Driving across Baltic borders


Aug 6th, 2003, 10:20 PM
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Driving across Baltic borders

In early October I'll be spending about ten days with a rental car driving from Tallinn, via Riga, to Vilnius and back.

I've read that there's a need to be cautious with police and border control, particularly with reference to breaking the speed limit (although I've also heard that more than 60% of Estonians do this all the time), and with demands for paperwork which are intended to find some flaw if at all possible, so that a 'fine' can be demanded. I'm well-travelled, I've seen much worse than this sounds to be, and had direct experience of probably very similar shenanigans in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and on several crossings of borders in that area. But I wonder if anyone has direct experience of these difficulties, or of driving in the Baltics in general, and can give me any useful advice?

Additionally, a quick glance at a map with no detail at all suggests no direct major routes between some of the capitals. This doesn't bother me because I prefer driving on country roads anyway. Or should I stick to what highways there are, for any reason?

With thanks for all thoughts on these issues,

Peter N-H
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Aug 7th, 2003, 12:35 AM
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it is true that there are frequent speed controlls by local police in both Estonia and Latvia (I cannot comment on Lithuania). I would advise you to not do as the locals do and adhere strictly to the speed limits. Otherwise fines may be hefty even for Western Europeans.
The main route between Tallinn and Riga is the one along the coast (at least half of it) via Pärnu with border crossing at Ainazi. The road is not a freeway but in overall good condition. Estimated driving time around 4- 6 hours depending on the time you will need to clear customs at the border.
An alternative route would be via either Tartu or Viljandi with border crossing at Valka and proceeding via Valmiera and Cesis/ Sigulda to Riga. Routes here are for the most time smaller and driving time is much longer at around 8 hours, I would guess from hindsight.
Apart from that, these countries are civilized places and you won't get into any trouble if you adhere to the rules- as one would expect from any foreigner respecting the countries and its citizens he travels to.
Enjoy your trip and the scenery which is quite nice on your trip!
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Aug 11th, 2003, 08:09 AM
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Got a speeding ticket in Lithuania last October. 60km/hr in a 50. It was a speed trap, the officer was nice and I was cool about it, it makes a good story, they fine you right there and the fine is up to them. Mine was 75 litas, about $20. I paid it and left. The lady at the hotel said I was very lucky, ussually it is 300-400 litas.
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