Are you thinking about traveling to Riga? If the answer is yes – then you are at the right place, because here I am going to share with you some of the most important and at the same time basic things that you should know before going on this trip.
Riga is the capital of Latvia. And as you probably know – you are reading these lines on a blog We Are From Latvia. Yes, we two, founders of this blog, are from Latvia. How obvious! Una is from Riga. But I was born in a small town at the East of Latvia, not far from the border between Latvia and Russia. But then I moved to Riga to study there. And for the last 8 years, before we two started to travel extensively, I called Riga my home.
Riga is also Latvia’s largest city both by population and territory. About a half of Latvia’s population – a little bit less than 1 million people – is living in Riga. And by territory Riga is three times larger than Paris.
Riga International Airport is the only airport in Latvia
If you are traveling to Riga/Latvia by plane Riga International Airport is where you will arrive. It’s the only airport in Latvia. Anyway it’s modern, nice and clean airport. Not too big, but not tiny either. In total at the summer of 2016 20 airlines were operating from Riga International Airport. And several budget airlines, like Ryanair, WizzAir, Vueling and Norwegian are operating from here as well.
Getting from Riga International Airport to Riga city center is possible by public bus, number 22. It has a stop few hundred meters away from the airport’s entrance. Once you are out of the airport, go to the right!
Bus ticket in Riga costs 1,15 euro, if you purchase it in advance from a ticket vending machine, and 2 euro – if you buy it from the driver. At the airport there is ticket vending machine just at the bus stop. And you can pay with your bank card there as well. Another option is to buy a ticket from a shop called Narvesen, which you can find inside the Riga International airport.
For up to date information about tickets and fees check out the website of Riga public transport company!
Many people in Riga speak English
More than half of Latvians speak 3 languages – Latvian, English and Russian. These numbers are even higher in Riga. Even though many people in Latvia, especially in Riga, speak English, there are many situations possible where you will find information only in Latvian. For example, in public transport they announce the next stop only in Latvian.
But don’t worry, if there will be such a necessity, in Riga it’s not a problem to find some English speaking person and ask for a help or advice.
If talking about public transport in Riga, trams are the fastest
In Riga there are buses, trams, trolleybuses and minibuses. Fastest ones usually are trams, because they are running on the rails and so mostly they aren’t affected by the traffic on the roads.
There is one type of ticket for all public transports in Riga, and it’s called “e-talons”. If you buy a ticket in advance, single journey on a public transport in Riga costs 1,15 euro. 2 euro – if you buy it from a driver. But remember, that one ticket can be used only for one transport (one vehicle). Which means, if you need to travel 3 stops by one bus and then 2 stops by another, you will need to buy 2 tickets. There is no such thing as an option to use the same ticket for different transports within some time frame.
If you plan to travel around Riga by public transport, buy a 24 hour ticket. 24 hour public transport ticket in Riga costs only 5 euro. And with it you can travel with all buses, trams, trolleybuses and also minibuses (but only ones operated by Riga public transport company – Rīgas Satiksme).
Old town of Riga (Vecrīga) is the most central part of Riga
And the most convenient one from where to go everywhere.
Old town of Riga is packed with hotels, hostels, bars and restaurants. It’s the most beautiful and also most central part of the city, which makes it the best choice as where to stay while you are in Riga. Especially if you are coming just for few days and you want to be in the best possible location. Central train station and central bus station of Riga are both only 5-10 walk away from there.
Bus number 22, going from Riga city center to airport and vice versa, stops near old town of Riga.
Do check out also Airbnb, if you want to stay in an apartment instead and live like a local in Riga! Register using my Airbnb link and you will get a 18 euro discount for your first booking of 75 euro or more.
Latvian food is quite heavy
Few of the places where to try a Latvian cuisine when you are traveling to Riga include Ala Folk Club, Lido restaurants and Silkites & Dillites. They are serving mostly, if not only, Latvian dishes. So you can’t go wrong ordering just anything.
Few of Latvian dishes that I can recommend you to try – mashed potatoes with cottage cheese and herring (kartupeļu biezenis ar biezpienu un siļķi), cold beet root soup (aukstā biešu zupa) or any other cold soup, if you are traveling to Riga in summer, grey peas and speck (pelēkie zirņi ar speķi) and pork in aspic (cūkgaļas galerts).
From drinks try Latvian beer, Riga Black balsam and kvass! Valmiermuiža and Brenguļu are two of the best of Latvian beers.
What to see and where to go in Riga
When searching for beautiful architecture head to old town of Riga (Vecrīga) or wander the streets not far from it, but on the same coast of river Daugava. You can’t cross Daugava without noticing it, don’t worry! For beautiful wooden architecture head to Agenskalns (Āgenskalns) on the other side of Daugava.
Walking the narrow streets of old town of Riga, passing big churches and countless old looking buildings it’s easy to start feeling like you have traveled back in time. Old town of Riga is also the place where the nightlife happens.
Looking for some more peaceful place and not far from the city center, go to Lucavsala. It’s an island in river Daugava, few bus stops from old town. A little bit further from the Riga city center, but still easily accessible, is Mežaparks. It’s a big park by the lake, which is perfect place for longer walks. Take a tram number 11 – its route starts close to old town of Riga – and go to until the very last stop, which is called Mežaparks.
Riga is close to the sea. Nearest beaches are at Vecāķi and Vakarbuļļi. To get to Vecāķi you will need to take a bus number 24, and get out either at Vecāķu prospekts or at the last stop – Mangaļsala. Vakarbuļļi can be reached by bus number 3, following a route Pļavnieki – Daugavgrīva – Vakarbuļļi. You need to get out at the last stop.
For more ideas check out TripAdvisor!
If you still have some questions about traveling in Latvia, contact us!
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.