How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter

For those warm-weather people out there that plan to head to cold climates in winter, here are some tips to help you get by. You might be thinking,’I’ll just take a warm coat and thick socks and I’ll be fine’. You’d be surprised about the little things that people from warmer climates just don’t think about when travelling in winter. This article will show you how to prepare for Finland in the winter. It’s also good for other winter wonderlands.

How to Prepare For Finland in the Winter – Gloves

Gloves are a must whenever you’re outside, of course! But what happens when you want to take photos? Your hands quickly become sore and numb when they’re exposed to sub-zero temperatures. You’re going to need two sets of gloves. I don’t mean to match with different outfits, I mean to wear at the same time!

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Outer Gloves

Touch Gloves

Touch gloves are amazing. They allow you to use your phone as you would with bare hands. The problem is they don’t really offer much protection from the cold in places like Finland in the winter.

Our solution: wear touch gloves under your other gloves. That way, when you need to take a photo, you only need to take the top glove off. That means your hand still has some protection from the cold. This will definitely increase your comfort level!

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Touch Gloves

While we’re on the subject of gloves, it’s an annoying fact that you will regularly need to take one or both gloves off. For several different reasons. But where do you put the gloves so they don’t get in your way? Or so you don’t accidentally drop them? You’d be surprised how often that last one occurs!

Our solution: join your gloves together with a piece of material to keep them in place when you need to take them off.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Gloves Attached to Each Other

That way, they’ll always be within easy reach and you’ll never lose them or drop them!

How to Prepare For Finland in the Winter – Let’s Heat Things Up!

So obviously you’re going to opt for layers and a warm coat but if you’re particularly susceptible to the cold, this may not be enough. If you think this will be the case, you might want to pick up a heated jacket before you go. They run on USB so you’ll also need to carry a power bank with you.

Unfortunately, there are some body parts that cannot be warmed by a jacket, specifically the hands and feet. Some people find that even with gloves, thick socks and cold weather shoes, their hands and feet still get cold. Like loss-of-feeling kind of cold. Hands can be warmed by putting them in your pockets, but what about your feet?

Our solution: put heat packs/toe warmers in your pockets and your shoes to keep your hands and feet nice and toasty.

Hot Water Bottle

Another suggestion for keeping yourself warm is using a hot water bottle. If you’re using a backpack, you can just stick it in there. It’ll keep your back warm and you could also put your hands between your back and bag if they start getting a little cold. If you’re not carrying a bag, pop the hot water bottle inside your coat before you zip it up. This will also keep your pockets warm.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How To Prepare For Finland in the Winter. Hot Water Bottle

Flask For Drinks

Do you love a cuppa to keep you warm on a cold day? You might want to take a flask of your favourite warm beverage with you when you go outside. While a nice cuppa will definitely warm you up when you’re out in the cold, it could create another problem. If you drink too much liquid, you’ll need to pee a lot.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Flask For Drinks

You might actually be surprised to know that if you carry water with you, it could end up freezing in the bottle. While this is not likely to happen during the day, it’s quite likely to occur when chasing Auroras at 1am. If you prefer your water as a liquid, then you might want to take a flask for your water too.

Your Electronics Have Feelings Too, You Know!

Unless your phone is a special, made-for-cold-temperatures one from the Finnish brand Nokia, it’s going to hate the cold too. Yes, this includes iPhones. In fact, they’re the first ones to die in sub-zero temperatures.

If a thermometer starts flashing on your phone, you’ll need to warm it up quickly! The best way to do this is to stick it in your pocket with the heat pack. But it’s likely that if you’re seeing the warning, the battery is already on it’s way to dying. So how can you prevent this from happening?

Our solution: keep your phone warm with heat packs and only take it out of your pocket for short amounts of time in sub-zero temperatures.

How to Prepare For Finland in Winter – Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses!

With what you’ve heard about Subarctic locations, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that you won’t see the sun much. Okay, that part might be true, but it doesn’t mean that things don’t get bright during the day. Snow is very white and even on overcast days can create quite a glare. If you are sensitive to light, then you’re going to need your sunglasses! For at least a few hours a day.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How To Prepare For Finland in the Winter. Sunglasses

Now wouldn’t it be handy if all this information was put together in a simple, quick-reference guide? Well, we thought of that too! Here’s a nice little graphic that we put together to show you how to prepare for Finland in the winter.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter Guide

Please feel free to save it for your next trip to a Subarctic region. We’ve even included a downloadable PDF version for you to keep on your phone for quick reference.

