True Lithuania

Accommodation in Lithuania

You will find the most options for accommodation in the Lithuania’s main cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda). It may be wise to anchor your trip there as the selection is great: from youth hostels with shared bathrooms to five-star chain hotels. Take note that 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 functionalist hotels were built in every city and large town to become some of the largest local buildings (Lithuania's tallest building used to be a Soviet hotel in Vilnius). Most are now refurbished in varying quality. The picture shows Hotel Šiauliai. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Another good option for staying are the resort towns. 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 summer they are joined by hordes of local people renting out their apartments or rooms. In Palanga or Šventoji such people line up near entrances to the towns and also at the bus stations.

Resort towns also have a growing array of spa hotels that offer various supposedly healthy procedures, saunas, and pools, and are typically open year-round.

That said, 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.

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 ranges from basic farmstead accommodation to elaborate hotels built in the countryside rather than cities or towns. The possibilities there may include horseback riding, a traditional sauna and so on (but check this in advance). It is popular among Lithuanians to hire such farmsteads for celebrating various events.

B&B (Bend 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 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.

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

Kempinski hotel near Vilnius Cathedral square. After 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 telegraph, discontinued in the 2000s. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Hospitality Club, Couch Surfing and similar institutions of exchanging free stays with locals are popular among Lithuanians.

Except for the resorts apartment rental is generally useful only 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.

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Restaurants in Lithuania

Most non-chain restaurants in Lithuania serve Lithuanian cuisine.

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 harder to locate. In smaller towns, there are fewer options so in weekends all the local restaurants might be booked up for weddings.

Another cheap Lithuanian cuisine option in cities is to use canteens available at factories and other large non-downtown businesses. Most of them welcome outsiders, although opening hours are limited (~10:00-17:00 weekdays only); look for words "kavinė" and "valgykla" written on windows of uninspiring Soviet buildings.

An authentic canteen at a former Soviet factory. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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).

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).

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 and KFC parlors. In general, the worldwide chain presence is low-key in Lithuania with none having more than 10 outlets (with the exception of Hesburger, but Hesburger is regional rather than a worldwide chain).

Certain local chains have been more successful. Pizzerias are extremely popular with at least 8 large local chains (Čili Pica, Pizza Jazz, CanCan Pizza, Mambo Pizza, Submarine Pizza, Pizza Express, Fokus Pica and Charlie Pizza) and many smaller ones that usually concentrate on cheaper and less tasty pizzas. You can order food home (or to hotel) from each of them. The main chains serve other food besides pizzas but usually, this is less tasty. Čili is the most popular; queues for a table are not uncommon there despite it being more expensive than many competitors. 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 (fast food chains commonly have their own tables). Most restaurants (even fast food ones) tend to offer a rather long menu.

International cuisines in Lithuania

Chinese cuisine is very popular in Lithuania with numerous non-chain restaurants in every city and some towns. While most restaurants are owned by ethnic Chinese the waiters are usually Lithuanians (unlike in the West where they are also Chinese).

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 (even the small towns now have kebab stalls). Usually bought at kiosks kebabs are meant to be eaten quickly.

This continues the tradition of great acceptance of Turkic fast foods into the mainstream society which began by the Tatar and Karaim cuisines. Their 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.

Caucasian cuisine (Georgian, Armenian, Azeri) was among the first foreign cuisines to establish itself 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 the Caucassian restaurants are more oriented towards an evening out.

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.

Vegetarian, vegan, halal and kosher meals

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

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

Luxe dining in Lithuania

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

Typically, such restaurants are associated with the recently-well-publicized names of famous Lithuanian chefs. The cuisine is often international (Western) with the common Lithuanian cuisine nearly entirely skipped. The customers of such restaurants are hailing from the increasing group of Lithuanians that receive large wages (e.g. the IT specialists). Eating there is often at least as much about the prestige as it is about the meal.

The price for a similar meal may be 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

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

There are some expensive fine dining restaurants in Lithuania mainly located at major city downtowns (especially Vilnius) and resorts.

The restaurant prices are significantly lower than in the Western Europe (for comparable offers). Drinks are cheaper by an order of magnitude. This includes drinks in shops, not only at restaurants.

Tipping has been introduced by first Lithuanian travelers 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.

If you eat together with locals it will be the best if everyone pays for his own meals/drinks (ask for separate bills before ordering food). However, if the other party provided you 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 restaurants.

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Money and Bank Cards in Lithuania

Since 2015 Lithuania adopted Euro (Lithuanian: Euras (singular), Eurai (plural)), symbol €. It is divided into 100 Eurocents (eurocentas, 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. Some coins have Lithuanian coat of arms (Vytis) on them, but the coins with details of other European countries also circulate within Lithuania.

The original Lithuanian currency Litas (plural forms: Litai, Litų), abbreviation Lt, is no longer accepted 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 centai. There were many special editions for 1 Litas coins commemorating various historical events.

Other currencies are not used but are possible to exchange at every bank (there are few other currency exchange offices). 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.

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. 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.

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