This article is written specially for those who are planning to move over to Tallinn, Estonia to live, study or to stay for any other cool reason for a long period of time. I have tried to gather lots of information that might be helpful for a first time visitor or for those who got lost in our small city.
Information in this post is divided into several sub-paragraphs such as registering in Tallinn, districts of Tallinn, Tallinn public transport, renting in Tallinn, shopping and groceries, saving money in Tallinn, online shops in Estonia, going out in Tallinn and so on and so forth.
I hope this article will be also interesting for those who have been living in Tallinn for some time and maybe also for locals. If you have something to add or you do not agree with some parts of Tallinn Cheat Sheet please, leave a comment. Your feedback is very important!
NB! Some parts of the article were updated on 31st of August, 2012.
Registering at the City List of Tallinn
All EU citizens have 3 month permit to stay in Estonia without any conditions. After that you need to register yourself at the closest Town Hall in your district where you live. After you have registered yourself at the city list you can proceed and apply for residential permit at Emigration office.
On this Tallinn City Districts map you can find city administration offices where you can register yourself on the city list in case you are planning to settle down in Estonia for a while.
Applying for residential permit and ID card in Tallinn
After you have visited city administration of your (or any) district you can proceed with getting your first ID card and official residential permit. This can be done at 3 service points of Citizenship and Migration Bureau in Tallinn.
They are located on Narva mnt, Sõle and Vilmsi. Narva mnt is the one in the center of the city in Forum shop on the 4th floor. Check here for more info.
Estonia is famous for being innovative and Internet driven. Many things can be done through the Internet and with the use of national ID card. For example, you can by public transportation monthly pass on the Internet and it will be “uploaded” to your Estonian ID card which later can be use in the bus in case of ticket-check.
Also, at the hospital you can get a prescription not on paper but digital one, so when you are at the pharmacy you just provide your ID card which has all the doctor prescriptions on it, no need to carry papers with you.
At some universities you need to upload money to your ID card to use printing facilities. Estonian ID card also acts as a membership or a discount card at some places such as Coca-Cola Plaza Movie Theater and some shops.
In local banks if you want to transfer money from one account to another within Estonia or not you will have a limit of approx 200 EUR a day using standard pin-code card. To transfer bigger amounts you will need ID card and a card reader.
Opening bank account in Tallinn
How to open a bank account in Estonia and get your first local bank card? – Answer: it is fairly easy. In Tallinn you will find several big banks such as Swedbank, SEB Bank or Nordea Bank. There are a few more but those 3 listed above are the biggest and most used in Estonia. I personally suggest Swedbank; never had any issues with them and they always provide you with an answer and support.
To open an account you will need and ID document such as passport (if you do not have Estonian ID yet), document that states you address and in case if you have a job in Tallinn – employment contract. If you are a student take a paper that states where you study.
In case if you do not have a document that states your address (for example rent contract) then you just name the place where you live and its address.
You can also apply for internet banking and I strongly recommend you do it as many bills you will have to pay through the Internet. It’s also saves a lot of time and a bit of money.
Tip: Before leaving your country ask for a paper from your local bank that states you are their good client. Most banks will provide you with such paper for a small fee.
Getting your family doctor at the hospital
This is up to you really, you can always register and get your first medical card and family doctor whenever you get into hospital (hopefully you will be just fine). If you have extra time – find closest hospital, go there and register.
You will get medical card and contacts of your family doctor so if anything happens you know where to go.
Hospital system in Estonia works like this (short story):
- You call your hospital to register for a visit to your family doctor
- You first of all go to your family doctor and only in case of emergency you call 112 or go to an emergency department at any hospital
- Your family doctor looks at your health problem and then if needed gives you an appointment with a specialist
- Then you go and register for a visit to a specialist
Be prepared to wait for 2 and more weeks for a visit. Sometimes it can be several months to get a free visit. In some cases your family doctor can move your appointment in the line a bit up if there is something urgent.
You can also get a private visit to same specialist or at private clinic. For such visit you will pay from 20 to 40 EUR. In case if tests needed (private doctor) you also pay for them.
Districts of Tallinn and renting prices and tips
Tallinn has 8 main districts: City Center with its Old Town, Northern Tallinn, Kristiine (those 3 districts are around city center and living on the border of those is actually living in the center), then Mustamae, Haabersti, Lasnamae, Pirita and Nomme.
On this simple map you can see how districts are allocated and read a bit about them.
