When I was living in Latvia it took me a few years before I visited the neighboring Baltic countries Estonia and Lithuania.
Back then I didn’t consider myself much of a traveler as I do today, otherwise, it would have been different.
Once I got to visit all the countries I couldn’t believe I hadn’t taken that opportunity before.
To give you more than just my own opinion of which country you should visit, I’ve done some intensive research comparing the countries.
And instead of focusing on the many similarities, I’ve focused on the differences, to help you decide which country is the best for you.
I also compare some general data and statistics on the countries further down in the article, which aren’t necessarily travel-related.
Let’s not waste time and get started.
Table of Contents
- Things To See and Do
- Things To See and Do in Estonia
- Things To See and Do in Latvia
- 🚗 How to Rent the Best Car for the Lowest Price in the Baltics
- Things To See and Do in Lithuania
- Local Food and Drinks in the Baltic Countries
- Nightlife in the Baltic Capitals
- Price Comparison
- Best Time to Visit
- All the Funky Data
- Choosing the Best Destination: Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania?
- If You Have Time Enough to Visit All Countries
Things To See and Do
All three countries are known for beautiful old towns and architecture, stunning national parks, delicious food for cheap, and much much more.
But as said in the beginning, we’ll be focusing on the differences – not the similarities.
Things To See and Do in Estonia
Islands: And More Than 2000 of Them
The number might surprise you – it surely surprised me.
With the most popular ones being Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Kihnu, Ruhnu, and Vormsi.
Here you’ll have good opportunities for hiking, cycling or just riding a car around the islands if you feel like nature is calling for you.
You’ll find churches and fortresses on many of the islands.
On the two biggest ones Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, you’ll also find pine forests, and dusty rural roads sometimes passing the coastline, where the sign of civilization is limited to old lighthouses and windmills from the 19th hundreds.
Rummu Quarry and Murru Prison: An Old Soviet Prison
Around a 1 hour drive from Tallinn, you’ll find a quarry with an old Soviet prison.
The Murru prison was abandoned once Estonia regained independence in 1918, and has been ever since.
You can get to explore the prison on your own or with a guide, it’s up to you. Bringing along an audio guide is also an option.
The tour consists of 20 waypoints from the inside out.
Another big part of visiting the quarry is the nearby outside area where you can go hiking, swim on the beach, or recharge your batteries in their café with drinks, snacks, and ice cream.
Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour: An Award-winning Maritime Experience
If a museum containing around 200 marine artifacts and vessels is something that makes your blood flow, then this place is for you.
Here you can see everything from submarines from the 1930s to a steam-powered icebreaker more than 100 years old.
You can also get to try a navy uniform for that new profile photo you’ve maybe been thinking of getting, and much more.
Things To See and Do in Latvia
Jurmala Beach: The Largest Resort Town in the Baltic Sea
While the other two countries also have beaches, it’s hard to compare them with Jurmala beach.
This is considered the best beach in the Baltic states.
It’s located on a coastline of around 30 km. with different beaches.
Jurmala is also the largest resort town in all of the Baltic sea, and you’ll find most of what to expect from a place like this.
And it only takes around 30 min. driving from Riga to reach.
If you’re craving a full day outside, you could also visit the nearby Kemeri National park before or after. It’s located 30 min. further away from Riga.
Riekstukalns: Largest Skiing Resort in the Baltics
If you’re visiting during the colder months, this is a good way to put all the extra Christmas calories to good use.
Because in Latvia you’ll also find the largest skiing resort in the Baltics.
The name is Riekstukalns and it’s only 45 min. drive from Riga.
Don’t expect mountains though, but it’s a good experience if you’re a beginner, or want to take your skills to the next level at their snow park.
If you’ve never tried either snowboarding or skiing before, you could also try learning one or the other.
You can rent what you need there except for clothes.
Riga Central Market: Europe’s Largest Outdoor Market and Bazaar
While the other two countries have markets as well, this one is bigger.
Here you’ll find over 3000 stands with local farmers and traders from all over Latvia selling their goods.
It’s not only limited to all kinds of foods, but also clothing and other items.
And partly located in reused old German zeppelin hangars, it’s one of the other reasons it stands out.
You’ll find the market only a few hundred meters from Old Town in the very center.
TIP: If you're considering visiting Latvia, I've previously published a list of my top 9 recommendations on things to do in Riga (Latvia). And I've added a little twist to it by sorting it after what gave me the most adrenaline.
