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Necessary information

Attitude to foreigners

There is a tolerant attitude to representatives of other nations and races in Latvia, hatred at all and foreigners feel themselves comfortable in Latvia. The major youth representatives speak English well, the elder generation knows English a little bit worse. Majority of the population of Latvia know the Russian language, the knowledge of German, French and Spanish is not a widespread phenomenon there.

Customs regulations

You are obliged to declare cash imported to Latvia if the amount exceeds EUR 10000. If you enter Latvia from any other EU Member State where you have declared already the amount, it is no need to declare the funds once again.
There are restrictions on importing goods and excisable products: alcohol, tobacco, fuel. It is possible to find detailed information relative to the customs regulations on the web-site: http://www.vid.gov.lv/default.aspx?tabid=9&id=4923&hl=2

Time

There operates Eastern European Time + 2 hours to GMT. There is daylight savings time.

Money

Latvian lat (Ls)(LVL) is equal to 100 centimes.
There are use banknotes in denomination of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 LVL, coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 centimes, as well as of 1 and 2 LVL.
From 1 January 2005 the lat is pegged to the Euro according to the exchange rate of 0.702804.
Calculations within the country are only in LVL. Euro and dollars are taken at fuel stations Statoil, but the change is given in LVL and the exchange rate is not the most beneficial.

Banks and Currency Exchange

Banks are usually open from Monday to Friday from 10a.m. to 6p.m. Bank branches in trading centres and malls are open on weekends.
LVL exchange for other currencies and back is free and ubiquitous – it is possible to exchange currency in banks and exchange offices ("Valutas Maiņa") in hotels, post offices and railway stations. The amount of exchange is not limited and occurs without submitting any identification documents, unless only the amount of currency exchanged does not exceed 5000 LVL equivalent.
Travel checks are accepted only in banks, major tourist areas. It is practically impossible to use them beyond these areas. It is possible to pay with credit cards almost in all hotels, restaurants and large stores in Latvia, the most common are VISA, MasterCard, Maestro. American Express cards are less common. Automatic teller machines are widely-distributed including ATMs that carry out reception of money. When paying with a credit card to the amount exceeding LVL 100 it is necessary to present a document establishing identity.

VAT and Tax-Free

VAT (22%) refunding is possible provided you buy in a store during a day to the amount not less than LVL 61 (VAT included) and receive a "Tax Free" check from the seller. In this event you may not use the goods acquired at the territory of the state (the factory packing must be retained) till you receive the customs seal imprinted on the check. It is required to export the goods specified in your check from Latvia at the latest within three months from the date of issue. A check is presented to a special cash desk "Cash Refund" at the territory of Riga International Airport, marine port or land customs points. When leaving by a train only a seal is affixed on a check and Vat is refunded by mail (by transfer on the specified account or sending of a bank check).

Telephone

The dial code of Latvia is 371. All telephone numbers are generally eight-digit numbers. The telecommunication system is sufficiently modern and fast growing. Phone-cards are used in "Lattelekom" outdoor pay phones (as well as the of prepaid cellular network services with the value of 2, 3 and 5 LVL, which are sold at newsstands), as well as credit cards.
Telephone numbers in the capital are clearly distinguished according to the value, subject to the first digit of the number – conventional direct-dial city numbers start from 6 (payment per minute), free phones - from 8 (the receiving party pays for the call), mobile phones – from 2 (regular phone call on a mobile is more expensive), as well as various service and charity organizations, which deduct automatically a particular amount from the account of a person calling (the numbers start with 909, price for the call is approximately 1 LVL per minute or it is established the specific tariff of the organization that owns the number).
Cellular telecommunication is carried out in a standard GSM, there is a good 3G network coverage.

Transport

Intracity route traffic in Riga is provided by trams (street-cars), trolley-buses and route taxis operating from 6a.m. till 11p.m. After 11p.m. there operate only some fixed-route and ordinary taxis, as well as duty buses and trams (not more than once per hour). There is equal fare for all types of vehicles (including the “fixed-route taxis”) - 70 centimes (payment in public transport), when purchasing tickets in advance – 50 centimes. After 10p.m. the fare is twice as much than during a day. Single travel tickets are fit to travel in a single direction only to the terminal station of the route of the vehicle where the tickets were purchased. There are the so-called “travel cards” available where it is specified a type of the vehicle, route, month and the days of operation.
24-hour ticket to travel by bus, tram and trolley-bus is a very convenient form of fare. It is possible to find more detailed information on tickets in Riga transport on web-site: |http://www.rigassatiksme.lv/en/tickets-and-e-ticket/types-and-prices-of-tickets/time-ticket/
There is a special discount card “Riga Card” available for tourists of two different types (for children and adults) with the validity period of 24 hours (LVL 12 for adults and LVL 6 for children), 48 hours (LVL 14 for adults and LVL 7 for children) and 72 hours (LVL 18 for adults and LVL 9 for children). In addition to the fare, the “Riga Card” also givens the right of free visiting of some museums, exhibitions, some night clubs and the zoo. See more detailed information on the web-site: http://www.rigacard.lv/?lang=en.

Taxi

There is only “organized” taxi-driving in Riga; private taxi-driving almost does not exist. The car may be ordered by phone, stopped in the street and may be found any time by any reputable hotel. Rates vary subject to the company. All taxis operate according to the counter – day rate is denoted by the numeral 1 on the counter indicator, night time - by the numeral 2. By request of a passenger the cab driver is obliged to issue a check. Calling a car by phone is free and a car ordered usually comes rather quickly.

Car Rental in Latvia

There is an extensive network of offices for car rental all over Latvia. The rules of car rental are standard – driving licence of the international standard, a credit card and paid insurance fee.

Roads and Driving Rules

It is sufficiently easy to move around the country – the road traffic network is dense and duly maintained. Traffic in cities is rather complex – abundance of historic monuments and narrow streets have made local authorities to restrict the road transport traffic in many parts of Riga, Jurmala, Ventspils, etc. The entrance to the Old City is possible, but parking is very expensive - 5 LVL per hour, and a lot of pedestrian streets; so, when entering the Old Riga you need to look carefully at the signs. It is paid parking at the centre of Riga; the price depends upon the place and time of parking your car (the longer your car stands at the parking space, the more expensive is the second hour and all subsequent hours compared to the initial hour). Parking is paid in parking meters using coins. When entering Jurmala the entrance fee is payable to the amount of LVL 1 per each entry in coins using the vending machine on the side of Riga highway. The police often checks the receipts; failure to pay the fee is threatened with the collection of really large penalty.

Medical services are paid in Latvia; that is why the medical insurance policy of international standard is mandatory.

The mains voltage is 220V, frequency 50 Hz. There are applicable two-pin European-style plugs.

Tips are often included in the bill. In the event this is not done, one should be oriented on 5-10% of the total bill.

Restrictions relative to smoking operate in Latvian educational and medical institutions, at workplaces and office premises, theatres, concern, dancing and sports halls, museums, banks, post offices, public transport, by buildings and establishments, where there are located the state and municipal authorities, on staircases of tenement houses, public transport stops and stadiums during the periods of sport events.

Reference service in the English language – 1188, 1180.

It is possible to call emergency services by 112.

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