The republic of Lithuania lies on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and is the southernmost and largest country of the three Baltic Staes. Vilnius is a lively city with people from all the different nationalities and cultures who have lived here and created a colorful city mosaic. Explore the rest of Northern Europe from Lithuania - Vilnius provides easy travel access to Latvia, Belarus, Poland, and Scandinavia. Enjoy the history and lifestyle of Lithuania's capital, which was declared the 2009 European Capital of Culture.
There are two types of higher education institutions in Lithuania: universities and colleges. These are divided into state and non-state institutions.
Studies at college are at undergraduate level only, focused on practical activities and aimed at acquiring a professional bachelor’s degree or a professional qualification, testified by the professional bachelor diploma or higher education diploma. The duration of studies is three to four years.
The education system at universities is a bit different. Studies are organized in three cycles: First – undergraduate studies (bachelor), second – master and specialized professional studies; third – doctoral, post-graduate, residency studies.
- Start of school year is usually September 1
- The school year is divided into two semesters: spring and fall, with each semester taking 16 weeks
- Holidays include:
- Winter (end of January – beginning of February)
- Summer (two months off)
- Easter (a week before Easter)
Grading and Workload
Vilnius University follows the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) as a standard for comparing the study attainment and performance of students of higher education. For successfully completed studies, ECTS credits are awarded.
One academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits that are equivalent to an average student workload of 1500 to 1800 hours.
Visa and Residency
VISA D FOR STUDENTS
International students from non-EU/ EEA countries are required to have the visa D for studies in Lithuania. It takes up to four weeks to get the visa D. Students should apply for the isa prior to arrival in Lithuania.
The necessary documents must be submitted to the Migration Department upon arrival in Vilnius:
- Completed application
- One photo
- Valid passport
- Health insurance valid in Lithuania
- Letter of mediation (will be prepared by Vilnius University)
Due to constant changes in migration legislation students are advised to visit the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
A Note Regarding the Schengen Area
Lithuania is a member of the Schengen area. You should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.
Lithuanian is the official language of the country. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving languages of the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. Although Lithuanian and Latvian are closely related, they are not mutually intelligible. You will find that all nationals speak Lithuanian and many citizens, especially the elder generation, speak fluent Russian. The younger generation is generally more fluent in English than in Russian.
Food and drink
Lithuanian cuisine is heavily influenced by German, Polish and Scandinavian cooking techniques. Dishes often include pork, smoked meats, cabbage, beets and potatoes. International students may enjoy eating national Lithuanian delicacies like beet soup with buttermilk (šaltibarščiai) and boiled potato dumplings filled with meat or curd (cepelinai).
Traditional Lithuanian drinks include beers such as Utenos and Kalnapilis and mead such as Žalgiris and Suktinis. Wine (vynas) is also served in most restaurants and bars.
Did you know that Vilnius was the 2009 European Capital of Culture? Performing arts are a large part of Lithuanian culture. With access to 13 professional theaters, a National Opera Theater, several youth theaters, puppet theaters, state orchestras and hundreds of choral groups, Lithuanian citizens regularly attend performing arts events. The Vilnius Quartet and the Rinkevičius Orchestra are well known throughout the country, and the Nekrošius Theater has won international acclaim.
Folk music and dancing also attract the attention of Lithuanians, as there are thousands of folklore groups throughout the country. It is typical for schools and towns to have their own folklore groups that dress in traditional costume and perform within their region.
Customs and Etiquette
You will find that Lithuanians are a reserved people with respect for tradition. Though they may seem aloof during initial meetings, Lithuanians are very warm and welcoming. Once they become familiar with someone, they tend to open up quite a bit. The most common greeting for friends and acquaintances is the handshake, with direct eye contact and a smile. When invited into a Lithuanian person’s home, people often bring wine, flowers or sweets to the hostess. Take note that bringing an odd number of flowers to your hostess is culturally preferable; even numbers of flowers are typically used at memorial services and funerals.
Public holidays and festivals
Lithuania is home to a number of public holidays and festivals. As a predominantly Catholic nation, Lithuania celebrates Good Friday, Easter Monday, All Saints’ Day and Christmas Day as national holidays. They also commemorate their independence and restoration of their independence in February and March. You will enjoy participating in the many annual festivals including the Kaunas International Jazz Festival, the week-long Life Theatre Festival in Vilnius, the Vilnius Summer Music Festival and the Vilnius City Masks Festival.
Basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania. The country’s national team won the Bronze Medal in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics. In the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, their team finished fourth. FIBA currently recognizes the Lithuanian team as fifth in the world.
Other sports like rugby and football (soccer) are growing in popularity throughout the country. Citizens also love to paraglide, windsurf and sail on the coast of the Baltic Sea. If you are interested in golfing, Vilnius offers a top-rated golf course at the Capital Golf Club.
The electric current is 220 volts AC, 50 hz. European plugs are required.
A general rule applies to restaurants and cafes to leave 5-10 % tips if the service is not included. It is uncommon to leave tips for taxi drivers unless you are just rounding up to the nearest Euro and asking the taxi driver to keep the change.
There is a convenient public transport system in Vilnius consisting of buses, trolley-buses and minibuses. More information on public transport, prices is available here.
