Latvia in crosscut
| Latvia is situated on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, bordering Lithuania, Byelorussia, Russia, and Estonia. The landscape of the country is marked by lowland plains and rolling hills, with thousands of rivers and lakes. Most of the countryside is less than 100 metres above sea level.
Area: 64,589 sq.km or 24,937 sq.miles
| Latvia’s weather is governed by moderate oceanic climate, with pronounced cyclone activity and considerable precipitation. Although Latvia is small, there are frequent differences between the coast and the eastern part of the country. It is typical warmer near the sea, although there is also more precipitation and strong wind.
Summer: June- August
Summer is warm, but winter, lasting from November till mid-March, can be very cold (-25*C). The weather in autumn and spring is relatively mild. Heaviest rainfall is observed in August. Snowfall is common in winter, especially in February. Average temperatures are: July +17*C, February -5*C, although some days can be very hot in summer and very cold in winter. The warmest month is July, and the coldest is January.
|Latvia is situated in a nature zone between Northern and Central Europe. Latvia is a country of diverse natural landscapes. While forests cover 45 percent of the territory, Latvia also has many lakes, small rivers and rolling fields. The larger forest tracts are found in the northern part of Kurzeme, one of the few places in Europe where it is still possible to enjoy the untouched beauty and uniqueness of nature.|
| The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It has been continuously recognized as a state by other countries since 1920 despite occupations by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1945). On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence.
Latvia is a democratic, parliamentary republic. Legislative power is in the hands of a single chamber parliament – the Saeima- with 100 deputies. The head of the state is the President, who is elected by the parliament for a period of 4 years. The president signs laws, nominates Prime Minister (who leads the government) and performs representative functions.
| Latvia is a member of:
• European Union
• North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
• United Nations
• Council of Europe
• World Trade Organization (WTO)
• Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
The state language is Latvian, which belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. The Latvian language is considered one of the oldest of the Indo-European (European) languages. It is a non-slavic and non-germanic language, similar only to Lithuanian, with which it forms Baltic language group.
|Latvians are the indigenous people of Latvia. According to the latest census taken in 2006, the population of Latvia is 2,288,923. The ethnic composition of population has always been diverse. The largest ethnic groups are Latvians (58.9%), Russians (28.4%), Byelorussians (3.8%), Ukrainians (2.5%), Poles (2.4%), Lithuanians (1.4%), and Jews (0.5%). The current ethnic composition of Latvia is largely the result of massive post-war immigration, which resulted in a fall in the number of ethnic Latvians from 77% of the population in 1935 to 52% by 1989.|
|The national currency is the Latvian lat (Ls). One lat equals 100 santims. There are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 Ls denomination banknotes, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 santim, and 1 and 2 lat coins. The lat was introduced in October 1993 and is pegged to the SDR (International Monetary Fund unit of currencies) at a constant rate. Most shops, restaurants, and hotels in the major towns also accept credit cards, but if you travel to smaller towns, take a sufficient amount of cash with you. Cash machines can be found in most banks, major petrol stations, and at the airport and the Central Post Office in Riga. Travelers’ cheques and Eurocheques can be cashed in most banks. Money can be changed in banks or exchange offices. The exchange rate is almost the same in all exchange points, except the Exchange offices at the Airport.
Banks are open on weekdays from 9.00 to 17.00.
Some currency exchange rates (17.07.2012):
SEK: 0.079500LTL: 0.204000
Latvia is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and three hours ahead when summer time is in effect (from April to October). Latvia uses the 24- hour clock (e.g. 3pm is 15.00).
| • January 1 New Year
• March/ April Easter (Good Friday, 2nd Day of Easter)
• May 1 Labor Day
• June 23-24 Līgo, Midsummer Night
• November 18 Proclamation of Latvian independence
• December 25-26 Christmas
• December 31 New Year’s Eve
| We recommend you to obtain insurance before you come to Latvia. Medical and accident insurance can also be purchased at local insurance company RSK www.rsk.lv .
Emergency call: 112 a toll-free number to call an ambulance.
In Latvia there are state, non-profit and private hospitals. If you have to go to a hospital, the health insurance scheme will cover the costs, although you will have to pay a small charge over the first days.
Pharmacies in Latvia are called “Aptieka”, and are open on weekdays from 9.00 to 20.00 and from 10.00 to 16.00 on Saturdays.
| Latvian post boxes are l-colored yellow, and postage stamps can be bought in post offices or news-stands (kiosks) that are scattered all around all Latvian cities. The largest post offices in Liepaja are located at Kūrmājas prospekts 8/10. Major post offices in other cities are located in the center, typically near the central train or bus station.
Telephone numbers in Latvia have eight digits. It is possible to have a home phone (Lattelekom) or mobile (Tele2, LMT, BITE).
Most public phones are operated with phone cards (telekartes). They cost EUR 2.85, 7.10 and 14.20 and can be bought in the outlets where the sign “Telekarte” is displayed (kiosks, stores, post offices).
|220 volts AC, 50 Hz. Latvia uses European type 2-pin plugs.|