BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT FINLAND
Finland has always been a small, northern place between the East and the West. Finnish history is a story of trading routes, clashes of cultures and life next to great neighbours.
- Finland is a republic and a member of the European Union (EU).
- The capital of Finland is Helsinki.
- Finland is divided into self-governed municipalities.
- Finland has 5.5 million inhabitants.
- The national languages are Finnish and Swedish (about 5% of Finns speak Swedish as their native language).
- Many Finns speak fluent English.
Climate and geography
- Finland is located in North Europe.
- Finland’s neighbouring countries are Russia (east), Norway (north), Sweden (west) and Estonia (south).
- The surface area of Finland is 338,432 km², which includes the land and inland water areas.
- The currency of Finland is the euro.
Find out if you need a visa?
The Schengen states have jointly agreed which countries’ citizens are required to present a visa. Each Schengen state decides which passports and travel documents it accepts from different countries’ citizens.
Schengen member states are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Check if you need a visa to visit Finland and what travel documents are accepted in Finland:
Where and how to apply for a visa?
If your country of destination is Finland, apply for a visa from the nearest Finnish mission or the visa centre that the mission advises to you. Honorary consuls and consulates cannot grant visas.
It has been agreed with some countries that Finland may be represented by another Schengen state. In such cases, apply for a visa to Finland from the mission of that Schengen state.
Submit your visa application at a mission or visa centre in person. An application cannot be sent by e-mail or telefax.
Visa application form
The processing fee must be paid in cash upon application. Some missions accept bank transfers.
A visa from 2 February 2020 onward
- Visa fee (also for a negative decision) EUR 80
- Visa fee for children aged 6 to 11 (also for a negative decision) EUR 40
- In accordance with the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and a third country, the visa fee payable by a citizen of the country in question is (also for a negative decision) EUR 35
- In accordance with a separate visa facilitation agreement the fee for an accelerated procedure is (also for a negative decision) EUR 70
- Forms to which a visa is affixed for persons whose travel document is not accepted by Finland. EUR 10
A visa can be granted free of charge:
- in the event of major disasters or other similar situations whenever supported by humanitarian reasons
- for groups of schoolchildren or adolescents under 18 years of age participating in cultural or sports events to which they have been invited by the event sponsor
- to holders a diplomatic or service passport or their family members, whose visit will be of considerable importance for the relations between Finland and the foreign state in question.
- Single-entry visa
allows the holder to enter Finland once and stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
- Double-entry visa
allows entry into Finland twice and may be valid within the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
- Multiple-entry visa
is granted for several consecutive visits to the Schengen area. The total duration of the stays may not exceed the number of days stated on the visa sticker, that is, up to 90 days in a 180-day period. A multiple-entry visa is valid for a maximum of five (5) years.
- Airport transit visa
allows the visa holder transit via the international zone of the airport during a stopover or change between two flights. Entry in the national zone is prohibited. Citizens of the following countries need a transit visa:
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka.
Most Finns are Christians. The largest religious community in Finland is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (Suomen evankelis-luterilainen kirkko), to which about 70% of the population belongs.
The Orthodox Church of Finland is the second largest religious community. Slightly over 1% of the population belongs to the Orthodox Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church enjoy a special status in Finland. They are entitled to levy taxes, for example.
Tens of thousands of Muslims live in Finland. However, only a portion of them belong to Islamic communities. In addition, approximately 2,000 Jews live in Finland. Synagogues operate in Helsinki and Turku.
Other religious communities in Finland include the Catholic Church in Finland, the Pentecostal Church, the Evangelical Free Church of Finland, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Finland, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Finnish climate is clean but colder than in many other countries. However, the weather varies significantly in different seasons. Finland has a lot of nature, and you can enjoy and explore nature in all seasons.
In the winter, the Finnish weather is cold with snowfalls. Normally, the country is under a permanent snow cover throughout the winter. The temperature is usually below 0°C. Daytime temperatures can be -10°C and sometimes as low as -20°C. In Northern Finland, the temperature can be as low as -30°C. If the ground is covered with snow and ice, it is also slippery. In the winter you need to dress warmly. This means that you should wear at least a padded jacket, a woolly jumper and a woolly hat, gloves, a scarf and warm winter shoes. You should wear several layers of clothing in cold weather.
In Finland, it is often dark in the winter because the sun rises late in the morning and sets in the afternoon. Winter days are darker in Northern Finland than in Southern Finland. In the northernmost part of Finland, the sun does not rise at all for several weeks. The winter months are December, January and February. However, the weather can also be cold with snowfall in November and March. The snow normally melts in March or April.
In Southern Finland, spring begins at the end of March whereas, in the north, spring comes at the end of April. The spring weather is often cool, but warmer than in winter. During the spring, the nature goes through a great deal of change as the snow and ice melt away, trees sprout leaves and plants begin to grow.
