Visas: Latvia joined the Schengen Zone in 2007. More information about visa requirements for citizens of other countries can be found at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/service/
VAT Refund: Value Added Tax on goods bought in Latvian shops with a TAX FREE Shopping sign at the entrance may be refunded upon leaving Latvia by air, sea, or land, as long as you have a Tax Free shopping receipt that was validated by customs upon departure.
More information at www.global-blue.com, or call + 371 6721 2590, or inquire at locations with the TAX FREE sign.
Export Regulations: If you wish to export valuable art works and antiques, a permit is required from the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (www.mantojums.lv). Reach them by phone at +371 6722 9272. To export furs and hunting trophies, a license is required from the State Forestry Department (call +371 6702 7251).
Currency and Currency Exchange: The Latvian currency is the lats (LVL or Ls), which is divided into 100 santims. The Bank of Latvia’s official exchange rate is 0.7028 LVL = 1 EUR.
Credit Cards: Most restaurants, hotels, and shops accept major credit cards.
Banking Hours: Standard opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9–17. Some banks are open later as well as on Saturdays. Currency exchange offices are open on Sunday, too. Cash machines/ATM can be found all over the city.
Time in Riga: Riga is two hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) during the winter season and three hours ahead of GMT during the summer season. Daylight savings time is set on the same dates as in Western Europe. Riga is located in the same time zone as Helsinki, Tallinn, Vilnius, and Athens.
Public Holidays: Latvia has many commemorative days, when the Latvian flag is hung from buildings. The following dates are public holidays:
January 1, New Year’s Day;
March/April, Good Friday and Easter;
May 1, Labor Day, Convocation Day of the Constituent Assembly of the Republic of Latvia;
May 4, Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia;
June 23–24, Midsummer (Jāņi);
November 18, Independence Day;
December 25–26, Christmas.
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50 Hz; European-style 2-pin plugs are in use.
Phone: Pay phones operated by Lattelecom, the national phone company, accept phone cards that can be purchased in kiosks. For directory enquiries, dial 1188. Also keep in mind the following numbers: emergency, 112; fire, 01; police, 02; ambulance, 03; gas emergency service, 04. To make international calls, dial 00 followed by the country code. To call Latvia from abroad, dial the international code 00 371 followed by an eight digit number. Latvia has three GSM operators: LMT, Tele2, and Bite.
Postal Service: Postage to other European Union countries costs 0.45 LVL (0.65 EUR) for postcards and 0.55 LVL (0.79 EUR) for letters; to other countries postage costs 0.50 LVL (0.72 EUR) for postcards and 0.60 LVL (0.85 EUR) for letters . Express mail and courier services: DHL, TNT, UPS, EMS, Federal Express, and Autopasts. When sending postcards or letters, look for yellow boxes with the word “Pasts.”
Internet Access: Most hotels and venues have broadband internet access. Internet access is often free of charge. Riga also has numerous internet cafes and wireless internet access points.
Convention organizers who are VAT registered in the country of their headquarters are liable to be registered for VAT in Latvia and must charge customers Latvian VAT. Applications for VAT refunds must be submitted within six months of the end of the taxation year and posted or handed in at: Large Taxpayers Board, State Revenue Service, Jeruzalemes iela 1, LV-1010, Riga, Latvia. These provisions are the same as in other EU member countries.
Disabled People: An increasing number of hotels and venues are making their sites accessible for disabled people. The street environment is becoming more friendly for people in wheelchairs, though some obstacles may still exist.
Medical Care: Travelers with medical insurance are entitled to medical care in Riga.
Vaccination: There are no mandatory vaccinations required for entering Latvia. If you plan on hiking in the countryside or in the forests between March and October, a vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis is advisable.
Tourist information offices are found in most Latvian cities and towns. In Riga the main tourist information offices are located at the Russian Drama Theatre at Kalku iela 16 on Livu Square. In Jūrmala the main tourist information office is located next to the Majori Train station at Lienes iela 5. In Liepāja the tourist information office can be found at Rose Square (Rožu laukums) 5/6.
Most shops are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; however, shops in shopping malls are open until 10 p.m. Food stores are often open from 8 a.m. to midnight. Some food