Practicalities for living in Finland
Practicalities for living in Finland
There are some services that are necessary for you to settle in and live comfortably in Finland. We have prepared this practical guide to help you with that. Remember that living in Finland also means that you should follow its rules and regulations.
In this page, you will find information on living in Finland with special needs or allergies, opening a Finnish bank account, getting a SIM card for your mobile phone, student health care, internet, insurance, electricity, language studies, driving, rules and regulations, rights and obligations, and emergency number.
If you are a new student and plan to come to Finland with your family, you can also find some important information in this page.
Getting started with your everyday life
HAMK welcomes students from all over the world, no matter their age, gender, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, or any other special needs that students may have. We provide special study arrangements for students with special needs.
If you decide to live in Finland permanently, the country provides comprehensive services just for you, for example, access to public transportation and to work and school premises, assistive devices, or even personal assistants. If you have allergies or special diets, you certainly do not need to worry! Finland and HAMK follow the EU regulations that require certain allergens to be always mentioned in the food tags.
HAMK Services: Accessibility and special arrangement for studies
European Union: Food labelling rules
Finnwards: Living with allergies in Finland
A Finnish bank account is a secure option for taking care of your finances when you live in Finland. There are many different banks available in Finland, both international and national. It is good to compare the services and fees of different banks and then choose the one that suits you the most. Some of the banks that you can contact are:
OP Bank (Osuuspankki)
Savings Bank (Säästöpankki)
When opening a bank account in Finland, you need a passport and Finnish ID Card.
If you do not have your Finnish ID Card before trying to open a Finnish bank account, you can check with the bank if other proof of identity is acceptable. At some banks it is possible to open a limited account if you have a Finnish identity code but do not own a Finnish ID Card yet. With the limited services, you should be able to manage everyday finances, such as paying monthly rent, invoices and making bank transfers. Once you receive the Finnish identity card from the police office, you can inform your bank. By doing so, you should obtain full access to the banking services offered by the Finnish bank.
If you have questions or need advice on banking matters in Finland, you can contact the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau (FINE). The service is free of charge.
Finnish student health care services
Students in Finnish universities of applied sciences are entitled to Finnish Student Health Service FSHS when they pay a health care fee to Kela (Finnish Social and Health Care Services). The health care fee is compulsory.
For the autumn semester, the due date is 30 September provided that you have registered as attending by then. If you register as attending for the autumn semester on or after 1 October, the due date is 31 December.
For the spring semester, the due date is 31 January provided that you have registered as attending by then. If you register as attending for the spring semester on or after 1 February, the due date is 31 July.
Kela will not send you an invoice for the fee, so you must make sure to pay it on your own initiative. You can pay the healthcare fee via Kela’s e-service OmaKela (available in Finnish and Swedish only) or make a bank transfer using the banking information provided on the Kela’s official page. The amount of healthcare fee for students in higher education is adjusted annually. In 2022, the fee is EUR 35.80 per semester. You must pay the student healthcare fee for each semester.
Finnish Social and Health Care Services Kela: How to pay the student healthcare fee in higher education in Finland (payment of the healthcare fee and the due dates for payment)
Service providers front page:
SIM card for mobile phone
You can get a Finnish phone number by purchasing a Finnish SIM card. There are many mobile phone SIM card providers in Finland, so it is good to compare the services and fees of different companies and choose the one that suits you the most. Some of the Finnish mobile phone operators that you can purchase services from are:
If you have a Finnish identity card and a bank account, you can take out a mobile phone subscription with one of the above-mentioned providers. A subscription allows you to pay your phone bills at the end of each month and no payment in advance is needed. To purchase a mobile phone subscription, you need to visit the service provider personally or make a phone call.
If you do not have a Finnish identity card, you can buy a pre-paid SIM card. With a pre-paid card, you need to top up your phone before you can start making phone calls or using the internet. You can get pre-paid SIM cards at R-kioski, some supermarkets or over the internet.
