Latvia Driving Guide

Latvia is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2023-07-27 · 10 mins

Europe is the best place to have a magical road trip, and Latvia is one of the countries that’ll live up to the experience. Located in eastern Europe and representing one of the Baltic States, Latvia is a small country perfect for traveling by car. There are various tourist attractions scattered all over the country, and visitors will never get bored.

From picturesque falls to quaint little towns, visiting Latvia won’t be a mistake, especially if you want to travel to a nation that’s rich in culture, heritage, and history. So make sure to pack your bags and ready your travel itinerary for an unforgettable trip to Latvia.

How Can This Guide Help You?

Latvia is one of the European countries you could easily put on your road trip itinerary. Traveling and sightseeing in the country is best done by car, especially if you plan on exploring the more obscure areas. This guide has everything you need to know about driving in Latvia, as it talks about licenses, rental cars, top tips, and international driver’s permits. So if you want a smooth-sailing trip, be sure not to skip this guide.

General Information

Located in Eastern Europe, Latvia is a Baltic country that boasts a lot of ancient structures, nature views, and historical sites. It’s also connected to two other Baltic States, Estonia, and Lithuania, by land. Border crossings are unguarded, allowing tourists to move along these three countries freely. Here is all the important information you’d need if you have plans to stop by Latvia.

Geographic Location

Latvia is a small Eastern European country bordered by Estonia up north, Russia to its east, Belarus to its southeast, and Lithuania down south; it is also situated on the coasts of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. Latvia is divided into five regions: Riga in the north, Vidzeme and Latgale in the east, and Kurzeme and Zemgale in the west.

Languages Spoken

Latvia’s official language is Latvian, and roughly 60% of the country can speak the language. However, many locals are also bilingual, and a third of the people can speak in Russian. Other minority languages include Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Polish. For tourists who can speak neither of the said languages, you won’t have to worry as the younger generation of Latvians and workers in the tourist industry can speak English.

Land Area

Latvia’s total land area measures over 64,500 sq. km; the country is mainly a plain with flat lowlands, but it also has a long sandy coastline with low cliffs and undulating dunes. In the east, the country’s features differ, having an abundance of hills and lakes.


The Balts were the original settlers of ancient Latvia. These people shared the same ancestry as Vikings but were dominated by their western German-speaking neighbors who had strong Christian faith. By 1230, the Knights of the Sword conquered Latvia and then merged with the German Knights of the Teutonic Order in 1237, with the Germans overthrowing the Vikings and ruling the land for three centuries.

Latvia struggled to gain its independence throughout the centuries until indigenous Latvian nationalism was popularized in the early 1900s. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Latvia successfully gained its independence on November 18, 1918. And in 1920, after a period of fighting, Soviet Russia and Germany finally recognized the new country.


Latvia has a population of close to two million. Its government is a parliamentary republic with a unicameral parliament (Saeima) and Cabinet of Ministers. The country’s constitution (Satversme) was established in 1922, wherein it recognizes the government’s main branches. However, a coup d’etat in 1934 resulted in the constitution’s suspension. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that it was reintroduced once again.

Under its branches, the Latvian government has a president who is recognized as the head of state. He or she appoints the Prime Minister but must have the support of most legislators in the Saeima, which is typically composed of 100 members. Lastly, the government also possesses a three-tiered court system, wherein it recognizes the Supreme Court, the regional court, and the district or city courts.


Latvia has a tourism industry that is slowly booming. Its location and cost of living make it the perfect destination for travelers that have been steadily increasing in quantity since 2010. Most of which come from other European countries and Baltic states.

Latvia has a total of 8.3 million tourist arrivals in 2019 alone and expect this number to be continually growing as more people flock in to visit the country’s cozy towns, nature attractions, and stunning castles.


One important thing to consider before traveling to a foreign country is getting an international driving permit. An international driver’s permit is one of the most important documents you’d need to drive abroad. You will particularly need an IDP to drive in Latvia if you own a driver’s license that isn’t in English or doesn’t have Latin alphabet symbols. From the requirements you’ll need to the best time to apply, here is all you need to know about international driver’s permits.

Is a Foreign Driving License Valid in Latvia?

According to the driving rules in Latvia, foreigners must have their native driver’s license to drive in the country. If you don’t have your license, you will be an unlicensed driver, and you can be fined for this. Note that some travelers have certain benefits and can be permitted to drive without an IDP.

For example, tourists can go driving in Latvia with a US license and don’t have to bring an IDP anymore. But if your country is not exempted from carrying one, you must apply for an international driver’s permit. So make sure to check who can drive in Latvia without an IDP just to be sure.

Do I Need an International Driving License in Latvia?

An international driver’s permit also called an International Driver’s License (IDL), is needed in Latvia if your license is not in English or has no Latin alphabet symbols. Your IDP is a translation of your license, so you need to bring it in case officials look for it. But you shouldn’t treat your IDP as a license because it is not an official document that permits you to drive.

What is the Validity of an International Driving License in Latvia?

Latvia does not impose a particular validity on your international driver’s license. Your IDL’s validity is entirely dependent on what you chose during the application. If you are getting your permit from the International Driver’s Association, you have the option of choosing a validity that lasts between one to three years, so be sure to choose wisely.

Renting a Car in Latvia

If you plan on driving through Latvia’s regions, the best way to travel would be by car. And although there are public transportations, they are usually more common in the major cities, specifically Riga. If you have plans to rent a vehicle in Latvia, make sure to continue reading to know about the best rental companies, lowest prices, and other things you need to rent a car in Latvia.

Car Rental Companies

If you wish to rent a car in Latvia, you can do so by booking online or renting one after you arrive in the country. The most popular cities where you can easily rent a vehicle are Riga, Jūrmala, and Liepāja. It’s also very important to choose reputable rental car agencies to ensure smooth travel. Some of the most famous companies in the country include:

  • Auto 5
  • Sixt
  • addCar Rental
  • Prime Car Rent
  • Green Motion
  • Surprice Car Rental
  • Sunnycars
  • CarWiz
  • Europcar
  • Hertz
  • Lat Rent
  • keddy by Europcar

Documents Required

Before you can rent a car, you must first prepare the documents you will present to car rental companies. Failure to comply with the requirements might lead to your inability to rent a car. The documents you'll need are:

  • Local driver’s license (valid U.S. Driver's Licenses are accepted)
  • Passport
  • IDP (depending on the classification of your license)
  • Debit/Credit card

Vehicle Types

Economy cars are the most common vehicle rented in Latvia. However, when choosing what type of car to book, always consider your passengers, luggage, and comfort level you want from your vehicle.

