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Latvia is a very safe country to travel to, whether you're a solo woman, traveling with friends, as a family or a couple. There are a few things to know before you go, from petty crime to scams and stag party safety, here's what you need to know before you go to Latvia.
Tourists often make the easiest targets for would-be pick-pockets, especially during the busy summer months (June to September). Most thefts happen in Vecriga (Riga's Old Town), Dzelzcela Stacija (central train station), the Autoosta (central bus station) and Centraltirgus (central market). Those carrying backpacks make themselves more appealing to thieves and travelers who are not alert are easy targets.
Thieves may act alone, or work in groups to divert the attention.
Riga, being both the capital and most popular city, is the home to much of the tourist scam reports. Many of the reports revolve around pubs and clubs, and nightlife situations in general.
While travelers have reported a scam in which they are charged exorbitant prices for drinks or had their credit cards skimmed, these reports have declined. Ask your accommodation to recommend trustworthy bars and clubs, and when using a card to pay, make sure the transaction happens in front of you and be wary of requests for you to re-enter your PIN number.
Further suggestions for avoiding scams while out include asking drink prices in advance, paying for each round individually (so you're not smacked with a huge bill in the end) and avoiding using the ATMs in bars whenever possible.
Another scam is for bars and clubs to charge a cover to foreigners only upon entry. Check with your hotel or hostel in advance, and always watch locals as they enter to know if your money is required.
Some establishments that are considered shady for the above scams are Kapsula, Babylon and Sonali Pub to name a few. Clubs on Kalku lela and near the Freedom Monument have been pointed out as potential problem areas as well.
When doing an initial search for accommodation in Riga, you might find notes saying "no stag parties allowed". Riga is a popular place for groups of European men, especially British, for pre-wedding Buck's weekends out on the town, and as you can imagine, they get drunk and loud.
Besides being annoying to other travelers in the area, being in party mode puts you at risk of becoming a target for crime, and there have been reports of drunken tourists getting beaten up by locals.
Although not widely discussed as a major problem in Latvia for travelers, there have been reports of travelers getting drugged at bars and then robbed. It doesn't matter where you are: You should always watch your drinks being made and never leave a drink unattended.
Verbal harassment in Riga towards those of ethnic backgrounds has been reported but is on the decline as tourism has increased.
There is not a high level of tolerance towards LGBTQ+ travelers, a hangover from the communist era when homosexuality was not allowed. However, attitudes are changing, particularly since Latvia joined the EU and a senior politician came out as gay. Anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is illegal. As a LGBTQ+ traveler, you will be safe in Riga, but discretion is advised away from Riga's gay scene, more liberal nightclubs and in more rural areas.
Not only does Latvia have a high traffic accident rate, it also has a high car theft rate. If you're on a driving holiday, keep your doors locked and valuables out of sight when it is parked or unattended.
To report any crime, call the Riga tourism police on +317 67 181818 or the national police on 110.
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