Dates: from 19/08/2011 to 29/08/2011
Flight Details: London Stansted – Vilnius International (VNO) direct with Ryanair. Flight time 2h05 min outbound and 2h40 min inbound. Price was £183 bought some 2 months in advance in the Ryanair web including one piece of luggage. Plane was a Boeing 737-800.
Visa: Lithuania belongs to the UE, so no visa needed for EU passports.
Currency: Litas. Lithuania does not use the Euro (as yet). In 2002 the exchange was fixed at 1€ = 3,4528 Litas. Introduction of the Euro is planned but it has been delayed several times due to Lithuania not complying with some of the convergence conditions, specially inflation.
Itinerary: Vilnius, Dzūkija National Park, Druskininkai, Grūtas Park, Klaipeda, Curonian Spit, Palanga, Rambyno Natural Reserve, Kaunas, Trakai, Kernave, Moletai Observatory, Aukštaitija National Park, Ignalina.
Rental car and driving in Lithuania: we rented a car for the whole lenght of the trip but 2 days (the first ones at Vilnius) with a company called Economy Car Rentals (www.economycarrentals.com). I had already used them in Turkey and Montenegro and everything went fine so I decided to rent with them again.
The price was much cheaper than classic companies and included (free) full insurance with no excess, one extra driver and the possibility to cross to other countries (if they belong to the EU). We picked the car up at Vilnius Train Station and dropped it at the airport. In both cases a person from the company was there on time with my name and everything went smoothly.
The car was a bit run down VW Polo. You could tell mostly in the steering, a bit unstable and in the soft suspension. The tyres were also a bit worn out but still acceptable. All in all the car was slightly above ok.
The third day a yellow light related to fuel injection problems appeared in the panel and the engine started to behave a bit funny, losing power on and off and using more fuel than expected. We called the rental company and they mentioned it was an electrical problem with the sensor itself but not a mechanic problem. The car recovered that same day (although still with the yellow light on) and we let it go.
A couple of days later another yellow light appeared in the panel with the letters “EPC” and the car almost stopped working, we were lucky enough to be in a city at the time. We called again the rental company and their first reaction was a bit poor, not knowing exactly what to do. After calling again and insisting they agreed to send someone to look at the car and they took it away in the evening. They gave it back to us early in the morning saying that it was repaired and that the problem was a cylinder. A few hours later while on the road the yellow light went on again and the engine had problems once again.
We called the company again and this time their reaction was good: they exchanged our car in the next city we stopped for a better one (Renault Megane) in very good condition for the last 3 days.
In general I found Lithuania a country very easy to drive around. Most roads were in very good shape, even secondary ones or the roads crossing more rural areas. The highways (Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipeda) were in neat condition. Lithuanians were not too aggressive or careless and we felt safe all the time. We did not find traffic jams or very crowded roads, not even in or around the main cities…maybe it was because of the summer time.
When driving along road 141 the police stopped us. They said we were driving at 62 Km/h when the limit was 50. We took our documentation to the police car and while the agent was filling the paperwork Fran started telling him all our problems with the car and how we had to reach Kaunas before the car could break down. Fran did this a few times, a bit more dramatic each time. After 10 minutes like this the agent let us go with no fine (it was around 30€).