Travel the Baltics: Guide to Lithuania, Latvia, & Estonia

travel the baltics

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Sooo you have plans to travel the Baltics soon? You’re making some very awesome choices for your upcoming backpacking trip! These three countries, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, are very unique compared to other parts of Europe. Your backpacking experience will be filled with fascinating (albeit dark) history, gorgeous architecture, delicious and cheap food, and new friendships with people – who’ve likely already traveled quite a bit of the world!

And safety? Yes, the Baltics are safe for solo travelers, including women who want to go alone. No worries there. You’ll be fine!

travel baltics today for a great time
Planning on visiting the Baltics? You’ve come to the right place!

My Experience Traveling the Baltics

I traveled solo to the Baltics in summer of 2016. I did it completely on my own, no guided tour included. Pretty cool, huh? And certainly a testament to have safe the Batlics are.

As I planned my trip, though, I had a much harder time researching as I explored the internet for accurate information regarding solo travel in this region. Believe me when I say I had no idea what to expect when I stepped off the plane at Vilnius Airport.

However, my trip was worth it, and I have no problem advocating the Baltics as a solo female travel destination!

Although it’s been two years, I want to share all the bits and pieces I learned on my solo trip through the Baltic States. Enjoy!

travel the baltics and roam down a street like this one

Travel the Baltics: Where are the Baltics Located?

Not sure where the Baltics are located? No worries. These countries aren’t as popular as Germany and France for travelers so the misunderstanding is a reasonable one.

These three small countries are located in the north/central part of Europe. They border the Baltic Sea, as well as the countries of Russia and Belarus. It’s actually quite easy to pair the Baltics with a quick trip to Saint Petersburg. Just make sure you have your visa sorted beforehand to avoid any issues at the border.

However, keep in mind, not everyone in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia speaks Russian, and to assume such a thing is offensive to locals. Each country has its own unique language. In my experience, most people speak English, but of course it’s polite to learn a few phrases.

In addition, Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, is directly across the sea from Helsinki, making Finland another easy spot to pair with your Baltic vacation.

Due to the countries’ locations, summer is the best time to visit the Baltic States. The weather is usually awesome. I went on my own trip at the end of July, which resulted in extra long days and comfortable temperatures. I also experienced zero rain, although I can’t guarantee that, haha.

travel the baltics and never go hungry
This market is one of the best things to do in Riga Latvia.

Travel the Baltics and Solo Travel

So why are the Baltics great for solo travelers?

Oh, man, this is a loaded question that’ll take some time for me to explain. I hope you’ve some tea or snacks as you read this post.

For of all, each Baltic capital has great hostels for you to choose from. Even if hostels aren’t your thing, the social accommodation is your best method for meeting and talking to new people. What’s cool about traveling through the Baltics is you’ll meet people who are naturally adventurous.

I mean … think about it. The Baltics aren’t necessarily the first places you think of while planning a vacation to Europe. Paris? Sure! Riga? Um, less likely.

Going beyond the Baltics? Check out my 25 tips for solo female travel in Europe!

you can take tours of the baltics if you need to get around
Travel the Baltics for the Three Crosses in Lithuania!

Not to mention, if you’re an older backpacker, you’ll encounter far less crazy eighteen year olds doing their first trip around Europe – which is a bonus!

A lot of travelers take the same “route” – Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn – through this part of Europe. So if you make good friends, you’ll likely stay together for the duration of your stay. Seriously, tours of the Baltics promise many wonderful bonds and friendships that are the essence of travel.

Finally, your meticulously planned tours of the Baltics are great for you as a solo traveler, because of the affordable price tag. You’ll notice a big difference in prices as a citizen of the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia. Kindness to your wallet is always a good thing.

Purchase Lonely Planet’s Baltics Guidebook for your Trip.

see riga's old town when taking tours of the baltics

Backpacking the Baltics: Transportation

When I travel the Baltics, how do I safely get around?

Believe or not, you can easily cover a lot of distance when you travel the Baltics. It’s not too complicated.

However, I want to give you all a quick word of warning. Train connections aren’t as frequent or quick as rail travel in Western Europe is. For example, comparing Germany’s trains to Estonia’s trains would be a pretty big mistake! Believe it or not, there are better ways to navigate the Baltic States! So forget about trains.

