Everything For A Family To Know About Living In Vilnius
Over the past year or so I've met or shared several emails with a surprising amount of parents visiting, moving to, or working for a few months in Vilnius. I've shared information about schools, giving birth in Vilnius (down to the nitty-gritty details), doctors, and fun things to do, but I feel like In Search Of is overdue an article that really outlines everything you need to know -- including challenges.
So, grab a coffee and dig in to this very in-depth post.
Positives about living in Vilnius with a child
Overall, living in Vilnius with a young child has been a very positive experience for us. There are great activities, particularly for kids age 3 and up, including children's libraries, theater for children, music classes, and art classes all specifically for kids. In addition, there are also a few kid-friendly cafes and restaurants (those with toys or play areas) and tons of parks with playgrounds (see map below).
Most importantly, kids are really safe in Vilnius and you'll often see kids in ~3rd grade walking to and from school on their own or stopping for a snack in a restaurant. Kids are treated really well here and families work really hard to give their kids the best opportunities.
Struggles of living in Vilnius with a child
Quality, reliable childcare is by far the number one question I get asked (and see asked in forums) about living in Vilnius. This is also my number 1 struggle with living in Vilnius. While I did end up finding a great babysitter, she was way out of our budget, so we were only able to afford a few hours per week of child care. This was great for me because I really needed to get back to working, but it was also a big cause of stress. Great babysitters do exist so if you want to go this route, just play on spending time interviewing and putting out advertisements (and ask your neighbors). Since finding this babysitter, however, I have learned more about daycare (called kindergarten here) and I've included what I know about them below.
Located just past Uzupis, Kindermusik is an English-language daycare and music school that was recently renovated. I've visited Kindermusik just once with Baby ISO for a music class and really enjoyed it, but the distance just didn't work for me without a car.
2) Public daycare
Public daycares are located across Vilnius, but I believe you must be part of the social system (for example, teachers at the American International School of Vilnius would most likely not qualify) and they are Lithuanian speaking only.
A wide variety of international education options are available in Vilnius, so if you are seeking schooling for your kids in English and French are available. I also believe there is a Russia private school as well as several kindergartens that speak Russian as their primary language, so if Russian is a language you speak at home, these could be good options.
1) American International School of Vilnius
The American International School of Vilnius (AISV) includes grades pre-k 3 up to 12th grade and features an IB Diploma program for the upper school. AISV has students from around the world and education is all in English, except for language lessons. Students often can be accepted for short periods of time if parents are visiting for work. This is the school I'm most familiar with, so if you have specific questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Learn more on their website.
2) Vilnius International School
Vilnius International School is a much more affordable option for quality education in English. They teach PYP and MYP and I believe are starting to offer the IB Diploma program (but don't quote me on that). Check their website for more information.
3) French International School of Vilnius
The French International School of Vilnius offers French-language education for pre-kindergarten to 9th grade (I think) students. Learn more on their website.
4) Vilnius Montessori Pre-School
For kids ages 1.5 through 6, Vilnius has an English-language Montessori school. Read more on their website.
Baby ISO is really active, and I struggled this winter trying to come up with things to do during the very cold, snowy, rainy winter days in Lithuania. During the summer or on sunny days, heading out to the several parks and playgrounds (map below) is awesome, but that just doesn't work on rainy days. However, I found a few things that I have to suggest if you are stuck at home with an energetic child on a bad weather day.
1) A. Mickeviciaus Library
This children's library is a friendly option for kids who love to read and also has a small selection of adult books in English as well. I've written about it previously here, and often visited frequently until they changed their hours (now the hours aren't great M-F 11 until 7).
2) Theater for Children
Several theaters in Lithuania offer special shows and performances for children. I've also written an entire blog post on theater for children in Vilnius, so I won't elaborate here further.
3) Indoor Play Areas
Indoor play areas are a life saver during bad weather days. Not far from old town, the shopping center VCUP has a play center on the 5th floor called Mazuju Karalyste. This play center is really awesome and has safe options for crawlers, toddlers, and older kids. It features a ball pit, slide, soft mats, and toys. The price is also super affordable if you stay for an hour or two.
Theobromine Chocolatier has a safe inner courtyard for sunny days, and indoors has a train set, colored pencils and paper, and a few children's books making it a nice spot for coffee with a fellow mom (or dad!). They have really tasty chocolate and coffee although I think the prices are quite high.
If you are looking for a family-friendly place to dine out, I really like Vapiano in Europa Mall. This is a quick spot for food as everything is prepared directly in front of you to order and there is a play area for kids.
