Tuesday, August 14, 2012

10 Things For Tourists to Avoid in Riga, Latvia

Today we'll examine 10 things for a tourist not to do in Riga. I learned the hard way so you don't have to. Avoid the following list and your adventure to Riga will be less painful and less expensive.

1. Hail a Taxi


The worst thing you can do in Riga is hail a taxi on the side of the road. Especially if they are not from a reputable taxi company. As with many countries in eastern Europe, there are plenty of shady taxis roaming around, charging ridiculous rates to tourists. What you should do is call a reputable taxi company and have them send a taxi to your location! Currently, a few good choices are Lady Taxi, and Baltic Taxi.

2. Give Money to Beggars


This may sound cruel, but giving money to beggars in Riga just sets a bad precedent. The experience of trying to enjoy a tranquil Riga Old Town is quickly nullified by having beggars constantly haggle you for change. My suggestion? Give your spare change to the tasteful street performers instead. There are many talented street performers and they deserve your change more than a beggar. The best way to avoid beggars I've found is to not make eye contact and ignore them. If you need practice just watch the locals in Riga.. They are extremely skilled at ignoring other people and avoiding eye contact!

3. Talk to Strangers


Riga is simply not a friendly place. The locals do not like tourists, and they certainly do not start conversations with tourists. With this in mind, people who DO start conversations with you most likely are either scammers or beggars. If a pretty girl approaches you and wants you to visit her favorite bar, beware! It's a scam! If you see a strange person go out of their way to walk towards you, beware! It's probably a beggar. If you truly want to start conversations with strangers, at least wait a few days to acclimate yourself to Riga and Riga Old Town. If you're skilled enough in the verbal arts, perhaps you can even get the attention of the icy locals! Just don't say I didn't warn you about talking to strangers.

4. Smile and be Friendly


I learned very quickly that smiling and being friendly are not commonly accepted in Riga and Riga Old Town. Latvians and Russians are very serious people, and find friendliness stupid to the core (as they do western humor). Being friendly in Riga basically identifies you as a tourist, and somebody to be taken advantage of. The beggars and scammers immediately notice anyone with a friendly demeanor and select them as easy targets. After a few days in Riga I learned to act more serious than usual, and to only smile if the situation truly warranted it. Be especially wary of the working Russian population in Riga, who can be extremely icy and bitter. If you do manage to find friendly folks in Riga, then consider yourself lucky!

5. Visit Unknown Clubs or Bars


One great way to get scammed in Riga and Riga Old Town is to visit an unknown club or bar. There are a number of scams here revolving around attracting you to these shady establishments. This is done through pretty women or friendly people who convince you to go to an unknown bar. Once inside your "friends" will order cheap drinks that are actually priced at hundreds of euros! Guess who gets the bill at the end? If you try to escape the bar or club large mafia bouncers will block the exit. They will force you to pay for the bill, and even withdrawal money out of an on-site ATM if necessary! The worst part is, the police will not get involved! This is organized crime and the Latvian government turns a blind eye. The US Embassy in Riga has banned American citizens from going to many of these shady clubs and bars. Beware..

6. Engage in Sex Tourism or Prostitution


Nobody will deny that Latvia has a LOT of incredibly beautiful women. Although Riga has been known as a popular sex tourism destination, this is no longer the case. Prostitution has been cracked down on big time and has been nearly wiped out. Although prostitution is technically legal in Latvia, the many restrictions effectively nullify it. What is far more prevalent are scams based around prostitution. Online prostitution sites are full of phony profiles and fake pictures. Latvia is simply not a good choice for sex tourism. Additionally Latvian people are not friendly, so your chances of meeting women in a club or bar are less than that of a friendlier country. Overall, unless you are an astute local or expert pick-up artist, I would not recommend engaging in sex tourism in Riga. The Netherlands and Germany are far better choices.

