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Iron Curtain Bike Ride (June or July 2013)

The trip is on, yeah!!! - we will ride our bicycles from Tallinn to Riga to Nida and then take the train to Vilnius before flying home

This is a cross posted event.. We bagged doing Kaliningrad Russia this year, due to the visa headaches.


Our trip journal:

Riga Latvia or Tallinn Estonia to Szczecin, Poland - Daily mileage is listed after each town.

Riga-Gdansk or Tallinn - Gdansk
Airfare same - can take train part way to Parnu on the way to Riga to make mileage manageable


I still have to go over this in a bit more detail, the route is mostly
along the sea, traffic in some spots will suck in others it should be OK,
this is listed as an official bike route, I ran on sections of it in the 1990's and
if they widened the roads a bit it would be decent.

We could also start further north to start at the beggining but I doubt I can get enough time off, we could do the section through Germany on another year.

Visa for this trip - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland don't require a visa for US Citizens.

Russia is a whole different story, if we want to follow the coast we will
have to go through a section of Russia near Kaliningrad which will take about 2 days and
they don't give you a visa that is X days long, instead they give you an
entry visa which is enter no earlier than and an exit visa which is leave
no later than and if you are at the border crossing when it expires then
you will be held until your host gets a new visa for you which usually
takes about a week.
The steps for getting a Russian visa are:
1) Secure an invitation or make a hotel or travel agency reservation for the dates 
that you want to be in the country. 
you have to pay 
for every night of lodging in advance, even if you don't stay there.
2) Apply for a Visa by mail or in person before you leave the US. Figure about $100-$150
My thought is that we would want a visa that lets us enter 1 day earlier
than planned and leave one day later than planned, since none of us has
contacts in the Kaliningrad region of Russia to issue the invitation, we
will have to "buy one". Easiest way - pay a hotel for 4 nights of lodging
even if you only plan to stay one night, next easiest way - hire a guide
for 4 days and pay them in advance. I'm thinking have them meet us at the
border crossing and ride bikes with us until we leave the country, might
even rent the bike for Liz from them and have them meet us in Riga. We'd
have to pay them a daily fee plus hotel and meals and bike rent. I will
email a few bike shops there and see if anyone bites. Unforetunately the
English Language version of the Kaliiningrad cycling website went down
today, so we may have to just pay a travel agency or a hotel for the

FWIW - If you get in trouble in Russia, the Russian governemtn does not
recognize the right of the US embassy to provide assistance for visa related
things, stuff like a problem with your passport or your visa and you're on
your own, you have to wait for your "host" the travel agent to fix things.

Tallin - Parnu 81 miles - take train? (midpoint Marjamaa)ride 40 miles
from there to Parnu - if anyone is renting a bike in Riga they could just
take the train to Parnu and walk to the hotel and take the train to Riga the next day, keep in mind some train stations use Moscow time rather than local time.

Riding mileage and towns:

Marjamaa - Parnu - 40 miles
Parnu (Estonia) - Tuja (Latvia) 70 miles
Tuja - Riga 48 miles

Riga - Valgaciems 68 miles
Valgaciems - Ventspills - 82 miles - lower to 75 by riding across the
center - probably hilly or split it roughly in half by riding to Kolka
Ventspills (Latvia)  - Liepaja (Latvia) 75 miles
Liepaja (Latvia) - Palanga (Lithuania) 43 miles
Palanga - Nida - 55 miles
Nida (Lithuania) - Kaliningrad (Russia) - 55 miles
Russian Visa Required or ferry or train past
Kaliningrad - Mamonovo - 32 miles
Mamonovo(Russia) - Gdansk (Poland) - 82 miles

Sauls Tasks
Verify that train Talinn - Parnu still runs - did in the 1990's
Verify Visa requirements for Russian section and find out if we are
required to hire a governemnt official to escort us - had to in the 1990's
Get Vacation approved
Find out about bicycle rental for trip - Liz Palmer would have to meet us
in Riga since that is the most likely bike shop to rent her a bike and
pick it up from her in Gdansk.


