Arriving by Cruise Ship?
If you are having a day here in Riga as part of a cruise there's no need whatsoever to use the cruise company's tour of the city.
The main sights of the Old City are about ten minutes walk and there's a very useful street map (pic #2) at the cruise port gate which shows the most direct route into the centre. It also has the Live Riga tourist offices clearly marked and so if unsure what to do then just pop into one of those and they'll happily give you advice and maybe even a freebie map.
Alternatively you can use one of the Hop-on, Hop-off tour buses which pick up from the cruise port. Details of this are on the website below.
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Flying Air Baltic
Having made the decision to join our VT pre-Euromeet 2014 get-together here in Riga I obviously had to sort out travelling to get there. I did consider the overland options; trains and ferries, but I was a bit skinny for time and so decided to fly.
I also needed an onwards flight from Riga to St Petersburg for the official Euromeet.
Ryan O'Crapo, I don't even consider and so was left with Wizz or Air Baltic as my budget options. Wizz, from Luton, was the cheapest but the timing was bit too early for me to get there comfortably time-wise. This left Air Baltic with a late morning flight from Gatwick.
Checking a few reviews I noted that Air Baltic have had a bit of a bad press in recent times but a quick forum question here on our "Travel Questions and Answers" resulted in pretty much unanimous positive replies, including a couple from friends who have used the airline several times.
On that basis I booked both my London to Riga and my Riga to St Petersburg flights with Air Baltic.
Both flights were a delight - well, as much a delight as any flight can be. The planes flew on schedule, the staff were friendly and the onboard catering options not over-priced - a beer and a pack of snack sausages was about 4 euros.
Riga airport was a delight too, being very easy to escape from, yet welcoming and with excellent facilities when I departed.
So "Thumbs-up" for Air Baltic and I've added a couple of complimentary reviews to various sites to hopefully counterbalance some of the negative comments.
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Finding Your Way Around
Riga is a delight to just randomly wander. Even outside of the Old City most things of interest, such as the market halls or the riverside, are easily accessible by foot. Everything is easy to find with signposts and street maps scattered strategically around.
Even I found it impossible to get lost!
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If You Do Need A Taxi
If arriving at the airport and you need a taxi there's a taxi rank immediately outside the arrivals exit. The airport's recommended services are the Air Baltic and the Red Cabs.
Expect the journey into the city to take about 15 minutes and the price to be about 12-14 euros (Oct 2014).
The airport website, below, has up-to-date contact details and prices.
If travelling around the area by taxi ask at your hotel for their recommendations since many hotels have all-round beneficial arrangements with local taxi businesses.
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The #22 Bus To and From The Airport
This local bus service is cheap, reliable, relatively fast and very easy to use for travel to and from the city to the airport. The bus runs from just after 5 am until about midnight 7 days a week with a peak frequency of every 10 minutes. The journey takes about 30 minutes.
From the airport the bus stop is immediately opposite the arrivals exit and is well signposted. Tickets can be bought from the tourist booth in the arrivals hall, from the Narvesen shop just outside the arrivals exit or from the machine at the bus stop. These are available in all sorts of combinations including single-trip, multiple-trip, 24 hours, 3 or 5 days, depending on how much you expect to use the local public transport. The ticket is charged with its value and to use it you simply touch it against the reader on the vehicle and if you get a green light then your journey is validated. You can also buy single trip tickets from the driver but these are more expensive.
Since Riga is eminently walkable you probably won't need anything more than a 2-trip ticket (to and from the airport) which, at the time of writing (Oct 2014) costs the princely sum of 1.20 euros.
The two main bus stops, if staying in the Old City, are immediately after crossing the river or at the Stockman shopping mall. In both cases the return stops are on the opposite side of the road and are connected by underpasses.
Returning to the airport it's best to get to the stop a little earlier than timetabled and especially if catching an early flight allow a bit of extra time for the journey since the timing does depend on traffic. The return bus stops at the departures entrance.
This is very much a locals bus service and so there's no dedicated luggage space. During peak times it might be better to get a taxi if you have large bags. Also note than if leaving the city during the evening rush hour, or arriving in the morning one, you might find the bus standing-room only.
Up-to-date fares and timetables are on the airport website, below:
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RIX - A Cracking Little Airport
I'm not a big fan of flying and if I can avoid doing so I do. I do, however, appreciate a good airport and a good airline.
On this visit to Riga I flew in from London and then onwards to St Petersburg, both times with Air Baltic. Both flights were suitably comfortable, even in steerage, with friendly, attentive cabin staff and very reasonably-priced.
