So what is the cost of a weekend in Riga?  … and why Riga in the first place?

In spring of 2010 I set out to explore Europe by train. Over the course of a month I made it to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, Munich and then back to Prague again after a Volcanic incident which stopped me getting home on time. One place I did not visit however and heard loads about was Riga, the capital of Latvia.

So, when the same group who I went to Poland with at the end of 2010 discussed a new venue for a weekend away in 2011, Riga was suggested and approved. We spent a total of 3 nights in Riga, here’s the breakdown of what went down over that time period, and the cost of a weekend in Riga …

Friday – Arriving in Riga

Ah, there’s nothing like a 4am wake up call to catch a cheap flight on an airline who’s seating scales seem to be based on the residents of hobbiton. That 4am wake up call can be made even more painful if you spend the a good five hours of the night before consuming vast quantities of snake bite (half beer, half cider, dash of blackcurrant) at discounted prices. Cue tiredness and headache.

Luckily for me, the flight was only a short one and no one was sat next to me on the plane so I could swivel, stretch and snooze for a bit.  When I sat up straight this happened …

Wizz Air

Arriving at Riga airport, customs and passport control were pretty swift. The first real challenge was locating the transfer bus to town. This was actually pretty easy, and the driver actually stopped to pick us up when he saw us running for the bus, this would not happen in London!  The bus journey was more than reasonably priced too, and didn’t contribute an awful lot to the cost of a weekend in Riga.

After a 30 minute bus ride we made it into town and found our hostel pretty swiftly. The Naughty Squirrel was to be our home for the next 3 nights and we were made very welcome upon entry, almost a little too welcome. Before we’d even handed over our passports for checking in we were given welcome shots. Fruity the receptionist called them, although that is not the adjective I would have chosen. My brain and stomach worked in unified overtime to keep that shot from coming back up.

naught squirrel hostel, riga

Our room was pretty standard, there we lockers and the bathrooms were plentiful and not too far away. The only problem with the room (which was discovered later in our stay) was the giant mutant mosquitoes lurking in the shadows. Each morning our pale skinned Richard would awaken with fresh bites which yearned to be scratched. He later went of a killing frenzy … a mosquito killing frenzy I should clarify.

We scoped the local area that afternoon visiting a local sports bar for a bite to eat before crashing for a power nap. The evening was spent on the hostels bar crawl.

The bar crawl actually spent the first 2 hours in the hostel. First there was happy hour where beers cost a single Lat (£1.70 ish), then came the shots. Why with the shots? These were fecking horrible, but everyone did them, and their horrific gut wrenching taste led to some good conversation and banter amongst those on the bar crawl. The hostel common areas helped with this, they were sizeable, comfortable and even offered free table footy. The hostel also offered a half decent looking kitchen area.

naughty squirrel hostel in riga

The bar crawl itself wasn’t up to much. The bars were tiny, had little atmosphere and we actually left halfway through. Some of the cool people we got chatting to actually came with us as we ventured back to the Kiwi bar (this was a running theme) where we knew there’d be music and the cheeky barsgirls. Check out Olly and Beth’s blog over at aroundtheworldin80trains.com, we met them on the bar crawl and they were really sound!

Saturday – The Rugby and Bar Crawl No.2

Saturday morning saw most of us rise early and dash around the corner to the Kiwi bar so that we could watch England get destroyed by the French in the Rugby World Cup. It was painful viewing, only made easier by some good natured banter with @Allytoullec on twitter.

Saturday evening saw us abandon our plans to visit the skybar and again partake in another bar crawl. Cue more shots in the hostel which tested my stomach to its limits once again.

The crawl along Riga’s ankle breaker cobbled streets was a little more organised this time and we stayed right until the very end. The bars were a little better this time around and actually had some music on. I couldn’t tell you where they were located within Riga old town, but one of them was set out like your nan’s front room. An interesting choice of interior!

The night culminated in myself and RD piling money into the jukebox back at the Kiwi bar whilst two random girls decided to lock lips in from of us. Good times!

Riga, Latvia

Sunday – Feeling like doom

Ah Sunday … Sunday was not good times. Sunday was the complete opposite of good times. Sunday was DOOM! I had considered myself to be in a reasonable state by the end of Saturday night, but maybe this was drunken foolishness on my part. Sunday I felt like death. I had the shakes and looked like Casper the friendly ghost’s pale fleshed cousin. It was not a good look. The plan when we originally booked our flight some months earlier, was to spend the Sunday riding a Bobsleigh. This was one of the many tours run by the hostel. As it turnt out, it was too warm for a jot of bobsleighing … that said, not sure i’d have made it the state I was in.

As a group we managed a wander around town, but due to not being able to crawl out of bed, we’d missed the organised walking tour put on by the hostel. Our own version of the walking tour was somewhat lacking in detail, we just looked at all the pretty buildings and park areas.  The freedom monument was particuarily impressive.

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Come Sunday evening, the other lads managed a curry and some more drinks before teaching the Kiwi bar staff the funky chicken dance to the tune of Wez Khalifa’s ‘Black and Yellow’ (you’d have to have been there, but it was in recognition of the bars amazing chicken wings), but I was done. In the mathematical workings of the So Solid Crew, 2 multipled by 10 + 1 Romeo Done!

Monday – Check out time

Monday morning I almost felt human again. We had a early flight so didn’t really have time to do anything. The weather mirrored how we felt I think.

We decided against the bus to the airport and got a cab. Without asking the cabby put the meter on which was nice. Normally I find I have to ask for this, and no I don’t trust cab drivers. With little or no trouble we were soon spending our last Lats on very large quantities of hot chocolate from Costa Coffee.


The cost of a weekend in Riga

• Return flights from London Luton to Riga: £65 each person from cheapflights.co.uk
• Car parking Friday to Monday at Luton Airport: £10 each between 4 (driver doesn’t pay, seems only fair)
• Transfers from Riga airport to Hostel: £1 on the bus
• 3 nights accommodation at the Naughty Squirrell hostel: £172 for a 5 bed dorm. Roughly £11.50 per person per night.
• Spending money: Took £200, came home with £25. Total spent £175. This was mainly spent on food and drink, lots of it. This was by no means a backpacker budget.
• Transfer back to Riga airport from the hostel: £3 (£15 in a cab between 5)
Total: £290 (roughly)