Download your Sustainable Travel Checklist and show the world you care
As travellers, we should all be aware of our travel behaviour and its environmental, economic and social impact; and make conscious decisions about it. Too often, we hear negative stories in the media about tourists behaving badly.
Here is your chance to tick some boxes and check out what it really takes to travel with a sustainable mindset.
Why visit the Baltics?
While there is a young and dynamic feel about them, the Baltics have a lot of history waiting to be discovered. From Teutonic Knights to Russian Tsars and both Fascist and Socialist dictatorships, the Baltic countries had (more than) their fair share of invaders. The remnants from those times are everywhere: Quaint medieval old towns sit side by side with austere Soviet-era architecture, Catholic and Protestant churches next to the onion-shaped domes of Eastern Orthodox edifices. Even Baltic cuisine can tell you stories.
If that’s not enough: August 2023 marked 34 years of the Baltic Way, when 2 million people joined hands to form a chain reaching from Vilnius via Riga to Tallinn. And by 2021, all three countries celebrated the 30th anniversary of regaining their independence after 40+ years of Soviet occupation. One thing is sure: Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians everywhere were proud to celebrate the occasion.
The countries are also relatively undiscovered when it comes to tourism. Most visitors seem to focus on the UNESCO-protected historic old towns of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn which are advertised in every tourism marketing brochure. But there is so much more to the Baltics than the capital cities and their medieval hearts. So, what are you waiting for?
When is the best time to visit?
While our favourite travel time of the year is usually Spring (mid-March to mid-June) and Autumn (mid-September to mid-December), the three Baltic countries are best visited between the end of May/early June and mid-end August, when the temperatures are in the low 20s (centigrade that is), and the days are super long. If you want to experience the Baltics in the winter, come in February or March, when snow is still likely, but the days are longer.
Save money using the Airalo eSim
With eSIMs from Airalo, you can download and install a digital data pack for over 200 countries/regions and get connected anywhere in the world as soon as you land.
With Airalo's eSIMs, you can access the Internet from virtually any country on the planet and don't have to pay excessive roaming charges. You don’t need to waste your time looking for a local plastic SIM card. The eSIM can be activated either immediately after installation or upon arrival at your destination. A wide range of eSIMs are available for different countries and regions. You do not even have to buy a card for a specific country. If you intend to travel, you can buy a regional eSIM on Airalo. For example, there are eSIMs available for the entire continent of Europe.
The support team is available 24/7/365 and is happy to offer prompt assistance via chat on the Airalo website, social media, or email.
Why choose this itinerary?
We’ve put together an itinerary that shows you a bit of everything: historic cities, National Parks and the Baltic Sea. While our itinerary starts in Vilnius and finishes in Tallinn, it can easily be done the other way around.
All the places we recommend are reachable by public transport. Although to make things a bit easier for you, we do recommend one-day car rentals on the island of Saaremaa and for the day trip from Vilnius (and maybe Riga). Don’t worry: we provide you with all the links you need to organise your transportation further down in this post.
While this itinerary is built around a week in each country – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – you can easily add days here and there if you’ve got more time. Alternatively, if you’ve got only time to visit one country just pick the one that sounds most interesting to you (and come back for more another time).
So, let’s have a look at which places we have in mind for you.
Map of Recommended Accommodations, Points of Interest, Eateries, and Transport
Below is the map of the accommodation, points of interest, eateries. and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.
How easy is it to travel in the Baltics by bus or train, and where to buy tickets?
Travelling around the Baltics by bus and/or train is super easy. Our go-to website to determine what transport options exist between points A and B (and to get an idea as to how long it takes and how much it costs) is Rome2Rio.
While there are reliable bus connections pretty much everywhere in the Baltics, we find trains more comfortable and chose trains over buses wherever possible:
Train travel in the Baltics
In both Lithuania and Latvia, you can buy train tickets at the train station or on the train (both without a surcharge). Alternatively, if you prefer to purchase online (electronic tickets are accepted):
In Estonia, you can only buy train tickets online (electronic tickets are accepted) or on the train (with a surcharge). The train stations we travelled through had no ticket counters or machines at the stations.
Withdrawing cash overseas can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. We can show you how to avoid unnecessary fees and make your travel budget stretch further.
How do you determine which card is best for your overseas trip? Using the right one can save bank fees and make your travel budget stretch further.
Ever been caught out by the bad FX rates and exorbitant commissions charged by FX bureaus? These tips allow you to minimise these charges in future. We also recommend XE Money Transfer to keep more of your money when you complete a transfer.
Bus travel in the Baltics
but you can also buy them at the bus stations.
The Peatus website provides comprehensive route/timetable/bus company information for Estonia and between Estonia and Latvia/Lithuania, but you can’t buy a ticket through the website. Instead, you can buy your bus ticket at the bus station or online with the bus company directly:
Hiring a car in the Baltics
While you don’t really need a car to explore the Baltics, we know some of you prefer your own wheels. To hire a car in Vilnius or Riga, we recommend using one of the aggregator websites like Skyscanner or Expedia. On Saaremaa, we found two rental companies:
We used Rendi Autorent (we just booked over the phone, and they dropped the car off at/picked it up from our accommodation). The car was an older model, but fine for a day. Expect to pay around EUR30 (with basic insurance).
If you do not hold an EU or UK driver’s licence, note that the car rental company may require you to bring an International Driving Permit. We encountered that issue when trying to rent a car in Tallinn (as we have New Zealand driver’s licences). If that is a concern for you too, make sure you read the terms and conditions (and if need be confirm over the phone) before you book a car.
Have you explored the Baltic states? What other tips would you add?
I wrote the Baltic itinerary based on our own experience. If you have been to the Baltics as well and you have something to add to this list of affordable things to do, please feel free to contact me. If you liked my Baltic tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.