Estonia is a small country that is a member of the European Union and is a Schengen Agreement country. Thumbing and waving a sign with your destination town are both understandable to the drivers ways of hitchhiking in this country. In case of a bad weather it is recommended to use a sign since it is better seen from a car.
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Estonia is relatively a good country for hitch-hiking. The cars (can) stop easily both on the highways and small roads. You can hitch trucks, old Soviet cars, new neat personal cars - and even tractors! Officially there is no difference if a truck driver or a car driver offers you a ride – everyone (except tractors) is allowed to go up to 90km/h, although during the summer period the speed limit on some main roads is lifted up to 110 km/h. However, over-speeding is usual in this country, and so getting a personal car usually is a better choice than traveling with a truck in case you value your time a lot.
Hitchhiking at night can be much less successful due to the usually low night traffic on the roads in Estonia. Since Estonia is not a very good transit country one shouldn't hope for a truck either. Be aware that if you happen to stand on a dark road at night you must (by law) wear a light reflector so that the drivers can see you. Or better yet - reflector vest - too many people have left their lives on the roads during dark autumn evenings! (Be careful with wearing a vest though as many drivers might think that you are a police officer measuring the speed of cars and will not stop.)
Weather is not the biggest deal in comparison with low car traffic on more local roads (which are very bumpy, too!). Winters, however, are cold, with usually a lot of snow that makes you harder to walk to a good hitchhiking spot. It darkens early during the cold season, and there are rainy weather conditions for long periods once in a while otherwise.
Eating on the road
Although Estonia is quite a small country, you might get stuck on its roads for the night since the traffic is usually low on smaller roads, and for that reason it would be smart to have some food with you - there is hardly any service area on the roads and you won't be able to buy food unless you are in some town.
You can drink water from the tap and wells almost anywhere in Estonia. Some say that even lakes contain pure enough water to drink.
You can get a ride from almost anyone in Estonia - from any 18+ person of any social group, age, nationality (both Estonian and Russian), or sex. Taxi drivers might drive you for free on their way home. You can expect a driver to start a conversation in either Estonian or Russian. English is widely spoken amongst young and middle aged people, although some might have a better knowledge of German and/or other Western languages. Experiences show that Russian-speaking drivers understand well Estonian even if they don't speak it. Estonian drivers understand Russian pretty much in the same way, too.
Generally, Estonians love foreign visitors and are very helpful with providing the right directions or any other instructions. Don't forget to thank them for that and/or show your gratitude!
Not much money can be saved trying to hitch-hike instead of using public transport although prices for the latter one lately go up (as prices for the petrol get higher). There are places that have lousy bus connections, though, so hitch-hiking comes in handy then.
Some useful links are:
In Tallinn you will most likely need to take a public transport to get out of the city, see info here.
There is a national carpooling website in Estonia that gives a driver the opportunity to search for passengers who would be able to share the cost of a planned ride; and vice versus. See the website http://www.kyydiga.ee/ (in Estonian only). Using it is quite possible for foreign travelers, too: you can scroll-search from your departure point (kust) to a destination (kuhu) with a date and # of passengers. On a main page you can see most recent offers. The page isn't very popular, though, since many practice hitchhiking in Estonia anyway.
Cities and towns
- towards Latvia
- towards Russia
For crossing the border to Russia from Estonia (not the other way around), drivers can register on estonianborder.eu and pay a small fee to reserve a time at any border crossing. The system significantly decreases queues and waiting times.
Crimes related to hitch-hiking are not common in Estonia. However, it is recommended to be completely sober and careful when hitchhiking, and avoid cars with (slightly) drunk driver and/or passenger(s) which might, unfortunately, occur in this country.
There are some known stories regarding crime and hitchhiking in Estonia:
- In 2005, a drunk guy who asked for a ride got beaten, and then robbed. Before that, in 2001, same thing happened to a sober hitch-hiker.
- In November 2007, a hitch-hiker with a gun demanded that the driver would make a stop for smoking. Luckily, everything went well eventually.
- There are known several stories when hitch-hikers stole valuables from a back seat.
Basically, be careful and avoid situations when you feel that it can bring you troubles. No matter if you're a driver or a traveler – safety first. Better sleep on a mother Earth than get into untrustworthy vehicle.
Please also be (more or less) aware of where are you going and where you are, especially if you are a female hitchhiker. Trust your intuition when it comes to "shortcuts".
- Tere – Hello!
- Palun – Please
- Tänan! – Thank you!
- Kas ma saaksin... [town name]? – Could I get a ride to...[town name]?
- Kui kaugele te lähete? – How far are you going?
- Kui kaugel see on (jala)? - How far is it (on foot)?
- Palun näidake kaardil – Please show on a map
- Palun peatuge siin – Please, stop here
- Aitäh sõidu eest – Thanks for the ride
- Vabandust – Excuse me
- Kas sõit on tasuta? Ma ei saa maksta. - Is the lift free? I can't pay.
- Jah\Ei\Võib-olla\Ei tänan - Yes\No\Maybe\No thanks
- Kas te räägite... \teisi keeli? (inglise keelt, vene keelt, saksa keelt) - Do you speak... \other languages? (english, russian, german)
- Kas te võiksite palun aeglasemalt rääkida? - Could you speak slower please?
- Ma ei tea\ Ma ei saa aru - I don't know\ I don't understand
- Ära puuduta mind! Lase mind välja! Stop! Appi! - Don't touch me! Let me out! Stop! Help!
- null\üks\kaks\kolm\neli\viis\kuus\seitse\kaheksa\üheksa\kümme\üksteist\kaksteist - zero\one\two... so on until twelwe
- parem\vasak\paremale\vasakule\otse edasi - right\left\to right\to left\straight on
Summer 2018 & 2022: It was my starting location and final one, so it's my home country. Some people say that Estonians are mistrustful and I can agree with that by an example of woman who, before taking us (couple), took a forth & back drive on the same road twice in order to better consider if she's taking us. The time of waiting is not long (30-90min) and normally the drivers are very kind. There are different types of drivers you can get (estonian or russian speakers) but it doesn't really affect the trip. Once I was been taken by the drunk diver, so be aware. -- HHer-Vert