Stay Safe in Finland
Finland has a low crime rate and is, in general, a relatively safe location to visit. While shopping, parents often leave their sleeping infants in a baby carriage on the street, while in the countryside, vehicles and home doors are frequently left unlocked.
Use caution at night, especially on Friday and Saturday, when Finland’s young go to the streets to get drunk and, in some tragic instances, seek for trouble.
Racism is usually not a significant issue for visitors, particularly in cosmopolitan large cities, although certain intoxicated individuals seeking for trouble may be more inclined to target foreign-looking people. If you match that description, avoiding fights with intoxicated gangs may be more essential. Prior to the 1990s, immigration to Finland was relatively restricted, and not everyone was used to globalization.
Pickpockets used to be uncommon, but that has changed, particularly during the bustling tourist season in the summer, when organized pickpockets come from Eastern Europe. Never leave your phone, laptop, tablet, keys, or wallet unattended at a restaurant. In Helsinki, criminals have begun targeting hotel breakfast buffets, where customers often leave valuables unsecured for a few minutes. Regardless, most Finns keep their wallets in their pockets or handbags and feel quite secure doing so.
Bicycle thieves abound; never leave your bike unsecured for even a minute.
If anything happens, don’t be afraid to call the police. The Finnish police force is similar to police forces across Western Europe in terms of public trust, respect, and lack of corruption.
If a police officer approaches you, being cool and courteous will assist keep the issue on the table for conversation. They have the authority to verify your identification and your eligibility to remain in the nation. They may ask odd questions like where you’re from, where you’re going next, where you live, or whether you’ve seen, met, or know anybody. If you believe that an inquiry may jeopardize your privacy, please express your concerns respectfully. Finnish police have broad arrest and search powers, although they are unlikely to misuse them. If the situation worsens, they will most likely arrest you, using force if necessary.
Whatever happens, keep in mind that Finland is one of the least corrupt nations in the world. Bribes will be greeted with surprise, if not outright hostility. Payment on the spot is never anticipated or even feasible if you are penalized. A “cop” asking for money is a dead giveaway that they aren’t genuine cops. Request that the police officer display his badge; here is an example of a real badge. The border guard and customs officers, in addition to the police, have police powers; the border guard operates on behalf of the police in certain sparsely inhabited border regions.
Customs and police are tough when it comes to narcotics, especially cannabis. In ports and airports, sniffer dogs are employed, and a positive marking invariably results in a thorough search. Cannabis usage is not well accepted by the general public.
Although there have been stories in recent news coverage regarding different civic organizations patrolling the streets, this phenomena is relatively minor. Aside from the police, no street patrols have any official authority, and the police will not allow any effort to take authorities. There are no street gangs or paramilitaries, on the other hand.
Prostitution is not against the law. Pimping, on the other hand, is unlawful, as is utilizing the services of a prostitute who is a victim of human trafficking.
In Finland, there are few severe health hazards. The cold will be your main adversary, particularly in the winter and at sea.
Because Finland is a sparsely populated nation, it is essential that you register your trip intentions with someone who can notify emergency authorities if you do not return. If you go into danger, always have your phone nearby. Dress warmly in layers and carry a good pair of sunglasses to avoid snow blindness, particularly if you intend to spend the day outside. When hiking in the woods, always carry a map, a compass, and ideally a GPS. Take additional care in Lapland, where getting to a home or road may take several days. Weather may change quickly, and even if the sun is shining today, you might be dealing with a medium-sized snowstorm (no joke!) an hour or two later. Although weather forecasts are usually of high quality, there are certain cases when the weather is difficult to anticipate, particularly in areas with fells or islands. Also, keep in mind that many predictions only show daytime temperatures, while it is frequently 10–15°C (20–30°F) cooler at night and in the early morning.
If you’re out on the lakes or the sea, bear in mind that wind and water will chill you quicker than cold air, and being dry means staying warm. A person who falls into near-freezing water must be rescued immediately, and even in the summer, water will rapidly chill you down. Safety in tiny boats: Avoid drinking alcohol, always wear a life jacket, and if your boat capsizes, keep your clothing on to remain warm and cling to the boat (small boats are made to be unsinkable).
Given the size of the Finnish population, a shockingly large number of people drown each summer in the lakes. According to a yearly public awareness campaign (partially Finnish dark comedy, partly reality), the archetypal accident involves an inebriated amateur fisherman capsizes his boat while standing up to urinate. Other dangers include attempting to swim too far across the river or colliding with an under-water boulder or submerged log.
Lakes and the sea freeze over in the winter. Walking, skating, or even driving a vehicle on the ice is usual, but deadly incidents are not unheard of, so seek and follow local counsel. If the ice breaks, it will be difficult to get out of the water since the ice would be slippery. Ice picks are offered as a piece of safety equipment (a pair of steel needles with bright plastic grips, connected with a safety line). Stay cool, call for assistance, break the ice in the direction you came from, get up, crawl away, and get inside as soon as possible. Someone with a rope, a long staff, or any other such improvised assistance may be required (no use having both of you in the water).
Wasps (ampiainen), bees (mehiläinen), and bumblebees are the only toxic insects in Finland (kimalainen). Their stings may be unpleasant, but they are rarely harmful unless you get several stings or a sting near the trachea (do not attract a wasp onto your sandwich!). Alternatively, if you are severely allergic to it.
