Tallinn is very cycle-friendly, despite the cobbles. Distances are minor, bike awareness is high, and there are a number of central outfits hiring decent urban bikes at reasonable rates. Outside Old Town there's a good network of cycle paths (see http://kaart.tallinn.ee) and three guarded 'bicycle parks' operate from 8am to 8pm daily from mid-May to the end of August (at the corner of Harju and Niguliste, on Vabaduse Sq and next to Kadriorg Park's information center). There's also an unlock-and-ride bike system run by Sixt, with 15 locations around Tallinn.
Car & Motorcycle
Driving in Tallinn is generally relaxed and predictable, although sharing the road with trams and trolleybuses carries complications. On any street where the tram stop is in the centre of the road, cars must stop until the disembarking passengers have cleared the road.
The central city has a complicated system of one-way roads and turning restrictions, which can be frustrating to the newcomer. Surprisingly, you are allowed to drive in much of Old Town – although it’s slow going, parking is extremely limited and you can only enter via a few streets. Frankly, it’s easier to park your car for the duration of your Tallinn stay and explore the city by foot or on public transport.
Finding parking places in Tallinn isn't always so much of a problem as is paying for them, an ostensibly simple process that poses problems even for locals. Here are the basics:
There are three different zones visitors can expect to encounter: Old Town (vanalinn, in which a charge of €6 per hour always applies); downtown (südalinn, always subject to a rate of €4.80 an hour); and the wider city centre (kesklinn, in which an hourly charge of €1.50 applies from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 3pm on Saturday).
These charges can be paid on your mobile if you have a local SIM, but it's more likely you'll need to find an old-fashioned ticket machine. Locations of these (and of privately operated parking lots) and details of the fines you'll pay for non-compliance can be found at www.parkimine.ee. Note that the first 15 minutes in any paid parking space provided by the city is free, but you need to leave a parking clock or clear written indication of the time your park began, where inspectors can see it.
Tallinn has an excellent network of buses, trams and trolleybuses running from around 6am to 11pm or midnight. The major local bus station is beneath the Viru Keskus shopping centre, although some buses terminate their routes on the surrounding streets. All local public transport timetables are online at www.tallinn.ee.
Public transport is free for Tallinn residents, children under seven and adults with children under three. Others need to pay, either buying a paper ticket from the driver (€2 for a single journey, exact change required) or by using the e-ticketing system. Buy a Ühiskaart (a smartcard, requiring a €2 deposit which can't be recouped within six months of validation) at an R-Kiosk, post office or the Tallinn City Government customer service desk, add credit, then validate the card at the start of each journey using the orange card-readers. E-ticket fares are €1.10/3/6 for an hour/day/five days.
The Tallinn Card includes free public transport on all services for the duration of its validity. Travelling without a valid ticket runs the risk of a €40 fine.
Taxis are plentiful in Tallinn but each company sets its own fare – there's not too much disparity and prices should be posted prominently. However, if you hail a taxi on the street, there’s a chance you’ll be overcharged; to save yourself the trouble, order a taxi by phone. Operators speak English and can tell you the car number (licence plate) and estimated arrival time (usually five to 10 minutes). If you’re concerned you’ve been overcharged, ask for a receipt, which the driver is legally obliged to provide.
Throughout Old Town you'll find plenty of bicycle taxis run by pedal power, enthusiasm – and discrete motors for when the going gets tough. You’ll generally spot them lingering just inside the town walls on Viru waiting for fares.
Well-established taxi firms include:
- maantee – highway (often abbreviated to mnt)
- puiestee – avenue/boulevard (often abbreviated to pst)
- sild – bridge
- tänav – street (usually omitted from maps and addresses)
- tee – road
- väljak/plats – square