Outdoor Play Areas I Love
Strange Love is another cafe that I really enjoy because of its proximity to the Bernardine Park and for its courtyard.
Within Bernardine Park, there is a seasonal cafe that is now opening as Sugamour, which is a really wonderful dessert and light meal cafe. They offer a selected menu of cakes, food, coffees, and drinks and the playground in the center of the cafe is ideal for toddlers. I highly recommend this one on a nice day!
Open Kitchen is an outdoor food festival that is really fun to attend when the weather is nice. There is a good (not great) playground at Open Kitchen that makes it even better with kiddos.
There are also several playgrounds around Vilnius, although some are much better than others. See the map below for playground options that I love.
Giving Birth in Vilnius
My experience giving birth in Vilnius was excellent. My gynecologist and OB at the Baltic American Clinic were fabulous and the maternity nurses were so kind and helpful. I've written a complete post here and am happy to answer detailed personal questions via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), so feel free to contact me!
I've since thought of things or been asked questions that weren't included in my initial blog post about giving birth, so I'm adding them here.
During pretty much every prenatal doctors appointment, I had an ultrasound and was given a sonogram image to take home -- it was awesome. Also, if you don't want to know the sex of your child, tell the doctor up front and several times (they may forget). Our doctor simply told us the sex without us asking for it. Do note that you'll also be asked to get an eye exam and have a dental appointment for your prenatal care because Lithuania's approach to maternity care is very holistic (and excellent).
I was unable to find a birthing class in Vilnius offered in English, but this isn't something I really looked for, so you may find one. Also, do note that if you give birth in the Baltic American Clinic (BAC), the baby stays in your room as they don't have a nursery. Additionally, there is no typical plastic bassinet for a newborn in your room, so this is something you should bring with you. The BAC also provided some (but not all) items for the mother like a hospital gown, disposal underwear, and maternity pads. They also dress your baby in sweet clothing directly after birth, and you are given woolen socks and a hat for your baby to keep. Also, we were given some formula since my milk took several days to come in. Do note that they don't do foot and hand prints of your child, so if you want these you should bring a kit with you.
I've also had questions about getting an epidural from mom's to be (I had one), and they are very common in Lithuania. We had to sign some paperwork first, but I liked the doctor who administered mine. Additionally, they have a lactation specialist at BAC who is also one of the midwives who attend to you and the baby after the birth.
To get a birth certificate for your child, you'll need to do is take the receipt from the hospital or clinic that you gave birth in to the registration administration office on K. Kalinausko g. 21, Vilnius 03107, Lithuania. This building is rather famous for its Soviet Brutalist architecture, but don't worry because it is relatively easy to get the birth certificate without any knowledge of Lithuanian. When you arrive, face the building and walk to the left hand side. You'll pass a small restaurant/cafe thing and the office is one of the doors after that. Simply ask or point to the baby and you'll be pointed in the right direction (bring the baby with you -- you all must go in person). Give the person in the office this receipt and they will make you a birth certificate. Baby ISO's is a small folded green paper and this has his name, birth date, information about his parents, and an asmenos kodas. Do note that Americans born in Lithuania are not given Lithuanian citizenship unless a parent is Lithuanian.
After getting a Lithuanian birth certificate for your child, you can use that to get the American Born Abroad documents and passport from the American Embassy (which is close to the registration office). This is also a very easy process and only took about one or two weeks for us to receive all of our documents.
For maternal care, I was very happy with Baltic American Clinic, but I've also heard good experiences from local clinics. For pediatricians, we didn't opt to take Baby ISO to BAC -- instead we found a wonderful doctor at Alfa Clinic. Although it is a pain to get to the location from old town, the doctor there is wonderful and some pediatricians make house calls.
If your child is very sick, there are good children's hospitals such as Antakalnio Poliklinika. I've been treated here and found my care very thorough, although it was confusing to figure out which doctors to see. If your child is sick or you give birth before 38 weeks, you'll likely need to give birth in this hospital since it is equipped with prenatal facilities. I would have had to give birth here if Baby ISO was born any earlier than he was. Also, do note that doctors tend to work at multiple hospitals and clinics at the same time -- my gynecologist from BAC also works at Antakalnio Poliklinika.
