All posts by diana

Traffic, Jams, Navigation in Riga and Latvia

Riga might be quite a complicated city for navigation for a non-local driver. There are non-obvious junctions, intersections of more than two roads, signs that forbid turning left and other troubles that might make driving complicated to a non-familiar with Riga driver.

“Lane must turn” signs are not always consistent. For example, there might be a “Right lane must turn right” sign and you should choose a left lane for driving straight on a first intersection. But the next intersection will require you to move to the right side because only left turns will be allowed from the left lane.

Sometimes “Lane must turn” signs cannot be seen from the place where you join the traffic queue. You’ll probably be allowed to change lane in a middle of queue if you have a non-local license plate on your car. But if you have a local license plate this might be a bit complicated. Make it your principle to join a lane with queue if you see a few lanes with one that has traffic on it. Even if the lane you’ve chosen is wrong, changing to a free lane is always easier than changing a lane in the middle of a queue.

There might be some troubles with navigation software when you come to intersection of more than two roads. Software probably won’t be able to announce you how to behave on a such intersection. You will have to look at the screen to analyze the road configuration and compare it to reality to choose a right direction.

Riga’s traffic jams cannot be of course compared say to Moscow jams. But traffic can be rather high-dense. Driving from one district on a one side of the city to the one on another might take about 1.5 hours. While when there’s no traffic such drive will take only about 20 minutes.

traffic

We think that traffic problems in Riga are mostly related to the fact that Riga is divided in half by bridges and their capacity is just not enough in a rush-hours. Some districts of the city are also divided by railways. To enter or exit such a district you will have to go through a rail crossing which can be closed when a train is passing.

High-dense traffic is usual in Riga at the following time:

  • in the morning (8-10am): at entrance highways to Riga, at exits of residential areas, at entrances of industrial districts, at rail crossings, at bridges, at city center.
  • in the evening(4-7pm): at exits to other cities from Riga, at bridges

The most popular navigation software in Latvia is Waze. A lot of Latvian drivers use it. It’s a fair assumption to say that you it provides the most up to date information about traffic, accidents, police traps, gas prices and so on. Waze is also good at fast routes calculation and works great in Riga and in a whole Latvia. The only problem with Waze is that it requires a connection to internet. That’s why we recommend to buy a local mobile operator SIM-card and set up the internet.

Mobile Phone Networks and Internet in Latvia

riga

General Information

Mobile Phone Networks

There are 4 mobile networks in Latvia: Amigo, Bite, LMT, Tele2. Incoming calls are free. No documents required to purchase a prepaid SIM-card. SIM-cards usually sold in mobile operator stores which are located at shopping malls across every city of Latvia.

Internet

Wi-Fi

wifi
Free Wi-Fi is generally provided by “Lattelecom” operator. Every shopping mall, cafe, restaurant or any other public place usually have a free Wi-Fi hotspot. If you decide to use “Lattelecom-Free” hotspot you’ll have to wait 15 seconds and watch ad in a browser until you get a full access.

3G, 4G/LTE Mobile Internet

Every mobile phone operator provide either 3G or 4G/LTE coverage in all major cities. Connectivity may degrade to EDGE/GPRS in rural places but almost the whole Latvia is covered by a mobile internet.

Mobile Phone Operators Features

Amigo amigo

Amigo is a virtual operator based on LMT operator’s mobile network. It’s coverage is naturally the same as LMT. Amigo SIM-cards sold at almost every supermarket, such as Elvi, Lats, Maxima, Rimi, as well as at “Latvijas Pasts” post offices, “Statoil” gas stations and “Narvesen” kiosks.

Company site.

Bite bite

Bite is an operator that has the most lowest prices on the market and a good network quality. Another great feature of this operator is that you can monitor your expenses on their site in real time. Bite has no 4G/LTE coverage across the whole Latvia at the time of writing (February 2015). Only a few districts of Riga are covered by 4G/LTE. However, 3G/HSDPA network covers almost all cities of Latvia. Bite SIM-card can be purchased only at Bite stores. But they are located in almost every major shopping mall.

Stores locations, Coverage map, Company site.

LMT lmt

LMT is the only mobile phone operator that has 4G/LTE coverage across the whole Latvia at the time of writing (February 2015). Their prices are generally higher than the average on the market. But no other mobile phone operator provides internet that is faster than the one in LMT. Prepaid cards are branded as Okarte. Okarte SIM-cards sold at almost every supermarket, such as Elvi, Lats, Maxima, Rimi, as well as at “Statoil” gas stations and “Narvesen” kiosks.

Stores locations, Coverage map, Company site.

Tele2 tele2

Tele2 is an operator with good prices and a stable network quality. Tele2 has only about 50+ 4G/LTE base stations at the time of writing (February 2015). Which are located in Riga and some major cities of Latvia. Their 3G/HSDPA network covers mostly every city of Latvia. Prepaid cards are sold under the brand name «Zelta Zivtiņa» (Goldfish). You can buy «Zelta Zivtiņa» prepaid SIM-card at Tele2 shops. Tele2 shops reside in almost every major shopping mall.

Stores locations, Coverage map, Company site.

Micro-SIM, Nano-SIM

microsimModern smartphones usually have a smaller SIM-card, such as Micro-SIM or even smaller Nano-SIM. You may change your card in any operator office if you’ve purchased a SIM-card that doesn’t fits your phone. It is usually free.

More details about Nano-SIM and Micro-SIM cards