Best time to go: May – June. December is a popular time for winter activities, but rates are expensive. September and October have off-season rates.
Best for: Arctic Circle, the real Santa Claus, Sauna’s, Skiing, Northern Lights, Midnight Sun
About: Finland is the gem of the Nordic countries, a natural wonderland with more trees than people and more islands than any other nation in the world.
During the icy Finnish winters, cross-country skiing is often the only way to get around. There are marked tracks all over the country, including in many national parks. Fans of downhill skiing and snowboarding should head to the hills of Lapland.
Take a trip across the snow on a traditional Arctic dog sled. There are numerous dog-sled centres in Lapland, including Harriniva.
In summer, the sun never truly sets and Finns take full advantage of the 24-hour daylight to party through the night. Midsummer is also the time when thousands of locals retreat to their mökkit (summer cottages) in the countryside to enjoy the great Finnish outdoors. There are numerous classic trekking routes.
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Capital: Helsinki (HEL)
Currency: Euro (EUR). 1 and 2 cent coins are not used in Finland.
Language: Finnish and Swedish. In Lapland, Sami is spoken. English is spoken and understood.
Dialling code from SA: +358
Time Zone: UTC / GMT +2 (same time as South Africa)
Daylight Savings Time: From last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October: ITC / GMT +3 (1 hour ahead of South Africa)
Side of the Road: Right. During winter, snow tyres must be fitted.
Plugs: 230 volts AC, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.
Drinking Water: Mains water in hotels and towns is safe to drink.
Health: There are adequate and well-equipped medical facilities, however visitors are required to pay for these services. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended.
Customs: Normal social courtesies. Finns are liberal, but may be reserved with strangers. The younger generations may dress in “gothic” clothing. People are held to what they say, so do not make offers that you do not mean. Saunas are an important part of Finnish culture. Remove shoes when entering someone’s home.
Local Offences / Laws: Drug offences and drunk driving carry harsh prison sentences.
Duty Free: Finland is within the European Union. If you are travelling from the UK, you are entitled to buy fragrance, skincare, cosmetics, Champagne, wine, selected spirits, fashion accessories, gifts and souvenirs – all at tax-free equivalent prices.
If you are travelling from within the EU, there is no limit on the amount or value of goods you may import, providing your goods are for personal consumption.
If you are arriving from a non-EU country, the following goods may be imported into Finland without incurring customs duty:
• 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco.
• 4L of wine and 16L of beer and 1L of spirits over 22% volume or 2L of alcoholic beverages less than 22% volume.
• Other goods up to the value of €430 for air and sea travellers and €300 for other travellers.
Alcohol limits apply to travellers aged 20 and over for spirits and aged 18 and over for other alcoholic drinks. Tobacco allowances apply to travellers aged 18 and over. Passengers importing tobacco products from inside or outside the EU must ensure each unit has a health warning printed on it in Finnish and in Swedish as well as the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide quantities; passengers may only import 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars and 250g of tobacco not labelled in this way.
Prohibited Imports: Electric-shock batons, radar detectors, knuckle dusters, stiletto blades, endangered plant species (unless licensed in certain cases), pirated goods and certain plants from Russia (eg apple and pear trees). Restricted imports include narcotics, firearms and ammunition, pets, pot plants and nursery plants, and endangered animal species.
Prohibited Exports: Endangered plant species.