In Southern Finland, the average temperature in the summer is about 20°C while the temperature in the north is about 15°C. The summer months in Finland are June, July and August. The warmest month is July, when the daytime temperature often rises over 20°C. Evenings and nights are bright in Finland during the summer, as the sun sets late and rises early. Then, Northern Finland has more daylight hours than Southern Finland. The month with the most daylight is June. In Finland, Midsummer, the night of the midnight sun, is celebrated in June. In the northernmost part of Finland, the sun does not set at all in early summer.
Autumn normally begins at the end of August or the beginning of September. September and October are a time of autumn colours in Finland. Many leaves of plants and trees, which are green in the summer, turn yellow, orange and red. In the time of autumn colours, nature is beautiful and colourful. In autumn, the weather is cool and often rainy and windy. The Finnish autumn is also dark because the sun sets earlier than in the summer. First snow usually falls in October or November.
Finland is Europe’s most forested country. About 70% of the land is covered with trees. Most forests are coniferous, as the country lies at the western edge of the coniferous taiga forest zone that stretched off eastwards through Russia and Siberia. Forests are still natural in the sense that hardly any non-native trees have been planted. The dominant trees are Scots pine, Norway spruce and birches, though forests are also dotted with aspens, alders and rowans. About 8% of the country’s forests are protected. Most of the larger protected areas are in the north.
Finland is reputed to be the Land of a Thousand Lakes, but in fact the country has tens of thousands of lakes. Most of these lakes are small and shallow. Lakes have an average depth of about seven metres. Even in the largest lakes, like Saimaa in the southeast, open waters are broken up by many islands and peninsulas. It’s not always easy to say where one lake ends and another begins. Finland’s intricate coastline, which features around 95,000 sea islands, most of which are small rocky skerries. Sailors say that the waters of the labyrinthine Southwestern Archipelago are some of the most navigationally challenging anywhere in the world.
The Arctic Lapland
The country’s northernmost province, Lapland, accounts for about 28% of Finland’s total area, but only 4% of the population. Lapland has both forest-covered hills and open fells. Even the highest hilltops are only about 1,300 metres above sea level, but this far north the tree line is so low that many fell-tops are treeless. Almost 30% of Lapland’s natural habitats are protected, including Finland’s largest national parks – three of which extend over more than 1,000 square kilometres. The traditional local livelihood of reindeer herding can be practised in almost all of Lapland’s protected areas. Traditional practices including hunting and fishing are still important in Lapland, alongside the more recently developed tourism industry.
Living close to nature
Finns see themselves as people who still live very close to nature. There’s a lot of truth in this, since even those living in urban areas like to spend time in natural settings: walking, skiing, or just spending time at their out-of-town holiday homes. Finland’s liberal rights of common access to the land enable everyone, including foreign visitors, to roam freely through forests and other natural areas on foot or on skis and even pick wild berries and mushrooms, regardless of who owns the land. Hunting rights and the right to fish with nets or lures are tied to the ownership of the land or fishing waters, however.
Natural Parks and nature areas
Finland’s national parks, with their extensive networks of trails, are vey popular among hikers. Most of these parks are fairly small, less than 100 km2, and their primary purpose is to protect nature and biodiversity. In addition to these national parks, Finland also has many other kinds of protected areas, including the wilderness areas of Lapland and mire protection areas. The first nature reserve was established in 1916 up in the high hills in the northwestern corner of Finnish Lapland.
Public transport works well in Finland. You can travel almost anywhere in Finland by train or bus. You can also reach many cities by air. In addition, the largest cities and their neighbouring areas usually have well organised local public transport. Buses are normally used for local transport.
Finland has many airports. Air traffic in Finland is handled by FINAVIA. The largest is Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Many airlines offer flights from Finland to foreign countries. Most of the foreign flights depart from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Finland Travel Info has FINAVIA airports here.
The railway traffic in Finland is handled by VR. You can purchase train tickets via VR’s website, at railway stations and on trains. Information on train timetables is available on VR’s website and at railway stations. Finland Travel Info has VR railway stations here.
There are many bus companies in Finland. You can buy bus tickets at Matkahuolto offices or on the company’s website. Information on bus timetables can be found on the Matkahuolto website and at Matkahuolto offices. The website of the Finnish Transport Agency features the matka.fi service, which is a public transport route service for finding the most suitable route and mode of travel.
Discounts on train and bus tickets are available to
- conscripts in military and civil service
There are many taksi companies in Finland. There are also many different taksi applications that might be little confusing these days. If you want to be sure that you get a good taksi service, Finnish traditional taksi companies are very trusted and safe to use. Finland Travel Info has our verified taksi services here.
FINNISH CUSTOMS AND CULTURE
Equality and fairness are important values for Finns. In Finnish society, everyone is equal and must be treated fairly.
According to the Finnish legislation, women and men are equal. It is common for Finnish women to work even if they have children. Men and women are both responsible for the care of the children and the home.
