COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Estonia is a stable democracy with an economy that is rebounding after facing sharp decline in 2008 and 2009. Tourist facilities in the capital, Tallinn, are comparable to those found in western European cities, but some amenities may be lacking in rural areas. In Tallinn, as well as in other locations frequented by tourists, many people can communicate in English. You can obtain additional information by reading the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Estonia.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or travel to Estonia, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
The U.S. Embassy in Tallinn is available 24 hours a day for emergency assistance for U.S. citizens visiting or residing in
Estonia. Our embassy is located just a short walk from Tallinn’s “Old Town” at Kentmanni 20 (postal code 15099). The embassy’s
main switchboard number is 372-668-8100 (please see our dialing instructions, below). You can call the Consular Section directly
during business hours (08:30-17:30) at 372-668-8128; send a fax to 372-668-8267; or e-mail us at ACSTallinn@state.gov. For after-hours emergencies, you may call our Embassy duty officer at 372-668-8169. Most information that U.S. citizens
may need, including full information on our hours (including holidays) and how to contact us, is on our website.
Dialing instructions: Where you see the “+” sign, you must begin by dialing the prefix required for international calls. If you are in the United States, you should start by dialing “011.” If you are calling from most other countries, you begin by dialing “00.” Thus, if you are in the United States, you can reach the embassy’s switchboard by dialing 011-372-668-8100. If you are calling from within Estonia, you can omit the country code ( 372).
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Estonia is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Estonia for up to 90 days within a
six-month period for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months
beyond the period of stay. You need to prove you have sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details
about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen Fact Sheet. Your passport will be stamped (and the 90 days will begin) at your first stop in the Schengen Zone. The period of stay
does not end until you completely depart the Schengen Zone, at which point your passport will again be stamped. Most countries
in Western and Central Europe, including most of Estonia’s neighboring countries (e.g., Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Sweden,
etc.) are members of the Schengen Zone as well. Accordingly, there is no mandatory immigration control when you travel between
Estonia and these countries (and the 90-day period you are allowed to stay continues to run, even if you leave Estonia). You
should always have your passport with you, however, as each country has the right to conduct passport checks. Other countries
in the region, such as Russia and Ukraine, are not parties to the Schengen Agreement, so there is mandatory immigration control
for persons entering or exiting Estonia by land or air to/from those countries. For more information about travel into and
within the Schengen countries, please read the Department of State’s Schengen Fact Sheet.
If you would like to stay in Estonia (and the other countries in the Schengen Zone) longer than 90 days, you can apply for a longer-term visa from the Consulate General of Estonia in New York (telephone 212-883-0636) before you begin your trip. You can find more information about visiting Estonia, including a list of all Estonian embassies and consulates worldwide, on the website of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Residency permits, visa extensions, and other rules applicable to foreigners visiting Estonia (such as students, temporary workers, etc.) are processed by the Estonian Citizenship and Migration Bureau, part of the Estonian Police & Border Guard Board. You can find comprehensive information on residency permits by visiting the Police & Border Guard’s website and clicking on “Services.” You can also obtain additional information about Estonia from the Embassy of Estonia in Washington, DC (telephone 202-588-0101).
There are no restrictions in Estonia to visitors or residents with HIV/AIDS.
You can find general information about dual nationality on the Department of State’s website, as well as specific information about dual nationality in Estonia, below. You can also find information about the prevention of international child abduction, as well information about customs regulations, in our Customs Information sheet.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Estonian authorities are vigilant in combating terrorism and other threats to security. There have been no incidents of terrorism
directed toward U.S. citizens in Estonia. Furthermore, civil unrest is rarely a problem in Estonia. Nevertheless, large public
gatherings and demonstrations may occur on occasion in response to political issues; these generally proceed without incident.
If you hear of or encounter a demonstration, you should avoid the area and check local media for updates on the situation.
You can also contact the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn for current information.
Estonia is quite dark during the winter months (roughly October through April), and Estonian law requires pedestrians to wear small reflectors, which people generally pin to their coats or handbags. Although this law is rarely enforced in cities, reflectors are very important in rural areas where it may be difficult for motorists to see pedestrians. Violators of this law may be subject to a fine of around US$50, or a higher fine up to around US$500 if the pedestrian is under the influence of alcohol. Reflectors are inexpensive and you should be able to find them at many supermarkets, kiosks, and other shops.
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CRIME: Estonia is a relatively safe country, although sporadic crime in Tallinn’s Old Town is an ongoing concern, particularly during the summer tourist season. You should exercise the same precautions with regard to your personal safety and belongings that you would take in major U.S. cities. The most common crime encountered by foreign tourists in Estonia is pick-pocketing. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together. In public places such as Tallinn’s Old Town, in particular the Town Hall Square (“Raekoja Plats”), the airport, train stations, bus stations, and the Central Market, you should exercise special care in safeguarding valuables against pick-pockets. Guard your valuables (especially purses and bags) while visiting busy cafés and restaurants. Do not leave valuables unattended in vehicles, and make sure car doors are locked at all times.
