15 Essential Tips for Driving in Lapland in Winter

Are you ready to take the ice roads and drive in Lapland in winter?

Lapland in winter is magical!! After driving around for a full week in Finish Lapland in winter on my last vacation, I have learned a lot from my research, plus my personal experience. To help you out, I’ve put together a list of 15 essential tips that will keep you safe and make your trip more enjoyable.

I loved the freedom of driving in Lapland in winter and taking day trips such as to the stunning Pyha-Luosto National Park. I also drove to the border with Sweden to catch the Northern Lights and it was truly a magical experience. Thanks for my car rental!

But if you are concerned about driving in Lapland during winter, do you worry about navigating snowy roads? I got your back!

After reading this article, you will notice that driving in Lapland during the winter season is an enjoyable experience! Here you will find all the information to safely take that dream road trip. Plus, at the end, you will find a very helpful bonus section on safe tips for driving in the snow. So, buckle up, and let’s get started15 Essential Tips for Driving in Lapland in Winter.

For more Lapland reading❤️:

Driving in Lapland in winter!

Where is Lapland

Lapland is one of the most enchanting winter wonderland destinations on the Planet, stretching across the northern part of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

It is situated within the Arctic Circle and is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, including snow-covered landscapes, the Northern Lights, and a unique winter wonderland experience.

Lapland is the Northernmost region of Finland with the majority of it being located above the Arctic Circle. This part of the country is known for its untouched wilderness, indigenous Sámi people, ski resorts, and magic reindeer sledding, although that’s not the main draw of this place!

CountryMain City

15 Essential Tips for Driving in Lapland in Winter

1. Driving in Lapland in Winter Basics:

🚗 DRIVING IN THE RIGHT SIDE: In Finland, you drive on the right side of the road.

🚗 SPEED LIMIT IN LAPLAND: In the cities, you can estimate that you drive at 30 miles per hour (50 Km) and on highways 50 miles per hour (80 Km)

🚗 NAVIGATION SYSTEMS: The majority of car rental agencies offer rentals with many extras including satellite GPS navigators and baby car seats at additional cost – the GPS navigator will surely prove to be useful during your driving in Lapland.

🚗 DOCUMENTS: For renting a car in Lapland you need to be 18 years old, and you need an official ID/ Driving license in addition to a credit card

driving in Lapland in winter
Driving in Lapland in winter – the best way to explore!

2. Renting a car in Lapland in Winter

Driving in Lapland in winter is very common. You can rent a car to get around and see the different parts of Lapland because the distances are longer and it takes time. Booking requires a credit card and a security deposit to rent a car. There are some local car rentals where it might be possible to rent a vehicle, but make sure you confirm availability in advance, especially during peak season.

I rented a car in Helsinki and loaded it on the train (the Santa Claus Express) to Rovaniemi in Lapland. So keep in mind this is also an option rather than driving from Helsinki (9 hours driving if conditions are good). I traveled in a comfy sleeper cabin, and it is nice to be able to load your rental car on the train, and this is exactly what I did. But keep in mind that you need to book it way in advance, as they only have a finite number of spots available. It was not cheap, but it was the most convenient way I found to have my rental car with me and to have the freedom to explore Lapland.

There are different online car rental booking sites where you can look for vehicles. In winter the rental services are very busy so try to book in advance. Prices usually go higher in the December-January time and the availability is very low due to the increased demand

When renting a car in Lapland, I recommend and personally use  Discover Cars. They search both local Finish companies and large international corporations, so you’re guaranteed to get the best car rental rates.

Discover Cars also has ratings for all companies, so make sure to eliminate any that don’t have a good reputation. Finally, you can buy Finish car insurance right from Discover Cars, so you’re not surprised with an unexpected bill when you pick up the car.

#1 Our Top Pick
driving in Lapland in winter

Discover Cars

🏆 When choosing a rental online in Rovaniemi, my number one pick is always Discover Cars. I personally use them and love them since they meticulously search through local and international companies to get you the best deal every time.

⭐️ Rating: 4.6/ 5.0 (137,000+ Reviews) | Details: Read more on discovercars.com now!

