How I Used Skyscanner to Plan a Trip to the Baltics

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If you've been keeping up with me in real-time (maybe on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat), you'll know that I've spent the last couple of weeks hopping around the UK. But today it's time for me to bid this part of Europe farewell and head to a region that's totally new to me: I'm going to the Baltics!

The Baltics are made up of three countries that border the Baltic Sea in northern Europe: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And, with a week to kill in between the UK and a river cruise in Russia, I figured why not head to this part of the world since it's in between where I'm coming from and where I'm going?

With just one week, though, I didn't really want to try to tackle all three countries. In fact, one week isn't even long enough to fully explore ONE of these countries. So I settled on 3 nights each in two of the major Baltic cities: Riga (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania).

Canals in Riga, taken by Cailin from Travel Yourself (she also took the top image in this post)

Canals in Riga, taken by Cailin from Travel Yourself (she also took the top image in this post)

I'm also partnering up with Skyscanner on this trip, which is one of my favorite travel search sites – especially for travel within Europe.

My Baltics trip

Because I know from the hints I've dropped about this trip that many of you are very curious to learn more about this part of Europe, here's a look at what I'm getting up to in Riga and Vilnius:

Day 1: Fly to Riga

I'll be arriving around dinnertime and have some work to get done in the evening, so this will be just a “get to my hotel and chill” kind of evening.

Riga, Latvia

“Riga, Latvia” by Bryan Ledgard on Flickr, used with CC license

Day 2: Soviet Secrets of Riga

Today I'm going on a walking tour with Urban Adventures called Soviet Secrets of Riga that will trace Riga's more recent history, from its Soviet days to its naming as a European Capital of Culture. I'm a huge history nerd (as you probably know if you're a regular reader), so I'm really looking forward to exploring the old Russian quarter of the city, seeing the Freedom Monument, and learning more about the revolution that defined this period of Latvia's history.

Day 3: Riga exploration

I'm dedicating my last day in Riga to just exploring the city: wandering around the old town and the Art Nouveau district, seeing the view from the spire of St. Peter's, shopping at the Central Market (found in old German zeppelin hangars), and maybe going on a canal cruise to see the fall colors.

Day 4: Take the bus to Vilnius

Next it's on to Lithuania! Some people have already asked why I chose Vilnius over a couple days in Tallinn (Estonia), and the answer is simple: I don't know much about Vilnius (or Lithuania, for that matter), and I also don't know of many bloggers who have written about it. So of course I'm intrigued! I'm taking a bus from Riga to Vilnius, and will probably spend the evening just wandering around the Old Town.

The beauty of Vilnius

“The beauty of Vilnius” by Aivaras Čiurlionis on Flickr, used with a CC license

Day 5: Vilnius exploration

Vilnius looks like another gorgeous city, so I'm excited to spend a day just wandering. So far on my list is seeing some churches, wandering through the Old Town, getting a bird's-eye view (or two), and trying beaver – because apparently it's a popular meat in Lithuania?

Day 6: Undiscovered Vilnius tour

I've got another Urban Adventures tour planned in Vilnius to learn more about its history and quirks. The highlight of the tour (I think), will be visiting Užupis, an independent republic within the city.

If you have any tips on what else to see/do in either of these cities, please let me know!

How I use Skyscanner to search for travel

Skyscanner is (very legitimately and not just because I'm working with them on this trip) one of my favorite travel search engines. It's my favorite for a few reasons: 1. because it's easy to use; 2. because it shows a lot of flights on budget airlines in Europe; and 3. because it's *just* a search site – you don't book anything through Skyscanner itself, but instead have the option to book directly with an airline or your favorite hotel booking site.

My first step to planning this trip to the Baltics was to search for a flight, which is the most straightforward thing you can do on Skyscanner. You simply input your starting and ending locations and the date(s) and hit “Search flights.”

Using Skyscanner to search for travel

The results almost always include a mixture of major airlines and budget airlines, automatically sorted by price (though you can use the filters on the left of the screen to narrow your search by other parameters, too).

Skyscanner is great for Europe flight searches, because it always shows all the budget airlines (you know, the ones none of us really love flying but that are so darn cheap that we do it anyway).

Using Skyscanner to search for travel

I found a very affordable flight from London to Riga, and then moved on to hotels.

Skyscanner's hotel search works pretty much the same way as its flight search, with results that you can filter by everything from location to price to amenities. The results are automatically sorted by “most popular” and you can easily see a hotel's rating and number of reviews that Skyscanner has aggregated from a variety of hotel booking sites. You can also easily see which booking website is offering the best deal on each hotel.

I used the map feature while researching this trip, too, because I knew I wanted to stay in or near the old town/city center in each city I was visiting.

Using Skyscanner to search for travel

All told, it took me less than an hour to book my flight and pick out hotels for my entire trip.

Skyscanner also has a mobile app, which is handy if you're searching for travel on-the-go. (I actually used it last month in Scotland when I realized at the last minute that I was missing a flight leg in between Manchester and Edinburgh!) Check it out here.

Be sure to follow along on my social media accounts for real-time updates from the Baltics, and leave any tips you have in the comments below!

 

Planning a trip using Skyscanner

 

20 Comments

  • Brian says:

    Looking forward to hearing about your trip to the Baltics! As you mentioned, there aren’t many bloggers who have written about these countries, so it will be nice hearing your perspective. And if the photos are any indicator, you’ll be in for a treat!

