Places in Latvia
Riga at Christmas time, Latvia
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Riga at Christmas time, Latvia

© iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Latvia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

64,589 sq km (24,938 sq miles).

Population

1,937,944 (UN estimate 2018).

Population density

30 per sq km (77 people/sq mile).

Capital

Riga.

Government

Parliamentary Republic

Head of state

President Edgars Rinkēvičs since 2023.

Head of government

Prime Minister Evika Silina since 2023.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.

Officially known as the Republic of Latvia, this small nation remained tucked behind the Iron Curtain until the early nineties. Today it is one of the most visited countries in the Baltics and lures visitors with its dramatic landscapes, rich heritage and vibrant capital, Riga.

Declared European Capital of Culture in 2014, the city has one of the most impressive collections of art nouveau buildings in the world, not to mention a stunning UNESCO World Heritage downtown. The latter is home to medieval churches, grand Renaissance properties and a spectacular market, which is held inside defunct zeppelin hangers from WWI. The old town is dominated by Riga Cathedral, the largest medieval church in the Baltics and one of many attractions in Riga vying for visitors’ attention.

The path beyond Riga is, for now, not quite so well-trodden. However, riches await those pressing further into the country; there’s the rural paradise of Rundāle Palace, the recently renovated Turaida Stone Castle and the charming Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. The beautifully preserved historic towns of Kuldīga and Cēsis also warrant excursions.

Latvia is rich in natural attractions, too, like the Gulf of Riga and the windswept coastline along the Baltic Sea, which is home to seemingly infinite sandy shores. Jūrmala, a resort town just 40 minutes from Riga, boasts 26km (16 miles) of golden beaches lined with spas, thermal mud pools and seafood restaurants.

Inland, national parks and nature reserves abound, but Gauja National Park is the most famous. This picturesque river valley is a place of unremitting beauty: rushing rivers, ancient sandstone cliffs and, in spring, masses of white cherry blossoms. Gauja National Park is not only great for hiking, cycling and watersports, but also offers one of the best birdwatching sites in Latvia, after Pape and Cape Kolka.

While low cost air travel has opened Latvia to the masses, most visitors still struggle to venture beyond the capital. However, those who do find treasure in this country will, as the tourist board likes to say, discover it is “best enjoyed slowly.”

 

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Latvia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Latvian Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Latvia.

British-Russian dual nationals

People travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport and who hold dual nationality with Russia, may face difficulties and could be refused entry to Latvia. Further information can be found in this legal guidance, which is in force until 4 March 2025.

Passport validity requirements

To travel to Latvia, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

To enter Latvia (and all Schengen countries) your passport must:

  • have a ‘date of issue’ less than 10 years before the date you arrive. Passports issued after 1 October 2018 are now valid for only 10 years, but for passports issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added if you renewed a passport early
  • have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Checks at border control

Make sure you get your passport stamped.

If you’re a visitor, your passport must be stamped when you enter or leave the Schengen area (which includes Latvia). Border guards will use passport stamps to check you haven’t overstayed the 90-day visa-free limit for stays in the Schengen area. If your passport was not stamped, border guards will presume you have overstayed the visa-free limit.

If your passport was not stamped, show evidence of when and where you entered or left the Schengen area (for example, boarding passes or tickets) and ask the border guards to add the date and location in your passport.

Read about passport stamping if you live in Latvia.

At Latvian border control, you may need to:

  • show proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking confirmation or proof of address for a second home
  • show proof of your travel insurance
  • show a return or onward ticket
  • prove that you have enough money for your stay – the amount varies depending on your accommodation

Visa requirements

You can travel without a visa to the Schengen area (including Latvia) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

If you’re travelling to Latvia and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries in the 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

Applying for a visa

To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you must meet the Latvian government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Latvian Embassy in the UK.

If you stay in Latvia with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

If you’re travelling to Latvia for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.

Health insurance

You are required to have health insurance when you enter Latvia. This must include repatriation costs. Those who require visas for Latvia (other than EU family members) will need to show their policies on arrival in Latvia.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Latvian guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Latvia. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.

