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Welcome to Latvia

Latvia City afternoon landscape

Latvia, located in the Baltic region of Europe, is a small yet mighty country that packs a punch when offering a unique travel experience.

With its vibrant capital city of Riga and scenic countryside featuring castles and lakes, Latvia is the perfect destination for those seeking a blend of modernity and tradition.

And with the ultimate Latvia travel guide at your fingertips, planning your Latvian adventure has never been easier. So why wait? Come and discover all this little European Union country has to offer!

Document checklist for Latvia

Due to the entry and exit requirements for Latvia, you need certain documents. Here is a checklist of prerequisites you will need to enter Latvia:

  • A valid passport with at least three months validity beyond the intended stay

  • A visa or ETIAS, depending on your country of origin.

  • Proof of sufficient funds to cover the stay in Latvia

  • Return/onward ticket

  • Travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and repatriation

It's important to note that these requirements may vary depending on your nationality, so it's always best to check before traveling. Use our visa checker tool to see which documents you can apply for through iVisa.

Essential Latvia travel information

  • Currency - Euro (€). $1 is equivalent to approx. €0.85.

  • Daily budget for 1 person - €40-50 for budget travel, €70-100 for mid-range travel, €150+ for luxury travel.

  • Languages - Latvian is the official language, but English and Russian are widely spoken.

  • Number of travelers per year - According to the Latvian Tourism Development Agency, in 2019, Latvia received over 2.6 million visitors.

  • Socket type - Type F (European 2-pin plug).

  • Time zone - Eastern European Time (EET), GMT+2.

  • Top 3 cities to visit - Riga, Jurmala, Sigulda

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Riga Old Town, Rundale Palace, Gauja National Park.

Visa information for Latvia

US and EU citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to visit Latvia for up to 90 days within 180 days for tourism, business, or transit purposes. You simply need to apply for an ETIAS. However, if you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you must apply for a long-stay visa.

For non-US or non-EU citizens, visa requirements vary depending on the country of origin, but you may need to apply for a Latvia Schengen visa.

Latvia ETIAS

The ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) is an electronic travel authorization required for all travelers who want to visit the Schengen Zone and can enter without a visa.

The ETIAS is part of a completely electronic system that enables officials to monitor travel within the Schengen area better. The ETIAS is valid for three years or until the expiration of the holder’s passport.

All citizens of the 62 countries who can enter visa-free into the Schengen Zone will be obliged to obtain ETIAS authorization before entering any European country. You can explore many other European countries with the same ETIAS.

Latvia Schengen Visa

The Latvia Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa that allows holders to also visit other countries in the Schengen zone without border controls. It is the most common European visa, and you can apply for it easily with iVisa.

Visa difficulty index for Latvia

Accessibility: 3/5

Getting a visa for Latvia is relatively straightforward for US and EU citizens, as they do not require a visa for stays up to 90 days. However, non-US or non-EU citizens may need help to obtain a visa, as the requirements can vary depending on their country of origin. The visa application process can be time-consuming, but iVisa has simplified it and can help most nationalities apply.

Time to get your visa: 3/5

The processing time for a Latvian visa can take up to 15 days, which is longer than in some other European countries. However, it is possible to apply for rush processing for a visa at an additional fee, which can shorten the processing time.

Costs: 3/5

There is no government fee for US or EU citizens for short-term stays in Latvia. However, non-US or non-EU citizens may need to pay a visa fee. Additionally, there are processing fees for submitting a visa application through iVisa. It is important to note that visa application rejections can result in losing the visa fee. Using a visa processing service like iVisa can help reduce the risk of rejection and assist throughout the application process.

Typical costs and budget for Latvia

Daily spending per person - $38-68 USD per day per person

  • Meals - USD 10-14 per person per day

  • Transport - USD 4.70 per person per day

  • Hotel - USD 60 per person per night

For budget accommodation, expect to pay around $30-50 USD per night for a hostel or basic hotel. Mid-range hotels can range from $70-120 USD per night, while luxury hotels can cost upwards of $ 180 per night.

