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Medieval towns. Churches and castles. Smoked meat and potatoes. Untouched beaches. Few tourists. Cheap prices. Blisteringly fast data speeds.
Travelers looking to stay connected while traveling through Latvia are in for a treat.
If you’re only going to Riga, you may not need to bother with a local SIM at all. The capital is apparently the ‘European capital of WiFi,’ with close to 1000 hotspots across the city.
If you do want one, though, they’re easy to obtain, incredibly good value for money, and offer fast data speeds due to LTE coverage across much of the country.
Here’s what you need to know.
Note: Latvia is part of the European Union, which introduced new roaming regulations in June 2017. These “roam like at home” rules effectively ended roaming charges across much of Europe, meaning you’ll usually pay no more for calls, texts, and data in other EU countries than you would in the country of purchase.
There are some exceptions and limits, however. Double-check the details at time of purchase if you’re planning to use your SIM elsewhere in the region.
There are three cell networks in Latvia, operated by Bite, LMT, and Tele2. LMT has the widest coverage, followed by Tele2, and then Bite.
LTE service with LMT operates on the 1800 and 2600 MHz bands, and covers around half the population. Tele2 offers LTE on the 1800 MHz band, but currently only in Riga.
I opted to go with LMT.
Purchasing the SIM card was simple. After arriving in Riga, I walked straight to the Galleria Mall, located right in the centre of the Old Town.
There, you’ll find all three cell network stores within metres of each other, making it easy to compare prices.
Here’s what the mall looks like from the outside:
Head up to the fourth floor, where you’ll find the LMT store:
The woman behind the counter spoke limited English, but after saying “data-only SIM card” she immediately offered me one valid for seven days — perfect for my whirlwind trip!
I didn’t need to show my passport or any kind of ID, and there was no paperwork to fill in. She had a nano SIM available for my phone without needing to use a SIM card cutter.
After this, though, I was on my own. The woman walked off to help someone else, leaving me to figure out how it worked by myself.
After slipping in the SIM card and unlocking it using the provided PIN, I initially had no data service, and my Latvian was too limited to work out what the APN details were.
With all staff in the store now busy with customers, I headed back to my hostel for a quick Google search.
The details I needed were:
No username or password
Prefer to spend your vacation sightseeing instead of buying SIM cards? Grab one in advance to stay connected in Latvia and across Europe.
This Orange SIM includes 10GB of data, 1000 international texts, and two hours of international calls. The price includes US delivery, and it's valid for two weeks in 30 European countries. Use the code EUCPO10 at checkout to get 10% off!
Other options are available if you're traveling for longer, need a portable hotspot, or want a different mix of calls, texts, and data. Either way, you'll be connected with a minimum of fuss before you've left the airport.
I paid €5.65 for 10 GB of data on a data-only SIM card, valid for seven days. The SIM card was free. If you need calls and texts as well, you’ll pay between 1-3 euros for a starter pack that includes the SIM.
Latvia is cheap!
You can buy top-ups at any LMT store, as well as in supermarkets, kiosks, and post offices.
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Coverage and Data Speeds
I was extremely impressed with LMT’s network coverage. Even on the drive up to the Estonian border I didn’t lose connection once, and the journey was essentially through forests the whole way.
LTE speeds were fast at around 30Mbps in Riga, falling to 5Mbps whenever I dropped back to 3G/HSPA+ coverage.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.