Finland travel guide
Finland is the big surprise of the Nordic countries, a natural wonderland with more trees than people and more islands than any other nation in the world. With miles of empty wilderness, the Finns are uniquely in tune with their natural surroundings. This is a nation where people can flip from office work to foraging for wild mushrooms in a heartbeat.
The culture of the Finns has been shaped by the historic tug-of-war between Sweden and Russia, leaving dotted enclaves such as Russian-tinted Karelia, and the Swedish-speaking regions of Åland and Ostrobothnia, which culturally, still carry a flag for their former homelands. Even the Finnish language is an anomaly, more closely related to Hungarian than to any other language.
For most, the gateway to Finland is Helsinki. A friendly and surprisingly small capital city, here historic churches rise above tidy public squares and stone wharfs are crowded with market traders and ferryboats. It’s probably the best place to encounter Finland’s famous party spirit, especially during the light nights of midsummer.
Vast areas are protected by Finland’s 35 national parks, providing fantastic opportunities to spot birds, reindeer, elks and bears. Around 10% of Finland is covered by water and 69% of the country is covered by forests, providing a natural adventure playground for trekkers, mountain-bikers, cross-country skiers, dog-sledders, fishermen and watersports enthusiasts. No wonder sisu (meaning “hardiness”) is seen as integral to the Finnish character.
The cosmopolitan south, with its bustling cities and sleek, modern design sensibilities (this is, after all, the home of Alvar Aalto and the Marimekko) seems a long way from rugged Lapland, where the Sámi people have been herding reindeer for millennia. For tourism purposes, Lapland is also the home of Father Christmas, ensuring a busy Christmas season at the Santa theme parks near Rovaniemi.
Perhaps Finland’s most famous contribution to world culture is the sauna – the country has a staggering 1.6 million of them. A steam-bath, ideally after a bracing dip in a wilderness lake, is practically mandatory for all visitors.
338,145 sq km (130,558 sq miles).
5,532,365 (UN estimate 2016).
16.2 per sq km.
President Sauli Niinistö since 2012.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä since 2015.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
On 18 August 2017, several people were stabbed in Turku. Police have arrested one person and have declared the incident over.
Terrorist attacks in Finland can’t be ruled out.
Most visits to Finland are trouble-free.
If you need to contact the emergency services call 112.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Crime levels are low. The tourist season attracts pickpockets in crowded areas. Take sensible precautions and keep your personal belongings, including passports and money, secure.
Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous. Icy road conditions are common. Winter/snow tyres (either studded or non-studded) are a legal requirement from 1 December to 28 February. It’s usually necessary to use winter tyres beyond these dates as roads remain icy well into April.
Drinking and driving is a serious offence and you can expect a lengthy prison sentence. The drink drive limit in Finland is 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
In 2015 there were 260 road deaths in Finland (source: Department for Transport) equating to 4.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population. This compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
Terrorist attacks in Finland can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
As in the UK, Finns take drug offences seriously and you can expect a prison sentence.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Finland.
You don’t need a visa to enter Finland. As a British national, you can stay as a visitor for 3 months. After that, you should contact the Finnish immigration service to register your right to live in Finland.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re visiting Finland you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Finnish nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
As a rule, organs, tissues and cells may be removed in Finland for the treatment of another person if it can be assumed that the deceased wouldn’t have objected to the measure when alive.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency of Finland is the Euro.
Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.
The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions – can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
The eight Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be dispatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.
Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.