From time to time, especially late at night near bars and night clubs, foreigners have been subject to scams, or have become involved in altercations (some violent) with inebriated individuals. One late night scam has involved women enticing tourists in a reputable bar to visit a nearby bar where they are grossly overcharged. Although Estonian police have shut down several suspect bars over the past year, this remains a concern.
On occasion, U.S. citizens have reported that they were harassed for racial reasons or because they appeared or sounded “foreign.” These incidents have generally occurred outside of major tourist areas. Credit-card fraud is also an ongoing concern, as is Internet-based financial fraud and “Internet dating” fraud. You should take precautions to safeguard your credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transaction to the credit card company immediately. If an incident occurs, you should report it promptly to the local police. The Estonian police agencies are modern, well-equipped law enforcement entities on a standard comparable to most Western European police.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, by purchasing them you may also be breaking local law.
Even if you decide not to report a crime while in Estonia, but still believe that some action should be taken, you can still file a police report after returning home to the United States by sending a letter or e-mail to the Estonian police. Please contact the Embassy so we can facilitate your communication with the police.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line for ambulance or fire in Estonia is 112. The emergency line for the police is 110. The non-emergency local number for the Estonian police is ( 372) 612-3000. Although many operators speak English, at times those answering this line may have minimal English speaking skills.
Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Estonia, you are subject to its laws and regulations. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. If you break local laws in Estonia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods abroad. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Estonia, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the Embassy.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: As of 2011, Estonia replaced its currency, the kroon, with the euro. Only euros are now accepted, although persons holding
cash kroons can continue exchanging them for euros at the official rate for an indefinite period at the Bank of Estonia (Eesti
Pank) in Tallinn and at selected bank branches elsewhere in Estonia. You can also get local currency from ATMs using your
U.S. debit card. Please note that some ATMs will function only if your ATM card has a computer chip. You can use a regular
U.S. credit card for payment in most shops and restaurants in Estonia. If you plan to exchange U.S. cash for euros while visiting
Estonia, you should be aware that many banks and currency exchanges do not accept old U.S. bills. Accordingly, please try
to bring newer bills (preferably those issued after 2000).
DUAL NATIONALITY: Although Estonian law generally does not permit dual nationality, Estonian law does provide that a person who has the right to Estonian citizenship from birth cannot have his/her citizenship taken away. Accordingly, a number of individuals who have claims to Estonian citizenship from birth (generally ethnic Estonians) carry both Estonian and U.S. passports (such as Estonians who move to the United States and naturalize as U.S. citizens, and their children). If you are not ethnic Estonian, but wish to naturalize as an Estonian citizen, the Estonians could ask you to renounce your U.S. citizenship. You are strongly advised to contact us and discuss your case with a consul if you are considering becoming an Estonian citizen (or renouncing your U.S. citizenship for any other purpose). You should note that getting an Estonian residency permit (an “elamisluba”) would have no effect on your U.S. citizenship. If you are an Estonian-American who carries both U.S. and Estonian passports, you should be aware that you must show your U.S. passport when entering the United States. U.S. citizens cannot enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program using an Estonian passport.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Estonia, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Estonian law requires that most new public buildings and others with community space (e.g., shopping centers) be accessible for persons with disabilities. However, many older buildings are not required to meet these requirements.
Getting around in Estonian cities and towns may be difficult at times since many sidewalks are narrow and uneven, and cobblestone streets—particularly in Tallinn’s popular old town—make access difficult. In general, mobility is easier in cities such as Tallinn, Tartu, and Pärnu, compared to smaller towns and rural areas. Roads and sidewalks in the winter can get quite icy, which makes getting around more difficult. In general, public transport is not accommodating to people with mobility disabilities, although selected Tallinn public buses are specially equipped to assist persons in wheelchairs, and many Tallinn buses, trolleys and trams have travel escorts (reisisaatjad) who will assist riders with disabilities. Many of these escorts will not speak English, however.
The English-language website of the Estonian visitors bureau contains general information for disabled visitors, specific information for visually-impaired travelers and those using wheelchairs, and general accessibility information for hotels and other accommodations in Estonia. An Estonian advocacy group for the disabled, Freedom of Movement (Liikumisvabadus) has a site that provides specific accessibility ratings for hundreds of businesses and public buildings in Estonia, as well as other useful information. You may also e-mail the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn for further information on this topic.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Although medical care in Estonia falls short of Western standards, Estonia’s medical care is generally good, especially in Tallinn, and in some other cities such as Tartu and Pärnu. Estonia has many highly-trained medical professionals, but some hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. While private physicians often speak fair to excellent English, you are likely to find very limited English in hospitals, including in emergency rooms. Due to workload, doctors in hospitals spend considerably less time interacting with a patient than is typical in an American hospital. Nurses and other hospital staff are likely to speak little to no English.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website, or by calling their hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747). You can also consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
If you plan to visit forested areas of Estonia in the summertime, you should take steps to avoid ticks because of occasional cases of tick-borne encephalitis. Although there is no vaccine against this disease currently licensed for use in the United States, a vaccine (requiring a series of injections) is available under two different brand names in Estonia, both of which can be obtained from many local physicians. Serious cases of seasonal influenza, including H1N1, have been reported in recent years and you should consider getting a flu shot before traveling to Estonia during flu season.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go
with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our
medical insurance overseas page.