Also, be sure that your car is compatible with the activities you are planning. For example, you mustn’t rent a Sedan if you plan to drive through rough terrains or have offroad activities. Some vehicles you can rent in Latvia include SUVs, vans, standard cars, and even intermediate cars.

Car Rental Cost

Costs of rental cars in Latvia may fluctuate, especially during peak season. The car category can also affect the rental costs. It’s important to know that purchasing other accessories like chargers or GPS devices may also increase your rent’s total cost. Additionally, having different pickup and drop off locations may result in a higher cost.

Currently, the average price of a rental car in Latvia costs $36 per day. The average cost of other rental vehicles in the country are:

  • Economy - $16 per day
  • Compact - $12 per day
  • Intermediate- $21 per day
  • Standard - $24 per day
  • Full-size - $18 per day
  • SUV - $44 per day
  • Full-size SUV - $49 per day
  • Mini - $11 per day
  • Premium - $25 per day
  • Compact SUV - $24 per day
  • Intermediate SUV - $27 per day
  • Standard SUV - $33 per day

Age Requirements

It’s always important to know who can drive in Latvia to avoid legal issues and complications, particularly when renting a car. Note that the legal driving age in Latvia is 18 years old. However, foreigners can drive a vehicle as long as they have a valid driver’s license.

Also, car rental companies usually have a minimum age requirement of 21 to 25 years and require their customers to have at least one year of driving experience. So even if you have a license and are of legal driving age, you still might not get to rent a vehicle as long as you don’t fit the criteria.

Do note that companies allow young drivers (below 25 years) to rent a vehicle, but at a cost; this surcharge is called the Young Driver fee. If you have no option but to rent a car, take up the offer of paying the Young Driver fee, as driving a car in Latvia is one of the best ways to travel in the country.

Car Insurance Cost

Finding yourself in unfavorable circumstances can get quite intimidating, especially if you’re abroad; that’s why it’s important to purchase rental car insurance if you’ll be driving. Car rental agencies typically sell insurance, but costs can differ among them, so there is no guaranteed fixed price for this. Make sure to discuss the costs with your rental car company, so you won’t buy anything you already have or go beyond your budget.

Car Insurance Policy

Before renting a car, it’s always important to consider purchasing an insurance plan, especially since Latvia is one of the countries in Europe with poorer road conditions. Rental car insurance in Latvia typically covers:

  • Liability insurance (OCTA)
  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Theft protection

Suppose you want a stress-free drive where all or most of your expenses are covered if you find yourself in an accident. Be sure to spare some time and think about your rental car insurance because it would greatly help by saving you some money.

Road Rules in Latvia

Driving abroad can be quite challenging, especially if the road conditions and drivers aren’t the best. Latvia is infamous for its road situations and reckless drivers, and every tourist only wishes for smooth travel. Be sure to read this guide if you want to know more about the driving laws, traffic signs, and various tips for driving in Latvia.

Important Regulations

Before you get behind the wheel, you must first know the important regulations to be followed in Latvia. Every country has its own set of regulations, and Latvia is no different. Failure to follow these rules imposed by the Latvian Road Traffic Safety Department may lead to fines and jail time, so make sure to familiarize yourself with them.


Drinking and driving laws in Latvia state that the accepted blood alcohol concentration for experienced drivers is 0.05%, whereas novice drivers (2 year-experience) are allowed a concentration of 0.02%. Drunk driving isn’t uncommon in the country, and as tourists, you are required to be responsible visitors, especially when navigating Latvian roads.

There have been incidents of violent collisions due to alcohol involved when driving. And people who are found driving under the influence will get penalized accordingly. So to avoid violations and accidents altogether, it’s best to refrain from drunk driving.

Be Prepared for Your Trip

Before you drive, you must always take precautionary measures to ensure a smooth trip. These include making a travel itinerary and preparing all your important documents, such as your passport, driver’s license, IDP, car registration and insurance, and other related papers. Of course, you should also make sure you’re alert and ready to drive.

Meanwhile, there are a few additional points to remember according to the Road Traffic Regulations of Latvia. These are the most important obligations of a driver before he or she gets on the road:

  • To check if the vehicle is in good condition
  • To check if the vehicle is fully equipped with an emergency sign, first aid kit, and fire extinguisher
  • To check if you have enough fuel (gas station availability is abundant in Latvia)

Warning Signals at the Start of Driving or Change of Direction

Prior to making a maneuver, drivers must be familiar with the signals they should use while driving. These hand signals are typically done if there are no direction-indicator lamps present.

For example, if you want to turn left, you must extend your left arm sideways at the shoulder level or extend your right arm and bend it upwards at a right angle. Doing the opposite means you want to turn right. And if you extend either arm upwards, this means you want to put your vehicle on break.


After driving, individuals must obey stopping and parking rules. One thing Latvia boasts about is its excellent disabled parking provision. These are some of the parking and stopping rules drivers must follow as stated in the Road Traffic Regulations of Latvia:

  • Stopping and parking are allowed on the far right of the road
  • Stopping and parking are allowed in populated areas, given that vehicles are stopped/parked on the far left of the road
  • Vehicles can be stopped and parked in one row given that they are parallel to the edge of a carriageway
  • Stopping and parking are allowed if road signs permit drivers to do so
  • Drivers must not leave their vehicles on the road for an extended period
  • Drivers can leave their vehicles only if their cars are safe, secure, and parked properly
  • Opening of car doors are prohibited, especially if it can endanger traffic safety
  • Make sure to park in a secure car park

Additionally, areas where stopping and parking are prohibited include:

  • Tram tracks
  • Level crossings
  • Tunnels
  • Bridges and overpasses
  • Less than three meters away from a solid road marking line, central reserve, or, opposite edge of a carriageway
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Crossroads and area that are less than five meters away from them
  • Areas near specific road signs and taxi parking places
  • Areas that block traffic lights or signals
  • Footpaths, footways, bicycle paths
  • Acceleration and braking lanes
  • Areas where parking is prohibited

Lastly, areas where parking is illegal include:

  • Less than 100 meters from a level crossing, given that the driver is outside populated areas
  • Less than 50 meters from a level crossing if the area is populated

General Standards of Driving

Learning the general standards of driving in every country is important for a smooth trip. In Latvia, drivers use cars with either a manual or automatic transmission, and you have the option to rent either of the two types. However, remember that Latvia may have different driving conditions from your country, so be sure to choose the car that you’re most comfortable with.