🚗 How to Rent the Best Car for the Lowest Price in the Baltics
If you’re looking into renting a car, I have something to share with you.
I’ve been in some pretty sweaty situations over the years when renting cars.
One time I received a serious demand letter from a rental company years after I returned the car. Even if I had already paid for it in full (they apologized in the end).
And another time someone made a huge dent in the rear of a new Audi I rented. Making me doubt whether I’d ever see my deposit again.
Through these experiences, I came to realize the importance of choosing a car rental company you can trust. Along with having access to 24/7 support providing peace of mind while ensuring any issues are quickly addressed if they arise.
Plus knowing that you get the car you paid for, there are no hidden fees when picking it up, or any other frustrating surprises written in small.
And that’s why I want to introduce you to the award-winning Discover Cars (4.5 of 5 on Trustpilot) 🤩
This platform has grown into one of the biggest car rental websites in the world. And have an abundance of positive reviews on trusted review platforms such as Trustpilot and Google.
Why I love Discover Cars:
- You compare the best prices from 500 car companies at once
- They negotiate prices directly with the car rental companies to give you the best price
- There are no hidden fees
- Free cancellation on all bookings
- 24/7 customer support
Things To See and Do in Lithuania
Grutas Park: A Large Collection of Soviet History
When Lithuania got independent in 1991 they got rid of the Soviet monuments around their country, yet some were still preserved.
In Grutas Park you’ll find 86 different monuments with relics and sculptures from throughout the Soviet times.
Such as statues of Communist leaders like Stalin, Lenin, and Marx.
The park is located around a 1 hour and 40 min drive from Vilnius, so it’s a bit of a ride from there.
But judging by the various photos and reviews, I’m positive it will be worth it if you like history.
The Dead Dunes: Europe’s Tallest Migrating Dunes
Also known as the “Grey Dunes”.
This place is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s probably the closest you come to a desert in the Baltic states.
Here you’ll find dunes up to almost 200 ft (60 meters) in height.
You can also experience four villages and two cemeteries that were covered in the sand between 1675 and 1854 when the dunes were known to travel around 2-50 ft (0.5-15 meters) every year.
Before you’re imagining yourself rolling around in the sand, or bringing your snowboard, do notice that you’re obliged to stay on a marked trail during your visit.
You’ll find The Dead Dunes in Neringos savivaldybė at the seaside in the very west of Lithuania.
Since it’s a 4-hour drive from Vilnius, it’s probably not for you if you’re only visiting the capital.
Devil’s Museum: One of the More Unique Museums
It’s not every day you see a devil-themed museum.
As the name indicates you can experience a huge collection of art with more than 3.000 different pieces. Including images of the devil, witches, and other creatures.
Much of it is made and collected in Lithuania, but also imported from over 70 countries around the world.
Another unusual thing is that the museum is known for visitors donating devil-themed gifts to the museum.
You’ll find the museum in the city of Kaunas, which is a bit over a 1-hour drive from Vilnius.
Local Food and Drinks in the Baltic Countries
The three countries’ cuisine is very similar in many ways.
Meat-heavy dishes, and ingredients such as barley, berries, mushrooms, and potatoes, often accompanied by dairy, are very popular.
You also where don’t have to invest many minutes to find a craft beer from a local brewery in any of the countries.
Or homemade pancakes when you’re walking through one of the Old Towns.
But despite the many similarities, they still have their unique influence.
One of the differences from the other two Baltic countries is that you’ll find more seafood.
This is due to the higher degree of Nordic influences.
So if greasy and heavy food isn’t your thing, you might like Estonian cuisine the most.
A thing that stands out as unique is their traditional dish called “Pelēkie Zirņi” which is translated to “grey peas”.
These peas are being farmed and cooked in abundance in Latvia, and are to be found in many traditional home-cooked meals, often on the side with meat.
For Christmas, it’s a popular dish to serve with bacon.
If you can’t get enough meat, Latvian cuisine is for you.
While not differing much from the other two Baltic countries, Lithuanian cuisine has a higher degree of Polish influence.
Besides the popular ingredients such as potatoes and beets, you’ll also find some of the world’s best dumplings, which might come as a surprise.
Though dumblings originate from China, they were believed to be brought to Europe during Medieval times.
🏥 Stay Safe in the Baltics With the Best Affordable Insurance
What I’ve learned is that accidents happen when you least expect them. Especially when exploring new and unfamiliar places while traveling the world.
