Estonia travel guide
From reluctant Soviet state to one of the European Union’s brightest young stars, Estonia has undergone something of a transformation in recent decades – and finally the world has woken up to its many charms.
The smallest and arguably most scenic of the three Baltic states (which also includes Latvia and Lithuania), Estonia is a wildly beautiful land of pristine forests, biodiverse wetlands and remote offshore islands; natural assets that offer a spectacular contrast to the brooding, gothic aesthetic of its medieval capital, Tallinn.
The cobbled streets of this fairy-tale city are peppered with historic churches, monuments and cosy cafés, not to mention a burgeoning restaurant scene that pays homage to the country’s Baltic and Nordic heritage. The nightlife is pretty lively too (and cheap), which has made it a popular destination for stag parties – not something everybody has welcomed.
Most adventure travellers escape the city and make for the primeval forests and lakes of rural Estonia. And who can blame them? These areas offer landscapes and ecosystems, which have, for the most part, been lost in much of Europe. More than 1,000 lakes shimmer in the Estonian countryside, while bogs and swamplands cover an astounding one-fifth of the country. These habitants are a haven for birds and birdwatchers.
Estonia’s natural wonders are on impressive display in its national parks; most notably, Soomaa, in the heart of the country, and Lahemaa, on the northern coast, which rewards visitors with challenging hikes and impressive views of the Baltic Klint, a 1,200km-long (745 mile) ridge of limestone cliffs that stretches from Sweden to Russia. Elusive wolves, bears and lynxes can also be spotted in these parts.
Estonia’s history, like that of its Baltic neighbours, has been 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 other members of the USSR. This plucky, independent spirit endures in Estonia today.
45,228 sq km (17,462 sq miles).
1,307,659 (UN estimate 2016).
28 per sq km.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves since 2006.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas since 2014.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
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.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Estonia, attacks can’t be ruled out.
You must have the original V5 C (Vehicle Registration Document) if you are driving into Estonia.
Over 115,000 British tourists visit Estonia every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Take sensible precautions against petty crime.
If you need to contact the emergency services call 112.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Be aware of the risk of pick pocketing and mugging, especially in bars, pubs, nightclubs and hotels in Tallinn’s Old Town. There have been some reports of drink tampering to assist robberies. Be vigilant in bars, 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.
A plastic smartcard and e-ticket system is in use in Tallinn for buses, trolls, trams and inner-city trains. Information on buying and using smartcards can be found on the Tallinn Tourism website).
Taxis are widely available and reasonably priced. Transport apps like Taxify, Taxigo and Uber are also widely used. Make sure there’s a price list on the back window of the taxi, the taxi driver has a licence in a visible place, that there’s a visible meter and that it’s being used. Don’t use taxis that are unmarked; they’re illegal, unsafe and usually cost a lot more than registered taxis. Take extra care to avoid fake taxis in Tallinn Passenger Port.
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 on a UK driving licence. However, your UK licence isn’t valid in Estonia if it was issued on or after 1 May 2015 and, according to the road administration, if you were living in Estonia when the licence was issued.
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 2015 there were 67 road deaths in Estonia (source: Department for Transport); equating to 5.1 road deaths per 100,000 of population. This compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
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.
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Estonia, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Don’t use, buy or possess drugs: sale and distribution is illegal and the possession of even the smallest quantities can lead to up to 10 years imprisonment.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Estonia.
British Citizens don’t require a visa to enter Estonia. Holders of other types of British passports may require a visa. See the webpage of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Schengen Visa Info for further information. If you intend to live and work in Estonia you’ll need to obtain a residence permit from the Police and Border Guard Board.
Holders of a UK Convention Travel Documents
If you are a holder of a UK Convention travel document, it may say on page 30 that you do not need a visa for short visits to Estonia. This is no longer the case and you will always need a visa to visit Estonia using a convention travel document. More details are available from UK Border Agency.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re visiting Estonia you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Estonian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
The 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the global AIDS epidemic estimated that around 12,000 adults aged 15 or over in Estonia were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1.3% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.25. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency of Estonia is the Euro.
ATMs dispense Euros. The currency is easily exchangeable.
Any person entering or leaving the EU must declare the cash that they are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 Euros or more; this includes cheques, travellers’ cheques, money orders, etc. This does not apply to anyone travelling via the EU to a non-EU country, as long as the original journey started outside the EU, nor to those travelling within the EU.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.