As you can tell by a mere look at the map of Europe, there are many beautiful countries neighboring an even more beautiful Estonia. I will list a couple of countries that should be on your must-see list during your studies here. As a student who has experience, I will also provide you with best travel and accommodation options that will remain within your budget.
Although Finland is distinctly more expensive than Estonia (as you already know by the numerous jokes about Finns coming to Estonia merely for cheap drinks), it is definitely a country worth seeing. Helsinki is only a two hours away ferry ride away from Tallinn, and the price of a round trip will not exceed 50 euros if you plan in advance and pick the suitable dates. Keep in mind that getting tickets with a group of people is usually cheaper than getting it alone – I got mine with two other friends and only had to pay 30 euros.
Tallinn Silja, Viking, and Eckerö lines ,all have trips to/from Helsinki.
My friends and I left Tallinn early in the morning, spent the whole day in Helsinki and got back around midnight. For us, one day was more than enough to explore this alluring city.
Aside from Helsinki, Lapland is also a popular destination for students. Although the trip takes slightly longer than the one to Helsinki (2 hour ferry ride from Tallinn-Helsinki followed by a 12 hour bus-ride from Helsinki-Lapland), the captivating northern lights, as well as husky rides, the Santa Claus village, and copious saunas make the city worth your time and money. ESN Tallinn usually organizes quite a few trips to Lapland, so if you want to go with them make sure to sign-up a couple of months in advance because the places are limited and the demand is high 😉 Last year’s trips were around 275 euros, lasted around 4-5 days, and included accommodation, transport, and some meals.
Latvia, sometimes referred to as Estonia’s Baltic sister, should definitely be on top of your exploration list. The trip from Tallinn to Riga takes four and a half hours by bus, costs around 20-25 euros (roundtrip), and has some breathtaking views along the way. I took the Lux Express bus (super comfortable with its own Wifi and spacious seats) and paid 22 euros for a round-trip. If you would like to explore more of Estonia and Latvia on your way, however, I would suggest taking the sightseeing mini-van/car to Riga that costs 55 euros one way, lasts around twelve hours, and includes stops at some beautiful Estonian and Latvian towns.
The prices in Latvia are slightly cheaper than in Estonia and affordable accommodation is not hard to find. I stayed at Seagulls Garret Hostel in a room with 4 dormitory beds and paid 11 euros for one night. It was right in Old Town of Riga and included a cozy balcony/terrace with a beautiful view. A free walking tour of Riga’s old town also starts from the hostel everyday. I would definitely recommend it if you are planning to spend the night in Riga!
Riga’s Old Town is profoundly bigger than Tallinn’s Old Town, so prepare yourself for a fascinating journey through the city’s old history and architecture.
The beautiful Jurmala is only a thirty-minute train ride away from Riga. If you get a chance, definitely plan a visit there as well.
Although not as close to Estonia as Latvia or Finland, the beautiful Sweden is a must-see during your stay in Estonia. “Day in Stockholm cruise” is the cheapest way of getting to the country. My friends and I got a cabin for four people and paid 18 euros each for a roundtrip. We left Tallinn around 6 pm, spent the night in the ferry, arrived to Stockholm the next morning, went back to the ferry the same evening, and got back to Tallinn the following morning. One downside of the cruise is that the amount of time we had in Stockholm was limited, and we did not get to see as much of the city as we wanted.. so if you can afford staying a night in Stockholm and getting a roundtrip ticket instead, I would definitely recommend it!
Also, keep in mind that prices in Sweden are known for being extremely expansive (and that includes food/drinks in the ferry as well), so make sure to pack some of your own snacks/drinks before your departure!
Make sure to taste Swedish Cinnamon Rolls (Kanelbullar) during your visit!
Beautiful Stockholm during winter 🙂
Although these are the three countries I managed to go to during my first year in Estonia, there are much more left to explore. I will let you know about the rest of them starting from next semester 🙂 See you soon!