Finlandís boundaries extend well into the arctic circle so this is a prime destination if you are looking for some midnight sun. From the modern and developed south to the furthest reaches of the northern wildernesses you will find Finland a pleasant and attractive country that is largely unspoilt with notably clean and healthy air. Donít let this fool you into thinking that Finland is a backwards country, they are in fact one of the most hi-tech countries in the world with internet connections per head of population surpassing even the US and the UK.
The beauty of Finland is that around the population centres you can have as many creature comforts and western technology as you want but there is also scope for venturing out into the untamed wilderness, perhaps to see the indigenous northern Sami people tending their reindeer herds or visit the Saimaa region famous for its crystal clear emerald lakes.
Although there is clear influence of both Russian and Swedish culture you will find Finland has developed its own independent character. In fact since people rarely visit anywhere other than Helsinki, Finland is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe. If you want to avoid tacky tourist crowds and experience a taste of life in a totally different environment then Finland is a very attractive choice.
- Currency: Euro ($euro) = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 2
- Language: Finnish and Swedish
- Telephone Services: Country code 358, International Access code 990
- Emergency Numbers: 112 for all services
Finland is moderate if a little on the cold side throughout the summer, this is also the time where you will be able to experience the famous midnight sun. When winter comes round however Finland is bitterly cold with the North experiencing Arctic conditions and very little daylight. In Helsinki the winter temperature can be around -15C and the north can experience temperatures as low as -30C so it is well worth preparing well for your trip and bringing appropriate clothing.
Things to see and do
The southern city of Helsinki is the capital of Finland in most respects, it is a centre of commerce, culture and one of the few cities which draws a significant number of tourists. Helsinki lies on a Peninsula which allows it to offer patrons ferry rides to Suomenlinna Island. This small Island is perfect for a small excursion and even boasts the Ehrensvšrd fortress and museum which are well worth the effort to go and see. Helsinki itself is a refreshing city with chiefly 19th century architecture and a much more picturesque skyline than most European cities. A sight unique to Helsinki is the Rock Church, this church runs concerts and traditional sermons but the truly unique aspect is that it is carved out of solid rock. To indulge yourself in a little culture the Anteneum is the countries primary gallery and the National Museumís collection of Sami artefacts is undoubtedly the finest in the world.
Turku is Finlandís oldest city and was formerly the nationís capital. Although some travellers might be put off by the somewhat northerly position, Turku is the best entry point to Finland if you are coming through Sweden. The chief attraction is the Turku castle, built in 1820 it is easily the most famous historical building in the country and contains an extensive museum within its walls. Also of interest is the Turku Cathedral, this magnificent 13th century building which again houses its own internal museum.
Recently added to UNESCOís world heritage list, Rauma is an extensive and well preserved wooden town dating as far back as the 15th century. The key to this living historical town is undoubtedly its market square which is the bustling hub of day to day life in Rauma. This town is a little out of the way situated on the south-west coast but it makes a good stop over point for a more extended tour of the country.
The Finnish rail network is operated by VR who maintain a fast, clean and efficient service. Connections are reliable and trains are generally on time. Like most European countries Interail and Eurail passes are valid on practically all services. Tickets bought at the station are generally valid for 8 days in the case of a single ticket or a month in the case of a return ticket. Returns however are generally barely cheaper than buying two single tickets so if you need more flexibility you are better off just buying singles. There is a Finnrail pass available online which allows up to 10 days unlimited travelling within a one month period. This is by far the best option if you are travelling within Finland although if you are stopping in other countries an Interail pass might be a better bet. It is also worth noting that regular trains run from Helsinki to both Moscow and St Petersburg so it is easily possible to use Finland as a gateway to Russia. The bus service in Finland, like the train service is fast, efficient and also somewhat more extensive than the rail network. The 30 different regional operators in Finland can all be booked through ExpressBus which offers a choice of over 200 routes including international routes to Russia and Sweden.
Finland boasts plentiful good quality hotels however they are notoriously expensive. The only real option if you want to travel on a budget is to use youth hostels. The Finnish Youth association maintains information on state recognised youth hostels however they currently donít have a website. You can find their address in our useful addresses section.
Finland has an extremely good health service and anyone carrying a completed E111 and with a comprehensive travel insurance policy should have no problem getting state of the art treatment should it be required.
There are no known health risks present in Finland, there are no vaccinations recommended before visiting the country and the tap water can be considered safe to drink.
VR operates the Finnish rail network
ExpressBus is a conglomerate of 30 local bus companies which together offer over 200 bus routes.
The Finnish Tourist board offers advice to travellers contemplating visiting Finland.