Latvia - Consular Information Sheet
July 18, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Latvia is a nation in the midst of
economic transition. Most tourist facilities found in a western
European city are available in Riga, the capital. However, many
of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries
are not yet available outside Riga.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport valid for at least six
months is required. No visa is required for travelers remaining
up to 90 days in a half-calendar year (from January to June and
from July to December). Travelers remaining in Latvia for more
than 90 days, including 180 day periods that cross over two half-calendar
years, must apply for temporary residence. Travelers who plan
to remain in Latvia for more than 90 days must apply in-country
for temporary residence. For more information, travelers may contact
the Latvian Embassy, at 4325 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
20011, tel: (202) 726-8213. Within Latvia, contact the Ministry
of Interior’s Citizenship and Immigration Department at Raina
bulv. 5, Riga LV 1508, tel. (371) 721-9424 or (371)721-9427, fax:
(371) 782-0306. Any traveler to Russia, even in transit, is advised
to obtain a Russian visa prior to entry into Latvia. The process
of obtaining a visa at the Russian Embassy in Riga can be lengthy,
and involve surrender of the passport for an undetermined period
DUAL NATIONALITY: Dual nationals may be subject to Latvian
laws, which impose special obligations. Whether or not a person
with United States citizenship would also be considered as a Latvian
citizen is a legal question dependent upon an individual’s date
and place of birth and the nationality of both parents. For more
information on this issue consult the Latvian Immigration and
Citizenship Department, Raina bulv. 5, Riga LV 1050, tel.: 371-721-9424.
For additional information, see the Consular
Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov
for the Department of State’s Dual
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Civil unrest is not a problem in
Riga and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward
American interests. The U.S. is admired and incidents of anti-Americanism
are rare though there were small demonstrations in front of the
Embassy during the last year to protest American policy in Kosovo.
CRIME INFORMATION: The crime rate in Riga is rising, though
generally, the crime is non-violent. Street crime is a concern,
particularly for tourists. As in all cities, pickpockets are known
to operate in all public areas (grocery stores, restaurants, department
stores, bars, buses, and on the streets), and there have been
cases of tourists and residents being drugged in bars and then
taken outside or to their residence and robbed. In any public
area, one should always be alert to being surrounded by two or
more people at once. It is not uncommon for groups of juvenile
pickpockets to attempt to overwhelm their victim. The loss or
theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately
to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet
A Safe Trip Abroad for ways
to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available
by mail from the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the Bureau
of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Latvia is steadily
improving but remains limited in several important respects. There
are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services,
including disposable needles and basic modern diagnostics, which
are nearly equal to Western Europe or U.S. standards. However,
any major invasive procedures or surgeries in Latvia are not recommended
because of lack of equipment and resources. Hospital services
are not equal to Western standards. Most, but not all, antibiotics
and prescription medications are available but as they are generally
European or Russian produced, they often have different names
and are usually not printed in English. Elderly travelers and
those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate
medical facilities. Diptheria, hepatitis and tick-borne encephalitis
are widespread. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis
is a significant problem in Latvia, with 9% of all cases being
multi-drug resistant. State ambulance service for emergencies
is available by dialing 03 anywhere in Latvia. However, quick
response is poor in rural areas. Air ambulance service is available
for medical evacuations.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-800-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY/ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country,
U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly
from those in the United States. The information below concerning
Latvia is provided for general reference only, and may not be
totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair
Latvian highways are slowly being upgraded after years of little
or no maintenance. However, the press reports that 11% of all
asphalted roads are in need of repair. The principal rural roads
are generally paved and are clear of snow during the winter. The
speed limit is 50 km/hr in towns, and 90 km/hr on the open road,
unless otherwise marked. The legal alcohol limit for drivers is
zero, and speed traps are common. U.S. drivers’ licenses are not
valid in Latvia, and American tourists must use a valid International
Driver’s License issued through the AAA. After 6 months, Americans
must apply for a Latvian Drivers’ License. For specific information
on Latvian driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and
mandatory insurance, contact the Latvian Traffic Safety Administration
(CSDD), Bauskas Iela 68, Riga LV-1004, tel. (371) 627-437.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority
to operate such service, between the U.S. and Latvia, the U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Latvia’s
Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Latvia customs authorities may enforce
strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export
from Latvia of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities,
medications, business equipment, drugs etc. It is advisable to
contact the Embassy of Latvia in Washington or one of Latvia’s
consulates in the United States for specific information regarding
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Latvia’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal
drugs in Latvia are strict and convicted offenders can expect
jail sentences and heavy fines.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Telephone connections with the
U.S. are generally reliable. However 1-800 numbers cannot be accessed
from Latvia. Use of international long-distance calling cards
is limited. Therefore, travelers should check with their long-distance
carrier before departure to see if calling cards can be used from
Latvia. Some local companies offer computer Internet access. Many
hotels in Riga have e-mail terminals in the rooms and allow their
guests to use the fax machine to receive and send messages. Facsimile
transmissions may also be made from several post offices in downtown
Riga. Travelers are urged to consider their method of maintaining
contact with family and friends when making their pre-travel preparations.
ATMs are available all over the city and in major towns.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information on international adoption
of children and international parental child abduction, please
refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone at (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: Americans
living in or residing in Latvia are encouraged to register at
the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Riga and obtain updated
information on travel and security within Latvia. The U.S. Embassy
is located at Raina Boulevard 7; tel. (371) 703-6200; fax: (371)
782-0047. Consular information and current travel information
can also be found on the Embassy
Riga home page at http://www.usis.bkc.lv/embassy/.