English is widely spoken in the tourist areas of Riga вЂ“ most people in service positions have at least a basic knowledge of it. Russian is also more or less universally spoken so if you speak Russian you can take your pick between the two languages.
1 Lat is roughly equivalent to 1 British Pound. ATMs and currency exchanges are not difficult to find in the center of the city.
There are quite a few internet
cafes around the Old Town so finding one shouldnвЂ™t be a problem. Elik Kafe is open 24 hours and has several locations. The two most convenient are on Kalku St, opposite each other at #24 and #11 (Tel. +(371) 722-0101 and 722-7079. Website: www.elikkafe.lv). One hour costs 0.5 Lats ($0.90) or during special times of the day you can use the internet for four hours for just 1 Lat ($1.80).
Another convenient internet cafe located about 5 minutes walk from the train and bus stations and just near the Old Town Hostel is Planeta (Valnu St, #41, 3rd Floor. Tel. +(371) 722-0039). It is also open 24 hours.
Likewise there are plenty of post
offices in RigaвЂ™s center so tracking one down shouldnвЂ™t be a problem. The Latvian word for post is вЂњPastsвЂќ and the offices are easily identifiable by the emblem of a yellow envelope. Opening hours vary depending on the post office but they are generally open from 8:00-20:00 on weekdays, 9:00-18:00 on Saturdays and 10:00-16:00 on Sundays.
Some addresses are Grecinieku St, #1; Brivibas St, #19; and Aspazijas Boulevard, #24.
The massive, all purpose Stockmann department store has everything you could possibly need in one place. ItвЂ™s also convenient and easy to find, taking up a huge area next to the Central Train Station.
Address: Janvara St, #13. Tel: +(371) 707-1222. Website: www.stockmann.lv. Open 9:00-22:00 daily. For grocery shopping at any time of day or night there is a 24 hour store at Izenieru St, #1.
There are a couple of good quality, centrally located 24 hour pharmacies. The Latvian word for pharmacy is Aptieka. Kamelijas Aptieka is at Brivibas St, #24 (Tel: 729-3514). Vecpilsetas Aptieka is at Audeju St, #20 (Tel: 722-3826).If you need to see a doctor ARS Clinic is the best bet (Skolas St, #5. Tel: 720-1001). It has Western trained staff and a 24 hour English-language service.
Getting around Riga.
Most of central Riga can be covered on foot. But the buses, trolleybuses and trams are quite good. Most fares cost around 0.20 Lats ($.040). A list and map of public transport routes can be found on the official website: www.rigassatiksme.lv.
Taxis are still quite cheap in Riga. Standard rates are 1.50 Lats ($2.70) flag fee and then 0.5 Lats/km ($.90/km). There are gypsy cabs around but they always carry some risk with them so caution should be exercised. Some reputable taxi companies are Bigi (Tel: +(371) 923-8893. Website: www.bigi.lv), Lillija (Tel: +(371) 958-2856) and Riga Taxi (Tel: +(371) 739-2299).
For plane tickets to Russia Aeroflot is located at Skolas St, #9. Tel: +(371) 724-0226. Open Mon-Fri: 8:30-17:00.
Air Baltic has an office at the airport and also in the center at Kaluku St, #15. Tel: +(371) 720-7777. Open Mon-Fri: 9:00-18:00.
A centrally located travel agency where you can book plane tickets is Pegasus Tourism Agency (Kalku St, #11a. Tel. +(371) 722-2221. Open Mon-Fri: 9:00-19:00, Sat: 10:00-14:00).
The Main Riga Tourist Information Office is located at Rats Laukams (Square), # 6. (Tel. +(371) 703-7900. Open 10:00-19:00 daily). You can do the usual things here вЂ“ get maps, advice, postcards, books tours and buy souvenirs. There are also outlets at the main train and bus stations. The Latvian Tourism Information Bureau is at Smilsu St, #4. (Tel. +(371) 722-4664. Open 9:00-18:00 daily).
