Itinerary and Planning

Basic Itinerary:

Fly US to Amsterdam
Fly immediately to Vilnius
Vilnius (2 nights)
Kaunas (1 night)
Bus to Šiauliai, Lithuania
Local bus to Hill of Crosses and back (2 hours)
Van to Riga
Riga (3 nights)
Bus to Tallinn
Tallinn (3 nights)
Ferry to St. Petersburg (1 night)
St. Petersburg (2 nights)
Ferry to Helsinki (1 night)
Fly to Amsterdam
Delft (1 night)
Amsterdam (2 nights)
Fly home to the US

I usually spend time considering alternate itineraries or variations. But this one is pretty simple: fly into one city, take buses between the others. Air Baltic flies direct from Amsterdam to all three of these cities, plus there are relatively cheap flights between them, so different permutations would have been possible – e.g. start in Riga, bus to Vilnius…fly to Tallinn, which seems counter-intuitive but might still work. One reason you might consider re-ordering the cities that way would be to make the 72 hour visa free option between Helsinki and St. Petersburg work out, because the ferries don’t run every day, so you have to pick certain ferry departure and return days to make that work. Of course, the short flight between capitals avoids a long bus ride even if it saves you little or no time, once you factor in time between city centers and airports.

Otherwise, you are taking long buses between the Baltic capitals; to be fair, even though I dislike long bus rides, the long-distance buses operated by Lux Express, EcoLines, and others, are really nice and comfortable, with WiFi, bathrooms, media players on the seat in front of you, and even free coffee. Otherwise, there aren’t great train connections between the three Baltic capitals, though it IS possible to take trains part of the way if you hate long bus rides and can be flexible. You can train between Riga to Tallinn via Tartu and Vulga – two connections, almost 2X longer than a direct bus, makes sense only If you wanted to stop in Tartu. Or you could take the train between Parnu and Tallinn and the bus between Parnu and Riga (though Parnu’s train station isn’t in the center of town.) And you can train between Vilnius and Šiauliai and take a two hour bus between Šiauliai and Riga.

I also considered doing the trip in reverse (fly to Helsinki, ferry to St. Petersburg and back, down to Vilnius…), and that might have made some sense, except that I didn’t want to start my trip jetlagged and then get right on that overnight ferry, which for some reason made me nervous ahead of time.

Some people might want at least a night in Helsinki, but from what I’d read Helsinki didn’t sound like the kind of place I was going to find that exciting, so I spent only a few hours there before/after ferries.

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