One question, travelers often ask is, “Are the Baltics safe?” As far as travel goes, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are safe destinations, whether you’re in the city, countryside, or wilderness. But you should still keep some tips in mind when you visit the three Baltic countries.
If you’re wondering “Are the Baltic states safe?” in the context of the war Russia is waging on Ukraine, the answer is yes. The Baltic countries are protected by NATO, and the Baltics do not border Ukraine. Life is completely normal here even if the Baltics and Russia have a tense relationship.
While the Baltic countries are safe for travelers, below are some tips to be aware of to maximize your safety in these three countries.
1. Are the Baltic States Safe During the Tourist Season?
The Baltic countries are typically safe even during the tourist season in the summer months. However, travelers should remember that summers can be hot, which may pose a danger.
Though the northern latitude of the Baltics means that the summers may be milder than countries in the south, average temperatures throughout the year have continued to rise. If your travel itinerary includes full days out and about in cities, at the beach, or in the countryside, you should take both heat and sun into consideration.
Pack clothing appropriate to the temperatures that will also protect you—check out Lithuanian linen or linen clothing from elsewhere that you can wear without overheating and that dries easily (while functional or workout wear may be appropriate for hiking or other outdoor activities, plan on city clothes for taking in culture or dining out). Also make sure to use sunscreen and reapply it often, and carry bottled water with you.
Stay safe in the Baltics the summer!
2. Are Winters Safe in the Baltics?
Yes, the rising temperatures also mean that winters are milder with less snow and ice than in past years. However, temperatures can still drop well below freezing, and a buildup of snow, which may melt into ice with fluctuating temperatures creates slippery, unsafe footing.
Be sure to layer your clothing and cover your skin in extreme temperature situations, do not neglect the importance of good socks, and wear shoes that provide traction and insulation from both cold and moisture.
In short, dress for the winter in the Baltics to stay safe from freezing temperatures.
3. Are the Baltic States Safe from Crime?
Are the Baltic states safe with regards to crime?
In many places throughout the Baltics, you can relax and feel confident that you are not an immediate target for pickpockets or other criminals, even in the capital cities. However, it still pays to be aware on public transportation, listen to advice locals give about areas to stay away from, and use legitimate taxi services.
Also be wary about getting drunk and becoming a convenient mark for thieves or new “friends” who take you out for a good time at an elevated cost borne completely by you or worse, run off with your wallet when you are incapacitated.
4. Are the Baltic Countries Safe if You Need Medical Care?
Health care is subsidized by the state in the Baltic countries, and the care may not be up to Western or American standards both in the attitude of the doctors, receptionists, and other staff, and in the options for treatment available.
Of course, each country has advanced in various areas of health care, and some procedures, such as cosmetic or dental procedures, may benefit from the best technology and expertise as well as favorable prices (in fact, medical tourism has developed in some of these areas!).
Private clinics, which may or may not accept international insurance, may have more comfortable facilities than public ones, though they will still suffer from specific drawbacks.
Also keep in mind that private clinics will likely be more expensive than public ones, so you will have to determine what is your priority—cost or comfort. On the other hand, if you have to pay out of pocket for an examination or other service, whether at a public or private clinic, you are able to ask for the price up front so you do not experience any surprises.
5. Is the Water Safe in the Baltics?
Is it safe in the Baltic countries to drink the tap water?
Tap water is clean and drinkable in the Baltics. Of course, bottled water is widely available, but be aware that mineral water, such as Lithuania’s Vytautas mineral water, may not be what you expect with its salty flavor!
Sparkling water is also widely enjoyed, so if you are not a fan, be sure to double check the bottle before you buy.
6. How Can You Stay Safe in the Baltics if You Have Food Allergies?
Like in the West, packaged food products in the Baltics can contain ingredients you would rather avoid.
While European labeling standards may be better and the requirements for labels stricter than in the US, it still pays to check labeling. Doing so may be difficult due to ingredients lists being in Estonian, Latvian, or Lithuanian, but some ingredients (preservatives, for example) that you might be avoiding will be rendered recognizable because the word in those languages is so similar to the English word.
It also helps to use a translator app if you are avoiding ingredients such as wheat or nuts—EU packaging identifies common allergens separately on the labeling or in bold letters.
7. Is It Safe to Eat at Restaurants with Food Allergies in the Baltic States?
Restaurants in the Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have gradually begun to take food allergies and intolerances seriously, with some menus featuring a key to let you know if a dish contains gluten or dairy or if it is vegetarian or vegan.
However, you may still encounter dismissiveness, ignorance, or apathy when you try to inform the waiter about your dietary restrictions.
If your condition is serious and you feel that you have not been understood or the waitstaff have not been honest with you about checking with the kitchen about a particular ingredient, it is better not to take the risk. Either choose a dish you feel more confident about or leave the restaurant.
8. How Can You Stay Safe in the Baltic Wilderness?
Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian wilderness may not seem dangerous. However, you should be aware of certain risks. Mosquitos and other insects proliferate in the summer, making repellent a good addition to your packing list.
But worse on this list are ticks, which are prevalent, and which may carry encephalitis or Lyme disease. For the former, you can get a vaccine, but for the latter, it is simply best to prevent ticks from landing on you through repellent and refraining from exposing too much of your skin. Be sure to check yourself carefully after a walk in the park or forest!
Bears have also been spotted in the Baltics, particularly in Estonia and as far south as Latvia, and other wild animals, such as boars, live in the forests.
9. Is It Safe near the Baltic Border in the Baltic States?
Is it safe near the Russian border in the Baltic states?
In the Eastern side of Estonia, where untouched forest stretch for miles, the border between Estonia and Russia may not be clear. Better to stay well away from it, whether on foot or in a car. Entering Russia, even by accident, may be seen as hostile, used for political purposes, or just create a gigantic headache for you.
If Google maps is sending you down a dirt track that does not seem like an actual road, turn around and find solid pavement. In this case, it is not prudent to take the road less traveled by.
10. What Should I Be Aware of While Getting Around in the Baltic Countries?
In the US, it’s common for cyclists to warn pedestrians they approach from behind with a warning, such as the ringing of a bell or an “on your left!” Unfortunately, in the Baltics, it is all too common for cyclists to whizz by, scaring the wits out of you in the process.
Motorized scooters, which can be rented for city use, also become prevalent during the summer and can sometimes seem to outnumber pedestrians. Particularly in historic centers, where streets are narrow and no clear bike lane has been designated, getting around on foot can seem downright hazardous. Your best option is to simply be aware and keep any children you are traveling with close, particularly if they are small and are unable to react to a bike or scooter bearing down on them.
If you’re used to traveling to destinations with more numerous or serious risks to health and safety, the Baltics will seem like a walk in the park. You don’t need to wonder, “Are the baltic countries safe?” However, it’s always beneficial to use caution, even in the relatively safe countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania!