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last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

Seattle, Washington
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last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

Hi, first-timer here. looking for tips on how to plan a last min baltics trip bc i just found out i will be heading to UK for work. i will have 9 full land days Aug 16 (Sat) - Aug 23 (Sat) for R&R, and this excludes the flight time from LHR. happy to do open jaw flights from London if makes more sense

i have never visited the baltic countries, except for russia back in 2006. have been to all scandinavian countries except finland. my personal interests include culture, art, architecture, nature, landscape, wildlife, outdoor activities.

scrambling to do last min trip research now so not very knowledgeable and need some wise advice!

1) with 9 days at disposal, i probably should only aim for a max of 3 places/countries. currently am thinking abt one of the following options. which option is better and how should i divide my days between these places?

(option 1) fly into helsinki --- finland + estonia + latvia --- fly out of riga, OR reverse

(option 2) fly into helsinki --- finland + estonia + ferry ride to stockholm --- fly out of stockholm, OR reverse

dont think i can venture any further south than that (e.g., lithuania or poland) bc i think that requires more time! unless i do these two countries and forget abt the rest!

2) the budget airlines i have been checking (from london) is easyjet and airbaltic. honestly prices for both dont look cheap to me at all. are there other budget airlines i should be considering? ideally one that flies out of LHR, LGW or LCY. it sounds to me so far that Finn Air may be the cheapest way for me to get to the baltics. but riga is a problem bc not as many direct connection to london

3) am i correct that the top places to visit in each country is the following:

for finland = helsinki + turku + tampere + lapland + archipelago national park + ???

for estonia = tallinn + ???

for latvia = riga + ???

i probably am still missing some things here - i am sure there are more fun stuff to do!

4) i have read archipelago national park near turku with interest. is it easy to get around this park as a day trip if you dont have your own boat? what animals can you expect to see in august?

5) is the ferry ride from turku to stockholm OR helsinki to stockholm really scenic and worth it? i tried to find pictures of the archipelagos online and sorry if i offend anyone, but it doesnt seem to look as stunning as i hope? so i may be looking at the wrong place :(. for me, one of the stunning ferry rides i have taken are san juan islands ferry in washington state, so i dont know if they are similar or not.

thanks in advance for your help!

Helsinki, Finland
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1. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

2. Check out Norwegian Air for Gatwick-Helsinki. Cheap and decent for a budget operator - even supplies free wi-fi. I use them 90% of the times I go to England.

3. >for finland = helsinki + turku + tampere + lapland + archipelago national park + ???

That itinerary would take up ALL your time allotment and then some. Finland is a fair-sized country; if you want to see anything else at all, at least skip Lapland and choose between Tampere and Turku.

5. For me, the best part is when the ferry leaves Helsinki harbor, giving you a close-up view of Suomenlinna fortress and numerous other islands (but note that you also get this with Viking Lines on the short hop from Helsinki to Tallinn). It looks like this: https:/…set-72157607523536057

It's usually dark when you pass through the Åland Islands, but the Stockholm Archipelago certainly has its fans.

Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

hey john thanks for the info

after thinking over, i now have a more ambitious plan : hitting up all the baltic capitals in succession - Helsinki - Tallinn - Riga - Vilnius , or in reverse.

1) with 8 land days at disposal, this means an average of 2 days per city. i know it's going to be a whistle stop tour, but will it be possible? i am the kind of person who can wake up early and sleep late. not up for partying, but more for doing tourist things.

2) is there any of the above cities where i can consider allocating 1 day only, while assigning this extra day to another more interesting city?

3) am i correct that EUROLINES bus is the way to go between cities (except for talinn and helsinki)? do i have other options? what is the best ship line to take between tallinn and helsinki with me having a big luaggage? i dont want to babysit my lugagge while on cruise, but rather want to be able to feel free to walk around and enjoy views!

4) are all countries on Euros right now, except for lithuania which is still on litas?

5) for reference, it will be a solo trip, so yes, i will be dragging my big suitcase bc of my work trip which will be a tad annoying. other than that, is it safe for a single woman to walk around herself in those countries? need money belt?

thanks!

Helsinki, Finland
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3. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

1) Yes, if you don't mind spending half of your time getting from A to B, so effectively you will have only one day per city. You'll have to balance your desire to cover the maximum ground against time lost on traveling.

2) Sure, you can take a hop-on-hop-off tour with the cruise tourists and hit the standard package of hightlights in a few hours if that's your idea of 'seeing' a place. But anyway, with a 4-capitals-in-8-days itinerary, in reality you'll only have one day per city. I realize Americans have short vacations and want to maximize their time, but you really need to decide whether you want an unending obstacle course for 8 days or a more relaxed trip.

3) Eurolines is a reputable operator. For a detailed rundown of the pros and cons of Helsinki-Tallinn ferry operators, see tripadvisor.com/…48120731

4) Correct

5) You're safe here if you take reasonable precautions, the same as anywhere. A money belt is always a good idea for places you're unfamiliar with.

And one point of information: Finland is not a Baltic country, nor is it Scandinavian. The preferred term is Nordic.

Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

thanks for the advice. didnt know abt the finland bit. thanks for pointing out

do you need to pass through immigration while going through all 4 countries by land? or is it like schengen already - where you dont pass immigration anymore unless you fly?

how long is the daylight in 3rd week of august?

i remembered it was still light out at 11 pm and sun rise at 4 am in denmark last night, during this apprx same period in summer. possible the same in baltic + nordic too since they appear to be on the same latitude?

thanks

Helsinki, Finland
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5. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

All 4 countries have fully implemented the Schengen treaty.

