Travel to Estonia: Planning for the Unreliable Weather

Find out how to stay safe in Estonia's summer or winter with these tips on weather before you go.

Snow covered city in Estonia Photo © Getty Images/Richard Hylerstedt / EyeEm

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 100 years.

Compulsory reflectors

Still, you won't necessarily like the climate in Estonia. Because it sits so far north in Europe, it gets cold and very dark between October and April, with only about six hours of sunlight per day, and there are special laws to cope with that.

For instance, pedestrians must wear reflectors, similar to what a cyclist would wear, when out after dark. You can find these at supermarkets and smaller retailers around Estonia. Wearing the reflectors, usually by attached to your coat, is crucial in country areas where street lighting is poor and it's difficult for drivers to see you.

You can be fined for not wearing a reflector, but if you are drunk, the fine could be 10 times as much.

Animals, big animals like moose, are other moving targets to watch out for while driving, but the government has no laws on the books requiring them to wear reflectors!

Snow business

It snows about 100 days out of the year here, so you'll need some endurance if you're from a country with a warmer climate.

Even though the road system is quite satisfactory throughout the country, wintry conditions can turn them into a mess.

Often the snow starts falling with little warning catching road crews unaware, so it's a while before the snow plows get out onto the streets.

Snow, ice and winter darkness - it's not a great combination for safe driving.

If the roads are passable, taking a drive can be quite pleasant, as it showcases the beautiful snow-lined landscape, but it's not uncommon for drivers to get stranded in snowdrifts throughout the country.

Unsurprisingly, skiing is popular here; you may want to keep a pair of skis in your rental car, they might get you back to your hotel quicker if you get stranded.

Zero tolerance

Other local laws, there are strict rules against drunk driving. Anyone with a blood alcohol level above zero will face strict penalties, including imprisonment and fines.

Even those driving their cars via ferry can be subjected to breath checks.

Summer season

If your plans blessedly take you to Estonia in the brighter, warmer summer months, your main danger if gallivanting outdoors will be tick bites. Tick-borne encephalitis is a risk, especially in the forests.

Flooding is possible in low-lying areas when the ice starts thawing in the spring, but occurs infrequently.

Note also that outdated electrical and structural codes in buildings increase the risk of fire throughout Estonia, so always check the evacuation plan and know where the fire exits are.

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