Daily Life in Estonia
Autre pays, autre moeurs, says the French proverb. What should you know to make it easier to get used to life in Estonia? In this section you will find information about various aspects of life in Estonia.
No need to fear the language barrier: knowing foreign languages is the rule among Estonians, not an exception, and besides English, other languages can be suggested for communication, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Try the Lingvist app to learn your first 100 phrases in Estonian. Most hosting institutions offer free language courses to their international employees. See the Language Courses section for more info.
Estonians highly value their language and culture, but generally do not expect foreigners to have any knowledge of them. Sometime it even seems that they take pride in the Estonian language being so difficult for foreigners to learn – as if this feature alone would make the language exceptional and mysteriously beautiful… Practice has proved that the quickest way for a foreigner to open up a reserved Estonian is to at least try to say something in Estonian: a simple “Tere” (Hello) or “Aitäh” (Thank you) will make any Estonian smile in surprise and delight.
Ma armastan sind
Mulle meeldib kohtuda uute inimestega
Kus on raamatukogu?
Kuidas minna ülikooli?
Palun sõitke aadressil…
Mis kell on?
Kui palju see maksab?
Tänan küsimast, väga hästi!
Mida Sa õpid?
Kui palju see maksab?
Ma ei saanud aru, palun räägi natuke aeglasemalt
Good bye! / See you!
informal, Hi and Bye
please / you are welcome
I love you
Have a nice day!
I like to meet new people
Where is the library?
Which way is the university?
Go straight ahead
Please drive to this address
What time is it?
How much does this cost?
How are you?
Very well, thank you!
What are you studying?
How much does it cost?
I didn´t understand you, could you speak a bit more slowly, please
Instructions for sorting trash, contracts and payments for utilities and telecom services.
Waste management services
For regular household waste, that is not sorted, every household should have a waste management service contract.
See here for waste management providers in Tartu
Sorting of trash
Most waste is sorted and collected according to type. If you are living in an apartment building, the apartment association will have a waste collection contract for the whole building and also specific containers for the types of waste.
The municipality proviedes special containers for sorted trash in certain locations, densly enough to cover all housholds in the district. These are useful for residents private houses or smaller apartment buildings. You should take the sorted trash to these containers yourself.
The online tool www.kuhuviia.ee shows where you can dispose things in an environmental friendly way in Estonia.
Waste should be sorted:
yellow containers - mixed pacages (plastic, metal, carton)
blue containers - only paper
green containers - glass
red containers - clothes
Paper and mixed beverage containers are located by most supermarkets for public use.
See here for a guide to sorting waste in Tallinn
Deposit and return fee of beverage bottles
Most of beverage bottles, plastic, metal and glass, can be returned for a return fee. The amount of the return is depicted on the bottles. Collection points are located at bigger supermarkets. You will receive a receipt that you may cash or use for payment at the same supermarket.
Containers for old batteries can be found in most public institutions including university buildings, supermarkets and photo and electronics shops.
Oil, oil filters and car batteries can be returned to containers in gas stations.
Recycling Centres in Tallinn and Tartu accept old furniture and other items that are no longer needed in your household but could be used by someone else. The recycling centre can provide transportation for larger items.
Tallinn - A Guide to Sorting Waste
Tartu Environmental Education Centre. How to separate garbage?
Tartu - Survival Guide for Citizens of Tartu
Standard electricity supply in Estonia is 220 volts and 50 Hz. Plugs are European two pin.
The price of electricity in the open market is a combination of the exchange price, customer's consumption and competition. A network service fee will be added to your bill. VAT is also added.
If you rent real estate, thenyou need to sign a contract with a service provider or agree with your landlord how you will pay for electricity, if the contact will remain in the landlords name.
Water and Sewage
You should register with a Water and Sewage company to receive service. Check www.evel.ee/organisatsioon/liikmeskond-2 to see which company serves your area.
When you move in, read your water meter. The first reading must be stated on your service contract. If you live in an apartment building, the water and sewage service is usually arranged by the cooperative housing association. You can aslo ask the landlord or the real estate management company about the service provider.
Mobile phones and Iobile Internet
The whole country is covered by reception. You can make calls and use your mobile internet everywhere. Largest providers are Telia, Elisa and Tele 2. Usually mobile phone services and mobile internet services go together.
You can buy calling cards without a contract at most kiosks and gas stations.
TV and Home Internet
Usually TV and home internet go together. There are many packages for the amout of TV channels and speed and capacity of inthernet. Telecom services in apartment buildings are often pre-arranged by the cooperative housing association. Ask you landlord or the real estate management agency.
