Here are some helpful tips on how best to avoid some embarrassing situations while spending your time in Tallinn.
Population: 440,206 (as of 01.03.2016)
Density: 2,734.6 inhabitants/km2
Ethnic composition: Estonians 53.2%, Russians 38.1%, Ukrainians 3.4%, Others 5.3%
Population: 1,311,800 (as of 01.01.2016)
Density: 28.93 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.
Population of other cities: Tartu 97,272, Narva 62,064, Pärnu 40,914, 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.
BordersEstonia 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.
CustomsEuropean 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, email@example.com, www.emta.ee.
ElectricityThe electrical current is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Sockets take the standard, round-pinned European plugs.
Ethnic groupsAbout 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 cashYou 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.
LanguageConfused? 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.
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 €2 $2.17
Exchange rates (as of March 11, 2016):
$1 = €1.085
£1 = €0.767
MoneyIn 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 HolidaysJanuary 1............. New Year's Day
February 24............ Independence Day (1918)
April 14 (2017)............. Good Friday
April 16 (2017)............. 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 toiletsStudy 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’.