The published crime rate increased dramatically in 1991-1994 after democratic freedoms were introduced. In a large part, this is due to the fact that crime was a taboo subject before 1991, as Soviet propaganda needed to show how safe and otherwise good it was. However, it is still a significant problem in Estonia. The murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants, as of 2000, was some 4-5 times higher than in Sweden and Finland, although still significantly lower than in its biggest neighbour, Russia.
Today, the official sources claim that the country has achieved a considerable reduction in crime in the recent years. According to Overseas Security Advisory Council crime rate in 2007 was quite comparable to the other European states including Scandinavia. Criminal activities are distributed unevenly across the territory with almost no crime in the island areas and a considerable rate of drug dealing in the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial area of North-East. In Tallinn, petty crime is a problem and there are some incidents involving tourists, mainly pickpocketing especially in the markets. Tallinn Old City and other main tourist attractions are closely watched by local police and private security companies.
Many Estonians drive carelessly, with about 80-110 people killed and 1300 people injured per year. Number of deaths in traffic related accidents per 100 000 people are similar to South-European countries like Portugal or Italy. Estonia has strict drink-driving laws with a policy of zero tolerance, but accidents involving intoxicated drivers are nevertheless a major problem. Estonian traffic laws requires headlight use at all times while driving and use of a seatbelts by all passengers is mandatory.
Recently, Estonia enforced a new law requiring pedestrians to wear small reflectors, which people generally pin to their coats or handbags. Although this law is rarely enforced in cities, reflectors are very important in rural areas where it may be difficult for motorists to see pedestrians, especially in winter months. Violators of this law may be subject to a fine of around €30-50, or a higher fine up to around €400-500 if the pedestrian is under the influence of alcohol. Reflectors are inexpensive and you should be able to find them at many supermarkets, kiosks, and other shops.
The Estonian police are very effective and they are not corrupt as opposed to neighboring Russia or Latvia.
The main advice to anyone worried about personal security is to stay reasonably sober despite tempting alcohol prices. When driving, make sure you have had absolutely no alcohol beforehand.
For police, dial 110; for other emergencies like fires and the like, call 112.
It has been mentioned that ordinary Estonians are unlikely to approach a complete stranger or a tourist on their own. If somebody suddenly turns to you in the street with questions or matters of small business keeping a cautious eye on your belongings would be wise.
Open homosexuality may be met with stares although the civil partnership act is to be adopted from 2016.
For an Estonian, it is considered "mauvais ton" not to criticize the Estonian healthcare system. Recent EU studies showed, however, that Estonia occupies a healthy 4th place in the block by the basic public health service indicators, on the same level as Sweden. In fact, around 1998-2000, the Estonian healthcare system was remodeled from the obsolete USSR model, directed to coping with disastrous consequences of large-scale war and made more up-to-date by the experts from Sweden. Estonia has harmonized its rules on travelers' health insurance with EU requirements.
For fast aid or rescue, dial 112.
Estonia has Europe's highest rate of adult HIV/AIDS infections, currently over 1.3% or 1 in 77 adults. Generally, the rate is much higher in Russian-speaking regions like Narva or Sillamäe. Don't make the situation worse by not protecting yourself and others.
Information about health care in Estonia is provided by the government agency Eesti Haigekassa.
Within Estonia, the postage cost for a letter up to 50 grams is €0,45.
To other EU countries, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine the cost is €1,00 and to the rest of the world €1,10.
Be sure to mark all air mail pieces with "Prioritaire/Par Avion" stickers available at the post office, or clearly print it on the mail if needed.
Stamps are sold at post offices usually open during normal shopping hours, and also at newsstands.
Post offices open on Saturday but for shorter hours than during the week, and are closed on Sundays.
The official language is Estonian which is linguistically very closely related to Finnish. At the same time many in urban areas especially younger people speak English very well. According to the Eurobarometer poll of 2005, 66% of Estonians can speak some Russian this does not include native-language speakers and 45% of Tallinn natives speak Russian as their native language. Thanks to heavy tourism and TV broadcasts from the other side of the gulf, Finnish is also spoken quite well by many people in Tallinn, the capital. German is taught at school in Estonia and a large number of people can speak some 22% according to Eurobarometer.
For local calls, dial the 7 or 8 digit number given. There is no "0" dialed before local numbers
For international calls from Estonia, dial "00" then the country code and number
For international calls to Estonia, dial "00" from most countries or consult your operator, the country code "372" and the 7 or 8 digit number
For emergencies, dial "112". For police only, dial "110"
In general, Estonians are reserved but efficient. Don't expect them to deliver too many social niceties or small talk, they only say what`s seasonable. Once the ice is broken, you will find them open and candid.
Estonians respect physical distance. The most common greeting is a handshake. Hugs are exchanged between family members and close friends.
Always deliver a simple apology even for being a few minutes late to an appointment. Punctuality is a norm and is much appreciated.
Do not raise your voice in a conversation. A decent silent conversation is the Estonian way of doing business.
If you are invited to an Estonian home, always remove your shoes. Bringing a small gift such as pastry, wine, or flowers to the host is appreciated.
Contemporary history and politics may become a sensitive subject because the country suffered greatly for the effects of WWII and its aftermath. However, Estonians are usually open to share the experience if asked.
Around a quarter of Estonia's population is Russian-speaking with high concentration in the capital, Tallinn, and in North-East of Estonia. Make sure that you understand whom you are addressing. A foreigner who initiates a conversation in Russian may be viewed as extremely rude by ethnic Estonians.
wireless, free internet
Access to wireless, free internet (http://www.wifi.ee/?p=are...) is widespread in Tallinn and Tartu.