Dangers & Annoyances
Estonia is fairly safe, but employ common sense.
- Huge numbers of tourists in Tallinn may encourage pickpockets and bag-snatchers.
- Racially motivated crimes against minorities are known to occur in Estonia.
- Drunks – particularly Brits on stag dos – can be a problem in nightlife areas.
- Estonian drivers can be aggressive and regularly overtake slower vehicles on the country's many narrow, two-lane highways, which often have no lines indicating division of lanes. Inclement weather and potholes make for sketchy conditions: aways have your headlights on.
- Beware of taxis hailed from the street – drivers have been known to jack up fares.
Embassies & Consulates
For up-to-date contact details of Estonian diplomatic organisations as well as foreign embassies and consulates in Estonia, check the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.vm.ee).
Australian Consulate Honorary consulate; embassy in Stockholm.
Canadian Embassy Office An office of Canada's Baltic embassy, which is in Rīga.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Estonia from other parts of the EU is usually a breeze – no border checkpoints and no customs – thanks to the Schengen Agreement. If arriving from outside the Schengen area, old-fashioned travel document and customs checks are required. For more information, check the Estonian Foreign Ministry’s website at www.vm.ee
When leaving Estonia, there are no limits on how much alcohol you can carry with you, though you'll have to convince border inspection agents that any large quantities are for personal consumption. When it comes to tobacco, there are heavier restrictions if you're headed to Sweden, Finland or the UK.
If arriving from outside the EU, there are the usual restrictions on what can be brought into the country; see www.emta.ee for full details, including alcohol and tobacco limits.
Not required for citizens of the EU, USA, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Hand-in-hand with its relaxed attitude to religion, today’s Estonia is a fairly tolerant and safe home to its gay and lesbian citizens – certainly much more so than its neighbours. Unfortunately, that ambivalence hasn’t translated into a wildly exciting scene (only Tallinn has gay venues).
Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1992 and since 2001 there has been an equal age of consent for everyone. In 2014 Estonia became the first former Soviet republic to pass a law recognising same-sex registered partnerships, coming into effect in 2016.
Wireless internet access (wi-fi) is ubiquitous in ‘E-stonia’ (you may find yourself wondering why your own country lags so far behind this tech-savvy place). You’ll find literally hundreds of hotspots throughout the country. We’re talking on city streets, in hotels, hostels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, shopping centres, ports, petrol stations, even on long-distance buses and in the middle of national parks! Keep your eyes peeled for orange-and-black stickers indicating availability. In most places connection is free.
If you’re not packing a laptop or smartphone, options for getting online are not as numerous as they once were. Some accommodation providers offer a computer for guest use and there are a few internet cafes with speedy connections. Plus public libraries have web-connected computers that can usually be accessed free of charge (you may need photo ID). Most small communities will have a well-signed public internet point, often connected to the general store.
When driving in Estonia, be mindful of licence laws – you need both a licence from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Police regularly run checkpoints for documents and drunk driving, and there are posted cameras along highways that will automatically penalise you for speeding.
After dark, pedestrians are required to wear reflectors in order to remain visible to passing drivers. This is regularly enforced by police and violators may face a fine up to €40.
Buying, selling, using or possessing drugs, even in small quantities, is punishable by a fine or detention for up to 30 days.
Persons under arrest have the right to learn of their rights and receive information in a language and manner they can understand. One may not be held under arrest for more than 48 hours without permission from the court and may receive compensation in the event of a breach of rights.
If you’re just going to major cities and national parks, you’ll find the maps freely available in tourist offices and park centres more than adequate. If, however, you’re planning on driving around and exploring more out-of-the-way places, a good road atlas is worthwhile and easy to find. Regio (www.regio.ee) produces a good, easy-to-use road atlas, with enlargements for all major towns and cities. EO Map (www.eomap.ee) has fold-out sheet maps for every Estonian county and city, as well as a road atlas.