Speed Limits

Speed limits are implemented to assist the flow of vehicles in traffic; following speed limits gives you the time to apply your brakes or react to traffic changes on the highway. If you get caught violating speed limits rules, you might get fined. These are the important speed limits in Latvia that you must always remember:

  • Urban areas - 50 KpH
  • Rural areas - 90 KpH
  • Highways - 90 KpH

Seatbelt Laws

Seatbelts must be worn at all times in Latvia. Seatbelts can reduce casualties and possible major injuries during accidents and are thus helpful in terms of safety. Aside from seatbelts, Latvia also has National Child Restraint Laws.

Children are permitted to sit on the front seat, given that there are seatbelts. If they are below 150 cm and there are no fitted seat belts in the vehicle, they must travel in the rear seat.

There are also particular car seats for children of different ages. So if you’re traveling with children, make sure to research the car seats to use to avoid violations and fines. If you aren’t bringing car seats, rental car companies have car seats for rent as part of their car accessories.

Driving Directions

It’s important to know what side of the road you're permitted to drive a car in Latvia and what side you’re allowed to overtake. Note that overtaking is done on the left since you drive on the right; however, overtaking must only be done if it’s safe and necessary to do so.

Additionally, before turning to a certain direction, you must shift your vehicle to the proper side or position designated for driving to that particular direction, considering that the carriageway is meant for off-track vehicles. You can only do otherwise if you will make a turn to a crossroad with a roundabout.

Traffic Road Signs

One of the rules for driving in Latvia is to follow traffic or road signs. These signs are built to give instructions or directions to the drivers. Although traffic signs tend to be uniform among countries, especially those that signed the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, some countries still have road signs unique to them alone. The traffic signs you’d see in Latvia are:

  • Warning signs
    • Indicate hazards or obstacles on the road; typically white and triangular with a red border
    • Ex. Intersection, Roundabout, Curve to Right/Curve to Left, Road Works, Cycles
  • Priority signs
    • Indicate the order of vehicles passing intersections
    • Ex. Priority Road, End of Priority Road, Stop, Yield, Junction with Main Road
  • Prohibitory signs
    • Signs that forbid drivers from performing certain actions; typically white and circular with a red border
    • Ex. No Entry, No Motor Vehicles, Weight Limit, No Right Turn/No Left Turn, No Overtaking
  • Mandatory signs
    • Opposite of prohibitory signs; instructs drivers to perform specific actions; typically blue and circular with the symbols painted in white on the center
    • Ex. Straight Only, Right Only Ahead/Left Only Ahead, Keep Right/Keep Left, Right or Left Turn Only
  • Direction signs
    • Indicate entrance/exits or directions to particular locations
    • Ex. Beginning of Border Area, End of Border Area, Customs Zone, End of Customs Zone, One Way Road, End of One Way Road, Speed Limit Zone
  • Service signs
    • Indicate location of relevant objects
    • Ex. Hospital, Fuel Station, Telephone, Restaurant, Rest Area, Post Office
  • Additional signs
    • Used together with other signs

Right of Way

To avoid confrontations with other drivers, it’s always important to follow the rules of yielding or giving way in Latvia. As a tourist, you may not be familiar with some country’s unique rules, even if the right of way in Latvia shares similarities with other countries. Here are some general points you must remember when driving on crossroads in Latvia:

  • You must always give way to pedestrians or cyclists if you are about to turn in a particular direction, and a central reserve separates flows of vehicles that are going in opposite directions
  • If you are about to turn left, you must always give way to vehicles that are driving straight in the opposite direction or are turning right

Additionally, there are specific rules you must follow, which depends on which road you’re driving on. Here are other rules about yielding to other vehicles in Latvia:

Regulated Crossroads

  • If you are driving in the direction indicated by a lighted arrow (typically together with traffic lights), you must yield to vehicles driving from other directions
  • If permitting signals are alight on the traffic lights, you must always give way to vehicles on crossroads or pedestrians who haven’t crossed the carriageway

Non-regulated Crossroads

  • If you’re on a minor or secondary road, you must always yield to vehicles on the main road that are approaching crossroads that don’t have priority to the right of way
  • You must give way to vehicles approaching from the right if priority is given to the right side of the crossroads
  • On roads with mutual priority to the right, you must yield to trams regardless of their driving direction in respect to off-track vehicles
  • If you are off-track and about to turn left or to an opposite direction, you must give way to vehicles on the road that are going to turn right
  • If you are on a priority road about to turn left or in the opposite direction, you must give way to vehicles that are overtaking

The legal driving age in Latvia is 18 years old, which is similar to other countries. However, car rental companies have a minimum age requirement of 21 years. Most times, there’s also a driving experience of one year required before one can rent a car. If you are underage in these standards and cannot rent a car, having a friend or an acquaintance you can borrow a car from will definitely be helpful.

Laws on Overtaking

Passing, also known as overtaking, is a maneuver wherein a driver approaches another vehicle, traveling in the same direction, from behind and passes it. Before you attempt to overtake vehicles, there are certain driving rules in Latvia that you must adhere to. Drivers must first ensure that:

  • The vehicles behind him or her have not started overtaking
  • The vehicle in front does not display the left turn signal
  • Overtaking will not disturb other vehicles
  • After overtaking, the driver must return to his or her previous lane without disturbing the vehicle he or she passed
  • The vehicle in front will not disturb the maneuver by increasing speed, etc.

