|Republic of Latvia
|Anthem: "God bless Latvia!"
(Latvian: Dievs, svētī Latviju!)
(and largest city)
|Ethnic groups||59.2% Latvians
6.6% others 
|-||Prime Minister||Valdis Dombrovskis|
|Independence||from Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Germany|
|-||Declared1||November 18, 1918|
|-||Recognized||January 26, 1921|
|-||Soviet occupation||August 5, 1940|
|-||Nazi German occupation||July 10, 1941|
|-||Announced||May 4, 1990|
|-||Restored||September 6, 1991|
|EU accession||May 1, 2004|
|-||Total||64,589 km2 (124th)
24,938 sq mi
|-||Water (%)||1.57% (1,014 km2)|
|-||July 2009 estimate||▼ 2,231,503  (143rd)|
|-||2000 ppl census||2,377,383|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$31.536 billion (92nd)|
|-||Per capita||$13,994 (51st)|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$22.145 billion (80th)|
|-||Per capita||$9,827 (45th)|
|Gini (2003)||37.7 (medium)|
|HDI (2008)||▲ 0.866 (high) (48th)|
|Currency||Lats (Ls) (
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
|1 Latvia is de jure continuous with its declaration November 18, 1918.|
Latvia ( /ˈlætviə/ (help·info); Latvian: Latvija), officially the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika) is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia (343 km), to the south by Lithuania (588 km), to the east by the Russian Federation (276 km), and to the southeast by Belarus (141 km). Across the Baltic Sea to the west lies Sweden. The territory of Latvia covers 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi) and it has a temperate seasonal climate.
The Latvians are Baltic people culturally related to the Estonians and Lithuanians, with the Latvian language having many similarities with Lithuanian, but not with the Estonian language (a Finno-Ugric language). Today the Latvian and Lithuanian languages are the only surviving members of the Baltic languages of the Indo-European family. The modern name of Latvia is thought to originate from the ancient Latvian name Latvji, which, like the name of Lithuania, may have originated from the river named Latuva.
Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic and is divided into 118 municipalities (109 counties and 9 cities). The capital and largest city is Riga. With a population of 2.24 million Latvia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union, and its population has declined since 1991. Latvia has been a member of the United Nations since September 17, 1991; of the European Union since May 1, 2004 and of the NATO since March 29, 2004.
Latvia regained independence in 1991. Following years of economic stagnation in the early 1990s, Latvia posted Europe-leading GDP growth figures during the 1998–2006 time period. In the global financial crisis of 2008–2010 Latvia was the hardest hit of the European Union member states, with a GDP decline of 18.01%. Per Capita its GDP is only 39% of the EU average, making it one of the poorest member-states. In 2009, Latvia underwent a tempestuous change of government, and as a result, the country is facing renewed political instability.
|History of Latvia|
This article is part of a series
|Corded Ware culture|
|Amber Road and Aesti|
|Baltic Finns: Livonians, Vends|
|Latgalians, Curonians, Selonians, Semigallians|
|Principality of Jersika, Principality of Koknese|
|Livonian Crusade, Livonian Brothers of the Sword, Livonian Order|
|Archbishopric of Riga, Bishopric of Courland|
|Early modern period|
|Kingdom of Livonia|
|Duchy of Livonia, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia|
|Polish–Swedish war (1600-1629), Second Northern War|
|Swedish Livonia, Inflanty Voivodeship|
|Great Northern War|
|Governorate of Livonia, Courland Governorate|
|Latvian National Awakening, New Current|
|German occupation, United Baltic Duchy, Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic|
|War of Independence|
|Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940, Occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany, Occupation of Latvia by Soviet Union 1944–1945|
|Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic|
|Restoration of Independence|
|Republic of Latvia|
The territory of Latvia has been populated since 9000 BC, after the Ice age glaciers retreated. Around the beginning of the third millennium BC (3000 BC) the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Balts established trade routes to Rome and Byzantium, trading local amber for precious metals. By 900 AD, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians, Semigallians (in Latvian: kurši, latgaļi, sēļi and zemgaļi), as well as the Livonians (lībieši) speaking a Finno-Ugric language.
Although the local people had had contact with the outside world for centuries, they were more fully integrated into European society in the 12th century. The first missionaries, sent by the Pope, sailed up the Daugava River river in the late 12th century, seeking converts. The local people, however, did not convert to Christianity as readily as hoped. German crusaders were sent into Latvia to convert the pagan population by force of arms.
At the beginning of the 13th century large parts of today's Latvia were conquered by Germans. Together with Southern Estonia these conquered areas formed the country which became known as Terra Mariana or Livonia. In 1282 Riga, and later the cities of Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera, were included in the Hanseatic League. From this time, Riga became an important point of east-west trading. Riga, the centre of the eastern Baltic region, formed close cultural contacts with Western Europe.
The 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries were a time of great change for the inhabitants of Latvia, including the reformation, the collapse of the Livonian state, and the time when the Latvian territory was carved up among foreign powers.
After the Livonian War (1558–1583), Livonia (Latvia) fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule. The southern part of Estonia and the northern part of Latvia were ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and formed into the Ducatus Ultradunensis (Pārdaugavas hercogiste). Gotthard Kettler, the last Master of the Order of Livonia, formed the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. Though the duchy was a vassal state to Poland, it retained a considerable degree of autonomy and experienced a golden age in the 17th century. Latgalia, the easternmost region of Latvia, became a part of the Polish district of Inflanty.
The 17th and early 18th centuries saw a struggle between Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and Russia for supremacy in the eastern Baltic. After the Polish–Swedish War (1600–1611) northern Livonia (including Vidzeme) came under Swedish rule. Fighting continued sporadically between Sweden and Poland until the Truce of Altmark in 1629. In Latvia, the Swedish period is remembered as labie zviedru laiki or "the good Swedish times," when serfdom was eased, a network of schools was established for the peasantry, and the power of the regional barons was diminished.
Several important cultural changes occurred during this time. Under Swedish and largely German rule, western Latvia adopted Lutheranism as its main religion. The ancient tribes of the Couronians, Semigallians, Selonians, Livs and northern Latgallians assimilated to form the Latvian people, speaking one Latvian language. Meanwhile, largely isolated from the rest of Latvia, southern Latgallians adopted Catholicism under Polish/Jesuit influence. The native dialect remained distinct, although it acquired many Polish and Russian loanwords.
The Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia in 1710 and the Treaty of Nystad, ending the Great Northern War in 1721, gave Vidzeme to Russia (it became part of the Riga Governorate). The Latgale region remained part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as Inflanty Voivodeship until 1772, when it was incorporated to Russia. The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia became an autonomous Russian province (the Courland Governorate) in 1795, bringing all of what is now Latvia into the Russian Empire. All three Baltic provinces preserved local laws, the local official language and their own parliament, the Landtag.
In 1710, the plague reached Riga, where it was active until 1711 and claimed the lives of about half the population.
The promises Peter the Great made to the Baltic German nobility at the fall of Riga in 1710, confirmed by the Treaty of Nystad and known as "the Capitulations", largely reversed the Swedish reforms. The 18th century was one of the hardest for the peasantry, who were virtually treated as chattels and had no rights or education. Peasants were obliged to work on feudal lords' lands as many as six days per week, leaving one day to look after their own farms. As a solution to their problems, many of the peasants turned to alcohol, which the local barons willingly provided, hoping to addict and exploit the peasantry for further economic gain. These times were known as "Šķidrās Maizes laiki" or the days of liquid bread.
The emancipation of the serfs took place in Courland in 1817 and in Vidzeme in 1819. In practice however, the emancipation was actually advantageous to the landowners and nobility. This was because it dispossessed the peasants of their land without compensation, forcing them to return to work at the estates "of their own free will".
During the 19th century, the social structure changed dramatically. A class of independent farmers established itself after reforms allowed the peasants to repurchase their land, but many landless peasants persisted. There also developed a growing urban proletariat and an increasingly influential Latvian bourgeoisie. The Young Latvian (Latvian: Jaunlatvieši) movement laid the groundwork for nationalism from the middle of the century, many of its leaders looking to the Slavophiles for support against the prevailing German-dominated social order. The rise in use of Latvian language in literature and society became known as the First National Awakening. Russification began in Latgale after the Polish led the January Uprising in 1863: this spread to the rest of what is now Latvia by the 1880s. The Young Latvians were largely eclipsed by the New Current, a broad leftist social and political movement, in the 1890s. Popular discontent exploded in the 1905 Russian Revolution, which took a nationalist character in the Baltic provinces.
World War I devastated the territory of would-be Latvia, along with other western parts of the Russian Empire. Demands for self-determination were at first confined to autonomy, but the Russian 1917 Revolution, treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk, and allied armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918 created a power vacuum. People's Council of Latvia proclaimed independence of the new country in Riga on November 18, 1918, Kārlis Ulmanis becoming the head of the provisional government. The War of Independence that followed was part of a general chaotic period of civil and new border wars in Eastern Europe. By the spring of 1919, there were actually three governments — Ulmanis' government; the Soviet Latvian government led by Pēteris Stučka, whose forces, supported by the Red Army, occupied almost all of the country; and the Baltic German government of United Baltic Duchy headed by Andrievs Niedra and supported by the Baltische Landeswehr and the German Freikorps unit Iron Division. Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans at the Battle of Wenden in June 1919, and a massive attack by predominantly German force – the West Russian Volunteer Army – under Pavel Bermondt-Avalov was repelled in November. Eastern Latvia was cleared of Red Army forces by Latvian and Polish troops in early 1920.
A freely elected Constituent assembly was convened on May 1, 1920 and adopted a liberal constitution, the Satversme, in February 1922. This was partly suspended by Ulmanis after his coup in 1934, but reaffirmed in 1990. Since then, it has been amended and is the constitution still in use in Latvia today. With most of Latvia's industrial base evacuated to the interior of Russia in 1915, radical land reform was the central political question for the young state. In 1897, 61.2% of the rural population had been landless; by 1936, that percentage had been reduced to 18%. The extent of cultivated land surpassed the pre-war level already in 1923. Innovation and rising productivity led to rapid growth of economy, but it soon suffered the effects of the Great Depression. Latvia showed signs of economic recovery and the electorate had steadily moved toward the centre during the parliamentary period. Ulmanis staged a bloodless coup on May 15, 1934, establishing a nationalist dictatorship that lasted until 1940. After 1934, Ulmanis established government corporations to buy up private firms with the aim of "Latvianising" the economy. By 1940, Latvia's economy under Ulmanis ranked second in Europe.
Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence". In the North, Latvia, Finland and Estonia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. Thereafter, Germany and the Soviet union invaded their respective portions of Poland.
Most of the Baltic Germans left Latvia by agreement between Ulmanis' government and Nazi Germany after the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In total 50,000 Baltic Germans left by the deadline of December 1939, with 1,600 remaining to conclude business and 13,000 choosing to remain in Latvia. Most of those who remained subsequently left for Germany in the Summer of 1939, when a second resettlement scheme was agreed. On October 5, 1939, Latvia was forced to accept a "mutual assistance" pact with the Soviet Union, granting the Soviets the right to station between 25,000 and 30,000 troops on Latvian territory. On June 16, 1940, Vyacheslav Molotov presented the Latvian representative in Moscow with an ultimatum accusing Latvia of violations of that pact. When international attention was focused on the German invasion of France, Soviet NKVD troops raided border posts in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. State administrators were liquidated and replaced by Soviet cadres, in which 34,250 Latvians were deported or killed. Elections were held with single pro-Soviet candidates listed for many positions, with resulting peoples assembly immediately requested admission into the USSR, which was granted by the Soviet Union. Latvia, then a puppet government, was headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins. Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940 as The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The Soviets dealt harshly with their opponents – prior to the German invasion, in less than a year, at least 27,586 persons were arrested; most were deported, and about 945 persons were shot. While under German occupation, Latvia was administered as part of Reichskommissariat Ostland. Latvian paramilitary and Auxiliary Police units established by occupation authority participated in the Holocaust as well. More than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II, including approximately 75,000 Latvian Jews murdered during the Nazi occupation. Latvian soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict, including in the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS, most of them conscripted by the occupying Nazi and Soviet authorities. Refusal to join the occupying army resulted in imprisonment, threats to relatives, or even death.
