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Latvia (LaMSA Latvia) - Riga

Ruokomäki Julia
Ieva Balode
Welcome to Latvia! :)
There is a tale about a small boy named Spriditis. He set out on a journey to look for happiness. After a long time spending in foreign lands, after passing through a lot of exciting, but dangerous adventures he finds out, that the best place all around the world is at home. And his home is in Latvia. Although a small country, Latvia is proud, strong in spirit and able to go forward, whatever it takes. If it would be different, then today Latvia wouldn’t be independent country developed enough in science and medicine to give this knowledge and experience to others. Still keeping its heritage from ancient time, not losing its traditions, Latvia is able to follow to newest innovations in medical techniques and consistently go to better development.

Latvia is a small country (the central country of the Baltic States) and is located in North-eastern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Latvia has a total area of 64,559 km2. The total length of Latvia's boundary is 1,866 km. It has land boundaries with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania, also we share maritime boundaries with Estonia, Sweden and Lithuania.

Latvia consists of four ancient historical districts: Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale. It has a total of 110 municipalities. 


Latvia has been constantly reforming its health system for over two decades. After independence in 1991, Latvia initially moved to create a social health insurance type system. However, problems with decentralized planning and fragmented and inefficient financing led to this being gradually reversed, and ultimately the establishment in 2011 of a National Health Service type system. These constant changes have taken place against a backdrop of relatively poor health and limited funding, with a heavy burden for individuals; Latvia has one of the highest rates of out-of pocket expenditure on health in the European Union (EU).

The lack of financial resources resulting from the financial crisis has posed an enormous challenge to the government, which struggled to ensure the availability of necessary health care services for the population and to prevent deterioration of health status. Yet this also provided momentum for reforms: previous efforts to centralise the system and to shift from hospital to outpatient care were drastically accelerated, while at the same time a social safety net strategy was implemented (with financial support from the World Bank) to protect the poor from the negative consequences of user charges.

However, as in any health system, a number of challenges remain. They include: reducing smoking and cardiovascular deaths; increasing coverage of prescription pharmaceuticals; reducing the excessive reliance on out-of-pocket payments for financing the health system; reducing inequities in access and health status; improving efficiency of hospitals through implementation of DRG-based financing; and monitoring and improving quality; ensuring adequate funding for the health system through increased public expenditure on health.

The Latvian health care system is based on general tax-financed statutory health care provision, with a purchaser –provider split and a mix of public and private providers. The Ministry of Health is responsible for national health policy and the overall organization and functioning of the health system. The independent National Health Service (NHS) institution implements state health policies and ensures the availability of health care services throughout the country. Different ownership structures characterize healthcare provision in Latvia. Smaller hospitals and some bigger regional hospitals are usually owned by the 119 municipalities, whilst larger tertiary hospitals (university hospitals) and single speciality (monoprofile) hospitals (e.g. psychiatric hospitals) are owned by the state. Most primary care physicians have the legal status of an independent professional, and almost all dental practices and pharmacies are private.

Almost all Latvians are registered with a GP, their family doctor, who acts as the main point of entry into the health care system and as the gatekeeper to secondary ambulatory and hospital care. In rural areas (in which about a third of the population lives), a physician assistant (feldsher) or midwife still provides a considerable share of primary care. A patient with a referral from the GP can freely choose any ambulatory or inpatient care provider (institution) that has a contract with the NHS (National Health Service). Some specialists can be accessed directly under certain conditions (eg: access to a paediatrician for children) without a referral from the family doctor. Family doctors are available 20–25 hours a week, five days a week. At other times, the patient can receive care from out-of-hours family doctors, 24-hour hospital admission and emergency wards, urgent care wards in health centres, and emergency care teams (see section 5.5). However, out-of-hours family doctors are usually available only in urban areas.

There are several local hospitals which are low intensity “care hospitals”, which provide medical care to patients after discharge from acute care hospitals (e.g Riga 1st hospital). In addition, a new type of healthcare service includes within the health system: home care, meaning medical care provided at home by nurses or physicians’ assistants to chronically ill patients or patients after surgery. Emergency care is a healthcare service for a wide variety of conditions ranging from life-threatening emergencies to acute conditions requiring urgent treatment.

