Latvia is a country in Northern Europe that is officially known as the Republic of Latvia. Due to its location near the Baltic Sea, it is often referred to as a Baltic State. It includes land borders with Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and Belarus, plus a maritime border with Sweden. The capital and largest city in Latvia is Riga. The official language is Latvian. The majority ethnic group is Latvians at 62 percent, but Russians also make up about 25 percent of the population.
Latvia’s climate is a temperate seasonal climate with much influence from the Baltic Sea, however, Latvia does get snowy winters and has four distinct seasons. Popular tourist attractions in Latvia include Gauja National Park, the capital city of Riga, the seaside resort town of Jurmala, Rundale Palace and Museum and many medieval castles found throughout the country.
Travelling in Latvia
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Travel information for Latvia
The capital Riga has an international airport. This is mainly served by some low-cost airlines and airBaltic.
There is no direct train connection from Germany to Latvia. A planned direct connection from Poland is still under construction as of 2020. So far, there is only one regional train from Białystock in Poland to Kaunas in Lithuania. However, this only runs at weekends. Rail transport from Lithuania to Latvia is currently also possible at weekends.
There are several bus companies that run regular services from Germany to Latvia. From Berlin it takes about 22 hours.
From the German border near Frankfurt/Oder it is about 1000 km to Riga on the shortest route. However, this route leads via the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, for which a transit visa is required.
The connections via Poland and Lithuania are somewhat longer.
Ferries depart from Lübeck/Travemünde to Latvia several times a week. The journey time is about 28 hours.
Entry requirements / Visa
Those travelling to Latvia as German citizens or residents of EU member states need an identity card or passport.
On the way in …
The bus is the standard means of public transport.
Buses depart from Riga in all directions. In the countryside, minibuses connect the towns.
The bus stops are often not easy to find and the timetables are more indicative. Fares are very reasonable. A small tip: Individual travellers should always ask for a receipt. It can happen that the tourist surcharge suddenly disappears.
Taxi rides are quite affordable in Latvia. Call taxis are often offered, and you should negotiate prices with the driver in advance.
There are several railway lines running through the country. So far, however, little attention has been paid to these connections. Only around Riga is the service good.
If you are not travelling to Latvia with your own car, you can book a car with numerous car rental companies. In the high season, however, it can happen that all the cars are already sold out. In terms of price, the offer is somewhat cheaper than in other Central European countries.
If you travel off the major connecting roads, you will often find poorly maintained roads.
Best time to travel
Winters in Latvia can be cold and snowy.
The main tourist season is in the warmer and drier summer months, when temperatures do not rise too high. The average temperature is 23-25 degrees.
Latvian is spoken in Latvia. The language belongs to the Indo-European language family. After the end of the Soviet Union, the independent character of the Latvian language is officially promoted.
The second most widely spoken language in the country is Russian, and Lithuanian is spoken in some parts of the country.
In the tourist areas, English is more widely spoken.
Latvia is one of the euro countries. Here you pay with the euro (€).
In Latvia, you only give a tip if you are actually satisfied with the service. Accordingly, the amount of the tip can also vary.
In restaurants, about 10% of the bill is given as a tip. Taxi drivers receive a tip of about 10%. Tour guides, guides and hotel staff are also happy to receive a few euros a day – but it is not expected.
German travellers do not need a travel adapter for trips to Latvia. Type C and F plugs are used in the country. These sockets can also be found in Germany.
In some places it is not advisable to drink tap water without boiling it.
In rural areas, tap water may contain strong-smelling sulphur compounds and iron from old pipes.