In 1944 when the Soviet military advances reached the area heavy fighting took place in Latvia between German and Soviet troops which ended with another German defeat. During the course of the war, both occupying forces conscripted Latvians into their armies, in this way increasing the loss of the nation's "live resources". In 1944, part of the Latvian territory once more came under Soviet control. The Soviets immediately began to reinstate the Soviet system. After the German surrender it became clear that Soviet forces were there to stay, and Latvian national partisans, soon to be joined by German collaborators, began their fight against another occupier – the Soviet Union. Anywhere from 120,000 to as many as 300,000 Latvians took refuge from the Soviet army by fleeing to Germany and Sweden. Most sources count 200,000 to 250,000 refugees leaving Latvia, with perhaps as many as 80,000 to 100,000 of them recaptured by the Soviets or, during few months immediately after the end of war, returned by the West. The Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944–1945, and further mass deportations followed as the country was forcibly collectivised and Sovieticised. . On March 25, 1949, 43,000 rural residents ("kulaks") and Latvian patriots ("nationalists") were deported to Siberia in a sweeping repressive Operation Priboi in all three Baltic states, which was carefully planned and approved in Moscow already on January 29, 1949. Between 136,000 and 190,000 Latvians, depending on the sources, were imprisoned, repressed or deported to Soviet concentration camps (the Gulag) in the post war years, from 1945 to 1952. Some managed to escape arrest and joined the partisans.
In the post-war period, Latvia was forced to adopt Soviet farming methods and the economic infrastructure developed in the 1920s and 1930s was eradicated. Rural areas were forced into collectivisation. An extensive programme to impose bilingualism was initiated in Latvia, limiting the use of Latvian language in favor of Russian. All of the minority schools (Jewish, Polish, Belorussian, Estonian, Lithuanian) were closed down leaving only two languages of instructions in the schools- Latvian and Russian. An influx of labourers, administrators, military personnel and their dependents from Russia and other Soviet republics started. By 1959 about 400,000 persons arrived from other Soviet republics and the ethnic Latvian population had fallen to 62%.
During the Khrushchev Thaw, attempts by national communists led by Eduards Berklavs to gain a degree of autonomy for the republic and protect the rapidly deteriorating position of the Latvian language were not successful.
Because Latvia had still maintained a well-developed infrastructure and educated specialists it was decided in Moscow that some of the Soviet Union's most advanced manufacturing factories were to be based in Latvia. New industry was created in Latvia, including a major machinery factory RAF in Jelgava, electrotechnical factories in Riga, chemical factories in Daugavpils, Valmiera and Olaine, as well as some food and oil processing plants. However, there were not enough people to operate the newly built factories. In order to expand industrial production, Russian workers were transferred into the country, noticeably decreasing the proportion of ethnic Latvians.
In the second half of 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started to introduce political and economic reforms in the Soviet Union, called glasnost and Perestroika. In the summer of 1987 the first large demonstrations were held in Riga at the Freedom Monument- a symbol of independence. In the summer of 1988 a national movement, coalescing in the Popular Front of Latvia, was opposed by the Interfront. The Latvian SSR, along with the other Baltic Republics was allowed greater autonomy, and in 1988 the old pre-war Flag of Latvia was allowed to be used, replacing the Soviet Latvian flag as the official flag in 1990. In 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a resolution on the "Occupation of the Baltic states", in which it declared that the occupation was "not in accordance with law," and not the "will of the Soviet people". Pro-independence Popular Front of Latvia candidates gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990 democratic elections. On May 4, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted the Declaration On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia, Latvian SSR was renamed Republic of Latvia. However, the central power in Moscow continued to regard Latvia as Soviet republic in 1990–1991. In January 1991, Soviet political and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Republic of Latvia authorities by occupying the central publishing house in Riga and establishing a Committee of National Salvation to usurp governmental functions. During the transitional period Moscow maintained many central Soviet state authorities in Latvia.
In spite of this, seventy-three percent of all Latvian residents confirmed their strong support for independence on March 3, 1991, in a nonbinding advisory referendum. A large number of ethnic Russians also voted for the proposition. The Popular Front of Latvia had advocated for all permanent residents to be eligible for Latvian citizenship. However, universal citizenship for all permanent residents was not adopted subsequently; not all those who had voted in support of independence received citizenship in the new Latvian state and became non-citizens. (The majority of non-citizens have since become naturalized citizens.) The Republic of Latvia declared the end of the transitional period and restored full independence on August 21, 1991 in the aftermath of the failed Soviet coup attempt.
The Saeima, Latvia's parliament, was again elected in 1993, and Russia completed its military withdrawal in 1994. The major goals of Latvia in the 1990s, to join NATO and the European Union, were achieved in 2004.
Language and citizenship laws have been opposed by many Russophones, although a majority have now become citizens. (Citizenship was not automatically extended to former Soviet citizens who settled during the Soviet occupation or to their subsequent offspring. Children born to non-nationals after the reestablishment of independence are automatically entitled to citizenship.) The government denationalised private property confiscated by the Soviet rule, returning it or compensating the owners for it, and privatised most state-owned industries, reintroducing the prewar currency. Albeit having experienced a difficult transition to a liberal economy and its re-orientation toward Western Europe, its economy had one of the highest growth rates.
Located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Latvia lies on the East European Plain. However, in vegetation is much different than the rest of the plain and shares many similarities with the boreal biome. It consists of fertile, low-lying plains, largely covered by forest, mostly pines, the highest point being the Gaiziņkalns at 311.6 m (1,022 ft). Phytogeographically, Latvia is shared between the Central European and Northern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Latvia belongs to the ecoregion of Sarmatic mixed forests. The major rivers include the Daugava River, the Lielupe, the Gauja, the Venta, and the Salaca. An inlet of the Baltic Sea, the shallow Gulf of Riga is situated in the northwest of the country. Latvia's coastline extends for 531 kilometres.
The Latvian climate is humid, continental and temperate owing to the maritime influence of the Baltic Sea. Summers are warm, and the weather in spring and autumn fairly mild; however, the winters can be extreme due to the northern location. Precipitation is common throughout the year with the heaviest rainfall in July. During severe spells of winter weather, Latvia is dominated by cold winds from the interior of Russia, and severe snowfalls are very common.
Latvia's National Trees are oak (Quercus robur), Latvian: ozols, and linden (Tilia cordata), Latvian: liepa. Oaks and Lindens are considered the national trees of Latvia. The oak and the linden tree are characteristic elements of the Latvian landscape. Both trees are still widely used for medical purposes. Medicinal infusions are made of linden blossoms as well as oak bark. Latvian dainas (folk songs) often reflect ethical and moral concepts of earlier times. Amongst other trees, these folk songs most often mention the oak and linden tree. In traditional Latvian folk beliefs and folklore the linden tree is looked upon as a female symbol, but the oak – a male symbol. The nation's reverence for these trees, which in earlier times were considered sacred, can be witnessed, for example, in a landscape where, in the middle of a cultivated field there still remains a lone large, sacred oak or linden tree.
Latvia's National Bird is White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), Latvian: baltā cielava. This slender and graceful bird is often found in Latvia from April till October. The White Wagtail can usually be seen running briskly along the ground, wagging its tail up and down. This bird usually nests in the rafters and eaves of buildings, woodpiles, stone piles, and birdhouses. During the winter it migrates to Southern Europe and North Africa. The White Wagtail was affirmed the national bird of Latvia in 1960 by the International Bird Protection Council.
Latvia's National Flower is the oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare a.k.a. Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), Latvian: pīpene. In Latvian conditions, the common or wild daisy blossoms from June till September. Daisies are a very popular flower and are often used in flower arrangements or given as gifts.
Latvia's National Insect is Two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata), Latvian: mārīte. The two-spot ladybird is familiar as a useful insect that protects plants from parasites. Although rather slow by nature, it can defend itself well. Due to its appearance and behaviour it is widely known and liked throughout Latvia. The insect's Latvian name – marite – is a synonym for the ancient Latvian goddess Mara, who embodies the power of the earth. The two-spot ladybird was designated the national insect of Latvia by the Entomological Society of Latvia.
Since 2009 Latvia has one-level municipalities – 9 republican cities (Latvian: republikas pilsētas) and 109 municipalities (Latvian: novadi).
There are four historical and cultural regions in Latvia. Their borders usually are not explicit definite and in several sources may vary:
|Regions||Largest city||Area||Population – (per km²)|
|Riga Region||Riga||10,132 km²||1,098,523 – (108.3/km²)|
|Kurzeme Region||Liepāja||13,596 km²||301,621 – (22.1/km²)|
|Latgale Region||Daugavpils||14,549 km²||343,646 – (23.5/km²)|
|Zemgale Region||Jelgava||10,733 km²||281,928 – (26.1/km²)|
|Vidzeme Region||Valmiera||15,246 km²||235,576 – (15.4/km²)|
|Latvia||Riga||64,256 km²||2,261,294 – (34.9/km²)|
The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct popular vote every four years. The president is elected by the Saeima in a separate election, also held every four years. The president appoints a prime minister who, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government, which has to receive a confidence vote by the Saeima. This system also existed before World War II. Highest civil servants are sixteen Secretaries of State.
Membership in the EU and NATO were major policy goals during the 1990s. In a nation-wide referendum on September 20, 2003, 66.9% of those taking part voted in favour of joining the European Union. Latvia became a member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. Latvia has been a NATO member since March 29, 2004.
The Treaty delimiting the boundary with Russia was signed and ratified in 2007. Under the treaty the Abrene district passed to Russia; talks over maritime boundary disputes with Lithuania are ongoing (the primary concern is oil exploration rights).
Latvia's defense concept is based upon the Swedish-Finnish model of a rapid response force composed of a mobilization base and a small group of career professionals. The armed forces consists of mobile riflemen, an air force, and a navy. Latvia cooperates with Estonia and Lithuania in the joint infantry battalion BALTBAT and naval squadron BALTRON which are available for peacekeeping operations.
As of March 29, 2004, Latvia officially joined NATO. Currently, NATO is involved in the patrolling and protection of the Latvian air space as the Latvian army does not have the means to do so effectively. For this goal a rotating force of four NATO fighters, which comes from different nations and switches at two or three month intervals, is based in Lithuania to cover all three Baltic states (see Baltic Air Policing).
Since the year 2000 Latvia has had one of the highest (GDP) growth rates in Europe. However, the chiefly consumption-driven growth in Latvia resulted in the collapse of the Latvian GDP in late 2008 and early 2009, exacerbated by the global economic crisis and shortage of credit. Latvian economy fell 18% in the first three months of 2009, the biggest fall in the European Union. According to Eurostat data, Latvian PPS GDP per capita stood at 56 per cent of the EU average in 2008.
This latest scenario has proven the earlier assumptions that the fast growing economy was heading for implosion of the economic bubble, because it was driven mainly by growth of domestic consumption, financed by a serious increase of private debt, as well as a negative foreign trade balance. The prices of real estate, which were at some points appreciating at approximately 5% a month, were long perceived to be too high for the economy, which mainly produces low-value goods and raw materials. Since 2001, Latvia's chief export has been domestic livestock.
Latvia plans to introduce the Euro as the country's currency but, due to the inflation being above EMU's guidelines, the government's official target is now January 1, 2012. However in October 2007, with inflation above 11%, the head of the National Bank of Latvia suggested that 2013 may be a more realistic date.
Privatization in Latvia is almost complete. Virtually all of the previously state-owned small and medium companies have been successfully privatized, leaving only a small number of politically sensitive large state companies. Latvian privatization efforts have led to the development of a dynamic and prosperous private sector, which accounted for nearly 68% of GDP in 2000.
Foreign investment in Latvia is still modest compared with the levels in north-central Europe. A law expanding the scope for selling land, including to foreigners, was passed in 1997. Representing 10.2% of Latvia's total foreign direct investment, American companies invested $127 million in 1999. In the same year, the United States exported $58.2 million of goods and services to Latvia and imported $87.9 million. Eager to join Western economic institutions like the World Trade Organization, OECD, and the European Union, Latvia signed a Europe Agreement with the EU in 1995—with a 4-year transition period. Latvia and the United States have signed treaties on investment, trade, and intellectual property protection and avoidance of double taxation.
The Latvian economy entered a phase of fiscal contraction during the second half of 2008 after an extended period of credit-based speculation and unrealistic inflation of real estate values. The national account deficit for 2007, for example, represented more than 22% of the GDP for the year while inflation was running at 10%.
However by 2010 commentators noted signs of stabilisation in the Latvian economy. Rating agency Standard & Poor's raised its outlook on Latvia's debt from negative to stable.  Latvia's current account, which had been in deficit by 27% in late 2006 was in surplus in February 2010. Kenneth Orchard, senior analyst at Moody's investors service argued that:
The transport sector is around 14% of GDP. Transit between Russia and the West is large.
Riga International Airport is the largest airport with 3.7 million passengers in 2008.
