Tips for traveling to Estonia with diabetes

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Thinking of visiting Estonia? Wondering if it’s ok to go there with diabetes? Find everything you need in this handy guide to traveling to Estonia with diabetes!

Traveling in Estonia with diabetes should present no problem at all if you’re reasonably prepared and flexible. Estonia is a modern, first-world country with plenty of good medical facilities and pharmacists who know about diabetes.

Injecting Humalog outside a gymnasium in Tallinn

Humalog shot for a doughnut on the way to Patarei Prison in Tallinn, Estonia.

How to speak Estonian – for T1Ds

Want to say tell someone in Estonian that you’re diabetic?

You should be wearing a bracelet or anklet or necklace that says you’re diabetic – something emblazoned T1D and/or T1 DIABETIC should do. At any rate, most pharmacists and doctors should know enough English to understand “diabetes” if for some reason you need to consult one.

Traveling in Estonia as a Type 1 diabetic

I have Type 1 diabetes and I spent six days backpacking through Estonia in late 2014. It’s a really beautiful country with a particularly proud spirit of independence and, consequently, an especially unique culture.

Here are my experiences traveling in Estonia with diabetes – the food, the blood sugars, the sights. They’ll help you understand Estonia as it relates to travelers both diabetic and non-diabetic. I carried a blood sugar monitor and strips, and Humalog and Lantus pens.

If you have diabetes and want to visit this northernmost Baltic country, or want to travel to Estonia with someone who is diabetic, this page is for you!

My route in Estonia

 

I arrived in the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, with my travel partner Masayo on an overnight ferry from Mariehamn in the Åland Islands. We stayed for three nights in Tallinn then took a bus down to the town of Tartu, staying two nights. Then we headed to Valga, Estonia, a town with an international border running through the middle of it. We crossed over and stayed in the Latvian half, which is spelled Valka.

(Read my Tips For Traveling in Latvia with Diabetes.)

Estonian food

Estonian food has a lot of Scandinavian influences, and there are plenty of international restaurants. Cheaper travel food, if you’re a budget-minded backpacker like me, often tends to be higher in carbs, and my blood sugar had its ups and downs in Estonia.

Some of the things I found to eat in Estonia were:

#bgnow 143 before Old Town meatballs in Tallinn.

#bgnow 140 before Old Town meatballs in Tallinn.

rimi-salad-and-pizza-tartu-estonia

Salad and pizza from Rimi Supermarket in Tartu – higher in carbs than it seemed.

There are also the usual sandwiches and pastries in various shops here and there. These often but not always have nutrition info on them, so you may have to guess. Hint: lots of carbs.

Rooms and accommodation in Estonia

Every town has plenty of budget hotels and guesthouses. I recommend using booking.com like I did, because it’s so easy to find what you need at whatever price you want.

All in all I only stayed at two places in Estonia proper:

center-hotel-exterior-tallinn-estonia

Aleksandri Hotell – just look for the big lumberjack statue!

Aleksandri Hotell – just look for the big lumberjack statue!

Things to see in Estonia

There are lots of memorable things to see in Estonia no matter what your thing is. Architecture and design tend to be especially breathtaking (and I’m not even into those especially, but awesome is awesome). If you’re into Soviet history, Estonia has plenty of sights to see about that too, although the history of Estonia stretches back much further.

Some of the most recommended places to visit in Estonia:

One of the strange displays in Patarei Prison, Tallinn.

One of the strange displays in Patarei Prison, Tallinn.

A scene from lovely Old Town Tallinn, Estonia.

A scene from lovely Old Town Tallinn, Estonia.

Quirky room inside the Tallinn Old Town city wall.

Quirky room inside the Tallinn Old Town city wall.

Underneath the ruins of mighty Tartu Cathedral.

Underneath the ruins of mighty Tartu Cathedral.

Blood sugar control in Estonia

Estonian food, as experienced by the traveler, is not too distinct from traveler food from nearby countries. With a tasty and varied international bent, plus the usual junk food and sandwiches if you’re occasionally inclined, all you have to do is watch your exercise levels (Estonia is great for walking around), assume things are carb-heavy, and check your BG often.

#bgnow 94 in Old Town wall cell, Tallinn, Estonia

Quick BG check in Tallinn’s town wall.

My Estonian blood glucose stats

I kept a record of all my BG checks over the six days I spent in Estonia.

So, afternoons were my best time because I used my lunchtime shot to fix the occasional post-breakfast high. (I hadn’t gotten used to the carb count of those huge hotel breakfast buffets yet!) Evenings were pretty bad because I had such a bad habit of taking less Humalog for dinner than I thought I needed. (Psychological block.) Mornings were ok because I was so high at night I’d take corrective Humalog before bed.

Have you been to Estonia?

I’d love to hear about your experiences in Estonia. In particular:

Let me know your experiences in this under-appreciated but mesmerizing country. If you’re planning to travel in Estonia with diabetes, go for it.

Don’t let diabetes stop you.

Read more about my travels in Estonia

Come along on the adventure! Follow detailed travelogues about the wondrous sights, fascinating people, and varied diabetes experiences I encountered as a traveling T1D in Estonia:

Day 5: Terrible Diabetes Management At Bomarsund Fortress In Rural Scandinavia
Day 6: The Cobblestoned Streets Of Old Town Tallinn
Day 7: Lost In Tallinn's Old Town Walls
Day 8: Inside Patarei, The Strangest Prison On Earth
Day 9: Riding Through The Estonian Countryside: Tallinn To Tartu
Day 10: Tartu, The Perfect Little City In Estonia
Day 11: Valga/Valka: A Town With Two Names

Share your travel stories, give advice, or ask a question in the comments section.

Next page: Tips for traveling to Lithuania with diabetes

“Tips and information about traveling in Lithuania as a diabetic, from an experienced Type 1 world traveler. Food, insulin, blood sugars, and more.”

About the author

Jeremy has traveled to over 40 countries, taken several road trips across the United States (and Canada), and lived on and off in Japan for several years. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982 but doesn't let a little thing like that stop him from exploring the world.

Jeremy writes about his travels with diabetes on 70-130.com as a way of logging his excursions and of inspiring others who might be feeling hesitant to take their own big bite out of life.

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