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A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Latvia

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  • Javier Vazquez

    Sharing our expat experiences in Riga was very helpful. Particularly when it comes to setting up your own business here.

Life in Latvia

Education in Latvia

Latvia has a free education system that is compulsory for children up until the age of 15, or the end of primary school. After graduating at 15, teenagers can enter the workforce or continue on to secondary education.

The public education system is free for expatriates living in Latvia, providing that you pay the necessary social security contributions and have a residence permit, but many expatriates instead choose to send their children to an international school, as lessons are taught in English and the qualifications are recognized internationally.

As most of the expatriates living in Latvia are based in Riga, the capital city, many of the international schools are based there also, including the International School of Latvia (which also has a campus at Piņķi) and the International School of Riga.

Latvia is home to two major universities, Riga Technical University and the University of Latvia, and a number of smaller institutions including the Latvia University of Agriculture and Daugavpils University.

Healthcare in Latvia

The public healthcare system in Latvia is funded by social security and small payments for some treatments, and is overseen by the Latvian National Health Services (Nacionālais veselības dienests).

The public system is open to expatriates working and living in Latvia, but there will be small charges for many services, and the quality of care is not of the same standard as many other European nations.

Although it has improved in recent years, the Latvian public healthcare system is still ranked amongst the worst in Europe due to long waiting times for treatment, poor facilities, and a shortage of medical staff and medication. The number of hospitals in Latvia has halved since 2008, and many of its top medical professionals have left to work in other nations.

As such, many expatriates living in Latvia take out private health insurance, and either use a private facility in Riga, the capital city, or seek treatment outside of Latvia in a nearby nation with better private facilities.

Transportation in Latvia

If you wish to drive on Latvia’s 72,444 km road network, you will be able to do so legally for six months with the driving license from your home country. However, after this time you will need to apply for a Latvian license and take the necessary examinations.

It is required that cars keep their headlights on at all times, even during the day. While urban roads and highways will be of good quality, roads in rural areas may be treacherous, so expatriates living in Latvia are advised to drive carefully.

Latvia has 2,347 km of railways that run throughout the country. There are also direct rail links with nearby Russia, Belarus, Estonia, and Lithuania. Many of the cities have extensive public transportation networks, but public transportation is rare in rural areas.

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    Sharing our expat experiences in Riga was very helpful. Particularly when it comes to setting up your own business here.

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