Drivers must also remember that it is illegal to overtake in these areas:

  • Regulated crossroads
  • Non-regulated crossroads, unless overtaking is performed on a priority road in respect to the road to be crossed
  • Level crossings and 100 meters before said crossings
  • The end of upward roads, dangerous turns and sections with limited visibility
  • Pedestrian crossings

Drive Side

If you’re wondering what side you’ll drive your car in Latvia, do know that motorists will drive on the right like most of mainland Europe and the world. This also means that drivers operate on the left side of the car. For nationals coming from countries with right-hand traffic, driving in Latvia is nothing to worry about. However, if you are from countries with left-hand traffic, you might have to get used to right-hand traffic.

Driving Etiquette in Latvia

Sometimes, car troubles, accidents, or getting lost is inevitable, especially if you’re not used to driving in that country. And every nation has its own rules and protocols when responding to these circumstances. Make sure to read this guide to become prepared and equipped with all the knowledge you would if you’d find yourself in unfavorable situations in Latvia.

Car Breakdown

In Europe, Latvian roads aren’t known to be the best, and many are unpaved and generally poor. So it isn’t a surprise if drivers experience car troubles. Before traveling, it’s always good to check your car and make sure it’s in good condition. But here are a few things you should do if your car breaks down:

  • Turn on your emergency lights
  • Slow down and pull your car to the far side of the road
    • If you’re on a hill, turn your wheels away from the road and put on your emergency brakes
  • If it’s safe outside, put up your reflective triangles or set up flares behind your car
  • Stay inside your car if possible
  • Call for roadside assistance

In case of car breakdowns and other emergencies, here are some important hotlines you’ll need in Latvia:

  • Emergency medical assistance - 113
  • Fire and rescue service - 112
  • Police - 110
  • Tourist police - (+)371 67181818

Police Stops

The Latvian State police are quite easy to catch. In a crowd of people, they would stand out with their high-visibility (typically neon yellowish) outer garments. They also have “POLICIJA” sewn on their left breast.

Note that police or traffic enforcers won’t stop you unless they have good reason to. So unless you have committed some violations, you have nothing to worry about. Just make sure you have all your important documents. These include your passport, driver’s license, IDP, car registration and insurance, and other significant papers.

Asking Directions

Many locals are multilingual and can speak more than one language. If you’re staying in Riga, the country’s capital, the odds of having difficulty communicating with the people are low. If you don’t want to converse with locals, you can continue driving in Latvia, as landmarks on maps can help you navigate your way around the towns and cities.

However, if you find yourself in areas where people can barely understand and speak English, you can use some basic Latvian phrases. Note that Latvians are reserved people, and they don’t easily smile or make small talk to strangers. If you approach a local, make sure to shake their hand and maintain eye contact. Eventually, they’ll warm up to you, and you won’t have to worry about communication anymore. Here are some of the most important Latvian words and phrases to remember:

  • Sveiki - Hello
  • Uz redzēšanos! - Goodbye (formal)
  • Paldies - Thank you
  • Labrīt - Good morning
  • Labdien - Good afternoon
  • Labvakar - Good evening
  • Ar labunakti - Good night
  • Es nerunāju latviski - I don’t speak any Latvian
  • Es nesaprotu - I don’t understand
  • Es saprotu - I understand
  • - Yes
  • - No
  • Varbūt - Maybe
  • Atvainojiet - Excuse me
  • Es esmu apmaldījies - I’m lost
  • Es neesmu vietējais - I’m not from here
  • Vai jūs varat man palīdzēt? - Can you help me?
  • Ejiet taisni - Go straight
  • Griezieties pa kreisi - Turn left
  • Griezieties pa labi - Turn right
  • Cik ilgā laikā tur var nokļūt? - How long does it take to get there?
  • Tas ir tepat - It’s near here
  • Tas ir tālu - It’s far from here


Travelers will usually encounter checkpoints if they’re driving to Latvia from other countries. The only unguarded border crossings present are those shared with other Baltic States. Sometimes, Latvian officials will also set up sobriety checkpoints as drunk-driving is quite common. If you encounter sobriety checkpoints, make sure your blood alcohol concentration does not exceed 0.05% if you’re an experienced driver and 0.02% if you’re a novice driver.

For all checkpoints, documents you must always have include your passport, driver’s license, IDP, car registration, and insurance. Some rental companies don’t permit their passengers to drive the rental cars across the border. So if you’re using your own vehicle to travel, make sure to bring your car registration and other related documents.

Other Tips

Getting into an accident is a scary experience, especially if you encounter one abroad. Latvia is known to have one of the worst roads in Europe, so accidents aren’t inevitable. Here are some things you should know if you get involved in an accident in Latvia.

In Case of Accidents

Getting into an accident is the last thing on every driver’s mind, but sometimes it gets difficult to avoid these situations, especially if poor roads and irresponsible drivers surround you. Latvia may not have these extreme conditions, but being prepared and well-equipped with knowledge in handling accidents is still important. The Road Traffic Regulations of Latvia state that during accidents, drivers must:

  • Stop the car and stay at the accident site
  • Switch on emergency signals and place emergency signs
    • If not possible, drivers must warn other motorists
  • Provide first aid to an injured passenger and call for emergency
    • Deliver the injured to medical institutions
  • Document the event
    • Take down the names of the parties involved, record the addresses, take the statements of witnesses, photograph the scene
  • Report the accident to the police
  • Make an agreement with the other party given that there are no injured persons
    • If police doesn’t have to be involved, all parties may leave the scene after their exchange
  • Leave the scene without reporting to the police if no damage was caused

Driving Situations and Conditions in Latvia

Exploring and driving in Latvia can be very magical, as seen in many videos online. However, even if Latvia generally has decent roads, you will encounter those in poor condition as you go traveling outside urban areas. Here is what you need to know about the driving situations and road conditions before you start driving in Latvia.

Accident Statistics

Latvia has one of the highest rates of vehicular accidents and fatalities in Europe. According to the Central Statistics Bureau, there were nearly 4,000 road accidents in Latvia, with 150 of these resulting in road traffic deaths.

In terms of road accidents, they are mainly caused by overspeeding and drunk driving, even if locals are aware of the drinking and driving laws in Latvia. Alcoholic beverages in the country are also known to have higher alcohol content, so it’s best to avoid consuming alcohol if you plan to drive.

Aside from human factors, nature also contributes to the high cases of car accidents in Latvia. The extreme weather conditions, particularly during winter, make it challenging for drivers to navigate the roads. So when you’re in the country, no matter what time of the year, make sure to exercise a high degree of caution to avoid traffic collisions and other accidents.