The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency TRAFICOM: Internet and telephone subscriptions Home insurance and other insurance services
It is recommended to take out home insurance if you live in a rental apartment in Finland. For most private accommodation providers, it is compulsory. With most of HAMK´s student accommodation providers, it is not compulsory, but it is worth to have a home insurance. Home insurance coverage depends on the contract and may include, robbery of property, damage to furniture or others. You can consider contacting one of the home insurance providers:
The insurance providers might provide information online in Finnish and in Swedish only, but you can contact them via phone or by visiting their local offices, as the personnel usually is able to provide you with services in English.
If you want to purchase other insurance in Finland, such as motor vehicle insurance, life, pet, or travel insurance, you can consult services from the above-mentioned insurance providers. Note that it is compulsory to purchase a motor vehicle insurance if you own a car in Finland.
If you have questions concerning purchasing insurance in Finland, you can contact the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau (FINE). The service is free of charge.
Internet connection is an inseparable part of our everyday life. When you are in Finland, there are many places where you can get public internet for free, for example libraries, on the bus and the train, and in some cafes. After you have activated your HAMK student ID, you can access the internet when you are at the campus. Almost all the student accommodation and some private rental apartments include a 10 Mb/s internet. If you need to purchase or upgrade internet connection services, you can contact the primary internet providers in Finland, which are also providers of telephone, mobile services, and TV services.
It pays to compare the services and fees of different internet providers. Offers may vary a lot among different providers, but also within the same one (e.g., seasonal discounts). There are other internet providers, which you can find by searching “internet providers in Finland” or “internetliittymä” on the internet.
The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency TRAFICOM: Internet and telephone subscriptions
Electricity is included in the rent in those student apartments that are offered by HAMK or by HAMK´s partners (HOPS). If you live in a private rental apartment, remember to sign an electricity contract before moving in!
You can connect the electricity to your apartment in advance by simply calling a local electricity company in the region of where you live. You will need to provide your name and your new address.
The cost of electricity in Finland has two parts: electricity sales and electricity distribution. You can choose to purchase electricity from any vendors who offer electricity to your region, but you cannot choose the electricity network – the distributor. Usually, the expenses on electricity distribution are much higher than electricity sales, and you cannot do much to change the prices on electricity distribution. However, vendors´ offers on electricity sales vary significantly. It is common to sign up with a new vendor after settling in for a few months, if you find a provider with a better offer. Some vendors offer discounts for students. Please consult the vendors for more specific information.
Electricity vendors available for all HAMK campus areas
Vattenfall (information in Finnish)
Karhuvoima (available for Valkeakoski area, information in Finnish)
Kotimaan Energia (available for campus areas other than Valkeakoski, information in Finnish)
Lumme Energia (available for campus areas other than Valkeakoski, information in Finnish)
Vare (available for campus areas other than Valkeakoski, information in Finnish)
The service providers might provide information online in Finnish and in Swedish only, but you can contact them via phone or by visiting their local offices, as the personnel usually is able to provide you with services in English.
Expat Finland: Finnish housing, conditions, and utilities
Furnish your apartment
Furniture is usually not included in rental apartments in Finland. In HAMK student accommodation, furniture is only provided to some exchange students for their short term stay in Finland. International degree students should be prepared to furnish their apartment, whether it is student accommodation or a private rental apartment.
There are many shopping opportunities to get affordable and reliable furniture. Besides known brands (e.g., IKEA), you can consider getting used items from physical or online second-hand stores. It is very popular to get used items in Finland, as sustainable living is valued by Finnish people and culture.
HAMK Services: Living and Leisure time
This is Finland: Living everyday life sustainably in Finland
You need to have a valid driving license in order to drive in Finland. A driving license issued by European Union Member States is valid in Finland without limitations.
If your driving license has been issued by a country outside the EU, please be sure to check if it is valid on Ajokortti-info website. If you want to exchange your driving license, be prepared to wait for six months for all the legal documents to be issued.
It is good to know that car services in Finland are expensive. It is compulsory to have a car insurance. If you plan to buy a car in Finland, it is wise to get a used car instead of a new one.