Whether it was the time I got sepsis (blood poisoning) from a wound and was hospitalized for 2 days in Thailand. Or dislocated my shoulder after slipping in a shower (not my proudest moment).
Long story short; having travel insurance has saved more than $10,000 over the years. And provided me peace of mind along the way, so I could enjoy my travels worry-free.
And the good thing is it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But what’s crucial is choosing the right insurance.
With the monthly subscription with Genki (from $37.69/month), you can sign up in minutes, even if you’re already traveling.
Why Genki Is the Best Travel Insurance:
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It is important to note that Genki is a partner of Allianz. This means that despite its low price, you can trust that you have a reputable company backing you up in case of an emergency.
This sets Genki apart from many of the other travel insurance options available on the market that may be of questionable quality.
Nightlife in the Baltic Capitals
All my time spent in the Baltic states has been in my 20s.
A byproduct of that is that I’ve spent my fair share of time, energy, and health “studying” the nightlife in all three countries.
It was helped by the Baltic states having some of the best nightlife in the world.
You’ll have all possible bars and clubs you can think of, where the prices are cheap, and you often share it with nice people clouded in good vibes.
I’ll be covering the capitals since this is where the majority of the nightlife happens.
And in my opinion, one of these capitals has the best nightlife in all of Northern, Western, and Central Europe.
I’ll reveal which one now.
Nightlife in Tallinn (Estonia)
Like the other cities, you’ll find more bars and clubs to satisfy a lifetime.
Sometimes with unique themes such as Labor bar serving shots and drinks in laboratory glassware.
I’d give Tallinn the second spot on the best nightlife of the three.
One of the things standing out is that you’ll probably have the joy of meeting a lot of Finnish people as well.
This is due to the direct ferry to Helsinki from the harbor, which will take you to the Finnish capital in only 2 hours.
Nightlife in Riga (Latvia)
Not only does Latvia have more bars and clubs compared to any of the other cities according to Likealocalguide.com.
It also offers the best nightlife in my opinion, without a doubt.
The Old Town is full of life at night, and it’s also the biggest of the three countries.
You’ll find bars, clubs, and live music for everyone.
You can even have shots that look like the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian flags at Shot Cafe.
I’ve previously made a list of the best bars and clubs in Riga, including a DIY pub crawl, in case you’re curious.
Nightlife in Vilnius (Lithuania)
If you were to visit Vilnius you’d notice that they have avoided the concentrated party scene in their Old Town compared to the other two countries.
Also, do notice that the minimum drinking age in Lithuania is 20 years old, and not 18 like most other countries.
For many, this is a big plus, if you prefer a more quiet town in the late evening and night.
For various reasons including the ones above, I’d give Vilnius the last spot on the list of the best nightlife of the three.
TIP: When I was living in Riga I arranged many weekends for my friends to come to visit. Which at the time meant a lot of partying. Therefore I've previously made this definitive guide on the most action-packed party weekend in Riga possible. It's perfect if you're considering a weekend-long bachelor party or similar.
The prices are also very similar.
But if you only have the option of one destination, and you’re on a tight budget where every dollar counts, you might want to consider it.
Estimated Daily Travel Budget for 1 Person
Do notice that these prices are estimates on a realistic daily spend for a budget backpacker including:
- A dorm bed at a hostel
- Budget breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- A return trip with public transportation
- A paid activity
- And a few cheap beers or drinks to chill in the evening
But most importantly, the prices are still relatively correct compared to whatever budget you intend.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit any of the countries is in May and June, or September and early October. If you prefer the warmer months of the year.
And if you don’t mind the cold in exchange for a winter cozy wonderland during Christmas, December is also a good month to visit.
If any countries know how to celebrate Christmas it’s the Baltics. Here the streets will be decorated and you’ll find Christmas markets in the Old Towns.
Also, this will give you opportunities for skiing. Just don’t expect the French alps in either size (or price), but it’s good fun if you’re craving it, or if you’re a beginner.
I’d suggest skipping January and February except if you agree with us Scandinavians that there’s no bad weather – only bad clothing.
Because these months can very-very cold.
If you visit during any of these periods you’ll also avoid the high season in July and August.
This means lower prices and fewer tourists.
But if you’re planning to visit during the high season, it’s a good idea to book your trip as early as possible.