Taking money into Latvia

When you enter or leave the EU, you must declare the cash that you are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 euros or more per person. This includes cheques, travellers cheques and money orders.

If you enter Latvia at an internal EU border and you are carrying 10,000 euros or more, the Latvian authorities could ask you to fill in a cash declaration form.

Restrictions on Russian vehicles

Persons with vehicles registered in the Russian Federation are banned from entering Latvia. See Latvia’s State Revenue Service for more information.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Terrorism in Latvia

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Latvia, terrorist attacks can’t be ruled out.

Belarus border

FCDO currently advises against all travel to Belarus. There is limited access along parts of Latvia’s border with Belarus. The Silene-Urbani road border crossing is currently closed. More border checkpoints may close or implement restrictions at short notice.  

Access to within 2km of the border with Belarus is limited. If you wish to enter the border area, you are required to obtain a special licence issued by the Latvian Border Guard. You should abide by this limitation at all times and follow the instructions of Latvian authorities if you are in this area.

Political demonstrations

Demonstrations in Latvia are usually peaceful.

Avoid demonstrations wherever possible and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Crime

In an emergency or if you want to report a crime, call the Riga Tourist Police on +371 6718 1818 or the national police on 110.

Protecting your belongings

There have been reports of petty crime, particularly bag snatching and pickpocketing, in:

  • Riga Old town
  • Central Market
  • central train and bus stations

You should:

  • avoid unlit streets and parks at night
  • stay alert if walking alone and be wary of people who approach you
  • not have valuables on show, including in cars

Scams

Some tourists have been charged high prices for drinks or have had fraudulent transactions made on credit and debit cards. You should:

  • make sure a transaction on a credit or debit card is completed in your presence
  • be wary of attempts to make you re-enter your pin number
  • get recommendations for bars and clubs from trustworthy sources

Drink and food spiking

Do not leave drinks unattended or accept food and drink from strangers in bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

Vehicle crime

As in most European countries, car crime can be an issue. Car parks with CCTV are available, and it’s advisable not to leave baggage or valuables on display in a parked car.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

Carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. If possible, leave your passport and other important documents in trusted hotel safes.

Alcohol laws and bans

Drinking alcohol in public is illegal and may lead to detention and a financial penalty.

Illegal drugs

Do not get involved with illegal drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities of drugs can lead to large fines or imprisonment.

Public transport

You can get on-the-spot fines for travelling on public transport without a ticket or a ticket which has not been validated. Tickets can be bought from the driver or from shops and kiosks but must be validated by using machines within the bus or tram.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Latvia, see information on driving abroad and read RAC’s Latvia guide.

Licences and permits

You can drive in Latvia with a valid UK driving licence. If you are living in Latvia, check the information on requirements for residents.

You should carry original vehicle registration documents when crossing the border into Latvia by car or motorcycles. If you do not have these documents, you will not be allowed to take your vehicle back out of Latvia.

Taxis

Consider using major taxi companies, such as Baltic Taxi or Red Cab, as they will able to tell you the type, colour and number of the car in advance.

If you pick up a taxi on the street or at the airport:

  • use an official registered vehicle that displays yellow licence plates
  • agree the approximate price of the journey before setting off as reports have been received of some taxis using meters, which have been adapted to clock up higher rates

Extreme weather

Winter

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

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 113 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

For more information read guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Latvia

FCDO has a list of English speaking doctors in Latvia.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Latvia.

COVID-19 healthcare in Latvia

Medical institutions and social care centres, service providers and employers have the right to introduce a rule to use medical masks or FFP2 respirators when assessing risks.

For the latest information and advice, read the Latvian government’s COVID-19 website.

Health insurance cards

Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.

The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Latvian nationals. If you do not have your card with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.

It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. A GHIC or EHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

GHIC and EHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Latvia

Telephone:

Ambulance: 113

Fire: 112

Police: 110

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider

  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Latvia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy Riga.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.