How to Prepare For Finland in the Winter

Other Things to Know About Finland

Just a couple more things to know about Finland and some other Subarctic regions. Everyone is expected to be honest and upstanding citizens in these areas. People will leave their bikes outside buildings unchained. They will leave their keys in the ignition of their cars when they are parked. They will leave their front doors to their houses unlocked. This means that you can travel the area with peace of mind.

Crime rates are low, probably partly due to the biting cold. People are generally friendly and helpful. Like the librarian who wrote a note for us to help us get the bus ticket we wanted.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare For Winter in Finland. Librarian's Note

Speaking of buses, everyone waves to the driver and says thank you as they alight from buses in Finland. If you want to fit in, you should do the same! :o)

This post was compiled in collaboration with Gimagery

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Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland

Everyone needs to see the Aurora Borealis once in their lives, right? So began the journey to Oulu, the southernmost city of northern Finland. Oulu is located in the subarctic region and it’s pretty close to the geographical centre of the country. That makes it a great city for Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland.

Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland – Oulu

My photographer friend and I had started chasing the Aurora Borealis a few days earlier in Helsinki. After spending the day in the Kemi Snow Castle in Finnish Lapland, it was time for us to hop on a bus. Roughly two and a half hours later we were in the largest city in the Subarctic region of Finland; Oulu.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Cycling on a Snowed Over Footpath

We had prearranged a host in Oulu who was doing her second Master’s degree at the Oulu University. Our host, Anna, had lived in many different places in the world and had some interesting views on daily life in Finland. We had planned to meet her at the university, so from the bus station we need to get a local bus. We had considered walking, but even though it was only a couple of kilometres, the cold was getting too much for me. Oulu has a super modern fleet of buses. The cost of riding one reflects that. It’s €3.50 for a one zone ticket. That ticket lasts for as many rides as you like within that zone for 60 minutes, or 80 minutes for multiple zones.

Snow Everywhere!

We may have prematurely exited from the bus, but we were still in the general vicinity of the university. This meant we got to walk through some of the winter wonderland that is Oulu in Febrary.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Snowed Over Canal

The snow didn’t just cover the ground, it literally stopped watercourses from running too! Some creative soul had decided to put some lights on what would’ve been the banks of a canal. With all the white everywhere, a little bit of colour was quite a welcome sight.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Lights on Canal Bank

It wasn’t the only place in town where someone had decided to add some coloured lights.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Blue Lights in the City K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Blue Lights in the City Centre

But these ones changed a little bit. There’s nothing I like more than watching lights move. I mean, that is the whole reason I had tormented myself with a trip to Finland in the winter!

Oulu City Centre

We were getting quite used to seeing snow everywhere by this point. So when we encountered a paved area with no snow, we were a little perplexed.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Paved Are With No Snow

How could this small patch of ground between two other patches of ground that were snowed over be snow-free? We were so obviously confused by it that a lady walking past us stopped to tell us that the ground was heated. Well, that makes sense. But then we wondered why it was just that patch and not all the paved areas in the city centre.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Policeman Statue

It really was better not to think too much about that one, so we just kept walking and came across this guy. He is a monument to the Finnish Police. I didn’t see any police the whole time I was in Finland, so I can neither confirm nor deny if they look anything like this portly policeman.

Getting Around Oulu

As I mentioned earlier, the local bus services in Oulu are rather pricey. €3.50 for one zone and €5.80 for two zones. We worked out pretty quickly that things were going to get very expensive. We were staying in Martinniemi, a small village about 40 minutes out of Oulu. That meant we would need to spend €11.60 a day just to get to and from Martinniemi. That’s not including transport within the city.

We opted to get a multiple day ticket, which ended up being much cheaper than buying separate tickets. As you can see on the Oulu transport site. The only problem was, we couldn’t buy these tickets anywhere in Martinniemi. So we ended up having to purchase them through the Oulu Transport App (Oulu Joukkoliikenne).

Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland – Day One

We had scoured over our maps for hours to choose a place that wasn’t too far away from where we were staying. It wasn’t that we minded walking but the cold was really affecting us. The place we chose was only 700 metres from where we were located. As we got closer we started to realise that even though the map had indicated there was a path to the spot we’d picked, it actually wasn’t accessible from where we were.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Tree Lined Street in Oulu

We had however, ended up in a huge open area with a perfect view of the sky to the north. A completely cloudy sky. There was no way we were seeing any lights that night, so we headed back home. It was only a minor setback. We still had two nights.

Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland – Day Two

We got back to looking at our maps to find a better vantage point. But this time we were smart and decided to check out the suitability and accessibility of the place during the day.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Snowy Road in Martinniemi

On the way we saw an abandoned house. Our curiosity got the better of us and we went inside. As you would imagine, the house had been stripped bare and the inside was pretty much just snow and graffiti.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Snow and Graffiti in Abandoned House

But it did have a nice view of the outside world.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. View Out of Abandoned House

Once we finally made it to a tiny frozen-over marina we knew that we had chosen well this time. It was interesting to see all the small boats that would normally be docked there, dry-docked on stands near the car park. We noticed a few small cabins there too.

Walking on Water

Not long after we got there, a guy drove in and parked his car. He proceeded to get a gas bottle and a box out of the car boot. They were placed on a small plastic thing with a rope attached to it. He started pulling it along the snow covering what would be the water of the bay in the summer.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Man on the Frozen-Over Bay

From what we figured, he had a cabin on a nearby island. As the water was frozen solid, the only way to reach it was by walking.

Second Time Lucky?

When we returned that night there was a bitingly cold wind blowing. I grabbed my phone to check what the time was and saw a warning I had never seen before; a flashing thermometer. Then that was it. My phone that had over 50% charge an hour beforehand just died. Then my friend looked at his two phones and they both had the same problem. That, the wind and the cloud cover were signs for us to leave.

Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland – Day 3

This was our final chance to see the lights. The Aurora app we had downloaded informed us that there was a great chance of spotting Auroral activity under clear conditions. This made us hopeful. Given the phone issues of the day before, we made sure to keep our phones out of the cold as much as possible.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Cabin at the Marina

We sheltered in this cabin for a bit after the wind got too much for us. We were surprised to find that it had electricity. It also had some kind of stove in the centre. We surmised that it must be for people to use if they get stuck at the marina due to bad weather.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Inside the Cabin at the Marina

Once we ventured back outside we realised that there was too much cloud cover to see anything. But there was definitely something going on behind that cloud cover.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Lights Behind Clouds

There were no buildings in that area that could be causing such bright lights, so it must have been the Auroras. Damn cloud cover!

Nallikari, the Place for Summer and Winter Activities in Oulu

Just before we made our way back to Helsinki on an overnight bus, we decided to see if we could get some kind of winter activity in before we left Oulu. Nallikari, which is a beach area in the summer, seemed to be the place to go.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Nallikari

According to the internet, they had all types of snow activities happening there. Except of course when we went. All of their normal activities had been halted for one reason or another. They told us we could come back in a few days but that wasn’t really going to work for us.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Nallikari Beach Shacks

We explored the area for a little bit. It was quite amusing to see beach shacks on snow. Although the coolest thing we did that day was stand on the sea. Well, what would have been the sea if it wasn’t frozen over.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Nallikari Beach Frozen Sea

I guess that meant it was time for a selfie with our host while people walked on the ‘sea’ in the background.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland. Selfie at Nallikari Beach

Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a look of pain on my face. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t feel my hand at that point. I’d had to take a glove off to unlock my phone so this picture could be taken.

The End?

We jumped on our night bus back to Helsinki not long after. Then flew out of Helsinki back to London where I was supposed to get a flight home 2 days later. That flight got cancelled and I was stuck in London for an extra two weeks. As if that wasn’t annoying enough, my host Anna messaged me with a picture of the lights just after we left. She’d seen them as she was getting off the bus near her house!

At least I can tick ‘visiting the Subarctic region in winter’ off my list, but the Aurora Borealis will have to wait for another time in another country.

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