7. Walk Around Late at Night


Like in many cities, I would not recommend walking around late at night in Riga. Even the touristy Riga Old Town gets shady later into the evening. There are more scams and crime around. Remember that the police do not like to get involved, so you may find yourself out of luck if something nasty happens to you. Latvia is still a relatively poor country, so muggers and pick-pockets are about. Stag parties are also popular in Riga, so you may run into drunk and rowdy groups of young males from western Europe. You will notice in Old Town that the tourists thin out in the evening, and the shadier characters begin coming out. Use your common sense and do not walk down any dark alleys without people. Stick around the masses for safety.

8. Make Yourself an Obvious Target


While touring Riga and Riga Old Town, do not make yourself an obvious target tourist.. Try to dress in plain colors and avoid any extravagant jewelry or hats. Also be wary when carrying around expensive items (tablets, laptops, cameras). I have noticed that beggars and scammers target those who look like they have money. It's common sense but I've seen many tourists just making themselves obvious targets. Walking around while looking at a large map is also a great way to make yourself a target. As I said in a previous point do not smile excessively or make eye contact with strangers. Walk around with a brisker pace and look like you have a destination. Wandering around leisurely is another great way to make yourself a target. Obviously you won't be able to avoid all of these actions, but in a crowded area it would be wise to follow these rules. Remember the scammers and beggars are watching you..

9. Small Talk with Russians and Latvians


One thing I quickly learned in Latvia is that the locals hate small talk. They are extremely direct and find it very strange when you try to make small talk. I've had many awkward experiences trying to start a conversation with locals in Riga and Riga Old Town. Russians in particular seem to find your small talk incredibly stupid, and they will roll their eyes or get irritated before walking away. When visiting a restaurant, cafe, or bar, be extremely direct with the servers. They will only get confused and angry if you try to ask how their day is, or how often it rains in Riga, etc.. If a Latvian or Russian happens to be friendly with you (and doesn't appear to be scamming you), then by all means have a nice conversation with them. However, you will find this is extremely rare.

10. Ask the Locals for Help


This is similar to the last topic. Russians and Latvians are not friendly, and do not want to help you with your tourist questions. I have found that even when they know the answer to the question (something incredibly obvious), that they will still pretend they don't know the answer. I asked 5 locals the difference between a tram and a trolleybus in Latvia. Only one answered my question. The other four pretended that they didn't know the answer! Hilarious! They all spoke English as well! I think that the locals are too lazy to answer your questions, or perhaps just hate tourists and don't wish to help. Honestly, the best way to get help is to ask another tourist! Or use the internet!

11. Use a Credit Card or Bank Card


10 things? Nope, sorry I can't count. Now it's 11. How could I forget this one! This is a common sense tip to follow when visiting eastern Europe. DON'T use your credit cards or bank cards. ONLY use them to pull money out of reputable ATMs. Find the ATMs inside of banks or in a very public area, and be wary of your surroundings. Using a credit card or bank card anywhere else puts you at risk. In a best case scam your card number and details will be stolen, and later on you will find unknown credit charges on your bill. As long as you notice within a reasonable amount of time, the credit card company will credit you and change your card number. Worse case scam, your bank card details AND pin number will be stolen, and criminals will empty your bank account using a cloned card! The bank will probably say "tough luck" if this happens and your money will be gone! Be careful! Eastern Europe is renowned for credit card scams and your best option is to use cash everywhere.

This concludes the article about 10 things for a tourist not to do in Riga. I hope it has been educational, and that you will have a safe and enjoyable trip!

45 comments:

  1. You have clearly had very negative experiences in Riga. Having previously visited the Baltics I understand what you mean about people not being overly friendly and to the point. However, they do have many qualities and if you are sensible it is possible to have a great time and enjoy yourself. I am due to visit Riga in the next few days so will be able to comment myself on my return but reading reviews on the net visitors either seem to have an amazing time or a terrible time, which seems to relate to getting ripped off/robbed/beaten etc...I would suspect though that a lot of those people go to somewhere like Riga acting like a dick and deserve exactly what they get. For example, as a well travelled individual i would never ever even consider using anything but cash in any bar/restaraunt/cafe in a foreign country, anyone who hands over their bank card in these types of environment must be totally and utterly naive. I understand the content of your article is to warn people of the pitfalls of Riga but from other people i've spoken to i don't feel it provides a very balanced view.

