Finland: Modern Scene, Unspoiled Scenery
A prosperous, educated, and technologically advanced society on the top of the world, Finland is home to a unique culture formed by Nordic, Russian, and European influences and a fiercely independent spirit. This guide will help you appreciate this often-overlooked country, and direct you to resources that will help you plan a trip.
Finland is the home of modern cities and untouched wilderness, endless nights and midnight suns, fine arts and ancient culture. Whether you’re looking to walk around an historic European city, relax in a sauna, or discover the wild outdoors, Finland offers unique possibilities to travelers.
- Lapland, Finland’s northernmost province, is part of the Sapmi nation, which also covers parts of Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Some links will reference travel sights in Sapmi; bear in mind that some of these sights may not be in Finland.
- If you do your own search for travel in Finland and Finnish-language sites, look for a small British Union Jack, usually on the top right of the page. Clicking this will direct you to the English-language version of the site.
For official tourism ...
is the country's official travel and tourism guide with a "Things To Do" section that gives you ideas for every part of the country during any part of the year. Here you'll find popular destinations, explanations of Finnish customs, and links to travel packages and guided tours.
For events and activities …
has dates and general information on all the music, dance, and arts festivals going on in Finland. First select “English” from the top menu bar, then search by date, region, and type of festival to see if there’s anything worth checking out during your trip.
has an index of outdoor activities and destinations, searchable by type of activity and location. For a complete list of destinations (with links) like national parks, hiking areas, nature reserves, and campgrounds, take a look at the “Site Map
entices the visitor with interesting Finnish themes and stories as a way to introduce its collection of Finnish museums. “Tar and Sails” or “Russian Czars in Finland”? Let your curiosity get the best of you. There is a short description for each museum, as well as a link to its official site.
For Helsinki specifically …
is a Web site of the Helsinki City Tourist & Convention Bureau. The site has a comprehensive guide to the Finnish capital with information about sights, events, restaurants, hotels, and transportation. Along with Virtual Finland, this site is essential for everyone who plans to visit Helsinki.
offers many tours of the city, as well as trips from Helsinki to other parts of the country. It is geared toward those who are looking for an organized and hassle-free vacation. Don’t miss the “Helsinki Card” for special savings on main sights, public transportation, and museums.
For cities and attractions ...
has a "Travel" section with niche articles on the country's most desirable locales, such as "Opera on the shores of Lake Saimma" and "Hiking in Lapland," as well as tips regarding Finnish customs, weather, and stunning natural features.
Wild and Free
has Lapland covered with information about activities, accommodations, and travel packages. In winter, stay in a hotel made of ice and snow and visit a reindeer farm. In summer, experience the midnight sun and go river rafting. You'll find sample itineraries (called "Incentives" on the site) for winter and summer.
is a project of the Turku Archipelago Tourist Association, and has a guide to the Finnish Archipelago, a popular destination for fishermen and those who enjoy untouched nature. Located in southwest Finland, the Archipelago is made up of more than 20,000 islands, offering unique sightseeing opportunities.
For guided tours ...
The Finland Travel Bureau
offers tours, both guided and unguided, to all parts of the country. Even if you don't want such structured travel plans, the site is worth looking at for sightseeing ideas.
offers wilderness tours in northern Finland. This is an enticing option for hunters and fisherman who don't want to brave the unforgiving Finnish wilderness on their own.
Finland is a very modern and safe society, with laws and entry requirements typical of countries in the European Union. The people are generally polite, pleasant, and forgiving of visitors unfamiliar with their language and customs. Nevertheless, learning the basics of Finnish culture will make your trip more enjoyable for you and the locals you meet.
- You are not obligated to tip in Finland. Service charges (typically around 15 percent) are usually built into your bill, and tips are customarily given only if the service was exceptional.
- Because of Finland’s northern location, the hours of daylight vary widely, depending on the time of year. Lapland, for example, has 24-hour days during June, but less than an hour of daylight in December.
- The currency of Finland is the Euro, which replaced the Markka in 2002.
- For information on obtaining visas, disease control, air safety, and other information that applies to all travel, please see the findingDulcinea Travel Web Guide.
For logistical information …
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
has their entry requirements for foreign nationals posted online. There is a list that clarifies entry requirements for nationals from every country; in particular, whether a visa is required to enter the country. For foreign nationals who need a visa, there are instructions on how to apply for one. American citizens need only a passport to visit Finland.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute
has helpful data regarding Finland’s climate. In addition to basic weather reports, the FMI has useful information about the seasonal climate and hours of daylight, found under “Climate in Finland.”
is an excellent currency converter site, with updated conversion rates and an easy-to-use design.
For social and political background …
has an overview of Finland’s history, economy, geography, language, and other cultural characteristics.
, the Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has information on the Sami people who inhabit Lapland. The Sami see themselves as independent from Finland (as well as Norway, Sweden, and Russia) and as such, they have a unique culture and traditions. Take a look at “About the Sami people” for historical, cultural, and tourist information, and “We are the Sami” for video clips.
For an overview of customs and traditions …
has a “Way of Life” section that covers Finnish customs, cuisine, sports, and sauna culture. Like everything else on Virtual Finland, this section is thorough and easy to read.
Finnish for Foreigners
has easy-to-follow Finnish language lessons with QuickTime audio files to help you learn the correct pronunciations. You won’t become fluent but you will learn some basic phrases that will come in handy, like “Kiitos” (“thank you”), “Mitä kuuluu” (“How are you?”), and “Anteeksi, mutta minä en puhu suomea” (“I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Finnish”).
For pop culture information …
, the official Web site for the Moomins, has the history of Tove Jansson’s popular cartoon and Finnish cultural phenomenon. The “Links” page transports you to a Moomin Museum and a Moomiworld amusement park.
has a collection of Finnish jokes, making light of Finns’ shyness, individualism, and love of vodka. Though you might find some of these more bizarre than funny, jokes like this help you gain an understanding of the people you’ll be spending time with during your holiday.
Whether by plane, train, boat, or car, Finland is simple to get to if you know what you’re doing. Make the most informed decision with help from these links.
- Finland has more than 20 airports, located in all parts of the country. It should be easy to find flights from the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to destinations all over Finland.
- Cruises are a fun alternative for those entering Finland from other parts of Europe. Spending a night on a ship with restaurants, shops, casinos, and other activities is a lot more memorable than staring at the seat in front of you on a plane.
For flights …
is Finland’s largest airline and the carrier for most international and domestic flights. They offer direct flights to Helsinki from New York’s JFK Airport and Boston’s Logan Airport. Their official site allows you to book flights and get travel information.
searches major online booking agencies like Orbitz, Priceline, and Expedia so that you can easily compare prices and save money. Kayak is easy to use and gives you an incredible amount of choices.
, formerly known as Finland’s Civil Aviation Administration, has information on all Finnish airports, as well as general travel guidelines for airline travelers.
For trains …
sells universal passes for use on trains in most European countries. Of particular interest to Finland travelers is the Scanrail pass, which allows for travel through Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
allows you to purchase customizable rail passes for use in Europe. Choose one country and three, four, or five of its bordering countries in which your pass can be used, or buy a global pass for use in 18 countries.
For cruise lines …
The Tallink Silja Line
is a Finnish shipping company that operates throughout the Baltic Sea, with ships arriving in Helsinki and Turku from Sweden, Estonia, and Germany. Their official site shows routes and timetables, and allows you to make reservations.
The Viking Line
is a competitor of Tallink Silja Line, offering similar routes and services. It is wise to look at both the Viking and Tallink Silja sites to see which line best suits your needs.
Finland offers a wide variety of lodging options, from classic luxury hotels in Helsinki to rural cottages in the great outdoors.
- Finnish hotels tend to be clean and safe but they are very expensive. Hostels might be the best option for budget-conscious travelers.
For hotels …
has a good selection of hotels sorted by city. Each hotel has a brief description with a list of amenities and photographs. Check availability for your trip dates and book your room with this site.
has 46 hotels for the city of Helsinki, searchable by rating, price, and date available. It displays the availability of a given hotel and includes links to reservation sites with prices that are typically lower than on other sites.
has a large selection of hotels in almost all Finnish cities. The prices are more expensive than on other sites but they have rooms available where other sites do not.
