Finland Travel Advice

Embracing the Nordic Charm: A Comprehensive Guide to Traveling in Finland

Nestled in the northern reaches of Europe, Finland beckons travelers with its pristine landscapes, vibrant culture, and unique charm. From the shimmering lakes and dense forests of Lapland to the cosmopolitan cities of Helsinki and Turku, Finland offers a wealth of experiences for every type of traveler.

Entry Requirements: Before planning your trip to Finland, it’s essential to understand the entry requirements. Finland is a member of the Schengen Area, which means that citizens of many countries, including the United States, Canada, the European Union member states, and several others, can enter Finland visa-free for short stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However, it’s essential to check the latest entry requirements and visa regulations with the nearest Finnish embassy or consulate in your country before traveling.

Safety Tips: According to BAGLIB, Finland is known for its safety and low crime rates, making it a relatively safe destination for travelers. However, it’s essential to exercise common sense and take certain precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some safety tips for visitors to Finland:

  1. Stay aware of your surroundings: While Finland is generally safe, petty theft and pickpocketing can occur in crowded tourist areas, especially in cities like Helsinki and Turku. Keep your belongings secure, avoid displaying valuables openly, and be vigilant of your surroundings.
  2. Respect local customs: Finland has a rich cultural heritage, so it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress warmly and modestly, especially in rural areas, and ask for permission before taking photos of locals, especially in indigenous Sami communities.
  3. Stay safe in nature: Finland’s vast wilderness offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and snowmobiling. However, it’s essential to be prepared for changing weather conditions, especially in winter, and to follow safety guidelines when venturing into the wilderness.
  4. Winter safety: Finland experiences long, cold winters with heavy snowfall, so it’s important to dress warmly and take precautions to prevent cold-related injuries, such as frostbite and hypothermia. Wear layers of clothing, including thermal undergarments, and cover exposed skin to protect against the cold.
  5. Emergency services: Familiarize yourself with emergency contact numbers, including the local police, ambulance, and tourist assistance hotline. In case of an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.

Transportation Options: Getting around Finland is relatively easy, thanks to its well-developed transportation infrastructure. Here are some transportation options available to travelers:

  1. Public transportation: Finland has an efficient and reliable public transportation system, including trains, buses, trams, and ferries. Helsinki, the capital city, has an extensive network of buses, trams, and metro lines, making it easy to navigate the city without a car.
  2. Trains: Finnish railways connect major cities and towns across the country, offering comfortable and scenic train journeys. The state-owned railway company, VR, operates regular passenger train services, including long-distance trains, intercity trains, and regional trains.
  3. Buses: Buses are a convenient way to travel between cities and towns in Finland, especially in rural areas where train services may be limited. Several private bus companies operate intercity and regional bus routes, offering affordable and comfortable transportation options.
  4. Car rentals: Renting a car is a popular option for exploring Finland independently, especially if you plan to venture off the beaten path and explore remote areas. Several car rental agencies operate at airports and major cities, offering a range of vehicles to suit different budgets and preferences.
  5. Ferries: Finland is known for its extensive network of ferries, which connect the mainland with the archipelago islands and neighboring countries such as Sweden and Estonia. Ferry services operate regularly between major ports, offering scenic journeys across the Baltic Sea.

Accommodation Choices: Finland offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. From luxury hotels and boutique guesthouses to cozy cottages and wilderness cabins, there’s something for everyone. Here are some popular accommodation choices in Finland:

  1. Hotels: Finland has a range of hotels catering to different budgets and preferences, from luxury five-star hotels to budget-friendly chains and boutique properties. Most hotels offer modern amenities, including Wi-Fi, breakfast, and onsite restaurants, making them a convenient choice for travelers.
  2. Holiday cottages: For a unique and authentic Finnish experience, consider staying in a holiday cottage or “mökki” in the countryside or by the lakeside. These cozy cottages often feature traditional Finnish architecture, wood-fired saunas, and picturesque views of the surrounding nature.
  3. Wilderness cabins: For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, Finland offers a network of wilderness cabins and hiking shelters located in national parks and wilderness areas. These rustic cabins provide basic accommodation, including bunk beds, wood-burning stoves, and outdoor toilets, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Finland’s wilderness.
  4. Hostels: Hostels are a popular choice for budget travelers and backpackers, offering affordable accommodation in dormitory-style rooms with shared facilities. Many hostels also have common areas, kitchens, and social events, making them ideal for meeting fellow travelers and exchanging travel tips.
  5. Farm stays: Experience Finnish rural life firsthand by staying on a farm or “maatila” in the countryside. Farm stays offer the opportunity to participate in farm activities such as animal care, gardening, and traditional Finnish cooking, providing a unique and immersive cultural experience.

