Frequently Asked Questions:
About Lithuania and Vilnius:
1. Is English a common language in Lithuania?
English is commonly spoken in most restaurants and shops in the center of Vilnius and especially in Old Town. English menus are common in restaurants. As one moves away from the center city, English is less evident, although with a little searching you can usually find someone who speaks the language. Many younger people speak English, with varying degrees of proficiency.
2. What is the local currency?
It is the litas. For information on the current exchange rate, see http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic.
3. Is it advisable to rent a car and drive in Lithuania?
In general, Lithuanian highways are in very good condition and well-marked. Modern four-lane thoroughfares connect the major cities. Two-lane highways are generally well maintained. In good weather, it is quite pleasant to drive in rural Lithuania. Winter driving, of course, requires extra caution. It is advisable to buy a good Lithuanian road atlas. We recommend "Lietuvos autokelių atlasas." Your local map store may be able to order it, or you can contact Patogu Pirkti, a Lithuanian online bookseller. Patogu Pirkti has made it easy to order books online in English. www.patogupirkti.lt/How_to_buy.asp
Driving in Vilnius is a slightly different matter. Because of a limited signage and an abundance of one-way streets in the downtown area, many out-of-towners are very frustrated in their first few attempts at driving. If you are only going to be in the city a few days, it is probably best to use taxis and public transportation. On the other hand, because there are only a few routes to get to and from the major destinations in the city, it does not take very long to learn ones way around. If you are in the city for a longer stay, you will quickly learn the common routes.
4. How do I pay for things on my trip?
Cash and credit cards are the most common forms of payment in stores and restaurants and for most services. ATM machines are quite numerous in the commercial areas of Vilnius and are common in other cities and larger towns. It is very easy to withdraw cash from your home account through an ATM. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, but not American Express. Travelers checks are seldom used except at large hotels.
5. Is Lithuania a safe place to travel?
Yes. As in any populated area of the world, you will want to exercise caution in terms of where you walk and travel late at night and generally you will want to protect your personal property. But personal assaults, especially personal assaults against strangers, are very rare. Handguns are illegal and generally not available, which dramatically changes the patterns of crime compared to the U.S., for example. Visitors who exercise ordinary levels of caution and prudence typically have a safe and trouble-free experience.
6. What are the most common sort of gifts that one brings home?
Many reputable shops in Old Town Vilnius sell amber jewelry and Lithuanian made linens, both of which are popular gift items. A visit to the open-air traders' market on Pilies Street in Old Town is always an interesting cultural experience. In addition to amber and linen gifts in varying price ranges, one can find many interesting wooden items including exquisite bowls, toys, and authentic Lithuanian carved colored eggs. The Old Town area also has several art galleries and decorative glass studios. Most of these shops carry a line of nice but moderately priced items that make welcomed gifts.
7. Is public Internet access generally available?
Yes. Internet cafes are common in the central city and can be found in other areas as well.
8. Where can I find general books on Lithuania in English?
We particularly like the selection and service offered by Patogu Pirkti, a family-run on line bookseller in Vilnius. They have made a special effort to assist English-speaking customers in ordering books. See www.patogupirkti.lt/How_to_buy.asp Other online booksellers such as Amazon and Borders have selections of books on Lithuanian culture, history, and politics.
Short Term Rentals:
1. What do you consider a short term rental?
Any rental from a day or two to a few months. We handle other rentals as well but what is said here applies to the "a few days to a few months" category.
2. What parts of Vilnius do you serve?
Most of our apartment rentals are in central Vilnius, including Old Town and nearby neighborhoods. There are new attractive apartment neighborhoods developing outside of the downtown area, and we handle those as well. Vilnius is a very compact city and most rentals are within a short commuting distance of the most common destinations. A ten to fifteen minute commute is very common. A half hour commute would be unusual.
3. Can you assist with rentals in cities other than Vilnius.
Yes, we will be happy to give you guidance locating rentals in other areas of the country.
4. Do you handle the rental of houses?
Yes. The areas of Vilnius with nice houses for rent are fairly well defined and are well known to us.
5. What are the most attractive areas for short term rentals?
That depends a bit on the size of the family and the ages of the children. For a single person and for couples, Old Town is typically the preferred area, with other parts of the central city nearly as popular. This would include apartments on or near Gedimino Prospect. Couples with, say, two children often look for a rental in an area a bit further removed from downtown. These areas have larger living units, greater accessibility to parks and other features that families prefer.
6. Are elevators common in apartment buildings in Vilnius?
No, not in most of the buildings. Buildings typically have three to five flours. Most clients prefer to be on the second or third floor. While the prospect of living on the fourth floor at first seems daunting to many clients, these living spaces often turn out to be quite attractive. Generally the views of the city are better on the higher floors, and most clients report that they get very used to the experience of the stairs.
7. What factors affect the rental that is charged for an apartment?
The main factors are the location of the property, the size of the apartment, the length of the rental, the season in which it occurs, and how recently it has been renovated.
