But while the far northern location makes Finland extremely cold in the winter, temperatures do warm up in the summertime, which makes the country a popular destination all year round. In Finland you can explore pristine forests, peruse the numerous lakes, and even try to catch a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Tervetuloa – Welcome to Finland
For the Finns, nature is deeply ingrained in their culture and the country is filled with outdoorsy folk. Along with the love of nature, the traditional Nordic cultures seen in other Nordic countries and European culture are also prominent. After a long day out on the slopes or exploring a trail, the Finns love to relax in a sauna. Whether you’re on the coast, hanging out in Helsinki or out in the remote wilderness, chances are that you will be able to find a sauna to soak up some relaxation.
Other prominent characteristics of Finland include modernity and innovation, which is best showcased in the nation’s capital of Helsinki. This capital city is filled to the brim with urban sophistication and it rightly holds the crown as Finland’s most popular city to visit. It is also the cultural powerhouse of Finland with the country’s gastronomy, art, architecture, and museums on full display. With a revamped industrial vibe, Helsinki’s character is electrifying.
Culture and Language
With a close proximity to and under previous rule of Sweden, Finland’s early history is hard to trace. For the country’s earliest written history, Sweden actually recorded the information and in doing so, they erased much of Finland’s ethnic culture. But the discovery of Wolf Cave near Kristinestad gives us a glimpse into Finland’s Neolithic past. With artifacts found throughout the cave, many scientists believe that it is proof of human ancestors living in Finland about 130,000 years ago.
From prehistoric times, Finland continued to develop, and early society of the Finnish people began with nomadic tribes. Eventually, the tribes came into contact with Estonian and Swedish people. But it was the Swedes who took over and expanded the country further. Sweden, in its Golden Age controlled most of the region with reign over Finland, Estonia, and even portions of Denmark, Germany, Latvia, and Russia.
But by the 18th century, Sweden’s rule had drastically fallen, and Russia sought to invade Finland. For a time, Finland was a part of Russia and fought with them during the Crimean War. But this did not sit favorably, and the Finns began to seek their own independence. Finland was officially recognized as independent in 1917. But even with independence, Finland struggled through World War II and the Cold War, before finally developing into a strong European nation.
Now, Finland is a stabilized world leader with strong economic industries like electronics, machinery, and a high level of tourism. The Finnish people are proud of their culture, but similar to other Nordic countries, they have a more laid-back mannerism. With a peaceful and prosperous nation, the Finns are known for thriving off of egalitarianism.
Again, in connection to Sweden and it’s past, Swedish is one of the official languages of Finland. But Finnish is the other official language and the one that is most widely spoken throughout the country with estimates that up to 89% of the people speak Finnish. But many Finnish people also speak English and the country is often recognized as one of the best in Europe when it comes to speaking English.
When you are planning to take a trip abroad, one of the most important parts aside from your spending budget is ensuring that you have the proper travel documents and understand the requirements needed to cross the border to your intended destination. For US citizens who are looking to pass into Finland’s borders, no tourist visa is required. However, there are a few other requirements that will ensure your legal entry.
While you don’t have to apply or wait for a tourist visa, you will need to have a US passport that has at least 6 months validity remaining. You will need to have two blank pages per stamp in your passport. This means that if you plan on traveling around the area and going in and out of Finland, you want to be certain that you have sufficient space for the Customs agents to give you your required stamps.
There are currently no vaccination restrictions, but it is suggested that you keep up to date with your boosters or update them before any international travel. Travelers are also restricted to carrying no more than €10,000 Euros or the current US dollar equivalent.
While you may be chasing dreams of Lapland, Finland is an expensive country to visit and it is important that you prepare for your various expenses while abroad. While many places in Europe are expensive, Finland is often recognized as being within the top ten most expensive countries to visit on the continent. However, the high cost of items doesn’t mean that you can’t afford a trip to Finland.
A spending budget can help you plan and save for your trip to Finland, while also ensuring that you won’t run short on funds when you’re traveling. It is important that you understand the different costs that you’ll encounter on your trip and even have a small fund leftover for emergencies or unexpected events. The most important parts of your budget that you’ll need to consider when planning a trip to Finland are the costs of the airline ticket, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Hoping across the pond and heading way up north isn’t easy and one of your biggest expenses will be the cost of your flight to Finland. Most travelers will pay an average of about $1,100 US dollars for an airline ticket with an economy seat. But the average cost of a flight can also change by season and differ with each airline.
Due to the country’s far Northern location, summer is the most popular season to visit Finland. This is also the time that the sun stays up for about 20 hours per day, which means that you’ll have plenty of time with the light to explore the various Finnish landscapes. But with plenty of winter activities, there are also mini peak tourist seasons in the colder months and around the end of the year holidays.
