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Driving in Finland

During the week we spent in Finland we rented a car not only to arrive from Helsinki, but also to drive around the lake region and make some excursions. The cabins are pretty isolated; in fact ours was 1 km from the main path, which is 8 km from the road. I assure you, we traveled many kilometres and experimented well how the feel of driving in Finland is.

It’s evident the difference in the culture and the way of life between countries, and this is also tangible in the way the people drive their cars. In this case, Finland is much more civilized than Spain, too.

A first explanation for this is the different pace of life, which is much more peaceful in Finland (mostly out of Helsinki). If there’s enough time for everything, where’s the need to run? Why do I need to pass a car if I’ll only save one minute? Why do I have to run a red light? Now let’s take a look at the regulations. Both countries belong to the European Union and the Spanish driving licence also works in Finland, but there are some differences in the traffic rules. It’s mandatory to have the car lights always on, even on the daylight, and you have to use special wheels from winter (starting in October). It’s forbidden to use snow chains, and the speed limits and the drugs and alcohol allowed levels are stricter.

The price of the gasoline is about 25% or 30% more expensive than in Spain (it happens the same in most of the other European countries). There are automatic gas stations (without workers) where you can pay with your credit card or cash, but they don’t accept some kinds of cards (so you should ask before for information at your bank office). If you pay with bills you should take into account that you won’t receive any exchange, so you’ll have to refuel until you reach the exact amount, because the service is pre-paid.

Some oddities:

  • The roads may have a lot of curves: the Finnish feel a lot of respect for their nature and there are also a lot of lakes, so many times you’re forced to pass with your car by the paths where the environment results less damaged.
  • The motorways are free.
  • There are a lot of speed control radars. They are very strict about the maximum speed of every road and they respect the limits. You can see these radars every now and then at the main roads.
  • Every road panel is written in Finnish and Swedish.
  • I think that every traffic light at Helsinki has a video camera (and the Finnish respect this traffic signs, too).
  • You won’t see any dangerous takeover or any “rocket” driving at high speed.
  • If there is some driver trying to merge into your lane (for example at a distance of 300 m) he or she will always stop the car and wait until you pass, although there’s enough time.
  • No big animals (like reindeers) crossed in front of our car, but you’re always told to be careful, mostly at dawn and sunset. What we did see were a lot of crows standing over the road.
  • The cars stop at the zebra crossings and let the pedestrians to pass, although they’re still far from the crossing.

Another surprising thing is the great amount of rest areas by the road. Most of them have “sights to the lake”, and many also have toilet, wooden tables and banks, bins and even some of them have a barbecue. The distances are long and the normal speed limits range between 60 and 80 km/h, so the travels are very slow and you need to rest from time to time. The truth is that resting in these areas is really enjoyable.

Rest Areas - Finland #01

Rest Areas - Finland #02

Rest Areas - Finland #03

Summarizing: the drivers in Finland are respectful to the rest of the users, both pedestrians and drivers, and to the nature.

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