Guide to Estonia

By , Travel Insights Editor Estonia crime, estonia, europe, travel-crime, travel-safety-tips, travel-transport

If you decide to brave Estonia's harsh winters and take a drive around the country, be aware of strict rules regarding your paperwork. Some travellers have gotten needlessly fined for simple confusion over driving laws in the country.

Papers, Please

You need not one, but two licenses to drive here: the license from your own country and an International Driving Permit (IDP). Note the "permit" part of the last item, if you're not authorised to drive a certain class of vehicle at home the permit does not magically give you the right to do it elsewhere.

Once you've been given the all-clear to steer your way around this Baltic State, watch out for aggressive driving and speeding.

Watch Out!

Estonian drivers like to overtake slower cars and will even treat city streets like the autobahn. Unfortunately, even though the Estonian government has virtually no tolerance for drunk driving, accidents involving intoxicated drivers occur often. It is no surprise, then, that police regularly run checkpoints and highways.

Drunks walk by foot when not driving, and they can stroll (stumble) on unlit roads or try to run across highways.

Weather conditions and potholes can also cause problems on roadways both rural and urban. Always have your headlights on.

If you want to get around Estonia another way, avoid hailing taxis directly from the street. These drivers often jack up the fare. You are better off arranging a ride with a taxi company such as Tulika Takso.

Theft, Drunks & Organised Crime

You should be pretty safe as you travel around Estonia, but the capital city of Tallinn can get rowdy like any major city. It is a big spot for stag or bachelor parties, and the roving bands of drunk men can sometimes be at the heart of disorderly conduct and physical and verbal assaults.

(I'm not saying this man is drunk - not yet anyway)

These men and other visitors also run the risk of getting ripped off in the strip clubs along Viru Street and surrounds where organised crime gangs linked to Latvia rule the roost.

Foreigners may be subject to astronomical entry fees or bar tabs in addition to credit card skimming.

Viru Street is also a prime spot for pickpocketing.

Foreigners have been mugged or attacked by drunkards near bars and clubs. The worst places at night are the neighborhoods Kopli and Lasnamäe, but reports indicate that the crime here is still far less frequent than in cities in other countries like America.

Bandits will often operate in groups in areas like Tallinn's Old Town, especially the Town Hall Square, called Raekoja Plats and the Central Market.

Like in other cities, the airport and bus and train stations in addition to the ferry ports also present risk for theft.

Racially-motivated crimes against minorities also occur in Estonia, though it is difficult to get a handle on the rate of frequency. In a recent occurrence, an African Ph.D. student was harassed in Tartu to the point where he decided to abandon his studies in the country.

Tallin, crime hotspot

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Estonia is a tiny Baltic State that gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 and it's easy to bypass it on the world map. But it is certainly worth a visit for its general cleanliness, lack of crime in most areas (the capital, Tallinn, may be a different story) and impressive track record of having no natural disasters in a 100years.

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