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Estonia was one of the easiest countries I’ve travelled around, made possible by excellent infrastructure and a high level of service. I consider Estonia to be one of the best solo female travel destinations I’ve been to. So is Estonia worth visiting for everyone else? Let’s examine the evidence.
REASONS TO VISIT ESTONIA
Is Estonia safe to visit? Yes. I found Estonia to be an exceptionally safe place to visit for solo female travellers. I saw boisterous groups of Brits and Finns availing of Estonia’s cheap alcohol at the weekend in Tallinn but it was more of a silly and annoying nature than threatening.
2. Good value for money
Estonia was one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Europe I’ve visited. And its cheap prices didn’t mean low quality. In fact, quality and service with regard to food and accommodation was top notch. However, I found portion sizes for lunchtime meals a little on the small size.
Estonia has the Euro as its currency.
3. Local People
I found people in service industries to be helpful, honest and efficient. Estonians in general are tolerant and not in the least bit intrusive. Estonia is the sort of place you could walk around with a parrot on your head and nobody would bother you.
However, I found the people to be of a shy disposition which meant casual conversation was not as easy to initiate as in other countries. Those that I did manage to engage with in deeper conversation were exceptionally friendly and courteous.
4. High English language fluency
Estonian is apparently one of the most difficult languages in the world to master. Not to worry, there is a high level of English fluency in Estonia. Eesti is the country’s Estonian name which is why Estonian website URLs end in the letters ‘ee’. Approximately a quarter of the population is ethnic Russian.
5. Pretty Cities
Despite the grey skies I found Tartu to be utterly charming with some of the best cafes I’ve visited. I explore this university city in Visit Tartu: Estonia’s Sweet Treat City. Booking.com has a comprehensive selection of accommodation in Tartu.
6. Food and Drink
Estonian food was a pleasant surprise. Meat is combined with berries while fish is cured for the winter as Estonia’s coast freezes during that season. Estonian bread, dark in colour, is made from rye. Although rye doesn’t agree with me, everyone else agreed that it tasted delicious.
And now for the best bit: Estonia has a rich tradition in liqueur production. Given its inclement weather these liqueurs are excellent warmers and I couldn’t have picked a better country to get a respiratory infection in!
7. Getting around is easy
Estonia’s flat landscape (highest point 318m) makes it an easy country to traverse and ideal for a cycling holiday. With only a population of 1.3 million, Estonia doesn’t suffer from congested roads. This, along with an excellent road infrastructure, makes Estonia an easy country to drive in according to those whom I spoke to who rented cars.
Bus travel was my main method of transport given its frequency, reliability and cheap cost. Tickets and timetables are available on the T pilet website.
Estonia’s domestic rail network serves the main cities and is operated by Elron. Tallinn has an excellent tram system.
8. Estonia is the Baltic Crossroad
With Finland to its north, Latvia to its south and Russia to its east, Estonia is at the epicentre of Baltic travel. Capital Tallinn is reached by ferry from Helsinki with several daily sailings. Tallinn is also connected to Stockholm and St. Petersburg by ferry.
Buses serve Estonia from Latvia, Lithuania and St. Petersburg. The LuxExpress bus service between Tallinn and St. Petersburg comes recommended and which I have covered in my Visiting St. Petersburg travel guide.
Passengers travelling by train from Latvia to Estonia will have to change to the Elron service at Valga. There is a direct train service from Tallinn to St. Petersburg.
9. It has an interesting history
Is Estonia worth visiting for history nerds? Absolutely yes.
During the Middle Ages Estonia changed hands between the Danes and the Swedes until the Russians invaded in 1710 and stayed there until 1918. Independence only lasted until 1940 when the Soviet Union annexed Estonia as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a secret agreement between Stalin’s USSR and Hitler’s Germany to carve up Europe.
Estonia’s road to independence was called the Singing Revolution. Like other eastern bloc countries in the late 1980s anti-communist protests in Estonia took place although the annual Song Contest in Tallinn proved to be the largest protest of all.
In August 1989, in solidarity with their Baltic neighbours in an effort to achieve independence, two million people held hands and formed the Baltic Chain, a human chain from Estonian capital Tallinn south through Latvia to Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Given that Estonia’s population is only 1.3 million it is said that 1 in every 3 Estonians took part in the chain.
After the dissolution of the USSR, Estonia became independent once again in 1991.
10. Lack of mass tourism
Although Tallinn gets lots of weekend trippers from Finland and the UK, it still doesn’t feel as crowded as other popular city destinations such as Dubrovnik or Barcelona. However, you will have the rest of the country to yourself. Estonia is the perfect country to visit should you want peace and quiet.
Approximately 50% of the Estonian countryside is covered in forest. Estonia is also a very clean country to visit with a big emphasis on the natural environment.
IS ESTONIA WORTH VISITING?
I hope the evidence above has convinced you that Estonia is worth visiting. Even though I travelled to Estonia solo, I believe it’s a destination suitable for couples, groups and families.
Estonia was part of the Soviet Union so those interested in that era will probably have the country on their to-do list anyway. However, I struggled to gauge any soviet-ness about the place or similarities with Russia. Despite having a sizeable ethnic Russian community and a few reinforced concrete architectural monstrosities typical of the Soviet Union, Estonia feels Scandinavian.
Best time to visit Estonia
The weather is a big factor when visiting Estonia. Snow falls in October and stays there until March so a great time to visit if sub-zero temperatures are your thing. The shipping lanes between Tallinn and Helsinki are kept open with ice-breakers during this season.
I visited in early October and it was bitterly cold, hovering between 3° and 8° Celsius with a constant Baltic wind. Only in the months of June, July and August does the temperature exceed 20°C.
Estonia joined the EU in 2004, the same year it joined NATO. Estonia is part of the Schengen Area. For further information on Schengen travel have a look at my post on the Schengen Travel Visa. Citizens from a number of countries can enter Estonia visa-free.
Estonia is GMT/BST +2 hours.
The standard continental European type which is the two round pin plug/socket of 220V-240V. WIFI is widely available in Estonia.
The Gulf of Finland borders Estonia’s north coast. Estonia is separated from Russia on its east side by Lake Pihkva, Lake Peipsi and the river Narva. South East Estonia shares a direct land border with Russia. Latvia lies to Estonia’s south. The Baltic Sea lies to Estonia’s west separating it from Sweden.