9 Things You Must Take Care Of Before Traveling to The Baltics


The Baltic Countries are a Northern European gem that encompass three countries:
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These former remnants of the Soviet regime are known to
be somewhat secluded. While still open for tourism, you will not find masses of tourists
pouring through the streets. Thus, visiting them makes for a peaceful and relaxing
experience.

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Tallinn, Estonia is magical in the winter
Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash

But as you would do your due diligence before visiting any other foreign country, you’d do
yourself a favor by taking care of the following before your trip:Study Up on the Culture
The three countries are independent states with different cultural heritage and language. In
fact, all three managed to retain their independence in 1991, and they are very much
proud of their heritage.

While each is unique in their own right, Estonia arguably shares the closest resemblance
to Finland. Indeed, it implies a higher standard of living, so factor this in your expected
living costs

Decide on the Best Time to Visit

While a large part of the decision will be based on whatever your schedule allows for, the
consensus is that the optimal time for visiting is between April and September. Unless you
prefer the winter’s cold grip, this is when the weather is at its finest.

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Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash

During summer, expect the temperatures to linger around 25 degrees. The winters, on the
other hand, tend to be harsh and not for the faint-of-heart.

Check Your Transport Options

Unless you have a local friend, and you’ve agreed to have them drive you around, you will
need to rely on public transport. So check the bus routes in advance and plan accordingly.
Hitch-hiking is not that popular in the Baltics, but the distances between cities are pretty
short (from Vilnius to Riga 4 hours in a bus, for example), so trains and buses should
suffice.

There is always the option of calling a taxi, but compared to trains and buses, it will cost
you a lot more. If you’re no stranger to handling foreign apps, there is always the option of
hailing a cab via one of the local ride-sharing apps. In Estonia, Uber is a big one, but there is also Bolt, its local variant.

Have a Way to Break the Language Barrier

While you might hear Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians speaking Russian, do not
make the mistake of confusing them with being one. Although they have a Russian-
influenced history, their culture is unique to their nation.

Either way, it’s almost a given that you’ll find someone speaking English in all three
countries. Even so, if you don’t know a word of their language, a good trick is to install a
translation app that can translate spoken language on the fly.

Check the Local Wi-Fi Coverage and Data Plans

Whether you’re going to be taking some of your work with you or not, having a way to
access the world wide web is a must in this day and age. The best practice is to pick up a
local SIM card with a generous data package to enjoy your favorite online content without
worries.

To save a bit of money, check where you can expect to find local Wi-Fi hotspots. Do bear
in mind that every time you decide to connect to public Wi-Fi, you are exposing your
sensitive private data to interception and theft. Therefore, educate yourself on what is a
VPN
and install one on your smart devices before you take off.

Visit a Currency Exchange

While you can always exchange your money at the airport when you arrive, try to take care
of this in your own country to see if they offer you a better exchange rate. Baltic countries
belong to the European Union, and thus they use euros, so it shouldn’t be much of a
problem.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Get Your Visa Sorted out

Unless you’re a European citizen (all of which get to stay for as long as they like), you will
need to get the appropriate visa for your type of trip. Depending on the purpose of your
visit, there are all sorts of permits, and the regulations may change every couple of
months, so it’s imperative to check the current state of affairs and get one that has you
covered.

Do bear in mind that, even as a European citizen, you’re still going to need to register your
stay if its duration exceeds three months.

Book Your Accommodation

There is the old wisdom of always booking your hotels and trips in advance if you want to
secure the best prices, so be sure to keep this in mind. While you’re unlikely to run out of
options upon the day of your arrival, the costs will always reflect it and may, in some
cases, even double.

For hotels, booking a week or two in advance should suffice. Airbnb is available in the
Baltics too, and if you travel alone and want to meet locals, you can always try
Couchsurfing.

Stock Up on Entertainment

Let’s get this out of the way right now to avoid disappointment later: the Baltics are not into
football all that much. Basketball is the sport of choice for Lithuanians (their second
religion, as they say), and Latvians love their ice hockey.

So if you’re big on sports in general, keep in mind the local scene may or may not deliver
what you want. The workaround, of course, is to stock up on other forms of entertainment;
whether it be a Netflix subscription, books, or movies, be sure to take some with you.

Conclusion

From stunning architecture to tongue-twisting local cuisine, the Baltic countries offer
something for all tastes and preferences. So do take the time to visit and enjoy everything
they have to offer – you won’t regret it!

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Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash
Tallinn in Winter
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Stefan von Imhof is a travel writer and photographer. He loves going off the beaten path, exploring cities by foot and finding under-explored, hidden gems. After living in California for the past 15 years, he and his wife now live in Melbourne, Australia.

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