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Finland: What do you need to know before you travel?

Updated: Aug 18

Finland travel guide: introductory information, weather, how to get there, food and drink, travel expenses, accommodation, transport, and more.

Finland travel guide: introductory information, weather, how to get there, food and drink, travel expenses, accommodation, transport and more.  In 2019, Finland topped the United Nations' ranking of the world's happiest countries for the second time in a row. The reason for this is its high standard of living, good environment, beautiful nature and many opportunities for travel and leisure. Savonlinna Fortress Olavinlinna, Finland |
Savonlinna Fortress Olavinlinna, Finland

In 2019, Finland topped the United Nations' ranking of the world's happiest countries for the second time in a row. The reason for this is its high standard of living, good environment, beautiful nature and many opportunities for travel and leisure.

Begin your exploration of Finland with Helsinki, its capital and largest city. Further afield you may wish to visit one of the 190,000 lakes, take a walk through the pine forests, spot the Northern Lights, or just listen to the silence. In this current review, we're telling you how to organise the best and most original itinerary in Finland.

12 things & tips in our guide to Finland:

  1. Introductions to Finland

  2. Weather

  3. Cities and sights

  4. Map of must-see cities in Finland

  5. Food and Drink

  6. Money

  7. Flats and hotels

  8. Internet

  9. How much does it cost to celebrate New Year's Eve in Finland?

  10. Safety

  11. How to get there

  12. The cost of travelling to Finland by train

1. Introduction to Finland

  • When visiting season: all year round.

  • Currency: EUR

  • Language: Finnish, Swedish, almost everyone speaks English.

  • Visa: Schengen

  • Sea: Baltic Sea

  • Where is it located: Finland is situated on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. It borders Russia to the east, Norway to the north and Sweden to the west.

Finland, Baltic Sea | - Begin your exploration of Finland with Helsinki, its capital and largest city. Further afield you may wish to visit one of the 190,000 lakes, take a walk through the pine forests, spot the Northern Lights, or just listen to the silence. In this current review, we're telling you how to organise the best and most original itinerary in Finland.
Finland, Baltic Sea

2. Weather in Finland

In the south of Finland, the climate is similar to that of northwest Russia.

Summers in Finland are usually cool, although it can be up to +30°C. In July, the average temperature in the south is +17°C.

In June, there are white nights across the country. The daylight hours are up to 18-20 hours and nights are short and bright.

In August: it's already cool, you can pick berries and mushrooms, enjoy quiet, warm evenings, go fishing and swim in the lakes at sunset.

Autumn is called golden autumn in Finnish. The most beautiful landscapes at this time are in the tundra. If you want to see colourful trees, go to Finland in late September or early October.

In winter there is a lot of snow and the daylight hours are very short: from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. But it's a time of beautiful pink sunsets, northern lights, skiing and ice-hole diving.

In winter, it's the polar night: the sun stays above the horizon for 51 days and in summer it's the polar day: 73 days of sunshine around the clock.

The average temperature in the south in February is -6°C. In northern Lapland, it's colder, averaging -14°C. Temperatures can drop to -35°C at night.

Springtime in Finland is particularly intense. We love April, when the sun and warm air literally burst into the cities. A Finnish woman we know likened the arrival of spring in Finland to a storm.

3. Cities and sights

Finland is a sparsely populated country. Only 5.5 million people live there. There is only one large city in the country: Helsinki. The other towns are similar in layout and architecture. For example: Savitaipale, Sussmaa and Pieksämäki: they all consist of 2-3 streets. Some people say there's nothing to do in Helsinki for more than a day. In our opinion, it should take at least 2-3 days to see the main sights in the city centre. 

#1. Helsinki

#2. Tampere

#3. Rovaniemi

#4. Levi

#5. Inari

#6. Turku

#7. Lahti

#8. Lappeenranta 

#9. Joensuu 

#10. Savonlinna

#11. Oulu

#1. Helsinki

Helsinki has some interesting museums, such as the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Tickets to Kiasma cost between €13 and €15 for adults, while children and teens under 18 are free. If you don't want to spend too much, check out the Helsinki City Museum: admission is free.

The Kamppi Chapel of Silence on Helsinki's Square of the same name. This futuristic egg-shaped wooden structure has no particular religion attached to it. Admission is free.

The new Oodi Library is the largest library in the city. It is a new public space in the centre. You can read there, surf the internet, work or just admire the city while lying in an armchair. Admission is free.

Helsinki Market Square. The Helsinki Market Square is a place where you can buy national food, souvenirs and handicrafts, such as animal skins.

Allas has three pools: heated, children's and in the open Baltic Sea. There's also a sauna, a cafe and a shop. You can swim year-round in the Allas, three outdoor public pools in Helsinki. One is heated, the other is for children and the third is an enclosed area in the Baltic Sea. A ticket to the public pools costs €14 for an adult and €7 for children aged 7 to 13.

#2. Tampere

Tampere is Finland's second-largest city, after Helsinki. You'll want to stay here for at least a couple of days: there's plenty to see in Tampere. The city is situated between two large lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi.