Instead take advantage of the many affordable bus routes that connect your destinations! On my own trip, I rode the Lux Express Bus between each of the capital cities, and had absolutely no issues with times or schedules. The buses are comfortable, offering travelers plenty of leg room, and they come equipped with clean bathrooms.

If you have time to spare, then taking ferries between countries is another available option. You’ll probably spent the night on the ferry, but I hear it’s fun. I know Busabout uses them on their trips.

you will see lots of churches on your baltic travel
Have a great time visiting the Baltics!

Travel the Baltics: Country Is the Best?

So, Which Capital is the Safest: Vilnius, Riga, or Tallinn?

Honestly, I felt safe exploring all of the Baltic capitals. Sure, I felt a little nervous upon first arriving in Vilnius, but experiencing normal travel jitters doesn’t mean the area is unsafe. Each city was fine.

As a solo female traveler, I’m always aware of my surroundings and taking note of the people around me. Not once was I approached for money or fell victim to a crafty scam. Sure, you need to stay more alert at night time, but again, these are normal safety precautions.

However, I’ve heard two separate stories in the Baltics regarding safety, which I want to share here.

travel the baltics and see this adorable kitty. have fun visiting the baltics

Occasionally, cabs will overcharge tourists especially late at night once the bars close. To avoid this problem, I had my hostel call me a cab to the bus and ferry stations, and never encountered a dishonest or aggressive driver. If you don’t feel comfortable hailing a cab on the street, then request that your accommodation make transportation arrangements for you. They know the reliable cab companies.

The second safety tip is a bit more intense. However, smart choices go a long way. A fellow backpacker tried to meet women using Tinder, and ended up at a sketchy bar far outside Vilnius’s Old Town limits and lost his passport to a strange man. Re: not the woman who he originally thought he was meeting. She never even showed up at the bar.

So my advice is if you want to meet someone through an app, please make sure you two hang out in a public place of your choosing. A legitimate person won’t feel bothered at your suggestion. After all, you’re visiting a new country and want to go someplace comfortable.

All in all, the Baltics’s capital cities were very safe. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit them again!

travelling the baltics to see tallinn's old town

Travel the Baltics and Accommodation

Where Should I Stay when I Travel the Baltics?

Vilnius: On my trip to Vilnius, I stayed at Jimmy Jumps Hostel which was super friendly and fun. I personally enjoyed the free pancakes for breakfast, haha. Keep in mind, if you book a private room, you’ll be in a separate building, but it’s still easy enough for you to access the common room and kitchen.

Riga: On my trip to Riga, I stayed at Naughty Squirrel Backpackers which is an excellent choice for solo travelers who want to enjoy a bit of a party scene! This hostel has been consistently voted as one of the best hostels in the world. The staff is VERY friendly, and they arrange a variety of events for guests. However, make sure you book your bed in advance. Naughty Squirrel Backpackers was completely sold out on my visit! Many travelers wanted to extend their stay and couldn’t do it.

Tallinn: On my trip to Tallinn, I stayed at Euphoria Hostel which is perfect if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere and vibe. This hostel invites musicians to perform for guests in the common room, which adds to a strong sense of community. If you’re looking for a bit more fun, then go to The Monk’s Bunk on your stay in Tallinn. Most of my friends stayed there, and lemme tell you, the Monk’s Bunk knows how to lead a quality pub crawl.

Book your accommodation in Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. 

travel the baltics in summer for these lovely views
Take tours of the Baltics to Lithuania!

Travel the Baltics: More FAQ for Your Trip

1. I’m not Interested in Partying. Will I Feel Comfortable?

Hmm. I won’t lie. You’ll encounter a party atmosphere along the backpacking trail in the Baltics. The cheap price of alcohol in combination with many pub tours make drunkenness commonplace at some hostels.

However, you still will feel comfortable traveling around the Baltics. You just need to know what tours to book and what places to stay to ensure a quieter experience.

Read reviews ahead of time. Avoid staying in hostels that advertise partying.

Book yourself on some historical walking tours, day trips, or food tours to find other travelers with similar interests as you.

And remember, you can always say “no” to nights out. Cool people won’t care or make fun of you, promise.

traveling the baltics pushed my comfort zone
Travel the Baltics for the splendid Orthodox Churches.

