Getting around Riga
Once you have got your head around the slightly confusing system, getting from A to B on Riga’s public transport is fairly easy thanks to an extensive and inexpensive network of buses, trams and trolleybuses.
However, with parks covering nearly a fifth of the city, Riga is probably best explored on foot. Most of the attractions are within walking distance of each other, and the terrain is flat. Crossing the road can be an unnecessarily hurried affair. Pedestrians are given a tiny window to traverse busy roads.
If you’re not used to sharing the roads with trams, then exercise caution when driving and cycling in the city. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Riga’s motorists aren’t known for their patience and respect of other road users.
Rigas Satiksme (tel: 8000 1919, in Latvia only; www.rigassatiksme.lv) provides cheap and plentiful public transport in Riga. Some routes have a night service. Each mode of transport requires a separate ticket, which you can buy from the on-board conductor (konduktor) or online as an e-ticket.
Routes are displayed on the Riga City Map available from most city kiosks. Comfortable mikroautobusu (small buses on set routes) and taksobus (small buses/vans on varying routes) also operate. Suburban electric commuter trains run to several destinations including Skulte, Aizkraukle and Jelgava.
You can pay using reloadable e-ticket smartcards; the yellow version is the best option for visitors. A one-month bus pass and a one-month trolley pass are also available. Passes are sold at post offices and most city kiosks. The Riga Card gives visitors free use of trolleybuses, buses and trams.
You can hail taxis on the street or pre-book them by telephone. Riga Taksometru Parks (tel: +371 8383) and Riga Taxi (tel: 8000 1010, in Latvia only) are both reputable companies. Whenever possible, you should only use the official metered taxis, otherwise you might be vulnerable to extortion. When taking non-metered taxis, it is essential to agree on the fare in advance. A tip of 10% is generally expected and appreciated.
Riga has a reasonable network of well-maintained roads. However, driving in the city can be frightening, as other road users are generally aggressive and fast. Expect erratic driving or, even worse, locals who disregard Latvia's stringent drink-driving laws. Defensive driving, quick reactions and nerves of steel are essential.
Car parks that are open 24 hours are identifiable by the Autostavieta sign. There's a central car park at Pragas 2, opposite the bus station.
A valid national licence or International Driving Permit (non-EU visitors) and passport are required to hire a car in Riga. There is a minimum age of 21 years. This can be raised to 23 or 25 years, with two years minimum driving experience, depending on the hire company and car model. Third-party insurance is compulsory.
Riga's centre is fairly flat and easily navigable, though beware the often aggressive local drivers. Sixt Bicycle (http://www.sixtbicycle.lv/en/) offers bicycle hire in the capital.