In Finland, there is just one species of venomous snake: the European adder (Finnish: kyy or kyykäärme), which has a characteristic zig-zag pattern on its back, but some are nearly entirely black. The snake may be found across Finland, from the south to the north in Lapland. Although their bites are seldom deadly (save for young children and allergic people), one should use caution in the summer, particularly when strolling in the woods or on open fields in the countryside. Snakes will generally flee if you make the earth vibrate; they only attack humans if they are scared. If you are bitten by a snake, get medical attention immediately. It is recommended that you get a kyypakkaus if you want to travel in nature during the summer (“Adder pack”, a medicine set which contains a couple of hydrocortisone pills). It is available at any Finnish drugstore. It is used to alleviate some of the symptoms of an adder bite, but you should still visit a doctor as soon as possible. The kyypakkaus may also be used to treat bee sting pain, swelling, and other allergic responses. If you find an ant nest, the ants have most likely eaten all of the snakes in the area.
In terms of other hazardous animals, although brown bears (karhu), wolves (susi), and other large carnivores are found across Finland, they are classified as endangered species and generally avoid people whenever possible. If you see one, consider yourself fortunate. Talking with your companions while in the woods should be enough to keep you from coming in the way of a bear and her cubs. If you happen to spot a bear, back off slowly. Contrary to common perception elsewhere, there are no polar bears in Finland, much alone polar bears roaming through the cities.
In case of emergency
112 is the national phone number for all emergency services, including police, and it does not need an area code, regardless of phone type. The number works on any mobile phone, keylocked or unlocked, with or without a SIM card. If your smartphone prompts you for a PIN code, just enter 112 – most phones will offer you the option to call the number (or call without asking).
Call the national Toxin Information Office at (09) 471 977 if you have any questions regarding poisons or toxins (from mushrooms, plants, medication, or other substances).
In sparsely inhabited regions, the time it takes for assistance to come may be fairly lengthy (about an hour, longer in severe locations), therefore it’s a good idea to have basic first-aid supplies on hand while visiting cottages or the woods. Finns often have a “adder kit” (kyypakkaus, 50 mg hydrocortisone) at their cottages, but this is insufficient even for bee or wasp stings: for an adder bite, contact 112 immediately.
Stay Healthy in Finland
In Finland, you’re unlikely to experience stomach problems since tap water is always drinkable (and usually very delicious), and restaurant cleanliness standards are high. If you have any allergies, many restaurants will include the most common substances that individuals are sensitive to on their menu. Examples: (L) Means lactose-free, (VL) = low lactose, (G) = gluten-free; if in doubt, ask the waiter or restaurant staff.
Medication is exclusively sold at pharmacies, not in general stores (other than by special arrangements in many remote areas). Any non-essential medicine needs a prescription (stricter criteria than in many other countries).
Although Finland is home to a variety of venomous insects, you are unlikely to meet them if you remain in large city centers. Mosquitoes (hyttynen), which swarm throughout Finland (particularly Lapland) in the summer, are a major annoyance. While they do not transmit malaria or other illnesses, several species of Finnish mosquitos produce a unique (and very annoying) whining sound while pursuing their meal, and their bites are extremely itchy. Mosquitoes, as usual, are most active around dawn and sunset — which, in the Land of the Midnight Sun, may mean much of the night in summer. Mosquito repellents come in a variety of formulations and may be purchased at virtually any store. Another summer annoyance are gadflies (paarma, which are prevalent where cattle are present), whose bites may leave a mark that lasts for days, if not a month. Deer keds (hirvikärpänen), a more recent addition to Finnish summers, may be especially bothersome if they manage to lose their wings and burrow into hair (although they rarely bite and humans are not their intended targets; they are mainly encountered in forests). Use repellent, make sure your tent has adequate mosquito netting, and consider prophylaxis with cetirizine (brand names include Zyrtec, Heinix, and Cetirizin Ratiopharm), an anti-allergen that will neutralize your response to any bites if taken in advance! As an over-the-counter medicine, topical anti-allergen gels and lotions are also available. Deer keds may be removed using a flea comb.
Ticks (punkki) may spread Lyme’s disease (borreliosis) and viral encephalitis (TBE) via a bite in southern Finland, particularly land, the Lappeenranta-Parikkala-Imatra-axis, and places near Turku’s shore. Although these occurrences are uncommon, and not all ticks transmit the illness, it is best to wear pants rather than shorts if you want to go through thick and/or tall grass regions (the usual habitat for ticks). If you are bitten by a tick, you may obtain special tick tweezers at the pharmacy (punkkipihdit) to securely remove it. To minimize the risk of illness, remove the tick from your skin as quickly as possible, ideally without crushing it. If the tick bite begins to develop red rings on the skin surrounding it, or if you have other tick-related symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Finnish healthcare is mostly public, with municipal, central, or university hospitals providing critical care, advanced care, and emergency treatment. Terveyskeskus, a municipal mostly outpatient clinic, (keskus)sairaala, a (central) hospital with surgery, and yliopistollinen keskussairaala, a university hospital, are the most relevant to travelers. With their European Health Insurance Card, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals may access emergency and health services, resulting in minimal payments for public healthcare in most instances (visiting a doctor typically €15–30, children free, day surgery €100; certain associated expenditures can be reimbursed). Other foreigners are also receiving critically needed care, but they may be required to pay the whole cost. Students have access to basic health care via student unions as part of their student union membership. There are also private clinics (lääkäriasema or lääkärikeskus), which can frequently arrange appointments with less waiting but charge higher costs (residents usually get reimbursements). If you are not a resident of the EU/EEA, the price difference may be less substantial; check with your insurance provider. If advanced treatments are required, the clinics may be forced to send the patient to a public hospital.