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Estonia Guide

Driving

Since it emerged from behind the Iron Curtain in 1991, Estonia has evolved into one of the preferred holiday destinations in Northern Europe. A unique fusion of medieval cities, Soviet-era sites and relics, golden beaches and pristine countryside are the principal draws of a holiday here. Road tours take in the Gulf of Finland’s magnificent coastline, with historic Narva Castle and the Haapsalu Promenade, so loved by composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, en route.

Driving Tips for Estonia

Roads between principal cities are mostly in good states of repair. Rural roads are not as well maintained and are best avoided at night as they are not lit. Local drivers can be reckless and may overtake and speed in locations where they should not. Estonian law stipulates headlights should be on dipped beam in the daytime.

Driving licences: UK drivers can drive here with their UK photo licence, but are required to carry the paper part of the licence as well. Those with the old paper licences should apply for an International Driving Permit before travelling here.

Which side does Estonia drive on: the right.

Speed limits:
Motorways: 69mph (110kph), reduced to 55mph (90kph) in winter
Rural highways: 55mph (90kph)
Urban areas: 31mph (50kph)

Alcohol limits: 0.02 per cent, which is lower than the 0.08 per cent limit allowed in the UK. Drivers are subject to random breath tests at checkpoints.

Minimum driving age: 18 years (16 years if a parent is supervising).

Seatbelts: mandatory for front seat occupants and rear seat passengers, if the vehicle is fitted with them. Youngsters too small to wear seatbelts are required to travel in a secure child seat. When driving on one of the country’s six official ice roads in winter, the use of seatbelts is forbidden due to the threat of drowning in the event of an accident.

Mobile phones and GPS: driving and using a mobile phone is illegal unless the phone is fitted with hands-free equipment. GPS systems are allowed, but language issues may render them useless for non-Estonian speakers.

Cost of fuel in Estonia: considerably cheaper than in the UK.

Car hire and fuel payment: drivers can pay for fuel at most petrol stations with their credit card. Credit cards are also accepted by major car hire firms. Before leaving the UK, it is best to inform your card issuer that you will be using your card here.

Insurance: reputable car hire suppliers include fully comprehensive insurance with their vehicles, but a zero excess policy attracts a surcharge.

Traffic and parking: driving in Tallinn and other major cities can be a headache as parking spaces are at a premium. The first 15 minutes are free for on-street parking. Meters are in place and failure to buy a ticket usually results in a fine.

Transport

Trains
Estonia has international train services from Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia. It is also possible to take trains from Riga in Latvia to Tallinn, with just one change in Valga, southern Estonia. Fares are cheap, but the Riga route is slower than travelling by bus. The country has 560 miles (900kms) of track on its passenger network. The main train operator is Edelaraudtee.

Taxis
City taxis are inexpensive and have become more tourist friendly in recent years. Authorities have clamped down on cheating drivers and have introduced a system that requires taxis to have English signs displaying standard fares to the most popular destinations in their rear windows. Rates typically start at £1.50 and are rarely over £8 for short city hops.

Buses
There are long-distance bus services to Estonia from Russia, Germany and other Baltic countries. The domestic bus network covers most of the country and is an economical means of getting around. The older city centres are best explored on foot. Buses, trams and trolleys in Tallinn cost £0.80 for a single ride, with the fare increasing to £3.50 for 24 hours of travel.

Ferries
Tallinn Port receives daily passenger ferries from Stockholm and Helsinki, as well as twice weekly services from St Petersburg, Russia. One-way fares from Helsinki range between £12 and £25. Big Baltic Sea islands such as Muhu, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa also have regular ferries to the Estonian mainland.

Airports
Most air travellers enter via Tallinn’s airport, which receives direct flights from London, with low-cost, round-trip fares starting at around £80. Domestic flights from Tallinn can be useful for accessing Tartu, the gateway to the country’s southeast, Saaremaa or Hiiumaa. Getting between Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport and the city, four kilometres away on Lake Ulemiste’s east shore, can be done by bus (around £1.60), shuttle bus (around £4), train, car hire or taxi (around £8).

Explore

Exploring Estonia

For most visitors to Estonia, their first glimpse of the country’s draws is Tallinn. The beautifully preserved medieval quarter of Toompea, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the new area of the city, known as Vabaduse Valjak, are always thronged with visitors in summer. The city’s infamous monument to Soviet rule, the Hotel Viru, is now a top tourist draw.

Heading east along the Gulf of Finland's shoreline, visitors are able to access pristine beaches at locations such as Kaberneeme and Vosu. The latter is part of Lahemaa National Park, which is home to the fairytale-like village of Kasmu.

Narva is at the end of the Tallinn Highway and abuts the Russian frontier. The city is the site of the fabulous Hermann Castle. Across the River Narva, Ivangorod Fort stands sentinel over Russian territory.

The Baltic coast west of Tallinn is the route for Matsalu National Park, ferries to Muhu and beaches such as Valgeranna. Nearby Parnu has garnered a reputation as a health and wellness resort.

In the southern regions of the country, the city of Tartu has a great mix of old churches and modern architectural gems. Tartu is an easy gateway to Soomaa National Park.

Weather

The weather in Estonia does not vary much between inland and coastal areas. The summer months average a pleasant temperature of 17°C, with maximums of 30°C. Rain is likely anytime from spring to autumn, yet is rarely heavy. From early December to the end of February, there is lots of snow and temperatures are consistently below 0°C.

All cities in Estonia

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