Common Vehicles

Latvia has a wide tram network, that's why one of the most common modes of transport in Latvia is trains. Most people, especially those without cars, take the train when traveling to school or working, causing railway traffic. Trains are common in Riga and become scarcer in distant areas. Another public transport is busses, which can reach places that trains don’t. However, due to many companies operating these vehicles, timetables are quite hard to find.

Meanwhile, owning cars is the most efficient and useful if you have to travel outside of Riga. Although car ownership is relatively low, some of the country’s most common vehicles include compact cars and SUVs. For tourists who plan on driving through Latvia’s towns and cities, renting a car is a must. Not only can you travel at your convenience, but you can also reach areas that public transport cannot.

Toll Roads

If you are driving a light vehicle, you don’t have to pay road fees in Latvia. However, drivers that operate vehicles weighing 3,000 kg or vehicle combinations weighing more than 3,500 kg have to pay tolls. Do note that you can pay said fees by obtaining vignettes that are purchased on toll roads.

Road Situation

The roads in Latvia are fairly decent, and those in the cities and urban places are well maintained. However, the quality decreases as you go to more rural areas. In cities, the streets, although narrow, are well-lit and major highways are in good conditions. Secondary and other minor roads, on the other hand, are usually in need of repairs. They are also typically pothole-ridden with little signage and lighting.

Driving Culture

Many Latvian locals can be quite reckless drivers. Many drivers commit the worst possible road violations, from overspeeding and drunk driving to improper overtaking and illegal parking.

Operating on Latvian highways can be difficult for first-time drivers, especially when coupled with harsh weather conditions. So when you’re road-tripping in the country, make sure to always drive carefully and defensively.

Other Tips

Latvia is one of the countries in Europe with relatively poorer roads. Although most of the main roads are in good condition, the streets’ and highways’ conditions deteriorate as you leave major cities. Here are other tips for driving in Latvia to ensure a safe and stress-free trip.

What is the Measurement of Speed in Latvia?

Like the majority of the world, Latvia uses KpH as a unit of speed. If you’re from a country that uses the same unit, seeing KpH on your speedometer is nothing new. However, if you use MpH, it would need some getting used to seeing a relatively higher number on your speedometer. Speed limit signs are peppered along roads and highways, so you’ll be fine as long as you follow them.

Driving During Winter

There are many rules for driving in Latvia. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much when it comes to driving during winter. Most of the unspoken rules for traveling during this season are on the driver’s own volition. Driving in Latvia during winter can get challenging, so it’s best to avoid scheduling trips from December to March. However, winter is one of the best seasons to visit the country, and tourists surely don’t come for the subpar road conditions.

If you're visiting Latvia during winter, make sure to be extra careful and beware of black ice. The days are also particularly short, having around six hours of daylight only. So it’s best to make the most of the sun when you’re road-tripping. It’s also better not to drive when the roads are quite icy, and there are snowstorms. But if you need to, always remember to drive slowly to avoid skidding off the road or accidents in general.

Things To Do in Latvia

Latvia can be fairly quaint outside of Riga. If you decide to relocate to the country, you should know all the documents you’d need and things you can do. From enrolling in driving schools in Latvia to applying for residence permits, this guide will tell you what you need and what you have to do to get a license and settle in the country.

Drive as a Tourist

The best way to discover Latvia is by car. So if you’ll be driving to Latvia, make sure to bring your passport, driver’s license, IDP, and car documents. Don’t forget an international driving license is a must-have in Latvia, especially if your foreign license is not in English or does not have any Latin alphabet characters. However, you may not need to apply for an IDP if you’ll be driving in Latvia with a US license or any other license that permits you to drive in the country without an IDP.

Officials at border crossings will require you to present the documents mentioned, so don’t forget to carry them. You must also bring them with you if you’ll be renting a car after you arrive. Before you can rent a vehicle, car rental companies will also ask for these documents, so you should have them on-hand.

Suppose you’re uncomfortable conversing with locals. If you’re driving in Latvia, you can always use the landmarks on maps as guides. Just remember that most people in urban areas can understand and speak English. So you shouldn’t bear the burden of not asking for help, as Latvians are willing to help you get around.

Work as a Driver

Latvia is one of the best places to work in Europe. You can make money out of driving since there are many driving jobs available in the country; slots for truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery drivers, and more positions are available. However, foreigners who wish to get driving jobs in Latvia need to apply for Latvian driver's licenses.

To secure your job, just make sure that you have an appropriate Latvian driver’s license that will allow you to drive a certain vehicle. Before you can get your license, know that you’ll need to enroll in a driving school in Latvia to take courses and pass driving exams. Visit this website to know what type of license you should get.

Work as a Travel Guide

As more tourists flock to Latvia, the demand for travel guides also increases. If you want to relocate and work as a tour guide in Latvia, you may do so only if you are proficient in Latvian history and culture and if you have enough work experience as a guide. To know more about the requirements and criteria of becoming a travel guide in Latvia, visit this website.

Apply for Residency

If you have plans to reside in Latvia, you can get a temporary or permanent residence permit, depending on your stay in the country. You may apply for a permit if your stay in Latvia exceeds 90 days in six months, counting the first day of your arrival.

The Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs in Latvia (OCMA) will process your residency permit. The necessary documents you must provide will depend on your current status and country of origin. Visit this site to know more about the application process and the essential documents you must provide depending on your status and country of origin.

Other Things to Do

If you’ll be relocating or extending your stay in Latvia, it’s important to know about other documents you’ll need, such as a work permit or a driver’s license. Make sure to continue reading if you want to know more about these documents and how to apply for them.

Can You Apply For Work in Latvia?

Foreigners are only allowed to work in Latvia if they have a work visa and a work permit. If your work requires you to reside in the country for less than 90 days in six months, you must get a work permit. Typically, foreign nationals will need several work permits if they’ll work with several employers or for different positions. The documents you’d need for a work permit in Latvia are:

  • Copy of your passport
  • Permanent address
  • Planned date of arrival
  • Work experience (CV)
  • Certificates and diploma
  • Previous visas (if available)
  • Copy of your temporary or permanent residence permit (if available)

Converting License in Latvia

If you choose to stay long-term, you might be wondering how to get a driving license in Latvia. Note that if you have resided in the country for more than 185 days and possess a residence permit, you may exchange your foreign license for a local one. However, if your stay in the country has exceeded a year, it’s mandatory to have your license exchanged into a Latvian license.

