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Travel Security Advice for Estonia

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Estonia is a stable democracy with an economy that has developed rapidly in recent years, although more recently the economy has begun to contract sharply as the effects of the global crisis are felt.  Tourist facilities in the capital Tallinn are comparable to other western European cities, but some amenities may be lacking in rural areas.  Some goods and services may not be available outside of major cities.  Please read the Department of State Background Notes on Estonia for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A valid passport is required.  Estonia is a party to the Schengen Agreement.  As such, U.S. citizens may enter Estonia for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.  The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.  For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen Fact Sheet.

For further information concerning entry requirements and residency permits, contact the Estonian Embassy, located at 2131 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 588-0101, or the Consulate General of Estonia in New York City, telephone (212) 883-0636. Visit the Embassy of Estonia website for the most current visa information.  American citizens who wish to reside in Estonia (e.g. for work, studies, retirement, etc.) can also consult with the Estonian Citizenship and Migration Board.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Civil unrest generally is not a problem in Estonia, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests.  Large public gatherings and demonstrations may occur on occasion in response to political issues, but these have proceeded, with few exceptions, without incident in the past.

During periods of darkness (roughly October through April), reflectors must be worn by pedestrians.  Violators of this law may be subject to a fine of up to 600 EEK (Estonian Kroon), or up to 6,000 EEK if the pedestrian is under the influence of alcohol.  Reflectors are inexpensive and are available at most supermarkets and many smaller shops.  To meet legal requirements, the reflector’s packaging must include a reference to European safety standard EN13356.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.  Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for others callers, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Estonia is a relatively safe country, although crime in Tallinn’s “Old Town” is an ongoing concern, particularly during the summer tourist season.  Travelers should exercise the same precautions with regard to their personal safety and belongings they would take in major U.S. cities.  The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pick-pocketing, and mugging.  Estonia’s recent economic difficulties may cause an increase in the incidence of such crimes. Tourists are often targeted by individuals and small groups of thieves working together.  In public places such as Tallinn’s “Old Town,” in particular the Town Hall Square (“Raekoja Plats”), as well as the airport, train stations, bus stations and the Central Market, one must exercise special care in safeguarding valuables against purse-snatchers and pick-pockets.  Valuables should never be left unattended in vehicles and car doors should be kept locked at all times.  Some violent crime does occur, mainly at night and often in proximity to nightlife areas.  Public drunkenness, car theft and break-ins also do occur in Tallinn.

The Estonian Police agencies are modern, well-equipped law enforcement entities on a standard comparable to most Western European police, with only isolated instances of corruption.  However, large-scale reductions in the police force are scheduled for this year, which may decrease some of their capabilities.  Many police officers speak only very limited English.

Credit card fraud is an ongoing concern, as is Internet-based financial fraud and “Internet dating” fraud.  Travelers should take precautions to safeguard their credit cards and report any suspected unauthorized transaction to the credit card company immediately.  Racially motivated verbal harassment and, on occasion, physical assault of Americans and other nationals of non-Caucasian ethnicity has occurred.   If an incident occurs, it should be reported to the police and to the Embassy.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Estonia is: 112.  The level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal.

See our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the Unites States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Estonian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Estonia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime punishable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Commercial and financial transactions in Estonia are increasingly automated and on-line.  Cash is almost always acceptable.  The national currency is the Estonian Kroon (EEK), the value of which is pegged to the Euro (15.65 EEK=1 Euro). Most credit cards are widely recognized throughout the country.  ATMs are common and many U.S.-issued bankcards are compatible with them.  Bank checks are virtually unknown, and checks drawn on a U.S. bank are of little use in the country.

Estonia’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.  ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the America’s, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (21)354-4480, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit their website for details.

Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

DUAL NATIONALITY:

Although Estonian law generally does not permit dual nationality, Estonian law does provide that a person who has the right to Estonian citizenship from birth cannot have his/her citizenship taken away.  Accordingly, a number of individuals who have claims to Estonian citizenship from birth carry both Estonian and U.S. passports (such as Estonians who move to the United States and naturalize as American citizens).  Any other American citizen who does not have a claim to Estonian citizenship from birth, but who wishes to naturalize as an Estonian citizen, could risk losing his/her U.S. citizenship.  Any American citizen who is considering pursuing this process is encouraged to speak to a Consul in order to understand the full consequences of such action.  Please note that becoming a resident of Estonia (obtaining an “elamisluba”) has no effect on one’s U.S. citizenship. American citizens who hold multiple passports must present a U.S. passport to enter the United States. Thus, for example, it is prohibited for a traveler carrying both U.S. and Estonian passports to enter the United States using the Estonian passport via the Visa Waiver Program.  Please read more information about dual nationality.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

