Finland by Car: A Guide for Tourists
Finland is a country of stunning natural beauty, rich culture, and friendly people. It is also a great destination for road trips, as it offers a variety of landscapes, attractions, and experiences to suit every taste and budget. Whether you want to explore the vibrant cities, the serene lakes, the majestic forests, or the snowy mountains, you will find something to enjoy in Finland. In this article, we will give you some tips and advice on how to plan and enjoy your journey in Finland by car.
Why is it better to travel by car in Finland?
Traveling by car in Finland has many advantages over other modes of transportation. Here are some of them:
You have more freedom and flexibility to choose your own itinerary, pace, and stops. You can discover hidden gems, off-the-beaten-path destinations, and scenic routes that are not accessible by public transport or organized tours.
You can save money on accommodation, food, and activities by staying in campsites, cottages, or guesthouses along the way. You can also cook your own meals or buy local produce from roadside markets or farms.
You can experience the changing seasons and weather conditions in Finland, which add to the charm and diversity of the country. You can witness the midnight sun in summer, the autumn colors in fall, the northern lights in winter, and the spring flowers in spring.
You can learn more about the Finnish culture and lifestyle by interacting with locals, visiting museums and cultural sites, and participating in festivals and events. You can also enjoy some of the typical Finnish activities such as sauna, ice swimming, fishing, hiking, or skiing.
Importance of having an International Driving Permit for a foreign driver in Finland
If you want to drive in Finland, you will need a valid driver’s license from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is a document that translates your driver’s license into 11 languages and certifies that you are authorized to drive in Finland. You can obtain an IDP from your local automobile association before you travel. You must always carry your IDP along with your driver’s license and passport when driving in Finland. An IDP is valid for three years from the date of issue.
Advices on renting a car in Finland
Renting a car in Finland is relatively easy and affordable. You can find many car rental companies at the airports, train stations, or city centers. You can also book your car online in advance to get the best deals and availability. Some of the most popular car rental companies in Finland are Europcar, Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Sixt.
When renting a car in Finland, you should consider the following factors:
The type of car: Depending on your budget, preferences, and itinerary, you can choose from different types of cars, such as economy, compact, intermediate, standard, or luxury. You can also opt for a four-wheel drive if you plan to drive in mountainous or rural areas. Generally, smaller cars are cheaper and easier to park and maneuver in narrow streets.
The transmission: Most cars in Finland have manual transmission, which means you have to shift gears yourself. If you are not comfortable with manual transmission, you can request an automatic car, but they are more expensive and less available. Make sure to specify your preference when booking your car.
The insurance: When renting a car in Finland, you will be offered different types of insurance options, such as collision damage waiver (CDW), theft protection (TP), personal accident insurance (PAI), or third-party liability (TPL). Some of these options may be mandatory or included in the rental price, while others may be optional or extra. You should check what is covered and what is not before signing the rental agreement. You should also check if your credit card or travel insurance provides any coverage for car rental.
The fuel: When renting a car in Finland, you will have to pay for the fuel yourself. You should check the fuel policy of the rental company before picking up your car. Some companies may require you to return the car with a full tank of gas, while others may charge you for the gas used. The most common types of fuel in Finland are unleaded gasoline (bensa) and diesel (diesel). The average price of gasoline is about 1.6 EUR per liter ($1.9 USD), while diesel is about 1.4 EUR per liter ($1.7 USD).
The road tolls: When driving in Finland, you may encounter some toll roads, especially on highways and expressways. The tolls vary depending on the type and length of the road. You can pay the tolls either by cash or by electronic devices called viaTOLL or viaAUTO. You can buy or rent these devices at some gas stations or toll booths. Alternatively, you can use the A4Go app on your smartphone to pay for the tolls on the A4 highway.
Must-visit destinations for auto tourists in Finland
Finland is a country with a lot of attractions and destinations for auto tourists. Whether you are interested in history, culture, nature, or adventure, you will find something to suit your taste. Here are some of the must-visit places for auto tourists in Finland:
Helsinki: The capital and the largest city of Finland, Helsinki is a dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis that combines tradition and modernity. You can visit the reconstructed Old Town, the Senate Square, the Uspenski Cathedral, the Temppeliaukio Church, and the Suomenlinna Fortress. You can also learn about the history and culture of Finland at the National Museum, the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, and the Design Museum. Helsinki is also a great base for day trips to nearby destinations such as Porvoo, Turku, or Tallinn.
