Home > Living in Finland > Driver's Licences, Schools & Vehicles

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: Traffic Signs www.liikennevirasto.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.

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:

In 2017 the Finnish Government planned to allow holders of Chinese licenses to drive on Finnish roads as well as, for example, rent snowmobiles in Lapland. In November 2017 I was advised by Trafi "An exact date has not been decided yet, but the negotiation is on and it will happen some time in 2018."
September 2018: Some reports online say Chinese driving licence holders may now drive in Finland if they have the original copy of their licence and an International Certificate of Translation of the license. I am awaiting confirmation from Trafi

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.

Definition - 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 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.

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

Finnish Driving licence

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi has authority for almost all driving licences. Trafi’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.
www.ajokortti-info.fi/en

Ajovarma Oy is Trafi's service provider. You can manage all driving licence application and permit issues at Ajovarma offices. Ajovarma also provides the driving examination services.
www.ajovarma.fi/en

Additional information:
Trafi: www.trafi.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:

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

Apply for a driving licence permit from Ajovarma Oy: 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 Trafi'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

Since 1st January 2016 the 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.

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

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.

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

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 by many companies for a small charge (about 3€ in 2018). Results generally include:

Service 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 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 September 2018 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
Vehicle registration in Finland is digitised. It is not 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

Taxation:
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.
New cars first registered prior to 20th May 2018 don't need their first inspection until they are three years old. New cars first registered after 20th May 2018 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 Trafi. You can check your next test date at Trafi'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.

Safari: Add to Home Screen
Chrome: Add to Home Screen