Average Max. Temperatures
|Month||🇪🇪 Estonia||🇱🇻 Latvia||🇱🇹 Lithuania|
|January||31 °F (-0.7 °C)||34 °F (1.3 °C)||34 °F (1.3 °C)|
|February (coldest)||30 °F (-1 °C)||34 °F (1.3 °C)||34 °F (1.3 °C)|
|March||37 °F (2.8 °C)||40 °F (4.5 °C)||40 °F (4.5 °C)|
|April||49 °F (9.5 °C)||51 °F (10.8 °C)||51 °F (10.8 °C)|
|May||60 °F (15.4 °C)||60 °F (15.4 °C)||61 °F (16 °C)|
|June||67 °F (19.2 °C)||65 °F (18.6 °C)||67 °F (19.3°C)|
|July (warmest)||72 °F (22.2 °C)||71 °F (21.6 °C)||72 °F (22.1 °C)|
|August||70 °F (21 °C)||71 °F (21.6 °C)||72 °F (22.3 °C)|
|September||61 °F (16.1 °C)||63 °F (17.1 °C)||64 °F (17.8 °C)|
|October||49 °F (9.5 °C)||52 °F (11.2 °C)||53 °F (11.9 °C)|
|November||39 °F (4.1 °C)||43 °F (5.9 °C)||43 °F (6.3 °C)|
|December||34 °F (1.2 °C)||37 °F (2.6 °C)||38 °F (3.2 °C)|
The weather of the countries is very similar for obvious geographical reasons.
The warmest average month across all three countries is found in July, and the coldest is February.
Though do notice that this is the average maximum temperature, meaning that the winters can get much colder.
I remember my first -22 °F (-30 °C) winter in Latvia.
That was the first time I realized how useless my winter jacket was when the cold was biting through to my skin in no time.
I was also surprised how society kept on going despite it.
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Average Hours of Sunshine per Day
|Month||🇪🇪 Estonia||🇱🇻 Latvia||🇱🇹 Lithuania|
I think most of us can agree that the temperature can’t stand alone without taking into consideration the number of hours with sunshine.
It can turn a cold day into a hot day and vice versa.
Average Rainy Days
|Month||🇪🇪 Estonia||🇱🇻 Latvia||🇱🇹 Lithuania|
Since there’s a big difference between a rainy day in July and February, I’d still say that the importance of the temperate is much bigger.
Besides depending on wheels to get from A to B, keep in mind that like most other European countries the walkability is great.
This means that you can do and see a lot by walking from place to place without relying on transport in the capitals.
It’s a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re on a budget, where not only the fresh air and some exercise are a bonus.
I always prefer using apps compared to regular taxis.
The prices are often lower, the service is better, and you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off.
For all three countries, I recommend the taxi app Bolt.
This is similar to Uber.
The business was founded in Estonia in 2019 and has over 100 million customers in more than 45 countries across the globe.
Bolt Taxi Price Examples for a 10 Km Trip:
- 🇱🇻 Latvia: 6,49€ ($6,61)
- 🇱🇹 Lithuania: 6,9€ ($7,03)
- 🇪🇪 Estonia: 12,6€ ($12,84)
These are all prices for ordering a 4-seat regular Bolt car.
Breakdown of the Prices:
|🇪🇪 Estonia:||🇱🇻 Latvia:||🇱🇹 Lithuania:|
|Min. price:||3€ ($3,06)||3€ ($3,06)||3€ ($3,06)|
|Start:||1.31€ ($1,33)||0.99€ ($1,01)||1€ ($1,02)|
|Pr. km:||1,09€ ($1,11)||0.55€ ($0,56)||0.44€ ($0,45)|
|Waiting time:||0.15€/min ($0,15)||0.18€/min ($0,18)||0.16€/min ($0,16)|
|Cancellation fee:||3€ ($3,06)||2.5€ ($2,55)||3€ ($3,06)|
|Order-fee:||1.7€ ($1,73)||Free||1.5€ ($1,53)|
Do notice that these prices are dynamic and depend on supply and demand. Though still relatively correct when compared to each other.
You don’t have to rely on taxis to get around most of the time.
All three countries have well-connected buses, trams, and trains at your disposal.
Especially in the capital cities, you have good options for getting around by public transport while blending in with locals. In Vilnius, you’ll find a metro too.
The easiest way to navigate your way around is by using Google Maps.
Just choose “Public transport” after you’ve inserted your route.
🛌 How To Secure the Best Accommodation in the Baltics
When it comes to travel, finding the perfect accommodation is a big part of it.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time adventurer, you know that more than a third of your time on the road is spent in your accommodation.