Arriving at RIX the plane taxied almost to the arrivals exit door and now that Latvia is a fully-fledged EU member passport control (for us Brits) was a mere formality. The bus stop for the city is immediately across the road and should you need one there's a row of taxis there too.
Leaving was just as simple. Having used the Air Baltic online check-in and printed my boarding pass it was simply a matter of showing my Russian Visa to the passport control and then a short queue through, the perfectly efficient but thorough, security control.
Airside has a downsized variety of everything you'd expect from an international airport and I was particularly impressed by the smoking terrace, overlooking the tarmac, at the Costa Coffee.
I wouldn't say, "an absolute pleasure" but totally hassle-free and certainly puts a lot of major airports to shame.
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How to get to Kipsala island
the GPS coordinates are: 56.950697,24.085203. Leave your car at the parking place and take a nice stroll.
you should cross Vansu bridge and turn on the right on Ķīpsala street. Be well equipped because the streets are covered with cobblestones.
the same as by bicycle, you should cross Vansu bridge and turn on the right. You can also take public transport to cross river Daugava.
By public transport:
You can take trolley-bus #5, #7 or bus #13, #37, #41, #53 from stop Nacionalais teatris to stop Kipsala.
My route with photos can be seen here.
More about Kipsala island you are welcome to read here.
You can even camping in the island.
- Road Trip
When Hans and I decided that we wanted to go to Tallinn for a few days, we researched how to get there. We decided that by bus would be the best way and chose LUX EXPRESS which is the biggest operator of international coach routes in the Baltics and offers the most frequent service with the Baltic countries.
We went online - ticketluxexpress.eu - and got all the information we needed - prices - schedules - pick-up points - etc.
After conferring with fellow VT members who were also going to Tallinn, we all decided on leaving Riga Thursday May 29 on the 10:10 bus at the Radisson Blu pick-up stop - left side of hotel, on Elizabetes 55. There were nine of us on that bus which was awesome. Lux Express even has a free beverage station on board and toilet facilities. After about a four hour bus ride we arrived in Tallinn where we all took taxis to our Hotels.
Sunday, June 1, Hans and I returned to Riga, again on Lux Express on the 12:45 bus.
All in all a great experience.
The cost going to Tallinn was 16 Euros. The cost going back to Riga was 21 Euros. We prebooked and paid for our seats - #13 and #14 online and even prepaid for a taxi voucher for our hotel in Tallinn.
Total for two was 80,50 Euros.
Flying to Riga
I flew to Riga from London Gatwick with Air Baltic, a budget no frills airline. This mean an extra charge for checked baggage and for food and drink on board. But the flight itself was reasonably priced and at a convenient time, and service on the ground and on board reasonable, though it would have welcomed more information about the cause of a delay between boarding a take-off (it became apparent when a paramedic came on board that a passenger had been taken ill but until that point we had all been left in the dark).
Flight time was about 2.5 hours. We landed about 30 minutes late, with nice views of the bay and shore as we descended. I was soon through passport control, waited only five minutes for my bag, and was met by VT friend Gillian and a very grumpy taxi driver!
The hotel had pre-arranged our taxi which cost 15€ (more or less the same price as those at the airport). I think the driver got a parking ticket because of my delayed arrival - certainly something put him in a bad mood and the drive into town was consequently a little hairy! But he brought us right to the door of the hotel, safe and sound.
Next tip: my hotel, the Konventa Seta
We used the trams in Riga on a couple of occasions and found them each time to have a helpfully frequent service. You can buy your tickets on board in the case of older trams, but not on all, and in any case it costs more, so it's better to buy in advance. You can do so at the kiosks and shops called Narvesen. A single ride costs 60c and you can preload your ticket with as many rides as you need. When you board you have to hold your ticket against the readers each time to validate them. Make sure you do this - when we omitted to do so on one ride, on my first evening in Riga (we were going just one stop back having overshot ours) the controllers on board were quick to spot this and move in with the threat of a fine, although in the end they were persuaded to accept payment of some fares in lieu.
Stops are marked with a blue sign but only the one by the Opera, of those we used, had any indication about which line stopped there and how often, so you'll need to check a map to see which route and stop you need. You can get such a map at any tourist information office (there is one very conveniently located right next door to the House of the Blackheads on Ratsluakums) or probably at your hotel.
Next tip: dinner at the Lido Krasta
Leaving Riga for Tallinn
I left Riga in the company of eight other VT members on the Lux Express bus to Tallinn. A number of companies serve this route but Lux seemed to offer the best combination of convenient timing, degree of comfort on the bus and price. I paid 16€ for my seat on the 10.00 AM Lux Express but prices vary (some departures are dearer than others, and some buses more "luxurious" so cost more).
