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Useful information

 

LATVIA BASICS

ELECTRICITY

Electrical current is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz. European style two-pin plugs are in use.

LANGUAGE

Latvian is the official language, but English, Lithuanian, Russian and German are also spoken.

TRAVEL HEALTH

No health certificates or vaccinations are required to enter Latvia, but visitors are advised to have an inoculation against tick-borne encephalitis if planning to hike in the country and forests or stay in rural areas, especially during the summer months of March to October. There was a outbreak of Hepatitis A in a restaurant in Riga in May 2008 and travellers are recommended to get vaccinated before travelling to Latvia. Rabies is endemic, and outbreaks of meningitis occur. Medicines are usually available, but it is best to bring a supply of personal medication. Health insurance is necessary. A reciprocal agreement with the UK entitles UK citizens to emergency treatment on the same terms as Latvian nationals on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

TIPPING

Tipping is not obligatory in restaurants, but it is customary to round up the bill to no more than 10% if a service charge has not been included and the service was good. Carry small change for tipping taxi drivers. In hotels, tip according to the services provided.

SAFETY INFORMATION

Most visits to Latvia are trouble-free, but street crime can be a problem for tourists, and there are occasional muggings of foreigners, particularly if walking alone or at night. Car theft is rife. Reports indicate that foreigners are being charged ridiculously expensive prices for drinks in bars in Riga, and visitors are cautioned against becoming victims by checking on prices before buying. Muggings are common of tourists out late at night in the Old Town.

LOCAL CUSTOMS

Latvians are generally reserved, quiet and extremely courteous, and are not comfortable making small talk. Good manners dictates that people are not embarrassed or criticised in public.

BUSINESS

Conducting business in Latvia can sometimes be a challenge due to bureaucracy, as well as the lack of English spoken. Business tends to be formal, with a clear-cut hierarchy, and titles are usually used. Punctuality, directness and organisation are all important. Suits and ties are the norm and when in doubt, dress conservatively. Women might encounter some sexism and roles should be clarified to avoid confusion. Business hours are usually from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

COMMUNICATIONS

The international dialling code for Latvia is +371. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are in use; there are three for Riga: (0)3, (0)28 and (0)29. International Direct Dialling is available from all public and hotel phones. Public phones use phone-cards, which can be bought from numerous shops and kiosks. For local operator assistance dial 116, and for international operator assistance dial 115. The two local GSM mobile phone operators use GSM 900 and GSM 1800 networks. Riga has an increasing number of Internet cafes.

DUTY FREE

Travellers to Latvia over 17 years and arriving with goods purchased in the EU for personal use do not have to pay duty on 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 1kg smoking tobacco; 10 litres of spirits with alcohol content higher than 22%, 20 litres of alcohol with alcohol content lower than 22%, 90 litres wine or 60 litres of sparkling wine, 110 litres of beer, and 110 litres of non-alcoholic beverages. Travellers arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre of spirits with alcohol volume higher than 22%, or 2 litres spirits, aperitifs, liqueur, sparkling or still wines with alcohol volume less than 22% and 2 litres still wine; perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; other goods for personal use to the value of €175. Prohibited items include narcotics, guns, and fresh food products.

ESTONIA BASICS

ELECTRICITY

The electricity supply in Estonia is 220 volts, 50 Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are in use.

LANGUAGE

Locals speak Estonian, which is part of the Finno-Ugric family of languages. English is widely used and understood among the younger generation and those involved in the tourist industry.

TRAVEL HEALTH

No vaccinations are required for entry to Estonia. Lyme disease is often reported from April through October and travellers should wear protective clothing if embarking on a nature trip and check themselves for ticks. Estonia's medical professionals are highly trained. Good health facilities can be found in Mustama and East Tallinn Central Hospital. Immediate cash payment is expected from visitors requiring care. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK and most EU countries, whose citizens are entitled to free medical and dental treatment on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Medical insurance is advised for all nationalities.

TIPPING

Tipping is not a common practice, but there is a growing trend to leave tips in restaurants; generally 5-10% of the bill according to level of service; some places do however include a service charge on the bill. Taxi drivers appreciate the spare change.

