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As a foreigner on Finnish roads

As a foreigner on Finnish roads

Driving in Finland has its special features, which you should know before you hit the road.

Liabilities associated with operating a vehicle

First of all, you should check if your foreign driving licence gives you a right to drive in Finland. Before driving off, it would be a good idea for you to familiarise yourself with Finnish traffic rules and traffic signs, the local driving culture, weather conditions and insurance practices, among other things.

Finnish traffic rules have their special local features. Unlike in some areas of the United States, for example, you are not allowed to turn right when the light is red in Finland. Parking is only permitted in places or areas set aside for this. You cannot park wherever you like on the street even outside the cities as, for example, you must leave a distance of five metres between your car and a pedestrian crossing. See the Road Traffic act. 

Vehicle inspections, taxation and tyres

If you own a vehicle in Finland, you have to pay vehicle tax, and the car must be inspected. The vehicle must also be registered, and you must keep the registration certificate in the vehicle while driving.

If so required by weather or road surface conditions, winter tyres must be used from 1 November to 31 March. Studded tyres can be used from 1 November to 31 March and also during other periods if so required by weather or road surface conditions.You should not change your tyres before nights with sub-zero temperatures are over. Friction tyres may be used round the year. The legislation also contains provisions on the tyre tread. The minimum tread depths are 3.0 mm in winter tyres and 1.6 mm in summer tyres.

Read more about acts and decrees

Driving challenges round the year

What makes driving in Finland special is seasonal variations and the changing conditions associated with them. In the spring, you may be dazzled by bright sunshine from a low angle. Read instructions for avoiding dazzle. You must also be careful of slippery roads, as night frosts may leave road surfaces icy even in late spring. In particular spring and autumn, are the periods when animals are on the move. In the spring, inexperienced elk calves leave their mothers and may wander out onto the roads.

In the summer, it remains light throughout most of the night. Regardless of this, you must have the lights of your vehicle on at all times of day and night. Large numbers of single-track vehicles emerge on the roads in summer, not only school kids on their mopeds but also motorcycles and great amount of cyclists. There are always groups of road users in traffic who do not master all rules of the road, and you should be on constant lookout for them. You may come across skateboarders and different light electric vehicles, including electric scooters. There are also campervans and caravans on the road, and building sites and roadworks will add to the challenges of summer traffic in the cities and on the roads.

When the days start getting shorter in the autumn, you need to get used to driving in the dark after the light summer season. Seeing pedestrians and other road users in the dark is challenging, even though many Finnish people takes wearing a reflector for granted. Other challenges of the autumn include fallen leaves which, when wet from the rain, make the roads slippery. The start of the hunting season also gets the elk on the move. Elk collisions are one of the most common traffic accidents in Finland. In the north, you need to watch out for herds of reindeer on the road.

In the sub-zero temperatures of winter, you need to warm up your car and brush off the snow before driving off. An ice scraper is used to clean frosted windows. In snowy and sleety weather, visibility is poor and the road surface slippery, and after heavy falls, the vehicle may get stuck in a snowdrift. This is why it is a good idea to always carry a shovel in the boot of the car.

As the winter sets in and it gets dark, speed limits are always reduced in Finland. This makes travelling slower, and you must allow sufficient time for your journey. Snowmobile trails may cross the road in Northern Finland (and sometimes in the south, too). Snowmobiles may travel fast, and you need to be cautious when driving in such areas.

If you feel you need additional instruction, you can get a professional teaching from a driving school to support your independent practice. Driving schools and various organisations have courses on driving in the dark and on icy roads. If there is something you find difficult or feel nervous about, you should enquire about tailored lessons.

To support your driving in Finland






Page updated 11/24/2020

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