Regular readers of our blog will know our goal is to visit every country in the world, one weekend at a time. However, that could be prohibitively expensive so we’ve learnt to master the art of (almost) free travel, thrifty tourism and Budget Weekend Breaks.
To test our skills we put together a guide to conquering Latvia on a budget and it was so affordable and exciting we booked the flights and tested it out:
If you haven’t already done so, start by reading our guide to booking cheap flights through Ryanair and other budget airlines which can be found here. Riga Airport is serviced by 14 different Ryanair flights alone with other budget airlines flying into Riga as well as an additional 30 flight routes into Vilnius, Kaunas, and Tallinn which are a cheap bus ride away. If you book it right you should be able to get flights to Riga in the autumn and Easter for under £40 return per person.
Hotels are very good value for money in Riga. 4* hotels are widely available starting at £30 per night. For this you should be able to book a double or twin room including wifi and breakfast for £30-£35 per night. Food in Latvia is basic fare (mainly meat and potatoes) but well-cooked and tasty, so hotel breakfast spreads are usually fairly lavish and should fill you up for the day ahead.
We’d recommend booking your room through Hotels.com and creating an account in order to get a free night’s stay for every ten hotel nights booked. We chose the Hotel Islande which is across the river from the old town and has a rooftop terrace bar offering one of the best views in the city. The Islande is a solid 4 stars and can be booked for £30 per night.
Our rather silly review of the room is available here: https://www.facebook.com/TheWorldInAWeekend/videos/909461182474298/
Other quick tips to an (almost) Free Holiday to Latvia:
The Baltic countries all have a very good and very cheap public transport services, especially buses making travelling around the country very affordable. Don’t be shy about adventuring out of the capital cities and viewing what the rest of the country has to offer.
Day 1: A Holiday in Riga for Free
Riga is a beautiful medieval city separated by the Daugava River. The old town of the city is a perfectly preserved old medieval town with thin cobbled streets, old churches, imperious cathedrals and is littered with small cafes and bistros selling fine local beers and mysterious liqueurs.
Exploring Riga starts in the Old Town where little alleyways will lead you on mini adventures. When you are ready to move on, head towards the river and St Peters Church from where you should be able to locate the Museum of the Occupation.
The museum is free and is a very moving and sometimes shocking account of the hardships and atrocities faced by the Latvian and Baltic people during the occupations under the Soviets, Nazis and Soviets again from 1941 to 1991. The museum left such an impression, that we’ll be writing a separate post about it later.
After the museum head along the river to the Riga Market. The Market is a huge covered dome that sells everything and anything you might need if you are self-catering or living in Riga. It’s a great place to meet locals and get an insight into how the locals live.
The market will most likely make you feel a little famished by now (although hopefully the breakfast buffet kept you going so far) so head back into the old town to the Lido. Lidos are restaurants aimed for the locals and as such are very good value for money. Despite a canteen style servery you’ll be able to get large plates of salad for €4, Steaks starting at €5 and a large, healthy three course meal complete with desserts and drink for under €20 (£12.50). The Lidos are another great insight into how Latvian locals live.
To walk off diner, make sure you take a walk around the Riga Canal. To defend itself, Latvians built a large moat around the city’s old town. The moat has now become more of a canal with parks and walkways either side making this a very romantic and relaxing walk in the evening.
Halfway round you’ll find the Freedom Monument, one of the iconic images of Riga and Latvia. If you want to spend a little more, midnight kayak tours are available from €25 and come highly recommended.
As the canal reaches the river, we would recommend one more thing to do. Head across the bridge to the Hotel Islande and watch the sunset from the Hotel’s roof terrace at sunset. Enjoy the best view over reasonably priced cocktails and then get some rest form tomorrow’s long day.
All in all, Riga is a wonderful city where you can have a great, informative and special trip! An (almost) free holiday!
…Part 2 coming soon.
Last modified: 21st March 2016
Great advice and so true now with Ryanair, it’s so easy to reach and good value. It’s a really pretty city and once you’ve been here, you then want to complete the trio (Vilnius and Tallinn)!
We did Tallinn (and will post) but haven’t been to Vilnius yet – any suggestions for what to see/do there?
Your pictures are amazing! Thanks for the good tips, my friends have been to Riga Market and can’t stop talking about it. Good post! 🙂
Great information! We started getting into loyalty programs for hotels and airlines last year and are now addicted. Went to San Antonio for 4 days for free and now we are hooked! We love reading other posts for new ideas on how to travel for cheap or free!
As Riga is my second home, I wouldn’t say Ryanair is the cheapest 🙁 They used to be until the Latvian government hiked up the landing taxes etc. 🙁 I would say WizzAir is the cheapest to fly with from western Europe but like you said, if traveling by road from Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Finland, its cheaper by bus or other means. The flights are so expensive these days 🙁
Looking forward to part 2. Shame the Dome Cathedral is going under repairs (as seen in your photo) at the moment. I can’t wait to go ‘home’ next month and celebrate new year there. 🙂 Also one more thing, you are kinda right about the food but the resturants, types of food/meals on offer, chefs located there etc is getting so much better and we are like our neighbours across the water…stockholm. In a year or two Latvia and Sweden will be the top eating spots in Europe. Just gotta find the places 😉
Hey! This is fantastic! I’m going to Riga next weekend and I am soooooo excited – and more importantly on a very tight budget so this is gold 😀
Coming from Singapore, this might be a slightly more expensive holiday ^^ But Latvia looks amazing – I am hoping to finally start seeing some of Eastern Europe in late 2016-early 2017. So keep these posts coming!