Welcome to Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia
Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia are neighbouring countries in the North of Europe and Scandinavia, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Visiting all four countries in one trip is very easy for the following reasons: relatively short travelling distances between and within the countries due to their small size, no border formalities between countries since Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia are all in the EU, and they have a similar climate. Finland, Estonia and Latvia also use the same currency and are in the same me zone.
The peoples of these countries feature many similarities in personality and way of life. However, each is proud of their unique identity which shows in language, arts and crafts, foods and traditions. Each of their capitals, features a UNESCO World Heritage site: the Suomenlinna fortress at the entrance to Helsinki’s harbour, the Drottningholm Royal Palace in Stockholm, Tallinn’s well-preserved and charming medieval Old Town, and the Art Nouveau architecture in Riga. The countryside provides an equally varied ambience with numerous national parks, contrasting coastlines and historic sites and is characterised by low population density and varied landscapes, rich in wildlife. There are also charming small towns, steeped in history and with a delightfully peaceful milieu.
While each country has its own national language, in cities many people speak English as well. In rural areas however foreign language skills are sometimes less common and interpreter services would be helpful.
TRAVELLING WITHIN THE DESTINATION
Travellers can arrive in the destination area by sea, air and land. The main airports are located in the capitals: Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga and many flights also operate between them. It’s also possible to take flights to Copenhagen, Denmark and take the train, bus, or car over the bridge to Malmö, Sweden and continue north from there. Several ferry routes connect the countries with other interesting destinations. The main ferry ports are Stockholm in Sweden, Helsinki in Finland, Tallinn in Estonia, Riga, Liepaja and Ventspils in Latvia, while local ferries connect the Estonian islands with the mainland. All ferries which travel on the routes Helsinki–Stockholm; Turku–Stockholm and Tallinn–Stockholm make a brief stop in the Åland Islands. There are good international bus services between Riga and Tallinn and regular ferry services between Tallinn and Helsinki.
PRACTICAL THINGS TO NOTE:
– driving is on the right side of the road
– European C-type socket (also F-type in Sweden)
Finland’s flagship carrier, with its Helsinki hub as a gateway between the Far East and Europe. Direct flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka.
Japan’s top airline, one of the world’s premier carriers.
The national Latvian airline offering cheap flights to over 50 destinations in Europe and beyond from Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn.
The national Estonian airline in cooperation with LOT Polish Airlines.
A Swedish airline
Norweigan Air Sweden
A Norweigan airline
Avis, Budget, Sixt, Hertz, Europcar and Alamo are international car rental companies with large worldwide networks and a standardised level of service. Driving licences issued in Japan are valid for tourists to drive in Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Driving is on the right side of the road.
Rundbergs Bil & Service, St1
A local car rental company in Åland.
T.: +358 (0)18 – 525505
Tallink Silja Line
The leading provider of high-quality mini-cruise and passenger transport services in the northern Baltic Sea region.
Routes: Helsinki – Tallinn, Helsinki – Stockholm, Riga – Stockholm, Stockholm – Mariehamn, Kappellskär – Mariehamn, Turku – Mariehamn, Turku – Långnäs, Helsinki – Mariehamn, Tallinn – Stockholm.
Viking LIne is a public limeted company and a market-leading brand in passenger traffic in the northern Baltic Sea.
Routes: Helsinki – Tallinn; Helsinki – Stockholm, Stockholm – Mariehamn, Kappellskär – Mariehamn, Turku – Mariehamn, Turku – Långnäs, Helsinki – Mariehamn.
Estonian ferry line and a travel agency providing ferry service via Eckerölinjen and Eckeröline.
Route: Tallinn – Helsinki, Eckerö – Grisslehamn.
Archipelago Ferry Lines in Åland
Archipelago ferries connect the mainland of Åland with the archipelago municipalities and further away to the Finnish mainland. While local ferries are free of charge for passengers who travel without a vehicle; bikes, motorbikes, cars and caravans are chargeable and the cost varies according to the route. It is highly recommended to pre-book archipelago ferry journeys well in advance during the summertime especially when travelling with a car, caravan, bike or motorbike.