The University of Latvia is the oldest university in Latvia, having been established on September 28, 1919, and is located in Riga. Daugavpils University is the second largest university. Because of a decreasing population Latvia has closed an average of 13 schools a year since 2006–2009, and in the same period enrollment in educational institutions has fallen by 31,000 people. Another well know university in Latvia is LLU(Latvias lauksaimniecibas universitate)(Latvian university of Agriculture). It is located in Jelgava. 
The Latvian healthcare System is a universal program, largely funded through government taxation. It is consistently ranked as one of the worst health care systems in Europe, and the developed world. This is because; waiting time for treatment remains excessive, there are significant shortcomings in the sector of pharmacy – residents often do not have access to the latest medicines, and the pharmaceutical sector in Latvia lags behind.
Corruption is widespread in the Latvian healthcare system, though it has improved somewhat since the early 1990s. It has been noted that government janitors have higher salaries than nurses, and factory laborers can earn more than some doctors in Latvia. This results in brain drain, mostly to other (western) EU nations, and health care corruption. It is not uncommon for Latvians to bribe doctors in order to treat them. Most notably, the current president of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, accepted bribes from his patients, while he was a doctor in Riga, and was investigated multiple times by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB), as well as Transparency International.
There were 59 Hospitals in Latvia in 2009, down from 94 in 2007, and 121 in 2006. Ivars Eglitis, the former Health minister of Latvia, estimated that by 2013 only 24 hospitals would still be in operation in Latvia.
There were 32,376 individual instances of clinically reported alcoholism in 2008, in Latvia, or 1.44% of the population. There were several further addictions to other substances. Latvia had a suicide rate of 24.5 per 100,000 citizens in 2005, thus making it the 7th highest rate in the world. This rate has declined from the 1995 rate of 40.7 per 100,000.
Latvia's population has been multiethnic for centuries, though the demographics shifted dramatically in the twentieth century due to the World Wars, the emigration and removal of Baltic Germans, the Holocaust, and occupation by the Soviet Union. According to the Russian Empire Census of 1897, the Latvians formed 68.3% of the total population of 1.93 million; Russians accounted for 12%, Jews for 7.4%, Germans for 6.2%, and Poles for 3.4%.
Latvians and Livonians, the indigenous peoples of Latvia, now form about 60.2% of the population; 28% of the inhabitants are Russians , Belorussians 3.7%, Ukrainians 2.5% , Poles 2.4%, Lithuanians 1.3%, Jews 0.5%, Roma people 0.4%, Germans 0.2%, Estonians 0.1% and others 1.7% . Approximately 56% of the ethnic Russians living in Latvia are citizens of Latvia.
In some large cities, e.g. Riga, Daugavpils and Rēzekne, Russians and other minorities outnumber Latvians. Minorities from other countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, etc., also live in Latvia. The share of ethnic Latvians had fallen from 77% (1,467,035) in 1935 to 52% (1,387,757) in 1989. In 2005 there were even fewer Latvians than in 1989, though their share of the population was larger — 1,357,099 (57.% of the inhabitants).
The official language of Latvia is Latvian, which belongs to the Baltic language group of the Indo-European language family. Another notable language of Latvia is the nearly extinct Livonian language of the Baltic-Finnic subbranch of the Uralic language family, which enjoys protection by law; Latgalian — a dialect of Latvian — is also protected by Latvian law as a historical variation of the Latvian language. Russian which was widely spoken during the Soviet period, and also during the Russian Imperial period is by far the most widely used minority language and is also understood by virtually all Latvians who started their education during the Soviet period.
According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 37% of Latvian citizens responded that "they believe there is a god", whereas 49% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 10% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force". Lutheranism was much stronger before the Soviet occupation, when it was a majority religion, but since then Lutheranism in all the Baltic states has declined to a much greater extent than Roman Catholicism has. The country's Orthodox Christians belong to the Latvian Orthodox Church, a semi-autonomous body within the Russian Orthodox Church. In 2006, there were 9,743 Jews and 182 Muslims living in Latvia.
There are more than 600 Latvian neopagans, Dievturi (The Godskeepers), whose religion is based on Latvian mythology. About 40% of the total population is not affiliated with a specific religion.
Between the thirteenth and nineteenth century, Baltic Germans, many of whom were originally of non-German ancestry but had been assimilated into German culture, formed the upper class. They developed distinct cultural heritage, characterised by both Latvian and German influences. It has survived in German Baltic families to this day, in spite of their dispersal to Germany, the USA, Canada and other countries in the early 20th century. However, most indigenous Latvians did not participate in this particular cultural life. Thus, the mostly peasant local pagan heritage was preserved, partly merging with Christian traditions, for example in one of the most popular celebrations today which is Jāņi, a pagan celebration of the summer solstice, celebrated on the feast day of St. John the Baptist.
In the nineteenth century Latvian nationalist movements emerged promoting Latvian culture and encouraging Latvians to take part in cultural activities. The nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century is often regarded as a classical era of Latvian culture. Posters show the influence of other European cultures, for example, works of artists such as the Baltic-German artist Bernhard Borchert and the French Raoul Dufy. With the onset of World War II, many Latvian artists and other members of the cultural elite fled the country yet continued to produce their work, largely for a Latvian émigré audience.
After incorporation into the Soviet Union, Latvian artists and writers were forced to follow the Socialist realism style of art. During the Soviet era, music became increasingly popular, with the most popular being songs from the 1980s. At this time, songs often made fun of the characteristics of Soviet life and were concerned about preserving Latvian identity. This aroused popular protests against the USSR and also gave rise to an increasing popularity of poetry. Since independence, theatre, scenography, choir music and classical music have become the most notable branches of Latvian culture.
