Tipping is usually expected. In restaurants, the bill often
includes a service charge, but you can round up the total
of the bill as a tip to serving staff.
Major credit cards are sometimes accepted at upscale businesses
in major cities; American Express is the most widely accepted
card in the Baltic states. Some banks in the capital offer
cash advances on credit cards, upon presentation of a valid
Travelers checks can be exchanged at very few places,
and the fee may be high. Currency, particularly US Dollars
and Deutsche Marks, is readily exchanged at banks, exchange
bureaus, and special kiosks at transportation hubs. Bring
crisp, new bills. Keep all exchange receipts for reconversion
of Latvian currency upon departure.
By Air: Riga Airport is situated about 7 km
from the city. One can get there by taxi or by bus.
By Rail: Latvia's rail network includes routes
from Riga to all other major towns in the country. Electric
trains to Aizkraukle, Jelgava and Jurmala leave one to three
times every hour. There are diesel trains to Liepaja, Ventspils
and Zilupe three times daily and Daugavpils two times daily.
The Railway Terminal is Stacijas laukums.
By Boat: In summer, there are routes from
the center of Riga to Mezaparks and Jurmala. Several agencies
offer pleasure cruises in the Gulf of Riga. Around the coastline,
we have several small sea ports with facilities for yachts.
By Coach: One can reach nearly every place
in the country by coach. There are regular routes from Riga
to the bigger towns.
By Car: The Latvians drive on the right-hand
side of the road. The maximum speed in cities and another
populated areas are 50 km per hour. Outside cities or villages
it is 90 km per hour. There will be special signs where 100
km per hour on motorways is allowed.
Latvian currency, the Lat or Ls (1 Lat = 100 santims) was
fully introduced in October 1993. There are coins of 1, 2,
5, 10, 20 and 50 santims, and 1 and 2 Lats. The paper notes
are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 Lats.
Banking hours are from 9.00 to 16.00 Monday through Friday,
and some banks are open Saturdays from 9.00 until 12.30 pm.
Upon entering Latvia, one individual, paying no customs duty
or value added tax, is allowed to bring in goods and other
articles for non-commercial purposes in an amount of Ls 300,
personal use items (clothes, toiletry) will be excused of
the customs duty amount; foodstuffs (except products requiring
thermal processing) in an amount of Ls 15, alcoholic beverages
(for individuals 18 years of age) either 1 litre, or 1 unit
in original packaging and not larger than 3 litres; cigarettes
200 pcs, or 20 cigars or 200 g of tobacco (for individuals
18 years of age) currency import is not restricted.
For the export of furs and trophies of hunted animals, a
license is required from the State Forestry department. For
the export of cultural objects, art items, a license is required
from the National Agency for Protection of Cultural Monuments.
No health certificates are required when entering the country.
Health insurance is advised. Medicine is widely available,
though it is wise to purchase these before traveling.
Handshaking is customary in Latvia. Normal courtesies should
be observed. Latvians are somewhat reserved and formal, but
nevertheless very warm and hospitable. They are proud of their
culture and their national heritage. Visitors should take
care to respect this sense of national identity.
International Direct Dialing
International Direct Dialing is available from all public
and hotel phones. Directory service for national numbers are
118 or 079. Directory service for international calls is 118.
The country code for Latvia is 371.
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 in summer).
When to Go
Spring and summer (April through September) are far and away
the choicest times of year to visit. These months see better
weather, more daylight, fresher food and plenty of folk festivals
cropping up nationwide. The weather during this period is
suitable for most outdoor activities - as long as you don't
mind the slushy and chilly weeks at either end. Winter weather
(from November through late March) can be extreme in Latvia,
but this period also sees the most theatre performances and
concerts and is a skiers' dream. July and August is the peak
tourist season, when hotels are often fully booked.