8. What is the range of the rental rates on typical apartments that you provide?
Again, prices vary. A nice comfortable one bedroom apartment in Old Town would rent for 1800 to 3500 litas per month for a six month lease. A similar apartment located ten minutes away from the central area would rent for 1500 to 2800 litas per month for the same period.
A two-week rental fits into a different category because there is more direct service to the tenant and more expense to the landlord. A comfortable one bedroom apartment in Old Town would rent for 130 to 250 litas per night for a two-week period. Again location and size influence the price within this range.
A one bedroom apartment is only an example. There are many two bedroom and larger apartments available.Once we correspond about your specific needs, we can give you a better idea of your likely rental costs.
9. Who pays the utilities on the apartment?
For units for which the rental amount is stated on a per-month basis, utilities are prorated and paid by the tenant. The charges are usually not extraordinary by western standards. Utilities are already included in the rental rates of units available on a per-night basis.
10. Is heat a problem in the winter?
Typically, no. Modern renovation techniques and a steady supply of municipally-generated heat generally make our apartments quite comfortable.
11. What does one do about parking?
Many apartments have an allocated parking space. There are also parking spaces available on the street for a charge, and there are some private lots. Parking is not abundant in Old Town, but usually a satisfactory arrangement can be found.
12. Do most apartments come with hard line phones?
Some do, but this is becoming more rare. Lithuanians and visitors increasingly rely on mobile phones as their main source of communication. Mobile phone service is relatively inexpensive in Lithuania.
13. Are broadband Internet lines available?
Yes, either through the cable company or the telephone company. Most of our business and professional clients want Internet access, and installations are quite common.
14. Do apartments typically include linens, dishes and cookware?
15. Are there grocery stores conveniently available?
Yes. In the more dense areas of the city, the stores tend to be of a small to medium size, but carry all of the basic supplies and more. Vilnius has many mega-market grocery stores that rival the size and selection of those in the West. They are generally located on the edge of downtown and a bit further out. In addition, a trip to the open-air market for fresh fruits and vegetables sold by area farmers is a common weekly experience.
16. What sort of restaurant selection is available?
For most apartment locations, it is very good. One of the attractions of Vilnius is its large number of restaurants serving good food at very affordable prices. Many of clients choose to eat out for at least one meal a day. The best restaurants serve a general Continental menu or specialize in very good traditional Lithuanian food. In addition, there are very good French and Italian restaurants and specialty steak houses.
Family History Tours:
1. Where do Lithuanian genealogical searches take place?
They all start in the Lithuanian Historical Archives.
2. What types of records are in the Archives?
The Archives has a vast collection, over 1,300,000 volumes. A portion of these are the records of basic life story events - birth, marriage and death.
3. Where did the records originate?
Unlike many western countries, the practice of requiring that births, deaths and marriages be reported to a governmental entity is of relatively recent origin in Lithuania. Historically, the local church assumed the responsibility for recording the important events in people's live. The relevant records are not in predefined, preprinted forms, but are typically handwritten entries that contain the important information about the relevant event.
4. Are the records in the Historical Archives computerized?
No. Searches are done in collections of individual handwritten ledgers from local parishes. There is no way to simply enter a name and receive all documents that contain that name. Rather, searches are done by hand in ledgers of varying degrees of clarity and physical condition. It is for this reason that it is important to have reasonably specific information about the place where the event (birth, marriage or death) occurred, the date of the event, and a plausible Lithuanian spelling for the person's last name. Sometimes more than one parish will have to be investigated because of uncertainty about the location of the event. There is, though, a practical limitation on how uncertain the information can be and still support a meaningful search.
5. Do searches extend to records outside the Historical Archives?
Yes, this is not uncommon, although the records of the Archives are sufficient to establish a basic family tree for those local parishes for which good records have been preserved.
6. Are there some locales for which there are no parishes records?
Regrettably, yes. This is another area in which our experience is of considerable value. We know the areas for which there are record problems. And we have techniques for ameliorating those problems in some locales.
7. Are you able to help find the Lithuanian origins of person and place names that have been anglicized?
Yes. Most immigrant's Lithuanian names from the 1800's and early 1900's were changed. It is the exception where the original Lithuanian spelling is still used. Over time we have become familiar with the common patterns that were used in the conversions. While getting back to the original Lithuanian spelling can be challenging, we have a very high success rate. The process of de-anglicizing names is not a fatal impediment in most cases.
If you would like to consult a long list of Lithuanian surnames, one can be found at this link. The list is extensive, but not exhaustive.
8. What is the cost of search by you in the Archives?
We are happy to provide a price list. An important point is that we charge, not for time spent in the search process, but rather for the results achieved; that is, based on the number of records that are found. We believe this removes much of the uncertainty that comes with the risk that records do not exist or are incomplete. Our charge per record varies modestly by the age of the record. This is because very old records are more difficult to locate and decipher.
