Our Latvian office

Inter Relocation Group Ltd.
1068 Budapest,
Felsőerdősor u.
12-14. I. em. 4.
Hungary (Group Partner)

Stuart McAlister – Managing Director
Tel.: +36 1 278-5680
Fax: +36 1 278-5688
Email: [email protected]
Responsible for: Operations in Latvia

Latvia Relocation Guide

Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Capital: Riga
Total Area: 64 589 km²
Population: 1,988,102

GDP Per Capita (PPP) 8000 Eur (2010)
Official languages: Latvian
Religions: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodoxunspecified 2%, none 12% (2001 census)
Country code: +371
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Voltage: 220 V

Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Capital: Riga
Total Area: 64 589 km²
Population: 1,988,102

GDP Per Capita (PPP) 8000 Eur (2010)
Official languages: Latvian
Religions: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodoxunspecified 2%, none 12% (2001 census)
Country code: +371
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Voltage: 220 V

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia, to the south by Lithuania, to the east by the Russian Federation and to the southeast by Belarus.

The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It has been continuously recognized as a sovereign state since 1920 despite occupations and rule by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Germany (1941-1945). On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its independence, re-established international diplomatic ties, and joined the United Nations. In 1998 Latvia joined the WTO and in 2004 became a member of the European Union and NATO.

Accommodation and Restaurants

There is a very large selection of hotels and hostels throughout Latvia from basic lodgings to 5 star hotels. Prices for accommodation are cheaper than in northern Europe, but higher than in eastern countries.  21% VAT is added to hotel stays.

Restaurants are plentiful and varied. Traditional Lativan cuisine is the most common, but good, international cuisine can easily be found. Eating out is significantly less expensive in Latvia than in most of western Europe.

Tipping, of up to 10% is recommended and widely accepted .

Safety and Security

Latvia is a relatively safe country but there are petty crimes such pickpocketing, bag snatching, bicycle theft and car vandalism or theft. Pay careful attention on public transport or in crowded markets. Park your car in guarded lots when possible, and always use a strong lock for your bicycle.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Latvia is relatively lower compared to many other European countries, especially the Nordic countries. The cost of groceries  is about one-third less than countries like Germany, France, the UK and the USA, while transportation, accommodation and healthcare are lower than in most other European countries. More expensive are items such as clothes, furniture and electrical appliances. Petrol is not cheap, but still slightly lower than many European countries.

Shopping and Entertainment

Latvia has many shopping centers, such as Alfa, Spice, Mols and Centres in Riga. They are large and modern with large grocery stores and cinemas.

Latvia’s advantageous location between East and West has always led European people to settle here. As a consequence people who occupied this territory were affected by German and Russian cultures.

Latvian culture is strongly influenced by folklore and by the people’s attachment to their land. Ancient folksongs, or dainas, that were first collected and published in the mid-nineteenth century, most notably by Krisjanis Barons, are a cultural treasure. Some beloved writers are Rainis, Imants Ziedonis, Aleksandrs Čaks.
World Culture and the Nature Heritage Commission has recognized the unique universal value of Riga’s historic centre, its medieval and later urban buildings, which consists of numerous high quality medieval and Art Nouveau architecture and unparalleled 19th century wooden buildings. Riga’s Dome Cathedral houses one of the largest and most famous organs in the world. There are various ducal houses, countryside residences and castles in Latvia. The most famous are Rundale Palace and Sigulda’s Castle.

Latvians are extremely musically talented and consider it prestigious to sing in a choir. The Choir Kamēr, is one of them. The culmination of Latvians’ spirit of solidarity and rejoicing is The Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration, the festival which is held once every 5 years. On the world music scene, Latvia has found splendid representation in the Kremerata Baltica Youth Orchestra led by world-famous violinist Gidon Kremer.

Latvia has a number of theaters (mostly in Riga), an opera, a symphony orchestra, and a permanent circus. In summer performances often take place in Jūrmala, particularly in Dzintaru koncertzāle, and all thought the year in the city’s concert hall Arēna Rīga. Great artists come from Latvia, such as: ballet dancers Michail Baryshnikov and Maris Liepa, opera singer Ineta Galante, violinist Gidon Kremer, composer Raimonds Pauls, actress Vija Artmane, singer Marija Naumova etc.

The works of many prominent Latvian artists are displayed at the National Fine Arts Museum and at the many art galleries in Riga. The Motor Museum is the largest antique vehicle museum in the Baltic countries. It has gained wide renown in Europe. There are quite a few other museums in Latvia. Pauls Sradins Museum of the History of Medicine and the Ethnographic Open-air Museum of Latvia are only few of them. Latvia also participates in the Museum Night European project.

The rental market in the Latvia can be quite difficult for the “first arrived” assignee. There are few online portals available to search for a suitable property and one may still encounter a language barrier, and the fact that the market is pro-landlord. We would always advise to seek the support of an expert in the field of relocation.

The market faces a situation where good quality properties are insufficient, so demand is higher and these properties are rented out quickly. This situation also slightly affects pricing, but luckily the price increases have been reasonable or rather small, in part due to the economic situation as tenants are not yet psychologically prepared to pay the higher rents demanded by some landlords.
This situation means though that in order to obtain a good property, assignees need to be flexible and able to make quick decisions.

