“Wisdom goes not always by years.” ~ Estonian proverb.
Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to blend in when travelling on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.
Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!
|This travel guide to Tallinn was written by Maria from Tigrest Travel Blog. The best way to see Tallinn is by being an invisible tourist, so I’m very excited to share her top Tallinn tips and advice for how to best blend in amongst locals when travelling. This advice also provides insight to Estonian values and culture to help you make the most of your visit.
If you’re planning a trip to Tallinn, these tips for visiting from a local’s perspective will help you have a more enjoyable experience and know what to expect before you go. Read on for more!
This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
10 Interesting Tallinn tips you need to know before you go
Estonia is a small country in Northern Europe. Tallinn is the capital city with a population of almost 430,000. The country is well connected to major European airports. This is a list of 10 insider tips from a local – your guide to staying invisible in Tallinn, Estonia.
1. Private space is important
Whenever you are travelling with public transport during traffic jam hours, beware of private space! Estonians love their private space. If you are talking to a stranger, keep the distance of at least 1 metre. Otherwise, you might get funny looks and generally be disliked very soon.
Keeping distance goes for all occasions of everyday life – shopping queues, asking for directions, chatting at a bar, etc.
2. Black or Grey are in
The love for dark colours may have several reasons. Some say it came from the Soviet times, when wearing colourful clothes was not acceptable. Others suggest it is simply trendy and practical. The truth is – wearing black is another form of staying invisible and keeping the distance.
Colours may change depending on the season. As soon as temperatures start to climb, locals (especially young people) change into brighter clothes. By bright I mean pale, of course.
3. Never show your anger
Getting angry at someone (or something) is not an Estonian thing at all. Of course, we can get upset from time to time over bad weather, leaving tram or someone stepping on our foot. However, this would never be a reason enough for us to lose our temper. We just keep our emotions to ourselves. It’s a cultural thing.
Sometimes you may encounter situations like road rage caught on car dash camera. These videos tend to get viral and others watch them with great interest, because you would never actually see them in real life.
4. Estonians are proud of their country
We are a small nation, just over one million. Celebrating Independence Day is a big thing for us. Generally, you won’t see many locals carrying around national symbols or flags. However, you will not be looked strangely upon if you happen to wear a blue-black-white scarf. In fact, you might get many (secret) supporting looks. Remember, we don’t show our emotions!
This works particularly well when traveling abroad. Estonians would never chat with a stranger back at home. However, running into a fellow Estonian somewhere far away makes you two immediate friends.
5. Estonians are tech savvy
As you might have heard, Skype, Taxify and Transferwise were invented here. For a small nation with almost no natural resources, technology is a huge thing. Ask almost any undergraduate student what they want to be when they grow up – they will likely mention IT. So how can you blend in? Use your phone as much as possible. Do you have one of the latest models? Good! Make sure to check it at least 25 times per hour.
Jokes aside, you can easily stay connected while you are in Tallinn or anywhere else in Estonia. Prepaid SIM cards with high speed internet access cost next to nothing and can be purchased on every corner – at gas stations, in grocery stores, in kiosks etc.
6. Public transport is a great way to get around
Ever since the tram started going all the way to the airport, public transport in Tallinn has officially become useful again. Moreover, it is free for the residents.
Getting around is rather easy and relatively inexpensive, compared to major European cities. One-way journey will cost you 2€ if bought from the driver (bad option). I recommend buying a prepaid card and loading it up. One-hour ticket will then cost you only 1.10€.
Traveling by train or bus between cities is also quite cheap and fun. For example, you could visit Tartu or Viljandi on a day trip for 10-15€. Uber and Taxify (now Bolt) are easily accessible and quite inexpensive, too. As a bonus, you might meet very cool locals eager to chat with foreigners and demonstrate how good their English is.
