Using a taxi, learn the address you're going to in Latvian
Lattelekon phone cards are sold at kiosks, stores and post offices
Drinking alcohol is banned on the streets of Riga
The main Riga post office is in the city centre at Stacijas laukums
Few who have never been to Latvia can actually pinpoint Riga on the map. It's just across the gulf east of Sweden and Denmark.
Under Soviet control until recently, it has emerged as a popular tourist destination for Swedes and Finns.
With the rise of cheap charter flights it is now also popular cheap flight break with Brits, especially for stag parties.
The history of Latvia is largely one of foreign occupation, catastrophic setbacks and boom conditions since shaking off Russian rule.
Riga city was founded in 1201 by a German priest and grew rich through trading alliances. But the city was then swallowed up in power struggles and occupied in turn by Poles, Swedes and Russians.
Riga city suffered greatly in World War I and a mere 20 years of independence followed until World War II saw it occupied again, by Russia, then the Nazis, then Russia again.
The fall of Soviet bloc saw Latvians at last in control of their own country and EU membership in 2004 brought massive investment. Riga in recent years has been a boom city but financial problems have dogged the economy in recent years.
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Both Latvian and Russian are spoken in Riga but English is well understood in tourist haunts. A few key phrases will always endear you to the locals. Pronunciation is as important as spelling.
English is spoken at most major hotels and the service personnel at the usual tourist haunts are familiar with most English phrases. It is useful to know your destination in Latvian if you take a taxi.
Due to a booming economy prices have shot up, with annual inflation in double figures each year. The currency is the lats, divided into 100 santimi. Major banks change cash and there are currency exchange kiosks all over Riga with ATMs in the city centre.
No jabs are needed for Latvia, and tap water is ok to drink. Minor complaints can be treated at a phamarcy (aptieka) but for serious complaints go to the hospital (simnica) or call an ambulance (03). Emergency treatment is free and medical standards are high.
Public card phones are widespread. Phonecards telekarte are sold at kiosks and post offices. You will usually find English instructions in phone booths. Latvian phones have seven numbers and no area code.
The international telephone code for Latvia is 371 followed by the number. The Latvian postal system is reliable and letters to Europe and the UK take about a week to arrive. Riga is well served by internet cafes.