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How many days for Tallinn, Riga and Vilinus?

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I'm planning a trip for next July (2016). From what I've read it looks like about three days in each would be good. My main interests are just wandering around the old towns and taking photos, exploring neighborhoods, etc. I like to stroll around areas at different times of day, and take it slow, on the other hand I don't want to visit every single museum, historic house, etc and while my time is pretty flexible, I don't have totally unlimited time either.

I'm considering a day trip to Helsinki from Tallinn but haven't decided for sure. Given that Tallinn will also be the arrival city I though 4 nights there and 3 each in the others?

Any other suggestions for day trips or places within the cities that you particularly enjoyed?


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    Thanks thursdaysd, great report. I have copied it and will be referring to it as I plan. Right now I'm just trying to figure total number of days for the three countries so I can figure out flights in and out. It looks like it is by far easier and much cheaper to fly into London , spend a couple days, then fly easyjet to Tallinn. At the end of my time in the Baltics I'm flying ryanair to Venice. Problem is that all of carriers I'm looking at have great prices and times and fly where I want but not every day of the week so it's like a puzzle to make it come out right (desired number of days ending on certain days of the week). But it's a fun puzzle.

    So I can have either 8 nights (7 days) or 10-11 nights. Think I'll go with the longer.

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    Hi Isabel. Just to give you a quick update (because I won't get around to writing a trip report for a while): I'm in Tallinn right now, after starting in Vilnius and coming north through Riga by bus. The long distance buses really are nice and simple, though I still wish there were trains! You can easily book the buses online near the last minute if there is availability - and there are a lot of buses on the routes between the main cities.

    I've had three days per country (and then I am going to St. Petersburg on Wednesday via Helsinki). I had two nights in Vilnius and a night in Kaunas - not something I really recommend, Kaunas was OK and maybe worth a day trip (you can do that by train) but not amazing; I did a night there only to shoot night photography (late sunset this time of year), something I couldn't do by day trip. If you day trip to Kaunas, I recommend the train.

    Vilnius is pretty nice. Lots of churches! Definitely feels more run down in parts than the other towns, even though it has some nice streets and squares in the old town.

    I took a bus from Kaunas to Šiauliai for a few hours to stop at the Hill of Crosses - local bus from the Šiauliai bus station, took me only about two hours round trip for the Hill of Crosses - then another bus from Šiauliai to Riga. You could do the same from Vilnius to Šiauliai; there is train service from Vilnius to Šiauliai (and Lithuanian trains are really nice), but the train station in Šiauliai is an extra block or two from the Šiauliai bus statino.

    I spent three nights in Riga, then took an Ecolines bus up to Tallinn. (It was slightly cheaper than a LuxExpress bus. Not sure how much difference there would have been, but my bus was just fine - very comfortable as far as bus rides go, even though I always prefer trains.)

    Now I'll have three nights in Tallinn, which seems more than enough. It's very small compared to Riga. I'm planning to do a day trip tomorrow out to the coastal town of Haapsalu which I hear is really nice. I'm sure two nights here would have been plenty, but this is how it worked out.

    I considered spending an extra night in Riga, because there seems more to do there than in Tallinn, but I was also getting tired of Riga (even though I really liked it). Riga is HUGE and spread out, something I didn't really consider ahead of time. I had a bus pass in Riga, but the bus and tram stops are often not close together, so I still found myself walking a lot even to get to bus stops. The free walking tour was great; we had a great guide.

    An unlimited bus/tram pass in each city has worked well for me; you may not need one in Vilnius or Tallinn but in Riga it's probably a good idea if you will be there any period of time. I've been using Google Maps on my Android phone to get around and find the next bus (or walking directions) to wherever I want to go - has made navigating in these strange places much easier than before.

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    Thanks for the updates.

    I hadn't realized Riga was huge and spread out - from the detailed city center maps it doesn't look much larger than Tallinn but I'll be prepared and probably use public transportation some. Also good to hear about the buses, I guess I'll book them online before I leave.

