Driving in the Former Soviet Union – The Baltics

This is part four of a tale about driving from the UK to Estonia. If you missed parts one, two and three, and want to start from the beginning, it can be found by clicking this link: Road Trip From the UK to Estonia.

Day three: Into Lithuania. 

We leave Poland very early, as this is to be a fourteen hour day from Poland, through Lithuania, Latvia and into Estonia.

By late morning, we are at the Lithuanian border, the entry point to the FSU.

Lithuanian border

It looks like a bomb has hit it doesn’t it? It hasn’t really been used since they joined the Schengen zone. There are just a few cops dossing about. Had this have been in the US, they would have been eating doughnuts.  :chuckle:

So as we progress through Lithuania, this is where I expect to get hit up by the cops. A right hand drive vehicle with British plates seems too good for them to be able to resist. Sure enough, like fishing with tasty bait, it doesn’t take long.

Yes, as with any of my driving tales, we get stopped by the Rozzers.

Lithuanian Police

We established we were speaking English.

He asked me the gross weight of the van. I told him it was 3500 kilos.

He asked me where my Vignette was. A term with which I was unfamiliar.

He went on to explain that all goods vehicles over 3500 kilos had to buy a Vignette at the border. A road tax. A fee for the pleasure of driving through Lithuania.

I thought he was yanking my tail hoping for a bribe. I said to him, “Not really mate, we are in the EU, I have UK road tax valid throughout the EU.”

We argued a little, and he said, “Wait, I will get you a leaflet from my car – in English“.

And dammit, he was right!  :coffeeread:

The cop and I are stood by the van. I accepted that he was correct, and waited for his next move.

He said he would need to write me a ticket.

I said that’s fine. [Waiting for the money request]

He goes into the well worn routine about how it takes 20 minutes to write and how I should go trailing to a bank in Vilnius to pay………..

I said that’s fine. [This is the point I might normally bung him and we both get along with our day – but not today – coz I intend to pay £0]

There is a pause. He is figuring out how to turn this into a bribe.

He asked me how long I was going to be in the country. I said I’ll be out of the country within hours.

He asked me when I was coming back. I said a few days. Again, just passing through.

He asked me if I had been stopped by the police in Lithuania before. “Many times” I replied.

There is another long pause. [He can see he is nowhere nearer getting a bung, that I don’t care about getting a ticket, and I can see he clearly cant be bothered writing one out because we both know it wont get paid].

At the point the silence became uncomfortable, he perused my documents – that he was still holding – again, handed them back, and said, “When you come back, you stop at the border, and buy a Vignette”. With this, he walked off, got back in his car and drove off.

Game set and match! No bribe today Rozzer!

The remainder of the day took us into Latvia……….

Driving in Latvia

And then it is a very looooooooong straight run up the Baltic coast road.

Baltic roads

As usual, we got into Tallinn late in the evening.

It took me two days to do what I had to do there, so now its time to turn round and head for home.

 

Click here to go to the next part of this story

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