About Latvia (LV)
The Baltic nation of Latvia (LV) has one of the lowest tourism profiles in Europe, which is really too bad, because the country has a surprising number of natural and historical attractions that haven’t been trounced to death by crowds of eager visitors. The capital city of Riga sees the most international visitors, but the true unknown gem of Lativa is found along its 500 km of untouched coastline on the Baltic Sea. Although Northern Europe is hardly regarded as destination for aquatic recreation, Latvia’s soft, sandy beaches are as clean as the water is cold. Meanwhile, more than half of Latvia is covered in old-growth forests, and home to a wide variety of nature parks and hiking trails.
Getting around Latvia is more convenient and economical for visitors who rent a car. Main roads are in good to fair condition, well-marked, and head to every nook and cranny of the country. Due to its low population density, Latvia rarely deals with traffic congestion — even in the larger cities. For the most part, Latvian drivers are considerate and respectful — despite the fact that traffic fatalities are slightly above the European average (but declining each year). Road rules will be exceedingly familiar to drivers of all Western nations; however, all signage is in Latvian, with some bearing Russian (Cyrillic) characters. Visitors from English-speaking countries are likely to get by without learning any of the local tongue, especially in Riga, but be advised that less than half of Latvians speak any English at all.
Choosing your car
Car rentals in Lativa are supplied by Avis, Sixt, Enterprise, National, and Europcar. Choose your car hire in Latvia from the broad spectrum of vehicles on offer: minicars, compact hatchbacks, economy and fullsize sedans, estate wagons, midsize and standard SUVs, and 7-12 seater minivans.
Tips and advice
Latvians have a warm and welcoming attitude toward foreign visitors, and despite the language barrier, most people are more than willing to help.
Crime is generally not much of a problem in Latvia, and extremely unlikely to affect tourists. However, pickpockets and scam artists are common in Riga.
Despite the heavy Russian influence found throughout Latvia, it’s recommended that you avoid mentioning anything in context between the two countries.
The best time to visit Latvia is June through September; otherwise, wet and wintery conditions prevail, which may attribute to the high traffic fatality rate. It seems that when Latvians have an accident, they go all-in. Like anywhere else, you probably shouldn’t attempt to drive in Latvia in winter without a considerable amount of experience. And definitely stick to major thoroughfares.
Eastern European driving habits tend toward the selfish side of the spectrum, particularly among older drivers. The younger generations are considerably more educated about driving safety, but you’re advised to keep an eye out for elderly drivers — and stay as far away from them as possible.
Latvian state roads marked with a “black dot” are considered hazardous and should be avoided by visitors.