Travelling the Baltics – Budget Backpacking Guide For 2022

Travelling the Baltics

Are the Baltics worth Visiting?

Most definitely! Travelling the Baltics is an excellent way to discover some of Europe’s most charming destinations. The Baltic states are often a forgotten travel destination, with many people preferring to jet off to the Amalfi Coast or a Greek island.

However, this part of the world is truly magical and offers so much to travellers, so yes, the Baltics are definitely worth visiting! Backpacking the Baltics is one of the best ways to discover this part of Northern Europe.

If you are looking for somewhere off the beaten path with beautiful scenery, but that doesn’t attract hordes of tourists every year -this is the destination for you!

The Baltics refers to the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Each is unique in its own right, and a trip around this region isn’t complete without visiting each one.

This article will include everything you need to know when backpacking the Baltics. That includes transport, currency and of course the best places to see!

So, without further ado here are the things to know before travelling the Baltics.

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Where are the Baltic Countries?

The Baltics is a northeastern region of Europe that is located on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It contains the countries of:

  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania

How do you Travel Around the Baltics?

When it comes to travelling the Baltics, there are a few different ways to get around.

Although it’s possible to travel around the Baltics by plane, or train, the bus is the most popular choice.

Generally, public transport is pretty cheap and convenient in this region, making most areas easily accessible.

You can also choose to go on the Ultimate Baltics road trip and hire a car. It’s often a cheap option and gives you the freedom to visit wherever you want.

Windmill in Estonia
Windmill in Estonia

Travel by Bus

The bus networks in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are very good, and they are a great way to travel around each country.

A lot of the buses come with wifi, plugs, and USB chargers to make your journey comfortable too which is always a bonus.

Some even come with free or low-cost meals, drinks, and a screen with movies and games!

Not only is travelling by bus cheap and comfortable but there are a variety of companies to choose from.

Some of the companies include Ecolines, Ollex, and Busturas. Eurolines also operates in the Baltics, but only in Latvia and Lithuania, not Estonia.

Another popular bus company is LUX, which operates in all Baltic countries.

Travel by Train

Trains are a reliable form of transport in the big cities and within each country.

However, when it comes to crossing the border between countries it’s best to go by bus.

Getting a train service between countries is nearly impossible, and if you can get one, they are often very unreliable.

Hiring a Car

Hiring a car is one of the best ways to travel the Baltics.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania aren’t very big countries so driving between them doesn’t take nearly as much time compared to other parts of Europe.

The highways are also pretty well maintained, and easy to use. Of course, as you head into more rural areas the roads become less maintained, but that’s to be expected in any country.

Travelling the Baltics this way is a great adventure and gives you plenty of flexibility and freedom. You don’t have to rely on public transport timetables and plan your trip around them.

If you do choose to hire a car, make sure you have the right insurance and driving license. There are also plenty of hire car companies located in the Baltics so do your research to find the best deals.

Border Control

Since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all in the EU, there are no internal borders. That means you can drive and cross borders whenever you want, without any drama.

Baltic Ferry Cruises

Baltic Cruise Ship
Baltic Cruise Ship

The Baltic is home to ports offering passenger services around the region. There are many ferry services as well as specialist cruises that take in some of the top destinations in the region.

One of the most popular routes is the Tallinn to Helsinki Ferry. Other services also include Stockholm in Sweden and St/Petersburg in Russia.

There is an overnight ferry between Stockholm and Tallinn taking 17.5 hours.

See the Direct Ferries website for more info on routes and prices.

Money in the Baltics

To make things easier, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all use the euro. The value of the currency is of course the same, but each country has different designs on their coins.

Cards are widely accepted throughout the Baltics, especially at restaurants, hotels, and shops. However, when it comes to small markets it’s important to keep notes and smaller denominations on you, as often they won’t have much change to give you in return.

