Accomodation and food in Lithuania: hotels, restaurants | True Lithuania
True Lithuania

Accommodation in Lithuania

Accommodation options are the most extensive in Lithuania’s main cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda). It may be wise to anchor your trip there as the selection is great indeed: from youth hostels with shared bathrooms to five-star chain hotels. Take note, however, that the stars are awarded to the hotels based on them having certain amenities and not on the quality of such amenities.

Under the Soviet occupation, such massive hotels were built in every city and large town to become some of the largest local buildings (Vilnius's main hotel used to be Lithuania's tallest high-rise building). Most are now refurbished in varying quality. The picture shows Hotel Šiauliai. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Resort towns are another good option to stay at. There are the most hotels in Palanga, followed by Neringa and Druskininkai. Some of the hotels in the seaside resorts close in winter, but many remain open. In the summer, they are joined by hordes of local people renting out their apartments or rooms. In Palanga or Šventoji such people line up the roads leading to the towns and are also present at the bus stations, although this is increasingly replaced by Airbnb. Moreover, the resort towns have a growing array of spa hotels that offer various supposedly healthy procedures, saunas, and pools, and are typically open year-round.

There are hotels in many smaller non-resort towns as well, but there you might be limited to a single option or a choice of two places for spending the night. Motels are available on the major roads, such as Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipėda or Panevėžys-Šiauliai-Palanga. These motels, however, are often more like mom-and-pop affairs than a franchised standardized motel you would find in America.

A motel at A1 highway. Lithuanian highway rest stops typically include just a single small cafe-motel like this. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Another option is the so-called countryside tourism sites. These range from basic farmstead accommodations to elaborate hotels built in the countryside rather than cities or towns. The possible activities there may include horseback riding, a traditional sauna, and so on (but check in advance what is available). Lithuanians like to hire such farmsteads for celebrating various events.

B&B (Bed and Breakfast) is a term that even lacks Lithuanian translation, although you may find similar deals going by other names (usually "hotel", "villa" or something like that). Hostels are limited to the main cities.

Campgrounds are scarce by European standards so it is better to check in advance the locality you plan to stop at if you need one.

Accommodation in Lithuania is less expensive than in northern Europe but more expensive than in many eastern countries. VAT adds to this.

Kempinski hotel near Vilnius Cathedral square. After the post-independence tourist surge many derelict city center buildings have been converted into hotels, some of them belonging to worldwide chains. This particular building used to house telegraphs was discontinued in the 2000s. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Hospitality Club, Couch Surfing and similar institutions of exchanging free stays with locals are popular among Lithuanians. Air BnB takes off as well, although its offers are often not any better than those at hotels.

Except for the resorts, apartment rental is generally more useful for longer periods (i.e. months). Downtown rental tends to be 25%-40% more expensive than the Soviet districts rent and Vilnius rent is 25%-40% more expensive than Kaunas or Klaipėda rent. Free apartments may be hard to come by in the largest cities in August-October (when the university students move in). Lithuanian law is generally favorable to the tenants (e.g. allowing to cancel the deal easily), but you may find it hard to defend your rights if you won't sign a written contract (which some landlords avoid for tax reasons or to ensure easier eviction).

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Accomodation and Food, Advice No Comments

Restaurants in Lithuania

Many non-chain restaurants in Lithuania serve the Lithuanian cuisine "augmented" by some international fares.

Every city and many towns have these traditional restaurants. They are also pretty much the only option for a roadside meal (save for buying up at gas stations). City center restaurants are generally more expensive and have outdoor seating in summer. Further from the center, the prices are lower but the restaurants are scarcer. In smaller towns, there are fewer options so on weekends, all the local restaurants might be booked up for weddings.

In theory, valgykla is self-service, kavinė is either a cafeteria or a casual restaurant, restoranas is a more prestigious affair while baras is a drink-oriented edifice (but meals are also often available). In practice, the words are often used interchangeably, while "valgykla" has fallen out of use altogether.

