Vilnius, Lithuania Report of what it's like to live there - 09/17/20

Personal Experiences from Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania 09/17/20

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We are a DoD family; this was our first post and first overseas assignment. We arrived Dec. 2017 and will leave summer of 2021.

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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?

Traveled from DC to Vilnius via Frankfurt with 1 dog. Travel was easy, although remember to have your agency book your dog all the way through to your destination country!

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years and ten months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Posted at US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in a large home with large yard. The upkeep can be a burden as there really are no gardeners here - most Lithuanians care for their own yards and so the gardeners that we have been able to find were incredibly expensive (ex. 200 euro to trim lavender bushes and seed the lawn - not including supplies). Apartments are centrally-located and for the most part have decent storage, though not all.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries here tend to be more expensive with not a lot of western products. You can make do, but most embassy families supplement their grocery shopping with Walmart and Amazon food product orders.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Canned pinto beans, canned black beans, corn tortillas, vanilla, canned pumpkin (for holidays), brown sugar, white granulated sugar, baking soda, corn starch, and almond flour.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You really won't get tired of trying all the different restaurants here. The city's official tourism office has a great 50 best restaurants booklet that highlights some pretty awesome restaurants. Seriously, if you're a foodie, you've come to the right city! You can just eat your way through this town. Bonus: you can also order from home and get food delivered to your doorstep.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that we experienced or heard about.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through DPO mail and pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay 50 euro for our cleaner to come once a week for four hours.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Impuls membership costs 50 euro per month. This is the best gym money can buy, except if you do the ultra exclusive Forum, which costs several hundred euro a month.

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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?

Yes, yes, and yes.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are three churches of different denominations that offer English-language services.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can learn lithuanian at Vilnius University or Lingua Lituanica; both are great language schools. I took three semesters at Vilnius University and highly recommend their instruction. If you're at the embassy, there is a post language program and you can choose to learn Russian or Lithuanian

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably. Buses are not all adapted easily for wheelchairs and the sidewalks are cobblestone or uneven and bumpy and not kept up well.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, affordable and safe.

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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 Chrysler Pacifica and have no problems with parking, although spaces are occasionally tight.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. For embassy families, it is installed prior to your arrival. The speed of internet is the best anywhere!

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Recommend Telia. We pay 10 euro a line for unlimited calling and text and 8GB of data

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Pets:

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 required. Veterinarian care here is very cheap, although it does not always meet US standards. Still, you can find good English-speaking vets with good bedside manners and skills - and when you do, never let them go! Recommend Zverynas Veterinarijos Klinika or Toto Clinic.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

This is the one area that frustrated me most. Do not expect medical care here to meet Western standards or expectations in patient care. Their medical culture and system of practice here is different than the states. If you want to be reminded that you’re living in Eastern European country that was recently liberated from the Soviets a mere 30 years ago, then go seek out medical care here and you will quickly be reminded of this. That being said, we just relied heavily on the RMO to provide guidance and consultation. The Health Unit staff was always there to help the community with translations and would physically go to the hospitals to “hold our hand” through emergencies that required a higher level of medical care. On the other hand, I knew people with chronic health issues that lived here and frequently sought specialty medical care and they were satisfied. It’s just a matter of expectation and being adaptable and patient.

There are high rates of infection here in hospitals and also surgeries are not recommended (per DoS MED and Tricare).

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2. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seasonal allergies tend to flare up in the summer, even for people who have never had allergies before.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

AISV provides a fantastic academic program, but they are kinda weak on sports (though they do have CEESA swimming, soccer, volleyball, and basketball) and the upper school struggles with inclusion issues (Americans are the minority). Our high school son and daughter both struggled with this. For this reason, our son chose to attend boarding school in the States, through no fault of the administration, divisional leads, and teachers who have all been fantastic and supportive. It’s just the high school students that were difficult. That being said, if your student is okay with not having a strong peer network and only have one or two friends, they will probably do just fine. School has a great location and they are expanding their campus with plans in the work to begin construction on a brand new building a short distance from their current location.

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2. 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?

Preschools and daycare facilities are beginning to accept children younger and younger. Previously there were no childcare facilities for children under 2 years old, but that is all changing now. You can now begin to find daycare for children as young as 6 to 8 months old.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Do you have any other comments?

While the winters might take some adjusting (sun rises at 8:30am and sets by 4pm), I think you will find life in lithuania can be quite comfortable. We were thrilled to find that with a little effort, you can find some great hiking trails at various regional and national parks. There are also many green spaces and parks throughout the city and people love to be active and outdoors no matter the time of year. Life is rather easy here – there are grocery delivery services, meal delivery (like Uber Eats), and due to the pandemic virtually all local businesses now offer at-home delivery for anything you can think of (pharmacy, home goods, garden supplies, clothing, etc.). Western food products have begun creeping into the market more and more, although you will pay a pretty penny for them. Summers are mild and make the Baltics a lovely place to explore; Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland are all very easy to travel to and you come to love the feel of this region which is distinctly different than the rest of Europe.

Vilnius, as a capital city, is safe and the perfect size to navigate on foot. Public transportation is incredibly easy, reliable, and safe; both myself and my two daughters used it frequently for two years (until the pandemic hit) with no problems. Most families have a cleaner and pay approximately 50 euro for four hour block of cleaning time. While every country and post has its quirks, I would say Lithuania was an easy transition for us and set the bar very high for any follow on posts. We love our home here and are going to look back very fondly on our time in this beautiful country! I would definitely recommend Vilnius for someone looking for an easy post.

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