Introduction

Since RyanAir started flying to Riga in November 2004, Riga has become a major destination for stag parties.  In the summer of 2006, the UK edition of FHM Magazine nominated Riga as the #1 stag party destination in Europe, since when the number of stag parties visiting the city has increased dramatically.

This situation has been met with some resistance by the locals, many of whom resent the regular influx of drunks who disrespect both the people and culture of the city.  This has led to a number of unfortunate incidents where stag party members have ended up in hospital as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As a result of reading such stories, many people are worried about coming to Riga.  But providing that people use a little common sense and respect, most people will find Riga to be an excellent location for a weekend away.  It is very rare indeed that there are reports of regular tourists - women, couples, familes, more mature people, etc. - ever encountering any problems during their stay in the city.  Some stags, however - even those who try their hardest to use their common sense and respect the local customs - have experienced problems from time to time. 

By following the rules below, however, the vast majority of visitors to the city  will have a safe and enjoyable trip.

General Safety

In summary, just abide by the rule of "if you wouldn't do it at home, don't do it in Riga".  If you are coming to Riga as part of a stag party, please don't forget to bring your brains with you - you'll need them.

Most of the stag party members who get into trouble do so only as a result of going into the wrong type of strip club.  This is very easily avoided.  Just don't go inside them.  See below for more information on strip clubs.

Girls in Riga are very pretty and usually friendly and open.  Just because she might smile at you, however, does not mean that she is interested in more. She could be in a club with her boyfriend and her boyfriend's friends. Local guys can get very jealous of rich foreigners hitting on their girls.  Look, but don't touch.

Be warned that, even if you are pleasant and respectful people, other less pleasant and respectful people have been here before you and so you will be judged according to the locals' experiences with them.  Any large groups who are drunk and loud are going to run the risk of being 'tarred with the same brush'.  Unfortunately you will have to prove that you are harmless and 'come in peace' - the people who you meet are not going to assume this from the outset.

Try to avoid drawing attention to yourself unnecessarily.  Matching T-shirts saying something like 'Brits on the P*** - Riga 2007', fancy dress, kilts, comedy hats, wigs, etc. are less likely to perceived as being a sign of your wit and originality, but rather more as a sign of disrespect to the city and its inhabitants and that you are going to behave in the same fashion as the other people wearing similar outfits who have been coming to Riga for the past three years.

Generally speaking Riga is no more dangerous than any other city in Europe.  But this doesn't make it any safer than any other city either.  Don't walk alone through any deserted spaces at night (such as underpasses or through the parks).  Again, just use your common sense.

Taxis

The majority of taxi drivers will try to rip you off.  In extreme cases, there have been (very rare) reports of drunk foreigners being taken off to deserted areas and assaulted.

This can be avoided by taking only "Red Cab" Taxis (the fleet of Red Ford S-max and White + Red roof S-max).  You can find these at the airport or outside the Hotels Radisson Latvija, Radisson Daugava, Radisson Elizabete, Radisson Rīdzene, Monika Centrum, Albert Hotel or Hotel Roma and Central Train station.  You can also call one to come and collect you +371 8383.
For groups up to 8 people mini vans available.
"Red Cab"  Wheelchair accessible mini vans (must be pre-ordered).
"Red Cab" accept credit cards.

 

Another reliable taxi company is "Smile taxi", who can be called on 22 330 330, most of them accept VIsa, Mastercard and Amex.

One more absolutely reliable in terms of tariffs with older fleet are "Avoiss"  255 44 555, always put meter on, but neither accept credit  cards nor speak any English. Even with these taxis, make sure that they have their meters turned on.

Accommodation

TripAdvisor covers virtually every hotel in Riga and rates them according to customer reviews.

Sightseeing

For those who are interested in seeing some of Riga's attractions rather than simply drinking themselves stupid in a bar, details of the highlights of what Riga has to offer can be found in the Attractions section.

Cafes

Wherever you are in Riga, you are never far from a branch of Double Coffee.  Like Starbucks only better, this is the place to go for a coffee, a beer or a simple meal.  Double Coffee is where most young women like to socialize, so the view is wonderful!

Restaurants

As in all major European cities, there is a wide variety of restaurants available in Riga so, no matter what style of food you're looking for, you are sure to find it.

For a full listing of all of the best restaurants in Riga, pick up a copy of Riga This Week or Riga In Your Pocket.  You can find these either in the arrivals hall at the airport, in your hotel room, or in one of many bars or cafes throughout the city.  If you can't find one, it's possible to buy a copy at any branch of Narvesen or Plus Punkt throughout the city.

If you are looking for a true Latvian dining experience, try one of the several outlets of the chain Lido throughout the city. Or, for the ultimate experience, take a trip out to 'Lidoland' on Krasta iela.

Budget on spending around Ls 7-12 (GBP 7-12) per head for a decent meal with a drink.

Bars

No visit to Riga is complete without a trip to the Skyline Bar on the 26th floor of the Hotel Latvija which looks out over the Old Town.  Aim to get there for sundown for the best experience.  The Sky Lounge at the Hotel Albert provides similar, if not quite so spectacular, views over the city in a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere than the Skyline at the Hotel Latvija.

