Latvia travel guide
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.”
64,589 sq km (24,938 sq miles).
1,937,944 (UN estimate 2018).
30 per sq km (77 people/sq mile).
President Egils Levits since 2019.
Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš since 2019.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Latvia on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. You should check that the test result can be provided in the correct format and language.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Latvia.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Public spaces and services
Some measures remain in place to limit transmission of COVID-19. See the Latvian government’s COVID-19 website for full details.
Wearing of face masks is mandatory at social care homes, hospitals and other medical institutions. People must use a medical face mask or unvalved respirator with a safety level of FFP2 - FFP3 or KN95. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 can use non-medical (fabric) masks. Wearing a face mask is not obligatory for:
- children under 7 years of age;
- anyone with certain medical conditions, for example, if a person has difficulty wearing a mask due to a movement disorder or if the person has a mental health disorder.
The fine for not wearing a face mask when required is 50 Euros.
Latvia will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. If you are travelling with a printed PDF proof of vaccination status, it must date from 1 November to ensure that the certificate can be scanned successfully, if domestic certification is required. If you are entering premises that require a COVID-19 certificate in Latvia, please download and use the QR code designed for travel. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
It is not mandatory to show proof of your vaccination status to receive services or attend venues (museums, cafes, bars etc.) or events. However, it remains at the discretion of the service provider or the event organiser to ask for your vaccination certificate or enforce any other epidemiological safety rules. If you intend to attend events, contact the organiser to enquire about the COVID-19 rules which they have in place.
Healthcare in Latvia
The latest information and advice from the Latvian authorities is available on the Latvian government’s COVID-19 website.
What to do if your COVID-19 test is positive:
Stay or return to the premises where you will be self-quarantining. Avoid any direct or indirect physical contact with other people.
Call the Latvian National Health Service on 80001234 for a local doctor to be assigned to you. Be aware that not all operators are English speaking, keep trying until you reach one who is.
Wait for a call from your assigned doctor with further instructions. You may be contacted by an epidemiologist to trace back your steps and identify potential contact persons.
If your health deteriorates and you experience severe COVID-19 symptoms, call 113 immediately.
Do not exit self-quarantine until your doctor has allowed it.
Be aware that not all hotels provide self-quarantining facilities. It means you might be required to move to another hotel. If you have already checked out of your hotel, check the Riga City Council Welfare Department website with the list of hotels for self-quarantining. Travellers with COVID-19 infection must self-quarantine at their own expense. For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Latvia
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Help and support
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
There have been reports of petty theft and robbery. Beware of pickpockets, avoid unlit streets and parks at night, and be extra vigilant if walking alone. Most thefts have been reported in Riga Old town, Central Market, central train and bus stations. You should remain particularly vigilant in these areas.
Reports of foreign tourists being charged extortionate prices for drinks or having fraudulent transactions debited against credit/debit cards have fallen considerably. You should, however, remain vigilant. Seek recommendations for bars and clubs from trustworthy sources like your hotel or other holidaymakers. When paying by credit or debit card make sure the transaction is completed in your presence and be wary of attempts to make you re-enter your pin number. Don’t leave drinks unattended.
If you wish to report a crime, call the Riga tourism police on +371 67181818 or the national police on 110.
Car theft occurs. Wherever possible use guarded car parks and keep valuables out of sight.
Travel from Russia and Belarus
If you have arrived in Riga from Russia or Belarus and are in need of assistance, you should call +371 6777 4700 and select the option for “consular services for British nationals.” You can also send an enquiry via the web contact form.
Information on border crossing into Latvia can be found on the Latvian State Border Guard website. There are three border crossing points for private vehicles and buses. They are Burachki-Terehova, Ledinki-Grebņeva and Ludonka-Vientuļi. All border crossing points are open 24 hours and have Customs officers and Food & Veterinary Service officers (for those with pets). The public number for the Latvian Border Guard for any queries relating to border crossings is +371 6707 5616.
Scheduled bus services operate across the Latvia/Russia and Latvia/Belarus border. Check the Lux Express website and Ecolines website for more information on schedules. You must wear a face covering on all public transport in Latvia.