InfoFinland: Traffic in Finland
From 1 January 2020 onwards, HAMK grants scholarships based on Finnish language skills. The scholarship programme awards scholarships to those students who are liable to pay tuition fees. Check out more on HAMK´s tuition fees and scholarship programme. The aim of HAMK’s scholarship programme is to support the future employment of international degree students in Finland by encouraging students to gain a good level of Finnish language during their studies. We encourage you to study Finnish as it will greatly help with your integration into Finnish society and cultures, especially when you plan to develop your career in Finland.
If you are interested in learning languages when you are studying at HAMK, or you want to find more opportunities to study Finnish other than participating in HAMK´s scholarship programme, you can consult the student services of your campus. We support your development in languages and communication at HAMK.
If you want to look for more opportunities to study Finnish outside of HAMK, here is also a search engine for Finnish courses in Finland: https://finnishcourses.fi/
Climate and clothing
There is a famous saying in Finnish “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. HAMK campuses are in areas affected by subarctic climate conditions. Finnish seasons are very diverse. Winters are cold with a lot of snow, temperatures below 0°C and short days. On the other hand, summers may be warm and the longest day in southern Finland lasts for nearly 20 hours.
You need proper clothing for different weather. Luckily, there are many shopping opportunities in Finland where you can always get the right clothing you need. Shopping for used clothing from second-hand stores is also very popular among young people, as sustainable living is valued a lot.
HAMK Services: Living and Leisure time
InfoFinland: Climate in Finland
Finnish Meteorological Institute: Weather in Finland
Emergency number 112
There is only one emergency number in Finland – 112. Please do not call the emergency number unless you have a genuine emergency for which you need urgent assistance from the authorities (police, paramedics, firefighters, or social services). Please refer to Emergency Response Center Agency Finland for more detailed information on calling the emergency number. You can also download the 112 Suomi application.
Your rights and obligations
Finnish everyman´s rights
In Finland, you are free to explore and roam in the open nature. This freedom is known as “everyman´s rights”. Finns call it “Jokamiehen oikeudet”. It means that everyone has the right to enjoy the recreational resources that the nature has on offer. You are allowed to roam freely, fish with a string and a nod, as well as forage wild food. However, those rights come with responsibilities. While the Finnish nature is accessible for all, you should also take good care of it, especially that of Lapland, which is quite fragile as it is located in the subarctic region. You are expected to follow some rules, such as getting a permit for fishing, respecting landowners´ privacy on private lands, no disturbance to animals, and leaving no traces behind. Always familiarize yourself with the dos and don´ts of free-roaming in Finland before you start exploring.
VisitFinland: Finnish everyman´s rights
Your rights and responsibilities as a student
As a student at HAMK, your rights include
- The right for equal treatment and accessibility.
- The right to be informed of the module’s implementations, assessment principles and completion date, before the start of the module.
- If a student is dissatisfied with the grade or accreditation/exemption decision for a module or other studies, they may request reassessment from the person making the assessment or decision. A written or oral request for reassessment must be made within 14 days of the student being informed of the grade or decision.
- Right to receive counselling during their studies.
- Eligibility for recognising and accrediting the competences acquired elsewhere and prior to your studies.
- The right to upgrade the module grade.
As a student at HAMK, you also carry certain responsibilities, which are
- Enroll for the academic year within the given deadline.
- Register for modules.
- Complete the studies as they are planned.
- Prepare a personal study plan and maintain it.
- Participate in the development of the HAMK’s teaching and activities by providing feedback.
HAMK has certain rules and regulations to ensure that your everyday life on campus is engaging and safe. Those rules and general guidelines are for everyone. If you live in Finland for over a year, it is also good to check your rights and obligations as a resident on a permanent basis in Finland.
Degree regulations (PDF)
HAMK Student Union HAMO: Students´ rights and responsibilities
Legislative information data base FINLEX:
Controls on use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and other addition
Finland has a nationwide effort to fight against the grey economy and the financial crime in the alcohol sector. Due to its history and culture, there are some rules controlling the commercial operation and purchase of alcohol which can be surprising for many international students. For example, you cannot purchase alcoholic drinks from normal supermarkets after 9 pm, only in pubs and bars that have a license for extended serving hours. There are also different age limits for purchasing alcohol beverages with different levels of alcohol contents.
