Practical information about your studies in Latvia

Travel to Latvia

Where to go?
© Photo: The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

Nineteen different airline companies serve Riga airport, including a number of budget airlines, so it should not be too difficult to find a reasonable ticket. The website of Riga Airport (opened to the list of companies flying to Riga with web addresses) can be found here: http://www.riga-airport.com/en/main/flights/airlines.

Another way or arriving in Latvia ir by ferry. At the time of writing in 2010, Riga has ferry a connections to Stockholm in Sweden and Travemunde in Germany, Ventspils is connected with Ninneshamn in Sweden, and the city of Liepāja offers ferry route to Travemunde in Germany.

International train routs are currently limited to connections with Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia and in summer to various destinations in Ukraine.

Riga is very well served by extensive buss connections. Bus routes connect Latvia with Belgium, Holland, France, England, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and many other European countries. Check with your local travel agency or transport provider to learn more about connections and prices.

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Weather

Latvian seashore
© Photo: Aleksandrs Kendenkovs (Foto Banka)
The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

Being a northern country, Latvia experiences fairly long, dark winters (November to February). It is not generally extremely cold or snowy; averaging around minus ten degrees Celsius, but temperatures can reach minus twenty for a few days each year. Spring is lovely with plenty of flowers and blooming fruit trees and shrubbery. Summer is the favourite season of most Latvians because of long "white" nights and warm temperatures, averaging a pleasant 20 degrees. However, it is not unusual to have periods of temperatures around 30 degrees. Fall is popular with nature lovers due to the colourful leaves and plentiful wild mushrooms to be had in the forests. Latvia is a very lush green country for a good reason - it rains quite a lot. Be sure to bring a sturdy umbrella for year-round use, warm clothes and sturdy, waterproof boots from September to March/April.

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Language

Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. Latvian belongs to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. Although the official state language is Latvian, you will easily get around with a command of Russian and English, as part of the population of Riga is Russian-speaking, and most Latvians do understand Russian. In Riga and other bigger cities you can use English as well.

Government-funded bilingual education is available only in primary schools for ethnic minorities. These include Russian, Jewish, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Estonian and Roma schools.

In the public universities the language of instruction mostly is Latvian; at the same time programmes for foreign students are designed and taught in English. Private universities may offer programmes in Russian language too.

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Enrollment

If international agreements do not provide otherwise, foreign students who meet the following requirements may be enrolled in institutions of higher education of Latvia if:

  • the student's certificate of secondary education meets Latvian education standards;
  • the student's level of knowledge corresponds to the level required for admission to the respective institution and programme of higher education;
  • the student has a sufficient level of proficiency in the language(s) of instruction.

The registration of applicants and the closing dates for applications may vary in different higher education institutions. Students wishing to study in Latvia have to contact and submit their applications directly to the chosen institution.

See detailed information in Entrance Requirements. Detailed entrance requirements can be found in the information on individual study programmes in the study programme database.

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Academic year

The academic year in most higher educational institutions starts in September, it comprises 40 weeks and is divided into 2 semesters.

Brass player
© Photo: Tēvijas Sargs
The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

Autumn semester:
  lectures: September to December
  exams: December / January
  holidays: Christmas time

Spring semester:

  lectures: February to the end of May
  exams: May / June
  holidays: July, August

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Recognition of diploma

Based on the data provided by the European diploma recognition network ENIC/NARIC, the Academic Information Centre of Latvia determines whether a certificate/diploma or an academic degree awarded in a foreign country can be equated to a document of education or an academic degree in Latvia. In cases when the document being assessed does not satisfy the standards of the certificates/diplomas or academic degrees awarded in Latvia, the assessment report states what additional requirements must be met to achieve the required compliance. Based on the assessment report, the institution of higher education to which the student has applied can take a decision about enrolment.

See detailed information in Entrance Requirements.

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Tuition fees

The cost of studies depends on the institution and the programme being followed. The range is from 1000 EUR per year in Teacher training programme (4 years of studies) to 10,000 EUR per year for a Dental Surgeon's degree (5 years) to 22,000 EUR for Executive Master of Business Administration studies. Detailed information on tuition fees is provided with each study programme description in the studyinlatvia.lv database.

