Eastern European/Baltic countries are so underrated and not many people outside of Europe have them on their list. Even for me, it was something new. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia form the Baltic nations. Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, and few others are Eastern European nations. Except for Greece, the rest of the countries remain hidden for ages. We (myself & 2 of my friends) did a 4 day trip to Latvia & Lithuania. This blog is all about the do's, dont's, places to see & things to do.
Things to Know before you Go
Visa (for Indian Passport holders): Prior Visa has to be arranged for Indian Passport Holders if you are only visiting Latvia. If you have Schengen Visa or a resident permit in Schengen countries, you can easily travel VISA free
Currency: Latvia's currency is the Euro (EUR). 1 Euro ~ 80 INR
Best way to travel in Riga: Public transportation is the best way to travel in Riga. Bus, Tram & metro networks are well connected. If you are going to travel extensively on public transport, take the one-day jump pass, which costs 5 Euros/24 hours. If you are staying in the old town, all the major attractions are walkable
Accommodation: Old town is the best place to stay. Hostels start @ 9 Euros (720 INR) and Budget rooms @ 15 Euros(1200 INR).
Language: Latvian is the official language of the country, but you can find English widely spoken in Riga. I also saw many International students making this city multicultural.
Food: Cafes were the best. Quick sandwich/wraps & kebabs on the grab were the best in the town square. Cost us 2 Euros/meal. Plenty of mid-range restaurants around the old town near the central area.
Water: Tap water is clean & safe to drink. The water was not tasty though and was bland. However, it is not expensive to buy bottled water.
Wifi & Mobile data: Wifi was available in our AIRBNB and the cafes we went to. We didn’t have the requirement to buy a sim or activate data roaming.
Credit Cards and ATMs: It was easy to pay by card everywhere. Hardly we used cash, still, we had close t0 50 Euros but didn’t need to use it.
Safety: Riga is a safe city, but have heard that petty crimes do happen. Keep your wallets & passports safe. Always be mindful of your surroundings & stick to your instincts. If you feel something is not right, don't do it.
Best time to Visit
We visited Riga in December. It was peak winter and the days were super cold. It was Christmas time and the city was all lit in lights
So what is the best time to visit?? May-June & September-October would be the best, you will experience dry & mild weather. It is not the holiday season. Hotels/Accommodations are not pricier. July & August are the tourist seasons
Lativa is a relatively small country in size and is often easier to travel to other countries by road. We didn't go outside the city because of the weather
There are many long-distance hikes & walking trails. Also not to miss the baltic coast when you travel during the warmer months. You can find more info on the Latvian travel website
How to get to Latvia
Traveling from India, International flights arrive at Riga International Airport. This will be your only point of entry flying long-haul flights. Public transportation is the best if you want to get into the city, costs 2 Euros/way. there are no Airport buses
We flew wizz air from Stavanger, Norway. It is one of the low cost airlines operating in Europe
Flight fares start at INR 65,000 return ticket/person
Riga is not an expensive destination when you compare with the other hotspot tourist destination in Europe
We stayed in an AIRBNB, which costs us 30 Euros per night (3 people sharing, 10 Euros/person/night). Hostels start @ 9 Euros (720 INR) and Budget rooms @ 15 Euros(1200 INR).
The restaurants were very much affordable. We preferred wraps, kebabs, and sandwiches
We took public transportation to go around the city. Spent 5 Euros/person (24 hours pass), including airport transfers as well
Where to Stay
The Old town is the best place to stay if you are looking at budget accommodations & Hostel dorms. Plenty of restaurants and takeaways nearby.
Most of the main attractions are walkable and we didn't require public transportation. We stayed just outside the city center looking for a bigger AIRBNB, which was a mistake.
This map gives you the locations of attractions and you can choose to stay somewhere within this area.
Otd Town - Best Area to Stay
2 Days in Latvia !!What to Do?
This Map will give you the things to do in Riga if you are planning for a 2-day trip. You’ll get an overall idea of what to do and you can mix it up the way you want. The Nightlife is so active and you cannot miss the Nightclubs, pubs and midnight kebabs
Day 1: City Tour
These were the below places which we were able to cover on Day 1
Baston Hill Park
Riga Old Town
Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum (go only if you have a heavy heart)
Travel Tips & Things to Remember :
Riga is extremely cold during the winter, so be prepared to go with layers of clothing. It will keep you warm at all times. There will be unpredictable sudden showers, so wear sturdy shoes.
If you are planning to go on day trips, rent a car. Transport to regional areas will be confusing at times. Also, there are no budget domestic flights
Riga is not an expensive place to go around. Still, you can save a few bucks. Try walking around the city and grab your low-cost meal on the way instead of fancy restaurants. There are three~four towers you can visit to have a city panorama. Just choose one
The Freedom Monument is a memorial to commemorate the lives lost during the Latvian War of Independence. It is located in the city center which you cannot miss. We saw some tourists making fun of the soldiers marching. please don't do that
Old Town is a striking example of how cities were built back in the day. It is traditional from the outside and has been converted to modern offices. Plenty of shopping and eating to be done. We didn't take the free walking tour, just walked around instead. But it is recommended to take one, just to get to know more about the city. Tipping is around 5 Euros at the end, not mandatory though
Riga Old Town
St. Peter’s Church, The tallest church in the city and is quite old. From a tourist perspective, it is not the actual church that is of interest. It holds a viewing deck on the top which gives amazing views of the city. It is a place of worship, so please be mindful of that as well
Dome Square, Riga Cathedral, and plenty of medieval architectures around the city. We didn't go into detail, just walked past it.
The museum was opened in the memories of the Latvian Jewish community. It will definitely not give you a good feeling. You can skip this if you are not interested. Contains details of the Holocaust during WWII.
Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum
Riga tower is the tallest structure in the European Union. It is actually a Radio and TV Tower. The tower is 398m tall and ahs got a viewing deck at 97m
Day 2: Central market, Jurmala & Nightlife
A great way to start the second day. It is not a tourist attraction, but it will give you a glimpse of the local produce and people's lives. It is the largest in Europe and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage sight. This where you should have your breakfast
Jurmala beach & Nightlife
Easily one of the best places to visit from Riga is the beach resort city of Jurmala. It may not be the best option during freezing winter. But on the way to the beach, you can find plenty of bars & restaurants. It also houses numerous saunas which were built during the Soviet period. You can easily spend the afternoon here and head to the beach. Plenty to explore
Conclusion & Our Recommendation
Riga is not your go-to destination. However, if you have a local guiding you throughout, it will be altogether a different experience. I did meet a localite but didn't have enough time to get along, still, we remind friends though.
My suggestion is to have a 5 to 7-day tour covering all three Baltic nations (Latvia, Lituania & Estonia). Not just visit one place and return.