3. The Cost of Renting a Car in Lapland

The cost of renting a car in Lapland, or anywhere else, can vary widely based on several factors. Some of the key factors that influence the cost of car rental include:

  • Car type: Compact cars are generally less expensive than larger or more luxurious vehicles.
  • Rental agency: Different rental agencies may offer varying prices for similar cars. It’s worth comparing rates from different providers.
  • Space you need: how many people and luggage space you need
  • Time of Year: Seasonal variations can affect prices. Lapland in winter is a popular destination, prices may be higher during peak seasons
  • Fuel efficiency: Fuel-efficient cars not only save you money at the pump but also contribute to a more sustainable and responsible travel experience.
  • Heating options: I felt that for this trip, I really needed to have heated seats to cope with sub-zero temperatures
  • Additional Services: Costs may increase if you opt for additional services such as insurance coverage, GPS rental, or other add-ons.

I decided to rent an AWD SUV, since I was going to be driving for 3 weeks around Finland. I chose this car size because I needed enough room for our luggage and I knew it was the best option to drive on the snow. Although smaller cars were cheaper to rent, I knew I had to bring two large suitcases.

The average price for a week’s car rental in Lapland is about US$730 for a compact car and US$960 for an SUV.

🌟 You can compare and save up to 70% on your rental car when you book through this site. I use and recommend Discover Cars because it is the most reliable rental car source, and it allows you to compare the prices of different places.

reindeer farm in Rovaniemi
Reindeer farm in Rovaniemi

4. Do I Need Car Insurance

Yes — At the minimum, you need Personal Liability Insurance to legally drive in Finland. Anything can happen when you are driving in Lapland in winter, so I always opt for full coverage.

After all, for between $10 and $13 USD per day, Discover Cars will refund you for up to around $3291.00 worth of damage (or €3000). Talk about a total steal 😉

So, here is what is and is not covered when you choose full coverage with Discover Cars. 

WHAT IS COVERED: All exterior parts of the car (no exclusions), bodywork/roof, mirrors, refundable theft deductible, windshield/windows, undercarriage, tires/wheels, lockout fees/lost keys, towing fees, taxi fees, administrative fees, and fees for suppliers loss of use during repair. 

WHAT IS NOT COVERED: Third-party damages, damages incurred while not adhering to the terms of your rental agreement, damages from unforeseeable/uncontrollable events, cleaning costs, and damage to the interior of the car.

5. Condition of the roads in Lapland in Winter

Finnish roads are much quieter than roads in the rest of Europe, which makes driving more pleasant, especially on roads that you are not familiar with.

When it comes to getting around Rovaniemi, renting a car is a great option, even in the winter. The roads are kept pretty clear in and around the city, and your car will be equipped with all-year or winter tires. There are plenty of places to visit outside of the city, and this way, you won’t need to rely on public transport.

I noticed that the roads in Lapland were mostly in good condition for driving, provided that you have the basic skills necessary to drive on snow and that you take it slow. Although the back roads were completely covered in compacted snow, they were still manageable to drive on. Moreover, the main roads were often clear of snow.

driving in snowy Lapland in winter
Driving through snowy landscapes in Lapland

5. Driving in Lapland Safety

It’s important to note that most rental cars in Finland are manual transmissions, so make sure to double-check your order if you need an automatic.

When you are driving in Lapland in winter, you need to respect the fact that the weather and road conditions can change significantly from day to day. Therefore, it is important that you plan your driving so that you have a good time margin to get to your destination.

It is a legal requirement to keep your car’s headlights on at all times, regardless of the season.

During the winter months, the speed limits on roads are lowered to 50 miles/h (80 km/h) to ensure safety. It is mandatory to use winter tires on cars, and often there are snow chains stored in the boot in case they are required.

driving in Finnish Lapland in winter
Driving through Lapland in winter is an amazing experience!

6. Watch for wildlife on the roadside

When driving in Lapland in winter, be extra cautious at dawn and dusk as many animals, particularly moose, are active during these times.

Please be aware that the area you are driving through is home to large animals such as moose, elk, and deer that can weigh several hundred kilos. These animals may unexpectedly move onto the road, so it is recommended that you drive slower and remain alert to your surroundings.

In addition, there are plenty of smaller animals, such as rabbits and reindeer, that can also appear on the road unexpectedly. Your safety is important, so please exercise caution when driving through this area.

To decrease the chances of colliding with wild animals, it is best to drive at a slower speed. This will enhance your ability to spot any animals that might be approaching the road. During the polar night in December, daylight hours are limited, so it is advisable to plan for a midday drive.

reindeer in the snow
Watch out for reindeer crossing the roads!

