Estonia is one of 51 countries that receive more tourists each year than its total population, and it is not surprising as to why. Tourism in Estonia is recognised as a major source for employment, and a significant contributor to Estonia’s economic growth.
While we (coming from New Zealand and Germany, respectively) are not the Estonian Tourist Board’s priority market, as independent travellers, we represent a growth market they will be targeting with the National Tourism Development Plan commencing in 2020.
So what did we get up to, and more importantly, how much did it cost to explore the Republic of Estonia?
Our daily expenses in Estonia were EUR47.30 / USD52.85 per person per day, which means, we went a bit over our budget of USD50.00. We spent a total of eight days in Estonia – two nights in Tartu, three nights in Tallinn and three nights on Saaremaa Island.
- The costs are based upon a couple travelling together.
- We did not travel as part of an organised tour group but as independent travelers.
- Not considered is the entry or exit transport into/out of the country.
- We are digital nomads so base ourselves in accommodation that has good Wi-Fi.
- Included in the overall daily costs (for the period of time we are in the country) are:
Where We Travelled
As we did in Lithuania and Latvia, we sourced our accommodation through Airbnb or Booking, renting a room in our host’s home or small apartments. Staying in residential neighbourhoods close to public transport allows us to stay within our accommodation budget while not compromising on certain comforts, such as our own bathroom and a kitchen where we can prepare meals, therefore reducing dining costs.
|Accommodation Name||City||Type||Cost Per Room Per Night|
|Lille Park Apartment - no longer being rented out as at Jun 2021||Tartu||Studio apartment||EUR32.00|
|Private room near city center, 2 km to Old Town||Tallinn||Room in our host’s home (which we practically had to ourselves)||EUR52.27|
|Romantic apartment in Kuressaare||Kuressaare||One bedroom cottage||EUR23.62|
Oh, to be a resident in Estonia! One of the benefits is that the majority of Estonian residents (in 11 of the 15 counties that make up Estonia) can ride public transport for free. For visitors and tourists, we had to pay to use the network of buses, trams, trains and trolley buses.
In Tartu, we stayed central enough to walk everywhere. The one time we used the city bus was to get from our accommodation back to the train station – we just couldn’t be bothered walking up the hill. The cost of a single ticket was EUR0.83. The Inner City Bus Transportation site was the best one for finding out about routes and fares.
We were able to take the express train from Tartu to Tallinn – again, a trip inspired by Chris Tarrant’s Extreme Railways television series (Season 4, Episode 2) for a cost of EUR10.20 per adult. We booked the ticket online, so saved EUR1.80 each off the on the train price.
By the time we got to Tallinn, we decided to get a little smarter with our ticket purchases. We had done some research and figured it would be cheaper to purchase a green Ühiskaart and load a 3-day ticket onto it, knowing that we had planned to go into town and return each day. An added benefit: any money stored on the card plus the deposit for the card itself will be reimbursed when you return it to a sales outlet (which we did at the airport).
We had several bus options to take from Tallinn to Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa. The ride, while comfortable, is an adventure in itself: You take a bus, the bus goes onto a ferry, and then you jump back on the same bus to complete the journey. Because of timetable options, we chose LuxExpress going to Kuressaare and GoBus for the return journey. Both had Wi-Fi on board and were not full, so we were able to spread out. A ticket cost us EUR12 per adult (which includes the ferry ride).
Groceries and Dining
By the time we arrived in Estonia, we thought we’d tried all different Baltic cuisines available. We were wrong and pleased to once again extend our culinary experiences.
As usual, we ate a hot lunch while out and about and a cold dinner of local cheeses, meats and bread in the evening. On average, our daily lunch cost us EUR9.54 per person.
In Tartu, our favourite cafe was Kohvik Crepp, a French cafe serving large portions at very reasonable prices. Choose any galette (savoury pancake served with a small salad) and you won’t be disappointed. Two meals and two drinks cost us EUR18.00.
Despite being in the touristy area of Tallinn, Von Krahli AED was a great choice on our first day in the capital. Our meals were delicious, and worth every cent of our total cost of EUR37.40 (including two drinks).
Tartu is easily walkable. So, one Spring morning, we decided to do our own self-guided walking tour, using the guide map called Strolls in Tartu. Because it was self-guided, we were able to do it at our own pace, stopping longer at some sites and skipping sections we were less interested in. We walked around Tartu Old Town and up to Toome Hill Park as well as through the University of Tartu Botanical Gardens. Absolutely FREE.
I have an affinity for sports history and knowing that the Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum was in Tartu, it deserved a visit. Did I know any famous Estonian sportspeople before I visited the museum? No. Did I know what the national sport of Estonia was? No. But that’s why you go to museums. To learn, to take it all in, and hopefully, you walk away more knowledgeable. For EUR6 and two hours of my time, I learned a lot about the history of Estonian sports – from the very first sportsmen, through the twentieth century until the Soviet occupation and today.
Oh, and depending on who you talk to, the national sport is basketball or ice hockey. Or is it kiiking?
We did, and certainly recommend, the Free Walking Tours (wherever they exist). Heli – our guide in Tallinn was enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable and able to deliver the tales of the old city with humour and a little bit of gusto. She was not scared to embellish some history to get a point across but then reminded us of the reason Estonians are such a proud but diverse people.
We normally miss out on free events as we travel from city to city, but this time, we were fortunate. The biggest museum event of the year was happening while we were in Tallinn! Once a year, museums and heritage sites in Estonia open their doors longer than usual (until 2300h) and free of charge. So how many museum visits could we fit into one evening? – Here’s your chance to find out.
We started with a 30-minute concert at the Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin before I climbed the church tower for a spectacular view of the city. Next, we headed to the Museum of the Popular Front to get an in-depth understanding of Estonia’s struggle for independence in the early 1990s. Our final stop was for the rooftop views from the National Library of Estonia. All this for free.
On another day, we went to the Estonian Maritime Museum, located in a building originally constructed as a hangar for seaplanes over 100 years ago. The maritime museum has only been open for seven years and caters for young and old. The main attraction inside the museum is the 1936 submarine Lembit. Unlike a lot of retired submarines I have visited, this one retains a lot of the mechanical and functioning components. The ticket was a bit too expensive for what it was, at EUR15 per adult.
While there are buses on Saaremaa Island, they are infrequent. So, to see the historic, cultural and natural highlights of the island, you do need a vehicle. We hired a car for 24 hours for that purpose and visited:
- the Kaali Meteorite Craters – a group of nine craters that were created by a meteorite shower;
- Panga Cliff – one of the few sea cliffs on an otherwise flat island; and
- Angla Windmill Park (entry fee of EUR4 per adult).
Since we stayed in the town of Kuressaare, we were able to walk to the Kuressaare Castle – an eclectic museum representing different periods of Estonian history. Well worth the visit, but make sure you ask for a map to help guide you through the collection in chronological order. The entry fee was EUR8 per adult.
Travel Costs Summary Table
|Categories||EUR per person per day|
|Total per person per day||EUR47.30|
Feature Image by Sharon Ang from Pixabay