You won’t find the best restaurants, activities or sightseeing here. Rather, I’ll tell you
- how to get from the airport to the city center
- what are the supermarket companies
- which hostels I stayed into
- where to find food
In summary, all the “practical” information a classic city guide won’t tell you.
From the Airport to the City Center
Take the public bus 22 from the airport to the city center in 20 minutes.
A ticket on the bus will cost you two euros, but there is a machine at the bus stop (a bit further from the exit of the airport). You can also buy a ticket in one of the “Narvesen” shops you will find just on your way out of the building.
I booked the Tree House Hostel through hostelworld.
The hostel is located on one of the main squares, on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors of an apartment building.
The entrance is kinda weird to find so I took a picture of it. You will find it precisely on this pic from Google maps. R is the emplacement of the restaurant now called “Cock and Bull”.
H is the building where the hostel is. E is the entrance.
The hostel has a nice furnished kitchen and several chill areas. It’s clean and remarkably well located.
The only problem was the absence of an extractor fan.
The entire building smelt like meat after each of my meals lmao.
You can walk, use shared scooters (Bolt mainly), public transportation (5€ for a one-day card or 15€ for 5 days) or public bikes. These ones are called Nextbike.
You will have to download the app first (also called “Nextbike”.)
Simply register for Riga. You will need a Visa or Mastercard. They tell you they will charge you a certain amount to “verify” your card but this isn’t true. They charge you €10 upon registering and give them to you as “credits”.
Thankfully, I sent an email and they refunded them.
You can unlock the bikes by scanning the QR code with your phone.
These Nextbike bikes are much better than JCDecaux’s and the system is much smarter as well.
The main supermarkets are:
I suppose that the low competition in the space explains why prices are so high. Furthermore, Latvian average salary is much lower than their neighbors, so we can understand why Lidle and Aldi aren’t fighting to get into the country.
Maxima is cheaper than Rimi, but Rimi has better quality products.
In any way, I recommend you don’t go to supermarkets as they tend to be expensive, even by Belgian standards.
If you want fresh cheap local food, the best is to go to open-air markets. There is only one main spot: Rīgas Centrāltirgus, or Central Market of Riga.
This giant market is composed of several halls each selling their own stuff – meat, fish, veggies, clothes etc.
Pretty classic in post-communist Europe.
Some Latvian websites I used offered Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Estonian, and English as languages. Most of the time, they just offer Latvian, Russian, and English (around 50% of the country is ethnically Russian due to the mass deportation of the USSR in the early 1940s).
Latvian, though, is the main language in Latvia.
Hello: čau (pronounced like the Italian “ciao”)
Thank you: paldies
Good bye: uz redzēšanos
Mobile Network and Sim Card
Latvia being terrorist-free, you don’t need to register your ID when buying a sim card, which makes the whole process painless.
I recommend the biggest and best network provider, LMT.
I bought an unlimited internet subscription for a week for 3€ and the sim card that came with it was free. The lady at the shop spoke English.
These prices only apply in Latvia. You have to pay more if you travel outside.
There is so much to say about Latvian culture that the only way to tell you about the essential is to generalize.
The country was raped three times: once by Nazi Germany (which actually behaved “better” than the Soviets) and twice by the Soviets (which shined by their encyclopedic knowledge of torture).
This may be one of the reasons why Latvians aren’t laughing or talking with as much joy or noise as the Spanish. In fact, they are pretty negative and hopeless.
As a result, the worst customer service in the world is in Latvia.
Between the café owner that refuses to talk to me directly or even look at me the eyes and the butcher that turns down a sale of kilos of meat because he’d have to cut it himself (isn’t these people’s job to cut meat anyway???!!!), Latvians have lost a considerable amount of my money due to their straight-out rudeness in a business context.
While the Poles may have been as negative as the Latvians, they would still make an effort when it came to doing business. No wonder Poland’s economy is in a much better state.
Nonetheless, Latvians are lovely people, smart, and hardworking.
My only tip is do not make jokes about them being Russians and do not make fun of their country.
It’s not only rude but also disrespectful in regard to their history.
For more technical city guides, head to auresnotes.com.