    Was there something particular about Kaunas that you wanted to photograph at night (I know you like night photography in general). I would only be able to go there for a day trip - still think it worth while?

    The other decisions I haven't made yet are whether to go to Helsinki for a day trip and what to do about phone use. I'm leaning towards getting a UK Sim when I land in London. I haven't done a trip with this many different countries in several years (this year I'll be in 6 countries over five weeks). I saw your suggestion to switch to T-Mobile but as I'll be gone more than a month it would mean $100 which seems like a lot for data use and emergencies (I use skype and email for general stay in touch stuff).

    Hope the rest of your trip goes well. Thanks for taking the time to update me.

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    Andrew, thanks for the overview you gave about those 3 countries. We'll likely do them together with a trip to Stockholm and St Petersburg, so I am awaiting your impression too of St Petersburg.

    Isabel, eagerly awaiting too your TR and photos after your visit. Am sure they will be amazing!!

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    Riga's old town isn't that big, but unlike in Tallinn there is more for a tourist to see in Riga (e.g. central market, art nouveau buildings, etc.) outside of the old town. I didn't stay in the old town - I stayed near the art nouveau district (partly because it was cheaper), though I passed on some AirBnB places I saw where the prices seemed pretty good (never used them before). I stayed at the Hotel Edvards instead, which was modestly nice, not impossibly far to walk to the old town but not right next to it.

    Staying near the train/bus station might be convenient actually - thought about staying there (also close to the central market) but didn't seem like a particularly desirable part of town.

    FYI, don't forget to watch your passport and wallet in Riga (or anywhere in Europe of course). I thwarted a pickpocket (dressed like a tourist, part of a couple) who tried to slide her hand into my front pants pocket as I was climbing some steps near the bus station with my bags - very brazen, and I had to literally push her away, almost knocking her over. It wasn't even that crowded.

    My time in Helsinki will be limited to a few hours at the end when I arrive back from St. Petersburg at 8am by ferry and then fly out at 4PM - just a few hours, really, to explore the center of town. From what I hear it is not that amazing to warrant spending a night, and hotels seem expensive anyway. I'll let you know my impression of that, anyway.

    Kaunas has a unique bridge I wanted to photograph, particularly at night. Plus, I was intrigued that Kaunas is Lithuania's "second city" and the capital during the inter war years before World War II. I like to see more than just one city in a country if possible, and because I was able to stop on the way to Latvia it worked out OK. Otherwise, it didn't seem that interesting to me. I wouldn't strongly urge you to take the day trip or not - read about it and see if anything about it is interesting. The train is only just over an hour though you then must take a bus or taxi from the train station as it's not close to the center of town.

    I had also wanted to see Tartu in Estonia too, partly for the same "second city" reason - and although it is tempting to try to squeeze it in, I'm going to pass and probably take the bus out to Haapsalu (seaside town on the west coast) tomorrow instead.

    I don't think you need to book your buses so far in advance if you don't want to, unless you are really married to specific times. I hate to do that beforehand and be committed - what if I wanted some more time in a place, for example? I also just hate committing to things too far in advance. And there are a lot of daily buses between the big cities.

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    I found a lot to photograph in Riga, FYI. I stayed out late to get night shots with the long days here. Unfortunately, the best view of town - from the tower of St. Peters - closes long before sunset at this time of year, because I would have climbed it in say January when it gets dark early. Plus the price to climb the tower is 9 Euros!

    T-Mobile has worked beautifully for me here. It's great to cross the border and know you have new internet in the new country. (The long-distance buses do have WiFi generally.) For me, because I switched to T-Mobile I also dropped my other carrier so it's costing me an extra $20/month or so for two months before I switch back. And because I was able to pro-rate the first month, it's going to cost me only about $35 (extra) total for the two months. I think I saw cheap SIM cards in Lithuania for 2 Euros for 1GB of data, so you could just buy one when you get to the Baltics and roam from the other countries. Should be pretty easy.

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