Drunk Englismen all over the place
Riga has gained a reputation In recent years as a place that is flooded by Englishmen on their 'Stag do'. Flooded is probably the wrong word, as there are not that many flights to Riga compared to say Prague of Budapest. The flight we were on did contain sixteen men dressed as giant chickens and anouther group of about twelve dressed as 'pimps'. We never saw them again that weekend.
If you a quite little soul, then the flight may not be to your taste but it's not going to affect your trip otherwise. If you are on a stag do then things are a different matter - have a look at some of the warnings above.
Some people may feel a little intimidated by large groups of beery men in this kind of situation. This recent tradition of dressing up in very silly outfits, getting blind drunk and vomitting over east european prostitutes is pretty harmless to the casual onlooker - mostly they are regular blokes in everyday life. I mean, just how seriously can you take a six-foot four bloke with a beard seriously when he is dressed as the sugar plum fairy ?
The real danger is for the host destination - they may well worry that places such as Riga
Bars to avoid
Organised crime is rife amongst a certain segment of Riga's nightlife industry. Some places are seen as fair, if expensive. Others are straigtforward gangster hell holes with payoffs to the local police. Paying 30-50 lats for one drink is the least of you worries. One recent account said a man was charged 8000 lats for four bottles of Champayne. Buying a drink for an 'entertainer' is the most likley way the price list can be inflated.
If you have to visit such a place then a) leave credit cards hidden at the hotel b) always ask the price of a drink before you buy c) never go into a 'private room'. The private room scam is the worst. It works like this - the private room will have a bottle of champayne opened before you enter - that way they can legitimaely say it is part of the deal for a private room and charge accordingly (perhaps up to 1000 or more lat).
This is current list of bars to be avoided that is given to American diplomats :
“Mademoiselle Cigar Club”
The problem is that new places open, names change or new owners move in !
The seemier side of life
Riga has become well known in recent years as a venue for stag weekends. This means that plenty of venues have sprung up to cater for the needs of that particular demographic.
Now, I went to Riga in a 'family group' and encountered nothing more worrying than a few overpriced restaurants. Going out at night without the family meant the touts were out with offers to visit some of the the aforementioned establishments. We stuck to the 'normal' bars and found them fine. The lap dancing venues, dodgy bars and gentleman's clubs were left to their own devices. It is in these venues that you can almost expect to be ripped off. Internet stories abound of 250 lat drinks bills for a couple of beers, bouncers charging the same for you to leave without the aid of a plate-glass window. Worse still the Latvian police can also be in on the act and support the club gangsters and their cronies.
Extra charges with taxis
Taxi drivers are not exactly seen as the most upstanding members of society in any port of call in the world. There are plenty of internet warnings about dodgy taxi drivers in Riga, so the Renault Red taxis are a good idea. Getting a hotel to recommend a taxi firm and a guide price is obviously a good idea as well.
Probably the most annoying extra charge is however perfectly legit - the five Lats it costs to enter the central old town zone. It's quite a small area, so if you want to save 5 lats (about 5 quid, six euro or 270 dollars at the current rate of exchange) ask the taxi driver to drop you at the barrier and walk.
Taxi drivers of course try to charge customers on the way out as well. Unless you telephoned him then he would have paid it already and is thus trying it on.
Stealing of cars seems to have a long tradition
When I saw this car - an Austrian made Steyr 220 - in 1992 I just was surprised about the excellent quality Austrian cars from the 1930-ies (this car was probably made in 1937 and was 55 years old then). And I was trying to consider how this car made its way to Riga two generations ago. But when my car was stolen in neighbouring Lithuania in 1995 I made other considerations about this car's history. It became clear for me that it must have been stolen in Austria between1945 and 1955 by somebody from the Soviet army (after WW 2 Lower Austria and the part of Upper Austria north of the Danube were occupied by the Soviet Army from 1945 until to Austria's independence in 1955 so there were chances enough to steal such a car in Austria - you can guess how much Ausrian police had been able to do to inhibit that - and to bring it to the Soviet Union). I think this car is no longer running as it is seen here on the pic but restored by specialists. I found recently on the web a restored Steyr 220 offered for 140.000 EUR by a specialist for restorations of vintage cars in Ukraine.
The biggest thievs in all of Riga. We (I and my wife) came to Riga by boat from Stokcholm and outside the terminal there were only white taxis (red taxis is more honest).
So we took the withe one, the driver turned on the meter, starting cost at 1,5 Lat. So it say on the window. We went to the Freedom Statue, taxi driver stops and says 8,5 Lat and so it is on the meter, so I asume that the taxidriver drowe with high speed meter all the time. My first rip of and I havent even started sightseeing.
WELCOME TO LATVIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Strangers asking for notes - Scam?
I'd heard of this happening in other cities but it had never happened to me before.
