Finland travel guide
Finland is the big surprise of the Nordic countries, a natural wonderland with over 179,000 islands and more trees than people. 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. Even the Finnish language is an anomaly, curiously related to Hungarian.
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 40 national parks, providing fantastic opportunities to spot birds, reindeer, elks and bears. Around 10% of Finland is covered by water and 75% of the country is covered by forests, providing a natural adventure playground for trekkers, mountain-bikers, cross-country skiers, dog-sledders, as well as fishing 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 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 park near Rovaniemi.
Perhaps Finland's most famous contribution to world culture is the sauna – with an estimated 2 million of them, there are more saunas than cars in Finland. Enjoying a visit to the sauna, 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.
Last updated: 16 February 2019
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.
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.
If you’re living in or moving to Finland, visit our Living in Finland guide in addition to this travel advice.
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.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Finland and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry.
If you’re living in Finland, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
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 2016 there were 252 road deaths in Finland (source: Department for Transport) equating to 4.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population. This compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
Terrorist attacks in Finland can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. In August 2017, two people were killed and several stabbed in an incident in Turku.
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 do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
However, if the UK leaves the European Union with no deal, the passport validity rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. Some passports with up to 15 months validity remaining may not be valid for travel. Before booking travel, you should check that your passport will meet these new rules and find out whether you need to renew it.
If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rules for travelling or working in Europe will change after 29 March 2019.
The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you are a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.
If you’re intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.
Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.
On arrival in the Schengen Area, you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.
The 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work in the Schengen area. Most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You should check with the Finnish Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Finland.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is likely to change. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Finland is available on the NHS website.
You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs will remain valid until 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The EHIC 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 UK government has or is seeking agreements with countries on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March 2019. The NHS website and this travel advice will be updated with further information on travelling to Finland as the circumstances change.
Whether you’re travelling before or after 29 March, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Finland, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Finland guide.
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.
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.
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.