VNO - Vilnius, Lithuania

Discussion in 'Airports' started by domas, Jan 9, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. domas

    domas Active Member

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    Main air travel hub in Lithuania is right next to city center, 5km away from central square in old town, and is connected via ~20 airlines to 30+ regular destinations, mostly in Europe, and quite a few other charter flights.

    Route network
    It is a mix of low cost carriers (Wizzair and Ryanair will operate 12 and 8 routes respectively this spring) and Star Alliance carriers - SAS (3x), Lufthansa, LOT (2x), Austrian, Brussels (1x) are feeding their hubs. SkyTeam and OneWorld are represented just by Czech (1x) and Finnair (2x).

    Getting in and out
    Reaching the airport from the city center is a five minute cab ride for ~4 EUR. Going to the city from the airport is a bit more complicated story - long term cheater cabbie mafia got legalized, assigned dedicated spots in front of the airport so that now foreigners are ripped off officially. City center trip will be somewhere around ~20EUR, if everything is right and cab driver is not cheating.

    First thing locals do once they land is calling a local cab company (1422 or +37052400004 for the largest one), and depending on luck, in 5-20 minutes, while they get their luggage, cabs arrive. Politicians do it, stars do it, businessmen do it, even some smart foreigners do it, trip to city center is 4-5EUR.

    Alternative is two city bus routes, not of any express kind, so expect long trip with many stops and packed like sardines environment during peak hours. There's also a train every 30 minutes or so, but 5km distance is not worth 30min wait (train station is not in the most central location either).

    In most of cases everything is really quick at this airport, though some carriers (everyone flying smaller than 737 or 32x aircraft) choose to arrive at apron position, bus boarding can be chilly in winter, it many of my trips it has been the coldest segment.

    Sometimes I manage aircraft - home route in under 15 minutes, baggage wait for first passenger out of aircraft can be under five minutes, though 15-20min is more likely during peak hours when all the major flights come in. Don't expect priority tagged stuff to show up first, it happens at most half of the time.

    It may be a bit amusing, as one has to walk around in circles and even locals manage to get lost in tiny building - old building got an annex, then another new building surrounded the annex, and to get out one has to go a flight of stairs up, then two flights down. Arrivals hall is old soviet era building, worth noting :)

    Unless you happen to be at Saturday when all the charters leave, going through check-in/security may be a breeze. Sometimes it takes less than 5 minutes to get to gate, usual security line wait is under five minutes, yet sometimes it may take an hour (families with kids flying to Turkey/Egypt, sometimes multiple AC packing same 'flight').

    Do note, only SAS has priority lane for business class travelers, everyone else stand together, though most of the time that is a non-issue.

    Most of the departure area has free Wi-Fi, so any wait is way more tolerable. There're quite a few places with power sockets near benches, quite handy.

    There's great coffee stand, few decent juice machines and a bar with drinks slightly above city prices yet way lower than in most of Western Europe. Duty free shopping is limited to usual stuff (perfume/alcohol/..), no specialty stores, still there are few stands of travel goodies like pillows and such.

    All airlines share same business lounge, there're some snacks - sandwiches, yoghurts, soft drinks, beer, wine, some liquor - gin&tonic is available. One can enter the lounge for a ~15EUR fare too. Inside the secure are pretty much everything is within a minute walking distance, so "go to gate" can always be taken without too much stress.

    There're no large chains in-town, Starwood has a category 2 golf-course property 40km away, Radisson is the only more known brand, yet it has both premium Astoria (exceptional oldtown location, ~200USD/night, thats where LH and other unionized airlines put their crews :) and business class Lietuva (~100USD, business district).

    There're decent deals in city center at even as low as $50 at off-peak season, and other posh hotels like Stikliai are at ~200USD price tag.

    Most of things to see and enjoy are all centered in medieval old-town, and even few hour hike around can be great experience, especially in spring or summer. Everything is in walking distance, and there's plenty of great dining around too. Places I'd pick all rank quite high in Tripadvisor, though my favorite suggestions are always Markus for carnivores, InVino for casual glass of wine and packed atmosphere, Cozy for a casual evening out.
    Drinks are really cheap out in town, and restaurants aren't too pricey either.

    For longer stays there're some nice parks, artsy neighborhood of Uzupis and hiking trails in Pavilnys park, museums, theaters, concerts, etc

    Getting out
    For those staying a bit longer, there's old medieval (albeit rebuilt in 20th century) castle in the middle of a lake - beautiful setting in Trakai, Kaunas and Klaipeda are both interesting towns, Druskininkai is great for SPA-lovers (there's IgNobel award winner Grutas Park nearby) and Baltic coast in Neringa is amazing.

    I've handled quite a few people coming for one or two days, and just getting them relaxed and immersed into Vilnius atmosphere has been the best deal for them, but sure, arriving when it is t-shirt (and mini-skirt :) season is always the best choice - short days and autumn/winter grays can be a bit moody.

    Quite a few of my friends did Tallinn-Riga-Vilnius trips, sometimes with Neringa coast attached to that, and they didn't complain too much about Vilnius part.

    Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with hospitality or tourism industry, and I spend nearly as much of my time outside of Lithuania, as inside.
    kiwi, somempire, traveler and 2 others like this.
  2. traveler
    Original Member

    traveler Gold Member

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    We did Vilnius-Tallinn-Riga-Berlin last May. We loved Vilnius except for the cheating thieving pre booked taxi. We stood our ground and refused to pay his ransom. That started us off with a bad taste but everything after was great. We spent 5 nights and visited Trakai as well. Fond memories!

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