Students may get discounts for the public transport with the Lithuanian student card. Neither International student card nor student card of home university is valid for the discounts in Lithuania. International students apply for Lithuanian student card when they arrive in Vilnius. The student card must be presented together with the ticket in case tickets are checked by authorities.
Public transport in Vilnius usually starts around 5 a.m. and continues until 11.00 p.m. The map of bus/trolleybus line network is available here.
Museums, art galleries, business centers are usually open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. (Museums are usually closed on Mondays). Restaurants and cafés are usually open until 11 p.m. In Vilnius the majority of shopping centers are open on Saturdays and Sundays as well just their office hours might be shorter (until 2-3 p.m.).
There are three mobile phone operators in Lithuania: Omnitel, BITE and TELE 2. About 97% of the country's surface is covered by the standard European GSM 900/1800 MHz network, the remaining 3% are remote forest areas.
To call abroad from Lithuania:
From a land line phone: “00” + “Your Country Code” + “The Number Abroad”
From a mobile phone: Dial “+” + “Your Country Code” + “The Number Abroad”
To call to Lithuania from abroad, dial the Lithuania country code, 370, then the number, as if calling from a domestic mobile phone.
International and roaming calls are expensive. To reduce your bill you can:
Buy "phone cards" for international calls
Talk over the Internet
With your own laptop, Wireless LAN Hot-Spots are available in distinct places (mostly "Zebra" from - TEO), sometimes free, otherwise not very cheap around ~1-2 EUR/hour. Best chances of finding Hot Spots are at airports, railway stations, in cafés, shopping malls, Vilnius University, and other various places. There are even special road signs that indicate places with Internet access. For those who need to connect at an Internet cafes, major cities do have internet cafes. You can get free wireless Internet in Kaunas main pedestrian street - Laisves Aleja. Download speed reaches 26.2 Mb/s, while upload speed is 16.8 Mb/s. Keep in mind that the internet services that provide such speeds are not free.
With your mobile phone you can use: CSD, HSCSD, GPRS or EDGE, but the cost may be unattractive. UMTS is only available in some bigger cities. If your phone is not SIM-locked, you may consider purchasing a pre-paid SIM card designed for data access.
Lithuania is in the Eastern European Time Zone, abbreviated EET, during the winter and Eastern European Summer Time, EEST, during the summer. Daylight savings is observed. EET, in the winter, is 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)/ GMT and EEST, in the summer, is 3 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)/ GMT. Lithuania is in same time zone as Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, and Latvia.
Health and Safety
In general, Lithuania is a safe country. However, you should take the following basic safety measures while in country:
1. Try to avoid showing a big sum of money. It is best not to try spending larger notes - several 5, 10 and 20 euro notes are better than a large note such as a 100 or 200 euro note. You may draw a lot of attention to yourself if you try to use one of the larger banknotes for a small purchase such as a drink and may also cause the business difficulty in giving you change. However, the larger and busier establishments will change notes without any problem. When changing foreign currency into euro, ask for the smaller notes.
2. Take care when visiting potentially dangerous neighborhoods at night. After dark it is safer and strongly recommended to take a taxi to you destination. If there are no possibilities to call a taxi, try to walk along main roads rather than take a short cut through a park or apartment complex, as these areas often have very poor lighting. A thing to watch out for is bicycle theft. It is also advisable not to leave valuable things in a car.
3. Driving in Lithuania can be dangerous. As a pedestrian, take great care when crossing the roads, always cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. It is also strongly recommended to wear a reflector especially in twilight and at night in dimly lit streets. When driving be careful of aggressive, irresponsible and speeding drivers. Keep in mind that traffic police could be corrupt. Mind the forest roads, collisions with wildlife animals sometimes occur.
There are many psychological services and health centers where student can receive psychological counseling in English at Vilnius University. If you feel lonely, depressed, or have difficulties with adjustments and new friendships, you can contact the following PTMC Psychology Consultation:
Universiteto st. 9/1 room 116
Tel.: (+370 5) 268 72 54
Office hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Youth line (Jaunimo linija) – psychological aid via telephone
Tel.: (+370) 800 28 888
From January 1st, 2014, official currency of Lithuania is euro. Most places in Vilnius and in other towns accept major credit cards, and there are quite a few ATMs. If you are planning to spend time in the countryside, take plenty of cash.
COST OF LIVING
Staying in Lithuania for a foreigner is not very expensive, but you should be aware of prices here. According to recent calculations the total monthly living expenses of a single student are around 400 euros: Accommodation – 60 euros (if you stay in a dormitory), food – 175 euros, books and other academic needs – 60 euros, local transport – around 6 euros, miscellaneous – 80 euros. Expenses can differ according to student’s plans here. The prices for a meal at the University cafeteria range from 2,50 to 4 EUR. For comparison, 1kg of potatoes costs about 0,8 euro cents, a pack of milk (1 litre) about 0,7 euro cents, 1 kg of meat (pork) about 3-5 euros,10 eggs about 1,5 euros, bottle of beer 0,5 – 0,8 euro cents.
Sources of Information
Vilnius Visitor’s Guide
The World Factbook for Lithuania:
Lonely Planet Estonia Latvia & Lithuania (Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania)
Colloquial Lithuanian: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series)