ABOUT Finland is a republic which became a member of the European Union in 1995. Its population is 5.2 million. The capital Helsinki. Finland is an advanced industrial economy: the metal, engineering and electronics industries account for 50 % of export revenues, the forest products industry for 30 %. Finland is one of the leading countries in Internet use. Today, there are more mobile phone than fixed network subscriptions. Forests cover three quarters of the country's surface area of 338 000 sq. km. Other outstanding features of Finland's scenery are some 190 000 lakes and approximately as many islands. The principal archipelago and the self-governing province of the Åland Islands lie off the south-west coast while the main lake district, centred on Lake Saimaa, is in the east.

CLIMATE In winter, the mean temperature remains below 0°C, but warm airflows can raise the daily high above 0°C at times. Winter usually begins in mid-October in Lapland and during November in the rest of Finland, though not until December in the southwestern archipelago. In spring, the mean daily temperature rises from 0°C to 10°C. Spring begins in early April in Åland and the southwestern archipelago and later in April elsewhere, except for northernmost Lapland, where it does not begin until early May. In summer the mean daily temperature is consistently above 10°C. Summer usually begins in late May in southern Finland and lasts until mid-September. Summer in Lapland starts about one month later and ends a month earlier than the south coast. In autumn the daily mean temperature remains below 10°C. Autumn begins around the last week of August in northern Finland and about one month later in southwestern Finland.

BEWARE Crime levels are low. The tourist season attracts pickpockets in crowded areas. Take sensible precautions and keep your personal belongings, including passports and money, secure. Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous. Icy road conditions are common. Drinking and driving is a serious offence and you can expect a lengthy prison sentence.