Only drivers with licenses issued in EU nations and EFTA countries or people with diplomatic or consular privileges are exempted from exchanging their local license. A standard Latvian license is typically valid for ten years except those in categories C1, C1E, D1, D1E, C, CE, D, or DE, as they are valid for five years. The documents that are needed for the conversion of a foreign license into a Latvian one are:

  • Passport
  • Native driver’s license
  • Medical examination card

Lastly, to acquire a driver’s license in Latvia, one must:

  • Enroll in a driving school in Latvia
    • You can check out the website for Presto, the country’s largest driving school, to know more about how to get a driving license in Latvia
  • Pass a theoretical driving test in Latvia
    • This exam will be held on a PC, and the applicant can choose which language he or she wishes to use in the test (Latvian, English, French, German, or Russian)
  • Pass a practical driving test in Latvia
  • Finish a course on first aid
  • Submit medical exams

Do note that a driving license costs around €22 in Latvia. However, other expenses, like driving permits and theoretical/practical driving exam fees, will differ according to the type of license you will get.

Renewing a Lost or Stolen License in Latvia

If your driver’s license was lost or stolen, you could renew it without having to enroll in a driving school in Latvia and passing their exams again. To get a renewed license, you must present the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Medical examination card
  • Proof of payment for the application of a new license
    • The cost for reporting a stolen driving license in Latvia is €22.05, while reporting a lost one costs around €39.14.

You can renew your license in any branch office of CSSD, where applicants can take the driving exams or have their licenses issued. If you don’t need to have your license renewed immediately, you can file a written report to CSSD in the meantime. Do note that a stolen or lost driver’s license is no longer valid, so you must renew your license to drive again.

Top Destinations in Latvia

Europe is the perfect place to visit if you want to see castles, nature parks, and other historical sites. There are also quaint little towns that can be the perfect winter wonderland. You can visit all these attractions if you go driving in Latvia, and many videos online can prove that. Here are some of the best tourist destinations to go to if you plan on road tripping in Latvia.

Cēsis Castle

Your trip to Latvia isn’t complete if you haven’t visited one of its castles. Go back in time to medieval Cēsis by exploring the ruins of Cēsis Castle. The castle complex is found at the city’s very heart, where different historical sites are also found. This is a perfect place to explore, especially if you have children with you, as the castle’s activities are meant for guests of all ages.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Riga International Airport, head south toward Tehnikas iela and continue onto P133.
  2. Use the right lane to take the ramp to Centrs.
  3. Keep left, then continue merging onto Kārļa Ulmaņa gatve/A10.
  4. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Lielirbes iela.
  5. Continue onto Kalnciema Iela and Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela.
  6. Turn right onto Stabu iela.
  7. Turn left onto Brīvības iela and continue onto Brīvības gatve/A2.
  8. Take the P20 exit toward Cēsis/Valmiera and continue onto P20.
  9. Turn left.
  10. Continue driving onto Rīgas iela and Gaujas iela.
  11. Turn right onto Palasta iela/P14.
  12. Turn right onto Lenču iela.
  13. Turn right onto Podnieku iela.
  14. Turn right onto Pils iela.
  15. Pils iela turns left and becomes Torņa iela.

Things to Do

What makes Cēsis Castle unique compared to other castles or ruins are the multiple activities for its guests. Here are some things you can do to entertain yourself in Cēsis Castle.

  1. Drop by the Museum

    One thing you shouldn’t skip is taking a tour around the Cēsis History and Art Museum. The museum showcases the history and culture of the town, county, and even the region itself. So if you’re in the mood for an educational trip, don’t forget to take a look at the museum’s exhibit.
  2. Take a Stroll at the Park

    If you want to have a romantic stroll or a peaceful walk surrounded by nature, stop by the Cēsis Castle Park. It was built in the 19th century by the castle owner, Carl Gustav von Sievers. The gorgeous landscape consists of some romantic gazebos, a boat pier, and even an artificial pond. So bring a camera and take photos of the stunning scenery if you want a keepsake of the place.
  3. Climb Up the Towers

    What’s a castle without its towers? With the help of a map and a candlelit lantern, guests can go up to the attic of the western tower, wherein a view of the castle park, garden, and the whole Cēsis town can be accessed. They can also go to the southern tower, which used to be the castle’s defense tower, and view an exposition entitled “Life on a Powder Barrel.”
  4. Visit the Dungeons

    Of course, besides the towers, every castle is also accompanied by dungeons. After enjoying the spectacular view offered by the towers, visitors can go down the basement of the southern tower and take a look at the prison room of the castle.
  5. Try Out the Activity Backpack

    Families with younger children can enjoy Cēsis castle with the Activity Backpack. Kids of five to ten years can go on an adventure and explore the castle with the backpack’s help, which is filled with activities and tasks pages. If you’re interested in the Activity Backpack, you can go to the castle information center to know more about or avail of it.
Gauja Photo by Mareks Steins

Gauja National Park

The nature parks in Europe are certainly worth visiting. Gauja National Park is the biggest and oldest national park in Latvia. It’s rich in flora and fauna, as well as a variety of attractions like natural springs, caves, and outcrops. You can also visit the many cultural monuments scattered around the park if you want a peek at the history that envelopes the place.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Riga International Airport, head northwest toward Muzeju iela and continue onto P133.
  2. Use the right lane to take the ramp to Centrs.
  3. Keep left, then continue merging onto Kārļa Ulmaņa gatve/A10.
  4. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Lielirbes iela.
  5. Continue onto Kalnciema Iela and Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela.
  6. Turn right onto Elizabetes iela.
  7. Turn left onto Brīvības iela and continue on A2 to Krimuldas pagasts.
  8. Continue onto Brīvības gatve/A2.
  9. Use the right lane, then take the ramp to continue onto A3.
  10. Turn right onto P7.
  11. Turn right onto Turaidas iela/P8.
  12. Turn left onto Turaidas iela.