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    1. Thats reality, I also faced these problems. But i was already informed about these situation.

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    2. Interesting... I never had these issues.. The only thing I found odd was Russians and Latvians don't really congregate. They tend to stay amongst themselves..

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  2. update: Been and come back. Had an amazing time. People in general were lovely, friendly, helpful and polite. The hype of muggings and scammings is OTT in the extreme. If it happens to you, you deserve it. It's easy to stay away from that scene and did not feel unsafe at any point. We walked around the streets in the early hours all weekend and never had any type of incident. Riga, I won't forget you!

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    1. Update from another recent traveler. I was there May 2014 and I got robbed and beaten the first night I arrived. I had to be airlifted to Germany for medical treatment. Once i awoke in the German hospital I found that my bank card was missing in Riga and that my bank account was drained dry and all my savings was gone.

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  3. Thanks for your wonderful article. No matter what the experience of some individual is it is always better to hear the very negative thing first because it makes aware of the real world. I had many many great time in Lithuanian and many places but I will never put down what you have written. I encourage all people to read your article and be sensible. If some one had a great time consider yourself lucky because that may not be the case always. I am young and have very very good looks. The eastern EU women like light dark skin people like me. Yet I can tell you that all my Good experiences were or are because I am too young too good looking and know how to get what I want. But I again I personally thank you for your article and every body who has read it keep what this person says like though it was your own experience. A person may have one 100 good experiences but it takes on bade one to end your life or put you in a hospital bad with a HIV or a broken bank account. Million thanks for your article. www.pashtunistan.net

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  4. I am from holland and lived., studies and partied half a year in the very centre, Old Town of Riga. The guy who wrote this is just an idiot, and a very very big one. I have seen some things happening on the streets in old town, but its just the usual stuff as it happens in other cities (small fights outside of a club between young guys, thats al). Riga is an amazing city and incredibly open and friendly to tourism. Only thing true in this article is the thing with the taxi's, there are indeed some locals pretending to be a cab and ask you for a double or tripple price. Concluding: anynody with sense and the possibilty to think logically will be totally fine and safe in Riga.

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    1. I have been for a few days in riga and kiev its true that some of this people are rude and cold,but not all of them, you can meet there people wich are kind and friendly. look at the the women, simply real beauty

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    2. hee Jonathan. Wij gaan met vrienden binnenkort er naartoe. Zou je mij wat tips en aanbevelingen kunnen doen over bars/clubs. En ook op welke plaatsen je juist niet moet komen. Wacht graag op reactie

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    3. hee Jonathan. Wij gaan met vrienden binnenkort er naartoe. Zou je mij wat tips en aanbevelingen kunnen doen over bars/clubs. En ook op welke plaatsen je juist niet moet komen. Wacht graag op reactie

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  5. Some comments are valid. I do think you need to be particularly alert in a Riga, particularly out of season.

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  6. Read my latest blog post and you will see what happens if you get too drunk in Riga... people WILL take advantage!

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  7. Wow, it looks like you could get in all possible troubles! We just came back from Riga frew days ago. We were a group of 12 and none of us got in any of those you mentioned! We had a 2 great nights out (the first night we book a pub crawl tour, next night went on our own), on Saturday went on a jeep tour with Riga Off Road team and went to the shooting range. Excellent service, friendly people, great value! Definitely will recommend Riga to all of my friends.

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    1. That's great Mark. I'm sure with a larger group it's a lot safer. Lone people tend to get targeted for sure. Glad you had a good time!

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    2. Hi Mark, Could you tell me which bars/clubs are good and which one we have to avoid. We are going with a group of 9. I am waiting for your reply

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  8. We are going to Riga in 4 days. Mark, can you tell which company you used for pub crawl tour? We found Red Fox tours, they have a good offer, but no available guides friday and we dont want to do on saturday (have made already other plans). what about the stip clubs? any suggestions?

