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Baltic Itinerary Help

I have been planning a trip for May 2020 but read a post in the General Europe forum about the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. It made me think we should substitute this trip for the one we have been working on (Czech Republic and Vienna, having been to other parts of Austria previously). One reason for this change is that we're in our early/middle 70s and I, being the trip planner, am feeling the pressure to visit those countries that might be a bit more challenging in terms of distance from home and transportation between/within the countries, while we still have energy, enthusiasm, and health. Ideally we would have more time in each country but we need to keep the trip to around 3 weeks. Before committing to this new itinerary I have some questions.
This is the very tentative itinerary:
Lithuania:
Vilnius, 4 nights, day trip to Trakai Island Castle; Kaunas, 3 nights
Latvia:
Riga, 4 nights; Sigulda 2 nights; Cesis, 2 nights
Estonia:
Tartu, 2 nights; Parnu, 2 nights; Talinn, 4 nights

1) I have researched the distances on Rome2rio and it seems this is doable by public transportation. I've read various posts (Dav, can't find your trip reports) and there is a disagreement as to whether a car or public transportation is better. While we can see more with a car, public transportation might be easier. Also, the cost of a car with full insurance is very high. Do you advise doing this itinerary via public transportation?

2) I picked this itinerary for the sights in each town and because it is a more or less direct route with fairly short bus/train trips. We enjoy architecture, history, staying in the old town area, and experiencing the town. Are the number of days for each town about right? I know that 2 nights is only 1.5 days but these towns are pretty much on the route and being small 1.5 days might be enough time. With a car these might be stops on the way to another town but by bus/train they must be longer stays.

3) Are there any towns you recommend we skip?

Any advice you can give us would be appreciated.

Posted by
2092 posts

I just visited all 3 countries in late April-early May of this year, possibly you'll want to read (or have read) my trip reports, I did a separate one for each country. I only visited the capitals of each, so I will say that your days in each seem about right--and I'm hoping to return to visit some of the other towns you list, so I'll be looking forward to your report!

If you are going in very early May you may encounter the terribly chilly weather I did, even some snow in Tallinn. Layers, a good waterproof outer jacket, wool scarf and gloves and a hat should all be packed.

As a solo traveler I would not have considered renting a car, so I was quite pleased with the ease of using Ecolines between all 3 cities--bus terminals all close to city center, walkable in Riga and Vilnius to my hotel. Buses were clean and the other passengers very quiet and considerate. I booked in advance on their website and each ticket was less than $20US. Bonus points for getting to see the lovely countryside complete with oodles of my most favorite bird in nesting season--storks. The buses do go to the other towns you list, you might explore their website for an idea of the length of the journeys.

Posted by
1151 posts

Thanks, Christa! Found parts 2 and 3 of your reports but not part 1. Enjoyed reading them and will read more closely a 2nd time. You were lucky to be in Riga for their Independence Day. These experiences are what make a trip. But you're scaring me! I checked the weather for May and it showed Lithuania was from the 40s to the low 60s, Latvia from mid 40s to mid 60s, and Estonia from lows 40s to low 60s. Your experience was quite different! Guess we'll have to be prepared for any kind of weather.

I must confess that I don't write trip reports but I do follow the forums where I might have something to add. We're pretty tired when we return and after organizing our pictures, etc. there's no energy left. Am I hypocritical to thank you for your trip reports? I hope not :) So thanks again for your reports and information.

Posted by
2092 posts

I had days that were mid 40s and/or rainy, then glorious 70s, then 50-ish...sometimes not easy to leave the hotel but each city was compelling in its different way. First report would have Tallinn in the title, my second trip there as my grandmother was born there—back when it was called Reval.

Posted by
1151 posts

Thanks, Christa. We don't like cold weather but will have to be prepared for anything. Weather is something we can't control and it has been more changeable in recent years. We'll have to hope for the best. Thanks again!

