Estonia — The Basics
Located on the beautiful Baltic Sea, Estonia is a little country with a lot of cultures! Don’t let the vast wilderness and green landscapes fool you! Estonia is on the cutting edge of modernity. The internet is some of the fastest in the world. There’s a reason that they’re known as the Silicon Valley of Europe! Freelancers, techies, and entrepreneurs are all scrambling to call Estonia their home.
That being said, Estonia isn’t all business. Millions of people go to Estonia every year just to visit! Rarely does someone leave Estonia unsatisfied. Hikers, castle-farers, island-lovers, and partiers too; when you visit Estonia, there’s always something to do!
Sights and Attractions
Tallinn has a host of imposing buildings and exhilarating activities. No stay in the capital would be complete without seeing the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral . This enormous Russian Orthodox cathedral was completed in 1900. Massive domes tower over the structure, and the entire cathedral is covered in bright, eccentric colors. If the Russian Orthodox Church wanted to make a statement, then they were definitely successful.
The Tallinn Town Hall is a perfectly intact relic made in medieval times. On the outside of this grand meeting-hall, the gothic design is dark, dreary, and a little spooky. This contrasts greatly with the inside. Pastel shades of red, green, blue, and yellow adorn all structural supports. Polished metal crosses can be seen all over, and massive, shiny chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Everything in the cathedral is bathed in a warm light. As you step into the cathedral, the sheer volume and detail of its décor is simply overwhelming.
Natural wonders can be found at every corner in Estonia. For those addicted to fresh air and greenery, Estonia is one of the best European vacations. Lahemaa National Park , established under the old Soviet Union, covers over 116,000 acres of land and 64,000 acres of sea. This vast expanse is dotted with hiking trails, campsites, and high-up observation towers. The only way to truly appreciate the sheer vastness of this natural treasure is to see it from above. The trek up a tower will reveal an expanse of green that just doesn’t end. Stairs might not be your thing, but these stunning views are a great incentive not to skip leg day!
Estonia Travel Tips
Estonia Currency Considerations
Estonians use the Euro. This is great for anyone who plans to move along western Europe in the same trip. The Euro is the national currency of 19 countries, so it is very globally useful compared to some smaller, isolated currencies.
Many countries that use the Euro can be pretty pricey. Estonia breaks that mold. Estonia is one of the best European vacations for a budget-minded adventurer. Consider stocking up on Euros before you head to Estonia. An online exchange site can be a great way to get a reasonable rate without the hassle.
If you exchange currency in Estonia, you are more likely to get a bad rate. Airport kiosks are the worst culprits. Any tourist hotspot will be bad as well. No matter where you’re going, always try to find a reasonable exchange rate.
Hotels aren’t unreasonably priced. There are several luxury options, but budget travelers can find an affordable place, too. Traditional lodging on smaller islands may be more challenging to find. Always look up your homestay options. Often, you can find a good deal during the week or in the off-season.
Flights and Transportation
Most flights to Estonia land in Tallinn. As Tallinn is the capital, there is an abundance of things to do or see. Hop on out of the airport and enjoy what the city has to offer. Buses and trams come to and from the airport, so take advantage. Buses are much better than paying an arm and a leg for a taxi.
Estonia has an excellent metro, bus, and railway system. Public transport is almost always on time, and the fare is quite affordable. You can expect to get to most places in this country with few delays. Not many European destinations can boast as many islands as Estonia. With over 2300 islands to explore, Estonia is not a bad choice for sea-lovers. Most of these islands are accessible by ferries that often leave and at regular intervals. Smaller islands may not be as convenient to access. Naturally, uninhabited islands will be near impossible to visit.
Maybe Estonia is but one segment of your trip? If you plan to pass through Belarus, Russia, or Ukraine on your way to or from Estonia, European visas should be taken into account. Even traveling on a train through one of these countries requires a specific visa.
European visas are pretty accessible for citizens of most western nations. You just have to plan for them. Don’t think you can get through every country without a visa. Poor planning in this regard can put the brakes on your trip. Other European destinations aren’t as lax with their borders as countries in the Schengen Zone.
The national language of Estonia is Estonian. About 56 percent of Estonians can speak Russian as a second language. About 50 percent have at least some working knowledge of English. Finnish and German are both pretty popular, too. Estonia may not have as many English speakers as a place like Denmark, but you should be able to get around all the same.
On islands or in rural areas, you may have greater trouble communicating. Don’t get impatient the locals for this. Whether English is your native language or not, the ability to speak English is an immense privilege. Pull out a translation app, find some pictures, and meet them in the middle. Estonians are often very welcoming people.
Show them some respect, and remember to appreciate their good nature. Learn a few Estonian phrases: hello, goodbye, thank you, etc. Numbers and basic travel words are also helpful. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Mid-20th-century history can be a pretty sore subject. Estonia was overrun by the USSR just to be taken by Nazi Germany and then reclaimed by the Soviet Union once again. Naturally, Estonians are not very chipper about this fact. Calling Estonia “soviet” or “post-soviet” is in poor taste. The USSR has been gone for a long time. Estonia has moved far beyond that.
Discussing the Nazi and Soviet regimes is not good conversation material. Expressing any opinion on it is like walking through a minefield. The best European vacations are the ones where you don’t offend the locals. Whether at the dinner table or on the other side of the globe, it’s best to avoid talk of war, genocide, and political strife.
Estonia is a great country for bicyclists. Estonia is not a great country for bicyclists who neglect reflectors! Always make sure your bicycle has a reflector. If you’re renting, your bike should always come with one. That being said, if it is damaged or removed, you’ll pay for it. This offense can cost hundreds of dollars in fines! Who has that sort of money? Estonia is among the cheaper European destinations, but not if you break their rules!
An Estonian invited you inside their home. Great; you must have made a really good impression! There’s no quicker way to ruin that impression than by wearing shoes inside! Always be mindful of this cultural rule. Many cultures worldwide observe this custom. Don’t turn your hosts off with this easily avoidable faux-pas!
Have your European visas in order if you’re leaving the Schengen Zone. Make sure you stock up on Euros beforehand to have enough local currency in Estonia. Be mindful of the rules, and your adventure in Estonia will be a thrill!
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