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

Rules, Regulations & Road Signs

The Ministry of Transport's PDF booklets Driving in Finland, available in English (2004) and Russian (2010), provide the basic information you need on Finnish traffic regulations and rules regarding the use of motorized vehicles. You should note that even though these publications are the most recent versions available, the contents are not a direct translation of the relevant legal provisions, and regulations may have changed since publication.
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 Network > Traffic Signs

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 Breathalyser 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.

Tyres: Winter, Summer, All-season

Winter Rules: Driving in Finland during winter can be hazardous, and icy roads are common. Winter tyres (either studded or non-studded) are a legal requirement from 1 December to the end of February. Studded tyres may be used from 1st November until 31st March, or the Monday after Easter Monday, whichever comes later. Studded tyres may also be used at other times if required by the road conditions. All-season tyres (winter tyres without studs) may be used throughout the year but this is not recommended.

Studded or Non-studded Winter Tyres?

Studless winter tyres are called all-season tyres or friction tyres (kitkarenkaat) in Finland. Rather than studs for traction on snow and ice, they use highly porous or hydrophilic rubber that adheres to the wet slippery surface. In most winter conditions good quality studless tyres offer grip close to that of studded tyres (nastarenkaat). However, on the almost invisible ice known as black ice, studded tyres offer significantly better performance.

If you opt for studless tyres, they have the advantage of being much quieter than studded tyres on tarmac, and use less fuel than studded tyres.

Year-round use? Even though studless tyres can be used year-round, it is not recommended. Finnish roads in spring are usually gravelly and particularly hard on tyres. Non-studded winter tyres are primarily designed for winter use, and if they are unevenly worn by spring conditions they are no match for summer tyres (kesärenkaat).

Which to use? When deciding between studded and non-studded winter tyres, consider how much driving you do in winter and the conditions you are likely to encounter - and remember that black ice is common at intersections. Also keep in mind that winter driving requires skill; think about your level of experience driving in such conditions.

Whatever you choose, ensure that your winter tyres are compatible with your vehicle, correctly inflated, and in good condition.
Tread depth of the main grooves must be at least 3 millimetres.

See also:
Nokian Tyres: Manufacturer founded in Finland in 1898 as Suomen Gummitehdas Oy (Finnish Rubber Factory!) The multi-language website includes a winter tyre selector where you can choose the right tyres by car model or tyre size, as well as a worldwide Retailer Locator.

Winter Driving Techniques:

Nokian Tyres' interactive online Winter Driving School is available in English and remarkably comprehensive. Full of practical information, its six sections cover Preparation, Different driving situations, Importance of speed, How technology works, Effect of tyres, and a Knowledge test.
Free, no registration required  Go to School!

Summer or All-season Tyres?

All-season tyres go by the name of kitkarenkaat in Finland, and summer tyres are kesärenkaat. All-season tyres offer a balance of capabilities, with acceptable performance in wet and dry summer conditions. They can last longer than summer tyres, which have a shallower tread depth, and their handling and comfort characteristics are suitable for most drivers.

For best performance in warm weather, though, summer tyres typically offer better responsiveness, cornering and braking capabilities. Their tread patterns put more rubber in contact with the road surface, and their more flexible tread compound offers more grip. They also tend to offer better performance in wet driving conditions than all-season tyres.

Which to use? Unless you have particularly high performance requirements, all-season tyres are fine for Finnish warm-season driving conditions.

Foreign Driving Licences in Finland

Chinese Driving Licences:

The Finnish Government plans to allow visitors with Chinese licenses to drive on Finnish roads - not allowed now because China is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention. Apart from being able to drive, this means Chinese tourists will also be able to rent, for example, snowmobiles in Lapland.
Update 09.11.17: Trafi advises "An exact date has not been decided yet, but the negotiation is on and it will happen some time in 2018."

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 Contracting State and who holds a national 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 two years from when its holder takes up permanent residence in Finland, assuming the driving licence is valid and there is no other reason for terminating its validity. The above also applies to international driving licences.

A driving licence acquired in a Contracting State during a temporary stay, for example studying abroad, does not qualify for driving in Finland if your address during your student exchange was permanently in Finland.

Contracting State: Countries that have signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention, plus Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. For a current listing see the Trafi link below.

Other driving licences: Driving licences other than those referred to above do not entitle the holder to operate any kind of vehicle in Finland. Holders of such licences must fulfil the criteria for obtaining a driving licence permit and pass a driving examination in order to obtain a Finnish driving licence.

