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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in estonia
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Estonia is divided into 15 counties (or maakonnad, singular - maakond)
Estonia is a gem of a country offering visitors the chance to see a country that is both ex-Soviet Union and now proudly European Union. The traces of the Soviet era are still there to see — a deserted Soviet army base that was once off-limits to Estonians themselves can easily be visited. Tallinn's old town is in magnificent condition, with the medieval city walls and towers almost complete, and surely rates amongst Europe's best old towns. Glorious beaches are on offer, although the swimming season is short. After all, the Baltics are not reknown for warm weather. And therein lies something that any visitor to Estonia must be aware of — summer is short and winter is severe.
After 8 centuries of Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940, it regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe. It is now one of the more-prosperous former Communist states, enjoying a highly-technological environment, a very open and liberal economy and a transparent government system. On the other hand, it is faced with a fairly low (but growing) GDP per capita in a European Union context, as well as a very low birth rate which is leading to rapid population decline.
Since accession to the EU Estonia is becoming one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe with EU highest, 30% growth in the number of visitors in 2004, according to Eurostat.
As Estonia is a member of the European Union, citizens from these countries can enter Estonia with a valid passport or a valid identity card. In addition more than 30 other nationals (including United States, Canada, Japan) can enter Estonia without visa (detailed list at Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affaires (http://www.vm.ee/eng/kat_132/915.html)).
Estonia's international gateway is Tallinn. In addition to direct daily flights to/from all major Scandinavian (Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen,Oslo) and Baltic cities (Riga, Vilnius) there are direct flights from all major European hubs like London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam and regional hubs like Prague and Warsaw. Eastwards connections are from Moscow and Kiev. Local carrier Estonian Air provides half of the services and the rest is provided by Finnair, SAS, Lufthansa, LOT, CSA, Air Baltic and others. Starting from late autumn 2004 also major low-cost carriers (Easyjet) entered this market. Hourly helicopter service is operated between Tallinn and Helsinki city centres.
Close proximity and excellent ferry services with Helsinki allow for combination of open-jaw air travel.
Daily domestic flights are from Tallinn to the islands of Hiiumaa (Kardla) and Saaremaa (Kuressaare).
Detailed information is available from Tallinn Airport timetable (http://www.tallinn-airport.ee/index.php?page=569).
Good road connections are to south (Via Baltica routing Tallinn-Riga-Vilnius-Warsaw) and east (Tallinn-St. Petersburg). Domestic road network is dense and covers all regions of the country.
Lots of good and cheap connections from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Kaliningrad, Warsaw, and all larger Baltic and German cities. For details see Eurolines Estonia (http://www.eurolines.ee/?lang=eng&id=).
Eurolines can provide visa services to Russia, however it takes two weeks (one week rush).
Ferry lines connect Tallinn with Sweden (Stockholm), Finland (Helsinki, Mariehamn) and during summers also with Germany (Rostock) and Russia (St Petersburg). Tallinn-Helsinki is one of the busiest searoutes in Europe and has dailiy 20 ferry crossings and nearly 30 different fast-boat and hydrofoil crossings (the later do not operate during winter). For details see Port of Tallinn passenger schedules (http://www.portoftallinn.com/passengers/pass_ship_schedule.shtml). Minor international routs include recently re-established connection between Latvian port of Ventspils and the island of Saaremaa and Paldiski - Kapellskar (Sweden) with two different operators.
The road system is quite dense though the quality of roadcover is varying. The speed limit in countryside is 90 km/h and 50 km/h in the cities unless specified otherwise. The passengers are expected to wear seat belts. Lights must always be switched on.
In the central areas of bigger cities a fee is levied on parking cars, but finding a provider of tickets is sometimes difficult as mobile parking is wide-spread.
Estonia's train network does not cover whole territory. The quality of services has suffered considerably from privatization and the main means of local transport is now bus.
Hitchhiking in Estonia is generally good. The Baltic countries have a lively hitchhiking culture.
Estonia has a comprehensive line network all over the country. All bigger cities like Tartu, Parnu, Viljandi and Narva are accessible by bus network. There is a journey planner at http://www.bussireisid.ee, but it's only in estonian. Lahtekoht - starting point. Sihtkoht - destination point. Otsi - Search
The official language is Estonian, though many in urban areas (especially younger people) speak good English. Finnish is linguistically closely related to Estonian and, thanks to heavy tourism and TV broadcasts from the other side of the gulf, many Estonians understand it quite well. There is a significant Russian minority (25%) and some other Slavic speaking minorities as well.
The local currency is the Estonian kroon, with the scary-sounding currency code EEK. One kroon is divided into 100 sent. Since 1993, the kroon has been fixed to the euro at a rate of 15.64664 to 1.
ATMs and money changers (valuutavahetus) are widely available. You will get the best rates by exchanging only after arrival in Estonia.
Estonia is considered fully prepared and is expected to join the Eurozone on the 1st of January 2007.
It is no secret that in most post-soviet countries consumer prices are considerable lower than in the Western Europe, in part due to lower taxes. This has been one of the main driving forces behind the inflow of the Nordic guests to Estonia through the 1990s, but prices are rising steadily but surely — in heavily touristed districts (say, Tallinn's Old Town) prices are already equivalent to Scandinavia.
