So, weary traveller, the road has taken you to Riga, the capital city of Latvia. You’ve walked around the Old Town, visited the Central Market and sampled the local cuisine (asins pankūkas aka blood pancakes seem especially inviting). Now it’s time for you to move on, but where to? Well, you might have heard of Estonia, a small and mysterious country bordering Latvia in the north. It sounds pretty okay – apparently it produces really good beer and has the highest number of supermodels per capita in the entire world. Nowadays most of the models live abroad, but no worries – locals use Skype to keep in touch with them because it too comes from Estonia!
It’s settled, then – you’re off to Estonia… somehow. In your head you’re already sipping a cold glass of beer while discussing the latest developments in the IT field with a bunch of leggy supermodels in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city. In actuality, you still have about 300 kilometres to cover before this all becomes reality. Here are some handy tips from Martin, a local Tallinn tour guide, to help you figure out how.
1. Take a plane
AirBaltic will get you from Riga to Tallinn in about 50 minutes, but airport procedures like queuing and dealing with luggage will drive up the amount of time it actually takes. On weekdays, the trip can cost you as little as €48, or as much as €350 if you travel business class. On weekends, the cheapest tickets start at around €28. When compared to other modes of transport, flying is definitely one of the most expensive, time-consuming and uncomfortable options. Then again, there really isn’t a better place to see just exactly how much forest there is in Estonia than from the window of an airplane. About 51% of the country is covered with trees, but from a plane window even this large figure will seem like an understatement.
Photo credit: Pieter van Marion
2. Take a train
Getting from Riga to Tallinn by train can be a bit of a hassle because there isn’t a direct connection between the two cities. There used to be, but Estonia recently built a new railway system and bought a bunch of bright-orange trains that locals like to call “carrots”. What you can do is take a train from Riga to the city of Valga (or Valka for the Latvians), and from there board a “carrot” that will get you to Tallinn. The ride from Riga to Valga takes about 4 hours and costs around €5. After that, it’s an additional 3.5 hours from Valga to Tallinn at an added cost of around €15. Taking a train isn’t the most expensive option, but the trip will take up an entire day. On the other hand, from the windows of the train you can get a good overview of the Latvian and Estonian countryside, and in the Estonian “carrots” you can charge your electronic devices and use free WiFi (if the network isn’t overloaded, which it always is).
P.S. You might be wondering what the Estonians did with their old trains. They sold them to Latvia.
Photo credit: Phil Richards
3. Take a bus
The bus is one of the more convenient means of travelling between Riga and Tallinn. Lux Express and Simple Express take about 4.5 hours, with multiple buses going out every day. The buses are also fairly modern – you can charge your electronic devices and use free WiFi, plus each passenger has their own small screen for movies and music. This means that you can start partaking in the Estonian tradition of not talking to absolutely anybody on your journey there! Ticket prices start at €18 for Lux Express and €13 for Simple Express. It’s also handy to know that if you book online, the first five Simple Express international tickets you buy will cost just €3 each! Taking the bus gives you a good opportunity to see a bit of the local countryside through the windows, and lets you take in the moon-like landscape of the Latvian highway.
Photo credit: Simple Express
4. Take a guided tour
If you’d like to make your trip from Riga to Tallinn a bit more interesting and special, then this Riga-Tallinn sightseeing tour is definitely a good option. Instead of passively gazing at the landscape whirling past you from the window of a plane, train or bus, this guided tour gives you the chance to explore a number of interesting places in both Latvia and Estonia. You’ll get to climb to the top of a bobsleigh track, see sandstone caves, marvel at medieval castles, visit a military museum and much more! The tour costs €55 and starts at 10 am in Riga, arriving in Tallinn by 10 pm. Instead of sitting in a bus or a train for a day, you’ll learn lots of new stuff about Latvia and Estonia, and visit places you wouldn’t otherwise see.
By the way, for those who find the Estonian beer not as good as promised and the supermodels subpar, the tour goes from Tallinn to Riga as well!
Photo credit: Kalev Külaase