United States Embassy Helsinki, Finland
Message for U.S. Citizens: Holiday Safety/Security Reminder
December 5, 2022
Finland is one of the safest countries is the world, but as with all large cities, Helsinki is not crime free and criminal activity tends to increase during the holiday season. Additionally, there are a higher number of safety incidents in the winter.
PICKPOCKETS/WALLET/PURSE/SHOPPING BAG SAFETY:
Pickpockets and petty crime are a concern in Helsinki, especially during the holiday season in shopping and tourist areas such as Christmas markets and malls/shopping centers. Be mindful of how you carry your wallet, purse, backpack, and other bags. Wear your handbag in the front of your body, with a hand on it at all times. Keep your wallet in your front pocket or keep your wallet in an inside pocket or a pouch under your clothes. Do not leave any items unattended on public transportation. Avoid falling asleep while on a train or bus. Items have been stolen from sleeping passengers.
Tips to avoid pickpocketing:
- Always maintain situational awareness.
- Be particularly alert near/on public transportation, in tourist or high traffic areas, or while using ATM machines.
- Cover your PIN code when making a transaction.
- Stop and put your money away immediately after using an ATM.
- Zip or close all openings to handbags, wallets, and/or backpacks.
- Avoid direct confrontation with pickpockets. While they are generally not violent, challenging a pickpocket may escalate the situation into a physical confrontation. Pickpockets often operate in groups, raising the risk of a physical confrontation resulting in injury.
- Avoid public intoxication, as this reduces situational awareness and makes you an attractive target.
Remove any valuables from your unattended vehicle or store them in your locked glovebox or trunk. Do not leave cell phones, GPS units, or any other electronic devices or their connectors in clear view. Before entering your car, always inspect it for signs of tampering. Try to park in areas that are protected and well lit.
It is mandatory to use approved winter tires from Nov – Mar and ensure all snow and ice is removed from windows/hood/roofs before operating a vehicle. It is recommended that you have emergency clothing/blankets in the vehicle should you become stuck or involved in an accident and have to remain outside of the vehicle for extended periods.
Due to the extended hours of darkness in Helsinki, poorly identified street crossings, and slippery foot paths, it is highly recommended to use reflectors, proper shoes, and lights when walking to increase visibility.
ALCOHOL AWARENESS AND SAFETY:
In Finland, a driver is considered under the influence if they have a blood alcohol level of .05% or greater. Enforcement campaigns/DUI checkpoints are normal in Finland especially during holiday periods. DUI is strictly enforced, and punishments can include heavy fines and imprisonment. Utilize a designated driver, a car service, or use public transportation if you are out and consume alcohol.
The holiday season brings Christmas markets, parades, and other celebrations to Finland. When attending such events, maintain good situational awareness. Keeping in mind that Finland is one of the safest countries in the world, it is important to remember there are individuals everywhere that seek to harm others and large gatherings can be attractive targets. In recent years European countries have seen vehicles, fire, and other weapons of opportunity used to attack crowded markets or large gatherings. Being aware of your surroundings and knowing alternate routes and exits will better prepare you to react in an emergency. Have a meet up plan if family members or other members of your party become separated.
COMMUNICATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY:
Mobile phones should be kept charged and in working order. Program key numbers into your phone (family members, Post 1, emergency services). Remember 112 is the number for all Finnish emergency services (The Embassy highly recommends downloading the “112 Suomi” app).