The official website of the Riga Tourism and Information Center (www.rigatourism.com) is a great little resource with plenty of information about transport, food, shopping, entertainment and sightseeing in Riga.
The Official Latvian Tourism Website (www.latviatourism.lv) has some good information about things to do and see all over Latvia.
The Latvian Institute website (www.li.lv/en/) has lots of general information about Latvia including information about the countryвЂ™s history, culture, nature and society.
Russian Visas in Riga.
Riga isnвЂ™t the ideal location for obtaining a Russian visa. Processing time is slow and the consular fees are expensive. Moreover, they make you buy insurance from the local bank for $20, even if youвЂ™re from a country that doesnвЂ™t require insurance and perhaps even if you already have some form of insurance. Nevertheless, if youвЂ™re interested in Latvia as a destination where you want to spend some time, then getting your visa here might be worthwhile.
The Russian Consulate in Riga.
Address: Antonijas St, #3.
Directions: Entrance is around the corner on Reriha Street (note that the visa section is separate from the general consular section at Antonijas St, #2). From the train station walk straight down Merkela Street (it is directly opposite the train station вЂ“ the street that starts between McDonalds and Viesnica Hotel). Merkela Street becomes Kalpaka Boulevard. Keep walking straight. You will pass the entrance to the consular section, after this turn right into Antonijas Street and then left into Reriha Street. The walk takes about 15 minutes and is quite a peaceful one, passing many parks, the Russian orthodox cathedral and the Monument to Freedom. But to speed things up take Trolleybus 19 from the stop a little way up Merkela Street.
Tel: +(371) 721-2579. Call between 10:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00 Riga time.
Website: www.latvia.mid.ru. Email: email@example.com.
Documents accepted: 10:00-13:00 weekdays (except Russian national holidays).
Documents given out: 15:00-17:00 weekdays.
Requirements for all types of visas.
- One visa application form filled out in Russian or English.
- One photograph, 3x4cm.
- Original passport with two blank pages.
- A photocopy of the passport pages that have your personal information and the photograph.
- A medical insurance policy valid in Russia.
Additionally for a tourist visa.
- A standard tourist confirmation (copies acceptable).
- A standard tourist voucher (copies acceptable).
Additionally for a business visa.
- A valid invitation.
- A letter from the inviting company in Russia guaranteeing the applicantвЂ™s registration, residence and medical care (copies acceptable).
There is no same day or next day processing. The quickest possible processing time is four days (though you could try your luck at arguing for it to be done more quickly).
Prices are as follows:
For British citizens:
Single-entry visas - $102 for 4-day processing, $51 for 8-day processing.
Multiple entry visas - $340 for 4-day processing, $170 for 8-day processing.
For U.S. citizens:
Single-entry visas - $140 for 4-day processing, $70 for 8-day processing.
Multiple entry visas - $400 for 4-day processing, $200 for 8-day processing.
The prices for citizens of most other countries are the same as the prices for US citizens.
(This information is correct as at August 1st 2006. However, it is highly recommended you phone the consulate to check as rules and fees change regularly. Any updated information is always appreciated).
Queues arenвЂ™t too bad at the visa section of the consulate but if you want to save yourself some hassle you can take your documents to the Service Center at the Riga train station (located next to ticket office 24, where tickets to Russia are sold). They only handle tourist visas since they incorrectly swear that non-citizens canвЂ™t obtain a multi-entry visa in Latvia. For British citizens they charge $80, $140 or $160 for 2-week, 1-week or 2-day processing respectively. For US citizens they charge $100, $177 or $203 for 2-week, 1-week or 2-day processing respectively. TheyвЂ™ll make you buy insurance on top of that even though UK and US citizens donвЂ™t need it for tourist visas (itвЂ™s the consulateвЂ™s requirement, not theirs).
Tel: +(371) 723-2095. Open Mon-Fri: 9:00-19:00.
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