The Northern line: Osnäs, Gustavs–Brändö–Kumlinge–Hummelvik, Vårdö
The Southern line: Galtby–Kökar–Sounga–Överö, Föglö–Långnäs
The Transversal line: Snäckö, Kumlinge–Sounga–Överö, Föglö–Långnäs
Föglö line: Svinö, Lumparland–Degerby, Föglö
Info, timetables and bookings at Ålandstrafiken: T.: +358 18 25 600
Local ferries in Estonia
Local ferries operate between the islands and mainland Estonia:
Kihnu and other small islands
Local ferries operate between the islands and mainland Estonia:
Kihnu and other small islands:
Hiiumaa, Saaremaa and Muhu islands:
International coach services:
Lux Express: www.luxexpress.eu
The bus trip between Tallinn and Riga takes approximately 4.5 hours.
Long-distance bus services in Sweden
Long-distance bus services in Sweden
X-trafik – regional buses and trains
Trains throughout Sweden.
A small rail service company in Sweden.
Charter bus companies:
Modern bus services, licensed tour operator, charter tours.
T.: +358 19 2481004
Go Bus Charters
Exceptional quality coaches and minibuses providing services in Baltic countries and Scandinavia.
T.: +372 6404000
Serving customers throughout Estonia, the Baltic States and Scandinavia.
T.: +372 6279080
Viking Line Buss
Viking Line Buss, a subsidiary to the Viking Line Group, provides local services on Åland and chartered buses on and outside Åland.
T.: +358 (0)18 26 311, +358 (0)18 26 328
Westin buss offer bus rides around Stockholm and in entire Sweden.
T.: +46 8 545 424 20
Bus trips throughout Sweden.
T.: +46 480 42 55 00
Enquiry service, including public transport: www.1188.lv
Åland is a cycling friendly destination – a network of cycle tracks has been built in the recent past and continues to grow. The short distances make it easy to experience Åland’s landscapes by bicycle, the views are ever changing and the sea is close wherever you are.
There are cycles, tandem bicycles and bicycle trailers for rent. The largest rental service is Ro-No Rent with two locations in Mariehamn. Many accommodation companies rent bicycles for their guests as well.
Some of the guest harbours in Åland have bicycles for their guests too. Biking is a convenient way to experience the surroundings and for example do grocery shopping in the local store.
T.: +358 18 12820, +358 18 12821
The Åland bicycle ferry between Hammarland and Geta in northern Åland is very convenient and connects the cycle track networks between the municipalities thus providing guests an alternative return route to their accommodation. The bicycle ferry schedule runs in June, July and August.
|Territory km²||338 424||407 311||45 227||64 573|
|Population||5 487 308||10 379 295||1 315 635||2 023 825|
|Population density: inhabitants per km2||17||
Inhabitants also speak English, Swedish.
Inhabitants also speak English
Inhabitants also speak English, German or Russian.
Inhabitants also speak English, German or Russian.
|Local time||GMT + 2 hours||GMT +1 hour||GMT + 2 hours||GMT + 2 hours|
|Climate||Warm summers, relavely mild spring and autumn, cold winters.
The warmest month is July with average temperature +17°C (+8°C in the mountain area in Sweden). The coldest month is January with average temperature 0-4°C and -18°C in the mountain area in Sweden.
There are Tourist Information Centres in cities, towns and many rural villages. They offer maps, guidebooks, guide services and advice to tourists.
- Credit cards in use: Visa card, Master card. Cash and card payments are accepted in shops. When visiting the countryside it is advised to be prepared for using cash as card payments might not be accepted in all places. ATMs are easy to find in cities and towns.
- People in cities and young people usually speak English as their first foreign language. In the countryside, older generations might not speak any foreign language. Even if so, out of their natural hospitality they will always do their best to understand visitors and take good care.
- Prepaid SIM-cards are available from grocery stores and other distributors.
- There is a good Wi-fi network coverage, however, in some remote rural areas internet might not always be available.
- Driving is on the right side of the road.
- European C-type sockets.
- Tap water is drinkable.
- Finland, Estonia and Latvia are considered to be a safe destination.
- National speed limits:
- Finland – 50 km/h in built-up areas and 80 km/h outside if no other speed limit is signposted.
- Estonia and Latvia – 50 km/h in built-up areas and 90 km/h outside if no other speed limit is signposted.
