Here’s a few things I learnt about Finland:
– It’s not actually that cold. We were told to expect temperatures upto -20 in February. Whilst it was always a possibility that the temperature would drop, it never reached less than -5. I was wearing one pair of thermals, a top, a thin jumper, a thick jumper, a coat with a fleece lining, a pair of jeans, and a pair of thick socks with my snow boots on, and that kept me warm enough. Obviously a hat is important as this is where you lose most of your body heat, but a hat, gloves, and scarf weren’t always a necessity. And as soon as you walked inside anywhere you were boiling, so it’s good to have layers that are easily removable (The Finnish are excellent with heating!).
– It doesn’t get very dark. We were told to expect less than 6 hours of sunlight a day, and then complete darkness. Firstly, it was light from around 8am until 5pm, so that’s 9 hours of daylight which is similar to the UK at this time of the year. Secondly, the nights weren’t that dark because of all the light polution and fog; even at around 3am the sky was a light grey, as if it wasn’t night time at all.
– It’s not that expensive. We were told so many times before we left that Finland was an expensive city. Sure, if you want to live a life of luxury then, yes, you will spend a lot of money. But there’s always the cheap option. Find a local supermarket and buy bread and ham to make sandwiches in the day with, and take a flask to fill with cuppa soup or tea/coffee – there are many ways to avoid spending money in the day. We’ve also bought some super noodles from back home with us for evening meals or snacks, but if you want a bigger meal you can still buy some cheap pasta and a jar of passata (for example!) My 40 euro a day budget, which includes 20-25 euro a night for accommodation, was easily doable. Though of course we did indulge with a meal out one night, but after a week travelling you do need to get your energy back up.
– Finns love Angry Birds and Moomins. Seriously, they are everywhere.
– Nearly everybody speaks English and they are very accommodating to tourists. The language barrier was something I was very worried about, especially when thinking about trying to find places or buying train tickets etc. but this was never a problem either. Most shops and signs had English translations and all shopkeepers were incredibly helpful.
– Don’t follow a sign on your map to the nearest tourist information centre, this will only lead you to a bigger map. As hilarious as we found it at the time, it meant a long walk for nothing.