What do you need to know when visiting Baltic States?

2021-01-14

Every year, the Baltic countries are becoming more and more popular travel destination from different parts of the world. It is true that finding these countries on a map, surrounded by large and much better-known countries such as Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Finland, is not so easy, so many people who do not live in Europe do not even realize their existence.

However, many who have visited these three independent states, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, are surprised that the countries are so western and, in some areas, such as technology, even more developed than other major European countries. It is true that in the Baltic States it is difficult not to notice the cultural and architectural mosaics and their paradoxical harmony. Here, Western culture is intertwined with Scandinavian, architecture in a few square kilometers can range from medieval buildings or Soviet heritage to ultra-modern architectural monuments. It is also interesting that the urban landscape of the Baltic States is uniquely combined with green nature: next to lively restaurants, bars, cafes, museums, galleries, and shopping centers, there are many natural parks, forests, walking trails, or lakes.

So, there is definitely something to see here and we can promise there will be no shortage of excitement! However, first of all, it is worth getting to know some of the specific nuances, so here we have put together all the most important things you need to know when traveling to the Baltic countries!

Climate: 4 seasons

The Baltic countries are characterized by four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Every time of the year, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia can appear in absolutely different colors, because nature itself and people’s clothes, moods and, in some cases, even their way of life are changing!

In winter, the Baltic countries usually turn white, so those who like to wander through the snow or just want to admire the frosted nature will definitely enjoy it here in this season! It is important to remember that the sun does not appear often at this period, the days are shorter, and it is necessary to take care of warm shoes and a thick jacket to protect yourself from the cold. The temperature here can range from about 0 ℃ (32 ℉) to -20 ℃ (-4 ℉).

Travel season in the Baltics is considered summer. In this season you experience the longest days of the year: it gets dark for a very short time, and the daylight hours last up to 18 hours a day. Temperatures range from about 15 ℃ (59 ℉) on cool days or nights to 35 ℃ (95 ℉) on hottest days. The sun is hot here almost every day, so it is important to take care of your headgear, sunglasses, and cooler clothes.

The spring and autumn seasons are transitional. They are usually humid and windy, although there are also beautiful days. In the spring, nature begins to be reborn, trees form buds, and the melted snow both inside and outside the cities leaves many points. It is usually overcast and constantly raining in the fall, but sunny days are rewarded with the most beautiful colors, as the trees throw leaves painted in different colors, which is one of the most beautiful images for both the human eye and the lens!

Language: native, Russian, and English speakers

Most locals in each country speak their mother tongue Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian, but both younger and older speak at least one foreign language, usually English or Russian, and some speak both! If you communicate with a person over the age of 40, he will probably speak Russian but will not speak English. It is a legacy of the former Russian occupation, when historically the local language was even banned. Still, young people often do not speak Russian, but speak English very fluently. It is more difficult to communicate in a foreign language in smaller towns, but in large cities, you can easily communicate in English anywhere – in a cafe, museum, or on the street.

Prices: lower than the European average

The currency used in all three Baltic countries is the euro. In general, prices in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are slightly lower than the average prices in Europe, but with a small price difference, the cheapest of them is Lithuania, and the most expensive is Latvia.

In a grocery store, one daily consumer product costs an average of € 1.5, but as in many countries, eating in a cafe or restaurant is more expensive. Dinner at a mid-level cafe for two people with a main course, dessert, and drink can cost around € 30-40.

Food: savory flavors

Baltic cuisine has many similarities to Russian. Here you will find the diversity of the potato dishes: they are eaten boiled, fried, they are used to make mashed potatoes, baked pancakes, or stuffed dumplings. For example, the traditional Lithuanian dish “zeppelins” is also made from potatoes! Beets are often eaten here in salads, cold and hot soups. Many products are tanned or pickled, especially popular are pickles.

In the west of the country, closer to the Baltic Sea, one must try the local smoked fish, which makes up most of the diet here and is considered a real delicacy. Another attribute of the Baltic cuisine is dark rye bread. It is also eaten in many ways: baked, fried, or even… in liquid form! It is a must-taste drink, as well as local fruit wines made from cherries or black currants.

Many dishes may sound strange and suspicious to the guests of the Baltic States, but after tasting everyone is pleasantly surprised by the unexpected, but really delicious tastes!

People: friendliness under a cold look

Locals can often appear cold and unfriendly to outsiders, but do not be fooled. In fact, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians do not have hot emotions or at least so not show them, they smile less often, but it does not mean that they are unfriendly. Usually, they are just in a hurry, shy or uncomfortable, so they communicate more concisely with strangers. However, no passerby you meet on the street will ignore you but try to help instead if you ask for something (unless they do not understand the language you are speaking to them). And if you talk to the locals longer, they will reveal themselves and show their friendliness and kindness to you.

One of the tips while communicating with locals, avoid mentioning local values ​​in a bad word. People know that not everything here is perfect, but many are true patriots, so they will passionately and hotly cover their country’s heritage and culture. Well, if you want to show a nice gesture and please the local interlocutor, try to learn at least a few words in the local language: boldly greet by saying “sveiki” to Lithuanians and Latvians, and “tere” to Estonians. That will definitely suffice, and the locals will appreciate your efforts. Believe me, they do not expect too much, because Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian languages are quite complex and difficult to learn and locals know it!