|Name||Year||Place||Out of #||Reference|
|Institute for Economics and Peace -Global Peace Index||2009||54th||144|||
|CIA World Factbook – GDP per capita (PPP)||2008||66th||229|||
|CIA World Factbook – life expectancy||2008||120th||223|||
|World Economic Forum – Enabling Trade Index ranking||2008||43rd||118|||
|Yale University / Columbia University – Environmental Performance Index||2008||8th||149|||
|Economist Intelligence Unit – e-readiness||2008||37th||70|||
|Economist Intelligence Unit – Global Peace Index||2008||39th||140|||
|United States Patent and Trademark Office's list of patents by country||2007||95th||172|||
|Save the Children – Mother's Index Rank||2007||25th||141|||
|Save the Children – Women's Index Rank||2007||21st||141|||
|Save the Children – Children's Index Rank||2007||33rd||141|||
|The Wall Street Journal / The Heritage Foundation – Index of Economic Freedom||2007||39th||157|||
|United Nations – Human Development Index||2008||44th||179|||
|World Economic Forum – Global Competitiveness Report 2007–2008||2007||45th||131|||
|World Economic Forum – The Global Gender Gap Report 2007||2007||13th||128|||
|World Bank – Ease of Doing Business Index||2007–2008||29th||181|||
|Reporters Without Borders – Worldwide Press Freedom Index||2007||12th||169|||
|Transparency International – Corruption Perceptions Index||2007||49th||180|||
|Economist Intelligence Unit – Index of Democracy||2007||43rd||167|||
|Privacy International – Privacy index (EU and 11 other selected countries)||2006||28th||36|||
|New Economics Foundation – Happy Planet Index||2006||160th||178|||
|Economist Intelligence Unit – Quality-of-life index||2005||66th||111|||
|Save the Children – % seats in the national government held by women||2004||23–25th||126|||
|World Health Organization – suicide rates by country (both sexes)||8th||101|||
|NationMaster's index of civil and political liberties||17th||140|||
• "Na Łotwie działa ponad 1,2 tys. wspólnot religijnych" (in Polish). http://ekai.pl/wydarzenia/x12470/na-lotwie-dziala-ponad-tys-wspolnot-religijnych/. Retrieved 2007-07-28. • "Na Łotwie działa ponad 1,2 tys. wspólnot religijnych" (in Polish). http://ekai.pl/wydarzenia/x12470/na-lotwie-dziala-ponad-tys-wspolnot-religijnych/. Retrieved 2007-07-28. • "Na Łotwie działa ponad 1,2 tys. wspólnot religijnych" (in Polish). http://ekai.pl/wydarzenia/x12470/na-lotwie-dziala-ponad-tys-wspolnot-religijnych/. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
|Currency||Latvian lat (LVL)|
|Area||64,589 sq km|
|Population||2,223,000 (October 2009 est.)|
|Language||Latvian (official), Russian (understood, especially in Riga, and Daugvapils), English, other|
|Religion||Lutheran, Catholic, Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Jewish|
|Electricity||220V/50Hz (European plug)|
Latvia (Latvija)  is a European state which is situated on the coast of Baltic Sea. One of the three Baltic states, Latvia is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus on the south east, and the Baltic Sea on the west. The most famous travel spot is the capital Riga, a World Heritage Site. There are also many other great places to see, both urban and rural, such as Liepaja with its unique former secret military town of Karosta and a magnificent beach. Kuldiga with Europe`s widest waterfall and Cesis with its medieval castle ruins are also interesting. Tourists can also enjoy the wild beauty of Latvia's unspoilt sea coast, which is 500 km long and consists mainly of white, soft sandy beaches. Forests, which cover approximately a half of Latvia's territory, offer many nature trails and nature parks.
Latvia is a famous ancient trading point. The famous ‘route from the Vikings to the Greeks’ mentioned in ancient chronicles stretched from Scandinavia through Latvian territory along the river Daugava to the Kievan Rus and Byzantine Empire.
Across the European continent, Latvia’s coast was known as a place for obtaining amber. In the Middle Ages amber was more valuable than gold in many places. Latvian amber was known in places as far away as Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.
At the 12th century, German traders arrived, bringing with them missionaries who attempted to convert the pagan Finno-Ugric and Baltic tribes to the Christian faith.
The Germans founded Rīga in 1201, establishing it as the largest and most powerful city on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.
After independence in 1918, Latvia achieved considerable results in social development, economy, industry and agriculture. It has always been a multicultural melting point, where foreigners and locals worked together and brought prosperity to the country.
On June 16, 1940, Vyacheslav Molotov presented the Latvian representative in Moscow with an ultimatum accusing Latvia of violations of that pact, and on June 17 Soviet forces occupied the country. Elections for a "People's Saeima" were held, and a puppet government headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins led Latvia into the USSR. The annexation was formalized on August 5, 1940.
During the time of the Iron Curtain, Latvia was a province of the Soviet Union, but the concentration of heavy industry was enormous. Contacts with the West were regulated. The Baltic region had the reputation of being the most urbanized and having the highest literacy rate in the Soviet Union.
Latvia gained independence on September 6, 1991. Between 1991 and 2007 the country saw unprecedented economic growth. However currently, due to the financial crisis 08-09, it is one of the worst performing economies in Europe. Latvia joined the European Union in 2004.
Because of a tribal past and divisions between occupying nations, there are regional differences between parts of Latvia which are interesting to explore.
The best time to travel to Latvia is from June to mid September, when it is warm and plenty of local food is available. January and February are the coldest months. October and November have autumn rains and daylight is short.
Half of Latvia is covered with forests which are rich with wildlife. There are many lakes, especially if you go to Latgale region. There are deep river valleys with some sections having sand cliffs on their banks. Heavy industry halted a long time ago, so most places are ecologically clean.
The highest point in Latvia is Gaizinkalns , at 312m (1,023ft) above sea level, just west of the town of Madona.
There are some cultural and social differences between regions, for example, traditional dress is different from region to region. The Latgale region has its own unique culture and language - Latgalian.
Latvia is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU, EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) or Swiss citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.
Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you travelling within the Schengen area or not, some airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.
Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.
As of January 2010 only the citizens of the following non-EU/EEA/Swiss countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area; note that they must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work while in the EU: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports.
However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.
Further note that
(*) Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian citizens need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel and
(**) Serbian citizens with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (Serbs residing in Kosovo) still do need a visa.
Health or travel insurance must be presented at border crossing points. More Information at: 
If you need a visa, getting one can be tricky. Visa costs are on the high side considering size of the country - 20LVL for single or 35LVL for multiple entries. Applications will take 7 days to process, or can take as long as 30 days if additional information is needed. To apply, submit to the Latvian embassy or consulate:
Riga International Airport  has direct flights to/from various European cities (London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Oslo, etc), Middle East (Tel Aviv, Dubai), CIS (Moscow, Kiev, Minsk) as well as North America (New York City).
There are bus (0.40 LVL) and taxi (<10 LVL) connections to city centre. Red taxis  operate from the airport to the city center. The green Baltic Taxi operates from the airport to the city center for a flat fee of 9 LVL if purchasing a voucher from the Baltic Taxi booth inside the airport; the same voucher costs 8 LVL if purchased from flight attendants on board an Air Baltic flight (credit cards accepted). Journey times depend on traffic. Airport operates 24h hours.
