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Getting around Riga

Public transport

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.

Taxis

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.

Driving

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.

Car hire

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.

Major providers include Avis (tel: +371 6722 5876; www.avis.lv) and Hertz (tel: +371 6722 4223; www.hertz.lv).

Bicycle hire

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.

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Dodo Hotel

Latvia’s answer to the Premier Inn, Dodo is the flagship property for a new chain of budget hotels. What the 100+ spacious rooms lack in individuality they more than make up for in comfort and value for money, making this a good choice for budget travellers. The breakfast buffet costs extra, and the hotel is about a 15-minute walk into town. Even so, this is one of the better value hotels in Riga.

KB Hotel

Located in a beautiful art nouveau building, the KB is a no-frills hotel ideal for budget travellers. The décor is a bit tired, but the room rates are cheap. Regular trams to the city centre stop right outside the hotel, although the walk is no more than 15 minutes. Situated in the UNESCO-listed art nouveau district, there’s just one catch – the hotel is on the top floor and the lift doesn’t work.

Hestia Hotel Jugend

The latest offering from this rapidly growing hotel chain offers state-of-the-art rooms with high-speed internet access, albeit a lack of soul. The location is handy, just on the edge of Old Town and within walking distance of most of the main points of interest.

Grand Palace

Regarded by many as the finest hotel in Riga, the Grand Palace is a supremely enjoyable place to stay. It manages to conjure up an old world feeling of luxury and decadence while also staying ahead of the game with Wi-Fi now available in all guest rooms. Slick service, a sauna and gym help complete the impressive picture of perhaps the best hotel in the country. First class.

Hotel Bergs

When it first opened it was ranked by Condé Nast as one of the world's best boutique hotels. This slick operation in the new town is indeed impressive, both in terms of the designer décor and the seamlessly smooth service. It’s easy to see why this Riga hotel has won so many awards. Still one of the most fashionable places to stay in the Latvian capital, Hotel Bergs also has an excellent restaurant on site.

Radisson SAS Daugava

The free airport transfer helps make up for the location on the opposite bank of the River Daugava from almost everything you will want to see and do. The views of the Old Town are superb across the water. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available for all guests.