Latvia Country Report
The small Baltic state of Latvia (population 2.1 million) offers, with a few notable exceptions,satisfying travel conditions to foreign visitors.
Latvia’s relations with Russia have recently taken a turn for the worse following the latter’s annexation of Crimea. Baltic countries, including Latvia, fear similar aggressive actions in the region. Relations are also affected by the treatment of the Russian minority within Latvia, which comprises one quarter of the population.
The next legislative elections in the country are due to take place in October 2018 while the next president, elected by the parliament, should be inaugurated in 2019.
It is important to keep in mind that Latvia was one of the countries hit hardest by Europe’s economic crisis (the country’s GDP shrunk by more than 20 percent in 2008). Nonetheless, despite numerous severe austerity measures, this small country’s GDP has increased for the past several years and unemployment has fallen back under 10 percent.
Medical infrastructure is underdeveloped outside of the country’s cities. Travelers are advised to bring all necessary medications with them from home.
Tap water is not potable, including in the capital Riga. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to take basic hygienic precautions when it comes to foodstuffs (eat only thoroughly cooked food and peel fruits and vegetables).
While highways are generally well-maintained, secondary roads are often in poor condition. Some roads are not paved and poor weather conditions in winter months can render driving on them dangerous. Following a number of cases of fraud, the airline AirBaltic now operates its own fleet of taxis and offers a good level of service at a reasonable rate. It is possible to travel all over the country by rail, but trains tend to be aging and uncomfortable.
Winter storms sometimes lead to power outages.
Keep in mind that petty criminals (pickpockets, etc.) often operate in areas frequented by tourists (historic neighborhoods, markets). As with all travel abroad, visitors are advised to take basic precautions in order to protect themselves (do not walk around alone at night, do not display obvious signs of wealth, lock your car, etc.).
Latvia has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and is a member of the visa- and border checkpoint-free Schengen Area. The country also recently adopted the euro.
The climate is continental in the interior of the country and slightly tempered in coastal regions thanks to the influence of the Baltic Sea. Summers are relatively hot while winters are cold. Conditions are often muddy in the spring due to melting snows.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +371 Police: 02 Ambulance: 03
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
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