Latvia General Info.
Capital : Riga
Min. Budget $20/day

Country Code 371 $1=.058, 10/7/2000

Language
Latvian is the first language for only 57% of the population. 40% have Russian as their first language. While the old have limited knowledge of English, the younger generation have been taught English in schools since 1991 (Independence).

Weather
July is the warmest month when the temperature hovers around 20 degrees. In February the temperature is often below freezing with heavy snowfall.

Currency/Exchange
The Latvian LAT has an incredibly low denomination, $1=0.5Ls
Denominations are 1,2,5,10,50,100.
Cash- Banks and Monex exchange booths exchange without commission. T/C- Banks charge 2% com.
ATM- many in towns.
Changing back- Banks charge 2% to buy back Latvian currency.

Basic Travel Costs
10 eggs - 0.69Ls, Mars Bar - 0.20Ls, Big Mac - .90Ls
Breakfast - 0.50Ls, Beer - .30Ls, Water - .25Ls ,
Budget Meal - 3Ls+ Coffee - 0.30Ls

Opening hours
M-F 9.00-17.00, Sa 9.00- 15.00
Su - Most stores and museums are closed. Restaurants remain open.

Immigration
not require: EU, USA Japan 90 days.
require:Australians, New Zealanders (US$15, 5 day processing), for 30 day visa.

Border Crossing
Valka (Latvia) > Valga (Estonia) to/from Tartu.
Daugavpils (Latvia) > Zarasai (Lithuania) to/from Vilnius.
Rezekne (Latvia) > Pskov (Russia) to/from Moscow
Riga (Latvia) > Stockholm (Sweden) via ferry

International Transport
Eurolines buses pass through Riga on their route to Tallinn-Germany, stopping at Vilnius. Eurolines also stops at Riga on their St Petersburg route. Trains are quite good but often you must change trains at the border. Buses are bumpy but they pass through border crossing very quickly (30 mins).

World Hertiage Listing
Riga`s old town: Founded in the 12 century

National Transport
Trains are far superior but less frequent than buses. They are the best choice for towns such as Cesis and Sigulda. Often the bus will drop you off on the highway 2km outside of towns.

Local Transport
Riga has a good tram system that revolves around the old city. The country towns are so small that often walking is much better. But local buses do exist for the lazy.
A ride anywhere in the Riga costs 0.20Ls. Separate tickets must be bought for train, bus and trams. Transport operates from 05.30 to 24.00.

Tourist Information
Every major town has a good tourist information center which speak fluent English. They have photos of all the surrounding accommodation, and choose one based on location and your budget. `In your pocket Riga` is written in English by Latvians and is highly recommended. The Baltic Times a weekly newspaper, and The City Paper a magazine published every two months are great English publications.

Telephones
Telephone cards can be bought from Kiosks and post offices. There are two types of cards for two different types of phones. International call dial 00 +country code + city code+ number.
Phone code - 371.
AT&T direct - 700 70 07
Local call - 0.02Ls/min, USA - 0.46Ls/min, UK- 0.41Ls/min
Japan - 0.52Ls/min
Australia - 0.56Ls/min
Post Postcard Letter 1kg parcel 2kg Parcel
Europe 0.20Ls 0.30Ls 6.00Ls 11.00Ls
Japan 0.30Ls 0.40Ls 8.50Ls 13.50Ls
Australia 0.30Ls 0.40Ls 8.50Ls 13.50Ls
USA 0.25Ls 0.35Ls 7.50Ls 12.50Ls

Accommodation
Latvia has not yet come to grips with budget tourism. The hostels mentioned are university dorms but cheap hotel and private rooms do exist for a similar price. The standard is quite bad because the budget hotels are former Soviet buildings which mean, big buildings small rooms and no windows.

Food
Meat, meat, meat! Cafeteria style restaurants are the best budget option where they weigh your food to determine the price. The Latvians love rupjmaize which is dark rye bread, Many have nuts and raisons in it. Piragi are dumplings made with bacon and onions and are probably the cheapest thing on the menu. Coffee is quite good in the trendy cafes costing around .30Ls. Aldaris Zelta and Cesis beer are the most popular brands and a light tangy taste.

Customs
When meeting the parents of a girl/boy you meet, bring an odd number of flowers. Tipping is not common but if the service is good the workers would appreciate it. Warning: Remember loose change in Latvia could equal $20US.

Souvenirs
Jewelry such as Baltic amber litter the streets. Also everyone seems to be wearing leather (very 80`s) so the leather shops are quite popular. The national drink, Rigas Melnais Balzams is very popular with tourists. It is a dark and richly textured drink, bottled in a medieval casing, that is what Absinth is to Czechs.

Health
Baltic & American medical clinics operate in Latvia and offer excellent western standard care with English speaking staff.
Tap water should NOT be drunk.

Safety
High police presence in Riga, which is quite dangerous if walking alone in the dark (however in summer than sun only goes down for a few hours). Beware of speeding cars that do not care about pedestrians.

Internet
The internet only exists in Riga and not the other towns mentioned here. It is quite expensive.

Entertainment
Party, party, party! Riga has a nightlife equal to any in Europe. The town has a reputation of great nightclubs, and girls that are pleased to meet foreigners. British Airways is in the process of adding another daily flight to Riga, probably just to cope with the English lads wanting to meet the unforgettable latvian beauties.

Miscellaneous
Voltage: 220 volts, 50hz. Standard European plug.

Festivals/National Holidays
January 1 News Years Day
April Good Friday and Catholic Easter
June 23 Midsummer festival
November 18 National Day
December 25 Christmas

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