In Tallinn City Center you have most of tourist attractions, hotels, offices (there a few other districts also popular for office space), Old Town, clubs, restaurants and so on and so forth. Living in the center is like in any other town – it is fast, quite safe and can be expensive.
- For a decent 1-2 room apartment, renovated and furnished be prepared to pay from 400 EUR and up (if you are lucky) + all the expenses. For 450-600 EUR and up you can get nice 2-3 room apartment (1-2 bedroom) in the heart of the city.
- Safe level – 4 out of 5, still it is center and with all the tourists, bars and clubs it can’t be perfectly safe.
Northern Tallinn (Pohja Tallinn)
Northern Tallinn is an interesting place, especially the part that is on the border with the Old Town. The part of the border of the Old Town is interesting with its architecture (mix of old and new) and that it is close to the port and the sea. A bit deeper into the district there is a beach. Except the beach there is not that much to see.
Also, I must say that the deeper to the district the cheaper will be the rent but it is not the best place to rent. It seems that locals from other districts do not really like Pohja Tallinn and the part of it after the Stroomi Beach. I know people from Kopli (part of Northern Tallinn) who have been living there all their lives without any problem.
- You can get a nice 1-2 rooms place (1 bedroom), renovated and OK location for 250 to 350 EUR + expenses. The closer you rent to the center the more expensive it becomes.
- Safe level – depends where, but from 1 to 3.5 out of 5.
Kristiine is an old district with private houses, new apartment buildings (2-4 floors), and duplexes. It has some usual a bit older apartment blocks also. It is nice place, close to the center of Tallinn, usually from 10-15 min max bus ride depending on where in Kristiine you live. Very green district with 2 big shops around.
- A nice 1-2 room’s apartment in Kristiine will cost you from 320-350 EUR and up. For 375+ EUR you will get a good place.
- Kristiine is very safe place to live, I can give it 4,5 out of 5.
Mustamae is standardized housing area built in 60s-70s during the Soviet times. There is nothing special about this place, except that Tallinn Technical University is located here.
It comes just after Kristiine and is further from the center. It depends where in Mustamae you live but usually it takes from 15 to 30 minutes to get to the center of Tallinn, longer in case of bad weather (heavy snow) and traffic.
Living at such districts is convient in one way for sure – you have a lot of shops, schools, and kindergartens’ easily reachable within a few minutes’ walk or a short bus ride. Mustamae is quite green place with several parks and forest on the border with Nomme.
- Rent prices are lower here comparing to Kristiine and for 300+ EUR you can get a nice 2 rooms place, renovated, furnished and equipped with everything you need (or almost everything). It might be not that easy to find a good place fast.
- Mustamae is a quite safe place to be, I think it can be given 3,5 to 4.
I would recommend not to rent around Akadeemia and Zolnok bus stops.
Haabersti is on the border with Mustamae and is a big district both with old housing area buildings (Õismäe) and private houses which are packed mostly together closer to the sea and beach area (Kakumäe). Haabersti is a “long” district with main road Paldiski mnt stretched from the city center all the way to the border of the city.
Depending on where you live in this area it can take you from a short 10 minutes bus ride to 30 min bus ride to get to the center of the town.
One of the biggest shopping malls “Rocca Al Mare” is located here. Similar to Mustamae in Haabersti you will find lots of shops, market, schools and so on.
- Depending on where you rent price range for a nice 1-2 room place varies from 280 (in case if you rent not in the new building) up to 500+ EUR if you want to get a place next to the sea.
- Safe level – same as for Mustamae and higher if it is the area of private houses – Kakumäe.
Nomme is also called Nomme forest city due to the low density of people living in this big area (28 sq km) and pine trees. It is one of the most prestigious places to live, similar to Kakumäe, and Pirita. Most of the buildings there are private houses or small apartment buildings. In Nomme if you have forest everywhere, basically you live in the forest.
It is located far from the city center and in order if you need to get to the center fast you need to have a car. There are only a few main roads with public transport and it can get crowded in a bus. Bus ride can take up to 30-40 minutes from the very end of Nomme.
Nomme is a great place to live with a family or if you are seeking for calm and peaceful area.
- There are not that many places for rent in this district. For a nice 1-2 room apartment be prepared to pay 350 EUR and up to 500 EUR. There is a bigger chance to rent a house than a flat in this area but prices will bite.
- Safe level – 4 to 5. Not so good close to Manniku area.