The quality of medical care in Estonia continues to improve but still falls short of Western standards.  Estonia has many highly-trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources.  Many emergency room staff and nurses speak only limited English.  Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk.  Visitors to forest areas in warm weather should also guard against tick-borne encephalitis.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Estonia.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) websiteFurther health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  In recent years, a number of American citizens have been disembarked from cruise ships and hospitalized due to serious medical problems.  Holding a policy providing for medical evacuation coverage can be critical to ensure access to timely emergency medical care.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

American citizens who wish to drive in Estonia must possess a valid International Driving Permit (IDP), which should be carried along with the individual’s U.S.-issued driver’s license.  American citizens caught driving only with a U.S. driver’s license in Estonia have been subjected to substantial fines.  To obtain an IDP contact the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (part of the National Auto Club).  These are the only two entities in the United States that are authorized by international agreements to provide IDPs.

Driving in Estonia can be more dangerous than in much of the United States.  Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly lit and are not up to Western standards.  Some drivers can be aggressive, recklessly overtaking vehicles and traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas.  Despite strict Estonian laws against driving under the influence of alcohol, accidents involving intoxicated drivers are frequent.  It is not uncommon for the police to set up checkpoints on major streets and highways; drivers should pull over when asked.  Drivers should always remain alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians.

Estonian traffic laws require drivers to stop for all pedestrians in marked crosswalks.  Nevertheless, Estonian motorists do not always comply with this regulation, and pedestrians should always be careful when crossing the streets.  In rural areas, wild animals, such as deer and moose, and icy road conditions can create unexpected hazards.  Dark-clothed or drunken pedestrians walking along unlit roads or darting across dimly-lit streets or highways pose a risk to unsuspecting drivers.  Winter roads are usually treated and cleared of snow, but drivers should remain vigilant for icy patches and large potholes.

Estonian laws against driving under the influence are strict and follow a policy of zero tolerance. Penalties are severe for motorists caught driving after consumption of even a small amount of alcohol. Local law requires that headlights be illuminated at all times while driving.  Use of a seatbelts by all passengers is required, and children too small to be secure in seatbelts must use child car seats.   The speed limit is 50 km/h in town and 90 km/h out of town unless otherwise indicated.  A right turn on a red light is prohibited unless otherwise indicated by a green arrow.  According to Estonian law, vehicles involved in accidents should not be moved to the side of the road until the police reach the scene.

The Eesti Autoklubi (Estonian Auto Club), which is affiliated with AAA, provides emergency roadside assistance.  Drivers do not need to be a member to receive assistance; however, the fees charged are higher for non-members.  The number to call for roadside vehicle assistance and towing service is 1888.  For ambulance, fire or police assistance the number is 112.  Please note that for both numbers, the level of English spoken by the operator answering may be minimal.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  You may also visit Estonia’s national tourist office website for more information..  For specific information concerning Estonian driving permits, vehicles inspections and road tax mandatory insurance, visit the Estonian Motor Vehicle Registration Center website.. Additional information may be obtained from the Estonian Road Administration's website or from the Baltic Roads website.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Estonia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Estonian Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in Estonia are encouraged to register with the U.S Embassy in Tallinn through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Estonia.   Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn by visiting in person.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.   The latest security information is available on the Embassy's website.

The U.S. Embassy is available 24 hours a day for emergency assistance for American citizens visiting or residing in Estonia. The Embassy is located approximately 1 km outside of Tallinn’s “Old Town.” The address is: Kentmanni 20, 15099 Tallinn, Estonia.  The Embassy’s main switchboard number is telephone (372) 668-8100 (begin by dialing 011 -if calling from the United States, or 00- from most other countries).  The Consular Section can be reached directly at (372 668-8128, 8111, 8197 or 8129. The Consular Section’s fax number is (372) 668-8267. The Consular Section’s email address for American Citizen Services is: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For after-hours emergencies, an Embassy Duty Officer may be contacted by mobile phone at:  011-372 509-2129, if dialing from the U.S., and 509-2129 if dialed from within Estonia.  The Embassy’s website is - http://estonia.usembassy.gov/

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 28, 2008, to update sections on Country Description, Crime, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Location.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Estonia HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)......

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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