Purchasing Maternity Clothes and Baby Items
Personally, I found it difficult to find maternity clothing, particularly professional-looking maternity clothing -- my mom actually ended up sending some for me. H&M in Gedimino 9 carries a small selection of maternity clothing on the top floor with the baby clothing. Ikea is a great place for baby furniture and toys, and is the most affordable option in Vilnius outside of second-hand shops. There is also a Mother Care in Panorama Mall that has maternity clothing, necessities, furniture, and baby things. I found Mother Care to be more affordable than the other options in Panorama Mall. Do keep in mind that baby things and maternity clothes are very expensive compared to the prices I'm used to in the US.
For second-hand maternity clothes and baby things, I really like the 50 Cent stores on Mindaugo g. approximately across from the large Maxima and on Dominikonu g. have a lot of baby, toddler, and children items including clothes, shoes, toys, stroller bags (the ones for cold days), and more. I really have been impressed by what I've purchased for Baby ISO at the 50 Cent stores -- it is great for parents on a budget.
Another great store for baby and maternity items is Ogmios Miestas. This outdoor mall has been recently renovated and features several hip restaurants, an indoor play gym for kids, and tons of shops. Baby City is a good option for baby gear, toys, things needed for a recovery after birth (maternity pads, nipple cream, disposable underwear, etc). I really like this shopping center as it has a ton of options and is conveniently near a large super market and tons of other shops. Check their website here.
If you are looking to meet other parents in Vilnius or have some questions, the Facebook Group Playgroup in Vilnius is a great option. If you are looking to buy secondhand baby items, Vilnius Area Online Yard Sale (another Facebook Group) is a perfect place to start. Foreigners in Vilnius is another good option on Facebook to meet people, learn about jobs, or ask a general question, although I prefer Playgroup in Vilnius. Also, please feel welcome to like or join In Search Of's Facebook Page or travel group. You can always get in touch with me there if you prefer it to email! I love chatting with other moms, so don't feel shy to get in contactwith me.
Fixing Strollers and Bikes
In a city like Vilnius, where many things can be reached on foot and you put thousands of miles on your stroller, it can be really terrible when it breaks down. Although we had a spare, our main (and favorite stroller) was down for the count for a few months. That is until we took it to be fixed. There are two places in Vilnius where you can get your stroller repaired. The first is actually a bike shop called Ponas Dviratis (A. Goštauto 4-1a, Vilnius 01106, Lithuania; website). The awesome staff member that we had spoke English and was able to quickly fix the axle and it only cost 5 EUR. I'd highly recommend them if you are in a pinch and don't have a car.
If Ponas Dviratis can't help you and you are willing to make a bit of a trip, there is a stroller repair store that has parks from numerous strollers and can custom build something if necessary. We've not tried it out, but I have heard it suggested among our Lithuanian friends. Here is their website, but you'll need to translate it if you can't read Lithuanian.
Ordering Food Online
Parents are busy, busy people -- sometimes shockingly so. We make it easier on ourselves by ordering groceries (and sometimes delivery online). We order groceries online from Barbora, which is a great service where you can select groceries online and choose a delivery time. Just use the translate feature on your browser to translate to English.
Assorti is another option for imported and specialty grocery deliver, but this store is very expensive. They do have a great selection of natural baby items, toys, cosmetics, and baby food such as Ella's that does sometimes make it worth it. Delivery times cannot be chosen, however, making it sort of annoying to be home the entire day of delivery. Check their website for more information.
Livinn is a natural food and cosmetics store that also has delivery options. Their online selection is much larger than in store and often features promotions. We have never used their online purchasing option, but my friend uses it all of the time and highly recommends it.
Ordering take out was not a thing in Vilnius when we first moved here -- oh how times change! Now, we are super spoiled with Lekste, which is an online order service similar to Seamless in the US that allows you to select from different restaurants. We've used Lekste a ton of times and it is great. I do suggest ordering sort of early though because it does take awhile for delivery.
We don't have a car, so when I was in labor I took a cab to BAC. Two taxi companies that I like are 1422 and 1820, but I do want to note that I'm far more nervous with Lithuanian taxi drivers than those I've experienced in Asia (which may come as a shocker to those of you have experienced Asian taxis). I really hate taking cabs in Vilnius, but sometimes it is necessary.
Many cabs don't have car seats and it is likely you won't get one even when requesting beforehand. So, I'd suggest bringing a car seat with you for the child's safety and your peace of mind. Be sure to buckle the car seat in yourself since many cab drivers will often just wedge it between the seats. Also, from my experience, car seat laws are very lax and I often see kids not in car seats and even sitting in the front seat. I absolutely do not recommend doing this because it is terribly unsafe! Just lug that heavy car seat with you!
What did I miss? Do you have any more questions? Do you have questions about pets (we have a cat, so I can share)?