Want to know how much money you need to live in Estonia? Short answer: you need 20,000€ – 25,000€ p.a. Well, kind of. It depends. “How long is a piece of string?“.
How much money (“raha”) you need depends on your lifestyle, where you live and whether or not you have a serious caffeine addiction among other things. No surprises right?
This is a long post, here’s a few subheadings you can scroll to if you don’t want to read the entire thing:
- 20,000€ – 25,000€?
- My Situation
- How I Spent Money in Estonia
- Travel Expenses: 6,000€
- Food & Drink: 4,628€
- Škoda Fabia: 3,200€
- Top 5 Most Expensive Single Transactions
- Money Saving Resources
- General Property Expenses
20,000€ – 25,000€?
I spent around 25,000€ on a sabbatical in Estonia last year. What was my situation and lifestyle? Read on to see how it relates to your plans for Estonia or Europe.
I’m a self funded millennial from Australia with typical millennial spending habits: cafés, avocado on toast, plant based restaurants, bars and weekend trips around Europe and within Estonia. I don’t spend a lot of money on “stuff” but I do enjoy spending money on experiences. This is actually pretty typical for a lot of millennials.
Having purchased property in Estonia (years ago) my day-to-day expenses were pretty minimal.
I’ve got no loans, debts, mortgages nor financial obligations back in Australia. We had a newborn at the end of the sabbatical so no big changes (yet) – financially. I didn’t “really” work last year but did receive some passive income.
Lastly, the European Sabbatical was intended to be a temporary experience. Obviously if you’re planning on living a “normal life” somewhere in Europe, your expenses might look a little different.
Pst! I’ll share more about passive income in Europe later in another post.
How I Spent Money in Estonia
From the chart below you can easily gather the top 3 expenses:
- Travel: 25.40% ~ 6,000€.
- Food & Drink: 19.18% ~ 4,628€.
- Transport: 19.04% ~ 4,595€.
Yep. I spent a lot of time and money travelling around. Loved every minute of it. Given the nature of travel I’d say there’s even a bit of over-lap across these categories too. This means, I may have spent money on fuel to get to a travel destination and while travelling I definitely enjoyed food or some kind of beverage… So it’s all in the mix.
But here’s something to keep in mind:
If you intend to work in Estonia or simply reside in 1 town/city for most of your time, your expenses would be drastically less across my top 3 categories. As travel, food & drink and transport are so closely related – staying put will drastically reduce your overall expenses. But that might not be a lot of fun…
Travel Expenses: 6,000€
My travel costs included tickets, purchases and hotel stays.
What’s surprising is that the cheapest country (for me) is one of the most expensive countries in Europe – Sweden. Thanks to couchsurfing I didn’t have to pay for accommodation! I took by bicycle so travel was mostly free too. Accommodation and transport expenses can really add up. Keep that in mind if you see a cheap 30€ flight to somewhere around Europe.
Cyprus was pretty expensive because of my hotel choices and that I decided to rent a car in Cyprus. I would definitely do again and I’m so glad I took the additional insurance. I didn’t have to pay for the minor damage the car took thanks to a drunk driver…
Tip: Accommodation prices in Estonia are very volatile. Obviously peak season is summer time (July). However, other triggers which send prices through the roof include public holidays in neighbouring countries and sporting events. Finland’s national holiday and Russia’s Christmas both bring hoards of tourists to Estonia who are ready to pay top price for anything.
Here’s an example of a sporting price spike: a night in Rotermanni Kvartal can cost around 60€ in off season. A night in Rakvere (Spa Hotel) during Ööjooks can cost 42€-350€.
Food & Drink: 4,628€
This category is reflects those typical millennial spending habits I mentioned earlier. A lot of money was spent eating out or ordering in as opposed to cooking at home. This of course doesn’t necessarily mean I most ate ate out – but rather, in my view, groceries are pretty cheap in Estonia. What I’m saying is a meal at a restaurant is equal to the price of a decent bag of groceries in Estonia.
The chart above shows on average what I spent at 3 of the main supermarkets per visit. A handful of Supermarkets service Estonia. The biggest 2 are Rimi and Selver.
Remember how I said “a meal at a restaurant is equal to the price of a decent bag of groceries in Estonia.“? – well consider this. Per visit – I’d spend, on average, 12.03€ at the most expensive supermarket (Rimi). However, my average spend at the local woodfire pizza restaurant (Amrita) was 25€. I’m assuming I got more than 1 meal out of a bunch of groceries for 12.03€.
Here’s what I spent on usual visits to restaurants, cafes and pubs:
Coffee is actually pretty expensive in Estonia compared to Australia. At my two local cafés – I’d spend 5€ on coffee. It’s usually just the one coffee. That’s about $8.06 AUD – thanks to our shitty exchange rate.
It’s even worse if you bought your currency at some old school post office or a bank! Luckily you can save on exchange rates by signing up to TransferWise – click on the euro symbol below to get started.
Transport was my 3rd largest expense category (19.04%). Over the year I spent around 4,595€. However, 3,200€ included a car itself which I still own.
|Public Transport||Bolt Taxi||Car, Service & Tax||Fuel|
|Train/Tram 248€||38€||3,200€ (Škoda)||559.81€|
|HSL Finland 16€||398€ (Service)|
|Stockholm 54€||104€ (Tax & Fine)|
Tip:  Use my Bolt discount code to save on Bolt Taxi charges.  Purchase Estonian tickets online via ELRON.ee to save ~ 2€ per ticket.  I received a 53€ parking fine in Rīga. I parked the car illegally while I unloaded my luggage into an airbnb. The fine was issued in minutes. Don’t do that.
