Latvia— The Basics
A country well suited for leisure and travel, Latvia is an underrated gem of the Baltic Sea. Known for dignified architecture featuring masterful brickwork, the cities of Latvia are impressive, even by European standards! Latvia has a unique, savory cuisine that can warm your belly on a cold winter day, and leave you refreshed on a muggy summer afternoon.
Many people imagine France and Italian fares when the subject of European culinary excellence arises, but Latvia is really in a league of its own! Filling food and grand brickwork aren’t the only attractions on the menu in Latvia. Rich forests and expansive hiking trails are everywhere in the green country of Latvia. Outdoorsy folks and city slickers alike can find something that excites them in Latvia!
Sights and Attractions
Riga, the capital, is the place to go if castles and cathedrals are what get you going! Riga’s Town Hall Square is chock-full of beautiful antique brick buildings. Phone dead and forgot your watch? Luckily, the Baroque Clock Tower stands tall above its neighbors, so travelers needn’t look far check the time! Latvia is no stranger to oppressive overlords.
Right next to the Baroque Tower, travelers can take a walk through the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia . The museum is extremely unique on the outside, built in an interesting modern style. At the same time, it’s incredibly informative for anyone who wants to learn about these resilient people’s recent history.
Ogres Zilie Kalni Park is a beautiful hiking and kayaking destination. Dzinatri forest park has something for everyone. If you want a serene walk in the woods, you’ll be pressed to find somewhere calmer. If you want to exert yourself in an extensive rope course high up in the trees, then please, indulge your inner primate!
Latvia Travel Tips
Latvia Currency Considerations
Your holiday travel plans won’t go far if you’re not stocked up on Latvian currency. In Latvia, they use the Euro. Before you head over to Latvia, it’s a good idea to stock up on Euros at home. Consider using a currency exchange site, as they often exchange your money at the most favorable rate.
If you wait until you’ve landed to fulfill your Latvian currency needs, you’ll end up getting a horrendous exchange rate. Airport terminal kiosks and tourist hotspots are notorious for being a rip off for unwitting travelers. Happy leisure and travel does not include paying too much for what is essentially your own money!
European trips are fun until your wallet gets stolen or your purse gets pilfered. Keep an eye on your purse at all times. If you usually keep your wallet in your back pocket, switch to the front. It’s harder to snatch that way. If you’re kayaking or canoeing, don’t keep all your money with you.
What money you do bring along, have it secure in a waterproof container, attached to your body if possible. Always keep a little extra hidden away in your hotel room or somewhere separate from your main supply. Latvia is very safe, but even the nicest pond has its bottom feeders. No matter where you are in the world, always take precautions to protect yourself and your valued possessions.
Hotels in Latvia vastly differ in price. Consider your options and plan ahead. You don’t just want to wing it when it comes to finding a place to sleep. If you stop at the first place you find at the end of the day, there’s a good chance that you’ll be paying too much. Jump online and search for the best deals that fall in line with your itinerary.
Homestays can be very affordable during weekdays and in the off season. Property owners are desperate to find a head for their beds, so travelers sometimes find discounts on really nice homestay properties!
Flights and Transportation
Latvia has a few international airports. It’s such a small country, and the public transit is so good, so you really don’t need to worry about which one to land in. If you find a deal on a flight to Latvia, then just take it!
Latvia’s public railway system is extensive enough to get you to any city. From there, several bus services can take you where you need to go.
About four in every five Latvians speak Latvian — a Baltic language native to the country. The Latvian who don’t speak Latvians tend to be native Russian speakers, as Latvia has a high Russian population. As Latvia was hidden behind the iron curtain until the fall of the Soviet Union, most people over 35 are unable to speak English.
Many younger Latvians are comfortable with English, so fewer lines on the face generally means better English communication. On all European trips, travelers should come with a phrasebook and learn a little bit of the local language. Numbers, days, hotel vocabulary — these are all extremely useful in Latvia, especially for adventurers trekking off the beaten path.
Although Latvia was a part of the Soviet Union, Latvians aren’t all excited about that fact. Many Latvians believe that they were worse off under the USSR, and plenty have seen strife and violence in their lifetimes because of it. That being said, don’t refer to Latvia as “soviet” or “post-soviet.” Considering that the Latvian currency is the Euro, not the Russian Ruble, it’s clear that Latvia is not aligned with Russia. If you’re holiday travel itinerary specifically includes old soviet relics, don’t be a bombastic gorilla about it. It’s ok to ask where these places are located but don’t say things like “I love Soviet stuff” or “this place is so Soviet.” Just chill out if you have to mention it. Don’t let the listener think that you are speaking positively of the USSR or diminishing its past wrongdoings. Many don’t want to hear it.
At the same time, don’t just go around speaking ill of modern-day Russia or the USSR. Perhaps you have something to say about Putin. It’s fine that you have an opinion, but don’t wear it on your sleeve. While many in Latvia are opposed to Russia and the old Soviet system, there are many ethnic Russians in Latvia. Leisure and travel are about having fun and seeing new things, focus on the positive, and forget about the past.
Latvia, at one point, was also occupied by Nazi Germany. Latvians generally don’t have a problem with Germans or Germany, but talking about Hitler or the Nazi occupation is a pretty sore subject. Seriously, anything to do with Hitler in Europe makes for terrible conversation. Even if you have the most “profound” opinion about Hitler, the Third Reich, or the USSR, you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind on the subject. Your holiday travel plans shouldn’t be an exercise in distressing the locals!
Latvia is one of the best European trips for lovers of castles, hiking, food, and drinking. It is a charming little country jam-packed with kindness and culture. Latvia welcomes tourists with open arms; don’t leave them hanging!
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