And besides securing a good night’s rest, I also like to make my accommodation an experience of itself.
Whether it’s staying in a local vacation rental and blending in with locals. Spoiling myself with a good hotel deal. Or stay in a social hostel and meet new people.
And with hundreds of bookings under my belt, I’ve tried the majority of the biggest websites there are. But in reality, you only need a few, no matter what you’re in the mood for:
- 🏡 At VRBO, you’ll find an incredible selection of vacation rentals, from cozy cabins to luxurious villas, all with the amenities and comforts of home.
- 🏨 With Booking, you can choose from over 28 million listings worldwide, including hotels, apartments, and more
- 🛌 And Hostelworld is the home of hostels and budget accommodations, providing the best places to meet other travelers while stretching your travel budget further.
No matter where you’re going or what your budget is, I can vouch that these trusted platforms have got you covered.
All the Funky Data
This article wouldn’t be complete without some objective numbers to satisfy even the most curious.
Often numbers are not what we expected.
Some of these surprised me, and maybe they will surprise you too.
Popularity Among Travelers
|Country||Yearly visitors (2019)|
It’s interesting to see how equal Estonia and Lithuania are in the number of yearly arrivals.
But without a doubt, Latvia is the most popular country of the three with +24% more visitors.
|Country||Crime Index||Safety Index|
A low crime index indicates a lower overall amount of crime.
This is based on actual crimes such as being robbed, attacked, or insulted.
While a high safety index indicates a higher amount of safety.
This is based on how safe people feel walking alone during a combination of daytime and nighttime.
Estonia scores an amazing 4th spot in Europe on both indexes.
TIP: Do notice that this data is based on visitors to Numbeo's website, and is not guaranteed to be official statistics. Though they're stating that the way they gather data is similar to how many governments do a survey. My overall impression is also that the data is a good indicator.
Income After Taxes
This can tell us about the costs if you are willing to give up on some of the touristic things in exchange for doing like the locals.
In practical terms, this means choosing free things rather than touristic things, staying at affordable hostels or Airbnb’s, to simulate the long-term local living prices more.
Though the countries have similarities in other aspects, Estonia stands out here with a +31% higher monthly average income after taxes.
Looking at this data from the EU in 2020 shows us that Latvia has the highest ratio of women per 100 men (116.5).
On a close #2 spot we find Lithuania with a ratio of 114.2
And on the #4 spot is Estonia with a ratio of 111.2 (with Portugal being #3 with 111.9).
TIP: Not only does Latvia have the highest ratio of women per 100 men, but it also has the average tallest women in the world.
Size and Population
|Country||Size (in 1.000)||Population|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||17,5 sq mi (45,3 km2)||1,331,800|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||25 sq mi (64,6 km2)||1,907,700|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||25,2 sq mi (65,3 km2)||2,830,100|
Even though the similarity in size with Latvia, Lithuania’s population is +75% larger compared to the other countries.
Choosing the Best Destination: Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania?
No one in the universe can answer this question but yourself.
This you have to decide based on your own research.
But what I can do is share with you my personal favorite:
My impression is that you can experience most of what the Baltic states have to offer there.
And you’ll be close to nature whether it’s hiking, skiing, or going to the beach during summer.
I also like the Old Town and Nightlife in Riga compared to the other capitals.
And located in the middle of the three countries, it’s easy for you to go visit one of the others if you have the time (though don’t start there if you’re planning to visit them all).
But to be honest it might also have something to do with me living there. I’ve naturally experienced much more in Latvia compared to Estonia and Lithuania.
If You Have Time Enough to Visit All Countries
If you have time, then why not visit them all?
I’d suggest spending at least 3 days in every capital in this order:
- Vilnius (Lithuania)
- Riga (Latvia)
- Tallinn (Estonia)
If you have more time, don’t be afraid of spending 4 days or more.
It’s super easy, cheap, and fast to get from capital to capital by bus.
A bus ride between the different capitals takes 4-4,5 hours and costs between 19-23€ ($19-24).
The easiest way to your bus tickets is with Omio 🚌
Just remember to start in either Tallinn or Vilnius depending on what destination that’s the easiest and cheapest for you to reach first.
TIP: I recommend starting in Vilnius if you have more time. This gives the opportunity of extending your trip to Finland's capital Helsinki, only located a 2-hour ferry ride from Tallinn 🛳️
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