Travel

Latvia Overview

GENERAL

Official name of the state

Republic of Latvia.

Capital

Riga.

Geography

According to a2zgov, Latvia is a Baltic state, it lies on the Baltic Sea and borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, the Russian Federation in the east and Belarus in the southeast. 43% of the country’s area is forested. There are four landscape regions: Courland, Zemgale, Livonia and the Latgale region of lakes and hills. Towards the coast the landscape is mostly flat. The eastern part of the country is hilly with numerous forests and lakes. There are 12,000 rivers in Latvia, of which only 17 are more than 100 km long. The largest river is the Daugava.

Government

Republic since 1991. The Latvian Constitution of 1922 has been in force again since 1993 after it was annulled in 1940 during the Soviet occupation of Latvia. Last constitutional amendment: 2007. Parliament (Saeima) with 100 members. Independent since 1991. Latvia is a member of the EU.

Head of state

Raimonds Vejonis, since July 2015.

Head of government

Maris Kucinskis, since January 2016.

Electricity

230 V, 50 Hz. Euro standard plug.

Time zone

Eastern European Time: CET +3 (CET +4 from March 26 to October 29, 2017)

ACCOMMODATION

Hotels

The hotel offer is good and is constantly expanding. Outside the capital, too, there is a good selection of larger hotels and smaller pensions that were under state supervision before independence. Hotels in Riga can be expensive. Holiday resorts with good overnight accommodation can be found in the vicinity of Gauja National Park, in Kurzeme and Latgale. We also recommend private accommodation, which can be found in almost every location. Information on accommodation in Latvia can also be found on the Internet at the following address (Internet: www.allhotels.lv).

Hotel classification: Hotels are divided into the Hotelstars Union star categories from one to five stars. For more information, contact the Baltic Tourist Board and the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants, Association of Latvian Hotels and Restaurants, A Caka iela 55-223, LV-1011 Riga (Tel: 701 41 31. Internet: www.lvra.lv).

Camping

There are few official campsites with Western European standards. Tent pitches with modest comfort are mainly located in national parks and holiday areas, e.g. on the Baltic Sea coast in the vicinity of the bathing region near Jurmala and in Ventspils (Internet: www.camping.ventspils.lv) and on lakes and river banks. Some are equipped with small wooden huts that you can rent. You can also spend the night or camp cheaply on farms. Outside the national parks, free camping, as in the Scandinavian countries, is tolerated.

Other accommodation options

Information is available from the Baltic Tourist Office in Münster and the Latvian Tourist Office in Riga (see addresses) as well as the Latvian Youth Hostel Association – Hostelling Latvia, 17-2 Siguldas pr, LV-1050 Riga (Tel: 921 85 60. Internet: www.hostellinglatvia.com).
Information on private accommodation, guest houses and country houses is available from the Latvian Tourist Office in Riga (see addresses) or from the Latvian Country Tourism Association, Vīlipa iela 12-21, LV-1083 Riga (tel: 761 76 00. Internet: www.celotajs. lv).

CULTURE

Religion

19.6% Protestants (Lutherans), 15.3% Russian Orthodox, 1% other Christians.

Social rules of conduct

General: Latvians are very proud of their culture. Visitors should respect this strong national awareness.

Manners: The usual forms of courtesy should be observed. You shake hands in greeting. Latvians are rather reserved people, but extremely hospitable. Hosts look forward to a bouquet of flowers. Flowers are often and gladly given away, but always in uneven numbers; an even number is considered a sign of sadness.

Clothing: restrained, well-groomed casual clothing is appropriate almost everywhere, jeans and a chic top are suitable for most occasions. More elegant clothing is expected in good restaurants or on special occasions. Correct clothing is expected when entering churches; Shoulders and knees should be covered. Swimwear belongs on the beach.

Taking photos: When visiting one of the many beautiful churches, you should be very sensitive to the camera and take any photography bans into consideration. People should be asked before they are photographed.

Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in restaurants, bars, cafes and discos. Smoking is also prohibited in public facilities such as cinemas, theaters, banks, post offices and sports facilities as well as in stairwells. Smokers who stay outdoors must keep a minimum distance of ten meters from public buildings. Smoking is prohibited around minors.

Tipping: A tip of 5-10% of the invoice amount is common in restaurants in larger cities. Otherwise you only tip if the service is very good. Cab drivers, waiters, porters, housekeeping staff, and guides should be tips.

CLIMATE

Best travel time

Temperate climate. Warm summers, spring and autumn are relatively mild. Cold, long winters (October to April) with heavy snowfalls. The rainfall is distributed over the whole year. The best travel time starts in May and ends in September.

COUNTRY DATA

Area code +371 Area (sq km) 64 589 Population 1986 705 Population density (per sq km) 34 Population in 2015 Member of the EU Yes main emergency number 112

Latvia Overview