Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus, as well as sharing a maritime border with Sweden.
Population: 1,843,529 inhabitants.
Capital city: Rīga
Official language: Latvian
Government: Unitary Parliamentary Republic.
Regions: Kurzeme , Latgale, Vidzeme, Zemgale
Currency: Euro (€)
EU Member since 2004
Religion: Latvians are traditionally Lutherans, Orthodox or Roman Catholics.
Climate: Latvia has the fifth highest proportion of land covered by forests in the European Union. The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

What are some cultural traditions in latvia?

Customs and Traditions

Latvian customs and traditions are very unique in comparison to other countries. Engaging and following them will make your integration process more easy!

  • Similar to Finland here almost every people in countryside owns a sauna in the garden maybe even with a small lake next to it. By the traditions first you hit yourself with birch tree branches inside the sauna and then run outside and jump to the lake or  snow.
  • Dress code: The Latvian national dress is an integral part of Latvia’s heritage. If you have ever looked at one, you must have noticed that more attention was paid to beauty than practicality. Yet even today, when you spot someone in such a costume, you will sense the elegance and grace radiating from both the wearer and garments
  • Līgo is the most popular Latvian festivity. It originated as an ancient fertility festival celebrated after sowing the crops and before gathering harvest. People light bonfires, jump over them and celebrate until the sunrise.
  • Name days: Every Latvian is happy to celebrate the day of their name, as marked in the calendar. Each day in the Latvian calendar includes up to four names, and there is a date – May 22 – to celebrate the names not included in it.
  • 4th of May On 4 May 1990. Latvia proclaimed its independence from the USSR, and restoration of the Republic of Latvia. It is highly celebrated throughout the country as Latvians understand the price of freedom. The “White Table Celebration” is also done on this date. Families, friends and neighbors are invited to get together around a table, to share a jointly prepared meal, and to talk about history and future of their courtyard, neighbourhood, city, region and country.
  • Declaration of Independence of Latvia. On 18 November 1918, in Riga, the People’s Council of Latvia proclaimed the independence of the new country and Kārlis Ulmanis was entrusted to set up a government and he took the position of Prime Minister. Various public events take place all over the country, including concerts and fireworks. The largest torchlight procession organised by the National Alliance takes place in the capital city Riga and its route through the streets of the city centre traditionally starts at the monument of Kārlis Ulmanis, the first prime minister of Latvia, and ends at the Freedom Monument.


The Latvian cuisine can be heavy, greasy, not at all spicy and usually quite simple. Breakfasts are usually something light, whereas lunch and dinner are heavier meals. Be ready to eat lots of potatoes, meat, fish and dairy products! During dinner or at a party, you will be able to try a variety of food and are expected to eat everything off of your plate, so only take as much as you can handle! In some cases, some may get offended if you do not eat their food as cooking is a way of Latvian hospitality. Tea is a very common drink in Latvia, often herbal, black and green tea.


Sklandrausis is typical for the West of Latvia and is considered a traditional meal.  It is a sweet pie, made of rye dough and filled with potato and carrot paste and caraway. In 2013 European Commission designated sklandrausis with a Traditional specialities guaranteed.


Pelēkie zirņi ar speķi

Pelēkie zirņi ar speķi (grey peas with smoked meat) is often eaten in winter during Christmas time. Latvians enjoy eating this meal together with some other delicacies during the Holidays!


Laima Chocolate

Laima is the largest producer of confectionery in Latvia. Its headquarters are in Riga. It is named after Laima, the goddess of fate in Latvian mythology.


During your experience, you will want to learn more about Latvia through its music! Below you can find links to some of Latvia's most loved artists. Take a listen, you might find your new favourite artist!

Modern Latvian Music

Listen to

Classical Music

Listen to

The Sound Poets

Listen to

Living costs in Latvia

  1. Public transportation - €1.50 in Riga (prices vary from city to city)

  2. Cinema ticket - €8

  3. Coffee €2.5

Safety Tips

Latvia is not a country where you should be afraid of something bad happening to you, but like in every country, we always advise students to take precaution in certain scenarios so they can avoid getting themselves into uncomfortable or dangerous situations.

Below you can read some safety tips that we recommend for you to follow throughout your exchange.

While you are in public transport or in crowded places, it is important that you take care of your personal belongings such as your phone, wallet, bag etc. Try to keep it close to you.

