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The Baltic Renaissance (Lithuania - Latvia - Estonia) 1 - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring the Baltics, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for the Baltic Renaissance tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your Baltic adventure.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are in the Central European Time zone (GMT + 2 hours). All three countries are 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so when it's noon in Vilnius, Riga or Tallinn, it's 5 a.m. in New York and 2 a.m. in San Francisco.
There are many great souvenirs to bring back with you from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, so make sure that you have enough space left in your suitcase. You do not need any formal clothing for this trip. Some people like to dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants, but this is optional.
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts in Vilnius International Airport (airport code VNO), and ends in Tallinn International Airport (TLL). The tour starts in Vilnius, Lithuania on Friday, May 10, 2019 at 6:00PM, and your flight should arrive no later than 4:00PM. That means that you'll probably depart North America on Thursday, May 9, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for private airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Vilnius airport. The tour will end in Tallinn on Sunday, May 19, 2019, and we'll arrange for a private airport transfer in accordance with your flight's departure time. If you need help with your flights to Vilnius/ from Tallinn, please feel free to give us a call.
The Baltic Renaissance tour group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by professional local guides and bus drivers, who will accompany the group throughout the tour.
The Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia don't present any major health problems for travelers. You don't need shots, most food is safe, and the water is theoretically potable, but it's safest to stick to bottled water. The Baltic region is, on the whole, a pretty healthy place to travel in, though medical facilities outside of the capital cities may not be entirely up to Western standards. Practically all pharmacies in the capitals and larger towns stock imported Western medicines. In the capitals, private clinics offer Western-standard, English-speaking medical care, but they are often expensive. Emergency care is free in all three countries. Mosquitoes are a voracious pest in the region, and can cause irritation and infected bites. Use a DEET-based insect repellent. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry prescription medications in their original containers, with pharmacy labels. Otherwise, they won't make it through airport security. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
Lithuanian tap water is among the cleanest in Europe and is perfectly drinkable. Tap water in Latvia is generally safe to drink, if not pleasant-tasting, but it is advised to stick to bottled water. Tap water in Estonia is safe to drink.
Though very uncommon, visitors may occasionally run into squat toilets in public places. Some gas stations outside of big cities have squat toilets as do open air museums and parks. It's a good idea to carry a pack of tissues, as toilet paper may not be provided. Please keep in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have some coins with you to pay for them.
Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn are generally safe cities for tourists, but you should exercise the same caution you would in any unfamiliar city and always be aware of your surroundings when walking in less trafficked areas or at night. In general, visitors should carry limited cash and credit cards and should leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at the hotel safe, as there may be problems with pickpockets in crowded areas. Taking a few simple precautions will minimize your chances of being ripped off. Photocopy your passport, credit cards, plane tickets, driver’s license, and other important documents – leave one copy at home and keep another one with you, separate from the originals. A hidden money belt remains the safest way to carry money and valuable documents. Take only what you need on busy sightseeing days and use the hotel safe. There are some beggars in the main tourist areas (the cities' most touristed old towns) who may approach you. It is unwise to give them donations: the ones approaching tourists are often not poor but rather use this as a lucrative job. The Baltic countries have effective social security systems and malnutrition is unheard of.
Travel in the Baltics is generally as easy for women as it is for men. You may become the object of verbal admiration, but you’re probably physically safer there than you are at home. Though most of the time they mean well, use your best judgment when dealing with complete strangers. Of course, it always pays to play it safe and stick to populated streets after dark.
During The Baltic Renaissance Tour, we will travel by a private bus. We will also walk a lot, about 5 miles a day, with lots of stairs and uneven, cobble stone streets of medieval towns. If you are not able to handle this amount of walking, please do not register for this tour, as we are not able to make alternate arrangements for those who cannot walk. One day, we will have the option of taking a bike tour through the Estonian Open Air Museum. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 5 miles throughout the day, often on cobbled streets and uneven surfaces. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is busy. You must be prepared for a couple of full days and some early starts.
For all three Baltic countries, the best weather is usually found between May and September; in May the days are warm and the nights are cool, with average highs around 64°F and lows of 45°F. It generally rains more in spring than in summer, and with their proximity to the sea, the Baltic climate can be either breezy or humid depending on the air masses over the Baltic Sea.
The Baltics are liberally populated with Wi-Fi hotspots, and cell phone coverage is generally very good in the major cities. Check with your carrier about purchasing an international data package, or you can also buy a pre-paid local SIM card, compatible with most unlocked foreign phones.
Voltage in the Baltics is 230 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European "F" plug with two round prongs. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival at the Vilnius airport. You do not need a hair dryer, as all hotels where we're staying provide it. Any heat generating appliances that you bring need a transformer, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage.
Each of the three Baltic states have their own national language, with Lithuanian and Latvian sharing similarities as both descended from old Baltic tribes. Estonian is a much different language, closer to Finnish than its neighbors. English is widely spoken by most of the younger generation, and the over 30 population is typically comfortable in both English and Russian.
The Euro is the official currency for all three Baltic states. Each Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents. ATMs are common throughout each country; you'll find them at the Vilnius airport on arrival, then inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations. Major credits such as MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted, but in more remote towns it's advisable to have cash at hand. Before leaving, you should notify your bank/credit company that you will be using your card in a foreign country, so that it doesn't get blocked for suspicious activity. You should have a 4-digit PIN to withdraw cash. Keep in mind that your bank/credit card company will charge you for each withdrawal, so you should withdraw larger amounts of cash less often.
All tipping for restaurants, guides and drivers is included as part of the tour cost. When on your own, keep in mind that although tipping in the Baltics is not yet as common as in North America, it is kind of expected from Americans, so if you'd like to reward good service, 10% of the bill in restaurants will be acceptable. For taxis, drivers won't expect a tip but you can just round up the fare to the nearest Euro. Tipping at hotels is not expected in Latvia and Estonia, but in Lithuania 1 or 2 euro a day for housekeeping or porterage is standard.
As members of the European Union, the Baltic states impose a value-added tax on most goods and services. The VAT in Lithuania and Latvia is 21%, and in Estonia it's 20%. The VAT is already included in the displayed price. Visitors from outside the EU can get VAT tax refund at the airport when departing European Union, but the minimum that you must spend at one store to obtain the refund is 55 euro in Lithuania, 44 euro in Latvia, and 38 euro in Estonia. The VAT refunds are not made for services. To get a VAT refund on purchases that qualify, present your passport to the salesperson and ask for the special stamped form. Present the form with your purchases at the booth marked IVA Tax Refunds at the airport, as you leave the EU. Your refund should arrive by check or be credited to your credit card within a few weeks. Not all stores participate in this scheme, so it pays to ask first, particularly for major purchases.