European Campus


 Study in Latvia
ABOUT Latvia

STUDY IN  Latvia - Living in Latvia


Social Scene    |    Local Customs and Culture    |    Transportation

Accommodation    |    Health Care    |    Emergency Contacts


Social Scene


Social Conventions: Handshaking is customary. Normal courtesies should be observed. The Latvians are somewhat reserved and formal, but nevertheless very hospitable. They are proud of their culture and visitors should take care to respect this sense of national identity.

Taxi fares and restaurant bills usually include a tip. It is customary to give a little extra for good service.


Local Customs & Culture


Food & Drink:
Hors d’oeuvres are very good and often the best part of the meal. Local specialities include kotletes (meat patties), skabu kapostu zupa (cabbage soup), Alexander Torte (raspberry- or cranberry-filled pastry strips), smoked fish (including salmon or trout), sweetbread soup with dried fruit, piragi (pastry filled with bacon and onions) and sorrel soup with boiled pork, onions, potatoes and barley. Potatoes feature regularly on the menu prepared in a variety of ways. There is also a large selection of excellent dairy products on offer, such as skabs krejums (sour cream).

Riga’s Black Balsam is a thick, black alcoholic liquid which has been produced since 1700. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but some of the ingredients include ginger, oak bark, bitter orange peel and cognac. It is drunk either with coffee or mixed with vodka. There are several good local beers, including the dark beer bauskas Tumsais and the pale Gaisais. Kvass is a refreshing summer drink. Sparkling wine is also popular.

Riga has a good range of excellent restaurants, bars and cafes.

Amber is of high quality and a good buy. Other purchases include folk art, wicker work and earthenware. Shopping hours: Mon-Fri 0900/1000-1800/1900, Sat 0900/1000-1600/1700. Some smaller shops may be closed 1400-1500 for lunch. Food shops open 0800/0900-2000/2100. Some shops are open 24 hours.

Special Events: The following is a selection of special events occurring in Latvia in 2005:

  • Jan - Festival of Ancient Music, Valmiera
  • Feb - International Festival of Ice Sculptures, Jelgava
  • Feb - International Festival of Music Traditions, Riga
  • Mar - Riga Fashion Week
  • May - May Fair, Riga
  • Jun - Riga Opera Festival
  • Jun - Enchanting of John's Day, Riga
  • Aug - City Festival, Ventspils
  • Sep - Fair of Autumn Solstice, Riga
  • Dec - Traditional Latvian Christmas Celebrations
  • Dec - Winter Party, Riga





AIR: Airlines serving Riga are Aeroflot, Air Baltic , Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines, Finnair, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Malev Hungarian and SAS.

RAIL: Latvia’s reasonably well-developed rail network includes routes from Riga to all other major towns in the country. The railway terminal is at Stacijas laukums. For information about trains, contact LDZ (tel: 723 4940 or 4208; fax: 782 0231; e-mail: or; website:

ROAD: There are reasonable connections to all parts of the country from Riga. Traffic drives on the right. Bus: A better form of transport than trains in Latvia. The Central Bus Station is at Pragas iela 1. Car hire: Available through hotels and directly from car hire companies, reservations are recommended. Drivers can also be hired.

Traffic regulations: Seat belts must be worn. Speed limits on country lanes are 90kph (56mph) and 50kph (32mph) in cities. It is compulsory to drive with headlights on 24 hours a day all year round. The consumption of alcohol by drivers is strictly forbidden as is the use of mobile telephones while driving.

Documentation: European nationals should be in possession of an EU pink format licence, otherwise an International Driving Permit is required.

URBAN: Public transport in Riga runs from 0530-0000. Taxis in Riga are cheap, but prices are rising. All taxis are now privately run and all have meters. There is a 50 per cent surcharge at night. All parts of the city can also be reached by bus, tram and trolleybus. Tickets should be bought on board from the conductor and retained for inspection. Share-taxis (taksobussi) also operate but are slightly more expensive than ordinary buses. Fines for fare dodging are common.




HOTELS: Owing to the present level of bed capacity, early reservation is absolutely necessary. Since independence, there has been a scramble from Western firms to turn the old state-run hotels into modern Western-standard enterprises.

Several of the main hotels in Riga have been renovated in joint ventures with Western firms. A number of newer hotels, including representatives of the major international chain hotels, have recently opened. Many more such joint ventures with firms from all over Western Europe and the USA have ensured that the standard of accommodation in Latvia has reached Western European levels. Outside Riga, which for the time being is the main location of the current expansion in hotel accommodation, Latvia enjoys a good range of modest accommodation, left over from the pre-independence days, including large hotels and smaller pension-type establishments. Accommodation listings for Latvia are available online (website: Grading: A star-grading system has recently been introduced. For more details, contact, 1 Kengaraga Street, Riga, Latvia LV-1063 (fax: 718 7457; e-mail:

RURAL ACCOMMODATION: Advice on farm holidays, bed & breakfast and self-catering cottages may be obtained from the Latvian Country Tourism Association, Kugu iela 11, LV-1048 Riga (tel: 761 7600; fax: 783 0041; e-mail:; website:

Most of Latvia’s campsites are located along main highways and the Gulf of Riga, especially the resort of Jurmala. For more details, contact the Latvian Embassy or the Tourist Office.

YOUTH HOSTELS: There are 10 hostels in the network. Information on youth accommodation is available from Hostelling Latvia (tel: 921 8560; fax: 751 7006; e-mail:; website:


Health Care


The dental surgery at Stabu iela 9 has an emergency service from 2000-0800 and the reception of the City Clinical Hospital No 1 at Bruninieku iela 8 is open 24 hours.

Health insurance is advised. A full range of medicines is available at pharmacies; however, it is advisable to bring any medicines necessary, as instructions on the packet are in Latvian, and familiar brands may not be available.


Emergency Contacts

Ambulance Police Fire
112 112 112
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