Places in Estonia

Top events in Estonia

August
10

One of the main events of the summer, the Battle of Narva attracts military-historical clubs from all over Northern Europe. Soldiers dress up in...

September
03

This festival of Estonian theatre showcases 8 performances as part of the festival which has several foreign theatre critics and numerous guests...

July
09

Biggest beer festival in the Baltics with live music accompanying lashings of beer.

Toompea Hill, Tallinn, Estonia
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Toompea Hill, Tallinn, Estonia

© 123rf.com / Andrei Nekrassov

Estonia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

45,228 sq km (17,462 sq miles).

Population

1.3 million (2013).

Population density

28.7 per sq km.

Capital

Tallinn.

Government

Republic since 1918. Annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Regained independence in 1991.

Head of state

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves since 2006.

Head of government

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas since 2014.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are used.

The smallest and arguably most scenic of the three Baltic States, Estonia is a nation famed for its enormous forests, beautiful wetlands and remote offshore islands as well as for being one of Europe's most friendly and forward-thinking nations.

The jewel in the crown is gorgeous medieval capital Tallinn, a picture-postcard of a city – particularly at Christmas – which attracts those looking for a well-balanced weekend break and daytrippers from Helsinki, although a longer visit is well worth it. A few days here can take in everything from grandiose architecture and historic churches to cozy cafés and happening nightlife. It’s been recognised for its cultural allure, as the city was recognised as European Capital of Culture for 2011. Meanwhile the foodie revolution that’s taking the Nordic countries by storm hasn’t been forgotten here either – dining here is an exercise in discovery as menus pay homage to country’s Baltic and Nordic heritage.

Estonia is an unspoilt, sparsely populated country, nearly half of which is covered with forests. For nature lovers there are primaeval forests and lakelands to thrill – the wetlands, together with primeval forests, represent preserved communities which have for the most part been destroyed in Europe. More than 1,000 lakes (5% of the Estonian territory) dot the countryside, which is relatively flat, and almost two thirds of the territory lies less than 50m (164ft) above sea level.

In the centre lies Soomaa national park, where visitors can kayak through the flooded forest in spring or do a bog hike. Alternatively, a trip to Lahemaa national park on the northern coast will reward visitors with challenging hikes, more scenic bogs (including a 7000 year old specimen in the Koljaku-Oandu Reserve), andviews of the 1200km long (755 miles) Baltic klimt (limestone cliffs). If you’re lucky, you might even spot elusive wolves, bears and lynxes. In Estonia around 7,000 rivers and streams carry rainwater to the sea, whilst bogs and wooded swamplands of different types cover over one-fifth of the country - a world index topped only by Estonia’s northern neighbour, Finland.

Estonia's history, like that of its Baltic neighbours, has been one almost singly devoted to maintaining independence from its powerful neighbours, most notably Russia. Annexed by Stalin in 1940, Estonia never entirely became the Soviet republic it might have done, retaining its language and culture far more strongly than many other members of the USSR. At the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia embraced independence enthusiastically and in two decades has undergone a transformation from lumbering communist society to gleaming example of forward-thinking transitional economy. Now an EU and NATO member, the future looks increasingly bright for this little-known but much-loved Baltic gem.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 24 May 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime  

There has been an increase in tourist-targeted crime, particularly petty theft. Be aware of the risk of pick pocketing and mugging, especially in bars, pubs, nightclubs and hotels in Tallinn’s Old Town. Be vigilant, take sensible precautions and avoid unlit side streets and parks at night. If possible, leave your valuables in a hotel safe.

You should report any theft in person to Tallinn Central Police Station, Kolde pst 65, 10321 Tallinn, telephone: +372 612 5400. You will need to obtain a police report if you have lost your passport.

Public transport

Since January 2013 a plastic smartcard and e-ticket system has been used in Tallinn. Information on buying and using smartcards can be found on the Tallinn Tourism website.

Taxis are widely available and reasonably priced. Make sure there is a visible meter and that it is being used. It is better to phone a major taxi company such as Tulika Takso (telephone: 6120000), Linnatakso (telephone: 6442442), rather than hail one from the street. These companies are usually able to tell you the type, number and colour of the car in advance. Do not use taxis that are unmarked; they are illegal, unsafe and usually cost a lot more than registered taxis.

Road travel

Roads and pavements may become very slippery during spring. In accordance with the Estonian Traffic Act, all pedestrians walking on the road at night time or in inadequate visibility are obliged to wear a safety reflector. These are normally pinned to your coat or handbag and can be bought locally.

You can drive in Estonia on a UK driving licence. If you intend to drive your own vehicle you must have the original V5 C (Vehicle Registration Document). The Estonian Border Guards will impound your vehicle if you do not have this.

By law, headlights of vehicles must be on at all times, including during daylight hours. Winter tyres must be fitted from 1 December to 1 March every year, but if there are severe weather conditions outside these dates (likely in most years) the dates will change accordingly. Check local conditions if you are driving in Estonia between October and April.

Do not drink and drive. The legal limit is zero. Those found over the limit face a fine and possible imprisonment.

In 2012 there were 87 road deaths in Estonia (Source: DfT). This equates to 6.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population compared to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.

See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in Estonia.

Winter travel

Be prepared for extremely cold and possibly hazardous weather in the winter (October to March). There is likely to be snow on the ground and temperatures may drop to -25 degrees Celsius or below. 

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