General information about the Baltic countries
The Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. The vibrant capitals of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn beckon, with their beautiful old towns, castles, mansions and manor houses in unique landscapes. Medieval towns and a southern European lust for life, beaches miles long and picturesque islands. Coastal resorts, forests, dunes and rivers - there are landscapes of tranquil beauty and completely untouched nature here. Landscapes which are ideal for relaxing and for active holidays. The magic of this landscape, as changing as the countries themselves, makes the trip through the Baltic states a real experience. They were closely linked to the West by the Hanseatic merchants and Germans once built their capitals of Tallinn and Riga, but then the Iron Curtain fell.
On 23rd August 1989 2 million people formed a chain 600 kilometers long from Tallin to Vilnius via Riga, to demonstrate for the independence of the Baltic states (the Baltic Chain). In the following spring of 1990, the Baltic States then declared their independence and renewed the pre-war constitutions. Today all three Baltic States are members of the EU.
The time zone is the same for all three Baltic States - CET+ 1h. Summer time applies in the Baltic States just as in central Europe.
The Baltic States are part of Northern Europe on the Baltic Sea, situated towards the east. It includes the countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as well as the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and the northern part of former East Prussia.
The current form of the Baltic landscape was created about fifteen thousand years ago. With the melting of Ice-Age glaciers, the tundra developed into a zone dominated by mixed forests, with a temperate continental climate. Temperatures are generally somewhat cooler than in Germany. It is advantageous to take functional clothes for your trip and to pack a windproof and rainproof jacket.
Estonia: Foods and eating habits correspond generally to central European customs. Fish, above all salmon, cod, herring, sole, pike, perch or carp are often served smoked, also as a starter. Estonian national dishes are pirukad, pastry filled with meat and vegetables and rosolje, a potato salad with beetroot and herring.
Latvia: The specialties like grey peas with bacon and beer, piragi (dough stuffed with bacon and onions, sorrel soup (with boiled pork, onions, potatoes, pearl barley, hard boiled eggs and sour cream) and akroshka (milk soup with onions, herbs, cucumber and sour cream) just have to be sampled. For dessert there is often Alexander Torte (with raspberries or cranberries).
Lithuania: Lithuanian cuisine has been influenced by many cultures. Traditional specialties are smoked sausage, various sorts of cheese, cepelinai (potato dumplings filled with meat with a special sauce) and vedarai (boiled potatoes and sausage in pork casing). Lithuania produces a range of dairy products, fruit (apples, pears, plums, strawberries) and vegetables (carrots, cabbage, peas, turnips). Tea, milk and coffee are the most popular drinks.
In the large towns in all countries and in the tourist regions on the Baltic, the standard of the hotels has become very good. In smaller towns and rural areas, the hotels are often still of the old Socialist style, with small rooms and old-fashioned furniture. Although Western standards have not been reached in terms of furniture and bathrooms, efforts are made to provide cleanliness and warm hospitality for guests.
In Estonia the currency is the Estonian kroon (EEK), in Latvia it is the lats (LS) and in Lithuania, payment is made with lita(s) (LTS).
Traveler’s checks are sometimes cashed without additional charges, but occasionally up to 10% is charged. Local currency can be drawn with bank cards bearing the Maestro symbol in all towns and credit cards are widely accepted. Cash can be changed everywhere, but mostly this is cheaper in the country than in advance in Germany.
Mobile phones are as widespread as everywhere else in Europe, and more so than average in Estonia. Cards for public telephones can be obtained at kiosks. In public buildings in Estonia there is already free of charge WLAN (wireless internet access) in many places. Internet cafés are widespread and offer quick connections at moderate prices. In Latvia and Lithuania there are only internet cafés in towns and these sometimes have slow connections.
In principle the Baltic is a region without particular health hazards. However, medical provision does not usually correspond to the German standards you may be used to. If you require certain drugs daily, do ensure that you have adequate supplies of these with you.
No vaccinations are prescribed for entry into the country, however we recommend checking general vaccination protection – diphtheria, tetanus and polio. The German Foreign Office also recommends Hepatitis A and rabies vaccination and an FSME (tick-borne encephalitis) vaccine in spring and summer.
Flat European plugs (2-pin) fit, but an adapter is required for plugs with an earth pin (3-pin). Mains voltage is generally 220 V, frequency 50 Hz.
Customs & excise
There are no restrictions for goods traffic within the EU. However there is still widely varying legislation in individual EU countries for particular groups of goods, such as alcohol, agricultural produce and tobacco products, for example. For the Baltic states, the rules are: 500 g coffee or 200 g extracts, 50 g perfume and 0.25 liter eau de toilette. Medication (corresponding to personal requirements during the trip) and other goods up to a total value of 175 euros. Tobacco: 800 cigarettes or 400 cigarillos (weight 3 g/cigarillo) or 200 cigars or 1 kg smoking tobacco. Alcohol: 10 liters schnapps (alcohol > 22% vol.) and 10 liters alcoholic sweet drinks (alcopops) and 20 liters of intermediate products (e.g. Campari, port, sherry) and 90 liters of wine (of which a maximum of 60 liters sparkling wine or champagne) and 110 liters of beer.
Entry into the EU, the removal of visa restrictions and cheap flights have brought floods of tourists to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in recent years. Most tourists keep to the cities, however, so the Baltic region is generally an attractive and in many parts still unspoiled but also poor region. Especially in the country, people live very simply and are often reserved. Please take account of this in dealing with the people.
The Baltic is generally considered a safe place to travel, though there is an increased risk of theft. To prevent problems, vehicles should be left in supervised car parks in large towns. Valuables and luggage should not be left in the car or otherwise unsupervised. We recommend keeping valuables on your person and always keeping a careful eye on what is happening around you.
Stages through Latvia
This information is compiled to the best of our knowledge, changes are possible. We accept no warranty for the correctness of all information given.