Latvia through the eyes of a student

“I’m really glad to be a exchange student in Latvia, It’s one of the most special experience in my life. I came here knowing nearly nothing about Latvia. But then I met my host family, and they taught me a lot of things about the culture. Other things to mention which made my exchange year so memorable is other exchange students, AFS Latvia and volunteers that are very kind to me! I enjoy the time I spend with all these people!”

– Lok Hei  from Hong Kong 2017/2018

Lasīt vairāk


The average Latvian familiy consists of parents and kids. The grandparents usually live in a different household. In Latvia it is possible to live in countryside without any neighbours and that is the dream of many Latvians.
Latvia is rather neatly divided into two large groups: the indigenous Latvians, who make 62,1% percent of population, and the Russian native speakers, who make up 37,2%, so it is possible that during your exchange program, your family can belong to one of these large groups.


School is going to be a very big part of your exchange program. This is where you will be spending the most of your day, where you will interact with other people your age, learn more about Latvia and continue your education. For many young people, school is a vital place of learning but also meeting new people.

Typically you will be attending Vidusskola that is nearest to your host family’s house. AFS students in Latvia study at high schools, lyceums, colleges and gymnasiums, but generally speaking there aren’t any major differences between these institutions. Their names can be different, but the content is more or less the same — all of them are high schools.

Learning Latvian

If you are staying in Riga or in the capital area, AFS will provide Latvian lessons which you will be attending in the AFS office, as for other students placed in different parts of the country, you will be informed where your course will take place.

The language course is obligatory and will be held once every two weeks. It is expected from you to show effort in learning the Latvian language and use these courses as much as possible for your language purposes.

If you feel like impressing your host family and AFS by learning some Latvian before you come we can recommend this online app (Ling Learn Languages) available for IOS and Android devices, that can help you get a kick start of the Latvian language. Click on the link below to find out more!

Learn Latvian

Give, risk, live!

“It was a series of unexpected events from the first to the last day. It passed in a second, though it was hard. And as hard as it was, I would do it all again. The amount of growth, experience and happiness I gained are impossible to express through words. The only advice I can give is that you have to see for yourself. Give, risk, live!”

– Amelia from Italy 2017/2018

Lasīt vairāk

The AFS Activity Calendar


During your stay in Latvia, you will be able to access the AFS calendar where you can find information on which dates your camps and other AFS activities that you have to attend will be hosted. Please use this calendar to manage and organise your time beforehand and have all data in regards to when the camps and other AFS related activities are being hosted.

Go to Calendar


This is a set of rules set by AFS that you are obliged to follow throughout the entire course of your exchange program. Should you break the rules, you will receive consequences for your actions, maybe even an early return.

Regardless of whether or not you have a driver’s license during your exchange program, you are not allowed to drive!


During your exchange program, you will be covered by the AFS insurance. It is very important for you to read over the files to get to know what your insurance covers and entitles you. This will all be further explained during your arrival camp, however you will always be able to access the information on this website at any point of your program.

Medical Pamphlet


What students should know about Finances

Applying for an AFS exchange program i just the beginning of the journey that awaits you. Learning and embracing a new culture is in today's context considered as one of the most valuable tools. We as AFS help you prepare as future, active and global leaders by providing you modern day tools of intercultural learning.

Sharing Cultures - Connecting Lives

Going abroad is much more than just moving to a different country. It is about opening up to new people, getting to know them and their culture as well as sharing your own. This type of sensitivity raises student’s confidence when it comes to learning about new cultures and raising curiosity.


Stepping out of your comfort zone

During your time abroad, you will get to know yourself far more than you expect! You will create a better understanding of yourself that will benefit you in your social intelligence. Getting to know yourself, opening up to new experiences and adventures is something that will be inevitable during your time abroad!


Life-Long Learning

As exchange students, you become aware of life-long learning and it’s great impact. You will create a better understanding that learning can come from different places and that learning about a new culture and language can best be done in action!


Where can you find us?


AFS Intercultural Programs Latvia
Blaumaņa iela 38/40, 4th Floor, LV-1011 Rīga

Tel: (+371) 67280646
E-mail: [email protected]

Emergency phone: (+371) 67280646

Facebook: AFS Latvia
Instagram: @afslatvia
TikTok: @afslatvia