Lithuanian beer (alus) is strong, cheap and often very good indeed. Among the big names are Švyturys from Klaipėda, Volfas Engelman from Kaunas, Utenos from Utena and Kalnapilis from Panevėžys, although with the exception of Volfas Engelman we recommend you search out one of the countless local craft beers available in most bars and restaurants in Vilnius. The Lithuanians also make very good—and very affordable—vodka (degtinė), although for those looking for something a little more exotic we suggest you keep an eye out for starka, a 15th-century concoction of syrupy rye vodka fortified with apple leaves and lime blossom. Bearing all this in mind, it’s a sobering thought to remember that according to a 2017 World Health Organisation report the Lithuanians drink more alcohol than any other nation in the world. Alcoholism is a massive problem in the country, a fact reflected in the nation's well-intentioned albeit spectacularly stupid laws that insist that you have to be 20 to drink the stuff and that shops can only sell alcohol between 10:00 and 20:00 six days a week and from 10:00 until 15:00 on Sundays.
There’s very little nostalgia for the period of Soviet occupation in Lithuania, which is hardly surprising when you think about the hundreds of thousands of crimes against humanity committed by the Kremlin during Communist rule. We suggest you leave your Che Guevara T-shirt at home and don’t display the hammer and sickle in public because—as strange as you may think it is—it’s against the law to do so and can end with a court appearance and a fine. In a bitter twist of irony that could only exist in a country such as Lithuania, the nation that somewhat dubiously claims to have single-handedly dismantled the Soviet Union exists in a deluge of Soviet-era attitudes. As the saying goes, you can take a person out of the USSR but you can’t take the USSR out of the person.
Those arriving from other EU countries have no import restrictions placed upon them, although they will need to make it known if they’re arriving with more than €10,000 in cash. When arriving from non-EU countries you’re entitled to bring in one litre of spirits or four litres of wine or 16 litres of beer. If arriving by air you can bring 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, a figure that’s drastically reduced to 40 cigarettes, 20 cigarillos, 10 cigars or 50g of tobacco if arriving by any other means. You can’t bring meat, milk or dairy products from outside the EU except under certain circumstances. You can’t arrive with live birds other than pets for non-commercial purposes. Dogs require vaccinations and passports or other proof of vaccination. You can take home as much art as you wish tax free unless it’s over 50 years old, in which case expect to pay 10-20 percent duty. Take two photographs of the artwork in question and your passport to the Committee of Cultural Heritage, Šnipiškių 3, tel. (+370) 52 73 42 56. Many of the better antique shops in
Whilst things have drastically improved for the disabled in the last few years,
Lithuanian electricity flows out the walls at 220V, AC 50Hz, and nearly all sockets are of the round two-pin European variety. Some thinner Russian sockets still exist, but if you push hard enough you should be able to get the plug in. Travellers from other socket societies should bring an appropriate adaptor, as they're almost impossible to find in
The Lithuanians use the same system as the Americans, considering the floor at street level to be the first floor and so on.
Health & Safety
Lithuanian is a very odd language indeed. One of the oldest still spoken today, the tongue that time forgot is supposedly similar in grammatical form as well as sharing many of the same words with, of all things, Sanskrit. With seven noun cases, four declension patterns, absolutely no similarity to anything you’ve ever heard before and an obligation to pronounce the stress on every word in the right place to stand any chance of being understood, getting to grips with the local lingo is at best tough. Thankfully, most places where tourists congregate are now fairly English-friendly, plus
Money & Costs
Almost all places in
0.5ltr beer (shop) €1.10
0.5ltr vodka (shop) €7
1ltr unleaded petrol (95) €1.20
20 Marlboro €3.75
Big Mac €2.85
Cinema ticket €6.50
Loaf of white bread €1
Public transport ticket (single journey) €1
January 1 New Year’s Day & National Flag Day
February 16 Independence Day
March 11 Restoration of Independence Day
April 21 (2019) Easter Sunday (Catholic)
April 22 (2019) Easter Monday (Catholic)
May 1 A day off for the workers!
June 24 Joninės (Midsummer)
July 6 Crowning of King Mindaugas
August 15 Žolinė (Assumption)
November 1 All Saints’ Day
December 25, 26 Christmas (Catholic)
Low wages and appalling working conditions in many places ensure that
Below is a list of
Despite the fact that standards of service have improved dramatically over the last decade or so, the average waiter or waitress in
Just utter the two magic words kur tualetas? (where's the toilet?), and away you go. Many establishments in the city will let you use their facilities if you’re caught short, although some enforce a small charge for non-patrons. Several places also keep their toilets locked, meaning you have to ask at the bar. With the exception of a few non-touristy establishments, toilets are usually clean and stocked with plenty of paper and soap. One relic from days gone by that refuses to disappear, even in many of the most exclusive establishments, is the provision of a bucket kept next to the toilet, used for the collection of used paper.
What’s in a name?
The origins of the words Lietuva (the Lithuanian name for
Lithuania 2,821,674 Vilnius 635,377
Ethnic composition (Lithuania)
Lithuanians 86.9% Poles 5.6% Russians 4.6% Belarusians 1.2% Ukrainians 0.6% Others 1.1%
65,303 square kilometres Roughly twice the size of Belgium, and the largest of the three Baltic nations. Fertile lowland, peppered with many lakes. North to south, the greatest distance is 276km, east to west is 373km
Baltic Sea 99km Belarus 502km Latvia 453km Poland 91km Russia (Kaliningrad) 227km
Nemunas 937km (475km in Lithuania)