7. Driving a 4×4 and winter tires in Lapland in winter

According to the law, it is mandatory to have winter tires on your car between December 1 and March 31 if there is ice, snow, mud, or frost on any part of the road.

The responsibility of determining whether winter tires are required for road conditions lies with the police. If you intend to drive in Lapland during the winter season, it is highly recommended that you rent a car equipped with winter tires to ensure your safety on the roads.

8. Do not rely on Google Maps in Lapland

Recently the rescue service of Lapland published updates on social media, in which it urged to avoid the route offered by the popular Google Maps from Oulu to Rovaniemi. The application has instructed to use narrow and poorly maintained gravel roads, which are rarely maintained in winter. 

Another way that some drivers keep rescue services busy is by relying on phone apps to navigate the wilds of Lapland.

“Google maps may show a road, and you trust it’s there, but what looks like a road on the map may actually be a snowmobile route, or at worst a ski track and you might make it some way before your rental car is bogged down in the snow,” says Petri Niska.

I recommend renting a car with a GPS system, and please, check the road conditions before you start your driving. In general, if you are driving on the highway it will be in good condition. but if you decide to go off-road or take some side roads, you may not be able to drive due to the snow accumulation.

9. Off-Road in Lapland in Winter

It’s a good idea to check the local weather and traffic reports before heading out. If your roads are not in good condition, it’s better to avoid non-essential travel until the roads are cleared. However, if it’s necessary to go out, make sure you are equipped to handle any delays you may face while traveling.

If you’re planning a long road trip during winter weather, it might be better to leave early or reschedule your departure time to avoid being on the roads during the worst of the storm.

Before starting to drive in Lapland in winter, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with directions and maps, even if you plan to use a GPS.

I took a side road while I was driving to Pyha-Luosto National Park, and oh oh…look what happened (image below). Yes, by accident I got stuck in the snow. Thanks to the great Finish people who were driving in the area, 3 cars stopped and helped me to get out of this situation and get back on the road. So…it is very easy to happen! Kids, don’t do what I did!

driving in Lapland in winter
The snow can get pretty deep!

10. Weather conditions in Lapland in Winter

If you are wondering if Lapland in winter is cold, my honest answer for you is: heck yeah! Lapland is very cold in winter! The days are usually short and cold, with very little sunlight. So, dress accordingly and enjoy this fairytale.

In October, temperatures start to drop below zero and this is usually when the first snowfall occurs. By late November, expect to find permanent snow cover, as up to 161 mm of snow can fall during this month!

December and January are both very snowy months, with January typically experiencing the most snow with an average monthly snowfall of over 200 mm. As such, this is a very popular time to visit Rovaniemi. April is still considered to be very snowy, and it doesn’t actually start to melt until the end of the month or during the start of May.

Driving in Lapland in winter can become challenging during heavy snowfall, particularly if it’s dark outside. It can be exhausting to drive under such circumstances.

However, the primary roads in this area are regularly cleared of deep snow, and sometimes even hourly during heavy snowfall. As a result, one does not need to drive through feet of snow. Only a thin layer of snow is present, and the spikes on the tires are very effective at gripping under snowy and icy conditions.

Brown Sands

11. The Finnish Gas Station

After filling your car at the gas station, move your vehicle away from the pump before proceeding to pay.

I recommend refueling your car whenever you come across a gas station. Do not wait until you are running low on fuel as the next gas station may be miles away.

downtown Rovaniemi
Downtown in Rovaniemi, Lapland

12. Go off the beaten path in Lapland

Now comes the fun part. Driving a car in Lapland is the perfect excuse to go off the beaten path.

Not many travelers visit Phyha-Luosto National Park but we definitely suggest spending a day or two in the area. Pyhä-Luosto National Park is around a 1.5-hour drive from Rovaniemi. In my opinion, this is one of the most spectacular national parks in the country, so it is a must-visit while in Finland.

While exploring this national park, I’d highly recommend heading to Lampivaara Amethyst Mine. You’ll also want to head up the fell on The PyhäExpress, which is a scenic chair lift. The views from here are absolutely breathtaking and there’s a restaurant at the top!

Another activity we’d highly recommend here is to visit the Riisitunturi National Park is around a 2-2.5 hour drive from Rovaniemi, and it is one of the top natural landmarks in Finland. It’s the perfect place to visit if you want to admire Finland’s natural beauty, as this place offers scenic forests, fells, and bogs.

