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Latvia

If you’re travelling to Latvia, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available by contacting the Health Service Executive, and that you also obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Latest Travel Alert

Given recent terrorist attacks in European cities, Irish citizens are advised to follow the advice of police and local authorities and to exercise increased vigilance, especially if attending large public gatherings or other crowded locations. Attacks could occur at any time and could target tourist attractions, restaurants, transport hubs or other public areas.

Emergency Assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in Latvia by dialling 112 or 113. Specific emergency numbers are:

  • Police: 110 or 112
  • Central Police Station, Matisa iela 9, Rīga: +371 67086200
  • Riga City Tourism Police provide a 24-hour, English-language service: +371 671 81818
  • State Fire-fighting and Rescue Service: 112

Our tips for safe travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Get a European Health Insurance Card
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in Latvia is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Latvia but you should take sensible precautions:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (as well as travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • There have been a number of thefts in hostels so take particular care of your belongings when using these.
  • There are a number of scams being operated by some strip/lap-dancing bars or other bars/clubs using hostess. If you’re approached by a hostess and encouraged to come to a particular bar, be aware that any drink purchased for the hostess is likely to cost many times the price of an average drink. Always ask the price of the drink before ordering and pay for each drink as it is ordered. Specify the exact drink (i.e. asking for 'champagne' can automatically result in a purchase of a bottle of the most expensive champagne in the bar). There have been a number of complaints from Irish citizens of some nightclubs charging very high prices. Some such clubs have refused to let people leave until the bill (in some cases over €5,000) has been paid.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Latvia, report it to the local police immediately, call 110 or 112, before contacting the Embassy in Riga (a link).

Riga City Tourism Police

The Tourist Police Department provides a 24-hour English-language service for tourists to Riga in difficulties, or who would like to register a complaint about their treatment in Riga.  The telephone number is +371 67181818.

Passport loss/theft

If your passport is lost or stolen in Rīga, you should firstly report the loss or theft to the police station at Matīsa iela 9 (between Brīvības and Tērbatas iela, ph: +371 67086200). This station is responsible for the Old City area.

The police will issue you with a report confirming that you have reported your passport as lost or stolen. You will be required to present this report when applying to the Embassy for a replacement travel document. You will also need two passport photographs, an alternative form of identification and an administrative fee of 15 EUR.  You should contact the Embassy as soon as you obtain the police report to arrange for the production of an Emergency Travel Document. Photographs are available from photographic shops and, outside of normal hours, at a kiosk in Rīga’s international bus station (Prāgas iela 1, near the Central Market). Access is available 24 hours through the side entrance.

Driving and Pedestrians

If you’re driving in Latvia, you should be extremely careful. Latvia has the highest rate per capita, of road deaths in the EU.

Pedestrians should exercise good care when crossing the streets, even when the ‘green man’ signal is displayed, as drivers may have a green light at the same time.

When entering Latvia by car and at all times while driving in Latvia, you must have your original vehicle registration and insurance certificates, as well as your driving licence, with you.

If you want to drive, it is recommended to:

  • Bring your international driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
  • It is forbidden to drive while smoking or using a cell phone.
  • Use dimmed headlights at all times, this is mandatory.
  • Parking in the Old city is expensive, so we recommend you park on Saturdays from 5pm and Sundays, because it is free (as of 08.03.2016).

Car Rental

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Public Transport

Travellers on public transport should be aware that on the spot fines will be imposed if found travelling without a ticket or with a ticket which has not been validated. Tickets can be bought from the driver or from shops/kiosks but must be validated by using the machine in the bus/tram/trolleys. Additional tickets should be purchased from drivers for large pieces of luggage and/or pets. Tickets are cheaper if you buy them in advance from shops/kiosks.

Taxis

For safety and economic reasons, we advise you to use major taxi companies, such as:

  • Baltic Taxi ph.: 8500
  • Red Cab ph.: 8383
  • Panda Taxi.: +371 6700 0000

These companies will inform you in advance of the type and taxi number of the car that will collect you. Be wary of smaller or independent operators as they often over-charge foreigners. 

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices in case your behaviour is seen as improper, hostile or even illegal.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms as well as the acquisition and/or possession of narcotic substances is against the law

Smoking and Alcohol 

Smoking in public spaces and places is against the law. Also, smoking is not permitted within 10 meters of the entrances to public or local government institutions. It is best not to smoke close to buildings at all.

Public drunkenness (i.e. in the streets, on public transport, etc.) will be dealt with very severely by the Latvian authorities, who have the right to detain people in detoxification centres if they believe them to be very drunk.

Possession of an open bottle of alcoholic beverage in public places (including on the street, and in parks) in Riga is against the law.

Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is against the law.

Public order offences

There have also been a small number of cases where Irish citizens have themselves been the perpetrators of public order offences. These are robustly policed in Riga and can result in up to 7 years imprisonment, and/or a hefty fine.

The Freedom Monument, which is at the edge of the Old City, is one of a number of important symbols for Latvians, which should be treated with great respect.

