The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Latvia. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
You should also obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), free of charge, which entitles you to emergency medical treatment. This card is not a substitute for travel insurance. See www.ehic.ie for further details. The EHIC replaces the Form E111, which is no longer valid.
Irish citizens do not require a visa to enter Latvia for short visits but if remaining for longer than 90 days you are required to obtain a residence permit.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
When entering Latvia by car and at all times while driving in Latvia, you must have your original vehicle registration certificate and insurance certificate, as well as your driving licence, with you.
Irish people are travelling abroad in ever greater numbers. Most of these journeys take place safely and uneventfully. However, on occasion emergency assistance is needed.
The Embassy operates an out-of-hours service for Irish citizens requiring emergency assistance. If you are in need of emergency assistance, please ring +371 6703 9370. Alternatively, you may contact the Duty Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin at +353 1 408 2000. A list of local emergency numbers is provided below. Riga City Tourism Police provide a 24-hour, English-language service on +371 671 81818 for those visiting Riga.
Emergency funds can be transferred from a friend or relative in Ireland via Western Union to any Latvian Post Office (the person transferring money in Ireland will be given a password which they must give to the recipient in Latvia).
Safety and Security:
Latvia shares with the rest of Europe a threat from
terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate and against
civilian targets. However, the current assessment of risk in
Latvia is low.
Most visitors enjoy a trouble free stay in Latvia however; there
have been some isolated incidents. It is not advisable to
walk alone at night, or to visit disreputable places (such as
strip/lap dancing bars). Beware of pickpockets in crowded
places and on public transport.
Several bars in Rīga, usually those associated with strip/lap-dancing clubs, use hostess services (women who are employed to bring men into bars and to encourage them to spend a large amount of money on alcohol). We strongly recommend that you do not visit such bars, as the Embassy has had a number of reports of credit card fraud associated with such establishments.
If you are approached by a hostess and encouraged to come to a particular bar, be aware that any drink purchased for the hostess is likely to cost many times the price of an average drink. Always ask the price of the drink before ordering and pay for each drink as it is ordered. Specify the exact drink which you wish (i.e. asking for 'champagne' can automatically result in a purchase of a bottle of the most expensive champagne in the bar).
There have been a number of complaints from Irish citizens of some nightclubs charging very high prices for drinks bought for staff members. Some such clubs have refused to let people leave until the bill (in some cases over €5,000) has been paid. In the Embassy's experience these cases usually involve strip/lap-dancing bars.
The US embassy in Riga has produced a list of such bars which is
updated regularly on their website:
It is advisable:
• To avoid strip/lap-dancing clubs and any bars linked to such
establishments or using hostess services
• To check the price of drinks as they are ordered and to pay for each round individually
• Not to purchase drinks for women working in bars
• Not to leave drinks unattended as there have been reports of spiked drinks
• To beware of pickpockets in crowded places
• Not to carry passports or other valuables on your person, but to keep a copy of your passport details page, and to keep the original somewhere safe. (But beware of leaving it in your luggage, especially in hostels, where there have been cases of theft).
• Not to wander around alone late at night
Riga City Tourism Police
The Tourist Police Department provides a 24-hour English-language service for tourists to Riga in difficulties, or who would like to register a complaint about their treatment in Riga. The telephone number is +371 67181818.
Public order offences
There have also been a small number of cases where Irish citizens have themselves been the perpetrators of public order offences. Public order offences in Rīga are robustly policed and can result in up to 7 years imprisonment, and/or a hefty fine.
You should also be aware that being drunk in a public place is an offence and that drug possession, even in small quantities, is illegal and can result in a lengthy custodial sentence.
The Freedom Monument, which is at the edge of the Old City, is an important symbol to Latvians and should be treated with due respect.
The authorities in Rīga and elsewhere in Latvia often respond to offences by detaining suspects in jail until the case can be heard in court. This generally takes from 7-14 days.
Latvia has the highest rate of road deaths in the EU so drivers should be particularly careful. When entering Latvia by car and at all times while driving in Latvia, you must have your original vehicle registration and insurance certificates, as well as your driving licence, with you. Parked vehicles should always be locked and the alarm (if fitted) activated. Dimmed headlights are mandatory at all times.
Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited. Latvia has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood (stricter than in Ireland). If caught driving with a blood alcohol content of more than 1.00 mg/ml you will face an immediate jail sentence and a significant fine.
Loss/Theft of passport
If your passport is lost or stolen in Rīga, you should firstly report the loss or theft to the police station at Matīsa iela 9 (between Brīvības and Tērbatas, map tel: 67086213). This station is responsible for the Old City area. The police will issue you with a report confirming that you have reported your passport as lost or stolen. You will be required to present this report when applying to the Embassy for a replacement travel document. You will also need two passport photographs, an alternative form of identification and an administrative fee of Ls 10.50. You should contact the Embassy as soon as you obtain the police report to arrange for the production of an Emergency Travel Document. Passport photographs are available from photographic shops and, outside of normal hours, at a kiosk in Rīga’s international bus station (Prāgas iela 1, near the Central Market). Access is available 24 hours through the side entrance.
If you are arrested, you may ask the police to inform the Embassy of your arrest.