The main attraction is the Näsinneula Lookout Tower, which is 168 metres high and can be reached by climbing to a view of the city and the lakes from above. The cost of the attraction is €5.9.

#3. Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi is the largest city in Finnish Lapland, i.e. the northern territories of Scandinavia. It is home to Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish. He is visited by tourists from all over the world.

Joelupukki lives in the village of Father Christmas, 8 km from the city. There is a school for elves, Mrs. Claus's gingerbread kitchen, Santa's office, an ice gallery and a famous post office. You can learn from the elves how to make gingerbread, look at the ice statues and send a letter home.

Visiting the village itself is free, but you'll have to pay for other services:

  • A photo with Santa costs: €60

  • Snowmobile rides: €120

  • Visit a reindeer farm: €15

But for the lowest prices and best deals on all Lapland tours and packages, check out the Scandinavian Travel Group website.

Also, children may like the Ranuan Zoo in Lapland. It is open all year round and has reindeer, polar bears and 50 other Arctic animals. Prices depend on the season.

Ranuan Zoo entrance fees

On average admission for an adult will cost €17, for a child €14. It is advisable to check prices before travelling. Ranuan Zoo in Rovaniemi, Finland |
Ranuan Zoo in Rovaniemi, Finland

On average admission for an adult will cost €17, for a child €14. It is advisable to check prices before travelling.

Rovaniemi is the starting point for travel in Lapland. From here you can reach the northernmost national parks and 11 separate areas which Finns call "wilderness areas".

There you can go camping, camp overnight and probably won't encounter a single living soul.

#4. Levi

Levi is one of Finland's biggest ski resorts. There are enough pistes for beginners and advanced skiers alike. Of the advantages of Levi:

  • Free ski lifts for kids under 6 years old.

  • Large selection of family fun activities

  • Opportunity to see polar day and polar night

  • Unconventional summer holiday.

  • Great facilities for active family holidays

  • High-class hotels and comfortable cottages

  • Large number of organised trips and events

Levi is not just a town, it's a mountain. By Finnish standards, it is quite high: over 500 metres. For six months a year, the mountain is blanketed in a thick layer of snow, and the monochrome landscape is broken only by the hotel lights and the bright overalls of skiers.

So it looks like Levi, Finland's largest and perhaps the coldest ski resort, above the Arctic Circle. An exotic place for a family holiday, isn't it? But it's a trip you'll remember for a long time. This review is about why it's so pleasant to remember Levi with children.

#5. Inari

Inari is a small village and the centre of Finland's largest community. The Lapps, an indigenous people of the High North, live there. The main attraction of Inari is the Siida Nature Park and Open Air Museum

Inari, you can get acquainted with the culture, traditions and everyday life of the Sámi people. For instance, reindeer in the park are not fun for tourists, but animals still kept on farms by the Saami people.

Entrance fee to Inari Park:

  • Adult ticket costs €10

  • Сhildren's ticket: €5.

#6. Turku

Turku is the first capital of Finland, located in the southwest of the country on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Turku is home to a large seaport from which you can take a cruise ferry to Sweden. The main ferry companies are Tallink Silja Line and Viking Line.

#7. Lahti

Lahti is the sports capital of Finland, especially skiing. The city has hosted seven World Ski Championships and several international biathlon championships. Lahti is home to various ski jumping hills and a number of cross-country skiing trails. Lahti is home to the world-famous folk-metal band Korpiklaani.

#8. Lappeenranta 

Lappeenranta is the closest major city to the Russian border and the capital of South Karelia province in Finland. There are several large shopping centres in the city, e.g. Galleria, Iso Kristiina, Armada. They are centrally located within walking distance of each other.

#9. Joensuu 

Joensuu is the capital of the Finnish province of North Karelia. It is the closest city to Russia's Sortavala: from there it takes 2-3 hours to get to Joensuu, from Petrozavodsk - 5-6 hours. The city is small but cosy: it stands on a lake, there are a lot of greenery, parks and opportunities for outdoor activities.

#10. Savonlinna

Savonlinna is one of the most popular Finnish cities among tourists. 40% of the city is made up of lakes and rivers, and parts of the city are connected by bridges. There are ferries on the rivers and dozens of white-water yachts moored in the ports.

#11. Oulu

Oulu is the capital of Northern Finland. It stands on the Ouluijoki River, which flows here into the Gulf of Bothnia on the Baltic Sea. The city has many interesting museums: a vintage car museum, a geological and zoological museum and a botanical garden with plants.

4. A unique itinerary: the map of must-see cities in Finland

  1. Helsinki

  2. Tampere

  3. Rovaniemi

  4. Levi

  5. Inari

  6. Turku

  7. Lahti

  8. Lappeenranta

  9. Joensuu

  10. Savonlinna

  11. Oulu

5. Food and drink

The Finns have a simple and delicious national cuisine, somewhat similar to that of Russia. Let us tell you about the main dishes and drinks.

  • Kalitki are open piroki originally from Karelia. You won't find them almost anywhere else but in Finland and Karelia.

  • Buckwheat pancakes. Buckwheat is not favoured in Finland, but buckwheat flour is used to make pancakes.

  • Rye cake with fish and lard.