On 1 January 2011 Estonia joined the eurozone, bidding a very fond farewell to its short-lived kroon. ATMs are plentiful and credit cards are widely accepted.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Restaurants Some include service in the bill. Up to 10% is customary for good service.
- Taxis 10% is the expectation, or round up the fare.
- Hotels Tip luggage porters €1 to €2 per bag; consider up to €5 for exceptional concierge service. Tips for cleaning staff are at your discretion.
- Bars Round to nearest euro for drinks served at your table.
- Guides and drivers Up to €20 per day is generous for excellent service.
Opening hours vary considerably throughout the year due to the stark contrast of weather conditions during summer and winter – some places close entirely from October to March. The hours indicated here are during high summer season (June to August) when most places are open, and working hours are longest.
Banks 9am or 10am to 5pm or 6pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants noon to midnight
Cafes 8am to 4pm
Bars noon to midnight
Museums 10am to 6pm
Shops 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday
Shopping Centres 9am to 9pm
Supermarkets 8am to 11pm
New Year’s Day (Uusaasta) 1 January
Independence Day (Iseseisvuspäev; Anniversary of 1918 declaration) 24 February
Good Friday (Suur reede) March/April
Easter Sunday (Lihavõtted) March/April
Spring Day (Kevadpüha) 1 May
Pentecost (Nelipühade) Seventh Sunday after Easter (May/June)
Victory Day (Võidupüha; commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Võnnu, 1919); 23 June
St John’s Day (Jaanipäev, Midsummer’s Day) 24 June
Day of Restoration of Independence (Taasiseseisvumispäev; marking the country’s return to Independence in 1991); 20 August
Christmas Eve (Jõululaupäev) 24 December
Christmas Day (Jõulupüha) 25 December
Boxing Day (Teine jõulupüha) 26 December
Taken together, Victory Day and St John’s Day are the excuse for a week-long midsummer break for many people.
Smoking is illegal in all indoor public spaces, including restaurants and pubs – but smokers may still light up on the terraces outside.
There are no area codes in Estonia; if you’re calling anywhere within the country, just dial the number as it’s listed. All landline phone numbers have seven digits; mobile (cell) numbers have seven or eight digits and begin with 5. Estonia’s country code is 372. To make a collect call dial 16116, followed by the desired number. To make an international call, dial 00 before the country code.
Public telephones accept chip cards, available at post offices, hotels and most kiosks. For placing calls outside Estonia, an international telephone card with a pin, available at many kiosks and supermarkets, is better value. Note that these cards can only be used from landlines, not mobile phones.
Almost all of Estonia is covered with digital mobile-phone networks, and every man and his dog has a mobile. To avoid the high roaming charges, you can get a starter kit (around €5), which will give you an Estonian number, a SIM card and around €5 of talk time (incoming calls are free with most providers). You can buy scratch-off cards for more minutes as you need them. SIM cards and starter kits are available from post offices, supermarkets and kiosks.
Estonia uses the 24-hour clock and is on Eastern European Standard Time, which is two hours ahead of GMT/UTC. Estonia observes Eastern European Summer Time (EEST, GMT plus three hours) from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
The following times do not take Eastern European Summer Time into account:
There are several public toilets around Tallinn, many of them high-tech and self-cleaning. All toilets in Estonia are seated (Western style). On WC doors, a triangle pointing up indicates the women's room (N or naiste), while a triangle pointing down signifies the men's room (M or meeste).
In addition to the info-laden, multilingual website of the Estonian Tourist Board (www.visitestonia.com), there are tourist offices in most cities and many towns and national parks throughout the country. At nearly every one you’ll find English-speaking staff and lots of free material.
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, an economical and enlightening way of travelling around Estonia involves doing some voluntary work as a member of Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoof.ee) – also known as ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’. Membership of this popular, well-established international organisation (which has representatives around the globe) provides you with access to the WWOOF Estonia website, which at the time of research listed 50 organic farms and other environmentally sound cottage industries throughout the country. In exchange for daily work, the owner will provide food, accommodation and some hands-on experience in organic farming. Check the website for more information.