The cost of living in Finland is undeniably high, even by European standards. Expats from countries with a lower cost of living may find the higher prices a shock and difficult to adjust to. It's therefore worth considering the cost of goods before negotiating a suitable salary with prospective employers.
Prices in urban areas and especially the capital, Helsinki, are much higher than in other areas of Finland, especially in terms of accommodation. Helsinki ranked 34th out of 227 cities in Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey, making it pricier than cities such as Berlin and Perth but still more affordable than Seattle and Vienna.
With a job in place, expats can plan and budget accordingly, and while many goods and services come with a hefty price tag, the excellent universal public education and healthcare systems make up for it. Have a look at the varied living expenses in Finland.
Cost of accommodation in Finland
Housing costs in Finland are high, especially in the capital, Helsinki. Rent can take up a sizeable portion of one's income, although generally, rates are better further away from city centres. Of course, this is something expats will have to weigh up – the time and financial cost of a daily commute into the city for lower rent versus the convenience and liveliness of city living.
Rent also depends on how furnished the living space is; when inspecting accommodation, expats should keep this in mind. The cost of buying furniture adds up and may only be preferred by those staying long term.
Utilities are an extra expense. Water and heating are often included in the rent, but electricity and internet are not.
Cost of transport in Finland
Although public transport is efficient and useful in urban spaces and for reaching neighbourhoods outside the main cities, it's pretty expensive. We, therefore, recommend buying a monthly pass or a travel card for the discount – every little bit helps, especially if expats will be commuting daily.
Helsinki itself is quite walkable and has extensive cycle paths, making walking and cycling feasible and healthy alternatives for getting around.
Cost of education in Finland
Although Finland has a high cost of living, it has a comprehensive social system, favouring education and healthcare. Not only is there free universal daycare for children aged 8 months to 6 years, but some areas may give financial support to caregivers who care for their children at home for the first three years.
Public schooling remains free, including free school healthcare, daily lunch, books and materials. Upper secondary school from around age 15 requires students to buy their own materials.
For many expats, the issue may be the language. The language of instruction in public schools is mainly Finnish or Swedish, so for expats only staying for a short while or with older children, the better route may be to enrol their youngsters in a private or international school. These options can be pricey though.
Tertiary education is free to students from the EU and Switzerland, while other international students are required to pay tuition. Still, all tertiary programmes taught in Swedish or Finnish are free to everyone, including international students.
Cost of healthcare in Finland
Finland has universal healthcare funded by tax, meaning everyone is entitled to health services regardless of income level. While Finland has a universal healthcare system, it is not free but is rather heavily subsidised. This means patients are still liable to make a small co-payment when accessing healthcare services.
Private healthcare centre expenses may vary. While employers must arrange health insurance for their workers, this only covers incidents in the workplace itself. Expats are therefore advised to take out private insurance.
Cost of groceries and clothing in Finland
Food and drinks can be expensive in Finland. While clothing can be pricey, there are always more affordable options, seasonal sales and the opportunity to buy second-hand. How much one spends depends on their lifestyle choices, income level and budgeting decisions. Once expats get more settled, they may find places that offer better deals and supermarkets and stores they can go to for the best prices and discounts.
Supermarkets such as Lidl, Sale and K-Market are known for offering sizeable discounts and loyalty programme benefits. Some products with orange labels may have discounts of up to 70 percent, but these will be close to their sell-by date, so this is something expats must be aware of.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Finland
When it comes to entertainment, expats in Finland may find that the costs are on the higher side. In Helsinki, cinema tickets, theatre performances and live music events can be considerably pricier than in other European countries. Alternative options include attending free or low-cost events at cultural centres, art galleries, and local festivals. Finland's beautiful outdoors offers many enjoyable and affordable activities like hiking, cycling and kayaking.
The cost of eating out in Finland can also be rather steep, particularly in trendy or fine-dining establishments. More budget-friendly options are available for expats, such as local markets, which offer reasonably priced fresh produce and ready-made dishes. Affordable eateries and street food vendors serve a variety of Finnish cuisine, allowing expats to sample traditional dishes, like Karelian pasties or Finnish-style fish and chips.
Additionally, embracing the Finnish tradition of kahvila, or coffee shops, is an excellent way to enjoy a light meal and immerse oneself in the local culture without breaking the bank.
Cost of living in Finland chart
Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows the average prices for Helsinki in November 2023.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
What do expats say about living costs in Finland?
"The cost of living in Finland is more expensive than in the Philippines, but we also have a lot of benefits here. Taxes are high but they go to things such as social benefits and education." Mercy is a Filipino expat who's lived in Finland for many years. Read her interview with Expat Arrivals for more advice about expat life in this Nordic country.
"The cost of living in Finland is almost the same as in Japan. Water and telecommunication costs are relatively cheaper here and I also appreciate all the student benefits I got, such as discounts for students and free education. On the other hand, restaurants are more expensive compared to my home country." Check out our interview with Japanese expat Daiki to learn more about expat life in Finland.
►For a general overview, read Moving to Finland
►For more on the capital, read our guide on Moving to Helsinki
Are you an expat living in Finland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Finland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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