Latvia

by Ucman Scher
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Cesis Castle grounds

Solo Gay Trip Guide to Latvia

I think of Latvia as the middle child and in some senses, it has the middle child syndrome as well. It is no less beautiful or unique than both its Baltic siblings though and offers plenty of authentic Latvian experiences. When I visited Latvia and Estonia, I was expecting things to be the same as Lithuania and Vilnius but I was in for a pleasant surprise. Solo travel to Latvia is the best way to explore this amazing country and its capital Riga.

Fun Fact: Latvia has a love of a special extreme sport; Bobsleigh. They have a national team and it is considered a bit of a holy sport in the country.

Cesis castle tower

Cesis Castle

How To Get Visa For Latvia?

Latvia is part of EU and Schengen Zone and if you have a Schengen visa you do not need a separate visa for Latvia. You can check the details here if you need a visa to enter Latvia. If you do need a visa, more details can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. There are very limited border checks and when I crossed from Latvia to Estonia by land, there was no passport check. In fact, the barrier was devoid of any people and if the guide hadn’t told me about it, I would not have recognised it as a border.

Fun Fact: Like both its neighbours, Latvia has two independence days, an original one from 1918 and the second one celebrating Latvian independence from USSR in 1991.

How Expensive Is Latvia?

The official currency of Latvia is Euro. Latvia is a medium expensive country. the general standard of living is good and food and accommodation both are pretty good for the prices charged. The value for money is slightly above average. There are plenty of banks and ATM’s available throughout the country and access to money is also quite easy. Most of the banks do charge you for withdrawing money but honestly, contactless and card payments are quite common so you don’t need cash a lot here.

The cat of Riga

Official Tourism Website

For more resources and up-to-date information, you can check the website of Official Latvian Travel.

What Is The Transport Like In Latvia?

Public Transport in Latvia is quite good. You can use air travel, train or use the buses. All of them have frequent connections.

There are two main airports in the country and Riga International Airport is the largest airport in the entire Baltics region and the hub of the biggest Baltics airline; AirBaltic.

For trains schedules and tickets check out the website of Latvian Railways which has extensive connections in the country. Unfortunately, the connection between Baltic states is almost non-existing.

For buses, you can use many international bus companies like Busbud or use local companies, 1188 and Bezrindas.

Riga Old Town

How Safe Is Latvia?

Latvia is a very safe country, the crime rate is very low and it is easy to move around even in the nights without issues. Baltics are generally safe places and serious or violent crimes are generally unheard of. There are also no serious tourist scams in Latvia.

Read more about How to Stay Safe While Traveling.

Is It Safe To Drink Tap Water In Latvia?

Tap Water is not recommended for drinking by the government despite me hearing otherwise. It turns out most apartments have filter systems that allow you to safely drink tap water. Do check with your host, hotel or hostel and if there is no filter do grab your refillable water bottle along with a big water bottle to avoid plastic waste.

Read more about eco-friendly travelling.

Riga Cathedral

Are ID Checks Common in Latvia?

Hah! I didn’t even have to show my passport when crossing into Estonia, I did need it though at the airport. You can safely leave your passport at home during your solo travel to Latvia.

Magical places offer magical happiness

Which Sim Card To Buy In Latvia? Is Internet Good In Latvia?

I used my UK sim card because roaming within the EU is free. if you have an EU country sim card you can use it in Latvia for free (using the same tariff) up to 90 days. If you want to know more about local sim card providers, check out this handy link for all information on local carriers and packages.

Internet and phone coverage is pretty good in Latvia and wifi is also very easily available.

Are People Of Latvia Friendly?

Not really! They are not rude and they are not dangerous or threatening but they certainly are reserved like most Northern European countries. They like to keep themselves to themselves. If you’re expecting a warm hug and welcome, Latvia is not the country for you. Once they get to know you, Latvians are much nicer and hospitable. I think it is also the Soviet past which drives this in a lot of former USSR countries. The attitudes are quite similar in Lithuania and Latvia both. A small downer for travel to Latvia.

Learn more about all the ways you can use to explore a new city.

Travel to Latvia; house of blackheads

The house of Blackheads

Which Languages Are Common In Latvia?

Latvian is the main language and no it is not the same as Lithuanian or Estonian. It is quite different and belongs to the Slavik and Indo European camp like Lithuanian. Russian is the second language and widely spoken and it used to be the common language between the Baltic states. It is, however, changing very fast. The younger generation doesn’t like to speak or even acknowledge Russian. I asked a couple of people including a travel guide and the reason is the past atrocities USSR and currently, Russia, have or are committing.

English is quite easily understood and most restaurants have English menus along with Latvian and Russian. For solo travel to Latvia, I would still recommend Google Translate.

Cesis Castle grounds; Travel to Latvia

The grounds of Cesis Castle

Is Latvia Racist?

I don’t think so. For a traveller, I didn’t face any issues during my travels. People were reserved but that’s just who they are and I certainly didn’t feel like I was being treated differently because of the colour of my skin. Racist, No! Reserved, Yes!

Is Latvia Safe For LGBT Travellers?

What do you expect from the country that won the top spot for being the worst country to be gay in Europe, in 2016? this is after hosting the Europride in 2015. There’s some stiff competition for this top spot but things seem to be improving. there is only one gay bar/club in the entire country and people have faced a homophobic potentially hostile environment. PDA is a big no-no in Latvia. you can check the updated list of bars here.

As a result of all the issues above, the local population is quite reserved and shies away from putting their faces on dating apps like Grindr and scruff. I did find them more friendly than Lithuanians and Estonians though and met 2 guys who showed me around and gave me suggestions on restaurants etc during my travel to Latvia.

In a nutshell, you must watch your back as LGBT travellers for any travel to Latvia. it is not illegal but it isn’t common or easy either.

Read more tips and tools you can use during travelling.

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