Latvia is home to many things. For example, it has an impressive waterfall called Ventas Rumba, which is referred to as the widest waterfall in Europe. Its capital, Riga, is known for its Old Town and the central markets.
Sigulda has plenty of castles, caves, and ruins to explore, while Liepaja is known for its famous beach – Liepaja beach. Being bored in Latvia? No way!
What may also bore you is trying to find out which Latvian SIM card you should buy when visiting the country. However, it should not. Roaming with your provider can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card.
Data prices in Latvia are one of the lowest in Europe, which is why you should get a Latvian SIM card if you do not have an EU/EEA SIM card.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Latvia. Let's get started.
Telecom Providers in Latvia
Latvia has 3 telecom providers: LMT, Tele2 Latvia (Zelta Zivtina), and Bite Latvia. All Latvian operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Latvia? If you want to buy a SIM card in Latvia, then I would recommend going with LMT because they have the best coverage throughout the country.
However, you should know that your coverage and speeds will be good with any Latvian operator, so it does not really matter which operator you choose.
Like some countries in Europe, and like all Baltic states, you do not have to show your passport when buying a Latvian SIM card.
You will notice that data rates in Latvia are low (like all Baltic states and some countries in Eastern Europe). Latvia is part of the European Union. As of June 2017, a new regulation has been enforced, which is known as roam at like home, meaning that those with a European Union (or EEA) SIM card should be allowed to use (some) of their data allowance in other EU/EEA countries without a surcharge.
Because domestic data rates are so low in Latvia, the Latvian operators have opted-out from this regulation, meaning that they are not required to give those with a Latvian SIM card free roaming allowance. Instead, some operators have a Fair-use data roaming policy, sell roaming packages, or allow you to roam for relatively low rates.
With that said, let’s see what Latvia has to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
LMT is the largest operator in Latvia. That does not say much in a country with a low population, and when the competitors are close behind in terms of subscribers. LMT, however, does have the best 3G and 4G/LTE coverage, reaching more than 90% of the population.
LMT SIM cards, called LMT Karte, are sold in LMT stores, kiosks, post offices, and supermarkets. The most you will pay for your LMT SIM card is €3.
However, if you look well and are lucky, you can find an LMT SIM card for €1.50 in some supermarkets. I would not recommend going out to multiple stores trying to find the €1.50 version because you will be wasting your time (speaking of experience here!).
If you buy your LMT SIM card at an LMT store, the salesperson will tell you this too, but you have to call 29202010 to activate your LMT SIM card. Listen to the instructions and follow them. Worry not, you can change it to English.
LMT recharge cards are sold from €1.42 to €20. You can also recharge online with a credit card. You can check your LMT balance by dialing *120*#.
The following LTM combo packs are available:
- €0.50: unlimited data and 184 MB in EU for 1 day. Activation: text ID to 1626
- €1.50: 1 GB, 551 MB in EU, 10 minutes, and unlimited SMS for 7 days. Activation: text NSA to 1626
- €2: 100 MB and unlimited calls and SMS for 7 days. Activation: text NIA to 1626
- €2.50: unlimited data, 918 MB in EU, 10 minutes, and unlimited SMS for 7 days. Activation: text NIPA to 1626
- €14.90: unlimited data, €8.93 GB in EU, and unlimited calls and SMS for 1 month. Activation: text MV to 1626
All LMT combo packs auto-renew if there is enough data. To deactivate a plan, add a – behind the activation code. For example, if you want to deactivate the €2 100 MB combo pack, then you would text NSA- to 1626.
Sending an SMS to 1626 will cost €0.0213 per SMS.
If you go over your data allowance, where applicable, your speeds will be reduced to 64 Kbps, which is extremely slow. You can check your data balance by texting i to 1626.
You can also get an LMT data-only SIM card, called Priekšapmaksas mobilā interneta SIM karte (try pronouncing that for fun), for €5.65 in LMT stores. It comes with 10 GB (2.03 GB in EU) for 1 week. The following two data packs can be added:
- €1.40: 1 GB and 514 MB in EU for 24 hours. Activation: text DI to 29202010
- €5.65: 10 GB and 2.03 GB in EU for 7 days. Activation: text NED to 29202010
Your speed will be throttled to 64 Kbps if you go over your data allowance.
Zelta Zivtina (Tele2 Latvia)
Tele2 Latvia, just Tele2, is almost as popular as LMT while having almost the same coverage throughout Latvia. Tele2 covers more than 90% of the population.
Tele2 does not sell its prepaid SIM cards as Tele2. Instead, their prepaid brand is called Zelta Zivtina (or ZZ), and can be bought in Zelta Zivtina stores, supermarkets, newsstands, and kiosks. Tele2 SIM cards are sold between €1.50 to €4. As to be expected, it may be a challenge to find the €1.50 version.