Lasnamae district is the biggest in Tallinn both for the area (around 35 sq km) and for the amount of panel houses (Mustamae and Haabersti are also mostly panel apartment buildings, not counting new building and private houses). There is not much to see or do in Lasnamae, it is similar to other “sleeping” blocks of Tallinn.
It has only a few park areas which is a bit sad due to the size of this place.
Lasnamae is a bit newer than Mustamae and apartments here are bigger although the building plans are very similar or in many cases even the same as in Mustamae.
- Rent costs here are similar to Mustamae. Some places can be a bit cheaper some a bit more expensive (if good renovation is done). It is quite easy to find a good place fast and for a good price. For 280+ EUR you can get a nice 1-2 room flat.
- As for being safe I would give it 2 to 3,5.
Lasnamae has several big roads connecting with the center of Tallinn and quite many bus lines. Although the district is much bigger than Mustamae the time you spend to get to the heard of Tallinn is basically the same or just a bit more.
Lasnamae is known more as “Russian” district due to high amount of Russian speaking people living there.
Pirita is very prestigious place to live in Tallinn. It has beach sea side, forest and parks, yacht club, Pirita River, many options for sport activities and no industrial areas. It is fairly close to the center of Tallinn with one main road connecting both that runs next to the sea side.
Still, it is better to have a car if you live in Pirita especially if you live a bit far from the main road. There is not that many busses that go there comparing to Lasnamae or Mustamae. If you do not have a car or not planning to have but still want to rent in Pirita – go for it as it still worth it!
- For a 1-2 rooms apartment, nicely renovated or new you will pay at least 350-380 EUR and up. For some places with a sea view prices get up to 900 EUR a month.
- Safe level is 4,5 to 5.
NB! – Approximate prices for rent are updated on 31st of August, 2012.
All the prices listed above are only for the rent itself, utilities are not included and it is very rare when you pay only one sum that includes everything.
The utilities cost in Tallinn (electricity, water, heating, gas if provided, small apartment building costs, etc) very much depend on your consuming habits. For example, a young couple both working, living in Mustamae in 2 rooms apartment (1 bedroom, total 45 sq meters) and using water and electricity with common sense during the winter (heating season) pays around 140-150 EUR on top of the rent.
Heating season is from October to April -+2 weeks. Heating is based on the size of the place and not the amount of people living. Some apartments have new heating systems with a counter which counts what you spend on heating when you turn it on. In this case you can save a bit if you turn it off or put on low when you leave the flat.
During summer with same setup price drops to 70-90 EUR a month. The bigger is the place the more you will pay for the heating. You are quite safe if you count approx. 170-200 EUR max (winter) on top on the rent for utilities.
Heating prices vary a bit from district to district.
Internet, phone and cable TV are not part of utilities in most cases. You can get a 3 in 1 package for around 25 EUR with fast internet.
There are 2 ways you can rent in Tallinn – using broker and renting straight from the owner. Renting from the owner is a cheaper option as you do not need to pay any service fees. There are not that many offers from the owner himself comparing to the broker ones.
Here are some suggestions for renting directly from the owner:
On websites like city24.ee or kv.ee you can find basically all advertisements for sell and rent of apartments. If it is rented from the owner it is usually mentioned on the description of the flat. Another thing is that all agents have their pictures and the name of the company next to the contact information.
You can get more “from the owner” offers from newspapers such as Kuldne Bors or Referent (in Russian). Ask someone local to help you with translation.
Tip: Be careful with the contract for your let. If it is written in Estonian or Russian ask a local friend to translate it for you so you understand everything. Have a good look at the place you want to rent and notice any damages or broken items and make sure owner adds those to the contract as already damaged.
Usually contracts should have a list of things in the flat. Make sure you go through the whole list before signing.
Renting through the broker simplifies the process of finding the place and signing contract. Most of the ads on city24 and ke.ee are from brokers (at least 70%). Broker can show you several flats in one day and can help you in negotiating the price down.
Tip: in 99% of all cases you can get renting price down, try to bargain a bit but don’t ask for ridiculously low number.
The first rent will most likely cost you:
One month of rent + deposit (usually equals to 1 month of rent) + broker (from 50 to 100 of 1 month rent)
Sometimes deposit can be more than 1 month of rent if apartment is new and has some expensive furniture, appliances, etc.
When you rent directly from the owner you skip paying brokers’ fee but everything else stays the same.
