What makes Finland a unique country to travel to?
Finland is a highly developed democracy with a modern economy. It is a member of the European Union. Tourist facilities are widely available.
Although the crime rate in Finland is low compared to the United States and most European countries, it has increased in recent years. However, Finland remains relatively safe. U.S. citizens visiting Finland are seldom victims of crime, but visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables. The same precautions employed in the United States should be followed in Finland. Finnish police services are excellent. Travelers should be aware that some police officers speak little English. Due to the low crime rate, Finland has fewer police officers than most European nations. Outside of key sites in major urban centers, police rarely project a visible presence; consequently, response times to crisis situations may take longer in rural areas. All forms of public transportation are considered safe. Street crimes, such as mugging and pick-pocketing, remain uncommon, but do occur.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Finland, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States; for instance, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Finland, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
The Finnish people take great pride in their language.Â Through the years they have resisted other nation's attempts to impose their language on them. Over 93% of the population speaks Finnish, a Finnish-Ugric language coming from a language family different from Scandinavian languages. It is closely related to Estonian. Finland recognizes Sami, the tongue of the indigenous minority Sami.
English is popular as a second language. Swedish is the second official language, spoken by 6% of the population.Â Finnish is a hard language to learn because the same word is used for "he" and "she" and the articles "a" and "the" are rarely used.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
In Finland, medical facilities and staff are generally excellent and widely available for emergency services. English is commonly spoken by Finnish medical personnel. Helsinki is a frequent medical evacuation point for emergency cases from the countries of the former Soviet Union. The public hospital system and many private hospitals honor foreign credit cards. Most pharmacies (apteekki in Finnish) are open during normal shopping hours and major cities have at least one 24-hour service pharmacy.
If you are a tourist or temporary visitor to Finland and you require immediate emergency medical assistance, you may visit a local medical center, clinic, or first-aid station (ensiapuasema in Finnish). Usually these stations are located at hospitals and will provide a full range of services. The emergency telephone number, 112, can be used throughout Finland to contact emergency medical services.
Travelers with special medical needs should consult with their personal physicians and take appropriate precautions, including bringing adequate supplies of necessary medication. Medicines may be brought into the country as long as they are intended for the traveler’s personal use; however, there are special requirements concerning the quantity. Finland allows travelers from the European Economic Area to bring personal prescription medicines (up to a one year supply) without a customs declaration. All others may bring a 90-day supply of personal prescription drugs to Finland. A formal doctor's note may be requested by Finnish customs officials. Prescribed narcotics are more highly restricted, however, and may only be brought into the country for the traveler’s personal use for a maximum of 14 days and must be accompanied by a medical certificate stating why the traveler needs them.
In addition, stringent Finnish customs regulations prohibit travelers from receiving drugs from abroad after having arrived in the country. Travelers may also find local physicians reluctant to prescribe equivalent quantities of dosages. For more detailed information, please visit the Finnish National Tourist Board website or contact the Embassy of Finland.
Safety and Security
Finland remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Finland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups anonymously entering and exiting the country. Elements of organized crime groups operating in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are present in Finland, but do not represent a specific danger to U.S. citizen residents or tourists. U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Finland, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Finnish roads are comparable to those in the United States, but the traffic rules are not.
Finland has an extensive network of highways, as well as excellent public transportation services throughout the country. A valid U.S. driver’s license may be used while visiting Finland, but drivers must be at least 18 years of age. Driving in Finland is on the right. Traffic approaching from the right has priority, even if entering a primary roadway from a secondary one; as such, stop signs are rarely used in Finland, which can cause confusion if cars converge at the same time at an intersection. In addition, it is common practice in Finland, including in large cities, to turn off traffic lights at major intersections early in the evening. Some roads in Helsinki designated as two-way are narrow, making passing difficult. Road signs use standard international symbols and Finnish text. Many urban streets have traffic lanes reserved for public transportation only. Unless otherwise noted on traffic signs, the speed limit varies from 30km/h to 40 km/h in urban areas, to 80 km/h on open roads, and 120 km/h on expressways during summer (reduced to 100 km/h during winter). Vehicles must use headlights at all times. Use of seatbelts is mandatory for drivers and all passengers. Children under 135cm (approx. 53 inches) in height must be seated in approved child or booster seats or use appropriate safety equipment as stated on the Finnish police website and the Finnish Department of Transportation fact sheets.
Public transport in Finland is good quality and is the recommended method of travel. Passenger trains, intercity buses, and air flights provide regular service over longer distances. Public transportation in urban centers includes buses, subways, trams, suburban trains, and taxis. Taxis are more expensive than in major U.S. cities. Most local residents use public transport in Helsinki as parking can be hard to find and expensive. The bus, train, and subway systems are relatively safe.
You should be aware that drunk-driving laws are strict and acceptable blood-alcohol levels are much lower in Finland than in the United States. Police strictly enforce all traffic laws and institute random roadside breath-analyzer tests. Drivers who register a 0.05 or higher blood-alcohol content are subject to immediate arrest. For more information, please review the Finnish Police website.
Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous. Daylight hours are very short and drivers should be comfortable driving in darkness. Icy road conditions are common. Your vehicle must be winterized with snow tires from December to February. Engine heaters are strongly recommended. When driving at night, drivers must be alert to moose wandering onto major roadways. Striking a moose can severely damage a vehicle and even fatally injure its occupants. If you are in a car accident, it is important to have your insurance paperwork with you. In the event of an emergency, call 112 for emergency services.