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    1. Use Panda Taxi... definitely the cheapest available one bar none.. Service always on time and easily recognizable... Cheapest one without a shadow of a doubt. There's a Damn Panda on the hood.... Yeah... I'm Latvian btw... Went back to LV for the first time and 4 years for two weeks and it's a great party as always. This article must have been written by a no tact, no common sense, health and safety obsessed person who's saved up on his benefits, taken a trip for the first time in life and got introduced to the world outside the sofa watching football (or soccer - just to mess with you) after finally putting the beer can down... or the other option - a yob who's trying to tick his ''foreign asbo list'', acted like a numbskull and got put in place very quickly. Latvia is one of those places where arrogance and overconfidence will attract people who are not afraid of your bull... :) Otherwise be cool, have fun and don't pee on the national monument... you will be fine.

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  9. Hey! Riga is a great choice and I hope you will enjoy it as we did! No, we booked the tour here (www. rigapubcrawl. com). Company called Riga Pub Crawl. Definitely worth 20 eur we paid. Cheers!

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  10. hi might, if you wana good strip clubs? try the jokey club near radisson blue hotel and the strp bar of the x dream hotel, avoid other clubs.

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  11. If you want a cab this is a must visit blog for you!!
    taxi in tunbridge wells

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  12. Not a nice place..cold closed people..poor country..girls looking only for money..strange strip bars..they dont like foreigners..pissed up on whole world..spend u re money somewhere else

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  13. I do not agree with all what are mentioned as I'm travelling frequently to Latvia for 4 years and saw nothing from that bad things . Yes Latvians are straight and serious and not want to waist time on useless things. Live in Latvia is not so easy and many peoples are suffering, so if they be little hard I forgive them especially if you know they occupied by most dangerous occupier.

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  14. Just been watching a bbc documentry about an undercover bbc worker approaching sex worker girls in Latvia. The outcome very sad. Most of them are trafficed or doing it because of poverty and British tourists beating and abusing them. Must stop you British guys. Please don't hurt the poor girls. One girl was crying in the documentary as she was young and beautiful but beaten nose broken suffering from hepatitis and said she only has a year left to live. Horrible as many of her clients were British beating and abusing her. Just think she is still a human not an object. I wish to God God IF ONLY I CAN HELP HER. ALSO DONATE TO POVERTY STRIKEN CHILDREN IN LATVIA PLEASE. I WILL BE. THERE IS A WEBSITE ON THIS JUST GOOGLE IT. HELP HELP HUMANITY IN NEED. NOT EVIL ON IT PLEASE. THANKYOU.

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  15. Faz maymun you are talking nonsense its latvian and east european gangs that exploit their own people and send them to germany , uk etc to be sold as sex slaves , i have not been to riga for a few years but there was a lot of scams around but if you stay alert and are sensible you can have a safe trip there.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this information. I want to visit Riga at this summer.

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  17. hello i have a friend that lived in my country for a period of time, we have a good comunication after 2 years being away, i will visit his country this year, i would like to know how is this country regarding to the LatinAmerican People ....regards! she is amazing and gives me good impression of her country :)

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    1. Latvians are in general very open to all colors and races. We don't have many living there so we're not very stereo-typically challenged. We've got enough beef between latvians and russians (not so bad nowadays, i guess). Do be weary of large skinhead groups wearing adiddas or nike's (fake one's of course). But then again you shouldn't hang out in the projects anyways. Latin American people are a bit more exotic from our point of view. Behave well - don't act like you're better and you'll have a great time. Brake those two rules and well... let's just say our police officers will not be calling you ''sir'' and they're much better equipped than the uk police ;)

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  18. I will be visiting Riga for the first time soon. I would say it is the same all over the world. In Riga its the general consensus to avoid all strip clubs but erotic massage is very good in Riga.