Daylight hours are a good deal shorter by late August. www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html

Tallinn, Estonia
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6. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

Hello

9 days is not much for those 3 countries. If you are interested of baltic states then i would stay in Finland only in Helsinki for 1-2 nights. The head to Tallinn, Haapsalu and/or Pärnu (Estonia) and Riga, Jurmala (Latvia). If you are still sure you'll manage 3 countries, then i suggest - take the "Kuninkaantie" - kings road (an old postal road) from Helsinki to Tammisaari (you'll see it on the map - www.tamminiemi.net/kuninkaantie.html).

You'll have Raseborg Castle (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raseborg_Castle_(Raaseporin_linna)_in_Tammisaari_(Ekenäs)_Finland.jpg) on the way and scenic road, seeside, cliff-islands and Tammisaari is a nice wooden village. It'll take you around 2 nights.

In Helsinki it depends what you want to do - a local karaoke bar, walk in one of the many city parks, art museums like Kiasma, Soumenlinna (www.suomenlinna.fi/en/) etc.

So you have 3-4 days in finland, then the boat to Tallinn is 2,5 hours. In Tallinn you can visit the old town (vanalinn - et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallinna_vanalinn#mediaviewer/Pilt:Tallinna_vanalinn.jpg), estonian open air museum (…blogspot.fi/2011/06/vabaohumuuseum.html), seaplane museum (battleit.eu/lennusadam-loi-avamisaasta-muuse…), etc. It suggest 2 nights in Tallinn is minimum. One night in Pärnu.

If you are interested of marshlands (like commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kakerdaja_raba.jpg) and other places in Estonia or Latvia or Finland then contact me directly for tips by muukkivi () gmail.com.

Pärnu is a seaside resort and has wooden houses, long sandy beach and a strand promenade. Haapsalu is smaller, but the idea is same as Pärnu. Both are Spa-towns. Haapsalu is very quiet, it has a few cafeterias on the main street like Hapsal Dietrich, they have good service and nice cakes.

In Latvia you should stay at Riga for 2 nights + Jurmala or Cesis or Sigulda 1 night. Cesis (r6vsk.lv/englishexam/…) has a huge national park nearby (Gauja National Park - shareamazingpictures.com/beautiful-world/amata-river-gauja-national-park-latvia/). Cesis is really quiet, they have around 2 hotels a castle, it is like time stands till in the old part of Cesis. Nice to visit it. Sigulda has nice castles, at least 3 and the only cable car in Baltics - nice view on the Gauja river banks. Jurmala is one of the best known seeside resorts in Baltics (discover-baltics.com/files/…jurmala.jpg), but it is crowdy.

So your route could be like

1. Finland - Helsinki 2 nights

2. Finland - Kuninkantie - (1) 2 nights

3. Estonia - Tallinn - 2 nights

4. Estonia - Pärnu or Haapsalu - 1 night

(Latvia - Cesis/Sigulda - 1 night)

5. Latvia - Riga - 2 nights + (Jurmala - 1 night)

- 11 nights

So you already have two extra nights (9+2) and you have not started to return to Tallinn to get a ferry to Helsinki or Stockholm. By the way you can also get ferry from Riga to Stockholm.

Tallinn, Estonia
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7. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

sry for my english, it's quite late here and i am tired.

1. By the way you need to know that all 3 countries have 1 currency - euro

2. Wifi - internet connection is usually available in estonia and latvia in bars, cafeterias and hotels, in finland almost the same, but more often they ask extra charge for internet.

3. You can pay with visa, mastercard most of the times in estonia and latvia - even small grocery shops in rural areas usually provide a way to pay with chip based visa/mastercards. In finland the situation is almost the same.

4. There is no boarder inbetween those 3 countries - schengen area.

5. car rental is cheaper in estonia/latvia than in finland.

6. petrol and eating out is most expensive in finland, food and eating out is cheapest in latvia.

7. Clothes are mostly cheaper in finland, depends on the time of the discounts.

8. Tallinn and Helsinki and Stockholm are well connected by boat, Riga is connected to Stockoholm. Best airline connections are to Helsinki Vantaa airport and sometimes to Riga.

9. Roads in Finland are excellent, Tallinn is the worst for the major of Tallinn is probably a FSB coworker and cares mainly for russian influence more than infrastructure. Estonian roads are otherwise ok, main roads like Tallinn-Pärnu or Tallinn-Haapsalu are in good (almost excellent) condition, rural roads are so-so but better than Latvian rural roads. Otherwise Latvian main roads are mainly okey. Riga is a bit better than Tallinn.

10. If you want to eat out do not go to the main squares like the Raekoja plats in Tallinn, it is beautiful but foods and beverages are expensive, same is Riga. No need to waste your money. In Helsinki it does not matter so much, everything is expensive. You could pay 5-7 eur for caffe latte, in estonia 2,5-3 eur.

Seattle, Washington
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8. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

thank you for your resopnse muukkivi!!! this is very helpful

yes, i am planning the trip now and will use your advice.

Helsinki
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9. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

Not the main point of discussion, but 5-7 € for a latte in Hki is just not true. The top price seems to be around 4,5€. I've never seen anything starting with a 5, but then again I don't visit Kämp Terrace. This doesn't mean I don't agree that Hki is indeed more expensive than Tallinn.

Helsinki
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10. Re: last min planning to baltic - Aug 2014 - help!

And then some more useful details about Hki:

The Festival is on when you're here: http://www.helsinginjuhlaviikot.fi/en/

And the Ateneum still hosts the paintings of Tove Jansson, the Moomin creator (or one if them, to be exact). She did much more than the comic scripts as the exhibit shows.

for some urban nature, walk around the Töölönlahti Bay (stop for a coffee & a vista at the Blue villa tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g189934-i444-k7284… )

Edited: 27 July 2014, 08:33