SAFETY INFORMATION

Visits to Estonia are usually trouble free, but with an increase in tourism there has also been an increase in tourist-related crime. There is a risk of pick-pocketing and mugging around Tallinn's Old Town, at ferry ports and major hotels. Be vigilant and take precautions like avoiding unlit side streets and parks after dark.

LOCAL CUSTOMS

Estonians are at first glance generally quiet and reserved, and do not like to draw attention to themselves. A handshake is the practised form of greeting.

BUSINESS

Business is conducted formally in Estonia. A formal dress code is expected. Shaking hands is the common form of greeting for men and women. The person should be referred to as 'Harra' (Mr.), 'Prova' (Mrs.) or 'Preili' (Miss) followed by the surname. Relationships based on trust need to be developed and several meetings may need to take place. Business cards are often exchanged and it is polite to have the alternate side translated. Decisions are not necessarily made during the meetings. Business hours are generally 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.

COMMUNICATIONS

The international dialling code for Estonia is +372 and the outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The country has area codes, except for the capital, Tallinn. Pay phones using cards are widely available. Cards can be purchased from hotel reception desks, tourist information offices, post offices, newsstands and some shops. There is a GSM mobile network available. There are several Internet cafes in Tallinn.

DUTY FREE

Travellers over 18 years arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on goods to the value of €175. The following items are duty-free: 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits higher than 22% alcohol volume or 2 litres spirits or aperitifs with alcohol content lower than 22% (includes sparkling wines, liqueur wines, still wine), and beer to the value of €175. Goods for personal consumption include 50g perfume, 250ml eau de toilette and medical products for personal use. Travellers arriving with goods purchased in EU countries have more leeway.

LITHUANIA BASICS

ELECTRICITY

European style two-pin sockets at 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

LANGUAGE

Lithuanian is the official language, but Russian and English are widely spoken.

TRAVEL HEALTH

The only real health risks associated with visiting Lithuania are for those intending to visit forested areas, who are advised to take the necessary precautions against tick-borne encephalitis. Nevertheless, your doctor may advise that you are vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and that if you are travelling to Lithuania between November and April you also get an influenza vaccination. Tetanus-diphtheria, measles and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccinations should also be up to date. Those who plan to eat outside of major hotels and restaurants should consider a typhoid vaccination, and those who are at any risk of animal bites or plan to spend a lot of time outdoors should consider a rabies vaccination.

EU citizens are entitled to emergency medical treatment if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their country of origin. Medical facilities are fair and there are plenty of doctors, but equipment and resources are lacking. There are a few private clinics of high standard. Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate cash payment for services. Travel medical insurance is highly recommended.

TIPPING

Tipping is not required as a matter of course, but is appreciated for exceptionally good service. Rounding up the bill to avoid accumulating small change is customary.

SAFETY INFORMATION

Safety in Lithuania is not a major issue for travellers as the country is devoid of civil unrest and the terrorism threat is low. Car theft is rife, and there is a risk of mugging, pick-pocketing and bag snatching especially on public transport, but the majority of crime is petty rather than life-threatening. Visitors should exercise due care and avoid carrying valuables or flashing conspicuous wealth. It is advisable to carry a copy of your passport for identification purposes. Traffic accidents are common, so extra vigilance is required for driving, especially at night.

BUSINESS

Business in Lithuania is usually conducted formally, though the younger generation is less conservative. Face-to-face meetings are key, with good eye contact and a firm handshake upon greeting. Business cards are usually exchanged and it is important to be punctual. Use titles and surnames, unless otherwise indicated. Suits and ties are the norm. Lithuanians are hospitable and friendly and any invitation should be accepted, as this is a good opportunity to forge better business relations and build trust. Meetings tend to start with some small talk and can sometimes end with a summary of the discussions, though decision making and results can be slow. Business hours are usually from 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.

COMMUNICATIONS

The international dialling code for Lithuania is +370. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK) and the country has three-digit area codes. Vilnius has six different area codes: 521 and 523-527. Local calls can be dialled without the area codes. There are three major mobile GSM network service providers and connections are excellent. The Internet is well established in Lithuania and cities teem with internet cafes. Small towns and villages have public internet access points in libraries, post offices and tourist information centres.

DUTY FREE

Duty free allowances for travellers to Lithuania include 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 2 litres wine or 5 litres beer; perfume for personal use.



 



 

   
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