The State Dentistry and Face Surgery Centre is responsible for planning and coordination of dental care in Latvia. The centre is a structure of Stradins State Clinical University Hospital acting under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and it maintains records of all dental practitioners in Latvia.

In Latvia there are 2 universities that have a faculty of Medicine - University of Latvia and Riga Stradins University.
Full-time studies, Length of Study Programme and ECTS: 12 semesters, 6 years, 360 ECTS. After studies you become Medical Doctor.
Medical studies in Latvia are widely integrated into clinical practice - students study clinical subjects in various university clinical hospitals.
After 6 years of rigorous studies students continue their education in residency programmes, which last 3-5 years. Subspecialization may follow. 

Riga has one of the highests medical student concentrations in the World. Currently there is almost equal amounts od Latvian and international medical students, who later leave to their home country or continue their careers elswhere (often in Germany, Norway and Sweden).
Lak of doctors in periphery/ country side is common, exist programmes trying to encourage residents working elsewhere than capital.



The widest connection with other countries is provided by airplanes. The Riga airport is located 22 km from the centre of Riga. There are many ways how to reach center of Riga from the airport, you should take:

• Bus 22th way to Abrenes iela (center)


• Minibus No.241 way to center

• Taxi - The taxi from the airport to center may cost approximately 10-15 euros. There are some trustworthy taxi given, you may wanna agree on the limits before you get in taxi:

You can use Taxify of Yandex - they will be around 7-8 eur to hostel.

o „BalticTaxi – green cabs, call a taxi 8500

o „PANDA taxi” – many students use this because of „friendly prices”, call a taxi 67 000 000

o Red Cab Taxi – red cabs, call a taxi +317 8383

Google maps give reliable bus connection information.
Local transportation
There are many ways of transportation in Riga: buses, trolleys, trams. Beware not to confuse the buses with trolleys because they may have the same numbers, but different routes altogether. For example, there is both bus 3 and trolley 3.
Monthly ticket costs 50 EUR.

We advise to buy tickets for public transport at Narvessen (small kiosks on the streets), as the ticket bought in the public transport costs 2,00 euros, but in kiosk 1,15 euros. Bying tickets for several days/a month is advised. Please note that international students who do not study in any of Latvian universities are not given any discounts on public transport. The tickets should be registered in the bus to be valid. Occasionally controllers get on the bus to whom the tickets should be shown. The fare dodgers should pay a penalty fee(20 EUR).
You can learn more about public transport of Riga here: Rigas Satiksme also has an app for iPhones and Android.

Riga - other cities and towns
Transportation between cities is mostly by buses and trains. You can learn more about shedule and ticket costs here:


There will be many activities organised for you in this summer!
There will be Tour evening with guide in Old Town to show you the best pubs, restaurants and „must see objects” in Riga, excursions to Museums, like The Pauls Stradins museum of the History of Medicine and Chocolate Museum where you are allowed to eat plenty of chocolate. You will be taken to see Central Market where you can buy everything fresh for your daily meals!

For weekends we have planned excursions to Latvia’s districts for 2 days where you will see most popular Latvian traditions, celebrations and festivals!

We have spoken to Lithanian and Estonian NEOs and there will be either organized trips or information package what to see and where to go as well as conntacts with respective LEOs.


Riga Old town
Regions of Latvia
Rundales Palace
Gaujas Senleja   at Cesis and Sigulda


Just imagine for a moment, where else in such a small territory can one find unusual churches and ancient pagan sacred objects, where else is it possible to try out and participate in ancient traditions and witness something completely modern, where else can one enjoy historic medieval buildings and the unique Art Nouveau architecture of the beginning of 20th century which is unique in the world because it can only be created in a progressive and multicultural environment.

Why is Latvia’s culture so unique? Because of its favourable geographical location, in the last millennium Latvia has absorbed the traditions and experience of, arguably, almost all European or even World nations, at the same time retaining characteristics which are special and unique only to Latvians. The variety of cultures and their peaceful co-existence are exemplified by the fact that in Latvia one can see churches of different confessions.


Think colder people, that might need a moment to let you in their hearts, that doesnt mean we will love you any less. Prepare for more personal space in a busy city with availablilty of amazingly secluded environments.

In the event of an emergency in Latvia, you can call 112. This call is free of charge.
Other important numbers:
110 - the police
113 - the ambulance