Tips for Traveling to Finland

A very popular post on Big in Finland in Spanish is the one that showcases tips for traveling to Finland. And for all of you who are interested in the topic but don’t speak Cervantes’ language, here they come in English. Without further ado:

Tips for Traveling to Finland

1. Climate

Sunny in Helsinki
Sun in Helsinki.

One of the questions to ask yourself while planning a trip to Finland accordingly is “What clothes should I take with me?” Well, it depends.

There are two Finlands: one per time of the year. In summer the climate is pretty nice but not overly warm, so bringing a light coat while taking the summer clothes you’d take for any other trip will help. Kari, a Finnish friend, jokes that “the only difference between Finnish summer and Finnish winter is that the winter lasts longer” (it also varies the amount of light in the country, of course). If you visit Finland during the summer while coming from a country with extremely hot summers, aim for your usual spring clothes.

In winter take as much warm clothing as you can, and follow our guide of what to wear in Finland and Lapland in winter. Temperatures can reach -30 degrees Celsius, and the right clothing, explained in this post, will be essential. Extremely important items will be a hat, earmuffs, leather mittens with sheep-like fur inside, the thickest of the scarfs and the appropriate socks. Since Finland is an extremely secure country, you can leave your stuff indoors in public cloak rooms and nobody will touch your things.

2. Language

Finnish Language
Finnish words. Source (CC: by)

The Finnish language is a very nice language, but studying it prior to visiting the country (or for working in it, if IT is your field or you work in universities) might not be necessary.

It is, nonetheless, great to know the basic Finnish words and sentences that everyone should know. If someone talks back in Finnish, you can always switch since the Finns have a great command of the English language and they’ll acknowledge the effort. Even many elder Finns know English.

3. Personality

Finns walking in Helsinki
Finns walking around in Helsinki. Source (CC: by).

Finns are more reserved than the inhabitants of other countries, but they definitely are more friendly than Berliners or New Yorkers, for instance. Be friendly but not overly persistent and they’ll be friendly too. A drink or two always help for socializing. Once you become closer friends you can be more familiar with them.

The Finns are good people. If you need help on your trip they will give it to you with a big smile. They value friendship so much that they have the day of friendship on February 14th, instead of St. Valentines.

4. Currency

Finnish euro coins

Finland uses the Euro, so you’re lucky if you are European. The countries around (Estonia, Russia, Denmark and Sweden) didn’t switch to the Euro, so Finland is an obvious travel destination for Europeans that find in the common currency a relief for hassle-free comparison and accounting (as I do). There are no 1 and 2 cent coins in Finland, so expect your prices rounded up or down a tiny bit. If you wish to own these coins, they are a collectors’ item.

5. Prices

Prices for the classic Arabia Moomin mugs
Arabia Moomin mugs: a breakfast classic, with their prices.

Finland is a more expensive country than, let’s say, Germany or Spain, but is cheaper than the other Nordic and Scandinavian countries.

Clothing will be expensive, but their design is superb and worth paying the extra. There is also a brimming culture of second hand shops, so if you’re in for the real vintage you can find fantastic things for almost no money. Talking about food, the difference for most items isn’t that big and you can even find things that are a bit cheaper than in other countries.

Alcoholic drinks, home or in bars and restaurants, are pretty expensive, as the sale of alcohol is a highly regulated business controlled by a government monopoly – the Alko. Nevertheless, a nice beer in the evenings is something nobody should deprive themselves of. The cheapest Spanish (or claiming to be Spanish) wine I saw was the infamous Don Sancho at a cost of 4,80€ per 70 cl for a taste less than subpar.

Transport costs around 2,80€ per trip for Helsinki’s local bus and tram, and around 50€ for a train that takes you out of the city and covers a 400km distance.

6. Discounts

Lidl shop
The Lidl of Joensuu: discount shopping.

If you are a student discovering the wonders of the Nordic countries, throw away all your international student discount cards. In Finland only the Finnish students with a valid student card will be able to claim discounts. The only place I saw it working for myself – some years ago when I was a student – was in intercity buses for a 50% discount.

If you go to big cities like Helsinki, they’ll have a city-discovery card that you can purchase which offers discounts at certain places. Helsinki’s one is called HelsinkiCard and offers unlimited trips on public transport (that takes you to great sights like Suomenlinna) and free entry to many places.

7. Documents

A passport
A passport is recommended, but not always needed. Source (CC: by)

For getting into the country and around you’ll only need a valid ID from any EU country if you’re from Europe, and a passport otherwise.

For getting in into clubs, if you look young enough (always a pleasure), you’ll need to take your ID or passport with you. Some clubs are for people over 22 years only. If you want to travel to certain other countries from Finland, like Russia, you’ll need a passport and a visa, but for all the others your EU country ID will be enough.

8. Bikes

Get a sturdy Finnish bike: that's a great tip for Traveling to Finland

Bikes are the preferred choice of transport for many people in Finland. Bike tracks are separated from cars and they’re everywhere. Cities in Finland have, as we move away from the center, one-family style houses and therefore the biking area is enormous. In winter, nonetheless, many bow to the low temperatures and opt for public transport.

9. Work

A Finnish office
Finns working. Source (CC: by)

If your interest in travel to Finland includes finding a great job and staying several years, they have a complicated system for working. Most of the jobs will require knowledge of the Finnish or Swedish language, especially the ones that require you to be in touch with the public. If we move to the IT field or extremely specific jobs, as well as universities, you might find something where Finnish language skills are not required.

Do you have extra tips for traveling to Finland?

These are the tips for traveling to Finland that I give most when people ask me. If you think I missed something important, or if you have an experience that deserves to be here, let’s talk about it in the comments!

What’s the advice you give most when asked about tips for traveling to Finland? What’s the one you found most useful from the list?