COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Finland is a highly developed democracy with a modern economy. It is a member of the European Union. Tourist facilities are widely available.
Finland remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Finland's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Elements of organized crime groups operating in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are present in Finland, but these do not represent a specific danger to U.S. citizen residents or tourists.
Although the crime rate in Finland is low compared to the U.S. and most European countries, it has increased in recent years. However, Finland remains a relatively safe environment. Americans visiting Finland are seldom victims of crime, but visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables. The same precautions employed in the U.S. should be followed in Finland. Finnish police services are excellent; however, some police officers speak little English. They are also few in number relative to the size of the population. Due to the low crime rate, which in turn has led to an under funding of police operations, Finland has one of the lowest numbers of police of any European nation. Outside of key sites in major urban centers, they rarely project a visible presence; consequently, response times to crisis situations may be unpredictable. The telephone number for police and other emergency services throughout Finland is 112. All forms of public transportation are considered safe. Street crimes, such as muggings and pick-pocketing, remain relatively uncommon, but do occur.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Finland's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Finland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
In Finland, medical facilities and their staff are as a rule excellent and a re widely available for emergency services. English is commonly spoken by Finnish medical personnel. Helsinki is a frequent medical evacuation point for emergency cases from the countries of the former Soviet Union. The public hospital system and many private hospitals honor foreign credit cards.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Finland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent
Finland has an extensive network of highways throughout the country, as well as excellent public transportation services. Travelers should be aware that drunk-driving laws are strict, and acceptable blood alcohol levels are much lower in Finland than in the U.S. Police strictly enforce all traffic laws and institute random roadside Breathalyzer tests. Those drivers who register a.05 or above alcohol content are subject to immediate arrest. Drivers should be aware that regulations and traffic signs differ significantly from those in the U.S. Visitors should be familiar with both prior to operating a vehicle in Finland. Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous . Daylight hours are very short and one should be comfortable with driving in darkness. Icy road conditions are common. If driving in Finland, the vehicle must be winterized with studded snow tires, and engine heaters are strongly recommended. When driving at night, drivers must be alert to moose wandering onto major roadways. There have been incidents of moose being struck by vehicles, causing severe damage to the vehicle and injury, sometimes fatal, to the occupants.
For specific information concerning Finnish driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Finland National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at
The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. For specific real-time updates on road conditions in Finland, see the Finnish Road Administration's travel and traffic information web page at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Finland's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Finland's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
October 15, 2004