Standard Tenancy: Minimum 1 year
Security Deposit: Yes, usually equivalent to 1 month’s rent
Real Estate Commission: Yes, usually equivalent to 1 month’s rent for the tenant
Utilities: Added to the monthly rental, tenant’s responsibility

Latvia has a low standard of compulsory state funded healthcare, but it is improving at a steady pace. Many public health buildings need refurbishment, reconstruction and more advanced equipment. Healthcare is available to all citizens and for registered long-term residents private healthcare is also available in the country. Healthcare in Latvia is decentralised with local government and the Ministry of Welfare sharing responsibility for the provision of healthcare services. The Health Department takes care of legislation, policy, supervising healthcare at a national level and the provision of specialist treatment, which makes up part of the State Programme of Medical Care and includes haematology, cardiothoracic surgery oncology and AIDS care.

The Latvian Health Service is financed through national taxation. Local governments have a minimum amount they must spend on healthcare each year; they can exceed this amount but not fall short of it and they are unable to opt out of the state system.

The Basic Care Program states the free care available for all citizens and registered foreigners in the country. It covers care of serious diseases, preventive healthcare, child and maternity care, emergency treatment, the treatment of sexually transmitted and infectious disease, surgery, rehabilitation, immunization programs and free prescription medicine to entitled groups. Free dental treatment is available for the under 18’s.

Latvia practices a GP system and citizens can register with the doctor of their choice. GPs prescribe drugs, treat serious illnesses, provide preventive healthcare and health education. They are also responsible for providing referrals to specialists and hospitals. If you need a doctor out of the normal practice hours, you will have to visit a duty doctor.

Emergency care is available free for everyone including those without state health insurance. Emergency treatment is provided at the emergency room of all hospitals and emergency departments. You may use their services if you need immediate attention, or if the GP refers you to them, or if there is no GP service available.

The education system is administered at three levels – national, municipal and institutional. The Parliament, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Education and Science are the main decision-making bodies at a national level. The Ministry of Education and Science is the education policy-making institution that also issues the licenses for opening comprehensive education institutions and sets educational standards along with the teacher training content and procedures.
Pre-school education – 5-7 year old children have to participate in pre-school programs provided by general education establishments or kindergartens as a part of the compulsory basic education. The objective of the pre-school education is to foster general development of children and their readiness to enter primary stage of the basic education.

Basic Education – 9-year single structure basic education (primary and lower secondary education according to ISCED) is compulsory for all children from the age of 7. The curriculum is determined by the national basic education standard. Pupils, who have received evaluation in all subjects of the compulsory education curriculum, national tests and examinations, receive a Certificate of the basic education and a statement of records that qualify them and serve as a screening criterion for admission for further education and training in secondary level educational programs.

Secondary Education – There are two types of secondary education program in Latvia: general secondary and vocational secondary education and training programs. When admitting students to the secondary level education, schools are free to hold entrance examinations according to the basic education standard, except in those subjects for which students have already received a Certificate of the basic education.

Upon graduation students have to take 4 centralized national examinations. A Certificate of the secondary education  is awarded to all students, who have received a positive assessment in all subjects according to the chosen profile and the national examinations and a certificate of the passed centralized exams and their scores, providing the right to continue education in any higher-level education program.

The tuition at pre-school, basic and secondary education in a state or municipality founded educational establishments is funded from the national or municipal budget. Private educational institutions may set a tuition fee for providing education. In higher education programs the state covers tuition fees for a certain number of students’ places. Each higher education institution may set a tuition fee for the rest of students’ places. Foreigners or non-citizens pay for their education in accordance with the agreement concluded with the respective educational establishment. In cases when foreign citizens study in Latvia under an exchange program and an equivalent number of Latvian students study abroad, the foreigners’ studies in Latvia are financed from the budget resources of the Republic of Latvia allocated to the respective institution of higher education. The tuition fee for the citizens of European Union countries shall be determined and covered according to the same procedure as for the citizens and permanent residents of the Republic of Latvia.

Riga has two international schools, the International School of Riga and the International School of Latvia.

The road system in Latvia is well developed having been given a major renovation under the Via Baltica project improving the highway linking Helsinki to Warsaw via Tallinn, Riga and Kaunas.

Driving speeds are 50km/h in cities and towns, 90km/h on country roads,  90 km/h on highways in winter and 100/h in summer. Police fines for speeding can range from 20- 650 EUR or possibly a license can be revoked. The legal alcohol limit is 0.5% for most drivers, but less for new drivers, taxi drivers, or drivers of heavier vehicles, mopeds or motorcycles. Documents required for driving are a valid driver’s license or international driving license, vehicle registration certificate and a technical certificate. Seat belts are compulsory and mobile phone can be used only with hands-free devices.

Driving licenses issued in EU member states, Iceland, Norway or Lichtenstein are valid in Latvia without restrictions. Driving licenses from other countries must exchange their driver’s license according to the State Enterprise registration regulations.

If you bring a vehicle registered in from another country, you must register it in Latvia within 30 days.

Larger Latvian cities have an extensive public transport system of busses and trolley busses, trams and trains.  Tickets can be purchased in kiosks, stations or on the bus, tram, etc., but purchasing from the driver is more expensive. Taxis in Latvia are affordable and plentiful, but be sure to use a reputable and recommended taxi company.

There are no trains connecting the Baltic States, but private bus companies such as Ecolines or Lux Express offer comfortable seats and services, affordable rates and frequent schedules.

Riga International  Airport is 10 km west of the city center and accessible by public transport (train or bus) or by taxi. This airport is considered the hub of the Baltics.

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