English/Irish pubs for those wanting the same drinking experience as they can find at home

  • Paddy Whelan's
  • Dickens
  • Red Fred (which is halfway between a pub and a restaurant, but shows Sky Sports).  Smoking allowed upstairs

Belgian style bars:

  • Belgian Beer Cafe (one of the few bars that still allow smoking)
  • STARS pub (www.sportabars.lv - in Old Riga behind the St.Peters church)

Others (Ls1.50-2.00 (GBP1.50-2.00) for a pint in most of these places):

  • Cuba (Latin inspired )
  • Coyote Wild
  • Piekdiensts (Fridays) on the riverfront
  • B Bar on Dome Square (classy)
  • Lounge 8 is currently the place where the high-rolling locals and celebrities go to see and be seen
  • Melnais Kakis (Black Cat) on Livu Square is good if you fancy a game of pool or want somewhere to drink in the small hours of the morning as it is open 24 hours a day

Bars/Clubs

There are several places in Riga that are hard to categorize - smaller than a nightclub but more than a typical bar as they have DJ's playing and small dancefloors.  These are:

  • Light 
  • Velvets
  • Martini Bar
  • Casablanca
  • Pulkvedis
  • Karku Varti
  • Hedonia 55
  • Sarkans
  • Opium Dance
  • Depo (alternative music)
  • Pulse (alternative music)

Nightclubs

Entry to these clubs is usually around Ls5 - 7 (GBP 5 - 7):

  • Club Essential  is an Ibiz- style club, catering for the rich & cool crowd and regularly bringing in some of the biggest DJ's in the world. Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Gabriel & Dresden, Marcus Schulz, Deep Dish, Axwell, Dedmau5, Sander van Doorn, Mark Knight, Nic Fanciulli all have performed in this probably the only true superclub in Scandinavia & Baltics. Main floor plays mosty trance/progressive/electro/tech house house.
  • Quite expensive (Vodka RedBull - 7,5 lats, Beer 4 lats) but regular guests sometimes are sometimes awarded with free or discounted drinks, at the discretion of the barmen. Be aware that club has zero tolerance for use of illegal substances and according to Latvian legislation security has rights to search suspicious people and hold them until the police arrives. 
  • LaRocca -  Re-opened and completely reburbished in December 2008. They offer fine cuisine cafe, aseparate bar, a fully equipped pink gym, Studio 69  (an elite night club), as well as casino. Located in the former music theater next to Essential. Music is more commercial eletro house. It attracts the Russian speaking minority of the city, so you will see some eastern exotics.
  • Club Nautilus is a bit smaller and more intimate than Essential, popular amongst Russian and Latvian youth. Music is more on the house/soulful/commercial side.
  • Roxy - while being very central, this club is on the seedy side and attracts a shady clientele.
  • Voodoo - in the basement of the Hotel Reval Latvija is closed for renovation now.

Other Smaller Clubs

(More like Berlin-style parties; they play non-comerrcial electronic music - tech, deep house and techno. Frequented by arty, music councious mostly latvian speaking crowd. Not good for scoring, but great for getting to know people, as the crowd is more open minded and talkative.):

  • Dirty Deal Cafe
  • Space:Garage - fantastic location on the last floor of a building in the Old Town with big windows offering great view on the spires and roofs of the town from the dance floor
  • Meta Kafe

Strip Clubs

This is where stag party members need to be the most careful!

While walking through the Old Town in the evening, you are almost certainly going to be handed a flyer inviting you into a strip club with the offer of 'First Beer Free'.  Do not accept this offer! Politely decline the invitation and move right along. These are invitations to the clubs in Riga where you will almost certainly be handed a bill of several hundreds of pounds before you leave. If you can't pay, the security guards will escort you to the nearest ATM to withdraw the cash.  These guys do not take no for an answer.  Offer them resistance and they will get physical.  Don't think of going to the police - they aren't interested.

To avoid going into one of these places by mistake, avoid entering any bar where the windows are blacked out. They tend to favour a black colour scheme with red lettering. If the number of bouncers outnumbers the barstaff, this is another sign you are in the wrong place.

Currently, there is just one strip club which is not a complete rip-off joint: Jockey Club

Nightlife tours

There is some local companies in Riga, who orginises nightlife tours for stag parties.

  • Hansa Baltic Custom tailored nightlife tours of Riga for only 15Ls. Your female guide will take you on a pub crawl of the city’s best bars (including free admission to a striptease club and a nightclub). They also arrange paiintball, bobsleigh runs, go-carting, shooting with real guns and airport transfers.
  • Riga Out There Thursday - Saturday nights,  English-speaking guides will take you to Riga’s best bars and clubs. For 20Ls you will go to at least five destinations, each offering a free drink or admission (depending on the venue). Groups of 6 - 20. They also offer sightseeing tours as well as shooting, paintball and bobsleigh excursions.

Football and other team sports.

Professional natural grass Football pitch conforming the FIFA standards and other sport facilities available now for amateur plays in Daugava stadium (center of Riga).

Problems

If, despite following all of the advice above, you still end up having problems, here is what the British Embassy in Latvia advises you to do:

If you require consular assistance, or think you have been a victim of crime, you can contact the British Embassy +371 777 4700 during normal working hours, or the British Embassy Duty Officer on +371 2922 1804, at all other times. From within Latvia you can also call the Police on 112 or the newly established Tourist Helpline on 22 033 000 for assistance.

Summary

For sensible, intelligent people, Riga is a wonderful place for a weekend's excursion.  By following the simple rules above and not getting so completely blind drunk that you lose all of your powers of common sense, you should have a very pleasant and enjoyable time in this city. 

Members of stag parties really need to be on their very best behaviour as there have been very many instances of their coming to grief, despite their best attempts to avoid trouble.  If you haven't booked your stag trip to Riga yet, then you could very well be best advised to instead visit a more traditional stag party destination such as Prague, Krakow or Amsterdam.  If you have already booked, then it is worth considering employing the services of a professional nightlife guide to steer you clear of trouble.  Several options can be found by inputting 'riga stag' into any major search engine.