But Finland is also a popular destination and many airlines may offer special deals or a reduction in the cost of a flight to Finland. You may want to check airline ticket deal sites or even contact airlines directly to inquire about any lower ticket prices.
Once you have made your flight arrangements, the next most important set of reservations will be your accommodation. There are a lot of different places to stay in Finland and you should be able to find accommodation that fits any budget. The most popular types of accommodation are hostels, hotels, and luxury options.
Hostels are the most affordable choice, but you will still find that the prices are quite high in Finland. Most hostels will charge $28-$38 US dollars per night. In Helsinki, the capital, the prices will be the highest and you should expect to pay up to $50 US dollars per night for some hostels. Private rooms in hostels will be even more expensive and could cost more than $100 US dollars per night.
If hostels are not your preferred type of accommodation, there are plenty of hotels offering their services throughout Finland too. Standard hotels that have the most affordable prices will normally charge $85-$140 US dollars per night. Whereas a boutique hotel would cost more and would likely charge $165-$330 US dollars per night. There are also special resorts that may have their own pricing, which could cost more than $1,000 US dollars per night.
Airbnb is another popular accommodation option in Finland, and you can find affordable prices. Another perk of renting private accommodation is that you can cook for yourself and if you are traveling in a group, you can split the cost. Most Airbnb rates in Finland range from $50-$150 US dollar per night for private rooms, apartments, and homes.
But when you aren’t resting, you’re probably going to be out exploring the country. One way to explore Finland and connect with the local people and culture is to try Finnish food. Finland’s cuisine is mostly known for being local, fresh, and simple. With ingredients taken from the nearby lands, the food has become very popular for its unique flavors and dishes.
Some of Finland’s most famous dishes included a pickled herring called uudet perunat ja silli and poronkäristys, which is sautéed reindeer meat. Lohikeitto is also a favorite amongst the Finns and it is a salmon soup, which is often served with a side of the country’s famous rye bread. Finland also has their own take on fish and chips, which they call paistetut muikut, which is often local fish from the lakes that has been deep fried and served with a lemon.
A few smaller meals or snacks that have become popular are leipäjuusto, which is a bread cheese. This dish has a sweeter taste and is often served with jam. Karjalanpiirakka are little pies filled with porridge, which are often sold in the local bakeries. Cinnamon buns are also a favorite and in Finland they are called korvapuusti. Finally, for a powerful flavor, you may want to try some salmiakki. Salmiakki is a salted licorice, which most travelers will find that they either love or hate the taste.
With plenty of delicious, local delicacies to try, you may want to put a lot of your funds towards eating. Food is also expensive in Finland, so you should expect to pay high prices for each meal. The most affordable places to eat are buffets, which will normally cost $9-$15 US dollars. But if you’re wanting to enjoy a traditional dining experience, a two-course meal will cost you about $55-$86 US dollars. The best restaurants in Finland will be exorbitant in price and you should expect to pay up to $380 US dollars for a meal.
Due to the high cost of food, many travelers that are on a budget will occasionally eat out and cook the rest of the meals back at their accommodation. The local grocery stores have plenty of stock and you can still try the local foods without breaking the bank.
Travelers will also notice extremely high prices with alcohol. If you want to have a drink after a day of exploring, you have to be prepared to dig deep into your pockets. Alcohol is normally very, very expensive in Finland. Some travelers will even forgo enjoying a drink to stay on budget. Most drinks will cost $15 US dollars per beverage and a bottle of local alcohol can cost as much as $55 US dollars. For this reason, you should really think about what you want to sip with your meals as the high cost can ruin your spending budget.
But overall, the price of visiting Finland can be broken down into a few different categories to suit all types of travelers. Budget travelers should expect to spend about $130 US dollars each day in Finland. Whereas a traveler with a mid-range budget should be prepared to spend up to $275 US dollars per day. Luxury vacations to Finland cost a lot and you could easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per day.
How to Get Around
Transportation will also be a significant portion of your budget, if you plan on seeing as much of Finland as possible on your trip. The best ways to get around Finland are to use the bus or train system. However, with part of Finland’s borders touching the Baltic Sea, there are also ferries available.
Buses in Finland are reliable and affordable. Most tickets will cost about 20 US dollars and you can travel very long distances with each. Finland also has express buses, which are slightly more expensive with tickets usually costing about $28 US dollars.
A faster way to travel, but one that costs a little more is by using the train system. Most train tickets will cost $40-$65 US dollars for a trip. The trains run through many parts of Finland and some even connect you to the neighboring countries.
Ferries are another transportation method that is a unique experience and often less expensive than a domestic or international flight. While ferries may be slightly slower, seeing more of the landscape is appealing to many travelers. You should expect to pay anywhere from $55-$165 US dollars and the price will be based on the distance that you travel. Some ferries do have service into Sweden, which will be more expensive than a domestic ferry.
