Travel guide to Latvia

- Choose region -
- Choose city -
» Latvia
Latvia, together with Lithuania and Estonia, is one of the Baltic States. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Empire they have attracted many thousands of European tourists. Though still bearing the scars of those years as a Soviet satellite Latvia is a fascinating travel destination, both culturally and historically.

Facts

Top
Local name
Latvijas Republika
Capital
Riga (850,000)
Size
64,589 sq. km
Principal Languages
Latvian
Principal Religion
Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox
Inhabitants
2.259.400 (2009)
Government
Republic
Geography
Latvia is a flat country with large areas of grasslands. The country is intersected by seventeen rivers and also boasts many lakes.

Travel preparation

Top

Best time to visit

Latvia benefits from warm summers and cold winters. The snow starts around October and snowdrifts are not an uncommon sight as late as May. In the summertime, however, it can get very hot. You can visit Latvia any time of the year, but the real high season is from May to October.

Literature

Scandinavian and Baltic Europe on a Shoestring Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

Local conditions

Top

Net cafes

There are a few Internet cafés in the capital of Riga.

In case of emergency

To call for help in Latvia you dial the following numbers: Police: 02 Ambulance: 03 Fire: 01

Tipping

Tipping is customary in Latvia. A service charge is often added to the bill in restaurants, but you are still expected to reward good service with a small amount. For example, it would be good form to round up to an even figure.

Timezone

Latvia is two hours ahead of GMT. When it's noon in the UK, it's 2 pm in Latvia.

Weight and Measures

Latvia uses the metric system.

Photography

If you avoid taking pictures of public buildings and exhibit general courtesy by asking people's permission before photographing them you shouldn't have any problems.

Drinking water

Don't use Latvian tap water for drinking or for brushing your teeth.

Electricity

220 Volts AC/50Hz

Business Hours

Banks are open from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm Monday to Friday, and some banks open for business again for a few hours in the afternoon as well. Shops are open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday to Friday and from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm Saturdays. Some shops will close for lunch. Offices are open from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and again from 2.00 pm to 6:00 pm Monday to Friday. Government offices are open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Food and drink

The menus in Latvian restaurants are mainly inspired by Russian and Slavic cuisine, so varieties of flesh dishes are the dominant fare. In the drink department there is local Latvian vodka, local bitters, and the country's excellent beer.

Holidays

New Year's Day: January 1 Labour Day: May 1 Midsummer: June 23 and 24 Independence Day: November 18 Christmas: December 25 and 26

Accommodation / Hotel

Top

Camping

There are a number of camping grounds in Latvia of varying standards. In fact, some of them are just that: a piece of bare ground! Most of the camping is situated near the main roads, and especially the area around Jurmala has quite a few grounds.

Hotels

After the fall of Communism the Latvians have worked hard to bring the hotels up to Western standards - and with some success, it must be said. The invasion of the international hotel chains has been particularly inspirational. You still run into the odd ultra low quality hotel, but then the price will be accordingly low.

Other Accommodation

It is also possible to stay on a Latvian farm; information is available from the national tourist office.

Local transport

Top

Planes

Latvia's main international airport is at Jurmala near Riga and easily accessible from the capital. Latvia also has a number of smaller airports that cater to domestic air travel.

Bus

The preferred form of transport for the average Latvian is the country's extensive network of buses. You will come across everything from the country mail-bus to luxurious express liners.

Trains

The Latvian railway lines connect most major cities, but if you're going out in the country, you should probably opt for the bus, even though there are some small regional rail lines in operation.

Taxi

A number of private taxi companies operate in the Latvian cities. They're usually cheap, but drivers charge extra at night.

Car rental

You can rent both cars and chauffeurs in Latvia through your hotel or directly from a rental company. The Latvian road system is generally not bad, but many small roads are unpaved, and you will come across the occasional hole in the road.

Special conditions

Top
Latvian Office of Tourism 4 Pils sq. Riga LV-1050 Telefon: +371-7-229945 Fax: +371-7-229945 E-mail: ltboard@latnet.lv

Find your travel arrangement to Latvia here

Travelmarket International
The travel search engine Travelmarket.com searches across more than 1,000 websites to find the best and cheapest travels for you.