STUDY IN FINLAND -
Living in Finland
Social Conventions: Handshaking
is customary. Normal courtesies should be observed.
It is customary for the guest to refrain from
drinking until the host or hostess toasts their
health with a ‘kippis’ or a ‘skol’.
Casual dress is acceptable. Black tie will usually
be specified when required. Finns appear sometimes
to be rather reserved and visitors should not
feel alarmed if there is a lack of small talk
during the first half hour or so. Shoes must usually
be removed when entering someone’s home.
Tipping: A 15 per cent service charge is included
in the bill in hotels. Restaurants and bars have
14 per cent service charge weekdays and 15 per
cent weekends and holidays. The obligatory cloakroom
or doorman fee is usually clearly indicated. Taxi
drivers, washroom attendants and hairdressers
are also tipped.
Special Events: For a full list
of special events, contact the Finnish Tourist
Board (see Contact Addresses section). The following
is a selection of major festivals and events held
- Jan - Ice Show Fairy Tales
- Feb - Finland Ski Marathon
- May - Vaasa Choir Festival
- Jun - Vaasa Rules
- Jun - Midnight Sun
- Jul - Midnight Marathon,
Varpaisjärvi; Joutsa Folk Festival; Beer
- Jul - Kalo Jazz and Blues
Festival (Lapland Festival)
- Jul - Savolinna
- Jul - Keitelejazz, Aanekoski
- Aug - The Karelia Games (International Athletics
Meeting); Venetian Night Festival, Kokkola
- Tampere International Theatre Festival
- Aug - Kivi Festivals, Nurmijärvi
- Aug-Sep - Helsinki Festival
- Oct - Espoo Piano
- Oct-Nov - Tampere Jazz Happening
|Local Customs & Culture
Food & Drink
meat, fish, milk, butter and rye bread are the
traditional mainstays of the Finnish diet, but
food in Finland has been greatly influenced both
by Western (French and Swedish) and Eastern (Russian)
cooking. Tourists can expect excellent fresh fish
dishes on menus. Examples are pike, trout, perch,
whitefish, salmon and Baltic herring. All are
in abundance most of the year. Crayfish (a Finnish
speciality) is available from July to August.
One should also try reindeer meat, smoked or in
other forms. Regional dishes include kalakukko,
a kind of fish and pork pie, baked in a rye flour
crust, and karjalan piirakat, a pasty of rye flour
stuffed with rice pudding or potato and eaten
with egg butter. Various kinds of thick soups
are also popular.
In restaurants (ravintola), the menu is continental
with several Finnish specialities. Restaurant
prices are moderate if the set menu is chosen.
Most restaurants have a special menu for children,
or other half-price meals. Inexpensive lunches
are served at places called kahvila and baari
(the latter is not necessarily a licensed bar).
Information about gourmet trails may be obtained
from Finnish Tourist Board offices; two are planned
– for east and west Finland. The trails
have been designed so that both can be covered
in 2 to 4 days. Visitors on the trails will visit
a variety of eating places from large chain hotels
to inns and farmhouses, with the emphasis on the
smaller, more personal places. Additionally in
Lapland, Lappi à la carte consists of three
gourmet routes. An English route map with details
is available from the Tourist Board.
Restaurants are divided into two classes: those
serving all kinds of alcohol and those serving
only beers and wines. Waiter service is common
although there are many self-service snack bars.
Bars and cafes may have table and/or counter service
and all internationally known beverages are available.
The Finnish berry liqueurs, mesimarja (arctic
bramble), lakka (cloudberry) and polar (cranberry),
as well as the Finnish vodka (usually served ice
cold with meals), are well worth trying. Finnish
beer (grades III and IV A) is of a high quality
and mild beers are served in most coffee bars.
There are strict laws against drinking and driving.
In restaurants, beer is served from 0900 and other
liquor from 1100. All alcohol is served until
half an hour before the restaurant closes. Nightclubs
are open to serve drinks until 0200 or 0400. Service
begins at 1100 and continues until the restaurant
closes. The age limit for drinking is 18 years,
but consumers must be 20 before they can buy the
stronger alcoholic beverages.
