| ||INFORMATION STATION|
|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%)
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.
| ||GDP: US$9 billion|
GDP per head: US$6450
Annual growth: 5.5%
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)|
Budget: US$1-10Mid-range: US$10-20Top-end: US$20 and upwards
Budget: US$10-40Mid-range: US$40-100Top-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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