| ||INFORMATION STATION|
|Facts at a Glance|
| ||Full country name: Republic of Lithuania|
Area: 65,200 sq km (25,212 sq mi)
Population: 3.7 million
Capital city: Vilnius (pop 590,100)
People: Lithuanian 80.6%, Russian 8.7%, Polish 7%, Byelorussian 1.6%
Languages: Lithuanian, Polish, Russian
Religion: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, evangelical Christian Baptist, Islam, Judaism
Government: Parliamentary democracy
President: Rolandas Paksas
Lithuania is the biggest of the three Baltic states and covers an area roughly the same size as Ireland. It borders Latvia in the north, Belarus in the south-east, the Baltic Sea in the west and Poland and the truncated Kaliningrad Region of Russia in the south-west. It's a predominantly flat country, and its highest point, Juazapinés, measures only 294m (964ft). Lithuania's Baltic coast extends about 100km (62mi), half of which lies along the extraordinary Curonian Spit - a pencil-thin 98km (61mi) long sandbar that's up to 66m (216ft) high.
Just over one quarter of Lithuania is forested, in particular the south-west of the country. Elk, deer, wild boar, wolf and lynx inhabit the forests, though you're unlikely to bump into any without some guidance. Lithuania also has about 2000 otters, and Lake Zuvintas, in the south, is an important breeding ground and migration halt for waterbirds. There are five national parks in Lithuania and a number of nature reserves, the highlight being the Kursiu Nerija National Park, a special environment of high dunes, pine forests, beaches, a lagoon and seacoasts.
The Lithuanian climate is temperate. From May to September daytime highs vary from about 14°C to 22°C (57°F to 72°F), but between November and March it rarely gets above 4°C (39°F). July and August, the warmest months, are also wet, with days of persistent showers. May, June and September are more comfortable, while late June can be thundery. Slush under foot is something you have to cope with in autumn, when snow falls then melts, and in spring, when the winter snow thaws.
| ||GDP: US$17.6 billion|
GDP per head: US$4900
Annual growth: 4.5%
Major industries: petroleum refining, shipbuilding (small ships), furniture making, textiles, food processing, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, electronic components, agriculture
Major trading partners: Russia, Germany, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Finland
Member of EU: no
|Facts for the Traveler|
| ||Visas: Lithuania requires visas from most nationalities except citizens of the Baltic states, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the US.|
Health risks: None
Time: GMT/UTC plus 1 hour
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: metric
Tourism: 950,000 visitors a year
|Money & Costs|
| ||Currency:the Litas (plural form Litu)|
Budget: US$1-5Mid-range: US$5-15Top-end: US$15 and upwards
Budget: US$2-25Mid-range: US$25-75Top-end: US$75 and upwards
Travel in the Baltic States can still be bully for budgeters. Hostel accommodation is rarely more than US$10 and can go as low at US$2 for a bed in a shared room. This style of accommodation combined with eating in cheap canteens or cafeterias, or self-catering, and travelling in small bursts by bus or train can keep daily costs down to under US$10 per person. If you prefer homestays or mid-range hotel accommodation and eating in quality restaurants, daily costs may tick up to around US$40 to US$60 per person.
Currency exchange isn't a problem in Lithuania, although cashing travellers' cheques is best done in large cities such as Vilnius, Kaunas, Siauliai and Klaipeda. Numerous ATMs give cash advances on Visa, MasterCard and Eurocard, while credit cards are common methods of payment in hotels and restaurants. Make sure whatever cash currency you bring in is in pristine condition. Marked, torn or simply very used notes will be refused.
Lithuania has a value-added tax (VAT) of 18%, and it's automatically included in all accommodation and eating costs. Tipping isn't compulsory in Lithuania, but it's common to give waiters 5 or 10% by rounding up the bill. Some bargaining (but not a lot) goes on at flea markets.
|When to Go|
Summer and spring (May through September) are far and away the best times of year to travel in Lithuania. The majority of foreign tourists come during July and August, when low-budget hotels and hostels can be fully booked. While there's usually a picturesque sprinkling of snow on the ground in winter (November through March), there's also only a few hours of daylight each day.
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