  • Rebecca J says:

    I went to the Baltics last year for a week and absolutely loved it! It’s a great part of the world to visit!

    We did Tallinn, Tartu, Riga & Vilnius in a week! We were definitely very tired by the end 😛

    In Vilnius, the town hall square (Rotušės aikštė) is beautiful at night time especially! If you are having a meal out, I would 100% recommend Cafe Montmartre. The food is excellent (have the Croque Madame!), not expensive at all, and if you are lucky enough to get served by the French owner, he is very friendly and chatty, and also VERY stereo typically French, it’s rather amusing! Unfortunately both the places we ate out in Riga were nothing to write home about, but the city is really nice, especially Alberta iela, where there is tonnes of art nouveau architecture!

    If you get the chance to go to Tallinn in the future, DEFINITELY do it, as it is an amazing city – by far my favourite in the Baltics. I would return in a heartbeat.

    Look forward to reading about your experience in the Baltics 🙂

  • Dominique says:

    The itineraries look great! I would love to know more about the area, because I’ve had it high on my list of places to visit as well! Thanks for putting Urban Adventures on my radar by the way, I had never heard of them and their itineraries look great!

  • I think it’s smart to dedicate more time to just two of the Baltic capitals. They are so rich in history and culture that less time just doesn’t do them justice. I lived in Riga for two years and still didn’t get to see and do everything the city has to offer!

    If you have time, try to see a performance at the Riga Opera House. I think you’ll be impressed with the quality. There are also quite a few excellent museums – the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation is in a gorgeous building and is much more interesting than it sounds. The Bourse Museum and National Art Museum are also worth a visit. And don’t leave without a pair of Latvian mittens! http://www.ferretingoutthefun.com/2016/09/16/what-to-buy-in-riga/

    Riga has tons of great restaurants, but here are some of my favorites: http://www.ferretingoutthefun.com/2015/06/30/where-to-eat-in-riga/. Kolonade, Rocket Bean, Makonis, and Palgams are also good spots. If you’re exploring Albert Street, stop in Art Cafe Sienna for a pick me up. The atmosphere is so lovely and elegant!

    Riga is my favorite place in the world and I hope you love it as much as I do 🙂
    Heather @ Ferreting Out the Fun recently posted..16 Things to Do in Riga, Latvia this Autumn

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you for the great suggestions! Two full days definitely isn’t enough in Riga, but I’m using this trip as a “taster” of sorts. The weather isn’t the greatest, so that’s all the more reason to come back again!

  • Krist Reed says:

    You will love it! Definitely put Estonia (I second Tallinn and Tartu!) on your list for next time. Looking forward to seeing all about your trip!

  • Elisa says:

    Ooh, Vilnius! That capital city doesn’t get as much attention as it should. I own a CD of Lithuanian folk music–it’s a wonderful sample of the country’s musical heritage.

    If you’re interested, “A History of the Baltic States” by Andres Kasekamp is a readable, concise history about the three Baltic nations.

  • You’re going to have a great time in the Baltics!

    I went there myself for the very first time last year, and spent two weeks in the region so that I was even able to add Helsinki too. I spent 3 days in Vilnius, 3 days in Riga, 5 days in Tallinn, and 2 days in Helsinki. I would have liked to have spent longer in Finland but well, the prices…lol!

    It’s quite easy to take the bus within the Baltic region. Everyone was doing so, and in fact, I bumped into the same people from Vilnius, in Tallinn! It reminded me of the backpackers beaten path in Thailand! For tips, here’s what I wrote about Riga last year: https://thebritishberliner.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/gosh-riga-in-latvia-is-gorgeous-10-reasons-to-go-there-right-now/

    p.s I use Skyscanner quite a lot but I have never thought about it in relation to hotels. Good idea!
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..A 5 minute guide to German food. On the Baltic Sea beach!

    • Amanda says:

      I’m loving it so far! Riga was awesome, and Vilnius definitely has its own kind of cool vibe. And yup, buses are pretty awesome in this part of the world! I took the LuxExpress from Riga to Vilnius, and it was awesome!

  • This is a dream trip of mine—love following along as you do it! I’ve been to Estonia for 10 days and Riga a couple times for a day here and there, but never to Lithuania. I’d love to go back and spend a few weeks doing them all at once!

  • Liam says:

    Hey Amanda,

    We just spent a month in the Baltics and had a blast 🙂

    Riga is one of my favourite cities in Europe (in no way am I basis since I’m half Latvian…) very fun with an excellent undertone of youth and hip culture. Get out to Labietis Brewery is was an abandoned brewery and is now full of bars and restaurants and loads of fun.

    Vilnius is also a great little student city that feels a lot quainter than Riga. The city itself can be “seen” in a day or so which leaves room for a fun day trip to Trakai Castle.

    I hope you have a great time and really get into the Baltic spirit. Here is the link to both our Riga and Vilnius weekend guides If you want to have a read 🙂

    http://www.rucksackramblings.com/riga-guide/

    http://www.rucksackramblings.com/vilnius-guide/

    Cheers,

    Liam
    Liam recently posted..Glory to Ukraine! What To Do In Lviv With 48 Hours

  • Dave Briggs says:

    What a great post! I’m keen to visit Latvia and Estonia. I’d love to see what they have in Riga, particularly. As always, your blog is giving me inspirations for my own travel planning! Thanks!
    Dave Briggs recently posted..Finding Love On The Road | Love, Romance and Travel

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