Moving to Helsinki

There are many things to consider when moving to Helsinki from abroad

Our First Steps Checklist aims to make the process smoother for you. A single visit to International House Helsinki once you arrive will allow you to complete many steps on the list at once.

First Steps Checklist

Are you moving to Helsinki? Answer the three questions below to get personalised information about your first steps. After the questions, you will find a few more important things to take care of upon your arrival. Once you have completed all of the items on this checklist, you will be good to go!

1. What is your citizenship?

2. What is the purpose of your stay?

3. Are you a minor or moving with family?

Other important first steps

  • 4. Arrange to use an interpreter, if necessary

    If you do not speak Finnish or Swedish, you have the right to use an interpreter when interacting with some public authorities. Interpreter services must be arranged in advance and often come at no cost.

  • 5. Open a bank account

    Book an in-person visit at your bank of choice to open an account. Ask beforehand about the documents you will need to show them. Remember to request access codes for online banking.

  • 6. Set up a form of strong identification

    You will need to acquire a form of strong identification, i.e., online banking codes, a mobile ID or a police-issued ID card, to use various e-services in Finland.

  • 7. Find a place to live and buy home insurance

    Almost all rental agreements will require you to buy home insurance. Some banks in Finland offer bundled banking and insurance services at a discount, so ask around for different offers. Click on the link below to go to our Housing in Helsinki section, where you will find more helpful information about finding a home.

  • 8. Buy a phone and internet service

    You must have a personal identity code and Finnish address to buy a mobile service and/or broadband subscription. If you do not have a credit history in Finland, you will be asked to make an advance payment. If you do not yet have an ID code or address, you can purchase a pre-paid subscription. Check if your housing agreement includes broadband before you buy a subscription from an operator. When buying a subscription, let your operator know if you want to use a mobile ID.

  • 9. Use your Kela card and learn about state benefits

    If you are eligible for national health insurance in Finland, you will be issued a Kela card. You can also apply for it yourself from the Kela state benefits agency. You will need to show this card to receive state-supported healthcare and subsidies. Each Kela benefit must be applied for separately, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Find a guide to using Helsinki’s local health stations and dental clinics by clicking on the link that leads to our Health services section.

  • 10. Make it a habit to use public transport

    Public transport in Helsinki is convenient, reliable and eco-friendly. The handy HSL app allows you to buy tickets and access the Journey Planner on your mobile phone. Check our section on Public transport for more information.

  • 11. Exchange your driving license

    Driving licenses issued in EU/EEA countries are valid in Finland indefinitely, but it is a good idea to exchange your license for a Finnish one if you plan to live here permanently. Owners of driving licenses issued by other countries will need to pass a Finnish driving exam if they do not exchange their license by the deadline. Learn more via the Ajokortti-info link below.

  • 12. Sign up for Finnish or Swedish language lessons

    While it is true that almost everyone in Helsinki speaks English, we suggest you start learning one or both of the national languages right away, as it will bring many advantages. Check for suitable courses near you.

  • 13. Explore your new home

    Once you have settled in, take some time to get to know Helsinki’s different neighbourhoods. See the MyHelsinki website and our sections on Nature and Free-time activities for fun things to see and do!

  • 14. Enjoy your new life in Helsinki!

    Congratulations! You have now finished all the steps and are ready to start your Helsinki adventure.

Things to consider before your move

  • If you arrive from outside the EU, you must declare the personal property you bring into the country to the Finnish customs authorities. This includes domestic goods, furniture, bicycles, motor vehicles and trailers intended for private use. 
  • If you wish to bring a pet when moving to Helsinki from abroad, the Finnish Food Safety Authority provides detailed instructions on the import of animals
  • If you bring a car with you when moving to Helsinki, you must register it, buy insurance and pay a car tax before you can use it in traffic.

Have you arrived in Helsinki to seek asylum?

Please see our section on Applying for asylum for more information.

International House Helsinki

If you have just arrived in the Helsinki area as a newcomer, one of your very first stops should be International House Helsinki. This is because International House Helsinki was created just for you! There you will find many different service advisors who will be able to answer all of your questions about relocating.

Located conveniently near the Helsinki city centre at Lintulahdenkuja 2D, 2nd floor, International House Helsinki is open Mon–Thurs 9–16 and Fri 9–15. It is a good idea to contact IHH first at tel. +358 9 310 111 11 or and make an appointment. The video below gives you a good idea of what to expect.

Looking for more helpful information for new arrivals?

The Newcomer’s Guide from International House Helsinki is a great introduction to life in the capital region.