E18 is a European route from the United Kingdom, moving north-east across the North Sea towards Scandinavia, and from there continuing east across the Sea of Åland to Finland and along the Gulf of Finland to Saint Petersburg on the Russian side.
The E18 is the main route east-west in Southern Norway and central Sweden, about 1000 km of E18 runs through Norway and Sweden. The route connects Oslo and Stockholm, and is the main road east-west through Oslo. Likewise, E18 is the main road of Finland's southern coast (which historically was the richest part of the country), and is a main route from Saint Petersburg to the West.
While the Nordic countries Norway, Sweden and Finland all belong to the Schengen Area and thus a visa for one country is good for all, the United Kingdom and Russia are not part of it, and separate visas are required. UK, Norway and Russia are not part of the European Union (and Åland not of its customs union), so there are customs borders between those and their neighbours.
As there probably are no ferries along the official route across the North Sea, you must find an alternative route, which probably will involve Denmark, which is part of Schengen and EU.
The customs arrangements between Ireland and England are peculiar, because of Ireland's EU membership and the relation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. If you have goods to declare, you must visit customs before reaching England, but check where.
Also the border between Norway and Sweden is odd, as there is a customs border, but mostly no checks. If you have goods to declare, you must take action yourself to visit the customs. The same applies to Åland.
The relations between Russia and the rest of the countries on the itinerary are strained, so check the current situation regarding visas and border passing.
If you have a pet, check requirements. Ireland, the UK, Norway, Finland and Sweden are strict on certain treatments.
Ireland and Finland use the Euro, otherwise the countries (including Denmark) have their own currencies. However, until the Russian border, you will mostly be able to pay any expenses with your credit card. In Sweden you may even have difficulties spending any cash. Russia, on the other hand, is closed out from most bank cooperation, so don't rely on a Western credit or debit card working there.
See Northern Ireland for the western end and Saint Petersburg for the eastern one. For joining the route halfway, Norway and Sweden are well connected to Denmark, while the Stockholm region (Nynäshamn and Stockholm), as well as Helsinki, have some ferries across the Baltic Sea.
Starting in Craigavon in Northern Ireland and continuing to Larne, the route goes across the North Canal to Cairnryan on the Scottish side and from there to Newcastle upon Tyne on the east coast of North East England.
As there might not be any ferries along the official route, you should check whether there are any connections between the UK and Scandinavia. Denmark should be your first choice after Norway, otherwise you probably have to drive from the Netherlands.
After crossing the North Sea (or the English Chanel, and perhaps Skagerrak), the route continues in Norway from Kristiansand via Arendal, Porsgrunn, Larvik, Sandefjord, Tønsberg, Horten, Drammen and Oslo (the capital of Norway) to Ørje on the Swedish border and onward east from Töcksfors via Karlstad, Örebro, Västerås and Enköping towards Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.
With a ferry connection from Kapellskär in Norrtälje (you could also use the ferries from Stockholm), the route goes via the Åland Islands over the Archipelago Sea to Naantali by Turku (from Stockholm: to Turku) on the south-west coast of Finland. From here, the road continues east via Helsinki (the capital of Finland) to the border between Finland and Russia. The Finnish leg of E18 is motorway except for a few short stretches. The south coast, along which the road runs, is characterised by towns and agricultural landscapes with a legacy from medieval times.
Most ferries to Finland are floating palaces, similar to cruise ships, with entertainment, restaurants and shopping options. If you skip Åland, the passage takes about 11 hr, depending on route, mostly through archipelago – you will want to spend some time enjoying the views. The passage across the Sea of Åland itself, from Norrtälje to Eckerö, is considerably shorter.
The E18 goes from Kapellskär to Naantali, but you could use any of the ferries to Åland or via Åland to mainland Finland. Many of the ferries call at Mariehamn, Åland's capital and only town. You might want to do the town and continue with the next one (in the night or the next day). An alternative is to take a ferry to Eckerö and do more of Åland.
