Your guide for planning a successful road trip in Finland
In some countries you need to drive for hours to reach roads surrounded by forests, fields and lakes. In Finland, it’s exactly the opposite. Nature is around you everywhere, even in urban areas. Yet, for some weird reason, Finland is hardly ever the first option for travelers planning their next road trip.
This article is created not only to encourage you choosing Finland as your next road trip destination, but to give you a comprehensive guide for the things to take into consideration prior to the trip. Your guide for planning a successful road trip in Finland is filled with practical tips, rules of the road, explaining how the rules vary between seasons and, last but not least, some great suggestions for routes to take.
Are you ready? Let’s hit the road!
What do you need to know about driving in Finland
Each country has their own twists and turns when it comes to the rules of the road. The first section of the article is explaining the little twists of the roads in Finland. The ones that might be a bit different from what you’re used to.
Driving in winter
Finland is stunning in winter. The dark gets you early, but when everything around you will be covered with snow, it really feels like you’d be driving in a fairytale.
You don’t need to be too scared even if you aren’t used to driving on snowy and slippery roads. In winter, all rental cars will be equipped with winter tires, normally the ones with studs. (No, we don’t have huge snow chains around the wheels, like you’d see in cartoons.)
If you’re arriving with your own car, you should know that your car needs to have winter tires installed as well. According to the law, you must use winter tires from the 1st of December until the end of February. At other times, according to the weather. If you want to take an early spring road trip in Finland and are heading for Lapland, winter tires will definitely be a wise choice.
Driving lights during daylight
In Finland you need to have headlights on at all times. During the light hours, you can use so-called day lights, which are nowadays automatically on whenever you start the car. As soon as it starts getting dark, or in bad weather, you must turn on the proper driving lights in order to have your back lights working as well.
A good guideline for rainy day driving goes; if you need to use your windscreen wipers, you should turn on your driving lights.
Speed limits in Finland
There are three general rules to follow when driving in Finland. This is a helpful guideline to follow when you’re not sure what the actual speed limit is. In urban areas the general speed limit is 50 km/h, on dual carriageways 80 km/h and on motorways 100 or 120 km/h, unless stated otherwise by signs.
As exceptions make the rule, in town centers the speed limit is often 40 km/h. On high risk areas, like next to schools, the speed limit is often 30 km/h. In winter, the speed limits are lower.
Petrol stations in Finland
When driving along the main roads, you will come across petrol stations every few (dozens) kilometers. However, if you go on smaller roads in sparsely populated areas – like in Lapland – make sure you won’t be at risk of running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. Better safe than sorry.
Animals on the road
Unlike in some other countries, in Finland you don’t need to worry about sheep on the road. Oh no, in Finland you have bigger problems.
As soon as you cross the Arctic Circle, your chances to meet reindeer on the road increase extensively. When you meet one, you’re very likely to meet the whole family, as reindeer hardly ever walk alone. Reindeer are walking on the road, with no hurry at all, and your best option is to drive behind them until they decide to go back into the woods. So make sure you don’t plan too tight of a schedule for a road trip in Lapland.
The most dangerous animal on Finnish roads is moose. Each year, around 2,000 accidents occur due to this huge animal that runs from the woods to the road without any warning. Hitting a moose with a passenger car is always dangerous, and in dark hours, it’s almost impossible to notice a moose before it’s too late. Remember to keep glancing at the sides of the road when driving in Finland.
If you do have and accident with a moose or a deer, even a minor one, you must report it to the police by calling the emergency number 112.
The things you’re not allowed to do when driving
As in most countries by now, speaking on the phone without hands-free, texting, chatting or catching Pokemons is strictly forbidden by law. No Pokemon is worth hitting a moose.
In Finland, the limit for drunk driving is 0,5 per mille. On average, this means 3 bottles of beers or 3 small glasses of wine. We highly recommend keeping the amount of alcoholic drinks on zero when you’re about to hit the road.
Are you a smoker? You should know that in Finland it’s forbidden by law to smoke in a car with a child less than 15 years old on board. This applies also to electronic cigarettes.
How to plan your route for a road trip in Finland
Planning a route for a road trip in Finland has been made extremely easy. We have a great selection of official travel routes that are surrounded by beautiful views, cultural and historic sites and nature attractions. The best of the official travel routes of Finland are described in this file with maps, sights and all. Print it out or download it on your phone before your road trip.
If you prefer going off the official travel routes, there are some great areas that you should consider visiting during your road trip in Finland:
Finnish Lakeland covers the Central and Eastern part of Finland. It’s often described as a labyrinth of blue lakes and diverse nature. One great destination is lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland. On the shores of Saimaa you’ll have it all: the true lakeland, plenty of green forests, historic sites such as mansions and castles, and if you’re lucky, you can even spot a Saimaa ringed seal, a type of seal that you can’t meet anywhere else in the world.
Turku Archipelago on the South-West Coast of Finland is a real treasure for scenic road trip hunters. Consisting of thousands of small islands, in Turku Archipelago you will have stunning views everywhere you go. The idyllic little villages, countryside cafés and restaurants, beautiful churches and interesting museums are at their best in summer. Island hopping in Turku Archipelago is easy – the yellow ferries are taking you and your car from island to island free of charge.
The Archipelago Trail (also known as Archipelago Ring Road) is one of the official travel routes in Finland and your detailed guide for planning a coastal road trip in Finland.
Visit Finland’s World Heritage Sites
Make your road trip in Finland a themed one! We have 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Finland, and depending on the length of your holiday, it’s totally doable to visit them all. Read our article where all Finnish World Heritage Sites are introduced individually.
Visit Finland’s National Parks
In June 2017, when Hossa Hiking Area will be named as a national park, Finland will have 40 national parks in total. You would need a long road trip holiday to visit all of them, but it’s better not to be too greedy. Pick 2 or 3 favourite ones, and get to know to the dramatic gorges and canyons, adventurous rope bridges, hidden waterfalls and ancient rock paintings tucked in Finnish national parks. Here’s a few options to start with.
Are you wondering when to go to Finland? Read our guide about the seasons in Finland.
Where to stay during your road trip in Finland
In Finland, you will have plenty of great options for organizing your accommodation. If you choose to rent a caravan or a camper van, you don’t have much to worry about; you can find camping areas in all parts of Finland, or you can park your car on a parking lot of a lovely beach or a resting place along your route.
If you’re into camping, pack your tent and take it with you. Thanks to the freedom to roam, in Finland you’re allowed to build your tent and camp almost anywhere, as long as you remember to follow a few basic rules. Read our article about Finnish freedom to roam.
If camping isn’t your thing, you can always book a hotel room or rent a cottage. Gofinland has now a new feature where you can search for a rental cottage based on its location on the map. The new map search allows you to find a cosy cabin along your planned route. It’s now very easy to choose a cottage that is guaranteed to be located right by the sea or a lake.