Lithuania

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A Little About Lithuania

 

Lithuania is the most southern of the three Baltic states.  It lies on the Baltic Sea, just to the north-east of Poland.  It’s a member of the EU, Eurozone and NATO, and started using the Euro as its currency on January 1, 2015.

Similar to Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania has a long history of war and occupation.  It was once a part of a commonwealth with Poland (The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and throughout the 20th century was occupied by both the Nazis and Soviets.  It finally regained independence in 1991.  Learn more about the history of Lithuania here.

Lithuania has gone from strength to strength since gaining its independence in 1991.  It’s quite technologically advanced, having some of the fastest wifi speeds in Europe.  Its basketball team is also hugely popular and successful, having collected three Bronze medals from seven attempts at the olympic games.

  • Population: Around 2.8 million
  • Capital city: Vilnius
  • Official Language:  Lithuanian
  • Currency: Euro (since 2015)

Places To Go

Vilnius

The capital and largest city in Lithuania.  Most people tend to base themselves here to explore the rest of the country.

Other places to visit

As we mentioned above, most people that we met based themselves in Vilnius and did day trips to see the rest of the country.  A couple of great day trips that you can do from Vilnius are a trip to the Hill of Crosses, and also a trip to Trakai Castle.  We’d highly recommend doing both.

We also did a trip to Paneriai, just outside of Vilnius.  It’s a site that was used as a concentration camp during World War Two.  It’s a half day trip from Vilnius, and well worth it if you have time.

The Hill of Crosses

 

Travel Tips And Things To Know

Best time to visit: Weather-wise, the best time to visit Lithuania is between June and September.  It’s pretty cold all year around, but you might be lucky and get a few days above 20 through the summer months.  Outside of this, be prepared for cold temperatures and not much daylight.

 

Getting around:   If you’re based in Vilnius, it’s easy enough to walk around the city and you probably won’t need to use transport at all to explore the city itself.  For info on a few different day trips, see below.

 

  • Getting from Vilnius to Trakai Castle:
    • Buses run daily between Vilnius and Trakai. The bus takes around 30 minutes, and costs around €2. It’s easiest just to head to the bus station and buy a ticket there on the day.  If you want to check the timetable or plan your trip, you can check it online.

 

  • Getting from Vilnius to the Hill of Crosses:
    • The hill is a couple of hours outside of Vilnius, and it can be a little tricky to get to.  On public transport, you can get a train from Vilnius to Siauliai, and then walk to the Siaulia bus station.  From there, jump on a bus towards Joniskis, and get off at Domantai.  Then it’s still a 15 minute walk up the road, following the signs.  To get back to Vilnius, it’s just the opposite, and just keep in mind that the bus station you need to go to initially is on the other side of the road and a little further down.
    • As the public transport is a little tricky, unless you’re confident then you might be better to do a tour here.  Vilnius with locals run tours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for €50 per person.  You just need to book a couple of days in advance, as the tours can book out.
    • Alternatively, if you’re coming from or going to Riga, Traveller Tours offer a day tour and transfer between the two cities that takes you via the hill of crosses.  It costs €55, but you’re getting a transfer between the two cities as well, so it’s worth the money. From Vilnius, the tour departs from outside the Town Hall, and if you’re coming from Riga, it departs from outside Riga Old Town Hostel.  You can book online, and just need to book a couple of days in advance.

 

  • Getting from Vilnius to Paneriai
    • To get to Paneriai, you catch a train from Vilnius train station.  There are multiple trains per day, and you can just buy a ticket at the station on the day.  The site and museum is open from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. The site itself is free to enter, and the small museum is entry via donation.

 

Expenses:  Lithuania is relatively cheap as far as European countries go.  A dorm room in a hostel will set you back €10-15 a night.  A meal out should cost less than €10, and a pint of beer €3 or less (2017 prices).

Onward Travels:  Most people who are in Vilnius are either going up into Latvia (to Riga), or down into Poland (to either Warsaw or Gdansk).  Whichever way you go, the best option is generally the bus, and Lux Express is the best company to go with.  You can book tickets at the bus station before you go – we booked ours a day early to make sure we got a seat.  If you’re going to Warsaw, some people choose to fly as it’s around an 8 hour bus journey.  The bus is about 10 times cheaper though, so it’s definitely what we’d recommend.

  • Tip:  See above – If you’re going to Riga, Traveller Tours offer a day tour and transfer between the two cities that takes you via the hill of crosses.  Cost is €55, and it’s well worth it if you have the time.
  • Tip: If you’re travelling for a while through the Baltics, we put together a 2-3 week itinerary based on a trip we did through the Baltics and Poland.  Check it out here.