Flights fly to RIX - Riga
Fly back from Gdansk about $1600

Lodging generally runs between $40 & 120 per room night along this route with only Riga and Kaliningrad pushing the 100+, so figuring an average of about $80 per night and 2-4 people per room for lodging. You'll need to waste some money in Kaliningrad to get the visa, figure wasting about $150 in addition to the $150 coat of the visa.

Food - figure about $15-25 per day per person.

Figure another $100 for weird fees such as museums, possible ferries or trains, etc.


Bicycles - either Bike Fridays, or Rentals - Rentals run about $10/day, I am still trying to arrange a price for pick up and delivery.

If you choose to ship your own bike from home, tell me and I'll bring the tools to re-assemble it - look at my Youtube video on packing a bike for shipping.

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  • fariba

    wow... what a trip. It was my first long distance biking trip, and it was a gret!

    July 7, 2013

  • Carri

    I'm sorry I thought you originally posted this for June/July 2014. I used up all my vacation for 2013.

    May 8, 2013

  • Saul_K

    I'm thinking that we can do a SKYPE call on Saturday at 8am Seattle time, that would be 4pm in Frankfurt, and 8am in Phoenix and Napa so that we can discuss the options as a group.

    My Skype is Saul.Kinderis, I should be able to set up a conference call.
    The other option is to go inland and their is a place to go around. I think that part of Russia will be pretty cool in a weird time warp kind of way, it's part of Russia but is not connected to the rest of the country.

    Some of our options -
    Get Visas and go through end the ride in Gdansk, Poland.
    Skip Kalingrad bus around (very few trains these days), end the ride in Gdansk by bus or get the bus to take us back to the coast and ride the last day.
    Skip Kalngrad end the ride in Palanga and fly home from there or from Vilnius. This makes the bike rental easier as they have a way to get the bikes back from Palanga or Klaipeda.

    May 7, 2013

  • Carolyn

    Saul this sounds like an amazing trip! I have to figure out how to fit it into my time off and budget. Can't think of better people to travel with. I need to go through all of the information that you've provided again. I definitely would love to do this with all of you. It's a guaranteed amazing experience with Saul as our tour guide!

    1 · May 6, 2013

  • Liz

    Dziękuję bardzo. Nie mogę się doczekać. What kind of accommodations? Activities other than biking? Have you done this trip before?

    May 3, 2013

    • Saul_K

      Liz, accommodations will be in hotels, we will book a few in advance and find the others at the end of each day.

      May 4, 2013

  • Saul_K

    I have also contacted a few bike rental places and will post their information once I have rates that include the return.

    May 3, 2013

  • Saul_K

    Carri, it would be great to have you on another ride, Liz , Dzień dobry (that's about 1/3 of my Polish ;-), right now it looks like 11 or 12 days would be what we need, based on my actually calculating daily mileage rather than looking at a map and guessing how many days. Our plan is to use Bike Fridays, I have 3 extra ones, since shipping aike tends to get pricy these days, although if someone wants to ship their own bike, I can assemble it. Another possibility would be to buy a cheap bike there and sell it or give it away at the end of the trip.

    May 3, 2013

  • Carri

    This sounds amazing-I am planning to bike around Hollarnd next year but if that doesn't turn out I would like to consider doing this-so please keep me dialed in and maybe I can persuade my daughter to do this rather than Holland

    May 3, 2013

  • Liz

    This sounds fantastic. It would get me to my homeland and make me brush up on my Polish. I have some questions. Road or Mountain bikes?
    Ship or rent bikes?
    Would it be 7 or 10 days?
    How much time to add for travel? I would prefer later rather than earlier in the June/July time frame - just a comment.
    Estimated costs? Any other info?


    May 3, 2013

  • Jessica B.

    oh man would love to do this trip

    May 2, 2013

    • Saul_K

      It will be a good one, we'll look forward to your company. I can speak 3 of the languages well enough that we won't need a translator this trip, we might have Jana ride with us anyway, which would give us bulletproof route and translation skills.

      May 2, 2013

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