Lithuanians eat their main dish in mid-day and some also have an evening out, leading to the common restaurant opening times at ~11:00 and closing times at ~22:00. There are few eating out possibilities after 23:00 and even fewer before 10:00 (as Lithuanians have their breakfast and morning tea/coffee at home). While some downtown restaurants may stay open well after midnight, most of them will have their kitchens closed - that means, you could only order drinks late in the evening.

A restaurant at a modern office tower empty 'between the meals' ~17:30. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Fast food in Lithuania (pizzas and burgers)

If you prefer international fast food to culinary adventures, you may use McDonald's and its Finnish competitor Hesburger. There are a few Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino's, Burger King, and Subway parlors. In general, the worldwide chain presence is low-key in Lithuania, although "McDonald's" has expanded lately.

Certain local chains have been more successful. Pizzerias are extremely popular with 4 large local chains (Čili Pica, CanCan Pizza, Pizza Express, and Charlie Pizza) and many smaller ones that usually concentrate either on cheaper and less tasty pizzas or on more-expensive-than-mainstream options. You can order food home (or to a hotel) from each of them. The main pizzeria chains serve other meals besides pizzas but usually, pizzas are what they excel at the most. In some of the pizzerias, you may also get Italian pasta, but this is not always the case.

Even though Lithuanians love shopping malls, food courts are rare. There are various types of restaurants in the shopping malls, ranging from fast food to fine dining, and nearly all of them have their own halls and tables.

Most locally-owned restaurants (even the fast food ones) tend to offer a rather long menu with many meals, often even combining multiple cuisines.

International cuisines in Lithuania

Chinese cuisine is very popular in Lithuania with numerous non-chain restaurants in every city and some towns. While most Chinese restaurants are owned by ethnic Chinese, the waiters are usually Lithuanians (unlike in the West, where they are also Chinese). Unlike in Chinese restaurants elsewhere, rice is typically not included in the price. Non-spicy Cantonese-style meals tend to predominate, although you can get toned-down variations of Sichuan cuisine as well.

Kebab parlors are even more popular and while this type of food was brought in by Turkish immigrants, now this business is developed by Lithuanians as well (almost every town now has a kebab stall). Usually bought at kiosks, the kebabs are meant to be eaten quickly.

The kebabs continue a tradition of great acceptance of Turkic fast foods into the mainstream Lithuanian society that started with the Tatar and Karaim cuisines (these two communities immigrated into Lithuania back in the 14th century). Tatar and Karaim pasties with meat inside (kibins and čeburekai) have long been the sole fast food in Lithuania and may even be considered a part of the Lithuanian cuisine.

A Karaim kibin truck. Often, kibins and čeburekai are sold from non-permanent locations. They are even carried to the beaches by walking salesmen. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Caucasian cuisine (Georgian, Armenian, Azeri) was among the first foreign cuisines to establish themselves in Lithuania as both Lithuania and the Caucasus were ruled by the Soviet Union until 1990. Now available in all the cities and some towns, Caucasian restaurants are often oriented towards an evening out.

The other international cuisines are less common, although you may find sushi parlors and Indian restaurants in the major cities. Lebanese, Morrocan, or other Arabic restaurants are hard to come by.

A new trend is the multi-cuisine restaurants, often owned by large-scale Lithuanian chains. Such chains include "Soya" and "Manami" (both combine the main East and Southeast Asian cuisines). "Le Crepe" serves a massive array of pancakes (with some pizzas).

Foreign restaurants in Lithuania. Top: kebab stall and a Chinese restaurant (marked by iconic red lanterns). Bottom line: Caucasian and Indian restaurants. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Vegetarian, vegan, halal, and kosher restaurants

If you are a vegetarian you won't encounter problems in Lithuania. Bread and potatoes are widely used in national cuisine with certain dishes, such as Potato pancakes, lacking any meat. Moreover, vegetarianism became somewhat popular in Lithuania in the 2000s, initially together with certain Asian religious practices and later together with the import of contemporary Western ethics. In the main cities, there are specialized vegetarian and vegan restaurants as well. A new main-city fad is the raw (uncooked) food.

