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

Rules, Regulations & Road Signs

The Finnish Road Safety Council (Liikenneturva) website provides comprehensive road rules and road safety information in Finnish, English, Swedish, and brief Russian.
Road Rules & Safety: liikenneturva.fi/en

Liikenneturva also provides a number of PDF booklets, including:

  • Finland by Car, available in Finnish, English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese and Chinese, contains some tips for driving in Finland, such as speed limits, headlight rules, and tips on winter driving.
    Finland by Car English

Cycles and Scooters: Scooter riders must obey the same traffic rules as cyclists. This includes a ban on pedestrian footpaths, and wearing of helmets (legally required but no penalty for non-compliance).
Traffic rules for cyclists
See also: pyoraliitto.fi The Finnish Cyclists' Federation provides comprehensive cycle-specific traffic sign info in addition to rules

Road Signs: The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (Vayla) is responsible for traffic signs.
On 1 June 2020 changes came into force, to be implemented over several years. These include

  • the yellow do-not-cross line changed to white
  • introduction of several new signs including merging lanes and minimum speed
  • technical changes to many signs

Vayla - Road Signs www.vayla.fi

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.

Foreign Driving Licences in Finland

Chinese Driving Licences:

Chinese tourists with a valid Chinese driver's licence are able to drive in Finland for a limited time. The original Chinese licence and an International Certificate of Translation of the licence in Finnish or Swedish are required.
Please confirm conditions prior to arrival.

Driving Licences Issued in an EU or EEA Member State
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 right to drive is valid regardless of whether the person is in Finland as a tourist or residing permanently.

Driving Licences Issued in Contracting States
Definition of 'Contracting State': Countries that have signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention, plus Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

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 during a temporary stay in a Contracting State is not valid for driving in Finland if the holder was permanently living in Finland when the licence was issued.

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.

Foreign Licences, more information: ajokortti-info.fi/en

Exchanging a foreign driving licence for a Finnish driving licence

Exchanging a driving licence issued in an EU or EEA Member state
You may drive in Finland on the basis of a licence issued in an EU or EEA Member State for as long as the licence is valid. If you are permanently resident in Finland or have studied here for at least six months, you may exchange or renew a driving licence issued in an EU or EEA Member State for a Finnish licence, or apply for a Finnish licence in place of a lost, stolen or destroyed driving licence issued in an EU or EEA Member State.

  • If your EU or EEA licence has expired, you must enclose a medical certificate with your application. You will not need to pass a driving examination if less than 2 years have passed since expiry of your Group 1 licence, or less than 1 year has passed since expiry of your Group 2 licence.
  • Full information ajokortti-info.fi/en

Exchanging a driving licence issued in a Contracting State
Contracting State means countries that have signed the Geneva or Vienna Road Traffic Convention, plus Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

If you are permanently resident in Finland and have a valid driving licence issued in a Contracting State, you can exchange your licence for an A1, A2, A or B Class driving licence without passing the driving examination. However, you will need to pass the driving examination (theory and driving test) to obtain a licence in the Group 2 and BE category. In order to exchange without the driving examination, you must exchange your driving licence within two years of becoming a permanent resident in Finland and before your Contracting State licence expires. If the driving licence you want to exchange has expired or you have been permanently resident in Finland for over two years, you must also pass a driving examination.
Full information ajokortti-info.fi/en
Hot Tip: Many people have been "permanent residents" for longer than they are aware - often since the day they arrived in the country. Read about Permanent Residency

Driving licences not issued in an EU, EEA or Contracting State
You need to apply for a driving licence permit, prove that you fulfil the conditions for issuing the driving licence permit and pass the driving examination (theory and driving test) to obtain a Finnish driving licence.
Full information ajokortti-info.fi/en

Finnish Driving licence

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has authority for almost all driving licences. Traficom’s licence website provides information about obtaining all kinds of driving licences, driving licence categories, documents you will need in exams, frequently asked questions etc.

