Some tips to you, but Oulu is pretty safe anyway..
The weather may give you biggest surprise, the wind is very powerful.
In the winter time the ice is very thick, but don't think that it's always safe. Many people skiing and walk on the ice, specially in the days when the sun is shining, but avoid to do that if you aren't sure about that it is safe.
Specially nearby flows the ice can break. So, always remember to walk careful and don't walk there if you have drunk.
Driving in winter
Some concerns many not used to ice and snow might have are about driving conditions in finnish wintertimes. My experience I got in the last two month is that driving around is quite slippery in many places. Anyway I am surprised how good it works, but I recommend to drive carefully. Roads are mainly cleaned from snow, but often a very thick layer of ice remains. As it is useless to put salt on the streets at those very low temperatures (around minus 20) there is nothing done except cleaning the snow. Almost all cars here use spikes (not me, but my tyres are brandnew), so driving on ice is not that difficult. My main problems occur when starting after a red streetlight, but without rushing even this is managable.
Another thing I noticed is that people drive fast here, whatever the weather is like. Well, no wonder that the ralley sport is popular here ;)
If you are interested in how the current conditions are, check the webpage below. There are many webcams around Finland showing pictures of roads and giving the current raod weather.
See the icons on the left of the page...
- Road Trip
Don't break in...
Well, this might sound a little odd, but it is serious. Don't walk on the ice here in Oulu region unless you are not ABSOLUTELY sure, that it is thick enough to hold you! Remember, that the water in town is a river, and therefore the icelayer is much thinner than on the ocean. There might be the iceroad open between Kempele and Hailuoto, but the ice on the Oulujoki is still thin. Background for my post is what I saw one day. There were people drilling holes in the ice, to look underneath it. They were looking for someone who was missing and probably drowned. I recommend to check first if the ice is officially secured! Otherwise stay away, you'll have no chance!
Walking in winter
Well, hopefully my last warning tip.
When walking around in town, take care in winter. It is really slippery and you can easily fall. Streets are only cleaned from fresh snow, but always a little remains and this gets compressed over the time. So after a while the compressed snow turns to ice which tries to get you from your feet. Of course people place sand on the pavement (salt is absolutely useless at the low temperatures here), but it is not everywhere. So take care. After a while you will get used to it and adapt your style of walking ;)
- Hiking and Walking
Here's another picture of...
Here's another picture of Rotuaari. Then to the warnings: McDonalds in the middle. They have cut their prices causing a big risk to our public health. Stockmann, which is further down the street is very bad for your wallet.
Very conservative religious groups also like to save our souls here on Rotuaari. In this picture you can see a group of people to the right singing old hymns. They were dressed in very old clothes and they sounded like they were mourning. Sometimes these groups preach using loudspeakers disturbing the whole area.
In some areas in and around Oulu you are not supposed to walk around as here birds are breading their eggs and will be disturbed by you. There are signs telling you which bird is breading there and where you should not walk around. Of course also the duration of this periode is mentioned. Oulu area is a birdlife paradise and many birds stay here during summer or pass by on their way north. You will find many bird towers here to watch them.
Birdlife factsheet below gives you an idea about the diversity of birds found in Oulus region.
Beware of the temperature!
It can be cold in the winter. I have experienced temperatures reaching -35 degrees centigrade (that's about -31 F) in here, but the record frost of 1999 saw the thermometre around -42.
Some advice to follow:
- always wear gloves (even two pairs if necessary) and a hat that covers your ears. Don't be afraid of looking ridiculous and don't look at how the locals dress - they have experience!
- wear kalsarit (see my other tip)
- don't be outside too long when the thermometre is below -20
- wear good shoes and two pairs of socks
- move often
- drink a lot (yeah!)
- get inside every now and then, especially if you feel your hands or feet getting numb. It's also a good excuse to taste some beer
- if you're really cold, down a "hot shot" made with Galliano and sour cream. It will revive you. Kossu goes as well
Car traffic - where are the lanes?!
In Oulu centre there can be 3 lanes going to one direction, but there isn't any guidance at all about that! Most of the foreigners or anyone who isn't from Oulu, drives between the lanes taking two of them. Local people go mad about that, because no-one can pass a guy who's driving taking two lanes. The reason why someone is driving so is simple: there isn't any kind of marks/signs in, on, above or beside of the road that there is any more than one wide lane going to one direction!
- Road Trip
The is absolutely nothing that I can warn you about Oulu, maybe only that if you go there in the mid of the winter it’s going to be dark and cold, but in general it is very safe.