The Baltic Countries are an often overlooked tourist destination – up to a point that some people don’t even know about Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia or where the countries are. In our opinion, this fact is, because all three of the countries all have fascinating history, a lot of places to see and things to do. Furthermore, the countries are small enough and close enough to each other to make it possible to see all the essential sights of the Baltics during one vacation.
What are the Baltics?
First of all – what are the Baltics and why are they called like that?
Well, the definition of Baltic States had a few changes over the years. When the term was first coined – it meant all of the independent countries that shored the Baltic Sea, including Finland. But ever since the almost simultaneous regaining of independence of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are now considered the Baltic States and are usually lumped together because of that. Why? Because it’s geographically convenient. All three nations had a similar history of independence, and being conquered and annexed by larger, more aggressive nations.
Latvia and Estonia have an especially common history, as countries with ice-free ports were always a desirable strategic point to Danes, Germans, Swedes, Poles and Russians.
Lithuania, on the other hand, has a nobler history, as its territory stretched from Black Sea to almost as far as Moscow, and then entered a Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth in the 16th century.
We will discuss the history of each separate Baltic country in more detail in the next posts, as each country has an interesting enough history to be mentioned.
Although the countries are very close to each other and are doomed to be grouped together forever, their languages are strikingly different.
The Estonian language, for one, belongs to a different language group, than Latvian and Lithuanian. Estonian is a Finno-Ugric tongue, which makes it closer to Finnish and even Hungarian, rather than Latvian and Lithuanian. Being a very vowel-heavy language and having 14 cases, this language is extremely hard for English-speakers to comprehend. That being said, the Estonian language, along with Italian, has the title of most beautiful language in Europe.
The Latvian and Lithuanian tongues both belong to the Baltic language group, as both nations descended from old Baltic tribes. Both Latvians and Lithuanians speak ancient Indo-European languages. Lithuanian language is even being said to be the closest living language to Sanskrit.
How to get there?
There are a few ways to get to the Baltics. If you are not planning to go by car – either your own or a hitched ride – the kind of transport heavily depends on your starting location. Most of the popular airlines go through, such as Wizzair, Ryanair, EasyJet, AirBaltic and many more. Although with possible transfers, travelling to the Baltics by plane is quite comfortable, especially if you book your tickets around 47 days in advance. An average flight from Western Europe to the Baltics usually takes 2 hours. Travelling between the Baltic countries by plane will we pricey, and while flying to the Baltics from another place is a good option, we don’t advise you to fly between Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania by plane (unless you need to get to the destination really fast).
Taking a train is not advisable, as the routes not always go directly to the desired location. For example, if you are meaning to go from Riga to Vilnius by train, the train will be going through Minsk, Belarus. Obviously, this will also affect the price – and not in a good way. The bus therefore would be an all-around better solution.
If you are planning to drive by bus, the most common bus lines to go with are Ecolines and Lux Express. The companies provide more or less equal service and prices, so be on the lookout for their special offers, bonus codes and ever-changing prices!
Once you’ve got to one of the countries, travelling through the Baltic States becomes fairly quick. By bus, getting from Tallinn to Riga will take about 4 hours and you will get from Riga to Vilnius even quicker – in about 3,5 hours. The bus routes pass through picturesque countryside along the way, so you will have something to look at to pass the time.
Both Ecolines and Lux Express offer similar features and services onboard. There’s an entertainment system at the back of the headrest with movies, music, games, a basic internet browser and much more to keep you entertained during long trips
Two very important features also include free Wi-Fi and power plugs for every seat, to make sure you could comfortably use your gadgets.
The bus stops in the capitals are pretty central and easy to find. And is easily accessible from most hostels and hotels in the city center. The bus depots have desks for each of the bus companies and their buses are colored in their company logo colors – which make them easily distinguishable.
The best option is to buy tickets is to buy them online. That way you can track better deals and look through the options faster. The printable version of the ticket will be e-mailed to you. Unfortunately, as of 2016, the option of scanning the QR code of the ticked has not been implemented in the buses, so showing the ticket on the phone is sadly not an option.
Make sure to tune in next time, when we will go in-depth on each Baltic Country, with interesting facts, information about tourist attractions and much more!