Living in Finland – A Guide for PhD Students
Written by Mark Bennett
From the Northern Lights to Lapland, there’s plenty to see (and do) in Finland. As a PhD Student you will have plenty of time to appreciate them all. In addition, with high-speed transport links to neighbouring countries. you will never be short of places to explore.
This page provides useful information for students thinking of moving to Finland to study their PhD. It covers accommodation options, work permits, transport, banking and how much money you will need to live.
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Located at the edge of the Arctic Circle, Finland is an interesting place to live, with many cultural influences from neighbouring Nordic countries. Finnish cities are modern and high-tech, but, if you fancy taking a break from your PhD (or getting some writing done) you won’t struggle to find a cosy log cabin.
Culture and tourism
The Finnish capital city, Helsinki, is home to the famous 1952 Helsinki Olympic park and Suomenlinna: an 18th century UNESCO-listed sea fortress and world heritage site. Other university cities in Finland include Oulu and Turku, with Turku being home to a magnificent castle. It’s also home to Moomin World (for those of you who have read the books by Tove Jansson).
Another unique part of Finnish culture is the integration of saunas within everyday life. With Saturday being the traditional sauna bathing day, you will find most households and public centres have at least one sauna; they are seen as a source of health and happiness.
Sport and leisure
Providing a number of the best players in NHL history (such as Teemu Selanne), Finland is famous for winter sports. You will have the opportunity to try ice hockey, figure skating, snowboarding and skiing, as well as traditional activities such as ice fishing (enjoyed by tourists and locals).
Most universities are equipped with good sports and recreational facilities to give you a break from your studies.
Food and drink
Finnish meals often include fish and game meat such as herring, deer, bear and hare. Also popular in Finland are arctic berries and wholemeal products such as rye, porridge and oats. Popular traditional dishes include rye crust Karelian pasty (karjalanpiirakka).
It is more common (and usually cheaper) for international students to live in university-owned accommodation or student flats rather than renting privately.
The average monthly rent for a single room in a shared student flat is €160-380 per month depending upon location. Whereas the rental for a one-bedroom private apartment in a city centre cost about €810 per month.
The Finnish Student Housing Association (SOA) provides useful information on accommodation and provides the websites of student housing organisation within Finland.
University accommodation is in short supply so start enquiring at your institution as early as possible once you have received your letter of acceptance.
The cost of living in Finland is average a country in Scandinavian region, but higher than in other parts of Europe.
Students are recommended to have at least €700-900 per month, in addition you will be required to pay an annual students union fee of €80-100.
There are financial threshold for student residence permit applications in Finland. You’ll need to demonstrate access to €560 for 12 months.
Prices in Finland
The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Finland.
Student Cost of Living in Finland - 2023
|Monthly Travel Pass
|Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.
There are different regulations for working during your PhD in Finland depending upon your nationality:
- Nordic/EU/EEA nationals - there are no restrictions on how many hours per week you can work, and you will not need any permits
- Other international students - you can work within the limits of your student residence permit if your work is training included in your degree or if your part-time work does not exceed 25 hours a week
Out of term times (Summer and Christmas holidays) there are no restrictions on working hours for international students. The Finnish Immigration Service Migri provides more information on working in Finland.
Employment contracts with your university
Some Finnish national doctoral programmes employ doctoral students under a contact. You will receive salary and social security benefits as well as paying income tax.
In return you may be required to take on teaching or other work as a member of university staff.
The Finnish bank currency is the Euro (€), making it easy for students from European countries (or visiting neighbouring countries) to organise their finances in Finland.
As an international PhD student, you will need to open a Finnish bank account if you are under an employment contract or are in receipt of a grant/scholarship from a Finnish organisation.
You will need to visit the branch in person with your passport and proof of address to open an account. Banks are usually open Monday-Friday from 09.30-16.30 and ATM machines are available 24/7.
Public transport in Finland is very well organised with good connections to other parts of Europe as well.
Finland has a national rail network: VR trains. Services include links between major cities such as Helsinki and Turku. In addition, the VR service links Finland and Russia, with a high-speed train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately, as a postgraduate student you are not eligible for the VR train student discounts
The main international airport in Finland is within the capital city Helsinki Airport (Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasema). From this airport you can fly to countries all over the world.
There are several other airports within major student cities in Finland offering domestic and international flights; including Turku Airport and Oulu Airport.
Finnish university cities have both bus and metro services. These often offer reduced prices for students. In order to be eligible for the student discount you must obtain a Matkahoulto Card.
Cycling is very popular in Finland, with major cities having cycle tracks built parallel to roads. There are over 4000 km of cycle tracks in Helsinki alone.
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