Health and safety in Estonia

Health

With regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice, including the country-specific pages, to get the latest information on travel restrictions, testing and quarantine requirements. Do this on a regular basis as changes can occur where there are rapid increases in case numbers.

No inoculations are required for Estonia as health standards are very high throughout the country. Still, travellers here as anywhere should be up to date with tetanus, diphtheria and polio, which now come as an all-in-one vaccine (Revaxis) that lasts for ten years. Hepatitis A vaccine may be recommended for longer-stay travellers or those visiting more remote parts of the country. Depending on what you are doing you may also be advised to be protected against hepatitis B and rabies.

Travellers planning to visit more rural parts of Estonia from late spring to autumn should take ample supplies of insect repellent, and are advised to take precautions against tick-borne encephalitis. Around 200 cases are reported each year. The worst-affected areas are Pärnumaa and Läãnemaa (west), Ida-Virumaa (east), Saaremaa Island (west) and Põlvamaa and Tartumaa (southeast). As the name suggests, this disease is spread by the bites of ticks that live in long grass and the branches of overhanging trees. Wearing hats, tucking long trousers into boots, and applying tick repellents can all help. It is important to check for ticks each time you have been for a long walk. This is more easily done by someone else.

If you find a tick then slowly remove it by using special tweezers, taking care not to squeeze the mouthparts. There is an effective vaccine available in the UK for adults aged 16 and over (Ticovac) and for children from one to 15 years of age (Ticovac junior). Two doses of vaccine should ideally be given about a month apart but can be given two weeks apart if time is short. A third dose should be given five to 12 months later if the traveller is at continued risk. Taking the preventive measures described above is also very important. Go as soon as possible to a doctor if you have been bitten by a tick (especially if you have not been vaccinated) as tick immunoglobulin may be needed for treatment. This is usually available in Estonia.

Tap water is safe to drink throughout Estonia; however, you may still prefer to drink bottled water, as the mineral content can be an irritant until you get used to it. Local hospitals offer a high standard of treatment for any emergencies. Most Western brands of medicine are available throughout the country.

A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available here. For other journey preparation information, consult Travel Health Pro or CDC: Traveller’s Health.

Safety

Walking plays a major part of any tour in Estonia. Both in the towns and in the countryside many sites can only be reached and appreciated in this way. Whilst roads are usually well maintained, pavements rarely are, so be constantly on the lookout for pot-holes, ill-fitting manhole covers and loose paving slabs or cobbles. In winter, falling or dripping icicles are a further hazard but the accompanying sunshine that usually gives rise to this provides ample compensation. Town streets are well lit at night, important in midwinter when there are only 6–7 hours of daylight. Crime is less of a problem than in many other European countries and is very rare outside Tallinn.

Passports and unneeded valuables should be left in hotels; take the obvious precautions of dressing modestly and not flaunting money. Car theft is a problem at night so always use the guarded car park that most hotels have.

Women travellers

Estonian women might still have to do the majority of domestic chores at home, but at work and on the street they are equal. They can go to bars together, dress as they want and, with the high rate of divorce now prevalent, many live on their own, or often as a single parent. Women are in no more or less danger than men; pickpockets in tourist areas are opportunists on the lookout for anybody of either sex who they can take advantage of. Whether you are male or female, you are equally as vulnerable if you leave a bar after a few too many at 03.00.

LGBTQ+ travellers

Visitors to Estonia may be surprised at how limited the LGBTQ+ scene is. While the legal restraints faced by the gay community in Soviet times have all been abolished, the hostility has not been totally eradicated. In the communities living largely to the east of Tallinn, this may result from the continuing homophobic broadcasts picked up from over the Russian border. As a result, open affection outside the few gay clubs in the major cities is very unusual and visitors are advised to avoid this. And while civil partnerships are legal, same-sex marriage and adoption is not.

Travelling with children

Estonia is much more child friendly since joining the EU. Facilities on buses and at building entrances have been installed for people with disabilities and these are equally helpful for pushchairs. Tallinn Old Town, with its narrow, steep and cobbled streets, will remain difficult for small children, but elsewhere the flat landscape, the space and the mild summer climate make Estonia an easy destination for travel with children. Recently renovated museums all have children’s areas with games available linked to the exhibits. More playgrounds are being built, such as the one that opened in autumn 2020 in Tammsaare Park, beside Tallinn Opera House.

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