Zelta Zivtina has several different combo packs:
- €4.50: unlimited data and calls and 1000 SMS for 7 days. Activation: text E to 1616
- €5: unlimited calls and SMS for 30 days. Activation: text V to 1616
- €7: 200 MB (also for in EU), 60 minutes, and 60 SMS for 7 days. Activation: text E to 1616
Except for the €7 plan, data can only be used in Latvia.
All Zelta Zivtina combo packs auto-renew when there is enough credit. To cancel a plan, text STOPATA to 1616.
You can also get a monthly Zelta Zivtina data pack:
- €1: 100 MB. Activation: text XS to 1616
- €3: 500 MB. Activation: text S to 1616
- €4: 1 GB. Activation: text M to 1616
- €6: 2 GB. Activation: text L to 1616
All these Zelta Zivtina data packs can only be used in Latvia.
Finally, there is also a Zelta Zivtina data-only SIM card, which is sold for €5 and comes with 5 GB for 10 days. Recharge vouchers for the data-only SIM card can be bought in kiosks or gas stations:
- €1.50: 5 GB for 2 days
- €3: 2 GB for 7 days
- €5: 5 GB for 14 days
- €10: 15 GB for 30 days
- €20: 25 GB for 60 days
All these data plans can only be used in Latvia.
Finally, we have Bite Latvia, just Bite, the smallest operator in Latvia. This, however, does not mean that they are bad. They also cover more than 90% of the population.
Bite Latvia SIM cards, called Bite karte, can be bought at Bite stores. Top-up vouchers are sold in various stores from €2 to €8.
Bite has 2 monthly combo packs:
- €4.75: 100 MB and unlimited calls and SMS. Activation: text B2 LV to 1600
- €6.75: 100 MB/minutes/SMS. Activation: text BITE EUROPE to 1600
The data, minute, and SMS allowance of the €6.75 plan can be used in other EU countries. Additionally, you get 100 minutes and SMS to call and text from Latvia to other EU nations.
Bite does not sell data packs. Instead, you will get the following allowances if you meet the top-up threshold:
- €1.42: up to 100 MB
- €3.56: up to 500 MB
- €6.40: up to 2 GB
- €9.96: up to 6 GB
- €12:09: up to 10 GB
Bite, however, has an internet pack. For €1, you will get unlimited data for a selected app for 30 days. The apps are Facebook, Waze, Viber, and Draugiem. To activate an internet pack, text the name of the app to 1600.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Latvia
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Latvia. However, that is not the only way to be online in Latvia. I have already briefly mentioned that you can roam with your provider, although it can be expensive in most cases. Besides that, you can use free WIFI connections, mobile hotspots, or international SIM cards.
Roaming in Latvia with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Tele2 Estonia, then you would be roaming with Tele2 Estonia in Latvia.
You may have read horror stories of people coming back from a lovely holiday, only to be confronted with a roaming bill in the thousands. This can still be the case if you do not review your roaming options before going on a holiday. Luckily for you, I have written about the roaming options you have with various providers around the world, which you can read here.
Some operators offer roaming plans. Others allow you to roam for free in Latvia, while several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee. As you can see, roaming does not have to be a horrific experience. If your provider is generous and lets you roam for free in Latvia, then you do not even need a local SIM card (although I would still recommend doing so, as your connection speed will be much slower as a roamer than someone who is a customer of the network).
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Pay As You Go roaming should be avoided, as that is how travelers get high roaming bills. One provider charges you about 1000 USD per GB in certain destinations, which is insane. If you really want to roam, check whether your provider has attractive roaming plans. Else, you will be better off with buying a local SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Latvia
This does not require a lot of explanation, but using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to connect to the internet because you do not have to pay anything. Nothing beats free stuff, right? Well, not so fast.
First, you need to find hotspots in Latvia. In some countries of cities, you will find so many hotspots that you can try them out one by one and find the one with the fastest speeds. In other places, however, WIFI connections do not seem to exist.
In the case of Latvia, you can find plenty of hotspots throughout the country.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
Using a Pocket WIFI (Mobile Hotspot) in Latvia
Pocket WIFI is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Getting an International SIM card for Traveling in Latvia
International SIM cards are, as the name implies, SIM cards for international use. Well, that does not explain anything. Although most providers allow you to use your card abroad, some actually restrict this possibility. An international SIM card lets you go abroad without having to change SIM cards when visiting multiple destinations. They have been made with the traveler in mind.
All of this sounds lovely, but international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Latvia. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Some countries in Europe require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Latvia
Getting a SIM card from LMT would do you well when considering a Latvian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
What about other places in Europe? My Europe SIM card buying guide covers all destinations in Europe, including those not part of the European Union/EEA, such as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my SIM card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Latvia
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Latvia. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Latvia drop.
Although low-cost carriers are a big thing in Europe, they are not the best way to experience Europe. Everyone knows that the European railway system is awesome. InterRail/EURail makes it much easier to explore Europe by train by having one ticket for participating countries instead of having to buy multiple tickets per country. InterRail is for European citizens and EURail is for non-European citizens.
Book Your Accommodation for Latvia
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Latvia. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Latvian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Latvia
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Latvia, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Euros for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!