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Driving in Finland: Licences, Driving Schools, Rules & Vehicles

Rules, Regulations & Road Signs

The Ministry of Transport's PDF booklet Driving in Finland provides you with all the basic information you need on Finnish traffic regulations and rules regarding the use of motorized vehicles. You should note that the contents are not a direct translation of the relevant legal provisions.
See also:
Central Organisation for Traffic Safety in Finland: www.liikenneturva.fi > English > Road Safety

Road Signs: The Transport Authority's illustrated English-language PDF Road Signs in Finland is also a useful reference. Note: This document is from 2004; it is mostly current, but newest information is available from
Finnish Transport Authority: www.liikennevirasto.fi > English > Transport Network > Road Signs & Devices

Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous and icy road conditions are common. If driving in Finland, winter/snow tyres (either studded or non-studded) are a legal requirement from 1 December to 3 March. Winter tyres without studs may be used throughout the year.

Use of headlights at all times is compulsory in Finland. Whenever a vehicle is driven, headlights or day-time running lights must be on even at daytime. Lights must be used within built-up areas as well as outside them.

Police strictly enforce all traffic laws and institute random roadside Breathalyzer tests. Drivers who register a blood alcohol level of 0.5 g/litre or above are subject to immediate arrest.

When driving at night (particularly around dusk) incidents of moose or reindeer being struck by vehicles are common, causing severe damage to the vehicle and injury, sometimes fatal, to the occupants.

Foreign Driving Licences in Finland

Driving licences issued in EU or EEA countries, and interim driving licences issued in the Nordic countries, entitle the holder to drive motor vehicles in Finland equivalent to those indicated on the non-Finnish licence. The driver must be at least 18 years old. The right to drive is valid regardless of whether the person is in Finland as a tourist or residing permanently.

A permanent resident of a country that has signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention and who holds a national or international driving licence or an official Finnish or Swedish translation of a national driving licence is entitled to drive motor vehicles equivalent to those indicated on the non-Finnish licence for up to a year following entry into Finland, provided that the person fulfils the Finnish age requirement to drive such vehicles. A driving licence acquired in a signatory country by a temporary resident, for example an exchange student, does not entitle the holder to drive in Finland.

Other driving licences: Driving licences not issued in a signatory country do not give entitle the holder to drive in Finland. On application, however, the police may grant a provisional driving licence for a maximum of one year without the need for a driver examination. After this, the Finnish driver examination must be taken.

Complete details are available from the Finnish Police web site:
www.poliisi.fi > In English > Licences > Driving licences > Foreign driving licence

Finnish Driving licence

Driving licences are issued by the Police, but it's a long road to get to that point if you're "starting from scratch". In some cases however it's possible to exchange an existing foreign driver's licence for a Finnish licence without the need for additional driving or knowledge tests; see below.

An amendment to the Driving Licence Act entered into force on 19 January 2013. The new Act contains changes in certain driving licence categories and the periods of validity of driving licences. The right to drive is now for a period of 2-15 years depending on the driving licence category and the age of the licence holder. Driving licences for cars and motorcycles will as a rule be issued for 15 years. Driving licences granted before 19 January 2013 will remain valid until the expiry date indicated on the card, however no later than the year 2033.

Driving Instruction
If you are starting from scratch, the situation is somewhat different from that of many other countries. The driving student does not need to apply for a "learner's permit" or similar. They receive instruction from a qualified instructor, usually from a driver training school, and once they have completed their training (which for a Class B car licence comprises almost 40 hours of instructed driving and theory lessons) they complete theory and driving tests, and apply for a driving licence.

Instruction can alternatively be given by the holder of a driving instruction permit, which grants the holder the right to operate a vehicle intended for driving instruction.

Theory & Driving Tests
The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) administers driver testing in Finland. The tests are conducted by companies with which Trafi has contracts, and consist primarily of a theory test and a driving test.
Theory Test: A theory test is taken using a computer at the driver testing centre. The test consists of two parts: situational problems and theoretical questions based on the driving license classification being sought. True/false questions are accompanied by illustrations. The questions are designed to gauge the applicant’s knowledge of the driving license classification being sought. There are 10 questions per classification, except for in the case of M and T Class examinations, which contain 3 theoretical questions per classification. Test results are returned immediately.
Driving Test: The driving test is conducted with a vehicle belonging to the classification being sought, which provides the most extensive rights to operate a motor vehicle. The driving test is conducted using a vehicle provided by the testee. The test duration is 45-60 minutes, depending on the classification being sought. During the driving test, the testee assumes full responsibility for operation of the vehicle.

Further Information: Trafi: www.trafi.fi > Autoilu > Ajokortit (Finnish only - use with Google Translate)

Driving licences for operation of a passenger vehicle in Finland are issued in two phases. The first driving licence, a typical Category B driving licence permit, is valid for a period of two years. This is issued by the police when a person has received instruction and passed the theory and driving tests.

When applying for a driving licence permit from the local police, the following must be submitted:

The second, or actual driving licence is issued no earlier than 6 months after issue of the driving licence permit. Before this licence can be obtained, holders of driving licence permits must complete further driver training provided by law (primarily this involves driving techniques for ice and snow). The certificate for this further training must be submitted to the police.

A driving licence permit may be granted to an applicant who:

In addition to a permit application form, applicants must fill in a form asking whether they already have a driving licence issued by another EU or EEA country, or whether they have been banned from driving in any EU or EEA country.

