Tallinn

City basics

The basics

Here are some helpful tips on how best to avoid some embarrassing situations while spending your time in Tallinn.

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Basic data

Tallinn
Population: 436,130 (as of 01.07.2015)
Density: 2,734.6 inhabitants/km2
Ethnic composition: Estonians 53.2%, Russians 38.1%, Ukrainians 3.4%, Others 5.3%

Estonia
Population: 1,313,271 (as of 01.01.2015)
Territory: 45,339km2
Density: 28.94 inhabitants/km2
Ethnic composition: Estonians 68.7%, Russians 24.8%, Ukrainians 1.7%, Others 4.8%
Elevation: The highest point in Estonia (and the Baltics) is Suur Munamägi (318m) in Võru County
Islands: 1,521.

The three largest are Saaremaa 2,673km2, Hiiumaa 1,023km2, and Muhu 206km2
Lakes: Lake Peipsi, on the Russian border, covers an area of 3,555km2, of which 1,529km2 is in Estonia. It also holds the title as the 4th largest lake in Europe.
Rivers: Estonia’s longest rivers are the Võhandu 162km, Pärnu 144km and Põltsamaa 135km.
Other cities: Tartu 97,847, Narva 62,064, Pärnu 41,527, Kohtla-Järve 38,190.
Local time: Estonia is in the Eastern European Time Zone (GMT+2hrs). Summer time (GMT+3hrs) is in effect from the last Sunday of March until the last Sunday of October.

Borders

Estonia belongs to the Schengen visa area, which includes 22 EU countries, Norway and Iceland. It means that if you are travelling to Estonia from within the Schengen border control-free area, you will not be required to show any documentation when you arrive in Estonia, whether it be by ship, plane or by car. In fact you will not have to go through customs at all, but each individual country still maintains the right to perform intermittent checks. Of course if you arrive in Estonia from outside the Schengen zone you will still be required to show your passport or EU identity card if applicable. For more information on Schengen and how it might apply to your trip to Estonia, logon to the Estonian Foreign Ministry’s website at www.vm.ee.

Customs

European alcoholics rejoice! When you leave Estonia headed to another EU country, you can take out as much booze as you can carry (or convince inspectors is for your personal use). Coming into Estonia from another EU country, each individual aged 18 and over may carry in duty-free 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer and 10 litres of hard alcohol (over 21%alc/vol), 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars and 1kg of pure tobacco.
When leaving, beware of stricter tobacco restrictions if you’re headed to the UK, Sweden or Finland. Relatively unlucky travellers from non-EU countries can carry in a measly 4 litres of wine (not exceeding €175 in combined value), 2 litres of beverages up to 21%alc/vol and 1 litre of hard alcohol; 40 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 50g pure tobacco. How much booze and smokes you can take home depends on your own country’s restrictions. For more information, contact the Customs Department, Narva mnt. 9j, tel. 880 08 14, tolliinfo@emta.ee, www.emta.ee.

Electricity

The electrical current is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Sockets take the standard, round-pinned European plugs.

Ethnic groups

About 68% of Estonia’s population is made up of ethnic Estonians, descendents of Finno-Ugric tribes that settled this area about 5,000 years ago. The largest minority in today’s Estonia is by far the Russians, at roughly 26% of the national population. Along with Ukrainians and Byelorussians, thousands of Russians moved or were sent here during Soviet times, and chose to remain after independence. Though some integration is taking place among the younger generation, language and cultural barriers tend to keep Estonians and Russian-speakers apart.

Getting cash

You should have no problems filling your wallet in Tallinn - cash machines (ATMs) are never hard to find. Big banks are usually your best bet for exchanging currency. At night and on weekends, however, decent exchanges are more elusive. Tavid at Aia 5 has good rates, especially when changing somewhat larger amounts and also runs an all-night exchange window that will do in a pinch. Their night rates are higher than daytime rates though.
Another place that offers very good rates is Eurex at Viru väljak 4 (Viru Centre). Although there aren't as many as there used to be, beware of some of the various small exchanges around town. These have convenient locations and working hours, but generally give unfavourable rates and even many charge a heavy commission on each transaction - even when they state in big bold letters 'No Commission', ie. read the fine print.

Language

Confused? Join the crowd. Estonian is completely unrelated to Russian, Latvian, Swedish, German or any other Indo-European tongue. Along with Finnish and Hungarian, Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages, thought to have originated somewhere beyond the Urals thousands of years ago. Luckily, the younger generation and those in the tourist industry speak English. You can find some of the more essential words and phrases on the opposite page.

