count, Finland is an amazing country to explore. The miles of wild, untouched wilderness is a sight to behold. Finland holidays are all about exploring the ample lakes, forest and national parks. Finland has 40 national parks, home to birds, reindeer, elks and bears! 10% of the country is covered in water while 75% is made up of forest.
In the summer months they’re great for hiking, kayaking and sailing while in the winter months you can head up north to enjoy the ample winter sports on offer. The wintery Lapland also offers the opportunity to see the Northern Lights and meet Mr and Mrs Claus!
Most travelers will enter Finland via Helsinki, the design capital. The cosmopolitan south is vastly different from the rugged north. This Finnish capital city is packed with historic churches, public squares, markets and ferryboats.
The sauna is possibly one of the biggest Finland tourist attractions – you’ll find them everywhere! Make sure to enjoy some of the wonderful steaminess.