In my opinion, no trip to Lapland is complete without visiting a reindeer farm. This will give you the chance to get up close and personal with these gorgeous creatures, and snap a couple of photographs, making it the perfect activity for animal lovers!

📷 Recommended TourRovaniemi: Reindeer, Huskies & Santa Claus Village

Lapland winter
Lapland in winter

13. Flexibility to chase the Northern Lights

Another great thing to do while you are driving in Lapland in winter is the flexibility to chase the Northern lights. Keep in mind that it is not that easy to see the lights, even when you are in Lapland. I have tried to catch the Northern Lights in Iceland and Alaska before, without any luck. So keep in mind that this is a natural phenomenon, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll spot them.

Sometimes, you can marvel at the Northern Lights for hours, while other times you may only get a quick glimpse. It all depends on the weather. I recommend downloading a handy Aurora app on your phone to be notified about the best viewing times. In my case, I drove for about 8 hours chasing different locations in order to see the Northern Lights. Finally, I ended up driving from Rovaniemi to the border with Sweden, where I was able to see the Aurora Borealis on the side of the road.

It started slowly and weakly, but after a while, the lights started to dance in the sky. It was truly magical and unbelievable to see. However, I was only able to witness this because I was patient and persistent. Oh, and also because I was driving my own car and could be flexible enough to keep moving to different locations that night.

🌟 BEST TOUR: When it comes to spotting the Aurora Borealis, you can either look out for it yourself or head out on a tour. This Northern Lights photography tour lasts for 4-5 hours and your guide will show you the best camera settings if you spot them (it is a natural occurrence after all).

Northern Lights in Finland
The Northern Lights took my breath away

14. Travel insurance in Lapland

Having travel insurance gives me peace of mind, and I highly recommend getting it because let’s be real — the last thing we want on any trip is for accidents and mishaps to get in the way.

I use a service called HeyMondo and can highly recommend them — they offer affordable prices, great coverage, comprehensive travel + medical insurance, an app with 24-hour medical support, and no out-of-pocket fees.

🌟 Get 5% off your policy by booking through this link.🌟

15. Final Important Notes for Driving in Lapland in Winter

It is common in local supermarket car parks to see people leaving their car engines running while they go inside to keep their cars warm. I noticed this when I picked up my car from the car rental at the airport in Helsinki, as my rental car was waiting for me outside with the engine already running.

When you go to a parking lot, you might see a small box where people can connect their cars. If the temperature drops below -20°C, it is recommended to connect your car to one of these boxes. This service is free of charge and helps to prevent the battery of your car from draining. You can find the plug lead under the hood of your rental car.

Pyha-Luosto National Park in Finland
Exploring Pyha-Luosto National Park

BONUS: 7 Tips for Driving Safe in the Snow

❄️ It is recommended that you dress warmly, using the layer-upon-layer principle. This means wearing multiple layers of clothing to keep yourself warm and comfortable.

❄️ It is important to adjust your driving speed according to the current road surface conditions and weather. Planning your driving ahead of time can also help you stay safe on the road.

❄️ When driving on icy roads, it is important to allow for a greater stopping distance. It takes much longer to come to a halt on such roads.

❄️ Be cautious while driving on slippery roads and do not underestimate the road conditions. Some signs of icy roads include frost on the car windows, glare in the roadway, and frost on the trees and surroundings. It is common for roads to be icy on bridges, shadow areas, roundabouts, near lakes and streams, and open landscapes.

❄️ When driving downhill or approaching curves, use your engine to brake and reduce the risk of your wheels locking and sliding.

❄️ It’s best to use gentle steering movements and avoid pushing the gas too hard, as doing so reduces grip.

❄️ Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights.

snowy roads in Lapland, Finland

Driving in Lapland in Winter Conclusion

As you can see, if you are prepared for driving in Lapland in winter, it can be a trip of a lifetime. You will see and experience so much wildness, get the chance to catch the Northern Lights and visit some off-the-beaten-path places, as well as some famous landmarks in Finland.

Make sure you do your research on the areas you want to drive, and on the rental car company you choose to use. Prepare a map of the main points of interest you want to visit in Lapland and pack warm winter clothes. I am sure you will love your trip as much as I did.

If you have any further questions about driving in Lapland in winter, or if I missed anything from this list, please leave me a comment below as I always love to hear from you.

If you are planning a visit to Finland, you may also enjoy reading the following:

Lapland in winter

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