- An 18-year-old can buy alcoholic beverages with a max. 22% alcohol content.
- A 20-year-old can buy all alcoholic beverages.
If you want to buy alcoholic beverages with a higher percentage, you need to visit a designated alcohol store ALKO to do so. Your ID will be checked when you purchase alcoholic beverages in Finland.
At HAMK, you must not smoke inside the campus buildings nor in front of the main doors. It will cause the smoke detector alarm to go off if you do so, and you will be responsible for the costs incurred. In all the student apartments offered by HAMK or by HAMK´s contractors, smoking inside the apartments and inside the buildings is also strictly prohibited.
In Finland, the use of drugs is strictly prohibited. Finland´s drug policy is prohibitionist. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL coordinates and develop substance abuse prevention nationally, which covers alcohol, drugs, gambling, and smoking. Read more about such substance abuse prevention in Finland.
National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health VALVIRA:
Wikipedia: Drinking in public in Finland
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL:
Local municipalities offer diverse services to support immigrants´ integration and wellbeing. If you are a student at HAMK and have families living with you (or your family are planning to come to live with you in Finland), it is good to get to know the services available for you and your family members. Find information below.
In order for your family members (including your spouses and children) to move to Finland to live with you, your family members need to have a valid residence permit. You need to follow the immigration process strictly. Find out the type of applications and residence permits (or visa) your family members need here before planning your trip to Finland.
After your family members arrive in Finland, they need to visit Finnish officials by appointment in order to complete the immigration process. The registration process is the same as HAMK students. Therefore, you can check step 2 in After Arrival checklist here for more information.
Info Finland: Moving to Finland
We highly recommend that students come to Finland and settle in first before bringing your family with you, as there are multiple things you will need to arrange in order for your family to have a smooth settlement.
Most importantly, please note that HAMK does NOT provide family accommodation, nor help with that. If you arrive with your family, you need to find the accommodation by yourself from private market. And there are some issues to take into consideration:
- Price level of rental houses in Finland (as everything else) is high. You can check the available private apartments and prices at https://www.vuokraovi.com/?locale=en.
- It is very difficult to get an accommodation offer when you are not in Finland.
- Private apartments do not come with electricity, so you need to make an electricity contract yourself with electricity providers. In some cases, you need to have a Finnish ID card to make such contract, and approximate time for getting a Finnish ID card is 6 weeks.
- Private apartments do not include furniture, so you need time to furnish your apartment before you can start living there.
Info Finland: Housing in Finland
Education for minors
The Finnish education system consists of
- early childhood education and care
- pre-primary education
- basic education
- general upper secondary education
- vocational education
- higher education
- adult education
Compulsory education applies to all 6–18-year-olds. It includes pre-primary, basic and upper secondary education. Compulsory education is for free for all age-appropriate minors in public schools. Private schools are subject to fees. Early childhood education and care is NOT for free. In other words, you need to pay for the minor´s day care.
As HAMK´s students, if you have underage children who needs a school place, you can find instructions by campus below.
If you want to apply for a place at day care, kindergarten, or basic education, you can find information and instructions on how to apply here. The application for day care must be submitted four months before the need for the care starts. If you need more support and guidance on applying for a school place at Evo, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Day care is NOT for free, you need to pay for it.
You need to inform the town of Forssa in advance if there is a need for day care or school. The application for day care must be submitted four months before the need for the care starts. You can contact the service coordinator at +358 (0)3 4141 6210 for more information. For information on education and leisure administration at Forssa, you can contact email@example.com or +358 (0)3 41 411. Day care is NOT for free, you need to pay for it.
If you want to apply for a place at day care, kindergarten, or basic education, you can find information and instructions on how to apply here. The application for day care must be submitted four months before the need for the care starts. If you need more support and guidance on applying for a school place at Hämeenlinna, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Day care is NOT for free, you need to pay for it.
