Finland Country Profile - Travel

     
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Driving

Driving in Finland is an enjoyable experience for those used to congested roads at home. Despite being the fifth largest EU country by land area, the well-maintained road network and small population means that you may find yourself totally alone on some Finnish roads, with only the stunning landscape and the odd reindeer for company. Speed limits are 120 km/h (75mph) on motorways, 80km/h (50mph) on major roads and 50km/h (30mph) in built up areas. Due to freezing conditions and heavy snowfall in winter, it is a legal requirement for vehicles to be fitted with appropriate winter tyres (studded) between October and March, when speed limits on all roads are also reduced to 80km/h (50mph).

All EU/EEA licence holders are permitted to drive in Finland. Those from outside the EU must exchange their licence for a Finnish one on becoming a permanent resident. You can find more information at the Police of Finland website.

Taxis

Taxis (Taksi) are highly regulated in Finland, with maximum fares chargeable set by the government. However, this does not mean they are cheap, like most things in Finland taking a taxi is expensive when compared to using the much cheaper bus and train network. Taxis are widely available and can be found at designated stands. Drivers will accept payment in cash, although they prefer payment by credit or debit card. All passengers are legally required to wear seatbelts in a Finnish taxi.

Buses and coaches

Finland has one of the best bus networks in Europe. If you are not able to reach your destination by train, a bus will get you there, however remote. Unlike trains, buses are privately operated, with the two biggest companies being Onnibus and ExpressBus. Both companies offer reliable long haul coaches between cities and towns. Tickets can be booked in advance or you can pay your fare to the driver on boarding (for short journeys).

Trains

The Finnish rail network radiates from Helsinki and connects all towns and cities, even in remote areas. Trains are operated by VR, the Finnish state railway and are punctual, fast and comfortable. For long distance travel, VR operate ‘Pendolino’ trains with top speeds of up to 220 km/h, which are easily recognisable by their three main lines from Helsinki: Tampere (North), Turku (West) and Lahti (East). Local trains are assigned a series of letters and can be slightly more confusing for tourists. Tickets and discounted travel cards can be purchased online at VR, in stations or on board (although this will incur an extra fee).

Trams and light rail

Helsinki is home to Finland’s only metro network (Helsinki Metro) which comprises 17 stations and covers around 21km of track. The capital is also the only place in the country you will find a tram network, however there are plans to introduce tram/light rail systems in the cities of Tampere and Turku, although work has not yet begun.

Air Travel

There are 27 airports in Finland, the largest and main gateway being Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport, which connects the country to destinations around the world. Finnair is the national carrier, with major airlines such as Norwegian, SAS and Flybe also operating from Helsinki. There are domestic flights connecting major cities in Finland, however flying is an expensive and less convenient option compared with the well-connected rail and bus network.

Other ways to get around

Finland is home to miles of stunning coastline and over 187,000 lakes, which has earned the country the title of ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes.’ Therefore, one of the best ways to experience the country’s watery landscape is by ferry, cruise ship, canoe or even rowing boat. Frequent ferry services connect Finland with neighbouring Sweden and Estonia and Helsinki is a general port of call on a Baltic cruise trip. The largest operators are Viking Line and Silja, which connect Helsinki with Stockholm. St. Peter Line also operates Helsinki to St. Petersburg services three times a week, as well as Helsinki-Stockholm services.

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