Baltics

The Baltic countries also known as the Baltic states are, from North to South: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. The are called Baltic because they are on the Baltic Sea. They are also Europe, but I put them under Baltic to better show their geography.


Šiauliai Lithuania to Riga Latvia by mini-bus

As I headed to Lithuania, world-traveling friend Esther Snippe “Facebooked me” telling me that if I was going to be in Lithuania, I had to go to Riga (the capital of Latvia). Due to the Schengen Agreement, my time in Europe was limited to three months. In all of my years (3 + 1½) of traveling, I had never entered a country and only gone to one town. That just isn’t in line with how I travel.

But Riga and its many fine Art Nouveau buildings beaconed and the Schengen limitations make me crazy — so I made an exception and went to Riga.

Want to join me on my 2½-hour bus ride from Šiauliai (show-leh) Lithuania to Riga Latvia?


Cell phone & data SIM card in Lithuania

I arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania on a Thursday afternoon at 3pm. I’d needed to text my friend Pedro on Friday afternoon but was able to use the roaming feature on my Polish SIM card. (I’m pretty sure that data would have expired by the time I got back to Poland anyway.) When Pedro came with me to get a SIM the next afternoon, the nearest shop was closed. So I didn’t get a SIM unil my 3rd day in Vilnius.

However, it never occurred to me that a bus or train station was actually THE place to buy a SIM card and I had not learned that at this point in my travels. (It turns out that was the case, at least in the major cities, through the entire area.) Having known, I might have purchased my SIM and plan at the Vilnius Coach Station, which is right across from the train station.

For $1.35 I got:
150 phone minutes
1,000 text messages
100mb data

The cellular package I bought in Lithuania.

Traditional Lithuania food in Vilnius

For my first meal in Vilnius, Lithuania, I wanted something traditional. My Portuguese friend Pedro, having met me at the bus, was with me for the afternoon and evening. After we’d checked me into a great hostel, we kept an eye out for a good, but affordable place to eat.

The main street through the old city is really nice, but, as you’d expect, the restaurants are touristy and costly. I felt we did fairly well finding Forto Dvaras.


Warsaw to Vilnius on SimpleBus

8:15am
I am comfortably seated on SimpleBus, as our driver makes his way over a mostly (so far) 2-lane road through green countryside. At one point we were surrounded by trees and I imagined how Jews hid out there once. Now, as we near Lomza we are going through open farm fields sometimes separated by Clusters of trees sometimes there is a row or two of tall trees separating the farm and home from the road. I think I see corn growing.

2:31
I replied to Pedro and he texted:
“Ok ok…I am on my way to the station…see you there at the entrance.”
He asked if I found a CouchSurfing host. I hadn’t had any luck and asked if he knew hostels. He said there are at least four and he would help. It is so amazing to land somewhere and not go it alone. (First Michal in Warsaw, then Dorota in Krakow, and now Pedro in Vilnius. This was a very different trip for me!)

3:00
IWhen the bus pulled into the Vilnius Coach Station, Pedro was waiting for me. It was fabulous to be met by a friend. (Technically an acquaintance, but in travels like this, I consider such a nice guy a friend.)

I was in Vilnius, Lithuania — a place I’d never thought I’d get to in my life. What would I find here, in the city (or area) of my family’s past generations?


Carry light, give light

I think that we who live in cities, be it on any continent in any city, tend to not realize that there ARE places in the world where there is NO electricity and people do not have light — other than that of the sun. And we who live in cities have so much light in the sky at night that we don’t even realize… how very dark the night really is. Those who live in non-electrified places can wake with the sun and go to sleep with the sun — but there are still issues such as: going to the bathroom before bed or in the middle of the night a mother needing to get up in the night to feed an infant a parent needing to tend to a child a person needing to work until dark and then find his/her way home boats needing to cross a lake or ocean or […]


3% international fee on credit card purchases — not!

This post is for American travelers who plan to use an American credit card while traveling outside of the United States.  It’s great to be able to travel with a minimum of cash in your pocket but did you know that when you use your credit card outside of the United States, you incur a 3% fee on top of your actual charge? As I travelled, I saw many people pay huge fees to access their money. I work hard for my money, as most of them did too, so I want to hold on to as much as possible with which to actually live and travel. To that end I did some research to find the best ways to travel without carrying money and the best money-access solutions. So far I have found only two card options that don’t charge an international fee: Chase Sapphire Visa Card — The Chase Sapphire […]