Complete details are available at the Trafi website:
www.trafi.fi/en > Road > I have a driving licence > Validity of foreign driving licences in Finland

Finnish Driving licence

Driving Licence changes from 1st January 2016

Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi has authority for almost all driving licences.

Services provided by Trafi's partner Ajovarma Oy from 1st January 2016 include handling applications for driving licences and other permits, delivery of the licences and permits, and advising customers on issues related to driving licences.

Additional information:
Trafi: www.trafi.fi/en and
Ajovarma: www.ajovarma.fi/en

Probationary Licences: New drivers receive a fifteen-year license instead of the previous two-year probationary permit. Practical training and further training are still required during the first two years of the licence.

Obtaining a Finnish driving licence is a lengthy process, but in many cases you can exchange a foreign driver's licence for a Finnish licence; see below.

Driving licence permit
If you plan to obtain a Finnish driving licence, you need to apply for a driving licence permit from a service point of Ajovarma Oy:
Ajovarma Service Points: www.ajovarma.fi/palvelupisteet Fi, Sw

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

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

Details: www.trafi.fi > Road > Licences and Approvals > Driving licence permit

Driving licence for a car (Category B)
Car driving licenses in Finland are issued in three stages: after basic training, a practical training period and further training.

When basic training is completed, a 15-year driving licence is issued. During the first two years of that period, the holder must complete a practical training period and further training (primarily this involves driving techniques for ice and snow). If not completed during the two years the right to drive will be revoked.

The practical training period begins immediately after completing the driving examination. After the practical training period, the driver must complete further training which may be started no earlier than three months after the driving examination.

Driving Instruction
Learners receive instruction from a qualified instructor, usually from a driver training school. Once they have completed their training, which for a Class B car licence comprises almost 40 hours of 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.

Driving Instructor Permit
An applicant instructor must have no less than three years' category B driving experience and they must pass a theory test. The vehicle used for driving instruction must have the necessary dual controls for the instructor, and the vehicle must pass an alteration inspection.

For further information and advice visit the Driving Instruction Permit page of Trafi:
www.trafi.fi/en > Road > Licences and Approvals > Driving instruction permit

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: Taken at the driver testing centre, the theory test is done on a tablet computer. Consisting of two parts, it includes situational problems and theoretical questions based on the driving license classification being sought. The test must be completed within 30 minutes. It is also available in English, or an interpreter can be arranged.
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/en > Road > I want a driving licence > Driving examination
Licence Categories: www.trafi.fi/en >Road > I want a driving licence

Driving Schools and Instructors

Driving Instruction, 2016

From 1st January 2016 the law allows holders of a Driving Instruction Permit to teach a limited number of learners from outside their own family. It is estimated that acquiring a license through such an instructor may reduce the cost to students by as much as 50%.

In response to the legal change, during 2016 we can anticipate new ways to obtaining driving instruction apart from traditional driving schools. One company already matching up qualified teachers and new students is Ratti.

Ratti: www.ratti.fi  Fi

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

Obtaining a Class B car licence, the most common licence, through a driving school can range from €1200 - €3000. The high cost is in part a result of the requirements for getting a licence increasing over the years, in terms of driving hours on the road and hours spent studying theory. The minimum required by law is 18 50-minute lessons.

Search for a driving school (autokoulu) in your region:
www.autokoululiitto.fi > Ajokorttia hankkimassa > Autokouluhaku (Driving School Search)

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 Member state
Source: www.trafi.fi September 2018

Summary: If you are permanently resident in Finland or have studied here for at least six months, you may exchange a driving licence issued in an EU or EEA Member State for a corresponding Finnish licence without having to pass a driving examination. You should visit an Ajovarma office to exchange your driving licence. You still need to apply for a driving licence permit.

Expired licence: You may obtain a Finnish driving licence if your EU or EEA licence expires, without having to pass a driving examination. This option is open to you if no more than two years have passed since the expiration of your Group 1 (AM120, AM121, T, LT, A1, A2, A, B, BE) licence, or no more than one year has passed since the expiration of your Group 2 (C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D, DE) licence. You must enclose a medical certificate with your application.

Exchanging a driving licence issued in a Contracting State
Source: www.trafi.fi September 2018

Summary: If you are permanently resident in Finland you may exchange a driving licence issued in a Contracting State without taking a driving examination, but this is only possible for a Category A or B licence. You will have to pass a driving examination for all other categories. Additionally, you must exchange your licence within two years of becoming a permanent resident in Finland, your licence must not have expired, and you must have at least six months' experience driving in Finland.. You should visit an Ajovarma office to exchange your driving licence. You still need to apply for a driving licence permit.

