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Rick Steve’s Baltic tours

Does anyone have any insight into why RS does not include the Baltics in his tour groups anymore? What year did they stop? Thanks!

Posted by
5688 posts

The Baltic tour included St Petersburg, Russia. The tours stopped when Russia went to war with Ukraine.

Posted by
7078 posts

Too bad he didn't decide to keep it with just the three Baltic countires - there's plenty there for a 10 day tour. Or make it a longer tour and include a dip into Poland to some cities/towns not included in the Best of Poland tour, or add a ferry crossing to Finland for a few days.

It's too bad that St Petersburg is off the route for now but I still think it would be a sellable tour without it.

Posted by
6788 posts

I agree 100%, Nancy. It's an under-appreciated corner of Europe (at least currently under-appreciated by Americans). We went all around the three Baltic countries on our own and found ourselves surprised and delighted every day, often downright gobsmacked, with true "backdoor Europe" experiences. Our trip around the Baltics in the summer of 2018 was one of my favorite European travel experiences!

Not to put too fine a point on it, but...I don't believe there was ever a "Rick Steves Baltics" tour. As I recall, it was actually the Scandinavia tour (or one of them) with quickie side-trips to Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallinn added (Tallinn is a super-easy day-trip by ferry if you're already in Helsinki).

If RSE is looking to expand their tour portfolio, this would seem to be one of the places they could easily spread out - there's plenty to see and do there (even without St Petersberg in the mix, which probably isn't going to be a viable option for a long time).

Posted by
4935 posts

The RS tour that I was scheduled on in May, 2020 was "Best of St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Helsinki in 9 Days" with 2N Tallinn, 2N Helsinki and 4N St. Peterburg. Optimistically, we rescheduled for July 2020. We signed up for it again in June, 2021 and cancelled in November, 2021.

Posted by
855 posts

I agree with David. The Baltics are delightful. We’ve done 2 trips: one to Estonia and one to Latvia/Lithuania.

Posted by
12 posts

I think Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Helsinki would make a wonderful tour! I would be the first in line to book it!

Posted by
266 posts

The tour company I travel with, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), has a Baltic tour that looks pretty good.

Posted by
7078 posts

We went all around the three Baltic countries on our own

David, how did you travel around? Did you rent a car or use public transportation? I'm curious how the train/bus transportation is from one place to another. I've looked at a couple of tours but I think it's the kind of trip I'd prefer to do on my own if possible.

Posted by
6662 posts

Scrapping a tour that includes a visit to St Petersburg is a good idea since it's not really safe to visit Russia now.

But it's a pity that the only offer in the Nordics and Baltic is a quick trip to southern Scandinavia, there is so much more to see in that area and plenty of opportunities for great tours.

Posted by
6788 posts

David, how did you travel around? Did you rent a car or use public transportation? I'm curious how the train/bus transportation is from one place to another.

Nancy - We rented a car. Picked it up in Vilnius, dropped it off in Tallinn, drove it around a heckuvalot in between. AFAICT, there are no useful (to tourists) trains, and while there definitely are bus lines between the Baltic capitals and a few other places, when doing my research I quickly concluded that going by bus would really limit us. I specifically wanted to get beyond the three major cities and go out into the hinterlands. I like hinterlands. And my spouse knew absolutely nothing at all about these countries, and trusts me to "just find good stuff" (bless her heart - it's a big responsibility, and one I take seriously). With a car, it was a delight, and easy as pie.

I've looked at a couple of tours but I think it's the kind of trip I'd
prefer to do on my own if possible.

I went into this trip a little anxious. There's no handy Rick Steves guidebook (the best we found was the DK Eyewitness book). I worried about a language barrier and signage in Cyrillic script. Cultural gaps much wider than what I'm used to. Soviet-era bureaucracy, terrible infrastructure, things that just failed to work. Would there even be enough to keep us entertained for over 2 weeks? Would the locals be friendly? Would the food be edible (I'm not a fan of beets and borscht, cabbage and vodka)? Would it just be weird and uncomfortable? I had never met anyone who had been to these places, and when I mentioned my plan to visit Latvia to friends they either laughed or looked at me like I had said I was off for a vacation in Syria - or the moon. More than one friend, who knew that I was somewhat "adventurous", either hinted or came right out and told me they thought I was probably pushing the envelope too far this time.

Nope.

Every single one of my concerns was misplaced, and wildly so. I found that doing the Baltic countries - on my own - was easy and delightful. If you are adventurous enough to do a driving trip around France or Spain (or Oregon, for that matter), then you can manage a Baltic Road Trip through these three cool little countries. It'll be easier than you think.

