How do you turn 30 the best possible way? You go to Finland and have the best time of your life! This beautiful country is highly underrated and a single trip was enough to open my eyes..Finland is one of the best countries I have been to considering quality of life, friendliness, things to do and enjoy, food and ease of getting around. It is also one of the most forward thinking nations in the world with the best education system (which shows in the mannerism of people). They are really focussed on sustainability, environment and with such beauty, it melts your heart and blows your brains. Not a single wall, ceiling, nook or cranny is left untidy or ugly.
Fun Fact: Finland has roughly 188,000 lakes with168,000 lakes bigger than 500 square metres.
The moment you land at the airport you feel like you’re in a country that has its own identity, its own culture but Finns don’t rub it in your face, they give it to you in a silver platter with a lot of warmth, love and respect.
Finland used to be part of Swedish Empire and then moved over to Russia when they won the territory and was prt of Russian empire for a century and in 2017 this beautiful country turns 100. Looking at other similar countries, they have come much further than anyone else and you can see the beauty of past preserved with the modern mindset. I just cannot stop admiring this beautiful country and people.
I have been to Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland and they all impress you in different ways and that what I loved about them all, they are lumped together but all these countries are really beautiful, different and have very separate identities, languages and cultures.
Fun Fact: Scandinavian and Nordic countries are not the same thing. Nordic refers to all 5 countries (Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark and their associated territories) where Scandinavia refers only to Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The Racism Factor
Finns are some of the most soft spoken, well mannered, helping and sweet people I have ever met. Even more than Danes or Swedish or other Scandinavians. Every single person I came in contact with was extremely nice from Tommi who helped me plan the trip to coffee shops staff to airport staff and our guides, every one was very hospitable, I have been incredibly impressed.
I honestly didn’t feel for a second there could be a hint of racism at any point. We were 4 very different people (race wise; Middle Eastern South Asian, Filipino French, Brazilian Italian and Nigerian British). Every one treated us very well and the question of the didn’t even come into play. This is what happens when you teach kids well in school, we have a long way to go but the world can learn a lot from Finland.
The Gay Factor
Discrimination isn’t common in Finland and that applies to sexuality as well. There’s a lot of nice gay bars and clubs in Helsinki and considerable gay population. I think the Finns don’t really care about these things when they interact with you.
Now in terms of the gay venues, I didn’t go to any honestly because we had only one night in Helsinki and we were tired after a long day of walking and sightseeing but I googled and there’s quite a few nice bars and clubs in the centre of town.
The population on Grindr, Scruff and other apps had a lot of choice and the crowd was quite varied from Latinos to Arabs and the beautiful Finns with their brown beards and ginger-ish hair. Again the guys are very nice.
Rovaniemi on the other hand doesn’t have a lot of options with no gay bars and the guys very spread out.
Reception to English
Almost everyone speaks English in Finland especially the younger generation. From restaurant and cafe staff to reindeer herders, English reception is excellent. I don’t remember a single person who didn’t speak English.
The official language of Finnish with Swedish as second language. Most street signs are in Finnish with Swedish underneath. I was told it goes the other way round where the Swedish speakers exceed Finnish speakers.
Value for Money
Finland is cheap by no means, it is a beautiful but expensive country especially for accommodation and food. A normal meal will set you back €10-20 easily. The quality of life on the other hand makes it totally worth it. In all 5 days in Finland I don’t remember eating bad or average food. Every meal was delicious and every place was impeccable. I’ll say the value for money is better than UK.
Phone & Internet
Now that roaming with EU is free, I didn’t need to bother with Getting SIM cards. You can get the details of providers and packages here.
The reception was great both in Helsinki and in Lapland, even in far off areas. Free wifi is also available but it was a bit shady in some places. Overall Internet and wifi was really good.
Cash & Cards
I didn’t withdraw a single Euro from cash machines! The official currency of Finland is Euro and the eceonomy is almost cashless. Everyone from taxis to coffee shops and reindeer farms and husky parks has card machines, absolutely loved how convenient it is.
The banks and cash machines or ATMs are also quite easily available in big cities. In Lapland it is an issue in far off places but if your card works, it’s absolutely fine.
- Book your accommodation ASAP, it gets very expensive and it can wreck your budget.
- Layer up! Seriously, it will absolutely freeze you if you don’t get good quality thermals and fur lined boots.
- A good umbrella and sun screen will save you both in the south and up north.
- Make sure to subscribe to Northern Lights alert when you reach Rovaniemi, more details in the city post.
- Don’t forget to try some reindeer.
- Book your safaris and tours well in advance, it can get really busy and you will struggle to find a decent tour operator within budget.