National and regional roads in Latvia have been through a process of update since the accession to the European Union. All national roads are paved and are signposted in red with numbers from A1 to A15. Most of the national roads are also part of the European route grid of roads. 84% of the regional roads are paved and they are signposted in blue with numbers from P1 to P133. 78% of local roads are gravel roads and they are signposted in grey with numbers from V1 to V1489 — on maps, but not necessarily in real life. There are no motorways in Latvia.
All gas stations around the country are self-service and available 24/7. Cirkle K, Neste and Viada operate gas stations all over the country, and there are many local companies as well. Diesel fuel and gasoline with octane ratings of 95 and 98 are widespread. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, autogāze) is quite common as well. Electric cars are not widespread as the network of charging stations has not yet developed to be viable for casual, everyday usage.
International car rental companies are represented and there are cheaper rental companies as well. There are many offices around Riga, including some at Riga Airport. You can see the list at the website of Riga International Airport.
Standard speed limits for motorcycles, cars and vans without trailers with a total weight of less than 7.5 t are 50 km/h on urban roads, 90 km/h on non-urban roads and 80 km/h on non-urban gravel roads — unless otherwise stated by traffic signs. Traffic enforcement cameras (fotoradars) are signposted and placed all over the country. It is common practice that local (slower) speed limits are only signed where they begin and not where they end. Even though it is permitted to drive 80 km/h on gravel roads, it is very uncomfortable to do so. The gravel also varies and on some stretches it can be a very bumpy ride and very dusty too when the weather is dry. When planning for your trip ask someone who knows whether the shortest route is gravel or not. Sometimes it can be faster to drive a longer trip on asphalted road compared to a shorter route on gravel road.
In Latvia, a lit green arrow traffic light, nomatter in what direction it shows, does not give right of way, which is different from other European countries. The green arrow signal allows passage only when the way is clear, without having to wait for a proper green signal. Trams (streetcars) have right of way and a fine may be given for obstruction of their passage. It is not allowed to pass a tram when it stands still at a route stop where people has to cross the street from the sidewalk.
Finding a parking place is quite easy around Latvia, except in the capital Riga, where fees apply in the city centre. There is disc parking in some towns around Latvia.
The driving culture in Latvia is quite aggressive and hazardous. Some of the national and regional roads outside metropolitan Riga does not have emergency stopping lanes (shoulders) along the road, which makes it hazardous when a vehicle breaks down. You will quickly realise that you perhaps is the only one that adheres to the standard speed limits, many heavy trucks drive 90 km/h. Some drivers with potent cars insist on overtaking at the slightest chance of squeezing through, even though there is no clear view of incoming traffic. This applies on driving during the daytime. There is significantly less traffic during evenings and nights.
The train network is fairly solid in Latvia, connecting larger cities. The rolling stock is of Soviet origin, even though some of it was refurbished to be more comfortable and pleasing to the eye. There are three steps up when you board and the train shakes and rumbles quite a bit when moving. The passenger cars on domestic lines are of the open coach type, whereas on the international lines of the closed compartment type.
Domestic lines that run daily are the ones between Riga and Skulte, Sigulda, Krustpils, Jelgava and Tukums (via Jūrmala). Other destinations run less frequent. The west coast of Latvia is rather poorly serviced with only one departure a week between Riga and Liepāja. Domestic train service is provided by the company Pasažieru vilciens (“Passenger Train”). Timetables with pricing information are also available at 1188.lv.
Trains can be cheaper than other methods of transportation and you generally do not need to be worried about them being packed, except possibly some peak days during the summer season.
There are several stations in Riga on both sides of the Daugava river, the central station (Rīgas Centrālo staciju or Rīgu-Pasažieru) is the one next to the old town. Jūrmala has several stations as well. The station in Majori is the one you need when going to the beaches and the Jūrmala city centre. Ķemeri station in western Jūrmala is the closest to the national park. Jēkabpils is just across the Daugava river when you get off at the station in Krustpils.
You can buy a train ticket before boarding the train at the station or you can buy one on the train from the personnel. Some smaller stations’ ticket offices may open late and close early or be closed for breaks during the day, generally due to the lack of passengers departing from said stations at those times. A timetable of trains will be available by the ticket office. Tickets can also be purchased online, but you are still required to pick up paper tickets at the station which may cause hassle if not planned for.
There is a narrow gauge railway operating between the cities of Gulbene and Alūksne in the north-east of Latvia. Along the route, there are various tourist-orientated points of interest.
Bus routes are served by various private companies that differ between regions, unlike for trains. The bus connections stretch all around the country and getting around using buses is usually fairly simple. The best way to receive information about buses in Latvia is from the inquiries service 1188.lv, from the Autoosta Website, or at a local bus station. Express buses connect major cities and serve with a reduced count of stops along the way and can save time.
Tickets can be bought at ticket offices, on the buses when boarding, or online. If buying tickets in advance, that can usually be done up to 10 days prior to departure. Luggage can be placed in the trunk of the bus, which might even be required depending on the bus company and the size of the bag. You might be charged extra and receive an additional ticket or voucher for the luggage, depending on the policies of the company.
If you plan on leaving Riga during Friday or Saturday, you might find the buses to be crowded as travelling by bus is the most common method of travelling between cities in many regions and many head out of Riga for the weekend. If you buy a ticket from the ticket office at the bus station you are departing from beforehand during this period, you can board the bus before others.
Some bus operators provide WiFi access on board, which are usually free of charge and provide good coverage throughout the whole trip.
Yachting is for the very well off Latvians and regular marinas are very few and still in their infancy. The City Yacht Club in Riga is right across the old town on the Daugava river. Marina Jurmala in Jūrmala is on the Lielupe river. Pāvilosta Marina and Ventspils Marina are both on the Latvian west coast. It might also be possible to arrange something with the authorities of other ports. There is no public transport by boat between Latvian ports.
If you are going from Riga to Jūrmala during the summer, a very romantic way is to travel by river cruise boats: mainly two-deck motor boats with place for around 60 to 100 people. They usually depart from Riga center in the morning and return in the afternoon. There are cruises in the Riga Canal, passing through the Daugava river. Ask in the tourism information center for more details and pricing.
Cycling is generally not the safest method of getting around the country, especially at night.
Cycle in the early morning to avoid the majority of traffic. The main rush hour when heavier traffic can be expected is from 17:00-20:00.
There are not many cycling paths around the country so you may find yourself biking close to cars very often. When in cities, many locals cycle along pedestrian paths to avoid the traffic. Some sidewalks around Riga have markings splitting off one side for cyclists and the other for pedestrians, but this is often not the case in other cities around the country. You will probably encounter people who do not respect the markings.
Your bike should be equipped with reflective lighting, front and rear lights. Wear reflective clothing, especially if cycling after dark.
The international BaltiCCycle project may provide you helpful information.
An interesting option may be to travel on a guided bike tour. Companies offering cycling tours in the region include UTracks.
Air Baltic flies between Rīga and Liepāja three times a week.