Estonian food draws heavily from German and Scandinavian cuisine. The closest thing to a national dish is verivorst, blood sausage, served with mulgikapsad, which is basically sauerkraut stew.
Many types of food are close to Russian and have their equivalents almost exclusively in former USSR, such as hapukoor, smetana in Russian, a sour 20%-fat milk dressing for salads, especially "kartulisalat" or "potato salad".
As Estonia used to be a food mass-production powerhouse in the times of USSR, some of its foods, unknown to Westerners, are still well-recognized in the lands of the CIS.
Among other everyday food, some game products are offered in food stores in Estonia, mostly wild boar, elk sausages and deer grill. Some restaurants also offer bear meat.
Like their neighbors the Finns and the Russians, the Estonians know their alcohol. Favorite tipples include the local beer Saku 1 (http://www.saku.ee) or A. Le Coq 2 (http://www.alecoq.ee), the local vodka Viru Valge 3 (http://www.viruvalge.ee/) and the surprisingly smooth and tasty rum-like herbal liquor Vana Tallinn 4 (http://www.liviko.ee/vanatallinn/index.html?lang=en), famous in the countries of former USSR.
Number of hotels has exploded from few to tens and hundreds after Estonia restored independence. In 2004 Tallinn achieved first place among the Baltic Sea cities in the number of overnight stays in hotels, though still behind Stockholm and Helsinki in the number of total overnight stays. A list of bigger hotels as well as some restaurants and nightclubs could be found at Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association 5 (http://www2.ehrl.ee/index.php?lang=2).
As Soviet collective farms were disbanded many farmers switched to running "turismitalu" or tourism farms which are inexpensive and indispensable places for spending holidays in the nature, usually in former farm house. Site on Estonian Rural Tourism 6 (http://www.maaturism.ee/new/index.php?keel=eng) provides information on the tourism farms in Estonia. Extensive database on accommodation in Estonia could be found at Visit Estonia 7 (http://visitestonia.com/index.php?page=9) tourism site.
Estonia has a fair amount of foreign students studying in its high schools, especially from Nordic countries. As the site of Ministry of Education and Research 8 (http://www.hm.ee/) notifies, Estonia is a member of several important European frameworks, such as the Bologna and Sorbonne conventions establishing a European Higher Education Area, the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education in the European Region. Estonia and EU Member States have thus mutually recognized corresponding qualifications making Estonian diplomas acceptable Europe-wide. Among universities receiving foreign students perhaps most known are Tartu University (established 1632) and Tallinn Technical University. Extensive coverage of all aspects of Estonia's educational system could be found at SmartEstonia 9 (http://www.smartestonia.ee/index.php?page=6&enter=1) website.
Estonia is a former USSR country and therefore is one of the poorest in the enlarged EU, followed only by two other Baltic States. Average monthly salary (2004) is app. 500 EUR.
Since restoration of independence, Estonia has been following a "small open economy" model, achieving in 2000 4th place worldwide on the openness of its economy (Heritage Foundation). Little or no obstacles exist to citizens of EU and NATO countries (except Canada) to come to invest and work in Estonia. Swedes and Finns have by far the largest working community of post-Soviet foreigners in Estonia.
Considerable investments and some workers are constantly coming from CIS countries, though significant legal restrictions are imposed.
Citizenship and Migration Board 10 (http://www.mig.ee/eng/) is the authority responsible for dealing with the paperwork.
CV Online 11 (http://www.cvonline.ee/) is one of the oldest Estonian recruitement and HR services operating in 9 countries (as of 2005).
Crime rate increased dramatically in 1991-1994 after democratic freedoms were introduced. Today it is still significant problem in Estonia. Murder rate per 100000 inhabitants as of 2000 was some 4-5 times higher than in Sweden and Finland, though significantly lower than in biggest neighbour, Russia. Criminal activities are distributed unevenly across the territory with almost no crime in the island areas and narcotics mafia operating in predominantly Russian-speaking industrial area of North-East. In Tallinn crime is a problem and there are some incidents involving tourists, mainly pickpocketing. Tallinn Old City and other main tourist attractions are closely watched by local police and private security companies.
The main advice to anyone worried about personal security is to stay reasonably sober despite tempting alcohol prices. For police dial 110, for other emergencies like fires and so, call 112.
Ordinary Estonians are unlikely to approach a complete stranger or a tourist on their own. If somebody suddenly turns to you in the streets you'd be wise to watch your belongings.
For an Estonian it is considered "mauvais ton" not to criticize Estonian healthcare system. Recent EU study showed however that Estonia occupies a healthy 4th place in the block by the basic public health service indicators, on the same level as Sweden. In fact, around 1998-2000 Estonian healthcare system was remodeled from obsolete USSR model, directed to coping with disastrous consequences of large-scale war to more up-to-date by the experts from Sweden. Estonia has harmonized its rules on travelers' health insurance with EU requirements. For fast aid or rescue dial 112.
If being served in an Estonian home, it's considered disrespectful not to eat all the food served on ones plate.
One should be careful when mentioning Estonia in the context of the former USSR. Estonians consider that period occupation and won't appreciate any praising of Soviet practices during that time.
Check out www.wifi.ee for a list of WiFi enabled hotspots (591 as of September 2005) across the country.