@ Nancy - I'll shoot you a PM with links to my personal blog write-ups of this trip with lots of details and photos. You'll see. 😎

Posted by
7078 posts

Thanks David for the great information. The biggest problem is that I'm getting on (78) and going as a solo female can be a little daunting. I have driven all around France but I was much younger then (only 67). I would probably hesitate to rent a car as a solo at my age. That's too bad about the lack of public transportation infrastructure but understandable based on their history under communist rule for so long. Hopefully I can find someone who wants to do a trip there with me, but not holding my breath - like you I'm a little more adventurous than most of my friends and relatives.

Posted by
6788 posts

PM sent, check the links.

Find someone who's up for an adventure and drag them along. This is no more challenging than a trip to the Oregon Coast (easier in fact - I've been in traffic on 101 and Highway 26 before - we encountered no traffic jams in Latvia!). Just gotta overcome the natural (and perfectly understandable) psychological concerns and get there (I had my worries before going, too - my first encounters with humans after landing in Vilnius worried me, but after those two grouches that would only speak Russian, everybody else was great).

Posted by
6662 posts

AFAICT, there are no useful (to tourists) trains,

There are many useful trains in the Baltic states. Even for tourists. Although there are some gaps in the network. Gaps that are often filled with buses. And due to the lack of trains, long distance buses in the Baltics often have very high standard and many often have a first class-section.

I worried about a language barrier and signage in Cyrillic script.

A bit of basic research is never a bad thing. Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian all use the Latin alphabet and have done so for centuries.

The biggest problem is that I'm getting on (78) and going as a solo
female can be a little daunting. I have driven all around France but I
was much younger then (only 67). I would probably hesitate to rent a
car as a solo at my age. That's too bad about the lack of public
transportation infrastructure but understandable based on their
history under communist rule for so long. Hopefully I can find someone
who wants to do a trip there with me, but not holding my breath - like
you I'm a little more adventurous than most of my friends and
relatives.

Don't worry! This is getting a bit off topic though, so it's probably better if you start a new thread. But there is really no reason avoid going to the Baltic states.

Posted by
855 posts

We did our trip to Latvia and Lithuania by public transport, mostly by bus. We took a train 3 times but the bus goes to many more places. You can look up all the routes and buy tickets on line. I had everything set up before we left home.
Public transport is slower than having your own car, but you get to observe how local people use the bus in their daily lives. I found that very interesting.

For Estonia we hired a guide to take us around. This was our first post COVID trip. I think now I would be comfortable using public transport again. I would just wear a mask.

Posted by
4935 posts

The biggest problem is that I'm getting on (78) and going as a solo female can be a little daunting.

I visited the Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn this past summer on my own. It was easy and delightful. I felt very safe and got around quite easily with English.

My Trip Report details the public transportation that I used between cities, a combination of regularly scheduled regional bus and a sightseeing transfer that brought us and our luggage and made tourist stops en route from Vilnius to Riga. It was a perfect way to see some things outside the capitals, without renting a car.

OK, as Badger says, this is veering off topic. But still easily doable, even without a car!

Posted by
12 posts

I love reading the above posts on the Baltic region. My husband of 45 years is 100% Lithuanian and I would love to take him there. Yes he’s one of those who asks while on the plane “where are we going again?” I joined the mailing list for Overseas Adventure Travel Baltics tour which was mentioned above. We are doing RS Central Europe this year so im shooting for the Baltics in 2025. Thanks!

Posted by
27419 posts

I spent about 40 nights traveling around the Baltic countries last summer. I used only trains and public buses and was able to visit all of these cities/towns:

Estonia: Tallinn, Tartu and Parnu
Latvia: Riga (side trip to Jurmala) and Liepaja
Lithuania: Klaipeda, Kaunas and Vilnius

Most visitors wouldn't spend nearly as much time in those cities as I did, but I'm unusually interested in 20th-century history, architecture and art, and all the capital cities have a lot of related sights. There were many additional places I wanted to go in those three countries, but my Schengen clock was ticking.

Posted by
1 posts

I am planning a trip to the Baltics and was sorry to see that there is information by country but not a tour for the three countries.

Posted by
1 posts

David, I am finding the information you requested in 2017 and now the information you shared in 2024 to be just what my husband and I (of Portland, OR) would like to emulate. Is it possible to share with us the info you shared with Nancy on a PM? We also have planned for 2 weeks and to rent a car.

Posted by
2494 posts

I hope RS considers a dedicated guidebook for the Baltics. I know he has Tallinn and Helsinki chapters in the Scandinavia book, but I'd love one that also includes Riga and Vilnius.

Posted by
12 posts

We are planning the 3 Baltic countries in late august of 2025 before we fly down to Brussels for a RS tour. Any and all recommendations are appreciated. I have added all posts so far to my trip file. Thanks everyone!