Since there have been a few posts recently about the Baltic countries, I thought I would post a brief report about our 16 night trip to Latvia and Lithuania last summer. We had a wonderful time. I would encourage anyone traveling to these countries to visit the capital cities but to also try to spend time in other towns or cities.
In planning our trips, deciding on public transportation or renting a car is one of the early decisions. We traveled by bus and were able to go everywhere we wanted to go. You can look up schedules and prices on line. I bought tickets on line before our trip. I’m a planner so we did not regret our loss in flexibility in buying out tickets in advance. You also know that you are paying the correct price when you purchase on line. If you buy the ticket on the bus, be prepared to pay a small “tourist tax” and count your change carefully. You should get a receipt when you buy the ticket on the bus. In a few cases, the bus was full.
Between the capital cities, bus service is frequent. If you want to go from a town in Latvia to a town in Lithuania, you may find limited service. Within each country, the service is more frequent. For very small towns or villages, the service may be less frequent. Schedules are all on line so with done persistence, you should be able to figure it out.
In Latvia, we spent 3 nights in Riga and 3 nights in Sigulda. I was uncertain when we would travel between Riga and Sigulda. This was one place where we decided when to go on the day of travel. We chose the train based on schedule. Two nights in Sigulda would have been sufficient (we used the cable car to get to the other side and spent the day walking to the sites. It was a lot of walking and very hilly. You could take a bus from Sigulda to see the sights as well). We spent our second day hiking. Sigulda was very restful.
We visited Rundale from Riga. You have to transfer to a local bus to get to Rundale. Our first bus was late so we missed the connection. Another local bus came in 45 minutes. If the connections don’t work, there were taxis waiting. This day trip took most of the day.
In Lithuania, we did a number of day trips from Vilnius. We also stayed in Nida for 2 nights (my favorite stop). When we visited Nida, there were two direct buses from Vilnius to Nida, both leaving pretty early in the morning. Definitely buy tickets in advance as our bus sold out. If you don’t take a bus, you have to take a bus (or possibly train), then walk/taxi/local bus to passenger ferry, then bus to Nida. The direct bus is definitely easier. We walked a lot in Nida, spent much of a day walking along the beach. Again, a relaxing spot where Lithuanians (and others) were vacationing.
The Hill of Crosses was definitely worth a visit. It doesn’t take long to visit. It takes some effort to get there by public transportation but it is difficult to get there. We came from Nida which made things a little more complicated. You can check your bags at the bus station in Siauliai. The bus driver will show you where to get off. We did not stay in Siauliai. We stayed in Panevezys which has a very nice hotel.