By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for the Baltics?
Since point-to-point train tickets are cheap in this region, a rail pass isn't likely to save you much money. If you're already traveling with a continuous Eurail Global Pass, you could use it to hop on trains in the Baltics, but it's probably not worth adding extra days to a pass just for train travel in these inexpensive countries.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Dotted lines show ferry routes and dashed lines (such as Riga–Vilnius) show bus routes, neither of which are covered by rail passes.
Also, follow the links below for:
• More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
• The basics on choosing among rail passes
• More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
• Advice on deciding between first and second class
• Fare-estimate maps outside the Baltics
• Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Do I need to make seat reservations on trains in the Baltics?
Seat reservations are not required — nor even possible on most trains here. You can hop on trains in this region with just your rail pass in hand.
What's the best way reach the Baltics from elsewhere in Europe?
While Lithuania borders another country covered by the Eurail Global Pass (Poland), there are no direct international trains between Lithuania and Poland — the only train options between them go via Russia or Belarus (and North American travelers need a visa to travel through either of these). If you're headed to Russia on purpose, keep in mind that rail-pass coverage ends at the Estonian border town of Narva (Narva–St. Petersburg stretch costs about $15; total Tallinn–St. Petersburg ride takes about 8 hours).
Flying is the best way to connect the Baltics' capital cities with most of Europe.
Long-distance buses are also better than trains (but are not covered by rail passes). Warsaw–Vilnius direct buses avoid both Belarus and Russia (10 hours, $20).
Buses within the region are also worth considering:
- Latvia–Lithuania: Train connections are possible only on weekends (Riga–Vilnius: 7 hours, $15 without rail pass, via Daugavpils), whereas direct buses between the capitals run daily and are much faster (4.5 hours, $20).
- Estonia–Latvia: Tallinn–Riga trains connect at Valga (6 hours, $20 without rail pass), but direct buses save time (4 hours, $20).
Ferries connect Tallinn to Stockholm and Helsinki, Riga to Stockholm, and Liepaja to Travemünde (Germany). Eurail Global and Scandinavia passes grant a discount on some of these international ferries (but one-country passes offer no ferry deals).
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.