Latvia is a land of magical charm and unique beauty. With its quaint small towns and its enchanting forests, Latvia holds much for the adventurous traveller. Explore Latvia and discover the scenic delights of this Baltic wonderland.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Latvia has an excellent bus network, offering extensive transportation coverage across the country. Latvia’s rail network connects Riga with several destinations, including Tukums, Liepāja, Daugavpils and Skulte, though may be somewhat limited as an option for reaching more isolated locations. Taxis are plentiful and easy to find in Riga and other main cities.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, environment & weather
Latvia is situated alongside the Baltic coast, and covers an area of 64,589 square kilometres. The country is very flat, with 98% of Latvia’s surface lying under an elevation of 200 metres. Latvia holds over 12,000 rivers and over 3,000 lakes, while woodlands cover 52% of the country.
Latvia’s climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream flowing across the Atlantic Ocean, and experiences mild summers and cold winters. Depending on the season you intend to travel, check the weather reports and dress accordingly.
World Heritage Sites
Latvia has 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with another 3 on the Tentative List. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/lv). The listed sites currently include:
Historic Centre of Riga, filled with hundreds of buildings in the distinctive Art Nouveau
Struve Geodetic Arc, a remarkable multinational project involving Latvia and several other nations involving a chain of survey triangulations to measure a portion of the world’s surface.
Festivals & events
Numerous festivals and events dot the calendar in Latvia. One of the biggest events in Latvia is the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Held every 5 years, the festival brings together tens of thousands of performers for mass performances of folk songs and classical choir songs, with orchestral concerts and exhibitions of photography, art and folk craft also staged. The Staro Rīga Light Festival is an eye-catching event, with the bridges, buildings and squares of Riga illuminated by elaborate light shows. Other notable events include the Riga Opera Festival in June and Autumn Chamber Music Days.
Latvia: A Short History, by Mara Kalnins
The Case for Latvia, by Jukka Rislakki
Latvia: A Love Declaration in 35 Pictures, by Jacques Sauvage
Lāčplēsis, by Andrejs Pumpurs
Eating & Drinking
Latvian cuisine is built around starch, vegetables, meat and fish. Rye bread occupies a central part of the Latvian diet, with Latvians consuming around 50kg of rye bread a year. Indeed, rye bread is not only included as an accompaniment to most meals, but is also served as a dessert in the form of rye bread pudding, made from sweetened rye bread, fruit, cinnamon, and whipped cream. Given the many lakes and waterways that thread through Latvia, fresh fish are abundant and are widely consumed, with smoked fish a staple of Latvian cuisine. Other notable Latvian dishes include rasol (a potato salad made out of layers of meat, eggs, vegetables, mayonnaise and sour cream) and pelmeni (dumplings made from unleavened dough and filled with minced meat, vegetables or cheese).
Latvians will often wash down food with either Riga Black Balsam (a liquer made with a range of herbs including pepper, ginger, linden flower and rasberry), or kvass, an alcoholic beverage made from rye bread.
Health & Safety
Generally speaking, Latvia is safe to travel in, though always exercise common sense while travelling. Street crime does sometimes occur in major cities, including bag snatching and pickpocketing, so pay close attention to your belongings and to your personal security.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Latvia’s electricity supply runs at 230V and 50Hz. Latvia uses both Type C and Type F plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Latvia has a single time zone, Eastern European Standard Time (UTC+2). Daylight savings start on the last Sunday of March and finish on the last Sunday of October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping isn’t very common in Latvia, though tips are appreciated. At restaurants, a tip of 5-10% of the bill can be left if you felt you received good service.
Wifi is widely available in Latvia, with most hotels, cafes and restaurants providing free Wifi.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Latvia. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible Travel Tips for Latvia
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although some locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums & galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.