The Budget Travel Guides series helps you save money and connect with places on your travels around the world. In this Vilnius travel guide, local Ele Pranaityte shares her best travel tips for Lithuania’s capital.
It seems that only yesterday Vilnius was a budget tourist hideout. In reality the prices have grown up here to match any major European city. With expenses on the rise, this Vilnius travel guide will help people save money on their visit.
While people’s budgets may vary, this guide will help travelers explore Vilnius as cheap as possible. While touristy places may have a 15% surcharge on things, prices for an item can vary throughout the city.
With this Vilnius travel guide, here are some tips to save money and help people connect with the city.
A Vilnius travel guide for budget travelers
While Vilnius isn’t an expensive city by most European standards, prices can vary and many deals you find in other cities may not be a bargain in Vilnius. For getting around, eating, and exploring, this Vilnius travel guide offers tips from a local to help you save and explore the city.
Lithuania is called “the land of rain” but it is also the land of reforms. Currently, major efforts are being made to transform the public transportation system. The introduction of an e-ticket is generally a positive thing, However the majority of the population is convinced that public transportation prices are too high.
What does that mean for a tourist?
WALK. The Old Town of Vilnius is walkable. If you are staying near the city center, your feet may be the only transportation you need.
CYCLE. Bicycle lanes are not great as many end in the middle of the pavement. Sometimes you have to be creative when you need to leave it but they are a fast green way to move around the city (Bicycle top – watch out for local cyclists as they can be a rough crowd). For more information on renting a bike check out Velo Vilnius.
TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT. Your first e-ticket card is 4 LT and it’s non-refundable. Use it as a pre-paid card and buy your ticket as you go or you top it up with a ticket of your choice.
If counting travel duration, for which you are charged, is not for you, I suggest you buy a one-day ticket for 13 LT. Otherwise, a 30 min ticket is 2,50 LT, a 1 hour ticket is 3,50 LT, valid on both buses and trolleybuses and you can change them during the validity period.
Couchsurfing and hostels are the two cheapest lodging options in the city. A couchsurfing experience suits budget travelers but if you are considering bringing a gift for your host/hostess, it might cost as much as a hostel night (unless your gift is on a budget, too).
However, after reading this article (did they really say “CouchSurfing has the ugliest girls of any country.”?) I must advise you to stick with hostels as your cheapest accommodation means because Couchsurfing might simply not be safe. Check Hostelworld to find a list of Vilnius hostels.
There are also a number of hotels and other accommodation options for people who want to spend a little more on accommodations in Vilnius.
Vilnius offers both traditional Lithuanian food and international food. Being economy-wise, things cannot get cheapper than a daily offer for lunch in a Chinese restaurant. Choose soup and the main meal, which includes meat, rice and salad. This will set you back only about 15 LT, unless you add a drink.
Chains like Chili Pica also have lunch deals that are reasonably priced. In general, the most expensive thing when eating out is drink- you end up paying 4 LT for a glass of juice, when the whole carton, containing like 8 glasses, costs about 5-6 LT. If paying for drinks with meals is against your personality in general, here are dining options which offer tap water with meals.
Tap water in Vilnius is one of the best in Europe. I don’t recommend being ultra economical and buying street food because locals like it greasy and your stomach will probably not. Most places can also serve you half a portion if you ask. Alternatively, carry your own little bottle for water and refill it. This may save you money and reduce the use of plastic.
Most activities in Vilnius will cost money so make sure this is a part of your budget. However, don’t buy a Vilnius City Card. Such cards typically help people save, but this one is an exception.
A 24 hour card with public transport costs 58 LT. Considering museums charge 6-10 LT for an adult ticket, you would need to visit 9 museums to visit in 24 hours to make it pay off. Meanwhile, Contemporary Art Centre has free admission every Wednesday. During winter season, join a free Vilnius tour.
Instead of buying an expensive ticket for a city sightseeing tour bus, take one of the two Old Town buses that go in circles and pass all the major tourist sites. No audio commentary, but you save a lot considering they run on a public transport fee. You can get more info at Old Town Bus Routes.
Connect with locals
When visiting Vilnius, make friends with the locals and enjoy a meal together. Buy food in a supermarket, cook together, and then spend time communicating. To help you meet some locals, check out the travel tips for making new friends.
In summer, there are a number of Bubble the City events where many people come together. Couchsurfing can serve as a means to find locals just for a chat or a drink, which is safe enough.
Most locals enjoy showing foreigners around Vilnius, so if you ask to be taken on a tour, you most likely will be. In Your Pocket tourist guides have free downloadable PDF for Lithuanian cities. The one for Vilnius has a useful phrasebook page for basic Lithuanian.
Lithuania is an interesting and unique look at the people and culture which have a long history which goes back years before the Communist era days. Hopefully, this Vilnius travel guide will help you find ways to connect with the people and culture and help you save money while enjoying the charm and beauty of Lithuania’s capital.
If you love Vilnius, check out this budget travel guide to Romania. The Budget Travel Guides series covers destinations all over the world so find travel tips and ways to connect with your destination for your next trip.