Finally, the local transportation in major cities is often affordable and functional. Local buses normally cost less than $4 US dollars per ride and bicycles can be rented for about $20 US dollars per day.
Top Cities to Visit
Helsinki is by far the most visited city in Finland, but there are a lot of other urban centers worth exploring too. Travelers can hop all over the country to experience the differences in culture and landscapes as they head to the coast or interior of Finland. Here are Finland’s top city destinations.
With a clash of different styles like Art Nouveau, Traditional and Modern, Helsinki is Finland’s jewel. The capital is known for having unique textiles and an industrial feel, but with modernization, the city has also become a major hub for the arts. Fashion is featured prominently in Helsinki, as well as other art mediums like glass and furniture. The gastronomy scene is always expanding and there are plenty of good places to eat and explore. Plus, the location on the Baltic Sea means that just outside the city limits, the wild beauty of Norway awaits your visit.
Considered to be the capital of Lapland and where Santa Claus calls home, Rovaniemi has become a popular winter tourist destination. The city was once destroyed in World War II, but it has been rebuilt. The high energy of the city is extra cheerful and lively, which is a good chance from Rovaniemi’s hard past. With museums, nature and Santa’s Claus’ workshop to visit, this is a great place to travel with kids.
Turku is an ancient city that has been brought back to life by a young population of university students. The history of the town is reflected in the streets, but now it lies between the hustle and bustle of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. With plenty of arts and music, this city is a great place to explore. It is also located just a short distance away from the Turku Archipelago.
Tampere sits on two large lakes and it has an old-world charm to it. The ancient architecture has been touched up and preserved as many of the historic charms have now been revitalized into modern day museums, galleries, restaurants and shops. With lots of arts festivals, Tampere is the perfect place to peruse and relax.
Another city that lies between two lakes is Jyvaskyla, which is a unique place that has become known for hosting the World Rally Championships every year. But this lakeside beauty is a massive hit during the summer months as the beautiful landscape is filled with quiet swimming spots and popular beaches.
Porvoo is Finland’s second oldest town, which has been preserved and revamped. The cobblestone streets date back to the Medieval days, but these colorful wooden houses haven’t lost their charm. They line the small streets and provide plenty of entertainment as you can check out the local restaurants and shops. The town center has also been preserved and is a highlight of Porvoo.
Points of Interest
Finland is also home to its own set of icons and there are plenty of points of interest to explore. Here are Finland’s top points of interest that have become a favorite amongst visitors.
Located far in the north, Lapland is a popular destination during the summer and winter months in Finland. With plenty to explore, you can hike through the trees and bask in the beauty. But winter is when this area really comes alive and you can try your luck at viewing the Northern Lights. Lapland is also known for having great ski and dog sledding areas.
Kemi Snow Castle
Built entirely of ice, the Kemi Snow Castle is the world’s largest fort made of ice. The castle does melt each year as temperatures rise, but each winter the castle is rebuilt for the colder months. There are hotel rooms, a restaurant, galleries, and a chapel at the castle. With unique ice mugs to sip your drinks, you can visit the Kemi Snow Castle from January to April.
Åland Islands and Archipelago
The Åland Islands and Archipelago are a region in Finland that has been heavily influenced by the Swedes and many of them still call the place home. With a beautiful layout and peaceful natural setting, the Åland Islands have become a tourist hotspot. There are ferries that service some of the islands and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
As we mentioned before, saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture and many visitors are eager to experience an authentic Finnish sauna. Most saunas in Finland are made of wood and they are heated by steam from hot rocks. While you may want to relax, tradition often calls for you to enter the sauna before running out to jump in a freezing cold body of water.
Levin Igloo Resort
Most famous for its glass igloos, the Levin Igloo Resort is a unique luxury accommodation that allows you to sleep under the night sky and try to view the Northern Lights. There are multiple igloos, all of which are made of glass to give you the best view of the surrounding area. The igloos are available every year from September to April.
Urho Kekkonen National Park
The Urho Kekkonen National Park is the place to go to explore Finland’s true natural beauty. The park is filled with trails that often attract hikers and skiers, who want to explore between the trees. As a large area, some of the park reaches all the way to the borders of Russia. The area is also unique for having the local Sami people, who were one of the original Finnish tribes, practice reindeer herding.
Get Out and Go
While Finland may be most famous for its winter landscapes, this Nordic country is the perfect destination all year round. With plenty to explore, this country is traveler friendly and even a great place to adventure with your family. The unique experiences within the country due to its geographical location, also make it one of the few places on Earth where you can experience the beauty of the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun.