Getting Around Lithuania: Buses, Railroads And More | True Lithuania
True Lithuania

Getting Around Lithuania: Buses, Railroads And More

Roads and driving conditions

Lithuanian roads are among the best in Eastern Europe. Lithuania has a network of four-lane highways connecting Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys and Palanga. Smaller towns are accessible by well-kept asphalt roads. Some villages can be reached only by gravel roads. All the roads are free to use for regular cars. Car rental is readily available in the airports.

Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipėda four-lane highway (A1) with a typical rest stop consisting of a single Lithuanian restaurant and a small motel. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Should you drive yourself and prefer to visit out-of-the-beaten-path locations, a good map is essential. By now, GPS (either "Google Maps" or "Open Street Map") covers even minor roads. Should you want a printed atlas, we suggest 1:200 000 "Lietuvos autokelių atlasas" published by Jana seta which also includes maps of some 50 cities and towns.

Car speed limits are 50 km/h (cities/settlements), 70 km/h (dirt/gravel roads) and 90 km/h (most tarred roads). On the four-lane highways, the speed limits are seasonal: 110 km/h winter and 120 km/h summer for some of them and 110 km/h winter, 130 km/h summer for the best ones. It is illegal to drive with an alcohol level over 0,4‰ (0,04%).

In winter (especially January-February), the icing makes it more difficult to stop and make turns. Those unused to such conditions should be careful. While some minor roads may temporarily become unusable after heavy snowstorms, Lithuania has a massive fleet of road-cleaning vehicles that quickly push the snow away. Moreover, the cars are required to use winter-certified tires (many Lithuanians switch summer and winter tires twice a year, while others opt for "universal" ones). In summer some roads are partly closed for repairs (due to works-friendly weather), slowing the traffic flow somewhat.

Fuel prices are on par with Western Europe (and more-or-less double the US prices due to a higher excise tax). Fuel stations are available nearly everywhere and are open 24/7, however, the recharging stations for electric cars are rare. Parking is generally much cheaper than in Western Europe and the USA. There are few dedicated paid parking facilities - instead, it is common and possible to either park in the streets or at supermarket parking lots. Most apartments and offices have their own parking areas although these are sometimes insufficient now.

Lithuanian road network scheme with distances in kilometers marked. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Intercity buses and railroads

The Lithuanian intercity public transportation is cheap but rather slow. The system is dominated by buses. Each Lithuanian city has a single bus station where most buses leave from. Some towns that are beside major roads have two bus stations: one in the downtown for buses terminating there and another on the road for the passing-by express buses.

Buses between the main cities are very frequent, with Vilnius-Kaunas buses leaving each terminal station every 15 minutes. Bus routes connecting the main cities to regional towns are usually at least several a day. If you go from one small town to another, it might be wise to connect through a larger city. You can buy bus tickets in advance at the bus station. However, it is also possible to acquire them from the bus driver; it is rare for them to be sold out. The bus stations are organized into quays based on the general directions, that way e.g. all buses going towards Vilnius will stop at "Vilniaus kryptis" quay but not every one of them will actually go all the way to Vilnius.

599 m long and 42,5 high railroad bridge towering over Dubysa valley in Lyduvėnai, Samogitia is the tallest in Lithuania. Commissioned in the rail era (1916), it is no longer served by local passenger trains. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian railroads are not on par with those in Western Europe and many other developed countries. Lithuania has no high-speed railways, with the fastest services going at speeds somewhat above 100 km/h. What's more important, before planning to go somewhere by rail, you should first check the map of Lithuanian railroads if both your origin and destination have a rail connection and whether there is a relatively straight route. Moreover, not every rail line has passenger traffic as the railroads lost the competition to buses since the 1990s. Even where the rail services exist, they are less frequent than bus counterparts.

Vilnius-Kaunas, Vilnius-Klaipėda, Šiauliai-Klaipėda, Šiauliai-Panevėžys, and Vilnius-Šiauliai are among the pairs of cities that can be traveled by railway. Additionally, three of the Lithuanian national parks have direct train access to Vilnius: Trakai NP, Aukštaitija NP and Dzūkija NP. The Vilnius-Kaunas route is operated by modern double-decker trains that are faster than buses. On all the other routes trains are lagging behind the buses somewhat. However, the passenger railways are subsidized by the state and the tickets are almost always cheaper. Moreover, the trains (unlike most buses) could carry bicycles (good for those national park routes). The comfort level in buses and trains is about the same. There are no significantly different rail classes, but Vilnius-Klaipėda train seats are better than those on the shorter routes.

Lithuanian passenger railway services scheme. The times necessary to get between the station pairs are marked. The times are approximate but fast and slow trains in Lithuania do not deviate that much from each other, so you shouldn't expect the real travel time to be more than 20% longer or shorter than specified here. The train routes are normally quite long (100-400 km) so you would not need to change trains if going in one direction. A few less-than-daily and suburban routes are not marked on the map. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Hitchhiking and long-distance bicycle travel

Hitchhiking is possible and practiced by Lithuania's youth, although waiting times can be unpredictable.

Bicycle paths are prevalent in the top cities, seaside, resorts, and national parks but may be extremely sporadic elsewhere. Rather-empty countryside roads and little altitude differences mean that even without special paths bike travel may be enjoyable.

Domestic flights and shipping

Although Lithuania has 3 passenger airports, there are no domestic flights. Good road connections and small country size ensure that it would almost always be quicker to go by car than by plane (if you take into account the times of going to and from the airport as well as those for passing the security).

The local shipping lines connect Curonian Spit to Klaipėda and Nemunas Delta. There is also a passenger service between Kaunas and Nida that serves as a kind of mini-river-cruise.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. Hope to show bus time table list between various cities.

  2. can we travel from Minsk, Belarus by train to Vilnius, Lithuania?. Do we need visa or just a passport to enter Belarus airport, stay in Belarus for 2 days and then travel by train to Vilnius. We are citizens of the USA. We will not be with a tour group. If you don’t know the anwer could you refer me to someone who does?? Thank you

    • US citizens are allowed to enter Belarus visa-free through Minsk airport, however, to my knowledge, they are not allowed to transit through Belarus this way – they should also leave from Minsk airport. So, unfortunately, this itinerary is not possible without a visa – you would need to get a Belarusian 2 day transit visa. Contact Belarusian embassy about this.

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  4. Where can I contact or find minibus taxis to travel from:
    1 Vilnius to Alytus to Akmeniai (close to the polish border)?
    2 Vilnius to Riga.

    Thanking you in advance.

    PS: Write me please to

    • Typically taxis are the easiest to arrange locally in Lithuania, in the city from which you want to depart. Taxi drivers are allowed to go intercity. Be prepared to haggle much for the price as many taxi drivers think foreigners should pay thrice or five times; you may need to ask several in a row. It may be easier to rent a car yourself, especially Vilnius to Riga.

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