ETIAS - Traveling to Latvia
U.S. citizens can travel to Latvia using an ETIAS visa waiver
Country of Latvia
- Euro (€)
- UTC+2 (EET)
Emergency Latvia Telephone Numbers
112 (112 is the equivalent to 911 in the US)
More than 500 kilometers of coastline, a vast and verdant wilderness, and architectural treasures make Latvia a beloved must-visit destination. This small Baltic republic is tucked away in the northern reaches of Europe and is officially known as the Republic of Latvia, population 1.9 million. For many years, the country lay behind the Iron Curtain, but it gained its independence in 1991, joined the European Union in 2004, and became a member of the Schengen Area in 2007. It is now one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Baltics welcoming more than 3 million tourists each year. Foreign visitors make their way here for the dramatic landscapes, beautiful beaches, and the vibrant and fascinating capital city, Rīga.
Visitors to Latvia are awed by the beauty of the countryside and its abundant natural attractions. About half of the country's territory is covered by forests, and there are numerous peat bogs, lakes, and marshes as well as the widest waterfall in Europe. Approximately one-third of the country's population lives in Rīga, which was declared a European Capital of Culture in 2014 and delights with its stunning UNESCO World Heritage recognized ‘old town.’ While the capital captures the lion's share of the country's visitors, other towns and cities vie for attention. They include the western coastal city of Liepāja with its windswept Baltic beaches and Art Nouveau buildings and the coastal resort town of Jūrmala tucked along the coast on the lovely Gulf of Rīga.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ETIAS, will be in effect in 2021. Authorization for the ETIAS Visa Waiver Program for US citizens allows for visa-free travel with a flexible 90-day limit to Latvia and any Schengen zone nations (called ‘member states’). With ETIAS approval you can look forward to touring a country of lush green natural charms, beautiful European architecture, and fabulous beaches.
Primary languages: Latvian (Lettish), Latgalian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian. English is spoken in most tourist areas.
Where to Go
Rīga is at the top of the travel itinerary for most visitors to the country. Small, green and attractive, the capital city straddles the Daugava River and is home to more than 800 Art Nouveau buildings and a downtown area that is filled with medieval buildings and 19th-century wooden structures. Due to its petite size, walking is the way to navigate all there is to see and do in the city. The old town is steeped in a medieval energy, which is a bit deceiving as several façades are actually from retro rebuilds that were carefully done just 30 years ago.
Historic churches including the 13th-century Rīga Cathedral and museums speak to Latvia’s storied past. Lying close to the old town is Rīga Central Market, one of the biggest, and dare we say, coolest marketplaces in Eastern Europe. Shoppers can purchase Latvian-grown fresh produce as well as exotic fruits and spices inside massive former Zeppelin hangars from WWI. Three thousand vendor stalls also feature local hand crafts, souvenirs, and soft goods. If your stroll down to the River Daugava, be sure to look up at the church spires; they are decorated with roosters instead of traditional crosses.
Jūrmala is a beautiful resort town made up of a string of unspoiled beaches that stretch for 15 miles. In addition to the sunny seaside charms, there is a lot going on a few steps back from the sandy shoreline. Dzintari Concert Hall, a 1930s throwback, hosts jazz, pop, and opera performances while Dzintari Forest Park has great spots to picnic and stroll and a viewing platform that rises for more than 110 feet alongside tall pine trees. On the west coast is Liepāja. Affectionately known as "the city where the wind is born," Liepāja sits on the rugged and windswept west coast of Latvia. Kitesurfing, paddle boarding, water skiing, wakeboard, and surfing are just some of the watersports offered. The town itself is a delightful patchwork of Art Nouveau and classic Russian Orthodox buildings. Other highlights include the daily markets and the Holy Trinity Cathedral, which lays claim to having the largest mechanical organ in the world.
Latvia is a seaside playground with its long Baltic Sea coastline that encompasses vast expanses of soft sand, steep cliffs, resorts, caverns, and impressive rock formations. Visitors are spoiled with the enticing choices of gorgeous beaches, including the surfers' paradise that is the town of Pavilosta, the rocky beach in Vidzeme in northeast Latvia, and Cape Kolka, where the Gulf of Rīga meets the open Baltic Sea. During the spring, many birdwatchers flock here to witness thousands of migratory birds passing through, sometimes more than 100,000 per day. For nature lovers who like their beaches a little on the wild side, the coast of Kurzeme is a good spot. This was once the militarized western border of the USSR. Today, it is a place of pristine beaches where you can walk for miles without encountering another soul.
The National Parks
Latvia's interior is a green wonderland of nature reserves and four breathtaking national parks. The country's largest and oldest is Gauja National Park, known for its rivers, sandstone cliffs, caverns and deep grottos. It is a popular place for cycling, hiking and watersports. Kemeri National Park excites with its natural mineral springs and medicinal mud while Slitere National Park encompasses broadleaf forests, bogs, swamps, and boreal forests. Latvia's youngest national park is Rāzna National Park, which was established in 2007 to protect Rāzna Lake and countless other inviting lakes in the region.
Hidden Gem: Other natural treasures in Latvia include Venta Rapid on the Venta River. At more than 800 feet across, it is the widest waterfall in Europe. During autumn and spring, flying fish can be seen leaping in front of the cascade. The ‘Old Brick Bridge’ across the Venta is lovely. Spanning 540 feet, its arches of brick and stonework were initially placed in 1874, making it the oldest bridge of its kind anywhere in Europe. This postcard perfect spot is a lovely place for picnicking along the riverbank.
Latvia is situated in northeast Europe on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Estonia borders it to the north, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and Lithuania to the south.Latvia and Lithuania are members of the Schengen Area and will be eligible for visa-free travel with the ETIAS Visa Waiver Programbeginning in 2021.