Posted by
1151 posts

Thanks, Sara We prefer to travel a bit slower and are stopping for 4 other towns before we get to Tallinn. While we would see several sights in one day we prefer to linger and take our time. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

Posted by
43 posts

My husband and I are just beginning to plan a similar trip in the Baltics and greatly appreciate this post. We are about the same age (mid-70s), plan to use public transportation, and will travel mid/late May to June 8, when RS' Tallin, Helsinki, & St. Petersburg tour begins. If willing to share it, we'd really appreciate seeing your current itinerary, Carol. We'd also enjoy hearing from others who know this area on how best to spend 2+ weeks traveling independently.

Posted by
643 posts

I visited those countries as part of a longer trip a few years ago. Concentrated mostly on Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. Took buses between them (for less than the price of a movie ticket back home I got to see one or two recent release movies and went they were over I was in a new country!). Buses were comfortable, cheap and efficient.

Here is the link to my trip report - https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/trip-report-and-photos-the-baltics-tallinn-riga-and-vilnius-1131865/

The photos are now at:

https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f408399438

Posted by
1151 posts

Elle: Our current itinerary is: Lithuania: Vilnius, 4 nights; Kaunas, 2 nights; Latvia: Riga, 4 nights; Sigulda, 3 nights; Cesis, 3 nights; Estonia: Tartu, 3 nights; Tallinn, 4 nights. I have not yet finalized the bus/train times but will do so soon. We're spending 3 nights in some small towns (Sigulda and Cesis) but we're hoping this will make the entire trip more restful. With 2+ weeks before the RS tour you would have time for the major towns in Lithuania and Latvia and one town in Estonia besides Tallinn, which is on your tour. It sounds like you'll have a great trip - the hard part is to decide which towns to visit during your independent time.

Thanks, Isabel for your info and links in responding to Elle. Beautiful pictures! Will definitely re-read your trip report to help with the details of our trip.

Posted by
43 posts

Oh, I just opened this discussion and am so very appreciative of the responses. I am sure I will have more questions. Thanks so very much! I'm pondering this today! Elle

Posted by
1122 posts

We'd also enjoy hearing from others who know this area on how best to
spend 2+ weeks traveling independently.

How do you define "this area"? Are you just looking at the Baltic states or are you open to the Nordics or Russia?

Posted by
113 posts

My partner and I are going for 8 nights in May 2020. We have allocated 4 nights each in Tallinn and Riga and have booked Lux Express bus for transfer from Tallinn to Riga (22 Euros for two tickets). We will arrive by ferry from Helsinki and then fly out of Riga to Oslo. We had intended to also go to Vilnius but the flights out were not very frequent so we will save that for another trip!

Posted by
43 posts

As stated earlier, my husband and I are scheduled for RS' Tallin, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg tour June 8-16. Our primary interest is in visiting St. Petersburg on tour; a secondary interest is exploring beforehand via public transportation Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia for 10 -12 days of independent travel (Vilneus, Riga, Tartu?) Ten years ago we were in Helsinki & Tallin. Taking a RS tour+pre &/or post independent travel has worked well for us for 15 years. So, this brings me to Russia. Logic -and the expensive of a Russian visa- tells me we should extend our stay in Russia by adding extra days 1) strictly devoted to St. Petersburg ; or 2) adding extra days in Moscow. But, FEAR is clouding my rationale. We do NOT speak/read Russian. If we extend, the most comfortable option seems to be adding a couple days more in St.Petersburg just revelling in the beauty of that city and flying home from there. Or, if we were brave enough, we might head to Moscow perhaps with a small tour group for 2-3 days. Does anyone know how expensive that option might be? Any thoughts from experienced travelers in this area are truly appreciated....why am I shaking in my boots over this???

Posted by
113 posts

Elle, Several Australian friends went to Russia in 2018 for the soccer World Cup. They did not speak/ read Russian and had no trouble in Moscow as they found a lot of English speakers especially at museums, restaurants. In Moscow they found their way around without too much trouble. Another friend went to Russia in 2016 and stayed in an Airbnb in St Petersburg and Moscow and loved the “home style” feel.