Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Finland?
In Finland driving is on the right with overtaking on the left. You can overtake on the right but only if it is a road with multiple lanes. You need to give way to vehicles only on the right unless it is a tram, as trams always have priority. In other situations rights of way on approaches to priority roads are denoted by a sign showing a red triangle on a yellow background.
Seat Belt Laws
Passengers and driver must all wear seat belts whilst the car is moving in Finland. You'll get a ticket if caught without one.
Drinking and Driving
There are two levels of drink driving offences in Finland standard and aggravated. If over 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood you can face a fine plus up to six months in prison and a licence suspension. If over 120mg per 100ml you could have a jail sentence of up to two years – usually suspended.
Must Have Documents
You will need to have both parts of your driving licence and proof of motor insurance – a green card is preferable. It's recommended that you carry proof of ownership too and a copy of your passport for identification.
The speed limits for Finland are as follows:
Motorways: 120 km/h (100km/h in winter or near urban centres)
Open roads: 90 km/h (80km/h in winter or near urban centres)
Rural roads: 80 km/h
In Town: 50 km/h
Minimum Driving Age
You have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Finland but if hiring a car you'll find most car hire companies will insist on you being 21 or 23 years old. You may still incur a young person premium on your car hire.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Safety camera warning devices are illegal in Finland They will be confiscated and you'll receive a ticket for being in possession of one.
On the Spot Fines
You should be aware that police are not allowed to collect fines on the spot. However given the egalitarian nature of Finland's Society the tickets that are issued mean the fines are based on the level of your income and can be very high. There is a minimum fine of 22 euros but no maximum limit, which means that you may be liable for extremely high fines if you earn a lot.
Child Safety Rules
In Finland, children under 135cms cannot travel in the front seat of a car. Younger children must be in the appropriate restraint for their age and it's recommended that rear facing child safety seats are used for children up to the age of three.
A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory in Finland and you'll need to be able to prove you have it with your insurance certifcate and preferably, a green card from your insurance company.
Rules of the Road
Standard European driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
You must use headlamp deflectors if using a UK car.
You should only use your horn to warn of danger.
Winter tyres must be used between December and March. They can be studded or non-studded.
Because it can be dark for much of the year in Finland as it is so far north, headlights must be used at all times.
For this reason you should have reflective jackets in the car at all times.
If driving in the country you should be alert as large animals such as elk can run out into the road.
Never cross the white line which indicates the gap between the road and the bicycle and pedestrian lane.
All that is required is the use of common sense making sure other drivers know that you are engaged in towing.
Safety cameras are common in Finland, both mobile and fixed devices. You'll receive a ticket from a mobile patrol whilst fixed cameras will send a ticket to the registered address of the vehicle or to your car hire company who will forward on the charge.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
Using a phone whilst driving in Finland is illegal without a hands free kit. You'll be ticketed and fined if you don't comply.
Parking is straightforward in Finland. Finland uses parking discs for parking and signs tell you when they are needed. There are parking bays denoted by a sign with a big 'P' on it. Another sign will tell you of restrictions that apply. Elsewhere parking is allowed just about anywhere as long as you are not causing an obstruction. If your car is parked in an area where it is hard to see and could be hit then you must put your lights on. Cars must park facing in the direction of the traffic and at least five metres from any pedestrian crossings or intersections.
Look out for the parking bays annotated with a 'P' signs will tell you how long you can park there and what the cost will be. There are parking lots where you can you park in the open air or in winter, park in an enclosed garage.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police but generally only if you're causing an obstruction or overstaying your ticket. You'll get a fine payable at the local police station, bank or online.
Finland doesn't follow the European Blue Badge scheme but they are well-attuned to the needs of disabled drivers and it's advised to take your badge with you anyway. By showing it you're likely to be offered assistance.
Motor Way Signs
Like many other European countries Finland signed up to the 1968 Vienna Convention on road signs and signals. Therefore all motorway signs are European signs - blue background with white letters.
Unleaded petrol - lyijytön polttoaine
Where is ...? - Missä on ...?
Bus - Bussi
I have broken down - Olen eriteltynä
Where is the police station? - Missä on poliisiasema?
I have a flat tyre - Minulla on rengasrikko
I have been in an accident - Olen ollut onnettomuudessa
Where can I buy petrol? - Mistä voin ostaa bensiiniä?
In Finland traffic lights also follow the rules of the Vienna Convention so there should be no confusion as that means they'll have the same sequences as the UK. You may find lights with arrows on the lenses. This means that the signals apply to the direction indicated by the arrow.
There are no toll roads or toll bridges In Finland.
The emergency services number is 112.
The British Embassy is at Itäinen Puistotie 17 in Helsinki and can be contacted on +358 (0)9 2286 5100. The website is http://ukinfinland.fco.gov.uk/en/
The American Embassy is at Itäinen Puistotie 14 B in Helsinki and can be contacted on +358-9-616 250. The website is http://finland.usembassy.gov/
What to do in an emergency
If you have a problem with your car you should phone the number given to on the rental documents or attached to the windscreen of your car. If you are driving your own vehicle, use your emergency assistance company's partner in Finland.
In the event of an accident you should call the emergency services on 112. You will need a report from the police for your insurance company. Whilst awaiting their arrival, take photographs of the scene and take the names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses. If it is safe to do so, don't move the vehicles.
As of April 2014, the average price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Finland is £1.37 whilst diesel is £1.31.