This was a reasonable price for the journey as the bus was comfortable with plenty of leg-room, free wifi, an onboard toilet (though one brief stop was made too) and hot drinks available from a machine. The individual entertainment screens promised on the website were however non-existent, but this didn't bother me as I'm a poor bus traveller unless I spend the majority of my time looking out of the window.
We caught the bus from the stop next to the Raddisson Blu hotel in Elizabethes street, as this is marginally nearer the old town, but you can also board at the main bus station where the journey starts.
The weather en route was not great (either raining or looking like rain) but we enjoyed seeing the countryside, especially the old wooden houses dotted around, and I was pleased that I managed to get a few photos.
The journey took about 4.5 hours (slightly longer than timetabled) and we arrived at Tallinn's bus station where a line of taxis was there to meet the bus. Given the poor weather we decided to take one of these and as it seemed quite a way to our hotel in the Old Town I was pleased that we did so (the taxi ride cost just 7€ shared between three).
This is my last tip. Click here to return to my intro page and leave a comment, and/or check out some of my travelogue albums with photos of my travelling companions having fun VT style!
Riga has a good system of public transport, including trams, busses and trolley-busses. Currently a ticket costs 0.6 LVL, and you can buy these from the driver, although they are slightly cheaper when bought in advance. A 24 hour ticket can be bought for just 1.9 LVL.
Getting around is pretty easy, with most of the vehicles having electronic boards telling you what the next stop is. They also have a useful web site, with information in English and Latvian, with route maps and ticket prices.
Riga has turned itself into the main Baltic air hub, and with its own airline, Air Baltic, covering extensive destinations, you can fly direct to Riga from many parts of Europe, and often quite cheaply. Ryanair also uses Riga as a hub to over half a dozen different countries. There aren't many destinations outside of Europe, although Uzbekistan Airlines will fly you to New York if you're feeling adventurous...
Getting to the airport is pretty easy. Bus 22 runs from just outside the old town to the airport (last stop). You can pick it up at 13.Janvāra iela, or get off at the Stone Bridge on the main square. It costs just one travel ticket, at last check 0.7 LT, or about a euro. There's also an Air Baltic bus, but this is more expensive, if a bit quicker. Bus 22 takes about 30 minutes, and runs every 10-30 minutes throughout the day.
If it's too late or early for the bus, you'll have to get a taxi. It should cost you about 6-7 LT (off peak) and take about 15 minutes.
Unfortunately trains in this part of the world aren't all that useful. For starters, Latvia uses a different size (Russian) gauge to most other EU nations, meaning that the train must stop and change its wheels at the Polish border.
Even connections to neighbouring countries using the same gauge are not easy, for example travelling from Tallinn requires leaving at six in the morning, waiting in some tiny border town most of the day to change trains, and then finally arriving in Riga over 14 hours later. It takes just over four hours on the bus.
But trains to towns in Latvia are better served, and the connections with Russia and Lithuania aren't too bad, so it might be worth checking out if you prefer travelling by train to bus, like I do.
The main train station is quite central, just east of the old town.
Ryanair passengers 2: VERY IMPORTANT!
In 2012 Riga airport started charging passengers to pass through security. The charge is 7 euro or 4.92 lats.
IF YOU ARE A RYANAIR PASSENGER YOU WILL HAVE TO *PAY* BEFORE YOU CAN GO THROUGH SECURITY...AND PAYING CAN TAKE A LONG TIME.
All the airlines which use the airport have included that charge in their fares EXCEPT RYANAIR. So if you are a Ryanair passenger you *must* pay your security charge before going through security...and if you don't know about it, this could cause you serious problems. Why? Because the security charge can only be paid in cash *at the Ryanair ticket office*....and there are very, very long queues (see photo, taken 1h 50m before my flight departed). You can also pay with your card at the ticket office.
Riga airport website advises Ryanair passengers to arrive at least 2.5 hours before their flight because of this. They obviously know it can cause major problems for those who turn up later.
There are two security-charge payment machines near security, but they only accept cards...so you'll possibly be paying fees on top of the security charge.
You can also pay in advance by (suitable) mobile phone and..supposedly...online. At the time of writing this I'd tried the online payment site at least 10 times over a 3-week period and it never worked.
There's a very easy way round this though. Just go to the Ryanair ticket office (up by check-in) when you *arrive* at the airport. Chances are there all the departing passengers will have already gone and you, like me, can just walk straight up, pay the charge and get the bar-coded receipt.
The receipt isn't dated or flight-specific, so you can use it for your return flight. Just make sure you don't lose it (I put it into my passport).
More info on the airport website..though it's not easy to find. Choose 'Passengers'>'Useful information' >'Taxes and charges'>'security charge'.
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