Restaurant classification: Prices for alcohol
vary according to the restaurants classification:
E: Elite price category
G: General price category
S: Self-service price category
A: Fully licensed
B: Licensed for beer and wine
jewellery, handwoven ryijy rugs, furniture, glassware,
porcelain, ceramics, furs and textiles are amongst
the many Finnish specialities. Excellent supermarkets
and self-service shops can be found all over the
country. Helsinki railway station has the first
underground shopping centre in the country, where
the shops are open 0800-2200 (Sun and public holidays
1200-2200). At the Katajanokka boat harbour, there
is a shop selling glass, china, wooden articles
Duty free: Anyone permanently resident outside
the EU can claim back purchase tax at the time
of departure. Repayment can be made (on presentation
of a special cheque provided by the retailer)
at the following gateways: Helsinki, Turku, Tampere,
Mariehamn, Vaasa and Rovaniemi airports; on board
ferries and ships operated by Silja Line, Viking
Line, Vaasaferries and Polferries; and at the
main checkpoints on the land borders with Sweden,
Norway and the Russian Federation. Shopping hours:
Mon-Fri 0900-1800, Sat 0900-1500. Shops are generally
open on Sunday from June to August. Many shops
are also open 0900-2100 during the week and Sat
Traffic on the inland
waterways is serviced by regular water buses and
ferries. There is a wide choice of routes and
distances. Popular routes are the ‘Silver
Line’ between Hämeenlinna and Tampere
and the ‘Poet’s Way’ between
Tampere and Virrat. Saimaa Ferries operate lake
routes from Lieksa, Koli and Joensuu. There are
also regular services on Lake Päijänne
and Lake Inari. Lake Päijänne Cruises
run services from Lahti, Heinola and Jyväskylä
and Roll Cruises operate from Kuopio and Savonlinna.
On Lake Pielinen, there are regular services,
also by car ferry. Overnight accommodation in
small cabins and meals and refreshments are available
on lake cruises. For more detailed information
on schedules and routes, contact the Finnish Tourist
There are 6000km (3700
miles) of rail network with modern rolling stock.
VR Ltd (website: http://www.vr.fi)
operates an extensive rail service around Finland.
The ‘Pendolino’ fast train runs at
a maximum speed of 220km (132 miles) per hour
and is designed to operate on all main routes
by the end of 2006. Current lines include Helsinki–Turku,
and Jyväskylä–Kuopio and Helsinki–Seinäjoki–Oulu.
Other trains include express trains (for which
seats must be booked in advance), night and car-carrier
trains, regional trains and InterCity trains (InterCity2
trains have double-decker cars). Rail travel is
cheap and efficient. Children under 6 years of
age travel free of charge, children aged 6 to
16 pay half price.
offering discounts are available including: Group
tickets (minimum of three people), giving 20 per
cent discount, valid for 1 month; Finnrail pass,
giving unlimited travel for 3, 5 or 10 days within
a period of 1 month, first- or second-class; Finnish
Senior Citizens Rail Card for persons over 65
years of age, entitling the holder to a 50 per
cent discount (passport has to be shown); Student
Rail Discounts, entitling the student to 50 per
cent discounts with a valid student card; Scanrail
Pass, valid for 21 days for travel in the Scandinavian
countries with reductions of 25-50 per cent for
young people according to age; Inter-Rail Ticket,
valid in Finland as well as the rest of Europe;
Eurail Passes and Euro Domino passes are also
For further details and reservations, contact
the Finnish Tourist Board or Finnish Railways,
PO Box 488, 00101 Helsinki (tel: 3072 0902; fax:
3072 0111; e-mail: email@example.com;
There are 77,000km (47,000
miles) of road. The main roads are passable at
all times and are surfaced with asphalt or oil
and sand. There are weight restrictions on traffic
from April to May in southern Finland, and from
May to early June in northern Finland. Traffic
drives on the right. Horn-blowing is frowned upon.
In some areas, warnings of elk, deer and reindeer
crossing will be posted. Drivers involved in an
elk or reindeer collision should report the event
to the Police immediately. Bus: This is an excellent
means of transport. Coach services are run by
ExpressBus (a consortium of 30 bus companies)
and there are more than 300 services daily from
Helsinki and connections can be made to the most
remote and isolated parts of the country. In Lapland,
buses are the major means of surface travel.