Cost of Backpacking the Baltics

ItemCost EUR
Dorm Bed in Hostel€10.00
Private Room in Hostel€34.00
3 Star Hotel Room€60.00
1L Bottle of Water€1.00
Combo Meal in McDonald’s€6.00
Pint of Beer in a Bar€4.00
Meal for 1 in a Restuarant€15.00
Cup of Coffee from a cafe€2.70

Languages in the Baltics

Each country in the Baltics has its own language:

  • Estonian
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian

The second language for many people in the Baltics is Russian. This is especially the case for older people who were schooled during the Soviet occupation.

English is also widely spoken in the Baltics too, which is always good to know.

It’s important to remember that even though people here may know Russian, they may not necessarily want to be associated with Russia today. That’s why it’s always best to speak to people in English first if you don’t know any of the other Baltic languages!

Best Places to Visit in the Baltics

Here is a brief run-through of each country, and the destinations you need to visit.

Estonia

One Day in Tallinn
Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia is a wonderful country and is finally starting to get traction with travellers. This underrated gem is incredibly affordable and has a wealth of destinations to offer. With medieval cities, beautiful coastlines and scenic islands, Estonia has something for everyone!

Here are some of the top places to visit in Estonia:

  • Tallinn – Estonia’s vibrant capital
  • Tartu – the country’s second largest city
  • Lahemaa National Park – perfect for hiking, swimming and getting back to nature
  • Saaremaa Island – Estonia’s largest island
  • Parnu – small, but charming city in the southwest of the country

Latvia

Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia

Although not one of the most popular countries to visit in the Balkans, Latvia offers so much to tourists. With incredible cities, ancient castles, pristine beaches, and breathtaking national parks, it’s a country you don’t want to miss.

Here are some of the top places to visit in Latvia:

  • Riga – colourful capital of Latvia
  • Gauja National Park – home to stunning nature and a 13th Century castle
  • Cēsis – castles, churches, and a quaint old town
  • Jurmala – miles of sandy beaches a short train ride from Riga
  • Kuldiga – a beautiful town preserved by time where the modern world seems far away

Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius, Lithuania

Lithuania doesn’t seem to get much publicity when it comes to travel, but it’s one of the most beautiful countries in Eastern Europe. The country is home to incredible architecture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, beautiful scenery, and plenty of history.

Here are some of the top places to visit in Lithuania:

  • Vilnius – the charming, laid back capital of Lithuania
  • Klaipeda – major port city in Lithuania
  • Trakai Island Castle – one of the country’s most beautiful attractions
  • Kernave – the ancient medieval capital
  • Kaunas – second largest city

Check out this list of 8 adventurous activities in the Baltics from Culture Trip!

The weather in the Baltics

Backpacking the Baltics
Backpacking the Baltics

The climate in the Baltics is influenced by the Baltic sea and the Gulf of Finland and differs depending on which country you visit.

Generally, the Baltic winters are long and cold, with the summers being short and warm.

Estonia: The warmest month to visit Estonia is July, with an average high temperature of 21°C. The coldest month to visit is February, with an average low temperature of -7°C.

Latvia: The warmest month to visit Latvia is July, with an average high temperature of 23°C. The coldest month to visit is January, with an average low temperature of -5°C.

Lithuania: The warmest month to visit Lithuania is July, with an average high temperature of 23°C. The coldest month to visit is January, with an average low temperature of -6°C.

Best Time to Visit Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

The Baltics can be visited all year round, although it does depend on where you want to visit and the activities you want to do.

Generally, the most popular time to visit is between late June to August when the temperature is at its warmest and there is plenty of sunlight.

However, during this time locals and tourists alike flock to the coast and more popular areas of the Baltics so these places will be busier than normal.

If you don’t mind the weather being a little bit cooler, you can choose to visit in May, early June, or September. The crowds will be thinner, and the conditions are still favourable making it a great time to visit.

Accommodation in the Baltics

Things to do in Vilnius
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania

Travelling the Baltics is generally pretty cheap, and that goes for accommodation too. However, there are plenty of options for different travel styles.

You can splurge on a 5* hotel if you want to, or save your pennies, and go for a dorm bed instead.

