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Finland Country Information
The sun never quite sets in Finland, which extends well into the Arctic Circle, 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 land of contrasts is full of plenty to delight, amuse, inform and enchant the visitor, from its forbidding Swedish castles and onion-domed Russian 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.

Despite its seemingly unspoilt 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 head of population 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.

Basic Information
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Standard European two-pin plugs are in use.

Language: Finnish and Swedish share status as Finland's official languages. Sami is spoken by the isolated population group in Lapland. English is taught at schools and is widely understood.

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. Medical care is of a good standard. 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.

Tipping: 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: 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.

Communications: The international country dialling code for Finland is +358. The outgoing code is 00, 990, 994 or 999, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The city code for Helsinki is (0)9. 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. For international telephone enquires visitors should call 020208, and for local enquiries dial 020202.

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% alcohol content, or 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine not exceeding 22% 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.

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Climate in Finland
Helsinki has a climate that is transitional between maritime and continental. Summers are warm and bright, temperatures ranging from a cool 59°F (15°C) up to a hot 86°F (30°C) in the warmest month of July. Days are long and sunny, with up to 19 hours of daylight. Towards the end of September temperatures cool down drastically as days grow shorter, and by November the weather is at freezing point as the cold, snowy winter sets in. The city is blanketed by snow in winter, temperatures plummeting well below freezing to the point where the sea itself freezes over, and it is never fully daylight. Spring arrives late, in early April.

Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens require only a valid passport to stay in Finland for up to three months in any six-month period without requiring a visa.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: British passport holders must have a valid passport to enter Finland. British Citizens, British National (Overseas), British Subjects and British Overseas Territories Citizens with the right of abode in the UK do not require a visa for stays of up to three months in any six-month period.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians require a valid passport to enter Finland, but no visa is required for a stay of up to three months in any six-month period.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australians must have a valid passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months in any six-month period.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens require a valid passport and Schengen visa to enter Finland.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealanders must have a valid passport and may stay in Finland for up to three months in any six-month period without requiring a visa.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport but no visa.

Passport/Visa Note: All travellers, excluding nationals of E.E.A countries and Switzerland, require return or onward tickets, documents for next destination and sufficient funds. Passports must be valid for at least the period of intended stay. 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 and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

Attractions in Finland

  • Suomenlinna Fortress - The historically significant Suomenlinna fortress is not only a major military monument worthy of the UNESCO World Heritage List, but also home to about 900 Finns who live in the renovated barracks.
  • Market Square - Helsinki’s bustling Market Square is not only where traders set up shop selling food and various other goods, but it is also the central meeting point of the city, sandwiched between the sea and a row of impressive historic buildings which include the City Hall, the Swedish Embassy and the Presidential Palace.
  • Seurasaari Open Air Museum - The Seurasaari open-air Museum allows visitors to step back in time and glimpse the traditional way of life in the Finnish countryside, and all this in the heart of the capital city. The museum, situated on a lovely green island accessed from the mainland via a footbridge, consists of a collection of cottages, farmsteads, parsonages, rural churches, manor houses and other old buildings, all preserved and relocated from their original sites around the provinces of Finland.
  • National Museum of Finland - Visitors who enjoy getting to know the country they are exploring will enjoy the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki, which depicts Finnish life from prehistoric times to the present. Housed in an impressive Romantic style building, the museum’s permanent exhibition is divided into five sections, including the ‘Treasure Trove’, a display of coins, medals and weaponry.

Special Events in Finland

  • May Day (Vappu) - Finns know how to have fun, and when they party they do so seriously. The best party of the year in Helsinki, particularly for students, is the May Day celebration.
  • Wife Carrying World Championships - In the Wife Carrying World Championships held annually in the town of Sonkajärvi, men carry their wives on their backs over an 820 foot (250m) course comprising obstacles and even a water jump.
  • Helsinki City Marathon - Finland’s popular annual Marathon event attracts thousands of runners from around the world, most probably because the race follows a particularly scenic course along the coastline in and around Helsinki.
  • Helsinki Festival - The massive Helsinki Festival is designed to showcase Finnish and international performing and creative arts, drawing about 300,000 people every year to enjoy a full programme of classical and contemporary music, dance, theatre, popular and world music, cinema, and art exhibitions.

