Estonian tax threat to Finns' booze cruises

The old city in Tallinn Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tallinn is a popular destination for thirsty visitors from Finland

A steep rise in alcohol taxes in Estonia may mean fewer Finns taking the short sea trip across the Gulf of Finland to take advantage of historically cheaper prices.

The Estonian government is set to impose a 70% rise in taxation on alcoholic drinks in July, Finnish broadcaster YLE reports.

It's a blow to drinkers from Finland who, since Estonian independence in 1991, have taken the short 54-mile (87km) ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn to enjoy prices which are less than half of those back home.

Finland has only recently begun to liberalise its strict drinking laws which, among other things, used to stop people from buying a round of drinks on a night out - people were only allowed to buy single units of alcohol at a time.

The Estonian tax rises are part of a progressive set of increases which mean drinkers will pay up to 50% more for their tipple by 2020. That means a 12-euro crate of beer will increase to 18 euros, making the concept of the money-saving "booze cruise" much less inviting.

Finnish tourist Erno Sjogren said that the tax rise might make him think again - but not on giving up the concept. Speaking to Helsingin Sanomat as he loaded his car outside an Estonian supermarket, he said he would consider taking his trade to Latvia instead - a 2.5-hour drive cross-country from the ferry port in the Estonian capital.

The Latvian town of Ainazi is already benefitting, Helsingen Sanomat says, with the appropriately named SuperAlko store visible from the Estonian border and offering cheaper prices than its Baltic neighbours.

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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