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; its natural assets offer a spectacular contrast to the brooding, gothic aesthetic of its medieval capital, Tallinn.
In Tallinn, the cobbled streets 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, which has made it a popular destination for stag parties, although not everybody has welcomed that.
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 habitats 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 1944, 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).
1,251,171 (UN estimate 2017).
30 per sq km.
President Kersti Kaljulaid since 2016.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas since 2016.
Last updated: 17 February 2019
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.
Over 115,000 British tourists visit Estonia every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
If you’re living in or moving to Estonia, visit our Living in Estonia guide in addition to this travel advice.
Terrorist attacks in Estonia can’t be ruled out.
You must have the original V5C vehicle registration document if you’re driving into Estonia.
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, trolleybuses, 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.
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.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Estonia and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page.
You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry. If you’re living in Estonia, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
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, otherwise fines may apply. Reflectors are essential during winter months from October to March. The reflectors can be pinned to the right side of your coat or handbag and can be bought locally.
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 2016 there were 71 road deaths in Estonia (source: Department for Transport); equating to 5.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population. This compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
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.
Attacks in Estonia 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.
Same-sex relationships are legal in Estonia, but same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are not recognised in Estonian law. Public displays of affection may be frowned upon or attract unwanted attention. See our information and advice page for LGBT travellers before you travel.
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 do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
However, if the UK leaves the European Union with no deal, the passport validity rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. Some passports with up to 15 months validity remaining may not be valid for travel. Before booking travel, you should check that your passport will meet these new rules and find out whether you need to renew it.
If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rules for travelling or working in Europe will change after 29 March 2019.
The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you’re a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.
If you’re intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.
Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.
On arrival in the Schengen Area, you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.
The 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work in the Schengen area. Most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You should check with the Estionian Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Estonia.
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 Visas and Immigration.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is likely to change. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Estonia is available on the NHS website.
You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs will remain valid until 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The EHIC 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 UK government has or is seeking agreements with countries on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March 2019. The NHS website and this travel advice will be updated with further information on travelling to Estonia as the circumstances change.
Whether you’re travelling before or after 29 March, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Estonia, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Estonia guide.
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.