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A Week In Finland

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Some practical advice for your pleasant stay in Helsinki

ATMs aka where to get money:

In Finland banks do not have their own ATMs, instead they operate shared ATMs under one name. OTTO is the name you are looking for. These orange ATM’s say OTTO on top and speak English whenever you insert a foreign card. They are basically everywhere, but feel free to ask the locals, they can point you to the nearest OTTO.

Remember that in Finland stores, restaurant and bars do not give cash back when paying with a card. All bars should accept Visa Electron and most places accept foreign credit cards. Chip readers also speak English. Remember your pin-code, because that is your digital signature. IYou may be required to show identification for big purchases. The currency used in Finland is EURO. You can exchange your currency to EUROS at bureaux de change located, for example, at the main Railway station or the upstairs of the Stockmanns department store. One of the major chains is called FOREX which is easily recognizable from its bright yellow signs.

There is no ATM near the Hotel Kiljavanranta where Solmukohta 2012 is held, so remember to fill up your cash stack before that.

Alcohol aka why it is so hard to get booze:

In Finland normal stores and kiosks sell alcohol from 9am to 9 pm. Drinks stronger than 4,7% can be purchased from special alcohol stores called ALKO. ALKOs are open from 10am to 8pm (Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Sunday closed).

Bars serve alcohol outside these hours. Bars close from 02 am to 05 am. Note that last orders come always 30 minutes before the closing time. It is often signaled with blinking lights. The age limit for buying alcohol in Finland is 18. For strong liquors over 22%, the age limit is 20. In bars anyone over 18 can buy as strong alcohol as they wish. The normal age limit for bars in Finland is 18, but note that some bars might have different age limits, like 22 years, or even 27 years, based on what sort of clientele they wish to attract. If a big group of people has one or two people below the bar's age limit, often asking nicely gets permission to enter for the younger people.

You cannot buy booze to go from bars, not even a bottle, so for home parties, remember to visit ALKO.

Cigarettes or when did Finland forbid smoking?

We did not. Smoking is allowed in Finland, but not in bars. Some bars have so called smoking rooms or booths that you are allowed to use. But normally smoking needs to happen outside of the bar.

Buying cigarettes is bit trickier. In Finland shops are not allowed to advertise or show cigarettes. But don’t worry, they have them behind the counter. You can just ask for your brand and flavor, and if they do not have it, “some menthol cigarettes” or a similar phrase will get you there. Bars also sell cigarettes, but at a higher price. Some shops operate machines for choosing your cigarettes. Shop staff can help you with using them if needed (they are tricky as they are not allowed to have labels with names/flavors on the buttons of the cigarette machine). OTHER stimulants aka drugs are illegal in Finland.

That’s pretty much it.

Medical help or what to do when it hurts

In Finland all medical centers will treat foreign visitors. Without Finnish health insurance, you need to pay the whole cost of the treatment and you might need to wait a while. In an acute case all ER’s will receive you without notice beforehand. Private clinics normally take you in without waiting time, but that’s very expensive.

Medicine is sold only at pharmacists, APTEEKKI. Painkillers up to 500 mg, mild cough medicine, and lot of other products are sold without a prescription. APTEEKKI-staff and local Finns will be happy help you. If your problem is intimate, you can contact one of the organizers, we will help you privately.
Find your nearest health center from here: http://www.hus.fi/default.asp?path=59 Telepehone Health service: +358 9 10023 Emergency number: 112

Transportation aka how to move around in Helsinki area:

Public Transportation is good around the capital area. Timetables are easy to find with the Journey planner: http://www.reittiopas.fi/en/ TICKETS can be bought from the driver, or from the handy machine, see the instructions below:
(picture)

  • 1. Find one of the machines that sells tickets
  • 2. Set language to English
  • 3. Select day tickets
  • 4. Select adult in Helsinki or Regional (you need Regional if you travel to Vantaa, Espoo, Kauniainen, ie if your host does not live in Helsinki).
  • 5. Choose how many days you want the ticket to be valid.
  • 6. Pay. (and then you might have to activate the ticket).

There are different kind of tickets, but this day-ticket is cheapest option for city traveler like AWiF-visitor. Remember to check with your host whether you are staying in Helsinki or whether you need a “Regional ticket”.

This ticket works in busses, subways (METRO), trains and trams. Remember to show it to the ticket reader machines at the vehicles. When going to subways, show your ticket to the reader before going down to the platform. The machines are next to the escalators. Ticket inspection fine is 85€ and it applies to everyone, also foreign visitors.

Taxis in Helsinki are bit expensive (but cheaper than other Nordic countries). Don't expect to be able to negotiate the price beforehand, the drivers have taximeters and are not afraid to use them. In general, the easiest way to get a taxi is to go to the nearest taxi stop, "taksitolppa" (marked with big TAXI/TAKSI signs) but you can also flag down a passing taxi.

Langage or why do they say “perkele” so much?

The main language in Finland is Finnish. We like to advertise that our second language is Swedish – and even all the signs are also in Swedish, most Finns speak better English than Swedish. Most people under 60 speak at least C-level English – but for example in normal shops or fast food joints, the level of language might be quite low. Immigrants often speak Finnish and French/German, but we do not say you should not try with English.

One good example ist that 10-year-olds usually speak decent English, but a bus driver might not speak a word.

Asking for directions is easiest in English. You'll get most reliable advice from ticket sale offices, information points or tourist shops. Some drivers or train conductors have a tendency to send you to a random direction – as they are not going to see you ever again, and it does not matter to them if you go the wrong way. (Otherwise people tend to be reliable, don’t worry.)

WiFi or WLAN

Almost all restaurants, cafés and fast food joints offer a WiFi connection. Quite often you need to ask the cashier for the password when you purchase your food/drinks.

In an Emergency

The emergency number is: 112 At this number you can can contact the fire department, police, ambulance and so on, but it is only for emergencies. False alarms will be fined. In Finland you can trust the authorities to be there to help you in the emergency. 112 also serves you in English as well as in Finnish and Finlandsvenska. Make the call, explain calmly what’s wrong and follow the instructions.

In case of theft

Contact police as soon as possible. You can contact police online www.poliisi.fi or by phone: 071 877 0111 (switch). It's extremely important to contact police if you notice your passport or identification papers missing.

There are some pickpocket gangs in Helsinki, but the city is usually a safe place.

Other useful TIPS:

  • tap water is drinkable – actually it has been said to be the cleanest water in the world, and much more clean than bottled water sold in stores. Drinking it is even recommended.
  • Toilet paper goes in the toilet, not in the trash can
  • ALE means “sale” and does not refer to drinks
  • In Finland the time zone is UTC +3 in the summer time and UTC+2 in the normal time. Now it's the summer time.
Solmukohta 2012 | info@solmukohta.org