Additional information:
Traficom: www.traficom.fi/en

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

Driving licence for a car, motorcycle or moped
For driving a passenger car or a van, you need a category B driving licence. The minimum age is normally 18.
For driving a motorcycle you need either a category A1, A2 or A, depending on the size of the motorcycle. Minimum ages range from 16-24.
For driving a moped you need a category AM. The minimum age is 15. You can also drive a moped if you already have a category B licence.
Full information, all licence types: www.ajokortti-info.fi/en

Driving licence permit
You need a driving licence permit prior to obtaining a driving licence. The minimum age for receiving a permit is 16. The permit is valid for three years. The permit is the prerequisite for taking a driving examination.

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

  • meets the age and health requirements for a driving licence permit
  • lives permanently in Finland or has been studying in Finland for at least six months
  • is not subject to a driving ban or temporary driving ban in Finland or any other EU or EEA country

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

  • 2 passport photographs
  • A young person’s health certificate (no more than five years old) or a medical certificate for a driving licence (no more than six months old)
  • The written consent of a guardian if the applicant is under the age of 18 and is applying for a permit for driving a moped, a light quadricycle, a motorcycle or a tractor
  • A previous driving licence, if applicable. If you do not have a driving licence, take your passport or a photo ID card to prove your identity
  • A driving instruction certificate, if no driving test is required (e.g. obtaining a licence for a higher category of motorcycle by additional instruction)

Apply for a driving licence permit: ajokortti-info.fi/en

Driving Instruction
You must receive a minimum amount of instruction in order to obtain a driving licence. The required amount of instruction depends on the licence category. You can get driving instruction either at a driving school, from a person with a driving instruction permit, or a combination of the two.

Hours and content for driving licence instruction: ajokortti-info.fi/en

Driving Examination
Once driving instruction is completed, a driving examination must be passed at an Ajovarma office before a licence is issued. The examination comprises a theory test and a driving test. Some licence categories also include a handling test, which may be included in the driving test or taken separately.
Theory Test: Conducted on on a tablet computer, the test is time-limited and comprises category specific multiple-choice questions, picture tasks on traffic situations, and risk identification questions. A minimum score must be achieved in each section. The test is also available in English, or an interpreter can be arranged.
Driving Test: The driving test is divided into the preliminary discussion, the driving in traffic section, and the final discussion. Total time for the driving test is 60 minutes.

Driving examination full information: ajokortti-info.fi/en

Driving Instruction Permit
Applications for driving instruction permits must be completed at an office of Traficom's service provider Ajovarma. You may book an appointment at Ajovarma for processing your application. Take your photo ID and also your driving licence if the licence has been granted in some other EU or EEA country. The driving licence must be valid. A Finnish right to drive can be checked from the system.

Applicants may be granted no more than three instruction permits within a three-year period, unless the instructor is the mother or father, grandmother or grandfather, guardian, child, grandchild or sibling of the learner; in this case the number of permits is not limited.

Driving instruction permit requirements and applications: ajokortti-info.fi/en

Driving Schools and Instructors

Driving Instruction

Finnish law allows holders of a Driving Instruction Permit to teach a limited number of learners from outside their own family. Acquiring a license through such an instructor may reduce the cost to students by as much as 50%.

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 autokoululiito.fi

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.

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:

Search for a driving school in your region:

  • autokoulut.info is a dedicated driving school search engine (Finnish). Add your preferred location to the search box and click Etsi autokoulua
  • kuljettajaopetus.fi - similar to above. Works well translated to English in Chrome
  • In any search engine, search autokoulu and your town/city. Try adding your desired language too

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.

