The local amber is of good quality. Inexpensive imitations are also often available. The coastal town of Liepājas is known for its amber jewellers, who process the popular amber into modern jewelry. Other popular souvenirs include handicrafts (including wicker baskets and pottery) and linen textiles. Latvian beer, Rigas Black Balsam (dark liqueur) and folk music are also nice souvenirs. There are supermarkets in all larger towns, which are often open until late in the evening, including on Sundays. The prices are slightly below the Western European standard. Shopping at the markets (Tirgus) is significantly cheaper where you can get baked goods, cheese, honey and other products in addition to fresh fruit and vegetables from the region. A visit to the Riga Central Market in the former zeppelin hangar near the train station is particularly worthwhile. It is one of the largest markets in Europe. However, one should note that the meat products offered there are not subject to state control. There is a very diverse range of goods in the tourist centers of Riga and Jurmala. In Riga in particular, there are not only the large boutiques of international retail chains, as can be found in all major cities in Europe, but also many original small shops run by locals.
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Mon-Fri 9.00/10.00-18.00/19.00, Sat 09.00/10.00-16.00/17.00, often until 22.00. Smaller shops often close at midday. Grocery stores are open from 08.00/09.00 – 20.00/21.00. Some shops are open 24 hours a day.
The range of hotels is good and is constantly being expanded. Outside of the capital there is also a fairly good selection of larger hotels and smaller guesthouses that were under state supervision before independence. Hotels in Riga are sometimes expensive. Resorts with good accommodation options can be found around Gauja National Park, in Kurzeme and Latgale. We also recommend private quarters, which can be arranged in almost every location. Information on accommodation in Latvia can also be found on the Internet at the following address (Internet: www.allhotels.lv). Hotel Classification: Hotels are classified into the Hotelstars Union star categories from one to five stars.
There are few official campsites of Western European standard. Campsites with a modest level of comfort are mainly located in national parks and resort areas, for example on the Baltic Sea coast in the vicinity of the Jurmala bathing region and in Ventspils (Internet: www.camping.ventspils.lv) and on lakes and river banks. Some are equipped with small wooden huts that can be rented. You can also stay overnight or camp on farms at low cost. Outside the national parks, free camping is tolerated, as in the Scandinavian countries.
Other accommodation options
Information is available from the Baltic Tourist Board in Munster and the Latvian Tourist Board in Riga (see addresses) as well as the Latvian Youth Hostel Association – Hostelling Latvia, 17-2 Siguldas pr, LV-1050 Riga (tel: 921 85 60. Internet: www.hostellinglatvia.com). Information on private accommodation, guesthouses and country houses is available from the Latvian Tourist Board in Riga (see addresses) or from the Latvian Country Tourism Association, Vīlipa iela 12-21, LV-1083 Riga (tel: 761 76 00. Internet: www.celotajs.lv).
19.6% Protestant (Lutheran), 15.3% Russian Orthodox, 1% other Christian.
Social Rules of Conduct
General: Latvians are very proud of their culture. Visitors should respect this strong national identity. Manners: The usual forms of politeness should be observed. They shake hands to greet each other. Latvians are rather reserved people, but extremely hospitable. Hosts would appreciate a bouquet of flowers. Flowers are often and willingly given away, but always in odd numbers; an even number is considered a sign of mourning. Attire: Restrained, smart casual wear is appropriate almost everywhere, jeans and a smart top are appropriate for most occasions. Smarter attire is expected in good restaurants or on special occasions. Proper attire is expected when entering churches; Shoulders and knees should be covered. Swimwear belongs on the beach. Photography: When visiting one of the many beautiful churches, you should be very careful with the camera and take into account possible photography bans. People should be asked before being photographed. Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Smoking is also prohibited in public facilities such as cinemas, theatres, banks, post offices and sports facilities as well as in stairwells. Smokers who are outdoors must keep a minimum distance of ten meters from public buildings. Smoking is prohibited near minors. Tip: A tip of 5-10% of the bill is common in restaurants in larger cities. Otherwise, tips are only given if the service is very good. Taxi drivers, waiters, porters, maids and tour guides should be tipped.
Best travel time
temperate climate. Warm summers, spring and autumn are relatively mild. Cold, long winters (October to April) with heavy snowfalls. Precipitation is distributed throughout the year. The best travel time starts in May and ends in September.
Area (sq km)
64,589 sq km (24,938 sq miles)
1,886,198 (Source: homosociety)
Population density (per square km)
30 per sq km (77 people/sq mile)
Population statistics year
Member of the EU
Main emergency number