If departing in the morning, allow yourself plenty of time to proceed through passport control as it can get crowded.
SJSC Latvian Railways , 67216664, 67233397.
If you have a driver's licence issued by another country of the European Union, you can use it continuosly. Residents of other countries have to obtain a Latvian licence after 6 months, however it involves only a theoretical exam, which can be taken in English, German, French and Russian.
Air Baltic flies from Riga to Liepaja International Airport . It costs 18.60 lats from Riga to Liepaja and 10 lats from Liepaja to Riga. Sometimes there are huge discounts allowing to get from Liepaja to Riga for as cheep as 4 LVL. Liepaja has direct flights to Hamburg and Copenhagen, too.
Several small airports available across Latvia, two in Riga - Spilves airport and Rumbulas airport.
International car rentals are represented in Latvia. There are many offices in Riga, including some at Riga Airport. Cheaper car rental offices are also available.
Drive with the headlights on all year round. Winter or all-season tyres are required for the winter period (December 1 to March 1). Many gas stations are self-service and operate 24/7. Gasoline with octane ratings of 95 and 98 is available, as well as diesel fuel.
You can browse the car rental companies list at the Riga International Airport website .
There are a vast network of bus connections around Latvia. Buy a bus ticket at the bus station or on bus when boarding. If you have luggage ask the bus driver to put it in the trunk. It depends on the bus company if they will charge extra. There are express bus connections to major towns, which can save time considerably.
It is advised to cycle around Riga in the early morning when there is less traffic, although one should be careful when choosing this time due to reduced drivers attention. Expect heavy traffic from 5 PM to 8 PM. No left turn allowed from middle line. However, it is highly advised to choose by-ways and less densely populated roads due to hazardous traffic. It is vitally important to wear reflectors; reflective belts, bands and bright coloured clothing are advised, as well as having the bike equipped with strong front and rear lights. Generally, cycling is still not very safe in the country, especially during the dark hours. The only "real" bicycle path is existing from the old town of Riga to the Sea resort of Jurmala. But the country is fast developing local cycling routes. The international bicycle project BaltiCCycle  may provide you with a lot of information and help.
Hitchhiking in Latvia is generally good. The roads around Riga present the largest obstacle, unless the city is your destination - there is no clean "by-pass" road, and a considerable amount of local traffic makes hitching very difficult. The easiest way to get around Riga is to find a "cross-country" lift at the border with Estonia or Lithuania. License plate numbers/countries of origin are your friends.
Latvian' (Latviešu valoda) is the only official language and it belongs to the Eastern Baltic sub-group of the Baltic language group in the Indo-European language family. Besides Latvian, Russian is spoken fluently by most of the people (70% of people speak it as a second language according to the Eurobarometer poll of 2005), since Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. Young people have as well limited knowledge of English or German .
There are a lot of possibilities to practice winter sports - snowboarding, cross country skiing, downhill skiing etc. Ramkalni , Baili , Zviedru Cepure . Some of slopes are open till late night. Usually need car to access.
As rivers get more water from melting snow, kayaking down the river is one of the favorite past times for young people. It usually gets warmer after Easter.
Latvian Song and Dance Festival
One of the key cultural events in Latvia, which started back in 1873 as a singing festival. Now the festival involves live performances of various choirs, folk dance groups, brass bands etc. Competitions, exibitions, concerts, parades and joint concerts are some of the cultural events. Riga is full with people wearing traditional costumes and cheerful people from all Latvia. It is held once in five years. The last Latvian Song and Dance Festival  took place from 6th to 12th July, 2008 in Riga.
Latvia has one of the longest sand beaches in Europe. In July and August the water is warm enough to swim comfortably. The sea has a very slow slope.
There are many interesting and old castles around Latvia. Association of Latvian Castles, Palaces and Manors  has links and photos on their website. Note that sometimes castles are reserved for private occasions.
It is popular to go for a stroll in the autumn to watch the different shades of colour, when the trees turn red and yellow. Popular places for such activities are Sigulda and Vidzemes Augstiene.
Speciality shops are open mostly from 8 AM to 6 PM on weekdays, till 4 PM on Saturdays, closed on Sundays. Groceries are open every day till 8 PM or longer. Most supermarkets are open till 11 PM every day. Convenience stores, such as Narvesen are mostly open 24/7.
ATMs are widely available throughout Latvia (including Riga International Airport), even in many small towns. Tax free  stores have their signs clearly displayed.
Banks will accept traveller's cheques with some fee as a percentage of the sum.
Before leaving Latvia, it is advisable to exchange Latvian lats back to your foreign currency, unless you want to keep them as a souvenir. This isn't such a bad idea, since the Latvian Lat is one of world's most beautifully designed currencies, especially the many different types of 1 Lat coins and also the paper notes. Keeping Lats would also be a good reason to visit Latvia again. However, hurry up, since Euro will be introduced in a couple of years.
This is the best thing that could happen to a traveler in Latvia - the food. The World should learn about bread and milk products here. Latvia is very rich in this aspect. An average supermarket has by far bigger selection of most food products than those in the rest of Europe. Welcome to the country of real bread, milk products, ice cream, sweets (loose sweets, made by Laima) etc. In the open air markets of Riga, Liepaja and other cities and towns, the local fruits, vegetables and mushrooms are a great option, such as freshly picked wild strawberries or blueberries from the forests, or some big strawberries, apples, rhubarb pie and a crunch made of fresh stalks straight from the garden. This is, of course, available mainly in summer and autumn season.
Latvian cuisine comes from the peasant culture, and is based on crops that grow in Latvia's maritime, temperate climate. Rye, wheat, oat, peas, beets, and potatoes are the staples; smoked bacon, sausage, and other pork products are favourites. Since Latvia is surrounded by the sea, smoked and raw fish is common. Many types of food are flavoured with caraway seeds, especially cheese and bread. A cheese similar to smoked gouda, but softer, is the cheapest and, arguably, tastiest variety. Latvian rye bread is heavy and flavourful, and goes well with hearty Latvian meals like pea soup, potatoes, and schnitzels. Restaurants in larger cities often offer stews in clay pots.
Latvian cuisine is typical of northern countries, especially close to Finland; it's high on butter, fat, and grains, low on spice except for caraway and black pepper. If you are from the Mediterranean, you might find it bland, but if you come from England or the Midwestern US, you're not likely to have trouble getting used to it.