It is common for Finns to trust other people and the authorities. Democracy and freedom of speech are also held in high regard in Finland. Everyone has the right to participate in the activities of society. There is freedom of speech in Finland.
Finnish culture places more value on individualism than many other cultures. Freedom of the individual is strongly present in the Finnish legislation.
Finns also value their privacy and own space. For example, young people are encouraged to become independent and move into their own homes.
Honesty and punctuality
Honesty is appreciated in Finland. It is important to keep your promises and tell the truth. Also punctuality is important to Finns. When you have a meeting, arrive at the agreed time. If you have made an appointment with an official or doctor, for example, it is especially important to be there on time. For example, if you have made an appointment for 12 o’clock, make sure you arrive a little before 12. If you arrive at 12.10, you are late.
Many Finns esteem modesty highly. People tend not to distinguish themselves in a group; they avoid talking in a loud voice and bragging. In Finland, it is good manners to take others into account and listen to them. Working and diligence are also held in high regard.
Nature is very important to Finns. Many Finns enjoy spending time in nature, for example by camping or picking berries. Everyman’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet) are observed in Finland. According to them, people have free access rights in nature, and do not need the landowner’s permission for all outdoor activities.
Handshaking is a common way of greeting in formal situations. Men and women also shake hands with each other. Friends or relatives may also greet each other by hugging. However, cheek kissing is not common.
When you talk to others, look them in the eye. In Finland, looking someone in the eye communicates that you are being frank and honest towards that person.
When speaking Finnish, it is common to be on first-name terms with other people. First-name terms are also used among strangers and colleagues. Addressing others formally is reserved only for highly formal occasions. It is, however, a good idea to address elderly people more formally.
Discussion and interaction
Finns like to start a conversation by going straight to the point. The Finnish style of speech is direct and straightforward. In Finland, people are expected to truly mean what they say. People believe what you say and expect you to act accordingly.
There may be a certain amount of quiet moments in conversations with Finns. Silence is not a negative thing, it feels natural to Finns. There is no need to fill quiet moments with speech. Loud speech can be thought of as unpleasant or threatening.
In Finland, it is considered rude to interrupt people when they are speaking. Finns normally wait for their discussion partners to finish before speaking themselves.
It is uncommon in Finland to show your emotions in public. It is considered rude to raise your voice when speaking, especially in a public place.
Finnish is basically kind-hearted and forgiving people. Finns usually help friends without any questions, if they need that. It may not be easy to become very good friends with Finns, because that trust must be earned. But when you do that, you got a lojality friend who don’t let you down.
On the other hand, if you badly deceive the Finnish trust, it is difficult to regain it. Be honest and truly, no matter what. Finns respect that.
Finns eat fairly common European food consisting mostly of meat, fish, potatoes, rice or pasta. Vegetarian food has become increasingly popular. It is common to eat two warm meals a day, lunch and dinner. In Finland, adults, too, often drink milk.
In Finland, lunch is eaten earlier than in many other countries. At workplaces and schools, lunch is usually served between 11 and 12 am. Dinnertime is often around 5 pm.
Healthiness of food is often stressed in Finland. Rye bread and different porridges, among other things, are an important part of the Finnish food culture. The food cultures of different Finnish regions vary from each other. For example, reindeer meat is an important part of the Lappish cuisine, whereas fish is consumed a lot on the coast. On the other hand, food culture also changes. Italian pastas and Asian food cultures are visible also in Finland.
Children and young people are served meals at day care and school. School meals are free of charge for all and there is no need to bring a packed lunch to school.
Finns drink a lot of coffee. Coffee is nearly always served at celebrations, for example. People often drink coffee at workplace meetings.
Alcoholic drinks are fairly expensive in Finland and their purchase by young people has been limited with age restrictions. Only milder alcoholic drinks can be purchased at grocery stores. Strong alcoholic beverages are bought from government regulated Alko stores. Driving a car under the influence of alcohol is prohibited and can lead to a severe punishment.
Eating out in a restaurant is often more expensive in Finland than in many other countries. Alcoholic drinks are also costly at restaurants. You do not need to leave a tip unless you want to give thanks for particularly good service.
In Finland, it is customary for everyone to pay for their own meal at a restaurant. Nevertheless, you can politely indicate that you would like to pay for someone else.
Its good to know, that Sauna is an important part of the Finnish culture. Sauna is for having a wash and relaxing, which means that peace and quiet are viewed as parts of the experience. Many Finns go to sauna every week.
People go to sauna with family members, friends and business partners alike (many big business contracts and deals are made in the Sauna). Women and men go to sauna at separate times. It is common to go to sauna without any clothes. You usually sit on a small sauna towel placed on the sauna bench.
In Finland, you should always agree upon visits to other people’s homes in advance, even with good friends. Finns value their privacy and peace.
Finns do not use shoes indoors. It is polite to take off your shoes when entering someone else’s home. When visiting a Finnish home, take off your shoes or ask if you can keep them on.