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Patricia Tourist Office in Riga provides information on what types of currency to bring an to Latvia and the precautions on money conversion and ATM machine usage

Currency & money in Latvia

The official currency of the Latvian Government is the Latvian LAT. There are three abbreviations that are commonly used. They are (LS), (LVL) and sometime (LAT or LATS). The Euro is used for hotel, apartment and real estate pricing and for most apartment rental transactions. The US Dollar is  being used less and less.

Payment for goods and services in shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants is only in Latvian Lats and usually in cash.

Credit cards are not widely accepted especially out of Riga.

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Avoid Excessive Currency Exchange Fees on Your Next International Trip

How do I avoid excessive exchange fees?

Travelers are considered a captive audience for some currency exchange merchants. Airport exchange merchants and hotels, as well as banks and credit card companies, know you need local currency to keep your travel budget realistic. Currency exchange merchants are in business to make a profit and they do it without you knowing about it, unless you do some research while youíre planning the trip. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting to trade currencies at your destinationís airport and discovering that the currency value of your exchange pair has dramatically changed and destroys your budget. 

Finding a bank when you reach your destination can also be a budget nightmare, especially when you donít have accurate information about the real time rate. Banks charge transaction fees and may post an exchange rate thatís hours old, which means it may not be a valid rate. Thatís one method banks, credit card companies, airport merchants and hotels use to make money. They use an exchange rate thatís not accurate, plus they add fees and surcharges to exchanges and that can get very expensive.

A professional currency broker studies the currency market every hour and develops a history between currency pairs and shares that knowledge with clients. A broker always uses a real time rate to exchange your money and doesnít charge excessive fees and surcharges. A professional will help you develop an averaging strategy while youíre planning the trip, so you avoid sudden value surges in your currency pair. A currency broker will keep you informed, so you can make an exchange using the actual rate. 

How do banks and airport merchants make money?

Letís say youíre planning a trip to Latvia and you want to exchange 1,000 British Pounds for Latvian Lats. The bank may post a rate of 1 GBP equals 0.7916 LVL, but when they actually exchange your money they receive 1.2681 LVL for every Pound they exchange, plus they add a transaction fee to the exchange and that difference, plus the fee is the bankís gross profit. Airport merchants may post their own rate to pay their high rent, plus charge a transaction fee to increase their gross profit. Hotels know you like the convenience of exchanging money with them, so their exchange rate is filled with profit. Credit card companies may use another rate, plus they add a surcharge to every trip transaction and that can be a budget breaker.

A broker may post a rate of 1 GBP equals 0.9672 BOB, which means for every 1,000 Pounds you exchange you receive at least 175.60 more Latvian Lats to spend on the trip. Thatís a deal by anyoneís standards.

Other travel tips

Some countries have a limit on the amount of cash you can carry through customs, so check with your broker and stay within that limit. Carry cash in a leg pouch, money belt or hidden pocket thatís secure and out of sight and use the hotel safe when you arrive at your destination. Remember common sense if your best security weapon when you use it.

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If you haven't used the services of a professional currency broker before your arrival, it is recommended that you use your ATM Bank card to withdraw Latvian Lat money from a bank automat machine which are located all over the city, in the airport, train and bus stations and in some hotel and restaurant lobbies.

ATM and Debit card usage 

Travelers Checks

Due to a practice of steeling credit card numbers, is it NOT recommended that you use credit cards at small restaurants, cafes or shops. Some restaurants are now using portable credit card terminals that the server brings to the table.

 

Taxis usually do not accept credit cards unless arranged in advance by telephoning the taxi company dispatcher. 

more info on taxis and problems with taxis

Simple conversions of currency for comparison purposes may be done by access the following link:

The official exchange rate for most world currencies against the Latvian LAT may be found at the LATVIJAS Bank website

 

Opening a bank account in a Latvian Bank

 

Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) and Debit Card bank money machines are in many locations around the city. Some are in secure locations and some are not. It is recommended that you take precautions when using ATM machines on very crowed streets or after dark  ATM machines operate on the common International systems such as PLUS, CIRRUS, STAR. There most likely will be a service charge by the local bank and by your home bank for most transactions. The daily limit in Latvia for cash withdrawals may be lower than the daily limit from your bank. The ATM machines only use a 4 numerical digit pass code.

Travelers Checks are not commonly used in Latvia is NOT common and not accepted by most merchants. There is a 4% service charge for cashing travelers checks by local banks and only during bank business hours. more info

Be aware that United States Currency must be absolutely clean of foreign marks or there will be a 4% service charge for conversion. This includes handwriting, ink stamps, ink spots, tears and/or other marks of any kind.

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2002 - 2009 Patricia LTD, Riga Latvia - last revised 4 November 2009 -- 14:53

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