In the Old Town near the Blackhead's House around 7pm one evening, a guy came up to us speaking in what sounded like Latvian. When we looked blankly at him, he looked relieved and started off in English. He said something to the effect that he only had coins but no-one would take them and did we have a 20 lat note to exchange. Thinking that this was just quite bizarre, I just shrugged my shoulders and said , sorry but no. He simply wandered off and we watched him stroll ahead, interestingly not asking anyone else on his way.
It wasn't even until a few minutes afterward that it occurred to me that I'd read of people trying to palm off dead and useless currency in coins to unsuspecting foreigners who would not recognise whether or not it was actually valid coinage. And I'm guessing that's what he was trying. Ironically this happened on our last evening after a totally uneventful weekend.
Ho hum. No damage done.
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- Budget Travel
Watch out for the cars in the old city centre
The amount of traffic on the streets of the old city centre might be heavy at times. In theory the old city centre is closed for traffic. However, if you have a special permit as many of the locals living in the old town centre do, there are still quite a lot of cars driving around and the pedestrians really need to look out where they tread.
Watch For Gate Changes
When leaving Riga International Airport, do keep an eye open for gate changes, which seem to happen at a moments notice.
Our gate was changed twice in the space of 15 minutes, and the screen was not always updated.
Another flight that was departing to Berlin changed 3 times in the same space of time.
Pickpockets near the Riga railway station
Someone attempted to pick my small rucksack one evening when I was coming out of the underpass close to Riga's railway station. Luckily I noticed the slight weight shift as the zip undid and Iturned and shrugged off the pickpocket. They were almost lucky! I had plenty of cash, cards and my passport in there.
I then realised that a couple of days previous it was not me who had left another rucksack zip open. Someone must have opened it in the same area but found nothing in the pocket.
My mistake was that I had forgotten to remove the rucksack from my back when I walked into Riga city centre. I normally carry it by my side where I can see it and that is where it should be.
Few cities in the world are free of pickpockets. Riga suffers in the same way. The area of the railway station seems to be the hotspot. I have also heard of wallets being stolen from people walking accross the city centre parks at night.
not that ive read this for a fact, but from our experiance, no no touching, being someone who has always touched people on there shoulders, i found that women in cafes / on the market were very stand offish when we did this, in one bar, we just wanted to have a look at what beer she was serving us, when we grabbed hold of the bottle, she shouted and took our drinks away, crazy!.
you say hello to them, they shrug you off and smerk,
it got to the point that i was really curious what would happen to me if i was to pinch one of there bums, probebly the only place ive visited in the world where i thought i would risk death in doing so....
very shady place!
as someone who enjoyed there stay, i feel obliged to fire from the hip and advise any british people of the culture shock you WILL get.
1. smiles dont come easy from the locals, unless your in a bar
2. get ready for the constant shoulder barging whilst walking around
3. dont expect anyone to hold doors open for you,also, dont expect a thank you or smile if you open the door for anyone else.
4. no one lines up for anything, toilets, clubs, shops, so dont bother yourself.
5. get a really big feeling that tourists, or mainly english people are not welcome here.
6. watch your mouth! no one talks on the buses ,as soon as you open your mouth, you will be centre of attraction, and i dont think in a good way.
7. keep your hands on your money in your pockets
8. for gods sake, if your out drinking, make sure you dont end up on your own whilst pissed!, this is definately a place where the walls have eyes,
9. keep away from any bars or clubs (especialy strip clubs) where you have to go downstairs to gain entry, from the bouncer to the rats, there all in on it as soon as you enter.
Be Prepared for Cold and Snowy weather !!
If like us you chose to visit Riga later on in the year then Be Prepared for Cold and Snowy weather !!
We saw one young woman getting off the plane that we were about to board for our return journey, It was blowing a Blizzard and she was wearing open toed high heeled sandals -- Now exactly appropriate foot-wear for the conditions and getting chilblains is not a good way to start your holiday
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Well it's not really a danger, but don't get lured into the fairytale that everything in Eastern Europe is cheap. Latvia is not and neither is Riga.
1 Lats equals the English Pound and prices easily match those of any western capital. But don't be tricked that everybody therefor is rich, Latvians don't make so much money and with the high prices they cannot afford as much as you would expect.
Riga, dangerous place in the night!
My experience was very bad, I was just going to my hostel - Turiba which was maybe 3-4 km from Riga centre and 100m in front of entrance two guys just came out of the bushes and attacked me. They wanted to take my wallet and backpack, by the way, security office was just 50 m from that place. I suceeded to escape and after I had told the story to the Turiba security only one minute after the attack, they told me: " It`s dangerous district, never go alone, if you want you can call the police!'' They could see those guys who had attacked me, but they didn`t do anything. I was lucky I had no trauma. So, never go alone, esspecially in districts out of the centre and if you are alone NEVER speak English!!!
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