The history and politics of Finland has been shaped by its location, wedged between Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east. The national character of the Finns has been further coloured by the water-logged landscape - the country is hemmed in by the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland and 10% of its landmass lies underwater. Finland has more islands than any other country on earth - 30,000 off the Finnish coast and a further 98,000 islands in its 188,000 inland lakes - and the Saimaa Lake system in the southeast of the country is the largest inland water system in Europe. By European standards, Finland is very sparsely populated. Around 69% of the country is covered by the pine forests that define the northern coniferous zone. In the south and southwest, the forest is mainly pine, fir and birch; in Lapland, in the far north, scattered dwarf birch forests give way to Arctic tundra. Most of the national forests are managed for timber, which is used for the manufacture of furniture, paper and fibreboards and for domestic heating and warming Finland's 1.6 million saunas. Finland's forests are said to be the most sustainably managed in Europe. Only 8% of the land is used for agriculture - more than 50% of Finns work in manufacturing or the service sector.
Electric Supply and Plugs
Electrical plugs in Finland need two round prongs. They can be the ungrounded Europlug Type C or the grounded Type E/F.
UTC/GMT +2 hours
Most people in Finland speak excellent English and you should have no trouble communicating with local people. We do recommend that you take a pocket phrase book and learn some basics in the local language such as common greetings.
Finland has a much milder climate than most other regions of the world that lie as far north. It is influenced chiefly by the Gulf Stream. July temperatures average 13 to 17°C. February is usually Finland's coldest month, with temperatures averaging from - 22 to -3°C. In northern Finland, winter temperatures often drop as low as -30°C or even down to -50°C, sometimes with strong, cold easterly or northeasterly winds. Snow covers the ground in southern Finland from December to April, and northern Finland is snowbound from October to April. In winter, in the northernmost areas of the country the sun never rises above the horizon for about 2 months. Southern Finland has some daylight each day, though it receives only about 6 hours of daylight a day in midwinter.
The unit of currency in Finland is the Euro. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
Citizens of EU countries and those of the USA, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia do not need visas to visit Finland. You will need a valid passport.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required for Finland. UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment (except in Switzerland) that becomes necessary during your holiday, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.