Lithuania travel guide
Lithuania is a spellbinding land of castles, lakes and forests. Though relatively few knew of its charms until recently, Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, is one of Europe’s most enchanting cities, owing especially to its Baroque old town. Then there is the Baltic shore, which may not have the sun-soaked appeal of other coasts, but is idyllic and largely unspoilt. The southernmost country in the Baltics, Lithuania is also home to vast plains parted by hills and sand dunes.
Lithuanian independence came soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. By 1995, the transition to a full market economy had been completed. The long-running border dispute with Poland was settled with the signing of a friendship and co-operation treaty in January 1992 and negotiations with Russia led to the withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops in Lithuania in August 1993. The Russian connection remains, however, with Russians being the second largest ethnic minority in the country. The largest of the three Baltic states, Lithuania gaining EU membership in 2004, since which time the country has been thrust on to the global stage, encouraging more visitors than ever.
Most of the attraction for Lithuania lies with its natural treasures. Much of the country is verdant, with several national parks that are perfect for hikers and explorers. All around the country there are countless sprawling forests ripe for wandering, as well as numerous lakes sprinkled across the landscape.
Perhaps the country’s trump card is the Baltic coastline, where beguiling wetlands brim with wildlife, most notably the thousands of bird species. There’s also the Curonian Spit, a stunning 100km strip of land that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, which is covered in white sands.
65,300 sq km (25,212 sq miles).
2,850,030 (UN estimate 2016).
44.2 per sq km.
President Dalia Grybauskaitė since 2009.
Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius since 2012.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 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 have been reports of petty theft and robbery. Beware of pickpockets, avoid unlit streets and parks at night, and be extra vigilant if walking along. Take extra care of your belongings in busy locations and on public transport.
A small number of tourists have reported being charged extortionate prices for drinks and had fraudulent transactions debited against credit/debit cards. Seek recommendations for bars and clubs from trustworthy sources. Vilnius police publish a list of clubs where they have received the highest number of crimes reported. Don’t leave drinks unattended and be wary of accepting food and drink from strangers in bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
Car theft is a problem in certain areas. Lock unattended vehicles and hide contents. Use guarded car parks in cities, especially overnight.
There have been a number of thefts of bicycles in Vilnius.
If you feel that you have been a victim call the police on 112.
Remember to activate your ticket on the machine on board or you may be fined by undercover inspectors.
Taxis are reasonably priced. Make sure the meter is used. It is cheaper and safer to phone for a taxi from a recognised company than to hail one in the street. Ask your hotel reception to call one. Do not use unregistered taxis
You can drive using a UK photo card driving licence. You must have suitable insurance and carry the original vehicle registration documents (copies are not acceptable).
Take care when driving, particularly at night. Equip your car for severe conditions in winter. Winter tyres are a legal requirement in Lithuania between 10 November and 1 April. Dipped headlights are compulsory all year round. Speed limits, unless otherwise indicated, are 50km/h in towns, 90km/h on country roads and 110km/h on highways.
Don’t drink and drive. The legal blood-alcohol limit is 0.04%. Those found over the limit face a fine and possible imprisonment.
In 2015 there were 241 road deaths in Lithuania (source: Department of Transport), equating to 8.3 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.
When arriving in Lithuania with a car, border officials will ask for:
a passport which is valid for the duration of your stay
original vehicle registration documents (copies are not acceptable)
international vehicle insurance (Green Card)
Be prepared for extremely cold and possibly hazardous weather if you intend to travel to Lithuania 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.
Local travel – Klaipeda, Nida and Palanga
If you intend to walk along the Curonian Spit be aware that after a short distance the Spit forms part of Kaliningrad, which is a territory of the Russian Federation.