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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Republic of Estonia

Area: 45,200 sq km (16,272 sq mi)

Population: 1.4 million

Capital city: Tallinn (pop 420,500)

People: Estonian (65%), Russian (28%), Ukrainian (2.5%)

Language: Estonian

Religion: 23% Christian (Lutheranism and Orthodoxy)

Government: parliamentary democracy

President: Arnold Rüütel

Prime Minister: Siim Kallas


Estonia is the northernmost and smallest of the Baltic states - it's about the size of Switzerland. It borders Russia on the east and Latvia on the south. To the west are the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga, and the Gulf of Finland lies to the north. Helsinki is just 80 km (50mi) away across the Gulf of Finland; St Petersburg is 320km (200mi) east of Tallinn, Estonia's capital, which is on the north-western coast.

Given that the country's pretty flat, you can see a lot of it from the highest point - the 317m (1040ft) Suur Munamägi, in the south-east - without getting a nosebleed. Lake Peipus, on the Estonia-Russia border, is the 4th largest in Europe at 3500 sq km (1400 sq mi). Islands make up nearly 10% of Estonia's territory; the biggest are Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, both off the western coast. Forests cover nearly half the country, and about a quarter of Estonia is wetland - some of the peat bogs are 6m (20ft) deep.

Estonia's rich flora includes 1470 varieties of indigenous plants, while its fauna features thriving populations of large European mammals, among them roe deer and elk. Estonia also has 10 species of rare and protected amphibians. A number of large raptors, including golden eagle (250 pairs), white tailed eagle, spotted eagle and eagle owl are protected, as is the rare black stork. One of the unique sights of the Estonian forest is the European flying squirrel.

The climate is on the cool and damp side of temperate, verging on continental as you move inland where, in winter, it can be a few degrees colder than the coast or, in summer, a few degrees warmer. Winters are fairly severe. The waters around Hiiumaa and Saaremaa Islands freeze over in mid-January and usually don't thaw for 3 months, during which time the entire country is covered in snow. Rain is heaviest in September and lightest in spring.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$9 billion

GDP per head: US$6450

Annual growth: 5.5%

Inflation: 10%

Major industries: Food, clothing, oil shale, metals, woodworking

Major trading partners: Finland, Sweden, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania

Member of EU: no

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: Estonia requires visas from all nationalities except citizens of most northern, central and eastern European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the USA

Health risks: None

Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 2.5 million visitors a year

Money & Costs
 Currency:kroon (EEK)
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$1-10
  • Mid-range: US$10-20
  • Top-end: US$20 and upwards

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$10-40
  • Mid-range: US$40-100
  • Top-end: US$100 and upwards
  • You can travel comfortably in Estonia for around US$100-150 a day, depending on your taste for

    It's difficult to find places to cash travellers' cheques once outside the big cities and larger towns, but Eurocheques can be cashed in most banks, and you can change cash in every town. Exchange rates vary from one outlet to another. Cash dispensing ATMs accepting Visa and MasterCard/Eurocard are widespread in cities and larger towns. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops.

    It's fairly common, though not compulsory, to tip waiters 5% or 10% by rounding up the bill, but don't get sucked in by the few waiters that try to give themselves a tip by 'not having' any change. Some bargaining goes on at flea markets but savings are not likely to be more than 10 or 20% below the initial asking price.

    When to Go

    Given the severity of Estonian winters (December to March) and the dampness of its autumns, the best time to visit the country is in the late spring (April and May) and summer (June to early September). July and August are the warmest months, with daily highs reaching 30°C (86°F). If you're keen on skiing, skating or ice fishing, though, winter is a great time to go. Besides the cold, the main drawback to visiting during winter is the limited number of daylight hours.

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