The Embassy can:
• Arrange for you to be visited by an Embassy official
• Provide you with a list of local English-speaking lawyers
• Advise you about the prison system and about your entitlement to visits, post and other facilities
• Bring details of any medical condition you may have to the attention of prison officials
• Pursue with the prison authorities on your behalf any complaints about ill-treatment or discrimination
• Pass messages to and from your family
However, the Embassy cannot:
• Secure better treatment for Irish citizens than local or other nationals receive
• Give or pay for legal advice
• Pay for interpreting costs
• Interfere with or influence the proper operation and application of the local judicial system
• Provide any financial assistance while you are in prison
• Pay bail bonds or fines
Emergency contact numbers
Medical emergency number/ambulance: 03 or 112
Police: 02 or 112
Tourism Police 24-hour English-language service: +371 67181818
Central Police Station Nr. 1, Matisa iela 9, Rīga: +371 67086200
State Fire-fighting and Rescue Service: 01 or 112
Some English-speaking doctors in Rīga
ARS medical centre, Skolas iela 5 +371
6720 1006 (reception)
+371 6720 1009 (24 service in English)
+371 6720 1005 (emergencies at home)
Dr Anda Karina, Skolas iela 2 +371 6724 0202
Dr Livija Caune, Elizabetes iela 2 a +371 6732 1980
Dr E. Tirans, General Practicioner, Bruninieku iela 67 +371 6731 5594
Hospitals in Latvia
Rīgas 1. Slimnīca, Bruninieku 5, Rīga (not 24-hour) +371 6727 0136
P. Stradiņa klīniskā universitātes slimnīca, Pilsoņu 13, Rīga +371 6706 9600
Klīniskā slimnīca “Gaiļezers”, Hipokrāta 2, Rīga +371 6704 2400
Liepājas pilsētas centrālā slimnīca, Slimnīcas 25, Liepāja +371 6340 3255; +371 6340 3210
Daugavpils reģionālā slimnīca, Vasarnīcu 20, Daugavpils +371 6540 5252
Ventspils slimnīca, Inženieru 60, Ventspils +371 6362 4721
Jelgavas pilsētas slimnīca, Brīvības bulv. 6,Jelgava +371 6302 1802
Valmieras slimnīca, Jumaras 195, Valmiera +371 6420 2602
Legal firms providing an English-language
A Baumana birojs, Tallinas iela 69-16, Rīga +371 2927 3361
Rode & Partneri, Raiņa bulv. 3, Rīga +371 6722 5228
Spigulis & Kukainis, Teatra iela 2, Rīga +371 6721 4272
Notaries providing an English-language service
Ilona Ķibilde, Blaumana iela 16-18,
Riga +371 6728 4737
Agrita Gustafssone, Kaļķu iela 26, Rīga +371 6721 0252
Disclaimer: The Embassy of Ireland accepts no responsibility as to the standing of any company or individual mentioned above.
Local Laws and Customs:
From the European Union, for self-consumption, one can bring 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine or other fermented beverages, 20 litres of medium strong beverages and 10 litres strong beverages into Latvia. Travellers from other countries have rather strict limitations. From countries outside the European Union, without paying tax, one is allowed to bring in one litre of strong alcoholic beverages, for example – whisky, four litres of still wine alcohol (e.g., wine).
Perhaps, when travelling in Latvia, you may purchase a piece of artwork. If an icon, book, painting or other cultural item is 50 years old or older, or costs more than 300 lats, then a special antiques take-out permit is necessary. This can be applied for at the State Inspection for Heritage Protection, 19 Mazā Pils Street, Rīga [in the Old Town] (tel.: +371 67229272). More information on custom related limitations can be found here.
Natural Disasters and Climate:
There are no earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, nor destructive tornadoes or devastating floods – although the spring thaw sometimes causes localised flooding outside of Riga - nor burning heat or droughts in Latvia.
Travelling to Latvia in winter
Be prepared for very cold and possibly hazardous weather if you intend to travel to Latvia in winter (October to March). There is likely to be snow on the ground and temperatures may drop to -25 degrees Celsius or below.
In general, the best time to visit is May-September, when daytime
temperatures are in the 20-25 C range, with nights ranging 4-15 C.
The coldest months are January and February.
The most detailed forecasts of the weather conditions in Latvia are available at: http://www.meteoprog.lv/en/
Additional Country information:
The area of Latvia totals 64,000 square kilometres with 500
kilometres of coastline. The population is around 2 million people,
of which 58% are Latvian, 29% are ethnic Russian, and 4%
Byelorussian. Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians and others
reside in Latvia in small numbers.
Latvian is the sole official language of the Republic of Latvia. Most people can speak Russian as well. English is spoken to some degree, especially among young people.
Latvia is a democratic republic. Currently, about 1.5 million residents have the right to vote. However, around 300,000 residents continue to bear ‘non-citizen’ passports, and are not entitled to vote in parliamentary or local elections, or in referenda.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic
and is the head of the government. The President of Latvia is
elected by the Parliament for a four year term.
After the restoration of independence in September 1991, Latvia has sought to join various international organisations. In April of 2004 Latvia became a member of NATO and in May of 2004, a member of the European Union.