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  19. So we arrived yesterday. Didn't do much yet. We did find a nice rock cafe though. But we were tired from traveling, so we left before 8p.m. We accidentlt took a baltictaxi. So that was good, but now i know we need to call one. The 3 of us allready decided that we allways take a taxi home to the ghetto where we stay. It's nice to read an article like this, before exploring the city. Besides the fact that i got ripped off in a stripclub in warsaw last week i'm actually a very cautious person, but i never drink wodka again. That's for sure. ;) I will get back on this next week. René from Holland

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  20. Thanks for advices what to avoid in Latvia. I'm just going to travel to Latvia and I try to visit Riga and other cities. There are any cultural tours in Latvia ?

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  21. Thanks for all . I will be visiting in december and celebrate newyear in Riga. All over the world it is same. Dont afraid just enjoy your life ��

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  22. efore exploring the city. Besides the fact that i got ripped off in a stripclub in warsaw last week i'm actually a very cautious person, but i never drink wodka again. That's for sure. ;) I will get back on this next week. René from Holland
    www.erotisknovelle.no sexnovelle erotisk novelle
    Reply

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  23. Riga is extremely friendly town when you are not friendly  A half of this article is true, however you need to switch on your common sence! If you walking at night with a camera with 0,5 metre lens off course there is a big chance you will be robed specially if you wearing white socks with sandals and you about 50 years old with American flag t-shirt. You woudnt do that at your city or Detroit or at any other city in the world. There is no Russians or Latvians in Latvia, there are all Latvians, but by origin they can be Latvian, latgalian, polish, Russian, Ukrainian or German, same is in Britain you can be Scottish, Welsh, Indian, Pakistani, Nigerian and etc. However, only differences in Latvia between origin groups are political parties, that’s the source of trouble & conflicts. First of all Riga, its not famous for its architecture like Prague, Budapest or Paris, its not about business centres like in New York. Riga its all about nothing. Its economical centre of the country, you will not see anything mind blowing over here, its 2 days trip in old town, 2 squares, 3 big abbies, that all. True Latvia, starts from the border of Riga, beyond its boundaries, 75 % covered by forest, nature, eco systems, rivers, calm and peaceful place. Latvia its about 25 years old, can you imagine that? It was motorway between dominating countries, they build and left amazing Swedish castles, German castles, Russian Palaces, Polish-Lithuanian churches amazing and bizzare places and all of it in 1 country. Is in amazing? There is no queues! Total population about less that 2 million, there is no blacks or muslims (nothing personal its conservative nation), 99% are white Europeans, there is 0,1% of terror attack because nobody knows were is Latvia and which bus goes there! Go to Sigulda, Mitau, Kuldiga, Ventspils & Liepaja and you will see the beauty of nature, people are friendly there because they don’t live in Riga they are calm they are not busy they are chill out. Actually Riga good for sport tourism, yes for such small country, its good international and European top competitions so if in sports Riga would be best place to go. Latvia sometimes remind me banana republic, people can live in the council estate but drive BMW X5, that normal over here. A car for a Latvian man is a temple! Women are fit because they are afraid to not be married & generaly there is more women than men in Latvia, they don’t have another choice than to not look good, otherwise no future. Latvia is not Western country, therefore its got different values, they might going to have empty living room but everything will be inside them, rathen than British who have everthing in its living room but emty inside. People are not smiling at you because they not fake or silly dummies, they only smile to who they like, attracted or love. In Latvia randomly people will not do this pointless effort just because you came from abroad. Latvians will be honest, they will not have a small chat if they don’t like you, you will feel it, that they are not bothered. Its straight forward nation in best tradition of North / East Europe take it or leave it. Customer service is complete SH***T ! thanx to komunizm customer service is bad than even bad become all right. 1 rule in Latvia customers are never right, it’s the seller who always right) so if you in the restaurant and usually in London you was complaining about the food to get a discount or not pay the bill, in Latvia for your own health & safety reasons please do not do it.

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  24. Hi,
    Luckily, I have the post on prevailing different kinds of scams happening across the world.

    My brother is about to travel, France, Spain and Belgium and I am going to share this piece of information.