Things to Do

Gauja National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, and visitors can do various things like visit historical sites or participate in outdoor activities. Here is a list of some activities offered in Gauja National Park.

  1. Ride a Boat

    Water tourism is pretty popular in Latvia, and visitors can go kayaking or canoeing in Gauja National Park. While navigating the waters, they can take in the forests’ picturesque views, rock formations, and other sites they’d pass by while boating.
  2. Hike the Trails

    Gauja National Park has multiple trail routes with various difficulties. So if you’re into hiking, make sure to take on this activity and pick the route that suits you best. Not only are you able to surround yourself with the lush greenery, but you’re able to appreciate the rich and abundant biodiversity in the park as well.
  3. Go Biking

    Among the many activities offered to guests of the park, cycling is one of them. Gauja National Park has one of the most romantic routes to bike in, as gorgeous trees and picturesque hills surround the paths. Tourists can even get to choose the difficulty of the routes if they want more variation or challenge when cycling.
  4. Explore Gutmanis Cave

    One of the many features the park boasts is Gutmanis Cave, which is the widest and highest cave in the Baltics. It measures 10 meters high, 19 meters deep, and 12 meters wide and is considered the oldest attraction in Latvia. If you enter the cave, you will get to see the previous carvings on its walls ordered by wealthy visitors to local craftsmen who used to wait outside. However, carving has now been banned, as the cave is a protected monument.
  5. Visit One of the Historical Monuments

    If you want a break from nature, you can always drop by some of the historical sites found in Gauja National Park. More than 500 monuments include castle mounds, churches, manor houses, brick castles, windmills, and more. So make sure not to leave the park without visiting one of them.

House of the Blackheads

The House of Blackheads is a stunning venue typically used for concerts, exhibitions, and other events. It is a landmark in Riga that displays Latvia’s past through its overall architecture, rooms, paintings, and ornaments. If you want to see a place that shows Latvia’s history throughout the years, dating from its earliest days to the present, then be sure to visit the House of the Blackheads.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Riga International Airport, head northwest toward Muzeju iela and continue onto P133.
  2. Use the right lane to take the ramp to Centrs.
  3. Keep left and continue merging onto Kārļa Ulmaņa gatve/A10.
  4. Continue onto Salu Tilts/A8, then take the exit toward Centrs.
  5. Merge onto Krasta iela/A6.
  6. Keep left to continue on Krasta iela.
  7. Continue onto Ģenerāļa Radziņa krastmala and 11. novembra krastmala.
  8. Make a slight right, then turn right toward Grēcinieku iela.
  9. Turn left onto Latviešu strēlnieku laukums.

Things to Do

The House of the Blackheads is one of the many historical sites in Latvia. And despite being established centuries ago, it still stands firm after experiencing its fair share of damages and restorations. Here are some things guests can do while exploring the House of the Blackheads.

  1. Admire its Architecture

    The House of the Blackheads is known for its striking baroque architecture. The structure was built in the 14th century and was used as a meetinghouse for unmarried merchants. So before entering the place, don’t forget to take some photos of the building’s facade.
  2. Tour Around the Rooms

    Guests can tour around the house and view the many rooms and halls that have seen the numerous receptions, concerts, and other parties held in the past centuries. Nowadays, the halls are already used as venues whenever events are held in the house.
  3. Visit the Medieval Cellar

    The house’s medieval cellar was one of the sections that survived after the damage caused by World War II. It used to be a warehouse for traders, but it has now become a room where guests can learn about the history of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads.
  4. Take a Look at the Silver Collection

    The House of Blackheads is home to one of the biggest silver collections in the Baltic States. In the historical cabinets, a space where council meetings of the brotherhood were supposedly held, visitors can find a contemporary silver collection made up of numerous silver pieces that were gifted or purchased by the members of the brotherhood.
  5. View the Portraits Collection

    Guests can find many paintings hung on the walls of the House of the Blackheads. These portraits were donated during the 17th century by noblemen, and this tradition was carried on to the 20th century. If you visit the house, you get to see many paintings making up a portrait gallery that art lovers and connoisseurs would enjoy.
Jūrmala Photo by Raimond Klavins


Jūrmala is a resort city in Latvia known for its white-sand beach that attracts tourists of all ages. The coast is shallow and safe enough for kids to wade in, and visitors who want to relax can opt to laze by the shore and sunbathe. Other amenities such as playgrounds, fields, and courts are also available for guests who want more rigorous activities.

Do know that Jūrmala has more to offer than its beach, and tourists can even visit water parks and museums or attend festivals and games. So don’t hesitate to stop by Jūrmala if you want an activity-filled stay in Riga, Latvia.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Riga International Airport, head northwest toward Muzeju iela and continue onto P133.
  2. Use the right lane to take the ramp to A10/E22/Jūrmala/Ventspils/A9/Liepāja.
  3. Use the left lane to take the ramp onto Kārļa Ulmaņa gatve/A10/E22.
  4. Merge onto Kārļa Ulmaņa gatve/A10/E22.
  5. Keep left to continue on Perkona iela.
  6. Continue onto Rīgas iela.
  7. Merge onto Meža prospekts.
  8. Continue onto Lienes iela and Jomas iela.
  9. Turn right onto Emelīnas iela.
  10. Turn left.
  11. Turn right.

Things to Do

Since Jūrmala is a city, visitors aren’t limited to doing one activity alone. Aside from its famous beach, here are other places you can visit and some things you can do while staying in Jūrmala.