Airports in Finland

  • Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (HEL)
  • Location: The airport is situated about 12 miles (20km) from Helsinki city centre.
  • Time: Local time is GMT +2.
  • Contacts: Tel: +358 200 14636 or (0)9 82 771.
  • Getting to the city: Regular bus services to Helsinki City and the Tikkurila railway station to the airport. From the city centre, catch bus #615 and from Tikkurila bus # 61. Both journeys take around 30 minutes. Bus transfers from the airport to local hotels and parking areas is free of charge. The Finnair City Bus also transfers passengers to downtown Helsinki. Taxis to the city centre cost around €30 and take half an hour. Five car rental companies operate; their service desks can be found at Arrivals Hall 2 in the corridor between terminals. For the rental car parking area go to the ground floor of car park P3.
  • Car rental: Avis, Budget, Hertz and Europcar are represented at the airport. Service desks are located at Arrivals Hall 2.
  • Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at ranks outside the Arrivals hall of both domestic and international terminals. Expect to pay around €30 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, pharmacy and luggage storage are also available. There are several Internet kiosks and wireless Internet access is possible throughout the terminals.
  • Parking: Long and short-term parking is available.
  • Departure Tax: None.

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
Breath tests and blood tests can be carried out at random. If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05 per cent or more the driver will be penalised which could include a daily fine or imprisonment and withdrawal of driving
licence. The police test for alcohol and narcotics.

Driving licence:
Minimum age at which a UK licence holder may drive a temporarily imported car 18, motorcycle (not exceeding 125cc) 16, (exceeding 125cc) 18.

Police may impose but not collect on-the-spot fines for parking and other minor infringements, up to €115. The fine is payable at a bank within two weeks.

For more serious offences there is a system of daily minimum fines per day. The police can remove an illegally parked vehicle, release fee up to €170.

Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane) and Diesel is available but not LPG. Leaded petrol is not available.

Up to 10 litres of petrol in a can permitted. Credit cards are accepted at most filling stations; check with your card issuer for use in Finland before travel.

Driving Distances:

Helsinki Oslo
Helsinki Stockholm
9hrs 49mins
Helsinki Copenhagen
16hrs 18mins
Copenhagen Esbjerg

Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

All motor vehicles must use their headlights in and outside built up areas at all times throughout the year.

Use of dipped headlights during the day compulsory. Drivers and passengers of mopeds or motorcycles must wear a crash helmet.

Motor Insurance:
Third party insurance compulsory.

Passengers / Children in cars:
A child less than 1.35m travelling in a car, van or lorry must be seated in a child seat or child restraint.

A child under three years old may not be transported in a vehicle without a child restraint / seat, except in a taxi.

Where a child restraint/seat is not available, a child three years and over must travel in the rear seat of the vehicle using a seat belt or other safety device attached to the seat. It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all children are safely restrained.

All child restraints/seats will have to conform to the ECE standard 44/03 or EU directive 77/541EEC.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front and rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers. Inside built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 49 mph (80 km/h) or 62 mph (100 km/h), according to the quality of road,
with 49 mph (80 km/h) being the upper limit where there are no signs, on motorways 74 mph (120km/h).

No minimum speed on motorways.

Temporary speed limits may be enforced on some or all roads by the local road districts. Reduced speed limits apply during the winter months October to March generally 12 mph (20 km/h) less than standard limits.

Compulsory equipment:

  • Warning triangle
  • Winter tyres - marked m&s on the sidewall are compulsory between 1st December and the end of February. The recommended minimum tread depth in difficult weather conditions is 5 millimetres.
  • Reflective jacket - Pedestrians must use reflectors in the hours of darkness (any type of reflector is accepted). A car driver / passenger who steps out of a vehicle becomes a pedestrian and therefore must have a reflector.

Other rules / requirements:
Radar detectors are prohibited.

Spiked tyres may be used from the 1st November to the first Monday after Easter, if used they must be fitted on all wheels.

Snow chains may be used temporarily when required by conditions, drivers must be careful to avoid damage to the road surface.

Beware game (elk, reindeer, etc) as this constitutes a very real danger on some roads.

It is prohibited to sound a horn in towns and villages except in cases of immediate danger.

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