Bus stations have restaurants
and shops. Baggage left at one station is dispatched
to its destination, even when bus transfers and
different bus companies are involved. One child
under 4 is carried free (children aged 4 to 11
years pay half fare). Seats for coaches can be
reserved in advance by paying the full fare and
reservation fee. Timetables are widely available.
Cheap fares: Group tickets are sold for groups
travelling at least 80km (50 miles) and including
at least three persons (at least one of whom is
aged over 12 years). There is a 50 per cent discount
for students when travelling a minimum of 80km.
The state post office also runs a bus service
with routes that serve the rural areas. Up-to-date
details of bus services may be obtained from Matkahuolto
Available in every city
and from airports or major hotels. Taxi drivers
are not tipped. Taxis have a yellow taksi sign
which is lit when the taxi is vacant. They can
be booked at taxi ranks or signalled from the
street. Fares are more expensive at nights (Sun-Fri
2000-0600, Sat 1600-0600).
Cars can be rented
in Helsinki and other places. Normally, the hiring
party should be at least 19-25 years of age and
have a minimum of 1 year’s driving experience.
The rates usually include oil, maintenance, liability
and insurance, but no petrol. A few caravans are
for hire. Regulations: Seat belts must be worn
by the driver and all passengers (front and back
seat). Car headlights must be kept on at all times.
Cars towing caravans may not exceed 80kph (50mph).
Cars and caravans must have the same tyres. Studded
tyres are allowed from 1 October to 30 April or
when weather conditions are appropriate. From
1 December until 28 February, snow tyres are a
legal requirement for vehicles under 3.5 tonnes.
It is possible to hire tyres. Further information
can be obtained from Autoliitto (Automobile and
Touring Club of Finland), Hämeentie 105A,
00550 Helsinki (tel: (9) 7258 4400; fax: (9) 7258
4460; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
If involved in an accident, immediately contact
the Finnish Motor Insurer’s Bureau (Liikennevakuutuskeskus),
Bulevardi 28, 00120 Helsinki (tel: (9) 6804 0611;
fax: (9) 6804 0474;e-mail: email@example.com).
Documentation: National driving licence or International
Driving Permit and insurance required.
There is usually a sauna
and often a swimming pool in Finnish hotels and
motels. The price level varies from district to
district, being higher in Helsinki and some areas
of Lapland. Many hotels and motels usually include
breakfast in their rates. The service fee is usually
included in the bill. This is 15 per cent of the
room rate; for meals and drinks it is 14 per cent
on weekdays and 15 per cent on Friday evenings,
Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and the eve of holidays.
Advance reservations are advisable in the summer
months. Details of hotels are listed in the brochures
available from Finnish Tourist Board offices.
Accommodation at reduced rates is often possible,
especially for groups and during weekends. Reductions
are also possible for guests participating in
special schemes run by hotel chains throughout
Scandinavia. Information can also be obtained
from the Finnish Hotel and Restaurant Association,
Merimiehenkatu 29, 00150 Helsinki (tel: (9) 622
0200; fax: (9) 6220 2090; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Summer hotels: During summer (1 June to 31 August),
when the universities are closed, the student
accommodation becomes available to tourists. Rooms
are modern and clean and become the ‘summer
hotels’ of Finland. They are located around
the country in major cities. The price level of
‘summer hotels’ is less than that
of regular hotels.
BED & BREAKFAST
approximately 100 bed & breakfast host families
in Finland. Accommodation ranges from rooms in
main buildings to cottages and outbuildings. Children
aged under 4 years are free of charge; those aged
up to 11 years pay half the price.
A list of B&Bs
can be supplied by the Finnish Tourist Board.
See also the brochure Finland Country Holidays
– Bed & Breakfast, published by Lomarengas,
who can also take bookings (tel: (9) 5766 3350;
fax: (9) 5766 3355; e-mail: email@example.com;
The brochure also includes information on farm
500 farmhouses take guests on a bed & breakfast
and full- or half-board basis. They are in rural
settings and almost always close to water. The
guest rooms may be without modern conveniences,
but are clean and there is usually a bathroom
in the house. Some farms also have individual
cottages for full-board guests, or apartments
with kitchen, fridge and electric stove for those
wishing to cater for themselves. The guests can
join the farm family for meals, take a sauna twice
a week, row, fish, walk in the forests or join
in the work of the farm. Full-board rates include
two hot meals, coffee twice a day and a sauna
twice a week (children 50-75 per cent reduction).
