The last day of our road trip and as Riga is the last stop before heading back to Tallinn and boarding the ship back to Helsinki, Finland we have a bit of extra time to see the Old Town in daylight as well.
(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2017
We park our car to almost at the same place as yesterday, hoping to find it easily later, and also because we really would like to find the Three Brothers which are supposed to be in the vicinity, but we are not sure if we actually did. Instead, we come across a square with carolers (first ones on this trip!) and a souvenir shop!
The Christmas Feeling (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2017
After listening to the caroling, we decide to go inside the shop to see if there is anything we like – I have to admit that we really like our collection of fridge magnets..
Coming from Finland, where the customer service culture is, ahem, non-existent, the attentiveness of the sales person in the shop is outstanding! Maybe it is because he works in the tourism industry that he really knows to be attentive to the customers’ needs, or maybe he just is a natural seller. Anyway, he is very obliging and knows the wares in the shop like the back of his hands! Perhaps that is the reason (and the fact that we love small collectible souvenirs) that we end up spending quite a lot of money at that one shop!
From Riga to Tallinn
After the last minute souvenir shopping it is time to pack them in the trunk and turn the Toyota towards Tallinn in Estonia.
The route that we take is the same one that took us a week ago towards Poland. The roadworks are still there, and that hinders the drive in the first part, but after clearing the area, the speed picks up. And so does the rain; during the drive we get a mixture of rain and sleet before we arrive to Tallinn.
One thing to definitely remember, especially when driving during the winter months is that having rain and wet roads, especially during the dark hours, is really strenuous for the eye sight. And also, which might be evident already from our trip, do not place all trust to what Google Maps says about drive times. They are bound to change due to weather conditions and/or roadworks.
Last-minute Shopping In Tallinn
During the drive we decided to make a pit-stop at Ülemiste centrum in Tallinn, as this used to be one of our regular haunts back in the day when we lived in the vicinity. Besides it is a good spot to take Mika for his toilet rounds before Mummy and Daddy head into the shops.
Now, several years later, they have made a massive renovation to the shopping centre adding more shop lots, and making this place even more of a shopper’s paradise! However, as with many other occasions, we notice that prices have also gone up – or is it just something we now notice as we are coming from Poland and the cheaper Baltic countries?
At first we thought of getting our Christmas Turkey (or some other bird) from here, but as the prices of the aforementioned birds were on the same level as in Finland, we decided not to. Instead, like any proper tourists, we end up getting cheese, bread, and other necessary groceries to go with us to Finland, and as it is that we have a car, the groceries can easily be put into the trunk with other things that we have there.
The Sail Back To Helsinki
Tallink is still our choice when it comes to the crossing between Tallinn and Helsinki. They are a tad more expensive when you compare between other companies, but at the same time, the frequency is what matters to us (at least in this case). And also, that Mika gets to stay in the car for free for this crossing as well.
Being quite close to Christmas it is no wonder that the ships are quite full. It takes us longer to get into the car decks and also then comes the trouble of finding ourselves seats, but we finally do. Crossing in itself is quite uneventful, so it is a good time to do some reflection.
As a whole, this road trip was definitely a positive experience. Basically everywhere we stopped, we saw a lot, and lots of my preconceived ideas were broken and tossed into a bin. It is clear that the Baltic cities are not in a tip-top shape, but when you think of it – is any city in an excellent shape anywhere in the world? Is it just that I tend to be more critical when it comes to the Baltics due to their Soviet occupation history? Having now read more about the history (pre-Soviet history that is), the Baltic States might actually be much, much more interesting than my native Finland.
Generally speaking, the people we met during this trip were positive, smiling, and kind. It was fairly easy to talk to people in all the places where we went to, and of course that reflected on the level of customer service. It seemed to be on a really good level everywhere along the trip, but perhaps the best one that we got was in the souvenir shops in Warsaw and Riga. That may also be attributed to us being in touristy areas, but even if it is so, we still ended up buying more things from those places because of the level of service and attentiveness.
Moneywise we did some planning before the trip. As we wanted to control our cash flow, we pre-booked our accommodations beforehand so that all the costs didn’t pile up for the time of the trip itself. Pre-booking of course means that you need to reach the next stop on that day or otherwise you lose the money and the accommodation. We used Airbnb for all the accommodation, and the prices were around 20-25€ / night for us. Had we not taken Mika with us, we could have found even cheaper ones. So we can say that our accommodation costs were roughly up to 150€ for the whole trip. Of course we pre-booked our ferry tickets as well, which ended up costing a total of 80€ return for two of us (and Mika) and the Toyota.
As it was a road trip, we have to count also the fuel costs. During the trip, we filled up the tank about 5-6 times (not always up to the brim), and ended up spending about 140€ for the fuel during the drive. Also we tried to fill up the tank in the cheaper countries. On the way back, for instance, we didn’t refuel in Estonia, as it was more costly than Latvia, for instance but it would have still been cheaper than Finland.
Food itself was quite cheap during the trip, even though some of it was bought from Christmas Markets and late night kebab shops. We also tried to utilise the local shops whenever we were able to, but also ended up spending money on the service stations along the road (mainly for coffees). So I’d estimate that we ended up spending slightly under 250€ for the grocery shopping along the way.
For all other things, such as souvenirs, parking, and other things, we ended up spending a total of around 100€.
Counting all this up, we ended up spending a grand total of less than 750€. I think that it is not bad at all, considering that it covers two persons, a small Poodle Boy, and a Toyota. Of course there would be ways to do this kind of trip either more frugal or lavish, depending on your wishes. And we definitely would have ended up spending a lot more if we had had time to spend in all the places where we stopped at.
We are actually considering on embarking on another Baltic road trip. Roadtrips require more time to spend in a place, and more time to stop along the way when there is something interesting to see. Plus, it would be great to see the cities during summer season as well. And maybe we could drive all the way to Berlin the next time? Who knows. Stay tuned!