We have four distinct seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. Each season has its own specific activities like mushrooming, berry picking, collecting herbs, ice-fishing and different agricultural jobs as well as traditional and seasonal celebrations.
WINTER MONTHS:December, January, February
The coldest months of a year still brightened up by the Christmas spirit – beautifully decorated Christmas trees, mulled wine, artisan markets and Christmas music. Christian traditions and pre-Christian winter solstice traditions co-exist and merge during this season. The snow enables all kinds of outdoor activities – downhill and cross-country skiing, ice-fishing, snowmobile rides. Driving is very specific on ice-covered roads, therefore in winter it is safer to rely on transfers services
SPRING MONTHS: March, April, May
The time of nature’s awakening after a cold winter. Best time for bird watching – flocks of migrating cranes, swans, wild geese, storks can be observed on their return home for nesting. Birch sap starts circulating in the trees and this time of a year is a unique opportunity to enjoy fresh saps with their invigorating and healthy effects. Beautiful landscapes as the countryside turns green, white and yellow with young leaves and blossoms of cherry, plum and apple trees.
SUMMER MONTHS: June, July, August
The warmest months to enjoy walking, cycling, boating, riding or simply being outdoors and indulging in nature’s beauty. The best time to enjoy a great variety of seasonal foods – greenery, vegetables, fruit and berries, fish. The Midsummer celebration period between June 21-23 highlights the summer. Forests are rich in berries and with the second half of August the mushrooming season starts. Berry picking, mushrooming and walking is allowed in forests under the law of everyman’s rights in Finland. In Latvia it is generally allowed in state owned forests. In Estonia, it is permitted to access natural and cultural landscapes on foot, by bicycle, skis, boat or on horseback. Unmarked and unrestricted private property may be accessed any time for picking berries, mushrooms, medicinal plants, fallen or dried branches, unless the owner forbids it verbally.
AUTUMN MONTHS: September, October, November
While the first half of September is usually mild and good for mushrooming and other outdoor activities, at the end of the month tree leaves turn bright yellow and red with the first frosty nights and the colours play a magnificent landscape show worth seeing. October and November are the darkest months of a year, therefore outdoor activities are changed for cultural life like concerts, shows, art performances in cities and towns.
A green city with Nordic exoticism. Helsinki is characterized by modern architecture and trendy design, hot fashion labels and large cultural events and festivals which take place right in the heart of the city. The Suomenlinna fortress at the entrance of Helsinki’s harbour is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tallinn is a city of contrasts. It is a medieval Hanseatic town situated side by side with the 21st century city of modern glass buildings. The Old Town of Tallinn is an outstanding and exceptionally well preserved example of a medieval northern European trading city and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Riga is the Baltic metropolis, featuring a picturesque old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Art Nouveau architecture, and cosy cafés alongside the buzz of a big city. Many young people from all over Europe have discovered Riga as the fun town for the new generation.
Hotels in the cities are certified in accordance with EU, Nordic and Baltic classification standards. Certification is not compulsory and a range of high quality concept hotels operate, including: spa, boutique and design hotels. Budget accommodation is available in hostels.
Hand-made and home-grown products from the countryside carry the true spirit of the country. Traditional products that originate from the past are still in use today. Pottery, natural textiles, knitwear, woodworking products, wax candles, herb teas, natural honey and other handmade and home-made things are favourite gifts. Souvenirs and gifts can be bought in specialised handicraft design shops in cities, in tourist information centres, at country outdoor markets in rural communities, from specialised home-producer shops and directly from producers while visiting them.
Popular souvenirs in Finland are for example, Finnish design (Iittala, Fiskars, Marimekko), Muumin figures or local food produce.
Hand-made textiles and knitwear: colourful mittens and socks, knitted sweaters, woollen slippers are favourites.
Wooden souvenirs: in souvenir shops you’ll nearly always find a corner with wooden craft pieces, famously these are made from juniper and you’ll know this wood by its very fragrant scent. Look for butter knives, tiny jewellery boxes, key chains, and trivets. Estonian artists are often inspired by nature, which means that wood and animals are often featured, there are also wooden phone covers, wooden bow ties, animal-shaped rings and etc.