Main service providers are Elion, Starman and STV.
Estonia’s country code is 372. You must dial 00 and then the country code to make international phone calls from Estonia. To call the Estonian EURAXESS Services Centre at the Estonian Research Council from abroad, for example, you should dial +372 730 0338. To call the centre when you are already in Estonia, dial 730 0337. To call the Latvian EURAXESS Services Centre from Estonia dial 00 371 67553591.
Interaction with the State and access to public services has been made as easy as possible through digital solutions. Everything you need to know is available online and everything you need to do can be done through the State Portal. Your key is your ID-card (EU-citizens) or residence permit card (non-EU citizens).
A busy Estonian in a social environment is mostly serious and reserved. Estonians offer specific help and advice much more amiably and willingly than you might expect from their expressions. They are practical and staight forward. Small talk often does not come naturally to many Estonians.
Three largest banks in Estonia for private customers are:
Debit and credit cards are accepted in all shops, restaurants and companies. Regular market places and seasonal fairs usually operate in cash only.
Salary payments are made to a person’s bank account. Internet banking is very common, whereas cheques are seldom used in Estonia. The ATMs of the larger banks can be found in branch offices, gas stations, most supermarkets and other frequently visited places.
We advise you to learn about the conditions for closing the bank account, if needed, and take care of all the necessary procedures in time. This may turn out to be rather complicated later on after leaving the country.
For short term stays in Estonia, please note that the banks have rather high fees for opening an account in case a person does not have a local ID card (situation in 2018). In case you are asked to provide an Estonian bank account number for receiving your stipend or similar, please discuss the possible solutions with the contact person at your institution. Students and academic emplyees from third countries of some universities can open a bank account for a substantially lesser fee. Contact the personel or admission unit of your institution.
Currency and cost of living
As of 1st of January 2011, Estonia joined the Euro-region and Euro is our currency.
Some average prices in summer 2017 might give you an idea of the potential cost of living:
Monthly rent for a 50m2 flat in Tallinn (not in the Old Town) 550 €
Monthly rent for a 50m2 flat in Tartu 480 €
See live statistics of most popular real estate portal kv.ee for up to date prices of rent.
Quite a realistic overview of average prices in Estonia is here. Do consider the price ranges!
Public transport is free for residents of Tallinn, school students and passangers >65 y of age on the municipal city transport of Tallinn (Public transport in Tallinn, Public transport in Tallinn: Trip Planner). Prices for public transport in Estonia are reasonable (T-pilet.ee Buy tickets online to all intrastate lines). Uber and Taxify function in Estonia. The Estonian traffic situation is not very intense. Large and small Estonian towns alike are generally characterised by a calm progression of vehicles and a plenitude of pedestrians; only the inhabitants of the capital city encounter rush-hour traffic congestion and a shortage of parking places. Tartu is the favourite of many cycling fans and pedestrians (Public transport in Tartu). The centre is quite compact and almost everything can be reached on foot with only half an hour. As a pedestrian you should know that in autumn and in winter you must wear a reflex reflector which makes it possible for drivers to see you in the dark from a longer distance.
Public bus transport is well organised and offers good possibilities for transport within cities as well as over longer distances. The long-distance bus schedules are very good: there are, for example, more than 50 buses from Tallinn to Tartu every day. However, travelling long distances by train is generally cheaper.
Public transport in cities mostly offers the possibility of using 10-, 30- and 90- day public transport cards as well as single-fare bus tickets. If you have an ID card, you can also buy tickets using a mobile phone, internet banking or a fixed-line phone in Tallinn and Tartu.
Public transport in Estonia is free of charge for children who do not attend school yet (that is until a child becomes 7); for children with disabilities; and for grown-ups with severe disabilities. Tallinn and Tartu offer additional benefits in local public transport.
From January 2013, Tallinn offers free transportation to all its residents, school students and passengers aged 65 years and over. In order to travel free of charge, residents of Tallinn and school students need to purchase a Public Transport Card and personalise it at the point of sale or for free on the Internet. Public Transport Card is not required for children of pre-school age, passengers travelling with children under the age of 3, and some other groups.
Non-residents of Tallinn have to enter the public transport vehicle using the front door to purchase one end ticket from the bus driver. This ticket grants you the right for one ride. Passengers that are not residents of Tallinn can also purchase a Public Transport Card and load money on it, or buy an e-ticket. It can be done at a point of sale, via mobile phone, or on the Internet. Some groups, e.g. university students, are entitled the right of discounted travel. Personalised Public Transport Card is mandatory in that case.
Tartu offers free transport only for its registered citizens who are older than 65; for families with four or more children under the age of 18; and to people accompanying disabled children or grown-ups with severe disabilities. Tartu offers discount 10-, 30- and 90- day public transport cards for pupils, students, and retired people. To use the discounts or the right to travel free of charge, the presentation of a document certifying the discount eligibility is necessary. This can be a student card, pension certificate or a certificate received from local social welfare department (i.e for families with many children).
The tickets based on the ID-card (only Estonian ID cards are eligible!) are cheaper and can be bought using either direct debiting via an Internet bank or using a landline, or mobile phone. ID-tickets can be bought at R-kiosks, Tartu Information Centre and at all the post offices in Tartu.
Registering your vehicle
You can drive a vehicle registered abroad, for 12 months without registering it here. You must have a valid insarance for the vehicle at all times. Once you receive a residence permit and register your place of residence in Estonia, then within 5 days you must register your car at the Estonian Road Administration and receive Estonian licence plates. Before you can register your car, you should go through the pre-registration inspection (roadworthiness test).
Driving licence EU citizen
Driving license issued in one of the EEA member states or Switzerland are valid until the end of the validity period stated on the licence. If you are a permanent resident of estonia after the validity date, you should apply for an equivalent Estonian driving licence and this will be done without additional tests. If you miss the right time, you must pass a theoretical and practical driving exam to exchange your driving licence for an Estonian one.
Driving licence non-EU citizen
If you have a driving licence issued in a country other than EU, please read the detailed instructions on how to exchange your driving licence here.
Lights must be turned on while driving in Estonia 24 hours a day. Safety belts must be fastened, also on the back seat. Children are required to have a car seat suitable to their age. No alcohol is permitted, alcohol concentration in your blood should be 0 per milles while driving. If you are driving with someone else’s car, you should have their authorisation on a blank available at petrol stations.
A parking fee is usually required in city centres. Signs indicate the prices for different parking zones and also when a parking fee must be paid. Blue lines on a parking space also indicate that it is in a paid parking area. Parking tickets can be purchased from street-side machines. It is also possible to pay for parking using a mobile phone, for which a sticker from your mobile phone operator is needed, and from them you will also receive specific instructions. The first 15 minutes of parking are free of charge if you indicate the starting time. Parking is for charge in Tartu Monday to Friday from 8.00-18.00 and on Saturday 9.00-14.00. For more detailed information on parking regulation in Tallinn, follow the link to Tallinn’s homepage below.
The Automobile Club of Estonia helps its members and others in emergency situations and provides other services. In some membership categories the emergency aid is provided for free. The Automobile Club’s help number is (+372) 697 9188 or 1888. You can contact the Automobile Club of Estonia by e-mail at the address firstname.lastname@example.org or call (+372) 697 9100. One can join the Automobile Club of Estonia in their office at Laki 11, Tallinn.
Estonian Road Administration - Foreign driving licence
Estonian Road Administration - Vehicle registration
Estonian Road Administration - Pre-registration inspection (roadworthiness test)
Taxi prices are quite affordable, it is possible to pay by card and to get a receipt from the driver. Fare prices can be checked from the taxi-window before getting in; all the prices are given in Euros. Taxi companies charge a base fare for any trip already when starting, the rates for the base fare differ.
For best fares use the Estonian origin Taxify app on your smartphone! It is similar to Uber, but works with registered taxies.
You know what Forrest Gump said about life? The same goes for Estonian weather – you never know what you are going to get. Summer can mean 2 months of sunshine and temperatures above +25 degreed Celsius or it can be a season with plenty of rain and occasional weeks of sunshine with temperatures +20-26. The amount of snow in winter is again a matter of constant change and causes plenty of discussion each year.
Generally, the Estonian climate is temperate and mild, characterised by warm summers and fairly severe winters. The weather is often breezy and humid due to the proximity of the Baltic Sea. Seasons in Estonia vary widely. Average temperatures range from 20.9° C in summer, with July usually being the hottest month, to -8° C in winter, although occasionally the temperature may rise to 30° C and above in summer or fall below -23° C in winter. The longest day of the year is June 21, with 19 hours of full daylight.
For current weather conditions and forecasts, see Estonian Weather Service
www.kuhuviia.ee - Online tool to help you find where you can dispose your trash, old clothes, furniture and other things
Estonian Road Administration - Foreign Driving Licence
Estonian Rescue Board - Fire safety, water safety, crisis management, civil protection etc
Relocation Guide - Destination Estonia - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tips for newcomers in Estonia. Available in English, Finnish, Russian.
Language Course & Cultural Integration - Estonian learning apps, social life in Esotnia