Guide to driving in Finland

2 minute read

Credits: Reijo Nenonen

Here are some tips for driving in Finland – rain, snow or shine

While Finland’s roads are typically in good condition, Nordic weather occasionally throws drivers a curveball. Whether you encounter reindeer on the road in Lapland or ice…well, pretty much anywhere, here’s some practical information for a smoother, safer road trip.

Finns drive on the right side of the road. Usually, there’s no traffic!
Credits: Reijo Nenonen

Renting a car

There are car hire companies in all major towns and cities, as well as at airports. It’s worth booking in advance, and you must have a credit card on you when you book. If you have an EU or Swiss drivers’ licence, you can hit the road in Finland straight away.

Avoiding traffic

Traffic jams aren’t common in Finland. Although you might hear some complaints about traffic from Finns, it’s rare to hear them from those who live in big cities elsewhere. To a Finn, a few-minute delay is the equivalent of heavy traffic.

Credits: Janne Käyhkö / Visit Lahti

Speed limits

Generally, the speed limit in Finland is 50 km/h in built-up areas and 80 km/h outside of them. Both limits are typically enforced if there is no other speed limit posted. On major highways in summer, you can drive 100 km/h. On motorways, the summertime limit is 120 km/h. In winter, however, the speed limit on highways is reduced to 80 km/h, and on motorways, it’s 100 km/h.

Turn your lights on!

If an oncoming vehicle flashes its high beams at you, it usually means you don’t have your headlights on. It’s a law in Finland that drivers must have their lights on – no matter the season and even in the midnight sun. But being flashed could also mean there’s an accident ahead or an animal is on the roadway, so be sure to stay alert.

Drivers use high beam headlights (‘pitkät valot’ in Finnish) when they’re driving on the road alone at night – especially during the winter. Please remember to turn off your high beams if there’s oncoming traffic, though.
Credits: Jani Kärppä

Paying (or not paying) tolls

There are zero toll roads or bridges in Finland. Yes, zero. That’s because constructing and maintaining roads and highways is mostly funded by Finnish taxes. So go on, enjoy the drive – it’s on us!

Traffic enforcement cameras

Finnish police use automatic traffic surveillance equipment on heavily trafficked roads and in urban areas. You’ll know you’re driving on one of these roads if you see a yellow road sign depicting a camera.

Beware of the animals

Drivers in Finland should stay alert for signs warning of elk crossing the roadways. If you see one, slow down, and at night, use high beams whenever possible. While many of the country’s major highways are lined with high elk fences, accidents do happen – and they can be fatal for drivers, passengers and animals. Also, if you’re driving in Lapland, a reindeer (or twelve!) on the road is a very common sight. Please make sure you drive carefully and adjust your speed to account for limited visibility and potentially dangerous driving conditions.

If you see reindeer on the road in Lapland, get ready to make a full stop: Santa’s little helpers are also very stubborn and might not budge, even if you honk! It’s best to simply wait it out and let them pass.
Credits: Pentti Sormunen

Essentials of driving in winter

The downside of the delightful winter weather in Finland is that, at times, roads can be very icy. Because of this, all vehicles must be equipped with winter tyres between December 1st and March 1st. You might even want to have studded tires if you’re driving in the northern part of the country.

Also, be sure to set aside adequate time for driving in winter. When the roads are icy or there’s a heavy snowfall, the only way to go about it safely is to drive slowly. Note that roads are generally not salted. Instead, they’re cleared by snow ploughs.

When driving an electric car, be aware that cold weather and cabin heating cut your driving power. And whether your car is powered by electricity or gasoline, it’s always a good idea to wear or bring warm clothes with you when driving in Finland – just in case you need to make an unexpected stop.

Learn more health and safety tips regarding Finland.

When driving in winter, make sure you leave enough room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. That way, you’ll have enough time to brake on the icy roads should something unexpected happen.
Credits: Jani Seppänen

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