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Living costs

According to the Latvian Central Bureau for Statistics, the average expenditure per household member in the Riga region of Latvia in 2011 was the following:

 

In Lats

In EUR

%

TOTAL MONTHLY BUDGET

231.84

329.88

100.0

Food and non-alcoholic beverages

58.44

83.15

25.21

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco

7.52

10.70

3.24

Clothing and footwear

14.03

19.96

6.05

Housing, water, electricity, gas and other heating fuel

38.62

54.95

16.66

Home furnishings, household supplies and routine maintenance

10.35

14.73

4.46

Health

14.69

20.90

6.34

Transportation

26.79

38.12

11.56

Communications

11.41

16.24

4.92

Leisure and cultural pursuits

18.82

26.78

8.12

Education

4.23

6.02

1.82

Restaurants, cafes and hotels

12.50

17.79

5.39

Miscellaneous goods and services

14.44

20.55

6.23

According to the EURES (European Employment services) data on living and working conditions in Latvia, the country has a fairly low standard of living as compared to other European countries, so students from abroad may be used to spending more on their lifestyle. Average food prices include: meat - EUR 6/kg; frankfurters, sausages - EUR 5/kg; chicken - EUR 4.5/kg; cheese - EUR 6-15/kg; milk - EUR 1/litre; bread - EUR 0.5-1; potatoes - EUR 0.5/kg; beer price in shops - EUR 1-2/500 ml). An average restaurant meal costs between EUR 7 and EUR 30. The ERASMUS grant set by the European Commission for students coming on exchanges to Latvia is set at 500 EUR per month.

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Scholarships

State Education Development Agency offers scholarships to foreign students and teaching staff for studies, research work and participation in summer schools in Latvia. More information here.

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Health insurance

Vertical wind tunnel Aerodium
© Photo: Imans Urtāns/ The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

Each student must be aware that it is mandatory to be covered by health insurance for the entire planned period of stay in the Republic of Latvia. The health insurance policy should guarantee coverage of expenses associated with health care provision in the Republic of Latvia, including expenses associated with return travel to one's country of origin in case of serious health problems. The minimum coverage limit indicated in the policy cannot be less than 30 000 LVL over the insurance period.

Citizens of the European Union Member States, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Switzerland can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This document certifies that the holder is a resident of one of the aforementioned countries and is covered by the social insurance system of this country. During the period that the holder of the EHIC card resides in another of the participating countries, the card ensures the right to receive necessary or emergency health care to the same extent that it is available under the national social insurance system to the permanent residents of the country in question.

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Visas and residence permits

Visas (if needed) and residence permits for persons interested in studying in Latvia are acquired as part of the application and enrolment process. Based on a positive assessment of the applicant’s education documents provided by the Academic Information Centre, and a successful enrolment application, the university contacts the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) to apply for a 3-month entry visa for citizens of countries who require a visa. EU citizens can spend up to 90 days a year in Latvia without a visa if they have a valid passport or identity card (for a full list of countries whose citizens do not require a visa to enter Latvia see the OCMA website). When the student has arrived, a residence permit is applied for by the university on behalf of the student for the period of studies in which the student is enrolled.

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Finding accomodation

Some universities have their own student dormitories, others provide assistance with housing search (studyinlatvia.lv database provides information on accomodation arrangments offered by each university). You should ask the foreign student advisor at your chosen university for advice, since the housing market in Latvia is not very easy to navigate even for locals.

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Arrival at the university

Upon arrival at the university, the student meets with university representatives in order to become acquainted with the programme and to receive answers to any questions. Most frequently it is the staff of the external relations division or members of the student council who look after visiting students. The wellbeing of students is important to each university, thus universities take care to inform foreign students about university life and to involve them in social activities. Latvian students have always been helpful and friendly. Most often it is the student councils which organize student activities and social life, and membership in these student organizations is open to foreign students as well.

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Good to know

Currency

Latvian currency is the lats (LVL), 1 LVL consists of 100 santimes. Since Latvia entered the EU in 2004, 1 LVL has been equated to approximately 1.42 EUR

Student cards accepted in Latvia: ISIC (International Student Identity Card), student identity cards provided by education institutions

Drinking/smoking age: 18

Driver's licences: a driver's licence issued by any of the EU member states is valid also in the territory of Latvia. However, be careful! Latvians are pretty ruthless drivers. NB: the legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.05% and 0.02% for new drivers in the first two years after getting their licence.

Business hours: Shops are usually open Monday to Friday 8/10am-6/8pm. Some have reduced working hours on Saturdays and Sundays and a few stores close on Sunday. Stores located in shopping centres usually have the same working hours throughout the week. Most food shops stay open until 10pm and are also open on Sunday. Central offices of banks are open 9am to 5pm. Several banks have neighbourhood service centres that have opening hours into the evening and on week-ends.

Most shops and all banks will be closed on the following public holidays : January 1; Good Friday; Easter Day; May 1; May 4; Mothers' Day (second Sunday in May); June 23 (Midsummer); June 24 (St John's Day); Nov 18 (National Day); December 25 & 26; and December 31. If May 4 or November 18 fall on a weekend, the following Monday is free.

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