2. What Were Some of Your Favorite Attractions?

Ahhh, I have a lot of wonderful memories, but I wish I remembered more specific sites to share with you. Honestly, my trip through the Baltics is one of the reasons I advocate for writing a travel journal on a regular basis. Your memory isn’t as strong as you think it is!

However, I do have a few suggestions for you if you’re planning to travel the capitals of the Baltics.

Enjoy!

enjoying my summer baltic travel because of blue sky

#1 — IN VILNIUS

Gediminas’ Tower: This gorgeous red tower is the remaining part of the Upper Castle. This brick castle was completed in 1409. Come to Gediminas’ Tower to enjoy some of the best views in all of Vilnius!

Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights: Previously called the Museum of Genocide Victims. Lithuania suffered greatly under the Nazi Regime and the Soviet Union. Located inside the former KGB headquarters, the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights is dedicated to the victims. Have a strong stomach ready. This museum is located at Aukų g. 2A, Vilnius 01400, Lithuania.

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania: This beautiful palace was originally constructed in the 15th century for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the future Kings of Poland. However, it was demolished in 1801 and took 16 years to fully re-complete it in 2018! Wow.

“Republic” of Užupis: This self-proclaimed “republic” is the artistic district of Vilnius. What’s super cool about Užupis is it has its own president and constitution! Take a stroll here. You won’t regret it.

Three Crosses: Epic hillside monument of (you guessed it!) Three Crosses. It’s quite a hike to this monument so wear super comfortable shoes on your journey up to the very top.

Finally Vilnius has so many cool things to offer solo travelers that I can’t list them all here. Be sure to check out my Sightseeing Vilnius Guide for more in-depth information about attractions in Lithuania’s capital.

travel to the baltics for the lovely old towns

#2 — IN RIGA

Art Nouveau District: This distinct style, popular in at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, adorns all the buildings in this district. Take some good pictures. Instagram would be mad jealous of this neighborhood.

House of Blackheads: Travel through history when you visit House of Blackheads. This gorgeous building was built in 1334, and is one of the most popular images of Old Riga. Take a walk to the square and listen to the musicians.

Nativity of Christ Cathedral and the Freedom Monument: Nativity of Chris Cathedral is a stunning Russian Orthodox Church with incredible golden domes. Not far away, you’ll find the Freedom Monument, which honors the soldiers who died during the Latvian War of Independence that took place in 1918-1920.

Riga Central Market: An incredible market located outside of the Old Town. If you want a diverse shopping experience and delicious food for a picnic, then you need to go here. Riga Central Market is located at 7 Nēģu iela.

The Three Brothers: A building complex of  oldest medieval dwelling houses in Riga. It’s hard to take a full picture of The Three Brothers, but they’re gorgeous to see in person.

there are plenty of gorgeous things to do in estonia

#3 — IN TALLINN

There are plenty of cool things to do in Tallinn. Here are some of the highlights from my own trip:

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: An impressive Russian Orthodox Cathedral typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900. Definitely go inside and see the spectacular interior.

Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square): This main square of Tallinn’s old town is beautiful! Go in the late afternoon after the day trippers from Finland go home. You’ll feel as if you were transported back in time.

Telliskivi Loomelinnak: Also known as Telliskivi Creative City. This former industrial area is now excellent for shopping and dining opportunities. It’s located outside Tallinn’s Old Town, but isn’t a very far walk. You can find Telliskivi Loomelinnak at Telliskivi 60a.

Toompea Hill and Castle: This impressive stronghold makes you feel like a knight in shining armor. Take advantage of the sweeping views from near Toompea Castle, and take plenty of photos to make your friends jealous. Today the pink building houses the Parliament of Estonia.

Learn some Baltic phrases before you go!

travel baltics and learn all the history

Do you plan to travel the Baltics? Where would you like to visit? Leave all your thoughts in the comments.

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One thought on “Travel the Baltics: Guide to Lithuania, Latvia, & Estonia

  1. Hannah says:

    Hi there! I am currently looking into visiting all three cities. My biggest thing is time. How long did you stay at each destination? I don’t have too much time for my holiday, but want to make sure I can thoroughly enjoy each place. Thanks!

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