  • An IDP does not entitle you to drive a vehicle in Finland
  • An IDP can only be issued against a valid Finnish driving licence

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 > International driving permits
PDF Application form for IDP available at site

Sale or Purchase of Used Car

Traficom provides step-by-step instructions for buyers and sellers of used vehicles at
Change of Vehicle Ownership

When buying or selling a used car the following items should be present:

  • Registration certificate: In 2015 registration certificates were digitized. Paper certificates are still necessary in certain circumstances. They comprise two parts: Part I (technical part) includes technical data of the vehicle and information on its owner. Part II (notification part) can be used for notifying registration changes.
    When you sell a vehicle, you are required to provide the buyer either a digital certificate or a valid part II of the paper registration certificate. The buyer may register the change of owner using either.
    You will need the paper certificate if you are selling the vehicle for registration abroad or in Åland.
    Traficom: Registration certificates
    See also: Vehicle Registration and Taxation
  • Proof of Purchase: Documentation that the vehicle has been paid for by the seller on the registration, and that it is not for example collateral for a loan or owned by a leasing company.
  • Contract of Sale: The buyer and seller each receive a copy. Required details are included in these PDF templates:
    Finnish Contract of Sale for Used Car  English Finnish
    To ensure no trouble arises in future, it's also good to add
    Car accessories included
    Notification of any vehicle defects.
    If the seller is aware of defects but does not disclose them, they may be financially liable for repairs later.
  • Service History: Not a requirement, but desirable! The more documentation the better; it will improve resale value later.

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 Traficom's Vehicular and Driver Data Register. This service is offered by many companies for a small charge (about 3€ in 2021). Results generally include:

  • Vehicle's make and model, and name and address of current owner and holder
  • Vehicle's engine capacity, engine power, commissioning date, and date of last passed inspection
  • Financial encumbrances on the vehicle and the insurance company that has insured the vehicle
  • Tip: If you are the owner of a vehicle, you can request Traficom not to provide your address information via SMS

Service Providers

  • Elisa: SMS the license plate number to 16258
  • Search ajoneuvohaku for numerous other providers

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 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. In brief:
A permanent resident of a country other than Finland can usually use a vehicle registered in another country temporarily in Finland, without paying car tax, for a maximum of 6 months during a 12 month period. The vehicle must be for personal use. In this case a declaration of tax-exempt vehicle use does not need to be submitted to the Tax Administration. in some cases a vehicle registered abroad for business purposes can also be used tax free.
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.
Full information: See the Finnish Tax Administration pages:

Vehicle registration: Vehicle registration, and certain vehicle tax matters, are administered by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom. A broad array of online 'e-Services' is available at Traficom'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
Vehicle registration in Finland is digitized. It is not necessary to carry a paper copy of the registration certificate in the vehicle unless you are using the vehicle outside Finland.
You will also need the paper certificate if you are selling the vehicle for registration abroad or in Åland. In that case, you can download and print a copy of the registration certificate at Traficom's e-Services.

Registration: While administered by Traficom, 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 Traficom's e-Services.
Traficom does perform registration of diplomatic vehicles, as well as export registrations.
Registration Information: www.traficom.fi/en

For Finnish-registered vehicles see Traficom www.traficom.fi/en
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.
New cars don't need their first inspection until they are four years old. Following that inspection, those cars must be inspected every second year until they are ten years old. Cars older than ten years must be inspected annually.
Katsastus is also required following technical changes to your vehicle, or following importation of a vehicle to Finland.
Katsastus is administered by Traficom. You can check your next test date at Traficom's online service (Finnish).
You can compare prices for inspection service providers in your area at www.katsastushinnat.fi (Finnish).

Tip! Katsastus is cheaper if you make an online reservation first. www.katsastushinnat.fi reported an average saving of about 25% with a reservation, as opposed to just turning up at an inspection centre.

Tyres: Winter, Summer, All-season

Winter Rules: Driving in Finland during winter can be hazardous, and icy roads are common. If so required by weather or road surface conditions, winter tyres must be used from the beginning of November to the end of March. Studded tyres may be used from the beginning of November to the end of March, and at other times only if required by the weather or 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 of winter tyres must be at least 3 millimetres.

See also:
Nokian Tyre Selector: Manufacturer founded in Finland in 1898 as Suomen Gummitehdas Oy (Finnish Rubber Factory) which provided the original funds for the Nokia mobile phone company! The multi-language website includes a summer tyre selector and winter tyre selector where you can find the right tyres for your car, as well as for SUVs, trucks and other types of vehicles. Check availability with the worldwide Retailer Locator.

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.

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