Practical information about Latvia

Travel to Latvia

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Quite a number of different airline companies serve Riga airport, including budget airlines, so it should not be too difficult to find a reasonable ticket. The website of Riga Airport can be found here.

Another way of arriving in Latvia is by ferry. Riga has a ferry a connection to Stockholm in Sweden, Ventspils is connected with Ninneshamn in Sweden and Travemunde in Germany, and the city of Liepāja also offers a ferry route to Travemunde in Germany.

International train routes are currently limited to connections with Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia and to Minsk in Belorussia.

Riga is very well served by extensive bus connections. Bus routes connect Latvia with Austria, Belgium, Belorussia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and Ukraine. Check with your local travel agency or transport provider to learn more about connections and prices.

 

Weather

Latvia Sigulda in Winter.jpgBeing a northern country, Latvia experiences fairly long and dark winters from November to February. It is not generally extremely cold or snowy, averaging around minus ten degrees Celsius, but temperatures can reach minus twenty for a few days each year.

Spring is lovely with plenty of flowers and blooming fruit trees and shrubbery. Summer is the favourite season of most Latvians because of long "white" nights and warm temperatures, averaging a pleasant 20 degrees. However, it is not unusual to have periods of temperatures around 30 degrees.

Fall is popular with nature lovers due to the colourful leaves and plentiful wild mushrooms to be had in the forests. Latvia is a very lush green country for a good reason - it rains quite a lot. Be sure to bring a sturdy umbrella for year-round use, warm clothes and sturdy, waterproof boots from September to March or April.

 

Language

Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. Latvian belongs to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. Although the official state language is Latvian, you will easily get around with a command of Russian and English, as a large part of the population of Riga is Russian-speaking, and most Latvians do understand Russian. In Riga and other bigger cities you can use English as well.

Government-funded bilingual education is available only in primary schools for ethnic minorities. These include Russian, Jewish, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Estonian and Roma schools.

In the public universities the language of instruction mostly is Latvian; at the same time programmes for foreign students are designed and taught in English. Private universities may offer programmes in Russian language too.

 

Academic year

Riga in Fall.jpgThe academic year in most higher educational institutions starts in September, it comprises 40 weeks and is divided into 2 semesters.

Autumn semester
  • Lectures: September to December
  • Exams: December / January
  • Holidays: Christmas time
Spring semester
  • Lectures: February to the end of May
  • Exams: May / June
  • Holidays: July to August

 

Living costs

Everyday expenses in Latvia are generally cheaper compared to many Western European states, so students from abroad may be used to spending more on their lifestyle. 

Average monthly living expenses are estimated between €450-700, depending on the accomodation type and other needs. These amounts should be enough to cover food, accomodation, utilities, transportation and other expenses.

Examples

The amount of the Latvian state scholarship available for citizens of more than 40 countries for bachelor`s and master`s students is €500 per month, for PhD students €670 per month. The Erasmus+ grant set by the European Commission for European Voluntary Service participants on exchanges to Latvia is set at €550 per month.

Accommodation

Most universities in Latvia have their own dormitories or hostels, others provide assistance with housing search.

  • €70-120 dormitories or student hostel
  • €250–350 solo flat rent
  • €100-200 shared flat rent
  • €100-170 utilities
  • €12-15 internet
Transport

Public Transport in Riga.jpg

  • €16 monthly student ticket with discount in public transport of Riga (buses, trams, trolleybuses), can be lower in other cities
  • €2 one-way ticket for public transport in Riga, €0.60 - 1 in other cities
  • €7–15 taxi from city center to suburbs in Riga (1 transfer), €3.56 – 15 in other student cities
Food

Total average costs per month are around €120-250 depending on the needs of the student. 

  • €5-9 per meal at the city centre
  • €3-5 daily specials in pubs and cafes 
  • €1.57-2 cup of coffee
  • €20-40 average restaurant meal 
Leisure and entertainment
  • €5-10 cinema ticket 
  • €7-42 opera ticket
  • €7.5-30 rock concerts
  • €7 one visit to a swimming pool
  • €33-45 one month gym membership

 

Finding accomodation and arrival

Arrival at Latvia.jpgStudyinlatvia.lv database provides information on accomodation arrangments offered by each university in the section on Provider information. Student should ask the foreign student advisor at your chosen university for advice, since the housing market in Latvia is not very easy to navigate even for locals.

Upon arrival at the university, the student meets with university representatives in order to become acquainted with the programme and to receive answers to any questions. Most frequently it is the staff of the external relations division or members of the student council who look after visiting students. The wellbeing of students is important to each university, thus universities take care to inform foreign students about university life and to involve them in social activities.

Latvian students have always been helpful and friendly. Most often it is the student councils which organize student activities and social life, and membership in these student organizations is open to foreign students as well.

 

Good to know

Before coming to Latvia, it is useful to keep these practical things in mind.

Currency

As of 1 January 2014 Latvia has joined the euro zone. This means that Latvian currency is the euro (EUR), 1 EUR consists of 100 euro cents. 

Student cards accepted in Latvia

ISIC (International Student Identity Card) and student identity cards provided by education institutions.

Drinking and smoking age

Age of 18. 

Driver's licences 

Driving.jpgA driver's licence issued by any of the EU member states is valid also in the territory of Latvia. However, be careful! Latvians are pretty ruthless drivers. NB: the legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.05% and 0.02% for new drivers in the first two years after getting their licence.

Business hours 

Shops are usually open Monday to Friday 8/10am-6/8pm. Some have reduced working hours on Saturdays and Sundays and a few stores close on Sunday. Stores located in shopping centres usually have the same working hours throughout the week. Most food shops stay open until 10pm and are also open on Sunday. Central offices of banks are open 9am to 5pm. Several banks have neighbourhood service centres that have opening hours into the evening and on week-ends.

Public holidays

Most shops and all banks will be closed on the following dates:

  • January 1 (News Year's Day)
  • Good Friday and Easter Day 
  • May 1 (Labour Day) and May 4 (Constituent Assembly Convocation Day)
  • Second Sunday in May (Mothers' Day)
  • June 23 (Midsummer Eve) and June 24 (St John's Day)
  • November 18 (National Day)
  • December 25 and 26 (Christmas Eve and Day)
  • December 31 (New Year's Eve)

If May 4 or November 18 fall on a weekend, the following Monday is free.