Practical A to Z
Practical A to Z
- Eating out
- Embassies and consulates
- Getting around
- Public holidays
- Social etiquette
The most popular restaurants sport a traditional, rustic decor, where young lasses in traditional costume serve large portions of local dishes or platters piled high with cooked meats, cheese and pickled vegetables, all of which washed down with mugs of beer.
Cafés: 8am to 11pm.
Restaurants: 12noon to 11pm.
It is customary to leave a 10% tip if you are satisfied with the service.
Standard two-pin European plugs (220V, 50Hz), so slip an adaptor into your suitcase.
Embassies and consulates
British Embassy – 5 J. Alunana Street - 1010 Rīga - t 371 6777 4700 - http://ukinlatvia.fco.gov.uk/en/
Irish Embassy –Valdemara Centrs - 632 Kr. Valdemara iela 21 - 1010 Rīga - t 371 703 5286 - www.embassyofireland.lv
Faster, cheaper and often more frequent than coach services.
An efficient (if rather slow) and economical means of exploring the country.
Major towns are well equipped with bus, trolleybus and tramlines.
Avoid any unpleasant surprises and drink bottled or filtered water.
Rural areas and forests are infested with ticks from April to October and several people die of tick-borne encephalitis each year. Always wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers and check your skin regularly. This disease can be prevented by vaccination. Mosquitoes are omnipresent in summertime, particularly in the lake district.
The currency of Latvia is the lats (LVL or Ls), plural lati, subdivided into 100 santīmi.
Banks / Exchange
Banks, open Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am-4pm, are the best places to change foreign currency. Exchange offices (kiosks or basic counters) are also widely available. It is preferable to ask for small banknotes in good condition.
Traveller’s cheques can be difficult to exchange outside large towns.
Visa and MasterCard/Eurocard are compatible with most automatic teller machines, which are widely available in large towns, although less common in rural areas. Commissions can be high.
Latvia is not a cheap destination, but substantial differences exist between the capital and the countryside and depending on the time of year. Average budget: between €55 and 100 per day for a couple.
Post offices are open Monday-Friday from 8am-7pm, Saturdays 8am-3pm. Allow between 3 and 4 days for letters to reach home.
1 January – New Year’s Day
Easter – Good Friday and Easter Monday
1 May – Labour Day
4 May – Independence Day
2nd Sunday of May – Mother’s Day
May / June – Whitsun
23 June – Līgo (Midsummer’s Eve)
24 June – Jāņi (Saint John’s Day – Midsummer’s Day)
18 November – Latvian National Day
25-26 December – Christmas and Boxing Day
31 December – New Year’s Eve
Shops are generally open Monday-Friday from 10am-6pm, Saturdays 10am-4pm.
Make sure that the price tag includes VAT.
Baltic gold can be bought in all the tourist shops.
Antiques and art
Most cities have a fair number of antique dealers selling silverware, furniture, icons and vintage paraphernalia and art galleries are also multiplying fast.
Arts and crafts
Ceramics and painted eggs, glassware (jewellery and stained glass), leather (luggage, antique bound books), earthenware sculpture and pottery, wooden objects, wickerwork, lace (by Orthodox Setus) and hand-knitted mittens, pullovers and socks.
Black bread, jams and smoked fish are readily available. Also look out for Laima chocolate, cranberries coated in icing sugar, gingerbread, cheese and on the beverage side, balsam from Rīga.
A handshake or nod of the head suffice as a greeting. If invited to someone’s home, take a small gift, such as a bunch of flowers (odd number of flowers only), even to men. Remove your shoes on entering private homes and wait until you are invited to sit down at the table. Avoid sensitive issues, such as relations with the Russian speaking community. Don’t whistle indoors.
To call Latvia from abroad
Dial 00 + 371 (country code) + 6 + number of the person.
To call home from Latvia
Dial 00 + country code (UK 44 and Ireland 353) + number of the person (without the first 0).
Dial 6 + 7-digit number of the person.
Mobile phone numbers have 7 digits and start with a 9 or 6.