Australian Government advice for Latvia
When travelling to Latvia, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Latvia.
This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 22 May 2014. It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Latvia.
- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Latvia.
- Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
- There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
- Although civil unrest is generally not a problem in Latvia, you should avoid large demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent.
- Australia has a Consulate in Riga, headed by an Honorary Consul, which provides limited consular assistance (not including visa and immigration services or the issue of passports). The Australian Embassy in Sweden provides full consular assistance to Australians in Latvia.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Latvia for the most up to date information.
By agreement between the Latvian and Austrian governments, Australian residents applying for Latvian visas may submit their visa applications through the Austrian Embassy in Canberra.
When entering Latvia you are required to have a passport with at least three months’ validity remaining. You are also required to have a valid health insurance policy that guarantees coverage of any health-related expense during your stay, including repatriation. If you do not have appropriate insurance, you may be required upon arrival to purchase appropriate medical insurance.
Latvia is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows Australians to enter Latvia without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for more information.
The export of religious materials and antiques is subject to strict export controls. Local authorities can confirm prior to purchase whether export of such items is permitted.
People travelling directly to or from a country outside the European Union (EU) carrying 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Under the legislation, the term "cash" includes cheques, travellers' cheques and money orders. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash for people travelling to or from another EU country.
If you are travelling to countries other than Latvia, make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers .
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
Civil unrest/Political tension
Although civil unrest is generally not a problem in Latvia, you should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent. Monitor the media for developments and if you are in an area affected by protests, follow the advice of local authorities.
We advise you to exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Street crime occurs, particularly in the capital Riga, including bag snatching, pickpocketing, mugging and petty theft. Airports, train stations, the Central Market, parks, routes to major hotels and the Old Town are prime locations for pickpockets. Pickpockets usually operate in groups.
A number of crimes committed against foreigners at bars, clubs and lounges in Riga have been reported. Visitors have been charged extortionate prices for drinks. You should check the price of drinks before ordering. Arguments about overcharging have been known to lead to violent assault or threats of violence. Security guards may compel you to pay.
Drink spiking occurs in bars and casinos. Do not leave drinks unattended.
Foreigners have been the victims of serious assault. Young males, either alone or in groups, returning to hotels or hostels from bars and clubs late at night, are particular targets for violent assaults. Avoid parks and areas near parks late at night.
Car theft is common, particularly in Riga. You should use well-guarded car parks whenever possible.
Victims of crime should file a police report at the nearest police station. Police in Latvia can be slow in assisting victims of crime. It could take 4-5 hours before a police report is issued to a non-Latvian speaker.
The Riga Tourist Police Unit has a 24-hour hotline (+371 2 203 3000 or +371 67 181818, English speaking), that can be used to lodge complaints about crimes in Latvia.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Latvia.
On 1 January 2014, Latvia joined the Eurozone. The official currency of Latvia is the Euro.
Credit card fraud occurs in Latvia, particularly in places that are frequented by tourists such as shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Keep a close eye on your credit card at all times and under no circumstances sign blank credit card slips.
Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority .
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Latvia has a high rate of car accidents and fatalities. Latvian law requires drivers to use their headlights at all times, including during the day. Winter tyres are required from 1 December to 1 March.
For further advice, see our road travel page.
Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.
When you are in Latvia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter .
Penalties for drug offences, including possession of small amounts, are severe and may include long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Driving offences attract harsh penalties. Penalties for driving over the blood alcohol limit (0.05) may include a heavy fine, jail sentence, loss of licence and permanent vehicle confiscation. The blood alcohol limit for drivers with driving experience of less than two years is 0.02.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
In October 2013, Latvian authorities began recognising dual nationality for citizens of Australia and a number of other countries. For further information on dual nationality issues and status, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Latvia for information on your dual nationality status. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
The standard of public medical facilities in Latvia's large cities is reasonable. In rural regions, however, facilities may be limited. Most private medical facilities are well equipped and provide services comparable to the standards found in Australia. Many doctors and hospitals will require up-front payment before commencing treatment. In the event of a serious accident or illness, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities may be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could be considerable.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis) can occur in Latvia.
Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis and other tick-borne diseases. Ticks are common from spring to autumn.
Where to get help
Emergency services can be contacted on 112.
Australia has a Consulate in Latvia headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular assistance (which does not include visa and immigration services or the issue of passports). Contact details for the Consulate are:
Australian Consulate, Riga
Vilandes Iela 7
LV-1010 Riga LATVIA
Telephone: +371 67 320 509
Facsimile: +371 67 320 516
You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Sweden:
Australian Embassy, Stockholm
If you are travelling to Latvia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate . The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Latvia experiences extremely cold winters and heavy snowfall.
Flooding may occur in spring (March to May).
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.