LatviaOfficial Name: Republic of Latvia
Must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required for stays up to 90 days within a six-month period
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
10,100 euros or equivalent
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
10,100 euros or equivalent
Embassies and Consulates
Samnera Velsa iela 1
Telephone: +(371) 6710-7000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(371) 6710-7000 or +(371) 2920-5708
Fax: +(371) 6710-7001
Latvia is a stable democracy and has one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union. On January 1, 2014, Latvia joined the euro zone. Most goods and services can be found in the capital city of Latvia, Riga. However, in other areas outside of the capital, many western goods and services cannot be located. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Latvia for additional information on U.S. - Latvian relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Latvia is a party to the Schengen Agreement. U.S. citizens may enter Latvia for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. Specific immunizations are not required for travel to Latvia but you should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. For additional details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen Fact Sheet.
Only one stay up to 90 days is permitted in the Schengen territory within a six-month period. If you plan to visit multiple European Schengen zone countries on the same trip, you should pay attention to the total number of consecutive days spent in member countries, including Latvia. You are advised to carry your passport when travelling to neighboring Baltic countries from Latvia – even on day trips – as random passport checks are possible.
If you are going to stay in Latvia for more than 90 days, you must apply for temporary residence. You must have a valid insurance policy, which includes coverage of medical expenses while in Latvia. Repatriation costs, including funeral and dispositions of remains costs, also have to be covered by the policy. One of the requirements for the temporary residence application is a criminal records check from the United States, which can be requested through the FBI. You must submit proof of identity, which consists of name, date and place of birth, and a set of ink-rolled fingerprint impressions.
The U.S. Embassy cannot take your fingerprints, but the Latvian State Criminal Police Department is able to provide such service at Bruninieku iela 72, Riga, tel: 371 6720-8662.
For more information, contact the Latvian Embassy at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, tel: (202) 328-2840, fax: (202) 328-2860. Within Latvia, contact the Ministry of Interior’s Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, at Ciekurkalna 1st line, building 3, Riga, LV-1026. Tel: (371) 8300, e-mail: email@example.com.
If you are planning to travel to the Russian Federation from Latvia, even in transit, we recommend you obtain a visa prior to your entry into Latvia. The process to apply for a visa at the Russian Embassy in Riga can be lengthy, and may involve submission of your passport for an undetermined period of time.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Latvia.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
Civil unrest is generally not a problem in Riga, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward U.S. interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare.
Nonetheless, in the past, Riga has experienced large, peaceful demonstrations related to internal political issues. While such events have generally been peaceful, we remind you that gatherings intended to be peaceful can become confrontational. Therefore, you should avoid the areas of demonstrations, if possible, and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any event.
Latvia is quite dark during the winter months, and pedestrians are required to wear small reflectors, which people generally pin to their coats or handbags. Reflectors are very important in rural areas where it may be difficult for motorists to see pedestrians. Starting October 1, 2014 all pedestrians walking on curbs in rural areas have to wear lighted vests.
Each winter, several people in Latvia sustain serious injuries from falling icicles. Pay careful attention to sidewalks that are blocked by rope or tape and be cautious of work crews clearing ice and snow from building rooftops. It may be prudent to use an alternate route away from the marked or work areas. Sidewalks and roads can also be extremely slippery in the winter months. Therefore, you need to exercise caution while crossing streets even if you have the right of way.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Latvia on Twitter and visiting the Embassy website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Latvia is a relatively safe country, and crime is generally non-violent in nature; however, serious violent assaults and robberies have occurred. Harassment of foreigners and same sex partners has also occurred in Latvia.
The Riga Tourist Police Unit has a 24/7 English-speaking operator at (+371) 6718-1818 and English-speaking officers who frequently patrol the Old City. The most common crimes encountered by foreign tourists are purse snatching, pick-pocketing, and mugging, especially during the summer tourism season. Tourists – particularly those carrying backpacks – are targeted by individuals or small groups of thieves working together. Riga’s Old Town (Vecriga), Central train station (Dzelzcela stacija), Central bus station (Autoosta) and Central market (Centraltirgus) are crowded public places that are targeted by thieves.
Please be aware that scam artists occassionaly target foreigners in tourist pubs and restaurants. You should pay special attention to the drink prices at bars. There have been instances of travelers being charged exorbitant prices. Bills have been as high as several thousand dollars for drinks, and in some establishments the management may use force to secure payment.
If possible, you should avoid walking alone at night and avoid using ATMs after dark.
In addition, internet crime is a growing concern in Latvia. Common fraudulent schemes involve both internet auction sites and internet job-search sites. In the first scam, criminals offer you valuable items for sale at low prices on internet auctions and request that your payments are sent by wire transfer to a bank in Latvia or through a fraudulent escrow site that they have created themselves. In this scheme, your money passes through a bank in Latvia and is quickly withdrawn at an ATM or transferred to a bank in another country. It is very difficult in these cases to discover the identities of the account holders or recover the funds.