Here are some examples of the cost of a search.
Case A. The client asks us to find the birth record for her grandmother. Using information in other documents that the client has, the client is able to us an accurate spelling of the grandmother's Lithuania name, a name of the relevant village, and a specific date. In this case, the charge for our services is 200 litas, including translation and mailing.
Case B. The client desires to have a generational search done; that is, a search for all birth, marriage and death records for his grandmother, for all of the grandmother's siblings, and for all of the children of the siblings. The information available for the village name and the dates relevant to the grandmother's life are imprecise and require additional investigation and refinement. Eventually, twenty-nine records are found. All are from the 20th Century. Copies of the original records are prepared and the records are separately translated. The records are mailed to the client. For these services, the client will pay 1293 litas.
Case C. A variation of Case B. The client's request is the same as in Case B, and there is a similar imprecision in the place name and the foundational dates. The only change in the result is that 15 records are from the 19th Century and 14 records are from the 20th Century. In this case, the client will pay 1488 litas, including document preparation, translation and mailing.
You can find a currency converter here.
Again, we will be happy to provide you with our price list.
9. Can you provide references?
Most definitely. Just send us a request indicting the type of service you are interested in. A client has nice things to say about us in this document.
1. What's involved in the typical Lithuanian Family History Tour?
Our objective is to arrange for you to have an in-depth visit to the area of Lithuania where your relatives came from and to have face-to-face meetings with members of your broad extended family.
2. How will you know where to look for my relatives?
We begin with information that you provide or that we find, at your request, in a search in the Historical Archives. We have found that most clients have some information about the original family name, dates when relatives left Lithuania, and the family's general location. We can arrange a very meaningful Family History Tour with modest information. Of course, the more information we have, the deeper we can search into your family tree.
3. What types of things will I see?
You will see the general landscape of your Lithuanian home area and how people live and earn their living. In addition, you will see the houses and farms where your relatives live and, depending on how much time has passed, perhaps the particular dwellings where your relatives were born. In addition, we make every effort to take you to the church or synagogue that is associated with your community of origin and to the cemeteries where relatives are buried. But one of our highest priorities is to put you in person-to-person contact with relatives with whom you can discuss the history of your family. We of course will serve as translators.
4. Are most churches still in tact?
Yes, generally. Many survived WWII and the later Soviet occupation.
5. Are most synagogues in tact?
Regrettably, many were destroyed. There are some that are still in existence in outlying areas but not currently in use.
6. Will I be able to find additional family records and photographs?
Often there are one or more family members who have some records and photos. Relatives are typically quite willing to share these.
There are few official records, such as birth and marriage records, remaining in local public offices and churches in outlying areas. Most have been moved to the Lithuanian Historical Archives in Vilnius.
7. How many days should I set aside for my Family History Tour?
Our services are customized to your particular situation and preferences. Usually two to four days is enough for family history explorations.
A common arrangement is to combine the Family History Tour with a general guided group bus tour of Lithuania. We work with a select number of tour operators and will be happy to help you find an excellent bus tour.
8. What is the typically cost of a Lithuanian Family History Tour?
Again, our services are customized to what you need and prefer. And the amount of preliminary work that we do is directly affected by the amount of family information that is already available.
The following is an example of what we regard as a typical situation where you are able to provide basic information on family name, general location and a few relevant dates, but not a great deal more. In this case, we will do two to four days of preliminary work to confirm the general geographical location of your Lithuanian family, track any significant movements they have made, identify existing families who share your name, make contact with those families, attempt to identify who in the family has good family history information, and develop a conversational and working relationship with the family members whom you will visit.
In addition, we will make the arrangements for the actual visit, which typically includes transportation, hotel lodging, further communication with relatives, and related assistance.During the actual visits, we provide our in-person translation service, appropriate introductions to relatives, general historical information, and on-the-spot follow-up on any new leads that develop during these conversations. We will also coordinate visits to churches, synagogues, cemeteries, local historical and cultural sites, and finally, safe transportation home. Assuming a two-day visit to your family's local area in addition to the extensive preliminary work, the typical charge will be between 1000 and 3000 litas.
Again, we can arrange many variations on the visit described here, and we are happy to discuss those with you.
9. Will you give an estimate of your charges in advance, before there is any obligation on our part?
Yes. We regard a Family History Tour as a very personal matter for you. We want you to feel very comfortable with our services. We will do everything we can to make that happen.
10. How many people can we bring along?
Usually we work with individuals, couples or small families, but we can accommodate any reasonable number of guests.
11. Can arrangements be made for people with limited mobility?
Yes, most definitely. We can make appropriate arrangements for just about any physical limitation.
12. Can you arrange to pick us up at the Vilnius airport and provide lodging in the city?
Yes, we frequently do that.
13. What is the best way to contact you for a preliminary discussion?
We suggest that we begin with an email exchange and move from there. email@example.com. Other contact information is on our Contact page.