7. Don’t eat in the old town
Tallinn Old town is a major tourist magnet. Sadly, business owners are aware of that and fix their prices accordingly. Estonians hardly go there to eat (perhaps on pay day). Apart from a few restaurants with lunch menus, generally, the prices are way too high. As for the food – well, it’s just as good as anywhere else. The fact that it’s located in the Old town doesn’t make it any special.
So where do we go to eat? It depends. For a quick bite, we usually step by gas stations (Circle K, Olerex). Almost all major gas stations serve fast food, and normally it’s pretty good. During warmer months we also grab hot food from the grocery stores and make a picnic somewhere in the park.
For a serious night out, there are several options. One place with lots of various restaurants would be Telliskivi district. It’s close to the Old town and city centre but has better prices and larger variety. Many good restaurants are scattered around town.
Also, Estonians love to smoke shisha for some reason. Finally, sushi is very popular here. One of the good ones is a chain called MySushi, their restaurant in the city centre has (surprise!) shisha lounge.
Editor’s Note: Based on reader’s feedback, you could skip sushi and opt for Estonian options made with fresh local ingredients. This guide to where to eat in Tallinn covers 13 cafes, coffee shops, bars and restaurants!
8. Spend time actively
To be honest, this is something I’m very proud of. Estonians indeed like to spend their free time actively – participate in nature walks, ride bikes, play sports, etc. Every few months a new fitness club is open. Probably this has to do with the climate – 9 months of “bad skiing weather”, constant cold winds urge people to get moving to get warm.
Summer is really short here, so getting in shape for the few weeks in July is a dream and number one goal for all young (and old) locals.
If you enjoy being active, put on your leisure clothes and walk the city! Go to the parks – day trip to Lahemaa National Park is a fantastic way to spend a day. If you happen to visit during winter months, you can easily rent skiing gear or a snowboard and enjoy the fun right here, in Tallinn. Alternatively, get a day SPA pass for a gym workout, relaxing swim and saunas.
9. Don’t buy magnets, buy some bread!
What do visitors usually buy as a souvenir from Tallinn? A boring answer would be – magnets, socks, other merch that souvenir shops in the old town are selling. As a local, I would recommend buying something you can’t get anywhere else (except maybe Finland) – Estonian bread! Simply hop by any groceries store and pick the one you like from at least 20 different kinds.
Estonians truly love bread and eat it daily. With so many flavours, you can hardly get tired of it. It tastes great, is healthy and nutritious. Personally, I love Fazer black bread with sunflower seeds – best served roasted.
10. Take things slow (the Estonian way)
Rumour says Estonians are slow. Hot tempered neighbours like to joke about us being slow thinkers. The truth is – we like to think before we do something. It doesn’t stop us from being fast at accepting new challenges, transforming the way we live to meet the new realities (joining the EU, Euro as new currency etc).
The best advice I could give to anybody visiting my home country is to take things slow and enjoy. Estonia and its capital Tallinn have lots to offer if you can take the time and explore. It’s not one of those come-and-go cities where you can run through the attractions in 2-3 days and leave without remembering much of it.
Here, you can feel as if you were at home and people you meet will eventually become your close friends. I can promise that if you take the time and get to know this city (and country), you will easily fall in love it.
|If you found these Tallinn tips helpful, you may also like to check out Maria’s Eastern Europe road trip itinerary from Prague or her France and Italy itinerary over on Tigrest Travel blog. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook!
Cultural experiences to book in advance in Tallinn
Here are some cultural things to do in Tallinn you can book in advance to be prepared for your trip:
Ready to be invisible in Tallinn, Estonia?
Now you’ve discovered the best secrets for how to act like a local in Estonia, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not compare hotel prices here?
Remember, a fantastic way to get around the country is by bike. For itineraries and travel advice, be sure to take a look at this detailed guide to cycling and camping in Estonia. If you’d like some more travel ideas, here are all my articles about Europe to get you started.
Do you have any extra tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below. I hope you enjoyed this instalment of my Be Invisible series! If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok or Instagram for more!
Until next time,
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