The second common scam involves identity theft through false job offers. In this scheme, a company claiming to be located in Latvia, but which has a non-existent address, offers you employment as a U.S.-based agent or freight forwarder. When you respond to the job offer, commonly posted on one of several popular Internet job sites, you are asked for a Social Security number and other identifying information under the guise of conducting a background check.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and with your signed authorization, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Latvia is 112, which can be called for fire and police assistance. The primary number for ambulance services is 113, but the 112 operator can also help dispatch an ambulance.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Latvia, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Persons violating Latvia’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Latvia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If you break local laws in Latvia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still be illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: As of January 1, 2014, Latvia replaced its currency, the Lat, with the Euro. Currently, only euros are accepted. Bank and currency exchange counters may refuse to accept U.S. currency that is crumpled, torn, discolored, or defaced (even small pen strokes are considered defacing). If such notes are accepted for exchange, an additional processing fee, based on the size of the transaction, may be charged. ATMs are widely available in Riga and in major towns. For security purposes, it is recommended that visitors use ATMs located inside major hotels or shopping malls, versus those located on the street, in high-volume tourist areas.
Telephone connections with the United States are reliable; however, U.S. toll-free numbers cannot be accessed from Latvia. Please check with your long-distance carrier before departure to see if they offer service in Latvia. Local Internet cafes offer computer access, and fax machines are widely available at any Latvian Post office.
Latvian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Latvia of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, drugs, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Latvia in Washington or one of the Latvian consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
WOMEN TRAVELER INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: There are no legal restrictions on private relations of same-sex individuals or the organization of public events related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Latvia. In 2013 Mozaika, an NGO that promotes LGBT rights, received 19 reports of LGBT rights violations, which ranged from verbal and physical attacks to discrimination at work and bullying in schools. Non-governmental organizations complained of widespread intolerance and underreporting of such attacks and discrimination to authorities. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Latvia, you may review the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013.
Between June 15 and June 21 of 2015 Riga will host the EuroPride 2015 festival.
For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Latvia individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different than in the United States. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and other state services, and the government generally enforces these provisions. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities; however, most buildings are not yet accessible.
Although Latvia has made efforts to improve disabled access, only new and completely renovated hotels, guest houses, hostels, and public buildings provide suitable facilities for seriously disabled travelers. Easy-access public transportation and taxis are rare.
Accessibility of foot paths and road crossings is improving but, in most places, still fails to meet the legal standards. The Old City has mostly cobblestone streets which can be difficult for those with disabilities. Snow and ice are common on sidewalks during winter months and can be hazardous. Free or reduced fares of public transportation are available only to persons with disabilities who are Latvian residents.
The quality of medical care in Latvia continues to improve, but still often falls short of western standards. Latvia has highly trained medical professionals, but hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Many doctors speak at least some English. There are few private clinics in major cities that offer services equal to Western European or U.S. standards. Elderly travelers and those with health problems may be at increased risk.
Western-quality dental care can be obtained in Riga. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate payment for health services, particularly if immigration status in Latvia is unclear.
Ambulance service for emergencies is available by dialing 113; however, response time is poor in rural areas. Air ambulance service is available for medical evacuations; however, it is very expensive and advance payment or a guarantee letter from an insurance company is required before a patient is transported.
Pharmaceuticals sold in Latvia are produced by companies certified in accordance with EU standards. Products of most major pharmaceutical manufacturers are sold in pharmacies in Latvia; however, they will not necessarily be labeled the same as in the United States and instructions are often not printed in English.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme-disease are widespread throughout the country. Those intending to visit parks or forested areas (even within parks in Riga) are urged to speak with their health care practitioners. Tick-borne encephalitis vaccinations are given as a series of three doses, and are not available in the United States. This will preclude TBE immunization for most travelers so travelers should carry and use CDC recommended insect repellents containing either 20% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 to help diminish bites from ticks and other insects. There are no vaccines against Lyme disease. Hepatitis A is also a significant problem in Latvia. You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Latvia. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Latvia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Foreign visitors to Latvia planning to operate a motor vehicle are required to obtain an International Driving Permit. You may get these through the American Automobile Association (AAA) of the American Automobile Touring Alliance for a small fee. Your U.S. state driver’s license is not sufficient for driving in Latvia. These requirements apply if you are using rental cars as well, whether or not the rental company chooses to enforce the requirement as a condition of rental. If you drive without an International Driving Permit, you may have your vehicle confiscated by the police. U.S. citizens resident in Latvia for more than six months are required to apply for a Latvian driver’s license. Upon receipt of a Latvian driver’s license, U.S. citizens are required to surrender their U.S. driver’s license to the Latvian authorities. The license is then returned to their respective states of issuance.
Latvia’s rate of automobile accidents and fatalities is one of the highest in Europe. You should be alert for pedestrians and slow-moving vehicles in traffic. Additionally, violation of traffic rules is common, and it is not unusual to be passed by another automobile traveling at high speeds, even in crowded urban areas. In Latvia, it is required by law to yield to pedestrians at marked intersections. However, many drivers fail to do so. Be alert to approaching vehicles when crossing the street. During winter, most major roads are cleared of snow; however, you should be alert to fog, snow, and ice while driving.
Driving while intoxicated is a very serious offense and carries heavy penalties. Local authorities use roadblocks and breathalyzer tests as an enforcement tools. Be alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians wandering on the road. You must use headlights at all times, and note that there can be as little as six hours of daylight during the winter months. Speed limits are usually 50 km/hr in the city and 90 km/hr on the highways. Currently there are several mobile speed cameras deployed throughout the country. Public transportation is generally considered safe, but travelers are encouraged to select well-marked taxis. Emergency services are fair but improving (See section on Medical Facilities above); response time may be especially slow in traffic or in rural settings. Dial 112 for police assistance, or 113 for ambulance service.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit Latvia’s national tourist office website and national authority responsible for road safety Latvian Road and Traffic Safety website.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Latvia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Latvia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.