Tallinn public transport
NB! From 1st of January 2013 public transport in Tallinn will become free for those who registered as Tallinn citizen. This is a good reason to apply for ID card and get Tallinn registration.
Public transport in Tallinn is simple. When using a bus a trolleybus or a tram tickets are the same for all 3 and there are no “zones”. You buy a ticket, stamp it in the bus and go as far with this bus as you want (or as it goes).
If you have an Estonian ID card you can buy any ticket (single, hour ticket, etc) using your mobile phone. Tickets are sold in kiosks and also in the bus.
Ticket from the driver will be more expensive and you should have small bills and coins.
You can save some money on buying a pack of 10 tickets or 24-48-72 hour ticket if you are planning to use public transport a lot. Thing is that if you use public transport at least once a day it is beneficial for you to buy a monthly pass.
Discount tickets are for school kids, subtends, disabled people and pensioners. You have to have a student ID card issued by your university in Tallinn in order to get a discount.
For express buses tickets are bit more expensive. If you buy a monthly usual bus ticket and use express buy you must buy an additional ticket both sold at kiosks and from the driver. Or you can by an express pass that allows you to ride all the busses.
You can read more about ticket prices on this page here.
Shops and supermarkets
Big shopping malls such as Ulemiste Keskus, Kaubamaja and Viru Keskus, Kristiine Keskus, Stockmann, Rocca Al Mare, Mustikas, Selver and so on – they all have grocery stores inside. Besides groceries in the shops listed about you can buy everything you need, like clothes, furniture, electronics, etc.
Kaubamaja/Viru Keskus, Selver and Stockmann have their own grocery stores (under same brand name as the shop), all the rest have rather RIMI and PRISMA grocery shops. Recently I have noticed that PRISMA offers better prices almost on all products.
For exact locations of those shopping malls Google them and use Google maps.
Grocery stores as PRISMA and RIMI are also stand alone shops in different districts of Tallinn, as well as Selver. Out of those 3 mentioned Selver has higher prices but sometimes Selver has great offers on some of products.
MAXIMA and SASTU MARKET are 2 low cost grocery shops scattered among Tallinn. They are similar to LIDL for those who know.
Tip: In Maxima pay attention to expiring date of products, there were cases when shop was selling expired goods.
For cheap home appliances and cheap furniture check Koduextra and YUSK. Both shops are usually located within big supermarkets such as Kristiine Keskus and Rocca al Mare.
If you want to save money and get some used items or stuff a bit cheaper such as furniture, clothes, and electronics I suggest you check at okidoki.ee and osta.ee, they are something like local Ebay. To buy things there you will need a local bank card or in some cases if things you buy are located in the same city where you are you can offer a pick up and cash.
Getting a phone
Getting a mobile phone card in Estonia is very easy, as nowadays in most of the countries. In Estonia we have 3 main operators – TELE2, Elisa and EMT or Elion.
In case if you are staying in Estonia for a short period of time, like few weeks or months the fastest solution for you is to get a pre-paid phone card. All 3 companies mentioned above have such buy-and-call packages available. The main difference is the price per minute and the connection quality.
TELE2 seems to be the cheapest option when it comes to the price. Another important thing to consider is that all pre-paid packages have same benefit – you can call within the same network provider rather for free or very cheap. Here TELE2 wins as every 3rd person in Estonia is using it, again due to low prices and OK quality.
TELE2 start pre-paid packages is called SMART. Usually they offer a lot in the package like 100 minutes of calling time, some free SMS and internet usage. Conditions change so check on their website, but the price is between 1EUR (!) and 15 EUR. For 15 I think they even give you a very basic phone.
Elisa offers very similar prices and package. The do have one more expensive package with is around 50 EUR but that one includes a nice phone. Calling to other Elisa numbers is free, but I think you still pay for the first minute. Cheapest starting package is 1 EUR, I think it has a few minutes of calling time.
EMT/Elion is the oldest communications provider on Estonian market. They tend to have best quality; it was like that at least a year ago. Now all 3 have more/less same level. Their package is called SIMPLE and has same benefits as other two, such as calling for free within to other EMT numbers. “Simple” is quite expensive comparing to other two packages.
You can find all providers in big shopping malls and buy start packs from them directly. Also, you can get them in R-kiosk and on gas stations. Same goes for cards to top-up your phone later on. All 3 offer you an option to top-up using online banking.
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