    Meanwhile, I have also started with a travel blog.
    www.socialchaal.com

    Hope you like it

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  25. This writer just had bad experience

    1. No true
    2. True
    3. True
    4. Not true
    5. No Knowledge
    6. No Knowledge
    7. Partially true, this is controlled now
    8. Not true anymore at least not in center or old town
    9. True
    10. Not True

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  26. Hello every one, some small parts of this article is true, in Riga even locals are carefull, i my self dont like being in center of Riga at all, its just to many people for me. I will tell you one thing across the river there is shoping center "OLIMPIA" there is grocery shop in wich i work, we have many torists wisiting and also a uneversity next door with many students that are from other countrys, i like talking to them and with torists to i like to hear what they have to say about my country and they own coutrys, i also like to help them with directions, and other stuf, so if anyone comes visit Latvia, please come visit me too :-D my name is Mārcis, and i usualy work in selfserving checkouts at that mall. Have a nice day, and sorry for my bad english, here is a potato ¤ (sorry its a habit)

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  27. Okay so . I'm Latvian. I've lived in Riga for my whole life my whole sixteen years . AND if you are. a tourist here I swear to God nothing from this all could happen to you ,this person just had a bad experience OR is just being a very bitchy person ya know. Yes Latvians arent always smiling but they are friendly and helpful. And I honestly love making conversations and meeting people from different countries when I am walking around the old Riga sometimes after school with some friends. You have to remember that the teens and elders act differently so usually when you meet anyone whos 16-30 they will be very nice and friendly with you . This post pisses me off because so much scam doesnt happen over here and usually the Russian people are the ones that could steal shit from you but not the decent Russians but the ones that wear adidas and drink 24/7 ....

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  28. Been to Riga more than 50 times and the only scam that happend to me was the police, beware if they catch you when youre drunk they will take your money.

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  29. One of the worst people on the earth and that's true fake people will do anything for money

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  30. I'm guessing this guy has a an accent from the USA.

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  31. Gosh all of this negativity! I live in Riga and most of these things are not true.It might
    Not be as safe as America (although we have an 90 percent chance of a terror attack happening.As in any city you have to be careful this is not some safe space.There are almost no fake taxis and as of now the best taxis are Red cab and Baltic taxi and Panda and if you want to get them from your phone use taxify.I would recommend for tourist to stick near the center as it is safer and there are so many great things to see.People are friendly here I have had some foreign friends visit and they have all said the locals are friendly.Our country is not as rich as many other Western European countries but most of our people are educated and have decent money and we recently joined the rich countries list.I do not understand why you write in such a negative way and every situation you talk about sounds like you are being targeted and that we are not used to tourists.I understand that people leech onto your article if it is negative but I think you are WAY too negative.Maybe you should have wrote the positives too?;)

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  32. This is wayyyy too on point. I am a nice person, not too good looking, indian fella. I am in Riga for my studies. Whatever this guy said I can vouch for everything. But the thing about latvians being rude doesn't apply to all of them. But when it happens, it is obvious and kinda hurtful. Riga is beautiful though ❤️ Till you're not alone.

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    1. Well that's because nobody likes indians, like im not trying to be rude, but even as a foreign student here i can say that most of the people dont like indians, even the foreign students don't like indians. Maybe you're the best dude in the world,i dont know you, but most of the indians are rude with no manners. Walking and talking among yourselves and thinking you're better than everyone, its just that the students who come here from India are spoiled brats who come here to waste their parents money and not to study. So your fellow Indians are the ones to blame for your troubles)

      Regarding Riga, I've been in a lot of places, Riga is one of the safest places i know. like nothing happens here...
      Of course if you're drunk and provoking the people you'll get beaten. UK tourists are the worst.. people don't like them here cause they get drunk and do stupid shit.
      Riga is not a place for party hard style vacation if you dont have local friends, everyone is sick of tourists coming here and thinking they can do whatever they want. Just have culture, and treat people respectfully and you wont have a problem.

      For taxi use taxify app with credit card in the app, no need to pay in cab. Enter destination address and that's it you don't even have to talk to the driver.

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