You need to inform the town of Mustiala in advance if there is a need for day care or school. The application for day care must be submitted four months before the need for the care starts. You can contact the service coordinator Paula Laakso at email@example.com for the day care. Day care is NOT for free, you need to pay for it.
You need to inform the town of Riihimäki in advance if there is a need for day care or school. The application for day care must be submitted four months before the need for the care starts. You can contact the service coordinator Marjut Helenius at firstname.lastname@example.org or + 358 (0) 50 538 7701 for the day care. Day care is NOT for free, you need to pay for it.
You need to inform the Municipality of Valkeakoski in advance if there is a need for day care or school. The time is 4 months before the need. For example, if you need a day care starting from 1 August, you should inform on the last day of March. If you apply for a place at day care in June, you may get a place in October. Day care is NOT for free, you need to pay for it. You can contact email@example.com for more information.
Health care services
The services of Finnish Student Health Service (YTHS) are available ONLY for HAMK degree students. Family members of foreign degree students can use the local health care services.
For Evo, Forssa, Hämeenlinna, Mustiala, and Riihimäki campuses, you can find local health care services information here.
For Valkeakoski campus, you can find local health centre services information here.
About family benefits from KELA
When you move to Finland from another country, your entitlement to benefits from Kela is determined on the basis of how long you intend to stay in Finland, which country you come from and your reason for the stay in Finland. For more information: https://www.kela.fi/international-situations.
Read through the instructions carefully
Before you contact KELA or visit the local KELA office, make sure that you read the instructions on KELA´s web page carefully and fill in necessary notification or application form. See the quick guide for when you move to Finland as a student or as an family member.
If you need to contact KELA, you can contact the customer service number for students: +358 20 692 209.
About visiting KELA office
If you need to visit a KELA office, check the closest KELA customer service point here.
Become a customer of TE Services
If your family member lives in Finland with you and does not have a job, the family member can register as a job seeker at the local TE Office. This way, your family member becomes TE Office´s customer and is entitled to the services offered by TE Office. For information on how your family member can become a customer of TE Services´, you can visit here.
Please note, as a student at HAMK, you can also register to be a customer at TE Services. However, TE Services do not have services for full-time students.
SIMHE at HAMK
SIMHE at HAMK provides career guidance and services for immigrants with a higher education (both from abroad or from Finland). If your spouse has a higher education degree from abroad, or is interested in pursuing one in Finland, your spouse can contact Katariina.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Living and leisure time
Depending on the campus area you are going to live in with your family, living and leisure activities vary. For more information, you can visit HAMK´s webpages about living and leisure time activities here.
Finnish language learning
If your spouse is interested in learning Finnish during their leisure time, they can find Finnish language learning information under the living and leisure time webpage here. There are also other Finnish language courses available at https://finnishcourses.fi/.
For other information regarding bank account, foreigner’s identity card, insurance, telephone, internet, cost of living in Finland, buying and consumer rights, public transport, driving license, climate and clothing, Media and Finnish culture, you can visit the Everyday Life in Finland webpage in InfoFinland.
Integration – Kotoutuminen
Get to know the services for immigrants with families in different campus cities from the links below. Here you can find information about immigration services in Hämeenlinna (Hämeenlinna, Evo and Lepaa campuses), Riihimäki, Forssa (Forssa and Mustiala campuses) and Valkeakoski.
Main info webpage about integration in Hämeenlinna in English:
Immigration info Kastelli:
Integration path for international families:
Multilingual service counselling – Social and Health Services
Riihimäki – Integration services:
Info point for immigrants in Riihimäki / Maahanmuuttajien neuvontapiste:
Matkakeskus, Eteläinen Asemakatu 2 (opening hours: Mondays and Thursdays 10-11 & 12-15.30)
Phone service 040 716 2501 (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10-15.30)
Forssa – Kotouttamo integration Centre:
Valkeakoski – Multilingual Info Mainio:
Are you or your spouse pregnant and giving birth to a child while residing in Finland? There are a lot of different kinds of services and responsibilities involved. Please find out further information here.