Before visiting Finland in Europe, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, especially as we were travelling in summer, so winter snow fun and visits to Santa’s home were off the agenda. Often grouped in with the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, we found travelling with a dog similar in many ways, but also more dog-friendly.
For instance, Helsinki Airport is the first European airport to have proper pet relief areas, while the city has a greater percentage of pet-friendly hotels than any other city in Europe. Read on to find out more about travelling in Finland with a dog…
Travelling to Finland with a Dog
Finland is one of the countries in Europe that requires your dog to have a worming treatment done before arrival. This echinococcosis worming treatment needs to be done by a vet between 24 hours and 5 days of crossing the border, and recorded in your dog’s pet passport. The one exception is if you are directly travelling from Ireland, Malta, Norway or Northern Ireland, which also require the same treatment.
In practice however, this isn’t always checked. We crossed into Finland both by car, in the remote north while travelling to northern Norway, and by ferry from Sweden. Neither time was our dog’s pet passport checked. However, always follow the rules and complete this step to keep echinococcosis out of Finland.
Flying to Finland with a Dog
If you’re flying to and from Finland, Helsinki Airport is home to the first proper pet relief facilities at any airport in Europe. At Terminal 2, there is both a pet relief area near the entrance, plus one inside past security near Gate 51.
The facilities are handy for if you’re flying with the flag-carrier Finnair to and from the country. Finnair permits pets up to 8kg in the cabin, for €50 on short haul flights, €90 (or $100 USD) on long haul flights. Larger pets are permitted in the hold. Click here for the full pet policy.
Taking a Ferry to Finland with a Dog
Alternatively, the majority of the ferries to and from Finland permit dogs onboard. The crossing from Tallinn is quite quick. We caught a Tallink Silja Line ferry, which just took two hours. On board the Star and Megastar ferries, you can leave your pet in your vehicle, book a kennel or book a pet-friendly cabin.
We also experienced the longer overnight ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki, also with Tallink Silja Line. We booked a pet-friendly cabin and were impressed by the fun, pet-friendly experience onboard. Find out more about a pet-friendly Baltic Cruise.
Dining Out in Finland with a Dog
During out visit to Finland, we didn’t spot any dogs inside restaurants and stuck to eating outside with our dog, because we were blessed with some beautiful summer weather. However, dogs are allowed inside restaurants and cafes in Finland, in contrast to neighbouring Norway.
In Helsinki in particular, there’s quite a few cafes and bars that welcome dogs, including the ones listed here. Perhaps head to the very cute Cafe Regatta in Sibelius Park, with free home-made treats on offer for pups. Open daily from 9am to 9pm, it’s famous for its cinnamon buns.
Note also that all of the local restaurants in the Kalaravintolat chain welcome customers with dogs.
Taking a Dog on Public Transport in Finland
During our time in Helsinki, we easily got around on public transport with our dog. Pets are allowed on the public transport operated by HSL HRT, the transport authority of the Greater Helsinki region, as long as they don’t cause inconvenience to other passengers.
Note that on the Metro and commuter trains, you need to avoid the carriages where dogs are prohibited, indicated by a sign. However, pets travel free of charge and there is no requirement for a muzzle. The same applies to commuter trains operated by VR.
If you’re travelling on a long-distance VR train in Finland, pets are also permitted onboard in designated areas. There is a €4 to €8 charge per pet or per pet carrier, depending on the length of the journey, with a limit of two pet carriers per passenger. See the website for options if you want more room for a larger pet.
Pets are also permitted in designated sleeping compartments, as long as you purchase the entire compartment. See the above link for details about taking pets on trains to St Petersburg and Moscow.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Finland
When investigating the percentage of dog-friendly hotels in different European cities, I was surprised to discover that Helsinki, the capital of Finland, came out on top. Out of the 58 hotels that were listed on Booking.com, 49 on them allowed pets. However, note that Helsinki is quite a small capital city, and the overall number of hotels is quite low. Hotels are also rather expensive, with a lack of budget options.
During our visit to Finland, we stayed in a range of pet-friendly Airbnbs, including a lovely property in the north of Helsinki let out by their owners while they were escaping to the country. Note that the number of Airbnbs in the country is similarly low, so make sure you book accommodation well in advance.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Finland
The dog-friendly sightseeing options available to you in Finland will depend on the time of year that you visit. During our visit in midsummer, the days were long and we were blessed with beautiful sunshine, so I’ve mainly got some tips on outdoor activities for summer.
However, during winter, expect cold and snow in Finland. Even in Helsinki snow usually arrives by mid-January.
1. Head to Suomenlinna Fortress
My top dog-friendly recommendation for Helsinki is to head out to Suomenlinna Fortress. This group of fortified islands just off Helsinki is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular day trip destination. Ideally for dogs, nearly everywhere is dog-friendly, including most of the cafes and restaurants.
The only area off limits to dogs is the small beach, which is clearly signposted, plus of course the inside of museum buildings. Pick up a map and follow the main walking loop around the islands. The route is a few kilometres long, with plenty of interesting tunnels and fortifications to explore.
To get to Suomenlinna, the cheapest and easiest option is the ferry operated by HSL HRT. The ferry departs from Kauppatori, the Market Square. Buy a one-day ticket allowing access on trams, buses and the ferry from a ticket machine for just €8.00, with pets travelling free of charge.
2. Stay in a Lakeside Cottage
I wish that we had stayed longer in Finland so that we could have spent some time relaxing in a lakeside cottage. The beautiful countryside in Finland is still largely forested and dotted with lakes and cottages.
An important part of Finnish culture is to spend weekends and holidays with your family at these cottages, enjoying fishing, swimming, boating, and other outdoor activities. They can be surprisingly affordable, compared to hotels in Finland. So find a dog-friendly option and make a booking.
3. Visit the Town of Rauma
Rauma is another of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Finland. The third oldest town in the country, it’s located close to the west coast, just under 3 hours northwest of Helsinki.
The Old Town of Rauma is full of beautiful old wooden buildings. While the oldest buildings only date to the 18th-century, due to two fires in the 17th-century that largely destroyed the town, the town still retains its sense of history.
Go for a wander around the streets with your pup. It might be possible to enter some of the buildings that house businesses, just ask the owner first.
Another charming old town to explore on foot with your dog is Old Porvoo, just an hour’s drive from Helsinki and perfect for a day trip.
4. Explore Finland’s National Parks
Finland is home to a large number of national parks given it’s size – 41 national parks in total! The national parks are scattered all around the country, from the southern region around Helsinki to the far north above the Arctic Circle.
Pets are generally allowed in national parks and most other nature reserves in Finland, although they need to be kept on a leash, to protect the wildlife. Some trails may also have restrictions, or not be suitable for dogs. If visiting a hut, check out the rules, which vary between regions.
5. See the Northern Lights
While there’s no chance of spotting the Northern Lights when visiting Finland in summer like I did, if you head to the country during the winter months, you’ll have a chance of spotting the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.
It’s best to head out of the cities and towns and into the countryside to have the best chance of spotting these magnificent lights in the sky. There’s even some special glass huts that you can rent, some which may be dog-friendly. Although your dog is likely to not be interested in the lights, but inside snooze the night away!
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.
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