The authorities in Rīga and elsewhere in Latvia often respond to offences by detaining suspects in jail until the case can be heard in court. This generally takes from 7-14 days.

Additional Information

Entry requirements

Irish citizens do not require a visa to enter Latvia for short visits but if remaining for longer than 90 days you are required to obtain a residence permit.

When entering Latvia by car and at all times while driving in Latvia, you must have your original vehicle registration certificate, as well as your driving licence, with you.

Identification

Visitors are recommended to carry ID in public at all times. It may be advisable to email copies of your passport to yourself before departure or to take a number of photocopies of it along with you.

When entering Latvia by car and at all times while driving in Latvia, you must have your original vehicle registration certificate, as well as your driving licence, with you.

Travelling to Latvia in winter

Be prepared for very cold and possibly hazardous weather if you intend to travel to Latvia in winter (October to March). There is likely to be snow on the ground and temperatures may drop to -25 degrees Celsius or below.

Localised flooding

The spring thaw sometimes causes localised flooding outside of Riga.

In general, the best time to visit is May-September, when daytime temperatures are in the 20-25 C range, with nights ranging 4-15 C. The coldest months are January and February.

Customs regulations

A special antiques export permit is necessary if you purchase an icon, book, painting or other cultural item that is 50 years old or more, or costs above 300 EUR. This can be sought from the State Inspection for Heritage Protection, 19 Mazā Pils Street, Rīga [in the Old Town] (ph.:  +371 67229272).

Money

Since 1 January 2014 the currency in Latvia is the Euro.

All major credit cards are accepted and there are plenty of ATM machines for withdrawing money.

Health

Ambulance service for emergencies is available by dialling 113.

Irish citizens do not need any vaccinations when travelling to Latvia but you should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme-disease are widespread throughout Latvia.  Those intending to visit parks or forested areas (even within Riga) are urged to speak with their health care practitioners regarding vaccinations before.

Travel Insurance

We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.

Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.

Emergency expenses

Your policy should cover:

  • All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
  • Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.   
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
  • Lost and stolen possessions.
  • Cancellation and curtailment.
  • Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).

Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.

European Health Insurance Card

As an Irish resident you are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay there. Ensure that you get or renew your EHIC (the new name for the E111) before you go, and remember, you need one for every person travelling in your group.

You can apply for your EHIC and find out more information here.

The EHIC is not a substitute for proper travel insurance provided by a reputable insurer. It doesn’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. Also, some private hospitals may not accept the EHIC, so you should check with the hospital administrator beforehand.

Hospitals in Latvia

Rīgas 1. Slimnīca, Bruņinieku 5, Rīga (not 24-hour): +371 67366321

P. Stradiņa klīniskā universitātes slimnīca, Pilsoņu 13, Rīga:  +371 6706 9600

Rīgas Austrumu klīniskā universitātes slimnīca, stacionars “Gaiļezers”, Hipokrāta 2, Rīga  (24 hours): +371 6704  1001

Liepājas reģionālā slimnīca, Slimnīcas 25, Liepāja: +371 6340 3255

Daugavpils reģionālā slimnīca, Vasarnīcu 20, Daugavpils: +371 6540 5252

Ziemeļkurzemes reģionālā slimnīca, Inženieru 60, Ventspils: +371 6362 4721

Jelgavas pilsētas slimnīca, Brīvības bulv. 6,Jelgava: +371 6302 1802

Vidzemes slimnīca, Jumaras 195, Valmiera: +371 6420 2602

24/7 pharmacies in Riga

In case you have an immediate need for a pharmacy during night, there are several pharmacies in the city centre. In case you find such a pharmacy, but the door is closed, press the bell-push right next to door and the pharmacist will serve you.

Mēness aptieka located in the Old Town, Rīga, Vaļņu iela 28 - ph: +371 6721 3340

Mana Aptieka located in the city centre, next to the Central Railway Station, Rīga, Marijas iela 3 –

ph: +371 6721 0773

Mēness aptieka  Brīvības iela 74, Riga - ph: +371 67271619

English-speaking doctors in Rīga

ARS medical centre, Skolas iela 5    

+371 6720 1006 (reception)

+371 6720 1003 (emergencies at home)

Dr Anda Karina, Skolas iela 2: +371 6724 0202; mob. +371 2911 9036

Dr Livija Caune, Elizabetes iela 2 a: +371 6732 1980; mob. +371 2913 9115

Dr E. Tirans, General Practicioner, Bruninieku iela 67:  +371 6731 5594

Legal firms providing an English-language service

A Baumana birojs, Stabu iela 87, Rīga:  +371 2927 3361

Rode & Partneri, Strelnieku 1-8, Rīga:  +371 6722 5228; mob +371 2646 8232

Spigulis & Kukainis, Valnu iela 3, Rīga: +371 6721 4272

Notaries providing an English-language service

Ilona Ķibilde, Blaumana iela 16/18-1, Riga: +371 6728 4548

Agrita Gustafssone, Kaļķu iela 26, Rīga: +371 6721 0252