Contracting State: Countries that have signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention, plus Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. For a current listing see the Trafi link below.

Hot Tip: 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, which is a lengthy, expensive process! Read about Permanent Residency

Documentation for a Driving Licence Permit:
You must submit your driving licence permit application to an Ajovarma office in person. Take with you:

Trafi - Exchanging Foreign Licences:
www.trafi.fi/en > Road > I have a driving licence > Exchanging a foreign driving licence for a Finnish licence
Trafi - Licence Categories:
www.trafi.fi/en > Road > I want a 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 website: www.autoliitto.fi > In English > International driving permits
PDF Application form for IDP available at site

Sale or Purchase of Used Car

If buying or selling a used car the following papers should be present:

Popular used vehicle sites
Used cars, motorbikes, and other vehicles are commonly purchased from:

Vehicle Information and Data

Information on a car or motorcycle, its owner, and financial encumbrances can be checked by text message. Data comes from Trafi's Vehicular and Driver Data Register. This service is offered via Elisa, Fonecta and Suomen 16100 for a small charge (about 4€ in 2016). Results generally include:

Service Providers (visit sites for current charges)

Vehicle Registration and Taxation

The Finnish Tax Administration is responsible for car taxation and excise taxation.
Rules regarding use of foreign-registered motor vehicles in Finland are subject to change, and exceptions apply. Always check with the appropriate authorities for current regulations!

Taxation: Foreign-registered vehicles: Tax-free use of a foreign-registered vehicle in Finland is primarily determined by your residence status. A tourist car can be used tax free, and in some cases a vehicle registered abroad for business purposes can be used tax free.

Tourist Car: A permanent resident of a country other than Finland can use a vehicle registered in another country temporarily without paying tax in Finland if the vehicle is a so-called tourist car. As of November 2015 the following provisions applied for a Tourist Car:

When a private person who permanently resides in a country other than Finland temporarily imports a vehicle into Finland free of car tax and for personal use, the vehicle is considered a so-called tourist car. The vehicle may be used in Finland temporarily without paying car tax on the following conditions:

Permanent residents of Finland must generally pay car tax on all vehicles before they are used in Finland. If you are importing a used vehicle to Finland or buying a used vehicle in Finland and the vehicle is not registered in this country you must submit a car tax declaration and pay the car tax. Certain exemptions apply. For more information see the Finnish Tax Administration:
Car Tax: www.vero.fi/en/ > individuals > vehicles > car tax
Permanent Residence in Car Taxation: www.vero.fi
Temporary Tax Exempt Use of a Vehicle: www.vero.fi

Vehicle registration: Vehicle registration, and certain vehicle tax matters, are administered by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi). A broad array of online 'e-Services' is available at Trafi's site, including registration information, vehicle commissioning and decommissioning, vehicle data services, vehicle tax services, and registration of a person's right to drive.

Vehicle registration certificate: New rules
Vehicle registration in Finland has been digitised. From 16th November 2015 it is no longer necessary to carry a paper copy of the registration certificate in the vehicle unless you are using the vehicle outside Finland. In that case, you can download and print a copy of the registration certificate at Trafi's e-Services.

Registration: While administered by Trafi, actual performance of registration is done at vehicle inspection sites, insurance companies, car dealerships and finance companies. Private customers can also perform registration-related tasks at Trafi's e-Services.
Trafi does perform registration of diplomatic vehicles, as well as export registrations.
Registration Information: www.trafi.fi

For Finnish-registered vehicles see Trafi www.trafi.fi/en/road/taxation
For non-Finnish-registered vehicles see Finnish Tax Administration - Car Tax
See also: Importation of Motor Vehicles to Finland

Katsastus: Vehicle inspection Services

Katsastus - vehicle inspection - must be carried out periodically to ensure the safety and condition of the vehicle. Roadworthiness tests are carried out at vehicle inspection centres. Cars do not need to be inspected until they are three years old, and inspections are carried out annually thereafter. Katsastus is also required following technical changes to your vehicle, or following importation of a vehicle to Finland. Katsastus is administered by Trafi, but to compare prices for service providers in your area it's easiest to:

Tip! Katsastus is cheaper if you make an online reservation first. www.katsastushinnat.fi reported an average price of about €44 if you just turn up for an annual inspection in May 2016, but only €33 if you have a reservation.

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