  1. Swim at Majori Beach

    One of the best and most popular spots to visit in Jūrmala is Majori beach. Although it’s far from being a tropical destination, it is still the perfect place to take strolls in. What makes the beach even more charming are the old 19th and 20th-century buildings that have been well-preserved along the shore.
  2. Take a Walk in Jomas Street

    Make sure to walk along Jomas Street in Jūrmala. It’s one of the oldest and central streets in the city lined with many establishments, such as hotels, cafés, restaurants, and more. If you’re in luck, you might even get to witness the street festival that takes place in July, where performances, plays, and other programs are set up to entertain guests.
  3. Visit the Dubulti Evangelical Lutheran Church

    If you like visiting historical and sacred sites, don’t forget to visit Dubulti Church. Even if you’re not religious, you can drop by the church to take in its elegant architecture or listen to the concerts that are often played there, especially during summer.
  4. Participate in the Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk

    Kemeri National Park is one of the many national parks in Latvia. However, its diverse wetlands make the park particularly unique. Guests can explore the bog by strolling and discovering the different flora and fauna that live within the area.
  5. Attend a Concert at the Concert Hall

    Book a ticket and attend a performance in Dzintari Concert Hall that dates back to the 19th century. If you arrive during the summer, be sure to attend the Riga Jūrmala music festival, one of the biggest cultural events in Northern Europe. Various musicians and performers are invited to perform in the concert hall, so be sure not to miss it.
Kuldīga Photo by Håkon Grimstad


Visit the charming yet sleepy town of Kuldīga, which preserves much of old Latvia. Its quaint streets are picture-perfect, especially during winter, and not a single building has a touch of modernity in it. Frolic and see the town’s stunning scenery, and attend the local festivals to experience what it’s like to live in Kuldīga. If you want to escape the city’s hustle and bustle, be sure to visit Kuldīga to have a peaceful and relaxing trip in Latvia.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Riga International Airport, head northwest toward Muzeju iela and continue onto P133.
  2. Use the right lane to take the ramp to A10/E22/Jūrmala/Ventspils/A9/Liepāja.
  3. Use the left lane to take the ramp onto Kārļa Ulmaņa gatve/A10/E22.
  4. Take the A10/E22 exit toward Priedaine/Ventspils.
  5. Continue onto A10/E22.
  6. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto A10.
  7. At the next roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto P121.
  8. Turn right to stay on P121.
  9. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto P118.
  10. At the following roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Ganību iela/P118.
  11. Turn right onto P112.
  12. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Aizputes iela/P108.
  13. Continue straight onto Liepājas iela.
  14. Liepājas iela turns left and becomes Pilsētas laukums.

Things to Do

Kuldīga is the perfect place to visit if you want an escape to a small and cozy village. Besides visiting its famous attractions, here are some things worth experiencing if you’ll drop by Kuldīga.

  1. Walk Around the Historical City Center

    Kuldīga’s historical center dates back to the 13th century. Walking along the streets makes you feel like you’re in one of those olden villages in storybooks. With narrow streets and unusually built houses, make sure to walk along the town’s city center if you want to be transported back in time.
  2. Experience the Dzīres Kuldīgā Festival

    One of the events that visitors must experience in Kuldīga is the Dzīres Kuldīga festival. Guests can explore the town and go sightseeing, as well as enjoy some shows and performances scheduled throughout the festival that lasts for a few days.
  3. Wade through the River at Venta Rapid

    If you want to go fishing as well as visit the widest waterfall in Europe, go visit the Venta rapids in Kuldīga. The falls are not known for its imposing height; instead, its large width and shallow waters attract visitors to walk along or bathe in it. During spring and autumn, people can even catch the flying fish that jump over the rapids.
  4. Snap Some Photos of the Brick Bridge

    Across the Venta rapids is the old brick bridge, which was built in 1874 and is considered as the longest bridge of its kind in Europe. So aside from wading in the Venta rapids, don’t forget to take some snaps of the old brick bridge as well.
  5. Visit the Bee Farm

    One slightly unusual activity visitors can do in Latvia is visiting the bee farm “Baļļas.“ Whether you like honey or not, you’d surely enjoy the charm of this activity. Guests can experience the honey sauna, explore the apiary with a guide, or even taste the different kinds of honey in the farm.
Rundāle Palace and Museum Photo by Jacques Bopp

Rundāle Palace and Museum

The Rundāle Palace is found in the vibrant Zemgale Plains in southern Latvia. Most of its interior decor was created in the mid-1760s by artists from different parts of Europe. Guests can visit the palace that’s open to the public, learn about Latvia’s history in the museum, or take a stroll along the French-style parks to appreciate the majestic greenery surrounding the palace. Make sure to visit Rundāle Palace and Museum to learn more about Latvian history and to feel like royalty, even just for a day.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Riga International Airport, head northwest toward Muzeju iela and continue onto P133.
  2. Turn right toward Dzirnieku iela.
  3. Continue onto Dzirnieku iela and Ozolkalnu iela.
  4. Turn right onto Stīpnieku ceļš.
  5. Turn right onto P132.
  6. Take the ramp to Salaspils.
  7. Merge onto A5.
  8. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto A7.
  9. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto P103.
  10. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Elejas iela/P103
  11. Make two left turns.

Things to Do

If you're in the mood for exploring palace grounds, you can do so at the Rundāle Palace Museum. Besides touring the palace and viewing its exhibit, here is a list of things guests can also do.

  1. Book a Tour Around the Palace Museum

    The Rundāle Palace Museum offers guided tours to its guests. Visitors can take a long excursion route that takes one to two hours, or a short excursion route for 45 minutes to an hour. The tour is also offered in five different languages: Latvian, Russian, German, English, and French. Note that booking must be made at least three days before the visit and that adult (€43) and student (€36) groups have different rates.
  2. Take Part in the Orienteering Game

    If you don’t want to take a guided tour around the museum, you can choose to participate in the orienteering game. A worksheet is provided to the guests who’d be promoted to closely observe and look around the rooms’ details. Lastly, don’t forget to bring a pen to answer the worksheet as you go around the palace museum.
  3. Stroll through the Gardens

    The Rundāle Palace Museum has a park that guests could roam in. The park currently has a French garden as well as a rose garden. If you want to have a breath of fresh air and step out of the museum, you can walk around and admire the flowers in the park.
  4. Take a Bite at the Restaurant

    A restaurant along with a cafe is found on the ground floor of the palace. Visitors don’t need to purchase a ticket to access the restaurant, but if you’re feeling hungry after touring the palace, make sure to drop by the public catering area to grab some food to eat. If you want to buy some souvenirs, you can also do so by visiting the souvenir shop.
  5. Attend the Garden Festival

    Every year, a garden festival is organized by the Rundāle Palace Museum. Its target audience includes garden enthusiasts and professionals, tourists, and other interested individuals who can attend the festival. Not only will guests enjoy the museum and its gardens, but they’d also get to watch performances, buy goods from local craftsmen, and more.

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