Food souvenirs: look for chocolates, marzipan, kama (a mixture of roasted barley, rye, oat and pea flour eaten with buttermilk as a filling breakfast), dried fruit crisps, elk and wild boar meat sausages, sprats or black bread, craft beer and famous local liqueurs. You’ll also find lots of jams, juices and dried berries there too.
Hand-made textiles: authentic colours and patterns are used in contemporary designs of apparel. Natural materials like wool and linen are favourites.
Pottery: clay pottery is a famous tradition and still in practical use. Mugs, plates and bowls in a variety of designs are used to serve food in traditional styles.
Herb teas: herb teas are popular, especially to go with sauna rituals. Herb farms produce high quality teas and mix various plants according to set recipes for medicinal and beauty treatment purposes as well as simply to offer tasty hot drinks.
Honey: there is a great variety of honey sorts depending on the harvesting time and plants in the vicinity of bee-hives. Apiaries are located in pristine natural locations and the honey is pure and natural.
Jewellery: jewellery made of bronze, silver and other metals present ancient signs and symbols. Each one has a particular meaning and traditions of wearing.
BALTIC COUNTRY HOLIDAYS
(Lauku ceļotājs) is a Country Tourism Association based in Latvia, established in 1993. The association unites small family-run accommodation and service providers in the Latvian countryside. Since then, the organisation has grown in size, and has varied and developed its products to include all three Baltic States. Through many years of operation, great relationships have been established with suppliers, and visitors benefit from this extensive local knowledge and personal service.
Gauja National Park Tourism Cluster with the brand name “Enter Gauja” was created in 2012 to strengthen tourism destination and enhance its competitiveness in international markets. Today the Cluster combines a wide range of tourism entrepreneurs. Many small businesses have grown and developed and are now well known locally, regionally and internationally. Overnight stays have increased by 30% and Gauja National Park is now the second most visited tourist destination in Latvia after Riga, with more than 1,000,000 visitors a year.
VISIT SOUTH COAST FINLAND
Visitlohja is a regional tourism office in southern Finland. Visitlohja is run by the city of Lohja and co-operating with local tourism entrepreneurs and associations. Their common target is to develop the best possible tourism experience for visitors. Products and services offered include good accommodation in a rural atmosphere. A unique part is to make your own food in the forest to high end cuisine in awarded restaurants and activities – from small hikes in pristine nature to glass blowing in the world-renowned Fiskars Village. The region is situated right next to Helsinki and can therefore provide an unrivalled combination of the Finnish lifestyle, culture and nature.
ESTONIAN RURAL TOURISM ASSOCIATION
Established in January 2000, the non-profit organisation Estonian Rural Tourism (ERTO) represents the common interests of rural tourism providers in order to support the development of countryside tourism in Estonia. ERTO with its members forms a rural tourism cluster comprising rural tourism accommodation providers, active tourism providers, rural SMEs in agricultural and production sectors, travel associations, schools teaching tourism and others. The organisation works closely with a range of tourism umbrella organisations and stakeholders.
Företagsam Skärgård (Enterprising Archipelago) is a non-profit organisation established in 2007 to support the development of the region of the Åland Islands archipelago and it’s 6 archipelago municipalities in the around 40 inhabited islands in its area. Several development projects are being undertaken and Företagsam Skärgård maintains a good communication network to important actors in the archipelago, as well as to related archipelago areas in Europe.
Visit Söderhamn’s mission is to make Söderhamn an attractive destination to visit and experience all year round. Their work takes place in close collaboration with the business community and associations, to develop, profile and market Söderhamn as a destination. Visit Söderhamn provides brochures, maps and digital information and helps with the booking of activities and accommodation in Söderhamn and Hälsingland. A tourist information office is located at the Archipelago Terminal, Norra Hamngatan and is open during the summer. Visit Söderhamn also has 5 InfoPoints strategically located around Söderhamn, tourist service places where the visitor can get tourist information.
Information on rural Finland-Sweden-Estonia-Latvia travel destinations can be found on www.balticsea.countryholidays.info
The following links offer more information about FINLAND, SWEDEN, ESTONIA, LATVIA:
www.visitfinland.com – official tourism website of Finland
www.visitsweden.com – official tourism website of Sweden
www.visitestonia.com – official tourism website of Estonia
www.latvia.travel/lv – official tourism website of Latvia