Even if you have insurance covering you while traveling overseas, Estonian hospitals and clinics generally will require you to pay for the medical services immediately.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Estonia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. In order to
drive in Estonia, you must have the correct license. Estonian authorities strictly enforce their rules on driving with a proper
license, and many U.S. citizens have been subjected to hefty fines in recent years due to confusion about Estonian rules,
so please read the following information carefully. If you are a visitor to Estonia, you may drive only if you carry both
your valid U.S. driver’s license and a valid International Driving Permit (IDP). You should obtain your IDP from either the
American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (part of the National Auto Club) before
you leave the United States. These are the only two entities in the United States that are authorized by international agreements
to provide IDPs. Other entities purport to offer “international driver’s licenses,” but such documents are not recognized
by Estonian authorities. If you are a resident of Estonia, you can initially drive in Estonia with your valid U.S. driver’s
license and valid IDP, but upon receipt of an Estonian residence permit or after living in Estonia for more than one year
(whichever is shorter), American citizens must obtain an Estonian driving license. However, licenses cannot be issued until
you have been in Estonia for 185 days within the past year. All individuals required to obtain an Estonian license must pass
both a theoretical (written) and a practical driver's exam. An English-language version of the written exam is available and
the Road Administration will ensure that an English-speaking examiner is available for the practical driving portion. Although
testing may take place at several locations around the country, it is recommended that you contact the Road Administration
headquarters at Mäepealse 19 in Tallinn, tel: 620-1200. Your U.S. license and International Drivering Permit must have been
issued before your “residency” began, so it is imperative that you obtain these documents before you move to Estonia. If you
are caught driving without a proper license, you likely will be subject to a fine and your driving privileges may be revoked.
Any U.S. citizen who wishes to obtain an Estonian driver’s license should contact the Estonian Road Administration authority (known by the Estonian acronym “ARK”).
Although road conditions in Estonia are generally good, some roads--especially in rural areas--are poorly lighted and are not up to Western standards. You may find that, compared to U.S. drivers, some drivers in Estonia can be aggressive, recklessly overtaking vehicles and traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas. Despite strict Estonian laws against driving under the influence of alcohol, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are frequent. It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets and highways; you should pull over when asked by a police officer. You should always remain alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and pedestrians.
If driving, you must always stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Some Estonian motorists do not comply with this rule, so if you are walking, you should always be careful when crossing the streets. In rural areas, wild animals, such as deer and moose, and icy road conditions can create unexpected hazards. You should also watch out for dark-clothed or drunk pedestrians walking along unlighted roads or darting across dimly-lighted streets or highways. Winter roads are usually treated and cleared of snow, but you still should remain vigilant for icy patches and large potholes.
Estonian police very strictly enforce laws against driving under the influence. The basic rule is zero tolerance. Thus, you can be subject to severe penalties if stopped by the police and even a trace of alcohol is detected, so please do not drive in Estonia if you have consumed any alcohol whatsoever. You should also comply with other important traffic rules, including the following: You should always keep your headlights illuminated while driving; the driver and all passengers should use seatbelts (and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats); you should carefully comply with posted speed limits; you should not be using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving; and right turns on a red light are prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow. According to Estonian law, if you are involved in an accident, you should not attempt to move the vehicle to the side of the road until the police reach the scene. The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club), which is affiliated with AAA, provides emergency roadside assistance. You do not need to be a member to receive assistance, although fees are lower for members. To request roadside assistance or towing service, dial 1888. For ambulance or fire assistance the number is 112. For emergency police assistance, call 110. Please note that for both numbers, the level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. The Estonian National Tourist Office website also has useful information about traveling around Estonia by car.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Estonia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Estonian Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: Estonia is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Estonian central authority for implementation and enforcement of this convention is the International Judicial Cooperation Division (Rahvusvahelise Õigusabi Talitus) of the Estonian Ministry of Justice. For more information, please see the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
Special Issues for LGBT Travelers: Estonian law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics, and the government generally respects these prohibitions. While the law is not specific regarding the forms of sexual orientation and gender identity covered, in practice all were understood to be included. Despite this, many Estonian LGBT activists report the authorities are unwilling to prosecute possible misdemeanors under penal code provisions involving incitement to hatred.
There are several LGBT night clubs in Tallinn that operate openly and in general without problems. In addition, there is an LGBT community center in Tallinn. LGBT public events, including the regional Baltic Pride event in 2011, have been held without incident. Nonetheless, LGBT travelers should consider exercising caution when visiting Estonia, especially with regard to expressing affection in public. According to local advocacy organizations, many LGBT persons, especially males, are reluctant to display affection in public (including holding hands) because incidents of verbal or physical assault have resulted. Many LGBT Estonians also do not reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity and avoid reporting incidents to police. As a result, individual police officers may have limited experience or knowledge with regard to specific concerns of LGBT individuals or the LGBT community more broadly. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers should review the LGBT Travel Information page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Estonia dated April 17, 2012to update the Country Description, Smart Traveler Enrollment/Embassy Location, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and the Special Issues for LGBT Travelers sections.