Given the small size of the local Muslim and Jewish communities, dedicated halal and kosher restaurants are very hard to come by and are limited to Vilnius and Kaunas.

Fine dining in Lithuania

Before the 2010s, uber-expensive dining opportunities in Lithuania were generally limited to the restaurants of expensive hotels, aimed at rich foreign visitors. However, in the 2010s, luxe dining really took off in Lithuania with many expensive restaurants opened in the main cities.

Typically, each such restaurant is associated with a recently-well-publicized name of a famous Lithuanian chef. The cuisine is often international (Western). The "regular" Lithuanian cuisine is nearly entirely skipped, only the fact that the ingredients are local may be accentuated. The customers of such restaurants are hailing from the increasing group of Lithuanians who receive large wages (e.g. the IT specialists working in foreign companies). Eating there is often at least as much about prestige as it is about the meal.

The price for a similar meal in a fine dining place maybe 10 times larger than that in a "common" restaurant. Many meals in such expensive restaurants may seem not worth the price for the "uninitiated".

Practical issues with Lithuanian restaurants

Chain restaurants are more common in major cities although some of them, such as Charlie or Hesburger, are available in some minor towns as well. They are most easily found at or near shopping malls although some are in city centers. While most chain restaurants serve foreign cuisine, some (such as "Forto dvaras" and "Katpėdėlė") specialize in Lithuanian cuisine.

The restaurant prices are lower in Lithuania than in Western Europe (for comparable offers). Alcoholic drinks, however, may be more expensive than in some Southern European countries due to higher taxes on alcohol.

Tipping is a foreign tradition. However, it has been introduced by the first Lithuanians who traveled to the West in the 1990s and now is very common in cities and resorts (but rare in smaller towns). There is no customary rate: some will leave 10%, others believe 20 euro cents is always enough.

Outdoor cafes in Vilnius in summer. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

If you eat together with locals it will be best if everyone pays for his own meals/drinks (ask for separate bills before ordering food). However, if the other party provided you with free services (e.g. drove you around) it is polite to pay for their meals/drinks. The locals may offer to cover your bill as hosts, but you should decline once or twice. Local men may offer to pay for visiting women's meals/drinks but accepting may make them believe this was a date.

Smoking is not allowed inside the restaurants.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Accomodation and Food, Advice No Comments

Money and Bank Cards in Lithuania

Lithuania uses Euro (Lithuanian: Euras (singular), Eurai (plural)), symbol €, as its currency. Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents (eurocents, eurocentai). There are banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 Eurocents and 1, 2 Euro. Euro is used in many European countries and the banknotes are similar everywhere, lacking any Lithuanian details. Locally-minted coins have Lithuanian coat of arms (Vytis) on them, but the coins with details of other European countries also circulate within Lithuania. There are commemorative 2 Euro coins issued every year by Lithuania and the other countries that use the Euro.

The original Lithuanian currency Litas (plural forms: Litai, Litų), abbreviation Lt, is no longer accepted since 2015 but may be exchanged or added to the collection. It was subdivided into 100 Centas (Centai, Centų). Banknotes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Litas existed, with 100 being the most common and 500 the rarest. 1, 2 and 5 Litas banknotes had been replaced by coins in 2000s meaning that they are also scarce. Additionally, there were coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 contain. There were many special editions of 1 Litas coins commemorating various historical events.

Other currencies are not used but are possible to exchange at many banks. Bank wards in the major shopping malls are open longer and do not close on Sundays. It is easy to exchange US Dollars and British Pounds. Currencies of neighboring countries (Polish Zloty, Russian, and Belarussian Roubles) are also exchanged. As for the rarer currencies, they often may be only exchanged at some particular currency exchange offices, and they command a bad rate.

Credit/debit cards are widely but not universally accepted in Lithuania. They are less popular in smaller towns and are never used in traditional marketplaces. Chain stores and restaurants are more likely to accept cards than independent alternatives. There are a few businesses operating on a card-only basis. ATM machines are readily available, especially near main supermarkets. Visa and Master Card are the most common cards; acceptance of American Express is more limited.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Accomodation and Food, Shopping No Comments