An average budget for one week for two people is $1,012.90-1,068.90 USD. Again, remember that prices can vary based on your travel style and preferences.

Transport and ways to travel around Latvia

Latvia is a small country in Northern Europe with a well-developed transportation system, making it easy to get around.

Flying to Latvia:

The main international airport in Latvia is Riga International Airport (RIX), which is served by a number of airlines from major destinations around the world, including AirBaltic, Ryanair, and Wizz Air.

Arrival and Immigration Tips for Latvia:

  • To get through immigration quicker, applying for a visa in advance (if applicable) or utilizing the visa waiver program for eligible countries is recommended. The airport in Riga is generally easy to navigate. However, a visa on arrival is unavailable in Latvia, so planning and obtaining any necessary visas before arrival is essential.

  • The airport in Riga gets very busy during peak season, so arrive early for check-in and security screening. To get to and from the airport, a variety of transportation options are available, including taxis, buses, and trains. Taxis are readily available at the airport. However, buses and trains are more affordable options.

Best ways to travel around Latvia

  • The best way to travel around Latvia is with public transportation, which is both affordable and efficient. The most common form of transport used in the country is the bus system, a network of routes connecting major cities and smaller towns. Bus tickets can be purchased on board with cash or in advance online or at local ticket offices.

  • For travelers looking to explore the capital city of Riga, you can also opt for trams and trolleybuses. The Riga public transport system is operated by the company Rīgas Satiksme. Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines located at bus stops, in newsagents, or via the mobile app. You must validate your ticket when you board the vehicle, as you can be fined if you are caught riding without a valid ticket.

  • Another popular option for getting around Latvia is by train. Buy your tickets in advance online or at local ticket offices, as not all trains have onboard ticket sales. Another great option is the Eurail Latvia Pass for travelers planning to use trains extensively during their trip.

Public transportation, with affordable prices and convenient schedules, is fantastic for traveling around Latvia. Familiarize yourself with the ticketing system and plan to explore all these beautiful country offers.

If we haven’t convinced you to use public transport, you may also opt to get an international driving permit and hire a car; however, this can be expensive.

Safety in Latvia

Latvia is generally a safe country to travel to, with low crime rates and a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. However, like any destination, there are some safety considerations that travelers should be aware of.

  • Local authorities advise being mindful of pickpocketing in crowded areas, particularly in the larger cities like Riga. Travelers should keep their belongings close and be vigilant in busy public spaces. It's also important to exercise caution when using ATMs, as skimming devices have been used to steal card information.

  • Another safety concern in Latvia is the prevalence of drunk driving. While the country has strict local laws against driving under the influence, travelers must be cautious when using roads and crossing streets, particularly at night. Always use licensed taxi services or ride-sharing apps rather than hailing a taxi on the street.

Overall, with a bit of common sense and awareness, travelers can safely enjoy all that Latvia offers. Visitors can have an excellent and worry-free experience in this beautiful country by taking basic precautions.

Weather in Latvia

Latvia has a moderate climate with four distinct seasons. The best time to visit Latvia depends on what type of activities you are interested in. Generally, the summer months, from June to August, are the most popular among travelers. During this time, temperatures range from 15-25°C (59-77°F) with longer daylight hours and many outdoor festivals and events.

Spring and autumn can also be good times to visit, with mild temperatures ranging from 5-15°C (41-59°F) and beautiful fall foliage in the last season. However, it's worth noting that spring can be rainy, and autumn can be windy, so it's important to pack accordingly with waterproof jackets and layers.

Winter in Latvia can be pretty cold, with temperatures ranging from -5 to 0°C (23-32°F) in January and February. However, this can also be a magical time to visit for those interested in winter sports, as there are many opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. It's important to pack warm clothing such as hats, gloves, and insulated jackets if visiting during this season.