A more exotic Latvian dish is a sweet soup made from rye bread (maizes zupa).
Some specific food in this area:
Other mentionable food and dishes:
Beer, the most popular alcoholic beverage in Latvia, is excellent. Beers, such as Aldaris, Līvu, and Senču can be bought almost anywhere. A special 'live beer' like Užavas can be found in selected pubs and restaurants. Don't forget to try the locally distilled Black Balsam (Rīgas Melnais Balzams). It's a strong (45%) infusion of various herbs, roots, and spices. It will cure your flu in no time. Add a few drops to flavor your tea, or a few spoons to lace your coffee, or in various cocktails. By itself it can be a very strong beverage! Wine is also grown in Latvia in small quantities. It is one of the most Northern places in the world where the wine can be successfully grown. Vineyards can be seen in Sabile  (in Latvian).
Some possible places to have a sip:
It is common to tip 10% of the bill depending on the service you encountered. Make sure you check the receipt, as some establishments automatically include a 10% tip in the bill.
Although you might not find plenty of 5 star hotels all around Latvia, you will find comfortable places to stay for a reasonable price. There are many hotels to choose from. Prices start from 20 LVL outside of Riga and from 40 LVL in Riga.
Network of youth hostels  is also developing. Dormitory rooms come around 10 lats, single, double rooms start from 20 lats and above.
Camping in parks is usually not allowed. As regards the stealth camping- most of rural land is private, but camping there is always possible; common sense is to ask for a permission of the owner, which in most cases will be gladly granted. However, if there's no such chance, but you decide to camp there nevertheless and are later asked to move, you have to. Paying small money (1-2 lats) helps in most such cases. Overall, camping outdoors on privately owned land is widely understood, common and accepted, however staying in one place for more than two days, or really close to a home are not considered good manners. Follow the common sense of stealth camping.
Indicated free camp sites can be found in Latvia, especially in national parks, you can easily camp there. Commercial campgrounds as small businesses are becoming more and more widespread.
So called guest houses and country houses (some on farms) are arguably the best places to stay at in the countryside, and usually for much less money than hotels and better quality than hostels, due to very limited numbers of guests and more personal oriented and specialized service (usually run by families). These come with full ammenities and some follow the hotel star ratings. These also provide many recreational activities- from the Latvian popular ancient "pirts" sauna to horse rides etc. This is not only a good way to spend the night, but also an option to spend your holiday, however, usually, guest houses should be called up earlier than the day you plan to arrive, but this can vary depending on the place. Guest houses can be found fairly frequent throughout the country and are usually listed on tourist booklets.
Museums in Latvia  has list of museums in Latvia on their website.
Not impossible (especially if you are an EU citizen), but you have to find a company which will be willing to pay a 35 LVL fee per month, work permit up to 170 LVL (once) and an additional fee for checking your documents of education 47.20 LVL (once). Salary should not be less than 246 LVL per month.
Job advertisements in Latvian daily newspapers like Diena Tuesday or Saturday edition, some of those ads are in English, German, Russian or French.
It is generally safe to travel around on your own, although some petty crime exists. A thing to watch out for is bicycle theft, and it is advisable not to leave valuable things in your car. Mind the forest roads, collisions with wildlife animals can easily occur.
When visiting bars and restaurants in Riga, make sure you know the price before you order and follow your spending, so no cheating is possible. Beware of scammers who strike up conversations out of the blue and invite you to visit their favorite club or bar; this is often a favorite way for the mafia how to rob the foreigners, and the police are unlikely to help if you get scammed. The Police of Latvia  has a website with advice for travelers.
Emergency phone number: Fire/Police/Ambulance 112.
If bitten by a dog, wild animal or a snake, seek medical attention immediately. Snakes are not venomous in Latvia, except for the European Viper which is a possible death threat if no treatment is received within the next few hours after the bite. A dog or cat bite can carry the risk of rabies. Mosquitoes carry no disease and are only an annoyance in the summer months. A forest tick bite carries the risk of Lyme disease or encephalitis.
There is no problem turning to any doctor or hospital to seek medical help, just by paying an outside patient fee. However, it can prove difficult to obtain medical assistance in many rural areas, as the service can be slow and unresponsive; therefore, it may be a good idea to bring your own first aid kit. There are virtually no air ambulance helicopters in the country, except for the army, so when exploring sparsely-inhabited, remote areas on your own, it's important to be well-prepared for emergency situations.
Few drugs are available without prescription; bring your own medicine if you require it.
If you need to seek medical attention of a doctor be prepared to pay a fee under the table, in Latvia, it is estimated that 1 in 4 doctors take "private donations" to see patients. The current president of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, previously a doctor in Riga, was found to be accepting these monetary exchanges from his patients, and was flagged by Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization.
Tap water should be boiled before drinking; purchasing bottled water is an alternative.
One should be cautious when mentioning Latvia in the context of the USSR to ethnic Latvians. Latvia became a USSR province after World War II, and praise of the Soviet (or Russian) regimes is unlikely to be understood or appreciated by Latvians, especially young ones.
It is very common to give up your seat for an elderly passenger on the public transport in Latvia. It is also considered polite to let women board a train or bus first.
There are many waste containers and trash cans on the sidewalks and near most stores. Littering is considered a very bad manner and may be fined.
Latvijas Pasts  is also reliable and a fast way to send letters and parcels (up to 10kg).
Most of the newer GSM mobile phones will work in Latvia. Pre-paid SIM cards are also available and can be easily bought in convenience stores or supermarkets. Most companies provide GPRS/3G/EDGE data transfer. Zelta Zivtina of TELE2 costs as small as LVL 1. Another option is a much more expensive pre-paid card, OKarte  with better GSM/GPRS/EDGE coverage in rural areas. Good alternative for cheap GPRS traffic and voice calls is a prepaid card BiFri. All of these come with English as well as Russian and of course Latvian guide book.
Internet spots are available in cafes, libraries and airports. Most hotels will provide free wireless access spots for laptops.
If you can't find free wireless spot, try Lattelecom WLAN. A wifi card is need to connect to Lattelecom WLAN . A WLAN area can be found around any Statoil gas stations. Internet at no charge is also available in most public libraries, some have free wireless access points as well.
To call from a public phone you need a phone card (telekarte). It costs 2,3 and 5 LVL. International calls are possible from every public phone.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!|
Latvia (stem Latvi-*)