Finland is a part of the Northern Europe, one of the Nordic Countries. Its neighbouring countries are Sweden, Norway and Russia, but possibly the most probable transit country on your way hitchhiking there is Estonia.
- 1 Arriving and leaving the country
- 2 About crossing borders
- 3 Where to stay?
- 4 Money
- 5 Language
- 6 Safety
- 7 Legal matters for hitchhikers
- 8 Highways
- 9 Culture
- 10 Places to see
- 11 External links
Arriving and leaving the country
About crossing borders
Nothing special about the Finnish borders. Apart from the Russian border, they exist only on the map, not in reality. Since the dawn of time has there been very liberal co-operation between the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian borders.
Ferries to Stockholm go from Helsinki and Turku. The latter being closer is considerably cheaper. Both ferries also stop in Maarianhamina in Ahvenanmaa, or Mariehamn in Åland as the swedish-speaking population there tend to call it. The two companies running ferries between Finland and Sweden are Viking Line and Silja Line. Both of the companies concentrate on bringing the customers a cruise-experience, and are bound to be tacky. At least Viking Line sells simple tickets without a cabin, which would be rather useless on the daytime trips between Turku and Stockholm anyway.
Silja Line is the poshier of the two, and thus more expensive. It's still tacky, though.
It isn't to say the archipelagoes of Stockholm or Turku don't make a nice scenery. On the ferries there's a constant attempt to lure people to buy as much tax-free booze and other stupid things as much as allowed by the regulations. It really isn't much more affordable than at land especially since the regulations for importing from Estonia, which they won't tell you of course. So, do bring a book. Usually there's free Playstation or XBox games at the kids-section to spend the time, plus usually some other backpackers or other such to chat with. You can also try to spot a small islands severely damaged by great cormorants a few hours off Stockholm.
Then there's the Swedish Birka Cruises, whose product is apparently closer to a more proper cruise.
There is no land-connection between Finland and Estonia. There are several daily boats from Helsinki to Tallinn.
- There is no walking or cycling on any of existing crossing points.
- Russian visa is not issued on the border
The most important crossings to Russia (St. Petersburg region) are Vaalimaa–Torfianovka one the road E18/7 Helsinki-St-Petersburg and Nuijamaa–Brusnichnoe near Lappeenranta.
The first one is always animated, 7/7 and almost 24h/24. There's lots of through traffic as well as lots of locals from both sides of the border, with Russians coming to buy goods, finnish people going to the other side to buy alcohol, cigarette and fuel and all sort of traffickers. On finnish side they are crowding on the first gas station, just before the customs zone. You can alternate asking drivers on the parking and those queueing to the terminal. A ride to Torfianovka is enough – there's lots of transport going to Vyborg and St. Petersburg from there, that doesn't necessarily cross the border to the finnish side. No use trying to get into Russia with trucks – freight terminal is separate, and sometimes you wait hours, sometimes days. Russia–Finland seems to be faster. To get back from Russia to Finland the best way is to ask on the parking of one of the supermarkets around.
The other one is on the road 13 going south from Lappeenranta and bypassing the village of Niirala on the north. There is less traffic here, but the route is more scenic, going along the Saimaa canal (Russian: Сайменский канал; Finnish: Saimaan kanava)
Next crossing point north from there is Niirala-Värtsilä, on the road 70 south of Joensuu. The trafic is low, from there a road goes to Sortavala, from where it is possible to reach St-Petersburg by the south shore of lake Ladoga, with a portion of unpaved road, or Petrozavodsk via north shore.
Where to stay?
Finland is a part of the EU and the currency used is Euro.
The language most people in Finland speak is Finnish, which isn't a Scandinavian language. The country is officially bilingual, as there is a large Swedish-speaking minority. Anyhow, most of the people speak at least some English, so most of the international hitchhikers won't have big language problems in Finland. Though you might encounter some old people who don't speak English. In this case it's good to know some Swedish (which is useful all over Scandinavia).
Useful expressions for hitchhikers
- Hello = Moi
- Hitchhiking = Liftaaminen
- To Hitchhike = Liftata
- A Ride = Kyyti
- Thank You = Kiitos
- Where are you driving to? = Minne ajat?
Hitchhiking is quite safe in Finland indeed. As always, common sense is your friend.
Legal matters for hitchhikers
Hitchhiking is legal in Finland. Anyhow, there are some places where it is illegal for the cars to stop and some places where it's illegal for pedestrians to stand. Both of these make hitchhiking de facto illegal in these places.
It is illegal to hitchhike on the highways (called "moottoritie") and some motorways ("moottoriliikennetie") in Finland. You can recognize these from the green signs.
The cars can not stop in crossing areas, and some cars not obeying this rule and taking hitchhikers on board are know to be fined.
Hitching is illegal in Finland on the motorways and two lane expressways. On any other highway you can legally hitch. On motorways you can also legally use the on-ramps as well as the gas stations. This is the same with most countries in Europe and most states of USA.
Hitchhiking used to be popular in the 70's and 80's, and a considerable amount of the rides will tell the hitchkiker(s) they've hitched themselves back in the day. Nowadays it's quite rare among Finns, but of course there are some European backpackers, often heading to Lappi, Lapland.