  • Fish soup. The most popular is salmon soup, or lohikeito.

  • Fish. There are dozens of kinds of fish on the shelves in Finnish shops, but the most popular is salmon. 

  • Venison. The most common way to serve venison is with potatoes and lingonberry jam.

  • Lapland cheese: a soft, almost unsalted cheese with a rubber-like consistency. 

  • Milk and yoghurt. Milk is very good and tasty in Finland. The most famous producer is Valio.

  • Bread and pastries. Finns are fans of bread and bakery.

  • Mushrooms. In the season, Finns eat mushrooms every day and preserve them for the winter: drying, pickling and salting.

  • Sweets. Finns are fond of sweets: sweets, marmalade, local Fazer, Tupla and other delicacies. 

  • Drinks. The most popular drinks in Finland are coffee, vodka, liqueurs, apple cider and beer. 

6. Money

The currency in Finland is the euro. You can pay with an international Master Card, Visa, Apple Pay and Google Pay almost everywhere. Cash comes in handy in small shops, markets and in sparsely populated areas.

7. Flats and hotels

You can search for accommodation on Airbnb, and Scandinavian Travel Group for Levi. The most expensive city in Finland is Helsinki. In the other cities it's cheaper, but not by much. Pleasant areas to live in are Kallio, Katayanokka, Teele.

  • Rooms start from €50 per night, flats from €85

  • Detached houses and cottages in the countryside: from €140

Of the hostels, the best is Eurohostel. Large and spacious, almost like a hotel, and located in a beautiful harbour district in the centre of Helsinki. A room in a shared room costs €25, but the rooms are small (doubles or triples).

Cottages. There are numerous cottages all over the country, usually on lakes. They are often built so that there will be no neighbours around.

8. Internet

The Internet in the country is excellent and fast. However, cafés may not have wifi, or you have to ask for it. Free wi-fi can be found in one of Helsinki's 69 libraries, the largest and newest of which is Oodi.

You can buy mobile Internet in Finland from local operators DNA, Saunalahti and Sonera. In addition, DNA has good unlimited rates for 4G internet: €7.9 per week or €24.9 per month. International operators in Finland include Vodafone and Orange.

Oodi Library in Helsinki, Finland |
Oodi Library in Helsinki, Finland

9. How much does it cost to rent a house in Finland?

A medium-sized cottage costs from €80 per day. A tiny cottage will cost €60 per day if you are lucky enough to get a discount. You can rent them in both summer and winter.

The cottages usually have everything you need for your vacation: a living room, several private rooms, a barbecue area, a sauna, easy access to the water and a boat. The boat is typically included in the accommodation price. In the kitchen there's always the essentials: salt, sugar, coffee, spices and sometimes oil.

The Igloo cottage in Finland |
The Igloo cottage in Finland

10. Safety

Finland is one of the safest countries in the world. It was ranked third in 2019 by Global Finance magazine, behind Iceland and Switzerland. Nevertheless, stick to general safety precautions when travelling.

In cities. Don't walk around at night in areas where immigrants live. Avoid drinking and partying: Finns like to drink and party. Be careful on roads.

Outdoors. Dress for the weather, especially in winter, to keep warm.

When camping in the forests between May and August, wear mosquito nets and repellent against mosquitoes, ticks and other insects, and beware of snakes and other wild animals: bears, wolves and wild boars are common in Finland.

Don't sit in the sauna for hours on end: it can overheat. Do water sports on the water and fish with a life jacket: on large lakes there can be waves.

11. How to get there

There are almost all possible ways to reach Finland from any European country: by air, by water and by land. If you are not a resident of the European Union, you need a Schengen visa to travel to Finland.

By plane. Finnair and other airlines operate direct scheduled flights to Finland throughout the year. A roundtrip ticket to Helsinki with baggage and hand luggage costs from €250. Finnair, its low-cost carrier Norra and other Finnish airlines fly to all major cities in the country from Helsinki. From Helsinki, Tampere and Lappeenranta you can travel to other European cities by low-cost airlines Norwegian and Ryanair. 

Sea liner. From coastal cities in Estonia, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany there are liners to Finland, which you can take on the Baltic Sea.

By train. The railway network in Finland covers the southern and central part of the country as far as Oulu, from where two lines run north to Lapland, to Kolari and Kemijärvi.

12. The cost of travelling to Finland by train

The standard daily fare on the long-distance train to the north is about 100 euros. The European InterRail travel card is valid for all trains within the country. Advance reservation is required for night trains and Pendolino trains; reservation is possible for InterCity trains. InterRail also provides free travel on the Finnish part of the route on Allegro trains.

Passenger trains are divided into 5 types:

  • Suburban trains (Lähijuna, indicated by the letter H in timetables)

  • Fast trains (Pikajuna, letter P)

  • Three versions of express trains: InterCity, InterCity2

  • Pendolino (designations IC, IC2 and S).

  • Night trains (also P-litre).

The metropolitan area has a well-developed network of electric trains and express trains predominate between cities. The railways are operated by state-owned VR (Valtion Rautatiet, 'state railways').

We wish you a pleasant trip to Finland! See activities in Finland, Lapland.

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