Complete details, including fees, are available from the Finnish Police Web Site
www.poliisi.fi > In English > Licences > Driving licences

Finnish & International Driving Schools

There are approximately 600 driver instruction companies or schools operating in Finland. These are registered with the Autokoululiitto - Finnish Driving Schools Association.

The cost of obtaining a Class B car licence (the most common licence) has basically doubled in the last 8 years, from about €1000 to about €2000. This is not simply a result of schools saying "Hey, let's put the prices up!"; the requirements for obtaining a licence, in terms of driving hours on the road and hours studying theory, have also increased over the years.

Search for a driving school (autokoulu) in your region; go to:
www.autokoululiitto.fi > Autokoulut > Autokouluhaku (Driving School Search)
Enter your location in the search box and click HAE for a listing of local schools.

International Driving Schools
The following schools in Helsinki specifically offer courses in English for Class B licences, motorcycle licences and more, and include course information and prices at their sites:

Exchanging a foreign driving licence for a Finnish driving licence

Exchanging a driving licence issued in an EU or EEA country
Source: www.poliisi.fi January 2015

Summary: A person who lives permanently in Finland or has been studying in Finland for at least six months may apply to exchange a driving licence issued in another EU or EEA country, excluding temporary driving licences, for an equivalent Finnish driving licence without having to take a new driving test. A driving licence permit application must be submitted to the police in person.

When applying for a driving licence permit, the following must be submitted:

At the police station, the applicant must fill in a driving licence application form and a form asking whether he or she already has a driving licence or is banned from driving in another EU or EEA country.

Complete details, including fees, are available from the Finnish Police web site:
www.poliisi.fi > In English > Licences > Driving licences > Foreign driving licence > Exchanging a foreign driving licence for a Finnish driving licence

Exchanging a driving licence issued in a country that has signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention
Source: www.poliisi.fi January 2015

Summary: A person living permanently in Finland may exchange a driving licence issued in a state that is party to the Geneva or Vienna Conventions on Road Traffic for a category A1, A2, A or B driving licence permit upon application without taking another driving test. The application for a driving licence permit must be submitted to the police in person.

Applicants for a driving licence must bring:

A Finnish category B driving licence is issued as a permanent one. An entry is made in the Finnish driving licence indicating the state having issued the licence based on which the Finnish driving licence was issued.

The holder of the driving licence must hand over both his or her national and international driving licence to the police when he or she receives the Finnish one. The police will keep the previous driving licence on file; it may be returned on request only if the holder moves out of Finland. In that case, the Finnish driving licence must also be handed back to the police.

Hot Tip: A driving licence permit for exchanging a driving licence must be applied for within two years of the date on which the driving licence holder becomes permanently resident in Finland, and in all cases, before the driving licence expires. Many people have been deemed "permanent residents" for longer than they are aware - often since the day they arrived in the country. If you wait longer than 2 years to change your licence you will have to do the driving lessons and tests again, and the outlay of time and money for that is substantial! Read about Permanent Residency

Complete details, including fees, are available from the Finnish Police web site:
www.poliisi.fi > In English > Licences > Driving licences > Foreign driving licence > Exchanging a foreign driving licence for a Finnish driving licence

International Driving Permit

An international Driving Permit (IDP) will be useful if you intend to travel to, for example, Latvia or Russia or countries outside Europe.

IDPs are applied for through Autoliitto; the Automobile and Touring Club of Finland (ATCF). You can fill in the application form at any of the ATCF offices or service points round the country, or download an application and apply by post. The IDP can be issued against a valid Finnish driving licence. The applicant must show his valid Finnish licence or send a photocopy of it and add one passport photo with the application. If the IDP is applied for by post the photocopy of the Finnish licence must be witnessed by 2 persons. The application processing time is one week, during which police stamps are obtained for the IDP.

ATCF Web Site: www.autoliitto.fi > In English > International driving permits
PDF Application form for IDP available at site

Vehicle Registration and Taxation

Rules regarding use of foreign-registered motor vehicles in Finland can change often, and there are many exceptions; please always check with the appropriate authorities for current regulations for your specific situation!

As of January 2015 it is my understanding that you can use a vehicle registered and insured in another country, in Finland, on a temporary basis for up to 6 months per 12 month period on condition that the insurance is valid in Finland. For use over 6 months you must register the vehicle in Finland, and pay tax and insurance. However, Finnish Customs has discretion to extend the six-month period to a maximum of one year. If you intend to permanently import the vehicle to Finland you must register the car and get Finnish plates within 30 days.

Vehicle taxation and registration are the responsibility of Finnish Customs (Tulli) and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi). A broad array of online 'eServices' is available Trafi's site, including vehicle decommissioning and commissioning, vehicle data services, vehicle tax services, and registration of a person's right to drive.

Finnish Customs: www.tulli.fi > In English, Search vehicle taxation and Temporary Tax-free Use of Motor Vehicles in Finland
Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) web site: www.trafi.fi > In English > Road

Katsastus: Vehicle inspection Services

Katsastus is required not only at regular intervals, but following technical changes to your vehicle or following importation of a vehicle to Finland. Vehicle inspection is administered by Trafi, but for a service provider in your area it's easiest to:

Katsastus prices have been deregulated, so you can save money if you spend a little time on your search. www.katsastushinnat.fi reported price variations from €30 - €68 for a full car inspection (petrol / bensiini-powered) in January 2015.

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