For nontraditional options …
has all sorts of lodging options, including hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, and spas. Some might surprise you, like the “Snow and Ice Accommodation” section, or the Katajanokka prison that has been revamped into a luxury hotel. Each entry has a short description with a link to its official Web site.
Hostelling International Finland
has an index of hostels with descriptions, photos, and contact information (look for the British flag in the upper right to see the English version). Some of the listings offer online booking, while others allow you to send a “reservation inquiry” to begin the booking process. There’s also information on activities to do while hostelling, and advice on how to hostel by bike or car.
has holiday cottages for rent, searchable by location, price, and date available. Each cottage is listed with a detailed description and several large photos of the interior and surrounding area.
Camping In Finland
has an index of campsites throughout the country, as well as a valuable camping guide available in PDF format. Search for your perfect site using the clickable map of Finland or browse the “List of campsites.”
With efficient highway and train systems, getting around Finland is easy for well-informed travelers. This page can help you make the best decisions so you spend less time traveling and more time having fun.
- Helsinki is the only city in Finland with a subway system. Public transportation in other cities consists mainly of buses.
- Finland is a car-dependent country with a high-quality road and highway system. Renting a car may be your best option for traveling in places other than Helsinki.
- ExpressBus is a bus service that covers the entire country and offers more routes than the train service. Unfortunately, its Web site, ExpressBus, is entirely in Finnish and of little use to the average reader. Keep ExpressBus in mind, however, if you are in Finland and looking to travel from city to city.
For Finland in general …
is the national railway system of Finland. The trains are clean and smooth running, and can take you to all parts of the country. Get schedules, maps, and station information here. It’s wise to book your trip in advance in order to guarantee yourself a seat.
Finland Car Rental Guide
allows you to compare rates from big-name rental car companies and reserve the deal that is best for you. Use the “Get Your Instant Quote” box to get started.
has car rentals available, as well as chauffeur services for those who want to travel in style. It also allows you to pick up or drop off the car in another European country.
For Helsinki …
Yellow Line Airport Taxis
are the easiest way for those who aren’t renting a car to get from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to downtown Helsinki. The site allows you to book a taxi in advance so you don’t have to wait in line for one. This is especially useful for people traveling in large groups.
Helsinki City Transport’s
Web site presents Helsinki’s clean and efficient public transportation system with buses, trains, subways, and ferries. Find maps, schedules, and tickets for sale.
offers the “Helsinki Card,” a pass that gives you free travel on Helsinki public transport, free access to selected sights, and many other discounts. It is available for one-, two-, and three-day passes.
The most useful information on traveling oftentimes comes from other travelers, many of whom have aired their views online.
- Travel reviews from newspapers are more reliable, but blogs and user comments can be very candid and useful, too. Don’t let the opinion of one user deter you from trying a particular experience, however.
- Many writers and users include their e-mail addresses on these sites; don’t be afraid to e-mail them and ask about their experiences.
For newspaper reviews …
The Washington Post
had two writers spend three weeks in Helsinki and blog about their experiences. Each blog entry has hundreds of user comments, which can be as useful for travelers as the blog itself.
The Independent of London
has a travel review of Lapland with descriptions of Sami culture and places of interest. It’s a dense read (that could use some colorful photos) but is jam packed with information on this remote region.
For user opinions …
allows users to post their travel experiences in a variety of ways. Most useful are the “Thorn Tree Forum” and the “Bluelist” where users can post their favorite travel experiences that are often overlooked by mainstream travel guides. This link takes you to a search for “Finland,” though city- or region-specific search terms can also be used.
offers a user-generated travel guide for Finland featuring reviews, tips, cautions, hidden gems, and other useful information. Found a user who shares your interests and travel expectations? It’s easy to search by user and find all of his or her entries on the site.
boasts an active community of travelers who have posted blogs and photographs of their trips to Finland. Send a message to a collection of “Travel Helpers
” to receive personalized advice based on their own experiences traveling or living in Finland. Travellerspoint requires you to sign up for a free membership.
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