Latvia COVID-19 entry regulations apply, as set out in the Entry requirements section. Those vaccinated with the Sputnik vaccine will need to follow the rules for travellers considered non-fully vaccinated.
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 degrees Celsius or below.
In 2019 there were 132 road deaths in the Latvia (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 6.9 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.
If you are planning to drive in Latvia , see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documents
You can drive in Latvia with a UK driving licence.
If you’re living in Latvia, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
Drivers should carry original vehicle registration documents when crossing the border into Latvia (including motorcycles). If you do not have these documents, you will not be allowed to take your vehicle back out of Latvia.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
There is a system called a Co-ordinated Accident Statement for use in case of road accidents when only two vehicles are involved in the accident, both vehicles are fit to continue the journey, there are no injuries and no other property has been damaged. Details of this are available from insurance companies. If you are not familiar with this protocol, or if the situation does not conform to the rules, then you should not attempt to move a vehicle that has been involved in an accident, even if it is blocking the road, until the police give permission.
Don’t drink and drive. The legal limit is 0.05% (0.02% for drivers with less than two years of experience). Those found over the limit face a large fine, licence endorsement and probable imprisonment.
Using a mobile phone whilst driving is prohibited unless using a hands-free device.
Winter tyres are required between 1 December and 1 March.
Local law states that drivers must use their headlights at all times, including during daylight hours.
You should use a major taxi company such as Baltic Taxi (+371 2000 8500) or Red Cab (+371 661 83 83). They are generally able to tell you the type, colour and number of the car in advance. If you do pick up a taxi on the street or at the airport make sure you only use official registered vehicles. These display yellow license plates. Even when using official taxis 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. Some taxis operating from Riga airport can charge highly inflated prices.
Attacks in Latvia can’t be ruled out.
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.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Don’t become involved with drugs. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to lengthy pre-trial detention and possible custodial sentences.
Drinking alcohol in public is prohibited and may lead to detention and a financial penalty.
For identification purposes, you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. If possible, leave your passport and other important documents in hotel safes.
There are on the spot fines for those found travelling on public transport without a ticket or with a ticket which has not been validated. Tickets can be bought from the driver or from shops/kiosks but must be validated by using machines sited within the bus/tram. Additional tickets should be purchased from drivers for large pieces of luggage and/or pets.
Taking food and drink into the EU
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 required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
This page has information on travelling to Latvia.
This page 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.
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.
The authorities in Latvia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Latvia’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
Travelling to Latvia from EU, EEA, Switzerland and UK
If you travel to Latvia from EU, EEA countries, Switzerland or the UK, you are not required to show proof of vaccination, take COVID-19 tests or self-isolate when you arrive in Latvia.
Travelling to Latvia from outside EU, EEA, Switzerland and UK
If you plan to travel to Latvia via a country outside of the EU, EEA, Switzerland or the UK, check the travel advice for the country you are transiting. You will also be required to show a vaccination certificate or recovery certificate or proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival in Latvia.
Proof of vaccination status
Latvia will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your final vaccine dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to travel and you need to have had a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency or by the World Health Organisation.
Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
The following are exempted from the requirements of confirming vaccination and testing when arriving from outside EU, EEA, Switzerland and UK:
- Children under 12 years of age,
- Employees of the transport and passenger service provider, crew members,
- Air passengers who do not leave the border control area in the airport during their transit and remain there for up to 24 hours,
- EU citizens and permanent residents declared in Valka municipality and Valga,
- Citizens and permanent residents of EU countries who cross the Latvian land border on a daily basis, for example, due to employment or education.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training.
If you are 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 within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Latvian government’s entry requirements. Check with the Latvian Embassy what type of visa and/or work permit you may need.
If you are travelling to Latvia for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.
If you stay in Latvia with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through the Latvia as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
You may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
If you are resident in Latvia, read our Living in Latvia guide for passport stamping information.
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 upon arrival in Latvia.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Latvia.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Latvian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
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. It 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.
If you’re living in Latvia, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Latvia guide.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 113. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
Since 1 January 2014 the currency in Latvia is the Euro.
All major credit cards are accepted and there are plenty of ATM machines for withdrawing local currency.
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, you could also be asked by the Latvian authorities to fill in a cash declaration.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.’