Latvia Travel Information
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GMT +2 (GMT +3, Apr - Oct)
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European style two-pin plugs are in use.
Latvian is the official language, but English, Lithuanian, Russian and German are also spoken.
No health certificates or vaccinations are required to enter Latvia, but visitors are advised to have an inoculation against tick-borne encephalitis if planning to hike in the country and forests or stay in rural areas, especially during the summer months of March to October. There was a outbreak of Hepatitis A in a restaurant in Riga in May 2008 and travellers are recommended to get vaccinated before travelling to Latvia. Rabies is endemic, and outbreaks of meningitis occur. Medicines are usually available, but it is best to bring a supply of personal medication. Health insurance is necessary. A reciprocal agreement with the UK entitles UK citizens to emergency treatment on the same terms as Latvian nationals on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Tipping is not obligatory in restaurants, but it is customary to round up the bill to no more than 10% if a service charge has not been included and the service was good. Carry small change for tipping taxi drivers. In hotels, tip according to the services provided.
Most visits to Latvia are trouble-free, but street crime can be a problem for tourists, and there are occasional muggings of foreigners, particularly if walking alone or at night. Car theft is rife. Reports indicate that foreigners are being charged ridiculously expensive prices for drinks in bars in Riga, and visitors are cautioned against becoming victims by checking on prices before buying. Muggings are common of tourists out late at night in the Old Town.
Latvians are generally reserved, quiet and extremely courteous, and are not comfortable making small talk. Good manners dictates that people are not embarrassed or criticised in public.
Conducting business in Latvia can sometimes be a challenge due to bureaucracy, as well as the lack of English spoken. Business tends to be formal, with a clear-cut hierarchy, and titles are usually used. Punctuality, directness and organisation are all important. Suits and ties are the norm and when in doubt, dress conservatively. Women might encounter some sexism and roles should be clarified to avoid confusion. Business hours are usually from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
The international dialling code for Latvia is +371. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City/area codes are in use; there are three for Riga: (0)3, (0)28 and (0)29. International Direct Dialling is available from all public and hotel phones. Public phones use phone cards, which can be bought from numerous shops and kiosks. For local operator assistance dial 116, and for international operator assistance dial 115. The two local GSM mobile phone operators use GSM 900 and GSM 1800 networks. Riga has an increasing number of internet cafes.
Travellers to Latvia over 17 years and arriving with goods purchased in the EU for personal use do not have to pay duty on 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 1kg smoking tobacco; 10 litres of spirits with alcohol content higher than 22%, 20 litres of alcohol with alcohol content lower than 22%, 90 litres wine or 60 litres of sparkling wine, 110 litres of beer, and 110 litres of non-alcoholic beverages. Travellers arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre of spirits with alcohol volume higher than 22%, or 2 litres spirits, aperitifs, liqueur, sparkling or still wines with alcohol volume less than 22% and 2 litres still wine; perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; other goods for personal use to the value of €175. Prohibited items include narcotics, guns, and fresh food products.
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