Vilnius, Lithuania Report of what it's like to live there - 08/30/15
Personal Experiences from Vilnius, Lithuania
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Many throughout Europe as a student - first USG employee experience.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Spokane, WA - 12 hours or so, connections in Frankfurt, DC, Denver, then home.
3. How long have you lived here?
About 1.5 years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We have a two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse in the heart of Old Town with just a 15-minute walk to work. Some singles and couples without kids live closer to work, but father from Old Town (like a 5-minute walk to work), larger houses seem to be within a 10-15 minute drive. People seem happy with housing - nothing in Vilnius is very far from anything.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Pretty comparable, especially if you're willing to use local stuff.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get everything you need here or through the pouch.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a wonderful array of restaurants at very affordable prices. They are a bit lacking in authentic cuisines of the Asian persuasion, though, and I haven't found great burritos anywhere yet.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We have a lady who cleans our house for four hours once weekly - not cheap but not cost prohibitive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Plenty of gyms (from cheap to really spendy), great city for running (not so much in the winter), a little difficult to find places for serious lap swimming.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Easy, safe and readily available. Get a pin-and-chip card if you want to fit in.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Not sure, but people seem to find services or churches they like.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
In Vilnius almost everyone speaks English. If you travel to more remote areas, you'll need some basic Lithuanian or Russian (when dealing with the 30+ age crowd) to get by.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be difficult - lots of cobblestones, uneven streets, steps, and there are not many ramps.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are not not many train connections, but there is great bus service to Riga, Tallinn, etc. Taxis are good and generally safe, but call in advance or use etaksi. lt beats hailing a cab on the street at double the price.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
We have a Honda Civic and have been fine. Lots of people brought 4WD vehicles, but it's not necessary. We like having a small car - we get good gas mileage, and it is easy to squeeze through tiny streets and into mini parking spaces. You don't really even need a car in Vilnius - everything is within walking distance.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, at rates comparable to US prices.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Easy to get a phone with a monthly data plan here.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No quarantine, vet care is not bad, and there are many good places for pets to stay while owners play.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
No. Telework or embassy employment is the way to go.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business formal to casual - don't wear jeans and t-shirts in public if you want to fit in.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Vilnius is a very safe city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Routine medical care is fine. It is easy to get meds/necessities. But for serious issues, one must use medevac.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good - no complaints.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Perfect if you don't like to be hot - winter gets cold (sometimes very very very cold) and dark, but if you have the right gear, it's not big deal. Summers are delightful: lots of sunshine, long days, never too hot.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Go out for dinner/drinks, Marine House HH, BBQ in courtyards.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, yes, and yes. Everyone seems to find a niche here. There are plenty of places to go out to and plenty of stuff to do for other groups, too.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is not much diversity of any type in Lithuania, so being different from the "norm" might result in unwanted curiosity and attention - but probably not hostility.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling to a different country every month (and staying on budget!), gorgeous long summer days and nights, inexpensive but delicious dining options, cafe culture, living in the heart of Old Town, commute to work is a 15-minute walk, interesting history, running in parks and by the river, and so on.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Road trips, traveling around Eastern Europe, perusing craft fairs, and participating in races.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Amber, carvings, linen.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Easy living, beautiful small city, no throngs of tourists, great inexpensive travel throughout Europe.
9. Can you save money?
Sure, Vilnius is not an expensive city. It's also very easy to spend money on travel.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wouldn't have stressed so much about learning Lithuanian.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
ideas that Lithuania is some backwoods Soviet destination.
4. But don't forget your:
warm winter coat.