How to Get Around Estonia: Travel Safety Tips

Harsh winters, crazy driving, pickpockets and out of control stag parties. Here's everything you need to know about getting around Estonia safely.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Tallinn, Estonia Photo © Getty Images/R.Tsubin

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 travelers have been fined for confusion over driving laws in the country.

Driving in Estonia

To be able to drive in Estonia you will need a valid driver's license from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP). If you're not authorised to drive a certain class of vehicle at home the IDP doesn't magically give you the right to do it elsewhere.

  • Make sure your rental and insurance papers are in order and carried with you at all times
  • Before you take to the roads, check the car has the following compulsory items: headlight deflectors, warning triangle, fire extinguisher and wheel chocks. On the spot fines can be issued by police if these items aren't in the car
  • It's illegal to use a cell phone while driving unless you have hands free or Bluetooth capabilities
  • Dipped headlights must be on at all times of the day and the wearing of seat belts is compulsory
  • In Estonia, you drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left.

Avoid driving at night where possible as poor road conditions such as unsealed roads in rural areas can be dangerous plus the risk of potentially hitting wild animals such as moose. Some Estonian drivers can be aggressive; overtaking cars doing the speed limit whether it's in the city or rural areas. Be aware and drive defensively.

While the Estonian government has virtually no tolerance for drunk driving, accidents involving intoxicated drivers do occur. As a result, local police regularly run breath testing checkpoints and highway patrols.

Driving in Winter

Snow, ice and winter darkness - it's not a great combination for safe driving anywhere. Even though the road system is quite satisfactory throughout Estonia, wintry conditions can turn them into a mess.

It's compulsory to use snow tyres between December and March, however this can extend by a month either side so check with local authorities. It's important to take into consideration the icy conditions on the roads and that it may take longer than usual to travel from one destination to another. Don't forget to check that the lights, wipers and brakes are in good working order before driving.

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.

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.

Once winter ends, flooding can occur in low-lying areas when the ice thaws in the spring. It does occur infrequently but if you happen come across flood waters while driving, don't attempt to cross.

Taxis

Try to avoid hailing taxis directly from the street. Some drivers will jack up the fare. You are better off booking a ride with a  licensed taxi company such as Tulika Takso.

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.

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8 Comments

  • Liam said

    Thank you! interesting and informative)
    Tallinn is perfect destination to travel to)
    http://tripity.eu

  • Esjay said

    Thank you. Very informative. Have decided to drop Estonia from my must visit list.

  • Narges said

    America is not a country.

  • ,, said

    "Thank you. Very informative. Have decided to drop Estonia from my must visit list."

    look at this fool

  • Jeff Green said

    I do not think this opinion of Estonia is a true reflection of the country. I have visited Tallin Narva and Johvi and j find all these places very safe,it is much safer for a ladies to walk around during the evening in Estonia than in most towns in the UK. Most people are very polite and younger people seem to to be far more conciderate to older people than in the uk. There are certain parts of any city that may cause a problem but do not let that put you off a holiday in this beautiful peacefull and unspoilt small country. I have spent many months in Estonia and have now decided to live here with my Russian wife . In conclusion; visit and enjoy

    Without prejudice.

  • Allyson said

    Hi everyone,

    We are well aware this article is very out of date. Keep posting your experiences and updated information in the comments section, we're in the process of updating these articles and appreciate your input.

    Cheers,

    [email protected]

  • EL AMIN said

    Traveo to Estonia was a really bad experience for me; too racism and people does not respect other races. They are not friendly and bad watches when meeting, no hospitality and I received messages like.. "you are not welcome", "why you came here".. "we like to meet only european or caucasian"...
    I do not recommend to come there

  • Arthur said

    As a person, who lives in the capital and is Estonian,
    I will say that It is very safe, to the point that first graders can go to home by themselves from school safely.
    Chances of getting beaten up or mugged, etc near the tourist places are very rare, pickpocketed maybe but that happens
    alot more in other places like Prague, going to the areas like Kopli and city district Lasnamäe at night time
    has chances of getting mugged or beaten up or even stabbed by Russians are sadly existant, but those places arent a real sight to see so I wouldnt even know why tourists would go to those places. To reply to the last person, yes we do have racism, as white race is a minority in the world population and Estonian people being so small in numbers, we are very collective and used to see people who look like us and not fond of the migrant crisis and Europe sending other kinds of people here with destructive ideologies. In short, this hostility has been built up because of the recent events of politics and being not fond of being replaced has made this happen.
    But it is still a very safe place to visit. I'd recommend it full-heartedly. This article seems to have a bias against Estonia.

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