Even in the very heart of Riga – in the Old Town – there are hostels offering cheap accommodation. Pricing is attractive: for example, a room with four beds not far from the Old Town will not exceed the price of 15 EUR per person. A room for two people with shower and WC costs 50 EUR. Three travellers can share a room in an Old Town hotel for 30 LVL per night. A double suite with a shared WC costs 24 LVL. ISIC card entitles to a 10% discount.
Usually hostels have Wi-Fi and free internet access, which means that you can share your Latvia adventures via Facebook and other profiles. Moreover, Latvian hostels and the Latvian Youth Hostel Association “Hostelling Latvia” are members of the Hostelling International organisation. Our hostels are covered by the international booking system hihostels.com, and Latvian tourists can obtain the Hostelling International membership card which ensues discounts. More than ten Latvian hostels are represented in the Hostelling Latvia association although their actual number is much higher.
If hotels and even hostels turn out unaffordable or insufficiently exciting, you can opt for the worldwide hospitality community hospitalityclub.org or couchsurfing.org, whose members should be contacted beforehand. Is it safe? – In the guest books of your potential hosts read the references and comments left there by their previous guests. To avoid disappointment and to prepare for your first meeting it is also recommended to study the profile of your future hosts and compare your interests and foreign language proficiency.
With your own tent
Another alternative is to travel with a tent and stay in one of the many Latvian camping sites on a beautiful seaside, which will cost you only a couple of lats. It is also possible to find a place at the seaside or by the lake for free, only remember to clean it afterwards. If a house is situated nearby, it means that this might be a private territory so it could be wise to make a deal with the owner for a symbolic pay. Don’t leave your things in a tent unattended, and by all means do not set up a tent in the city greenery as it is prohibited.
Travel for European funds
Various programs financed by the European Commission provide not only for studying in an informal setting but also for travelling on a minimum budget. The most popular and youth-oriented program is Youth in Action. Mind you, however, that in order to benefit from it you cannot be older than 25. When participating in a thematic youth exchange program in another European country you pay for only 30% of your travel expenses while the other 70% of travel costs plus accommodation, food and various activities for 1-2 weeks are covered by the project funding. Thus you can learn in an informal atmosphere, meet your contemporaries from all over Europe and spend some time in another milieu.
You have to follow the project’s agenda though and learn by participating in the activities. However, if you wish to stay a bit longer for a day or two and see more of the country on your own, the organisers usually won’t mind if your return is scheduled a couple of days after the event – the days which you can devote exclusively to yourself! More information: www.jaunatne.gov.lv; www.redngo.lv.
By bus, hitch-hiking or by bicycle
Latvian public transport holds a fairly decent level of standard and is affordable to young travellers too. A bus ride from Riga to Liepāja covering 225km will cost 5 LVL. The seaside resort city Jūrmala can be reached by train for less than 1 LVL. One ride on a tram, a trolleybus or a bus in the capital city costs 0,7 LVL although you can buy an e-ticket for several trips, which makes one ride slightly cheaper.
If you want to get farther away, try hitch-hiking. Of course, it is better to hitch-hike together – for girls in particular in any country it will always be safer to have some company when getting into a stranger’s car. Another word of advice is to prepare a visible poster with your destination place inscribed. If you are lucky, you can cover as much as 500 – 600 km in one day, passing through the entire country.
Alternatively, you can disregard all of it – buses, trains, unfamiliar car drivers – and rent a bicycle. For example, at the self-service rental point “BalticBike” located in the shopping mall “Origo” by the Central Railway Station.
Inexpensive eating out
Budget travellers all over the world are good at finding cheap and good places for eating out. In the Old Town this category is represented by the so-called pelmeņi (“filled dumplings”) and pancake eateries. There are many places in Riga where you can order a full lunch consisting of soup, main course and a non-alcoholic beverage for 2 LVL. Chinese cuisine, although cheap and popular in many other countries, for the time belongs to the high-end restaurants in Latvia. An exotic alternative is to visit the Krishnait restaurant in Riga (56 Barona Str.) where all food is vegetarian and where your stomach can be filled for less than 1 LVL.
During summers in particular, a variety of events take place in Latvia, many of which are for free. It is very likely that your stay will coincide with such events as the folklore festival, the nationwide Song and Dance Festival, the music festival “Positivus” in Salacgrīva or the country festival in Bauska.
What to see
Latvia’s advantage is the relatively inexpensive pastime. Whether it includes captivating nature objects, a picturesque scenery, an interesting museum, magnificent castles and manors, or unspoilt environment – it won’t cost you much, so it is only a matter of getting there. We suggest you shouldn’t confine your sightseeing to Riga and its Old Town historical centre – expand it at least as far as Pārdaugava whose wooden architecture is worth a visit. Kuldīga, Sigulda, Cēsis and other small Latvian towns are also a must-see. Go to the seaside to enjoy the sun and the waves, or explore the power of nature in one of the national parks.