Turku: The former capital and the oldest city of Finland, Turku is a charming and historic city on the banks of the Aura River. You can admire the medieval architecture of the Turku Castle, the Turku Cathedral, and the Old Great Square. You can also explore the cultural and artistic scene of Turku at the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum, the Turku Art Museum, and the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art. Turku is also the gateway to the Turku Archipelago, a stunning area of over 20,000 islands and islets that can be reached by car and ferry.
Tampere: The third-largest city and the industrial heart of Finland, Tampere is a lively and vibrant city surrounded by two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. You can enjoy the panoramic views of the city from the Pyynikki Observation Tower, the Näsinneula Tower, or the Kauppi Forest Park. You can also visit some of the interesting museums and attractions in Tampere, such as the Vapriikki Museum Centre, the Moomin Museum, the Lenin Museum, and the Särkänniemi Amusement Park.
Savonlinna: The jewel of the Finnish Lakeland, Savonlinna is a picturesque town on an island in Lake Saimaa. The main attraction of Savonlinna is the Olavinlinna Castle, a 15th-century fortress that hosts the famous Savonlinna Opera Festival every summer. You can also enjoy the scenic beauty of Lake Saimaa by taking a cruise, kayaking, fishing, or swimming. Savonlinna is also close to some of the natural wonders of Finland, such as the Punkaharju Ridge, the Kolovesi National Park, and the Linnansaari National Park.
Rovaniemi: The capital of Lapland and the official hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi is a magical destination for winter lovers. You can visit Santa Claus Village, where you can meet Santa himself, send postcards from his post office, cross the Arctic Circle line, and enjoy various activities such as reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobile safaris, or husky tours. You can also visit some of the other attractions in Rovaniemi, such as the Arktikum Museum and Science Centre, the Korundi House of Culture, and the Ranua Wildlife Park. Rovaniemi is also one of the best places to see the northern lights in Finland.
Cultural and ethical life in Finland
Finland is a country with a strong sense of national identity and pride in its history and culture. Finnish people are generally hospitable, friendly, and respectful to visitors. However, they also expect some basic manners and etiquette from foreigners. Here are some cultural insights and etiquette tips to help you interact with Finns:
Greetings: When meeting someone for the first time, you should shake hands firmly and smile. You should also use formal titles such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. followed by their surname until you are invited to use their first name. When greeting someone you know well, you can hug or kiss them on both cheeks.
Gift-giving: If you are invited to someone’s home for dinner or a special occasion, you should bring a small gift such as flowers (avoid yellow ones), chocolates (avoid liquor-filled ones), wine (avoid cheap ones), or books (avoid controversial ones). You should avoid giving knives or scissors as they are considered bad luck.
Dining etiquette: If you are dining at someone’s home or at a restaurant, you should wait for your host or hostess to invite you to start eating. You should also follow their lead on when to toast or drink alcohol. You should use your right hand for eating and your left hand for holding your fork. You should not leave any food on your plate as it may be seen as rude or wasteful.
Social etiquette: Finnish people tend to be polite and courteous in public. They avoid loud or aggressive behavior and respect personal space. They also value punctuality and honesty. You should avoid topics such as politics, religion, money, or personal problems unless you know someone well. You should also avoid making jokes or comments that may be seen as offensive or insensitive to Finnish history or culture.
Dress code: Finnish people dress casually and comfortably in public. They avoid wearing formal or revealing clothes such as suits, ties, dresses, or skirts. They also dress appropriately for different occasions such as business meetings, religious services, or cultural events. You should follow their example and dress smartly and respectfully when visiting Finland.
In conclusion, driving in Finland is a great way to explore the country’s diverse landscapes, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. By renting a car, obtaining an IDP, following the road rules, respecting etiquette, and exploring the hidden gems, you can have a wonderful journey through the land of contrasts. So, get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in Finland!