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Arriving in Lithuania has become quite
trouble-free, particularly at airports. By car, hold-ups at the Polish
and Latvian border have also reduced. However, at the Belarusian and
Russian (Kaliningrad) borders, lines can still be several hours long.
To and From the Airport: Vilnius Airport
(or oro uostas in Lithuanian) is just 5 kilometers from the
city center, so getting in and out poses few problems. Cabs are
the best option for the 10-minute ride to city center. The trip should
never cost more than 20 litas (6 EUR). Avoid the hagglers outside
the main arrival hall and dart for the licensed taxis in line;
they’re safe but have pricey meter rates. Taxi stands are right
outside the arrival hall. If your budget is tight, buy a phone card,
order a taxi (phoning tel. 1446 could cut your costs in half).
The airport is smallish and almost never crowded, so finding
your way around is also simple. There are currency exchanges, money
machines, luggage lockers and easy access to public phones.
If you don’t have much luggage, you can also take bus #2;
buy a ticket for about 1 litas from the driver or from a kiosk inside
the arrival hall. This airport bus goes near the Hotel Centrum,
down the hill to the central Lukiskiu Square and then across
the river past the hulking Lietuva Hotel. The #1 bus
goes to the train and bus stations.
To and From the Train and Bus Stations: The train
and bus stations are next to each other, so instruction on
how to come and go from here are the same. Trolley buses #5 and #2
(for about 1 litas) can also take you to the city center, but make
sure you buy and punch a ticket. Minicabs #4 and #5 just outside the
bus station are quicker, and cost about 2 litas. But you’re not that
far from the center anyway, so walking is a viable and pleasant
option, if you don’t have much luggage. A cab from here to anywhere
within the city center shouldn’t cost more than 10 litas.
As cab drivers go, the ones in Vilnius are pretty
civilized but not always models of honesty and good manners. Be sure
the taxi meter is working and make sure you’re not charged the night
rate during the day. Many taxi drivers drive like bats out of hell, so
a seat belt, if you can dig one out of the back seat, is advisable.
Rates are significantly higher if you pick one up in the street, but
even at these inflated prices taxis are, relatively at least, cheap.
Ekipazas: tel. 1446. Highly recommended!
English-speaking operators, cheapest rates, reliable, no minimum
distances or fees.
Kabrioletas: tel. 1445. People movers for
Martonas: tel. 240-0004 or 1422. Highly recommended! Well-kept cars, good rates.
Mersera: tel. 278-888 or 1421.
The Vilnius Tourist Information Center:
(J-3) Didzioji 31 at the Town Hall, tel. 262-6470; open:10-18; firstname.lastname@example.org. Also at (C-4) Vilniaus 22, tel. 262-9660; open:09-18;
TIC@vilnius.lt; and at Gelezinkelio
16, tel. 269-2091. These centrally located info centers will tell you much of what you need to know, and in fluent English. They also book hotel rooms and sell good maps.
There’s a tourism information center at (G-2) Liejyklos 8/26, tel. 262-5242, run by the Visit Lithuania travel agency.
You can find some good tourism related web sites: www.tourism.lt
After regaining independence, Lithuania switched in 1993 to its national currency, the
litas. The litas is pegged to the euro at the rate of 3,45
litas to a euro. Credit cards are widely accepted; there are ATM machines in abundance. You can change traveler’s checks at bigger banks, like
Vilniaus. Currency exchanges are everywhere, and their rates don’t vary much.
Snoras Bankas has exchange kiosks around the city center, some of which are open 24 hours.
Lithuania is now also on Eastern European time, two hours ahead of GMT in winter and three hours in summer. Lithuania was in the First European Time Zone, an hour behind Latvia and Estonia. This was an ill-planned and poorly-motivated move to demonstrate Lithuania’s commitment to European integration. But the time change, which caused havoc with opening and office hours, was immensely unpopular with almost all Lithuanians, and so the government reverted back to Eastern European Time.
Generally speaking, the phone system in Lithuania
is solid, Western-standard. For dialing details, see the YELLOW
PAGES at the end of the Vilnius listings.
New phone-card phones are now the norm in the city center.
Cards range in price from 9 to 30 litas. You can buy them at kiosks,
post offices and some stores. Cards can be used for local, national or
international calls. Calling mobile phones or international numbers
will gobble up your credit very, very fast.
Fire: tel. 01
Police: tel. 02
Ambulance: tel. 03
From mobile: tel. 112 for all emergencies.
Emergency and medical services tend to fall below Western standards. There are emerging
pockets of good care, and with outside help, Lithuania has managed to set up some good
medical facilities. But be cautious about care at most hospitals and clinics; without
insurance you can end up paying a lot for a hospital room.
Baltic-American Medical and Surgical Clinic: Antakalnio
124, within the Vilnius University Antakalnio Hospital, tel. 276-2020. A friendly and attentive private Lithuanian-American clinic
offers care for both children and adults; they do major and minor
emergency care, as well as general, cosmetic and reconstructive
surgery. Most resident foreigners, including diplomats, come here.
This is the only hospital in Lithuania certified by all major
insurance companies. It is run by highly qualified American doctors.
Denticija: Grybo 32/10, in the Antakalnis
region, tel. 270-9125. Supposedly the highest standard dental care in
the Baltic states. Everything inspires confidence here the minute you
walk through the doors, from the clean waiting room to the smiling,
helpful receptionists. A Lithuanian-American venture, Denticija
is often used by ex-pats and diplomats based in Latvia and Estonia.
Gidenta: (B-4) A. Vienulio 14-3, tel. 261-7143. Private dental clinic for the whole family.
Medicine Central Private Clinic: (B-3) Gedimino 1a-19 (2nd floor), tel. 261-3534. An Australian general/family doctor; consultant to Vilnius embassies.
Familiarizing yourself with a few good landmarks in Vilnius should help
you keep your bearings straight. A few good reference points are the Bell Tower
and Cathedral (G-3), the Gates of Dawn (D-5) and Seimas, the
Lithuanian parliament (B-3).
If drinking Lithuanian tap water is something you
always wanted to do, it's not the worst. But as a rule, stick with bottled or boiled
The shortest way from point A to point B is not a one-way street,
at least not here in Vilnius. If you're a driver, one-way streets can make your life
miserable, especially in and around the old city. If you plan on doing lots of driving in
the city center, learn in advance how to negotiate the one-way roads.
On one hand, Lithuanian bureaucrats can be more
personable than their counterparts in either Estonia or Latvia. Lithuanians sometimes seem
a little more amenable to bending the rules. At the same time, bureaucrats here can devise
especially creative, nonsensical obstacles. (There's a fondness here of notarizing
anything and everything.) If they don't like you, Lithuanian bureaucrats can dig in their
heels and never budge. A kind word or a sad story can work wonders.
Taxis Info Points
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