Below are a few options when it comes to accommodation in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Hostels/Cheap Accommodation

Tallinn, Estonia – Old Town Hostel Alur – perfect location within Tallinn’s old town

Tartu, Estonia – Hostel Tartu – Spacious hostel with luxuries including a sauna and bar

Riga, Latvia – Old Town Hostel and Backpackers Pub – Beautiful hostel set in Riga old town

Jurmala, Latvia – Vikingu guest house – Close to the beach with an outdoor pool

Vilnius, Lithuania – Hostel Jamaika – Hostel with plenty of spacious communal areas

Kaunas, Lithuania – Hostel Liberty – Friendly hostel close to tourist attractions

Hotels

Tallinn, Estonia – Hestia Hotel Kentmanni – Excellent location with a spa and wellness centre

Riga, Latvia – Boutique Hotel KRISTOFS – Located in Riga old town with beautiful interior

Vilnius, Lithuania – Hotel Vilnia – Set in a 19th-century building with a lounge bar

For other accommodation in the Baltics, you can find a wide range of choices on Booking.com, HostelWorld, and Trip.com.

Camping

Wild camping is allowed and even encouraged within the Baltics, and that goes for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

However, you should never camp in designated protected areas like national parks, nature reserves, or military zones. There will be signs to advise you when it comes to this.

Eurocapmings has over 100 campsites across the region (35 in Estonia, 37 in Latvia and 34 in Lithuania).

Is it Safe to Travel the Baltics?

The Baltic states are politically stable and developed nations, and so are generally very safe for tourists.

However, as with any country, petty crime is prevalent in touristy cities like Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius.

Scams can also be quite common including being overcharged steeply by taxis and the ‘night club scam’. This is where people (especially women) if you’re travelling as a male, will encourage you to buy drinks all night, and leave you with a very expensive bill.

It may also be important to pre-plan your route slightly. If you are camping or spending a large amount of time in outdoor areas a vaccine for tick-borne encephalitis may be a good idea.

Ensure you have adequate travel insurance for your trip. Our partners at World Nomads are experts in offering policies for backpackers and adventurers. You can get a quote here.

Top tips whilst travelling the Baltics

  • Whilst some nationalities don’t require visas to enter Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, some will so it’s important to do your research first.
  • The Baltic countries are incredibly proud of their national identity, and many people don’t like to be associated with Russia after the Soviet occupation. Be mindful of discussing politics with local people.
  • Although the majority of places accept cards make sure you keep loose change on you. This will be needed for buses, and tips if you decide to leave one. It isn’t a standard rule to tip but it’s greatly appreciated.
  • Although many of the Baltic dishes consist of meat, vegan and vegetarian restaurants are picking up popularity, especially in the big cities.
  • Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have some of the fastest wifi speeds in the world and are well ahead when it comes to free publicly accessible wifi.
  • You can get a sim card that covers all the Baltic countries, which makes keeping connected incredibly easy.
  • Although taking a flight across the Baltics may be quicker, travelling by bus is often the best option. It’s much cheaper and has plenty of luxuries including meals, drinks, and movies.
  • Unfair pricing of taxis is still pretty common in this region, so be very mindful if you are choosing to travel around by taxi.
  • When travelling the Baltics it’s important to research the climate before you visit. Even if you are travelling within just one of the countries, the weather can differ dramatically between the north and south.

Are you ready for a trip backpacking the Baltics?

Does travelling the Baltics sound like something you need on your bucket list? Well, it definitely should! Although not one of the most well-known or travelled areas of the world, the Baltics has so much to offer.

Whether you want to explore capital cities, lounge on the beach, or trek through national parks, this region has it all.

When it comes to backpacking the Baltics, there are so many incredible sights to see.
And the best part? As the Baltics don’t have the popularity of other areas in Europe (although it should), you won’t have a problem with crammed tourist attractions.

With a great public transport network, cheap accommodation, and plenty of tasty dishes to try, the Baltics needs to be next on your list!

More Backpacking Guides from thetripgoeson:

Balkans Backpacking Guide

Russia Backpacking Guide

Central Asia Backpacking Guide

Steve Rohan

About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang, the tropical paradise of Sanya and Hong Kong.

He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.

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