Must-Visit Attractions: Finland is home to a wealth of attractions and activities, from natural wonders and cultural landmarks to outdoor adventures and urban experiences. Here are some must-visit attractions in Finland:

  1. Northern Lights: Witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, which can be seen in Finland’s northernmost regions, such as Lapland, during the winter months. Join a guided Northern Lights tour or venture into the wilderness for the best chances of seeing this spectacular natural phenomenon.
  2. Santa Claus Village: Visit Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus, where you can meet Santa himself, cross the Arctic Circle, and explore traditional Finnish handicrafts. Santa Claus Village is a magical destination for families and visitors of all ages, offering a range of activities and attractions year-round.
  1. Helsinki: Explore the vibrant capital city of Helsinki, known for its beautiful architecture, cultural attractions, and lively waterfront. Visit iconic landmarks such as the Helsinki Cathedral, Senate Square, and Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, or immerse yourself in Finnish art and design at the Ateneum Art Museum and Design Museum Helsinki.
  2. Lapland: Experience the enchanting wilderness of Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, known for its stunning natural scenery and outdoor adventures. Go hiking in Urho Kekkonen National Park, go reindeer sledding with indigenous Sami guides, or embark on a thrilling husky safari through the snow-covered forests.
  3. Rovaniemi: Discover the charming city of Rovaniemi, the gateway to Lapland and the official hometown of Santa Claus. Visit the Arktikum Science Museum, learn about Sami culture at the Arktikum Cultural Centre, and enjoy outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowshoeing.
  4. Lake District: Explore Finland’s picturesque Lake District, home to thousands of lakes, rivers, and forests, perfect for outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching. Visit towns such as Savonlinna, known for its medieval Olavinlinna Castle, and Kuopio, famous for its panoramic Puijo Tower and traditional Finnish cuisine.
  5. Archipelago Sea: Discover the stunning Archipelago Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising thousands of islands and islets scattered along Finland’s southwest coast. Take a ferry cruise through the archipelago, visit charming island villages, and explore historic landmarks such as the Bengtskär Lighthouse and Örö Fortress.

Local Cuisine: Finnish cuisine is a delightful blend of traditional flavors and modern influences, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from the surrounding nature. Here are some must-try Finnish dishes and culinary experiences:

  1. Sauna snacks: Enjoy traditional Finnish sauna snacks, such as smoked salmon, rye bread, pickled herring, and cured meats, served with butter, cheese, and fresh vegetables. Sauna snacks are typically enjoyed during breaks between sauna sessions, accompanied by cold drinks and good company.
  2. Sautéed reindeer: Sample sautéed reindeer, a classic Finnish dish made from thinly sliced reindeer meat cooked with onions, mushrooms, and lingonberries. Served with mashed potatoes or boiled rice, sautéed reindeer is a hearty and flavorful meal that’s popular in Lapland and other northern regions of Finland.
  3. Karelian pasties: Taste Karelian pasties, a traditional Finnish pastry made from thin rye crusts filled with a savory rice or potato filling. Karelian pasties are often served with egg butter, a creamy spread made from butter and hard-boiled eggs, and are enjoyed as a snack or light meal throughout Finland.
  4. Karjalanpiirakka: Indulge in Karjalanpiirakka, a beloved Finnish pastry consisting of thin rye crusts filled with a creamy rice or barley porridge. Karjalanpiirakka is often topped with a mixture of butter and boiled egg, creating a delicious and satisfying treat that’s perfect for breakfast or as a snack.
  5. Lohikeitto: Warm up with lohikeitto, a traditional Finnish salmon soup made with fresh salmon, potatoes, leeks, carrots, and dill, cooked in a creamy broth. Lohikeitto is a comforting and nourishing dish that’s enjoyed year-round, especially during the cold winter months.
  6. Salmiakki: Experience salmiakki, a uniquely Finnish delicacy made from salty licorice flavored with ammonium chloride. Salmiakki comes in various forms, including candies, chocolates, and flavored spirits, and is a popular treat among Finns and visitors alike.

Health and Safety: Ensuring your health and safety during your trip to Finland is essential for a pleasant and worry-free experience. Here are some health and safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Medical care: Finland has a high standard of healthcare, with modern medical facilities and hospitals located in major cities and towns across the country. EU citizens can access emergency medical treatment with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), while non-EU citizens should have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any unexpected medical expenses.
  2. Weather preparedness: Finland experiences four distinct seasons, with cold winters and warm summers. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions, especially in winter, and wear layers of clothing to stay warm. Pack sunscreen and insect repellent during the summer months, as well as sturdy footwear for outdoor activities.
  3. Outdoor safety: If you plan to engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, or snowmobiling, make sure to familiarize yourself with the local terrain and weather conditions. Bring along essential gear such as maps, compasses, GPS devices, and emergency supplies, and let someone know your itinerary and expected return time.
  4. Emergency services: Familiarize yourself with emergency contact numbers, including the local police, ambulance, and rescue services. In case of an emergency, dial 112 for assistance, and follow any instructions given by emergency responders.
  5. Food and water safety: Tap water in Finland is safe to drink, but if you prefer, you can also drink bottled water, which is readily available in shops and supermarkets. Exercise caution when consuming unpasteurized dairy products and raw foods, and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.

Conclusion: Finland is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and modern comforts. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant streets of Helsinki, witnessing the Northern Lights in Lapland, or relaxing in a traditional Finnish sauna, Finland offers a wealth of experiences waiting to be discovered. By familiarizing yourself with entry requirements, staying safe, exploring transportation options, indulging in local cuisine, and taking necessary health precautions, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on an unforgettable journey through the enchanting landscapes of Finland. So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime in the land of a thousand lakes and endless forests.