Latvia has a fairly modern and actively developing telephone system. For calls, it is best to use Lattelecom’s pay phones located on the streets. They work with special telephone cards, which are sold by magazine kiosks (there you can also get cards for prepaid cellular communications), as well as credit cards.
There are several types of telephone numbers in Riga, with different cost of calls to them. Regular landline numbers start with 7, toll-free numbers start with 8, and 9 and 6 are mobile phone numbers.
Developed in Latvia and access to the Internet. The Wi-Fi network is available in more than 50 points of the country, mainly in the center of large cities. You can also find Internet cafes there. You can also get access to the network at specially equipped Statoil gas stations. Subscribers of some Russian mobile operators also have access to GPRS roaming in Latvia.
Cellular communication standards in Latvia are GSM 900/1800, the largest Russian operators have roaming. To purchase a local SIM card, you do not need a passport, this can be done at almost any kiosk.
Phone numbers to call in case of emergency:
- 01 – fire service;
- 02 – police;
- 03 – ambulance;
- 04 – gas service;
- 118 – information service, where you can get help in Russian.
As a memory of Latvia, tourists often buy original wooden crafts, amber figurines, gold, silver and ceramic items. They sell beautiful dolls, excellent quality linen clothes, cotton jersey, etc.
Traditional gastronomic souvenirs from Latvia are a bottle of the famous Riga balsam Melnais or a box of chocolates from the Laima factory. Various high-quality products are imported to Latvia from the Scandinavian countries. In Riga, tourists should go to the central market for signature smoked chicken, fish, and other local delicacies.
In Latvia, and especially in the capital, shops operating under the tax free system are common. They are marked with a special sign. With a purchase that costs more than 29.50 LVL (including VAT of 18%), the tourist has the right to receive the tax amount back when leaving the country. Don’t forget to pick up a special tax refund receipt from the store. See liuxers for Latvia customs and traditions.
In Latvian restaurants, it is customary to leave a tip of 5-10% of the total bill. However, often this percentage is included in the bill by default (this can be checked by looking at the menu or wine list). Taxi fares do not include tips. As for the encouragement of the staff of hotels and other establishments, this is regarded as a nice gratitude for good service, but is left to the discretion of the client.
Latvia does not experience a lack of accommodation places for guests. A tourist is free to choose at least a five-star hotel, at least a modest campsite or a youth hostel. The prevailing number of hotels has been repaired, restored or reconstructed. The highest level of hotels – in the capital, in Jurmala – is much more modest, on the basis of old Soviet sanatoriums.
Any hotel is distinguished by a high level of service and extremely polite and courteous treatment of guests; many hotel employees speak Russian. Hotels are regularly certified. The main types of tourist accommodation are spa hotels, guest houses (from 5 rooms), motels, campsites and hostels.
The official currency of Latvia is the Latvian lats (in the international designation LVL, domestically – Ls), consisting of 100 centimes. In circulation there are banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 lats, as well as coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 centimes, 1 and 2 lats.
You can exchange lats for currencies of other countries and vice versa completely freely and everywhere. Banks, special exchange offices “Valutas Maina” in hotels, post offices and railway stations change the currency. The exchanged amounts are also not limited in any way, the presentation of documents is not required.
Banks are open Monday-Friday from 9.00 to 16.00-16.30, and the largest branches are open until 17.00-19.00. On Saturday, you can get to the bank from 9.00 to 12.30.
Traveler’s checks can not be used everywhere, only in major tourist areas. Almost any hotel, restaurant or large shops will readily accept payment by credit card, and there is no shortage of ATMs.
Shops are open on weekdays from 10.00 to 19.00, and on Saturdays from 10.00 to 16.00. The longest opening hours are for supermarket chains such as Rimi and Maxima, they do not close until 23.00. Only a few stores have a 24-hour work schedule.
Due to the small size of Latvia, motor vehicles are becoming the main mode of transportation within the country. Communication between cities is supported by modern bus routes, which always run according to the schedule. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office of the bus station or from the bus driver during the trip itself. The journey is quite expensive: you will have to pay from 2 to 5 lats for a ticket.
Rail transportation is quite widespread. Basically, the population moves on electric trains going from Riga to different parts of the country. The trains, as a rule, are quite old, but are maintained in good condition, the cars are equipped as comfortably as possible for passengers: soft seats, clean restrooms, etc. Tickets are purchased at the box office of stations or from the conductor on the train itself (the latter is more expensive).
Air communication within the country almost does not operate as unnecessary. The plane flies only from Riga to Liepaja, the prices for this flight are very affordable. Movement in cities is carried out with the help of trams, trolleybuses, buses and taxis operating from 6.00 to 23.00. It is convenient for tourists to purchase a special Riga Card travel card, which allows them to travel both within the city and over some intercity distances.
It is very comfortable to travel on the roads of Latvia in a car. To rent a car for the duration of your stay in the country, you must have an international driver’s license and a credit card, as well as pay the amount of the insurance fee.
Mains voltage 220 V, frequency 50 Hz. European-style two-prong plugs are used in the country.
Time zone of Latvia: GMT+2 (-1 hour from Moscow).