Naantali has a nice wooden old town full of cafés and souvenir shops. There is a Moomin theme park. The E18 leads straight away from the town, along the Turku bypass.
Turku is one of Finland's major cities, founded in medieval times and until the 1850s bigger than Helsinki. Turku is also a good base for tours to the Archipelago Sea.
In Piikkiö, 15 km past Turku centre, E18 joins Highway 1 between Turku and Helsinki. Alternative roads between the cities include road 110 (former highway 1 and E18) and the historic Kings Road. If you want to see the towns and landscapes, these are better than the motorway, and road 110 is not too much slower. Much of the time they run quite close one to another.
The roads continue via Paimio to Salo, former headquarters of the mobile phone company Nokia, on to Lohja by the lake Lohjanjärvi, by Nuuksio National Park, which despite its small area has many of Finland's typical natural landscapes, and to Espoo and Vantaa by Helsinki.
After Helsinki, E18 joins Highway 7 and leads to Porvoo, another of Finland's oldest cities, Loviisa, with Finland's first nuclear plants, Pyhtää, through which the border between Sweden and Russia run 1743–1809, Kotka, an important port city, Hamina, also once a border town, and to Vaalimaa border crossing. All these towns are by the coast, with nice archipelagos. Off Pyhtää, Kotka and Hamina is the Gulf of Finland National Park.
On the Russian side, the route joins Highway M10 and continues by Vyborg, founded in Swedish times and one of Finland's most important cities when ceded to the Soviet Union, over the Karelian Isthmus to the western border of Saint Petersburg, where it ends.
Other European routes in the Nordic countries
- European route E4 Spans 1,590 kilometres between Haparanda in the north and Helsingborg in the south.
- European route E6 shares as bit of road with the E45 near Gothenburg. The route runs all the way from Trelleborg to Kirkenes in the far north-east of Norway, close to Russia. The road is very scenic, running through fjords and mountains, and for 1,000 km in the Arctic.
- European route E8 from Turku in south-western Finland to Tromsø in Norway, along the Finnish west coast and by the rivers at the border to Sweden.
- European route E10 meets the E45 in Gällivare, Sweden, from which it connects to Luleå and Å in Norway.
- European route E12 from Mo i Rana in Norway to Helsinki in Finland, with a ferry over the Gulf of Bothnia, in Norway and Sweden following the Blue Highway.
- European route E14 connects Trondheim with Sundsvall, and as such its length of 449 km is entirely in Scandinavia.
- European route E16 , like some other E-routes listed below starts in the British Isles and officially crosses the North Sea by boat to Bergen, albeit as of 2020 there are no ferries plying the routes of such E-roads (ie. between a pair of ends of the roads). From Bergen it makes up the main road to Oslo, then it goes north a bit, crosses into Sweden and ends in Gävle.
- European route E20 comes in from the UK to Esbjerg, and the Scandinavian section crosses Denmark west to east, then crosses Öresund bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö. Then E20 connects Sweden's three biggest cities, going up to Gothenburg (together with E6), then to Stockholm before crossing by ferry to Tallinn.
- European route E22 is one of the longest European routes going from the UK deep into Asian Russia. The Scandinavian section goes from Trelleborg along Sweden's southern and eastern coasts to Norrköping where it's supposed to cross the Baltic Sea to Ventspils, Latvia (no ferry for this exact leg either).
- European route E39 stretches from Nørresundby in Denmark to Trøndelag in Norway and like the E6, the route crosses through many beautiful fjords and mountains.
- European Route E45 is among the longest north-south highways in Europe, stretching from Gela in southern Italy to Alta in northern Norway.
- European route E63 is completely in Finland. It goes northeast from Turku along highway 9 to Kuopio, then follows highway 5 up to Sodankylä.
- European route E75, from Sitia in Greece to Vardø in Norway, follows Highway 4 through Finland.