Some context around the Transport Costs:
|Fuel||7,800: 1.3€ per litre. Consumption 5.5 litres per 100Ks. Apx.||559.18€ / 0.071 per K.|
|Trains||5,120: 248€ / 7.7€. 32 trips TLL-VLND (160Ks ea). Apx.||248€ / 0.048 per K.|
I spent 559.18€ on fuel. This would have covered around 7,800 kilometres worth of travel. Our return road trip across all 3 baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was around 1,361 kilometres. A short journey like that simply isn’t possible by train at this point in time. It’s possible to take buses but of course it’s slower and a little more complicated.
Škoda Fabia: 3,200€
Although I’m a cyclist – the decision to buy a small used car was easy. Yes it’s “expensive” by comparison to the rest of the items on the list but it made life incredibly easy. If you’re time is limited and you want to see as much as possible I recommend purchasing a small car. You can always sell it at the end.
Our model was a favourite brand (a huge sponsor of cycling), economic and it had extremely low kilometres being an ex-government vehicle. No repairs needed. We found the car on http://www.auto24.ee
Vehicle registration (insurance) here is very cheap. 78.24€ per year. Of course you can always rent a car. Europecar will cost you about 500€ per month + other fees, charges, additional “insurance” and the worry of having to pay thousands if you dint it.
I did a few long distance trips in this car including: Lithuania – Palanga, Kaunas and Vilnius: Baltic States by Road.
Taxes & Compulsory Insurance
One expense you need to keep in mind is a sort of quasi tax called “compulsory insurance”. There’s two of them and you may need to pay both (500€ in total) if you obtain the D Visa and TRP.
|D Visa||Travel Insurance||300€+|
I can’t speak for the travel insurance – but if the health insurance policy is anything to go by it’s basically a useless policy which covers nothing you actually need. It exists purely to satisfy your Temporary Residence application.
Taxes on income in Estonia are pretty simple. A flat rate of 20% for the most part. There’s not a huge array of tax offsets and dividends. There is however a tax free exemption amount of around 6000€ per year, making the minimum wage in Estonia almost tax exempt.
What Do Others Earn?
Let’s peak into the wallets of others to see what budget you could live off. Here’s some interesting numbers:
|Visa Requirement #||3,120€||260€||8.6€|
|President of Estonia ##||64,272€||5,356€||178.5€|
Theoretically, you could survive on just about anything in Estonia. Life here, economically speaking is varied. I like to think of it as though there’s a place for anyone, any budget.
You could buy a property, for example, in one of the most disadvantaged parts Estonia (Narva, on the border with Russia) for 10,000€. Alternatively, you could rent a swanky Rotermanni Kvartal apartment for 700-800€ a month.
Like anywhere your expectations should match your budget and being in the “cheapest” place may result in other costs to your lifestyle, time or stress.
Top 5 Most Expensive Single Transactions
5,575€ might initially seem like a good chunk of money. But it can go quickly! Here are the most expensive transactions over the year:
- 3,200€: Škoda Fabia (car).
- 1,595€: taxes on passive income.
- 304€: Hotel Golden Angels (Czech Republic) 3 nights.
- 273€: Go Hotel Schnelli (Tallinn) 2 nights.
- 203€: Hotel Fin (Helsinki, Finland) 2 nights.
- Total: 5,575€
Money Saving Resources
- 30€ Airbnb Credit
- Bolt Taxi Credit
- Travel Discounts
- Estonian Banks, Alternatives and e-Residency Limitations
- Cheap Ferry Tickets Tallinn-Helsinki
- Get an Estonian Phone Number
General Property Expenses
This is important! Checkout any expat facebook page in Estonia and there’s no shortage of rants about property expenses. The problem isn’t always about the cost of rent per se, but the hidden additional expenses which aren’t communicated to the tenant very clearly.
Before you rent an apartment, you should ask the agent at least 3 times about all expenses connected with the property. Don’t expect him to be too forthcoming.
|Property Expense (per month)||Euros €|
|Internet (Provider: Telia)||16|
|Electricity (Eesti Energia)#||30+|
|Rubbish Removal (per collection)||3|
|Property Insurance (if you own)||16|
|Korteriühistu (Body Corporate)||20+|
You are very likely to be charged more than the listed rental price. Keep that in mind. In Australia the price listed is what you pay. Here, the price listed is the starting price – after that there’s a sheet of all kinds of additional charges for things you may never had thought you, as a tenant would pay, like: mortgage repayments, body corporate fees and even interest on bank loans attached to the property’s repair fund. The important thing is that you’re aware before you move in.
Speaking to a friend here he says he could live off 10,000€. Not that I don’t believe him – but he couldn’t tell me how much he’d actually spent in the prior year. Nobody could…
You could “survive” on just about anything anywhere. Surviving and enjoying life however are two very different things.
Survival stories though make great blog posts though! Have you heard of Simon Wilson? Check him out for some inspiration on living in a foreign city with literally no money. It’s entertaining but not sustainable. Prove me wrong!
So here’s a task for you. Log into your netbank. Download your bank statements from the entire past year and see what you spent. Calculating what you spent last year in your home country might be helpful in calculating what you can save and what you can live off.
Pst! I’ve got plenty of Travel Discounts to help you out. Visit the page to get started.