Overall, Latvia has a climate that can be enjoyed year-round, with each season offering its own unique attractions and experiences. Whether you prefer warm summer days or snowy winter adventures, there's something for everyone to enjoy in this beautiful country.

Must do and see in Latvia

Among the many exciting things to do in Latvia, these are the top tourist attractions you simply cannot miss:

  1. Old Town Riga - The historic center of Latvia's capital city is a must-see for anyone visiting the country. Old Town Riga is a great place to wander and explore with its charming cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and beautiful architecture. Be sure to visit the stunning St. Peter's Church for panoramic city views and enjoy a meal at one of the many cozy cafes and restaurants.

  2. Jurmala Beach - Located just 30 minutes outside Riga, Jurmala is a popular seaside resort known for its beautiful sandy beaches and picturesque wooden architecture. Visit in the summer for swimming and sunbathing, and try some of the local smoked fish, a traditional delicacy in the area.

  3. Gauja National Park - Latvia's largest national park is a nature lover's paradise, with hiking and biking trails, pristine lakes, and stunning views. Be sure to visit the medieval castle ruins of Turaida and the Gauja River Gorge, which offers some of the most breathtaking views in the park.

  4. Rundale Palace - Located in the southern part of the country, Rundale Palace is a stunning example of Baroque architecture and is often referred to as the "Versailles of Latvia." Visit in the spring or summer to enjoy the beautiful gardens and tour the palace to learn about its fascinating history.

  5. Cesis - A charming medieval town in the Vidzeme region of Latvia. Cesis is a great place to experience traditional Latvian culture and history. Visit the medieval castle ruins, stroll through the quaint streets lined with artisan shops and cafes, and enjoy a meal of traditional Latvian cuisines such as gray peas and bacon or smoked sausage.

Last but not least, no holiday is complete without a relaxing activity, and Latvia has the perfect answer: a traditional sauna ritual in western Latvia.

Typical Latvian food to try

Latvia has many unique foods, including these popular Latvian dishes to try:

  • Rupjmaize - a dark rye bread that is a staple of Latvian cuisine and often served with butter and cheese or as a side dish to soups and stews.

  • Piragi - small, crescent-shaped pastries filled with bacon and onions, typically served as a snack or appetizer.

  • Skābeņi - a cold soup made with kefir, beets, cucumbers, and dill, often served in the summer months as a refreshing dish.

  • Jāņu siers - a traditional Latvian cheese made from cottage cheese and caraway seeds and served with sour cream, often eaten during the summer solstice festival of Jāņi.

  • Kartupeļu pankūkas - potato pancakes that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, often served with sour cream or lingonberry jam.

Vaccine information for Latvia

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be current on routine vaccinations before traveling to Latvia. These include the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and flu shot.

In addition, the CDC may recommend certain vaccines based on your travel itinerary and personal health status. For example, travelers may need to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, rabies, or typhoid, depending on the country they are traveling from, their activities, and the areas they will be visiting.

Before traveling, check the CDC's Latvia country page for the most up-to-date vaccine recommendations and health advice. Some vaccines may require multiple doses over several weeks or even months, so starting the vaccination process as early as possible is best.

It's also worth noting that Latvia does not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result for entry; however, travelers are encouraged to have complete COVID-19 vaccinations.

Latvian Song and Dance Festival

Latvia is known for its rich culture and traditions, including the practice of song and dance. The Latvian Song and Dance Festival is held every five years. A celebration of cultural heritage, the festival is one of the largest choral events in the world. It brings together thousands of performers who showcase traditional Latvian songs, dances, and costumes.

The first Song Festival was held in 1873 and has become a symbol of Latvian national identity and pride. UNESCO has recognized the festival as a masterpiece of humanity's oral and intangible heritage. If you're lucky enough to visit Latvia during the festival, catch one of the performances and experience the Latvian people's vibrant energy and rich cultural traditions.

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