The majority of farms are in central and eastern
Finland, some on the coast and in the Åland
Islands. Grading: Farmhouses are graded on a scale
from 1 to 5 stars.
There are over
200 Holiday Villages in Finland, many in the luxury
class with all modern conveniences. These villages
consist of self-contained first-class bungalows
by a lake and offer varied leisure activities,
such as fishing, rowing, hiking and swimming.
The best villages are open all year round and
can be used as a base for winter holidays and
skiing. Some of the villages also have hotels
and restaurants. Those in the top-price bracket
have several rooms, TV and all modern conveniences.
There are also approximately 5000 individually-owned
holiday cottages for hire, ranging from the humblest
fishing hut on the coast or in the archipelago
to the luxury villas of the inland lakes. They
are all furnished and have cooking utensils, crockery
and bed linen as well as fuel for heating, cooking
and lighting and in many cases a sauna and a boat.
Most cottages inland are near a farm where the
tourist can buy food. Reductions are available
out of season. Enquire at tourist offices for
details. Grading: Classification is from 1 to
There are about
100 youth hostels in Finland. Many of them are
only open in the summer from 10 June to 15 August,
and about 50 of them are also open in winter.
Some of the hostels are in empty educational establishments,
with accommodation and fairly large rooms, but
a lot of them also offer ‘family rooms’.
The hostels do not in general provide food, but
coffee and refreshments are available at most
and some have self-service kitchens. There are
no age restrictions and motorists may use the
hostels. Sheets can be hired. For more information,
contact The Finnish Youth Hostel Association,
Yrjönkatu 38B-15, 00100 Helsinki (tel: (9)
565 7150; fax: (9) 565 71510; e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org; website: http://www.srmnet.org).
Grading: Youth hostels are classified into four
categories according to their facilities.
about 350 campsites in Finland. The majority have
cooking facilities, kiosks and canteens where
food, cigarettes and sweets can be bought. Campsites
are generally along waterways, within easy reach
of the main roads and towns. Camping outside official
campsites is allowed providing not causing damage
to crops or other items, and at least 150m from
human habitations. The camping season starts in
late May or early June and ends in late August
or early September. In southern Finland, it is
possible to sleep under canvas for about 3 months
and in the north for about 2 months. Most campsites
have indoor accommodation, camping cottages, and
holiday cottages suitable for family accommodation.
Prices depend on the classification of the campsite
and are charged for a family, ie two adults, children,
car, tent and trailer. The charge includes basic
facilities, such as cooking, washing, etc. If
a camper has an international camping card (FICC),
a national camping card is not required. Further
details can be obtained from: the Finnish Tourist
Board; or from Camping in Finland (website: http://www.camping.fi).
Grading: Sites are classified
into five grades.
There is a reciprocal health agreement with the
UK. For UK nationals on a temporary visit, an
E111 form is not required. Production of a British
passport is sufficient to obtain medical treatment.
Other EU nationals generally need to present an
E111 form. There are charges for visits to the
doctor, hospital and dental treatment, and prescribed
medicines. Some of these charges may, however,
be partially refunded by the Finnish Sickness
Insurance Department (Kansaneläkelaitoksen
Paikallistoimisto – KELA; tel: (20) 434
5058; website: http://www.kela.fi).
On production of the required documents, visitors
seeking treatment will generally be charged approximately
€8 for a visit to a doctor at a municipal
health centre, €17 for a visit to a hospital
outpatient clinic and €21 per day for hospitalisation
(charges may vary depending on the municipality).
Those receiving private treatment should keep
the receipt and submit it to the local KELA office
as they may be entitled to a partial refund.
emergency dental treatment, visitors should contact
the dentist on duty at the municipal health centre.
A standard fee will be charged. Prescribed drugs
may be obtained from any pharmacy and are charged
at the full amount, though costs may be partially
claimed back from the local KELA. For most prescribed
medicines, a 50 per cent refund is available on
amounts exceeding around €8.
dial 112. For general information about health
care and doctors who make house calls, dial 10023
(24-hour helpline; obtainable in Finland only).
The pharmacy at Mannerheimintie 96, Helsinki (tel:
0203 20200 or 4178 0317) is open 24 hours.