Market values

Here is a list of daily necessities, depending on the kind of day you’re having... (prices in euros and US dollars):

McDonald’s Big Mac                       €2.55   $3.36
Snickers bar                                      €0.45   $0.59
Loaf of white bread                         €0.45   $0.59
Litre of Estonian vodka                   €14.00  $18.47
Bottle of local beer (1/2 litre)         €0.90    $1.19
20 Marlboros                                   €3.00    $3.96
Public transport ticket                    €1.60    $2.20

Exchange rates (as of July 8, 2015):
$1  =  €1.102
£1  =  €0.717

Money

In 2011 Estonia joined the common European currency, good news for all of the tourists who visit Estonia from countries that already use the Euro. If you happen to come from a country that does not use the Euro, it should also be easier to change your money before you arrive as most banks around the world stock this currency. Standard Euro denominations are legal tender, however you may find it difficult to pay with any bills over 50. All ATMs operate on international systems. Credit cards are easy to use - major hotels, most restaurants and a pretty much all downtown shops accept Visa, Mastercard and EC. American Express, Globus and Diner's Club are less common.

National holidays

January 1............. New Year's Day
February 24............ Independence Day (1918)
April 03 (2015)............. Good Friday
April 05 (2015)............. Easter Sunday
May 1................ May Day
June 23............. Victory Day (1919 battle of Vőnnu-Cesis in Latvia)
June 24............. St. John's Day (Midsummer)
August 20.......... Day of Restoration of Independence (1991)
December 24.......... Christmas Eve
December 25.......... Christmas Day
December 26.......... Boxing Day

Public toilets

Study your geometry to avoid an embarrassing situation: A triangle pointing down signifies the men’s room (M or Meeste), while the triangle pointing up is the women’s room (N or Naiste).

Visitors with pressing needs won’t be left with their legs crossed, as there are quite a few public toilets around the city. Some can be found at the Viru Gate on Valli (C-3) and there’s a Swedish-built automatic WC on Toompea Hill (C-1), nicknamed locally the ‘million-crown toilet’ due to the public outcry at its construction bill. It can be found next to the Nevski Cathedral (C/D-1). There’s also a few new high-tech, self-cleaning ones around the city. The most central is right next to Tammsaare Park (C-3), and others can be found at; Toompark near Balti Jaam (B-1), Police Garden (H-4, on Gonsiori street), Kanuti Garden (B-4), Piiskopi Garden (C-1) and in Kadriorg next to the Roheline aas Street parking lot (H-5). However, the fear of being trapped inside may deter the more easily frightened, no matter how badly they need to ‘pee’.

Religion

Some locals will tell you that Estonians are all tree-worshiping pagans at heart, but the truth is that this isn't a very religious country at all. There is no state religion, and according to the 2011 census, only 29% of the population claims any religious affiliation. Of those that do, about 108,000 are Lutheran and 176,000 Russian Orthodox.

Tax-free shopping

'Tax-free' shopping is finally starting to gain popularity in Estonia and if you are a non-EU resident and plan to spend over €38 on electronics, clothing or even souvenirs -  it just might be worth trying to claim the tax back. When making a purchase just present your passport, ask for a tax-free stamp on your receipt and take receipts along with unused purchases to the customs office at the airport or border-crossings into Russia when you leave the country. At the airport, anything checked into luggage will need to be claimed at Customs before you enter the security gates, items in your hand luggage can be claimed from the Customs booth between gates 5 and 7. Visit www.globalrefund.com for more details.

Taxi rip-offs

Tallinn’s taxis are notorious for overcharging - even the mayor got ripped off! (Granted, he was pretending to be an Italian tourist at the time.) Drivers either set high mileage rates or fix their meters to run at light speed. There’s no sure-fire way to avoid the cheats. but there are precautions you can take. Get to know the average rates, and try to order a taxi by phone, rather than getting one off the street. Turn to the ‘Getting around’ section for phone numbers and fare details. Barring that, you can ask the driver for an estimate of how much the ride will be beforehand. Also see ‘Arriving’ for estimates of how much rides should cost from the bus station, airport, etc. To report a cheat, call the 24-hour hotline, tel. 1345.

Tourist Information

Visas

Estonia is in the European Union and lucky EU citizens can conveniently enter the country with just a national ID card. All others need valid passports. You can enter Estonia visa-free and stay 90 days if you're a citizen of any EU country, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Argentina, South Korea and a number of other countries listed on the website below. All others, including South Africans, Russians, Belorusians and Ukrainians do need a visa to come to Estonia. Because of the Schengen Border Treaty, anyone requiring a visa for Schengen countries only need to obtain a visa from one of these countries in order to visit Estonia. Anyone staying in Estonia for more than 90 days (180 days for UK citizens) needs either a residence permit or a visa, though there are certain very specific exceptions for EU citizens. For all the details, contact the consular department of the Foreign Ministry, tel. 631 74 40, or check their website, www.vm.ee, which has more information than you'll ever need.

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