Currency: The Finnish currency is the Euro
At the time of writing £1GBP is worth approximately 1.16 Euro. Here are some guide prices:
3 Course meal for 2 at a mid priced restaurant = 60 Euro or £54
Domestic beer = 5.5 Euro or £5.00
Bottle of wine = 10 Euro or £9.00
Posh coffee = 3 Euro or £2.80
Pint of Milk = 1 Euro or £0.85
1 kg bananas = 1 Euro or £0.85
1.5 litre bottle of water = 1.5 Euro or £1.30
Taxi Rate per KM = 1.50 Euro or £1.30
Of course, these prices are a guide and there will be variations pending where you are and when.
To an outsider, the percipient and proud Norwegians can seem almost alarmingly pithy and withdrawn and at times downright odd: little value is put on exuberance, and you can have an entire conversation with a Nordic without their making any discernible facial expression. Underneath this reserve, of course, Norwegian people are as full of enthusiasm and affection as any other nation. This is a people whose aversion to small talk and affinity for the awkward moment is rivalled only by their remarkable ability to drink several times their body weight in grain alcohol in an evening’s sitting.
Their underlying bonhomie does come out when there’s drink around, but alcohol abuse really has long been a noticeable problem here, and it’s wise to avoid trying to keep up with the Nords capacity for drinking.
Tipping is rare in Norway, and buying rounds is unheard of. Service is usually included in restaurant bills although it’s common to round the bill up to the nearest convenient figure when paying in cash (the same applies for taxi fares).
Daily budget Basic €40, occasional treat €65 Drink Salmiakki (liquorice-flavoured vodka) €4–6 a shot Food Reindeer stew with potatoes €9 Hostel/budget hotel €20/€45 Travel Helsinki–Tampere by bus €25; Helsinki–Rovaniemi by train €84
Crime and personal safety
You hopefully won’t have much cause to come into contact with the Finnish police, though if you do they are likely to speak English.
112 for all emergency services.
If you’re insured you’ll save time by seeing a doctor at a private health centre (lääkäriasema) rather than waiting at a national health centre (terveyskeskus), though you’re going to pay for the privilege.
Medicines must be paid for at a pharmacy (apteekki), generally open daily 9am to 6pm; outside these times, a phone number for emergency help is displayed on every pharmacy’s front door.
Most towns have a tourist office, some of which will book accommodation for you, though in winter, their hours are much reduced and some don’t open at all. You can pick up the decent map of Finland free from tourist offices.
Free internet access is readily available, either at the tourist office or local library (booking sometimes required), and major towns and cities have free, comprehensive wi-fi.
Post offices are generally open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, with later hours in Helsinki.
Money and banks
Finland’s currency is the euro (€). Banks are generally open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm. Some banks have exchange desks at transport terminals, and ATMs are widely available. You can also change money at hotels, but the rates are generally poor. Credit cards are widely accepted right across the country.
Opening hours and holidays
Most shops generally open Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 4pm. Along with banks, they close on public holidays, when most public transport and museums run to a Sunday schedule. These are: January 1, January 6 (Epiphany), Good Friday and Easter Monday, May 1, Ascension (mid-May), Whitsun (late May), Midsummer (late June), All Saints’ Day (early Nov), December 6 and 24 to 26.
Public phones have been swiftly phased out in favour of mobile service; if you plan to make a lot of calls in Finland, invest in a Finnish SIM card for use in your phone. €20 will get you a Finnish number with about sixty minutes of domestic calling time or several hundred domestic text messages. Directory enquiries are 118 (domestic) and 020208 (international).
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