Nestled between Russia and Poland, Lithuania has been called Europe's best-kept secret.
It is a country that has been shaped by its rich ancient history and deep-seeded roots.
Visitors are often surprised by the colorful landscape and natural treasures found there. Experience the beautiful countryside while taking in fine art and witnessing historical landmarks that paint eerie stories of days past. It's certain to be a trip you won't soon forget. Practically speaking, however, there are a few safety matters to consider first to ensure a safe visit.
Pickpocketing and other forms of petty theft are common, so keep your personal belongings and valuables safely concealed and don't leave items unattended. Theft from vehicles is also a growing problem. If you have rented a vehicle and are driving, be cautious of people on the side of the road attempting to flag you down and get you to pull over. This is often a ploy to get you out of your car; meanwhile a second party either steals property out of your unattended vehicle or drives off with it. If you absolutely must exit your vehicle, for instance if you are involved in an accident, be sure to turn off the ignition, take the keys and lock the car.
Car theft is gaining popularity among thieves, so always lock unattended vehicles and make sure any valuables left in the car are hidden. Whenever possible, try to park in well-lit, guarded parking lots, especially if you'll be leaving the vehicle overnight.
There has also been a recent increase in bicycle thefts. These incidents are mostly isolated to the Vilnius area, but regardless of location anyone using a bike should securely lock it when leaving it unattended, just in case.
When traveling near border areas be certain that you have your passport and that it has been stamped. Officials will check it and then often demand "compensation" (read: a bribe) if you don't have the proper stamps. It's also worth noting that the general attitude toward homosexuality in Lithuania is a negative one. Open displays of affection between people of the same gender are often met with violent reactions. Even suspicion of same sex relationships, such as two heterosexual men sitting too close at a bar, can result in a confrontation so be mindful.
Lithuania has a large selection of premium beer, which is quite tasty but also happens to be quite strong. Vodka is also a popular drink of choice. If you plan on partaking, do so with caution. There have been a lot of recent reports of tourists becoming victims of crime after getting extremely intoxicated. Avoid drinking alone or with people you don't know. If visiting Vilnius is on your itinerary, be aware that it happens to be one of the most popular locations for stag weekends. Be on the lookout for groups of highly intoxicated men and stay out of their way.
Drink spiking is also an issue, with victims being given a drink laced with drugs that render them unconscious. Any number of bad things can happen to you after you've consumed a spiked drink so be extremely careful not to accept drinks from strangers, always watch the bartender preparing your drink and keep it with you (and in your sight) at all times.
As with many travel destinations, in Lithuania foreigners are often targeted by dishonest locals hoping to overcharge them and make a little extra money. This often happens in bars where the price of drinks is grossly inflated when purchased by unsuspecting tourists. There is also the slight possibility that if you are paying with a credit or debit card, a shifty bartender will attempt to charge fraudulent transactions against your account. To avoid becoming a victim, always verify the price of drinks before ordering, only order (and pay for) one round at a time and double check your bill and credit card receipt.
Lithuania is a relatively safe place to visit, with a low crime rate. There are, however, certain locations and areas where the risk is slightly greater, particularly after dark. Whenever possible, ask someone local that you trust, such as your hotel concierge, which bars and nightclubs are safest and which ones to avoid. In Vilnius, the authorities actually publish a list containing the names of clubs and night spots that have seen the highest rate of crime. The list is updated every six months so the information is pretty accurate. When walking around at night, avoid seedy neighborhoods, try to stick to the main roads and well lit areas and travel in groups rather than alone.
Lithuania is a lovely place to visit and offers much more to tourists than meets the eye. From fascinating architecture to beautiful landscapes to ancient culture, it's a place of adventure and discovery and leaves visitors with memories to last a lifetime.
And while a trip there is likely to be safe, it's still important to know what things to look out for and which areas to avoid so that there are no unwelcome surprises during your stay.
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