Travel safety - Staying safe in Riga, Latvia

Check your purses, tap your wallets and don't take drinks from strangers. Latvia has a reputation for crime and scams targeted to the foreigner.

 Don't take it personally; these issues are so prevalent that they are bound to touch on all types of tourists if the timing is right.

(Apparently they're delicious!)

Pick-pocketing: Who, When, Where

Tourists often make the easiest targets for would-be pick-pockets, so foreigners in Latvia are like walking bullseyes, especially during the busy summer months.

Those carrying backpacks not only make themselves more appealing to thieves, but they also make it easier if the person is poorly alert.

Thieves may act alone, or work in groups to divert the attention.

Some of the most notorious locations for this crime are Vecriga (Riga's Old Town), Dzelzcela Stacija (central train station), the Autoosta (central bus station) and Centraltirgus (central market).

Scams: What to Look for and Avoid

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.

Avoid the beautiful girl inviting you for a drink

Many travelers on a popular travel forum warn against the scam that comes when being lured into a bar or pub by a pretty lady. Once inside, patrons are usually charged outrageous prices for drinks or taken advantage of in other ways, such as getting debit and credit cards skimmed when they have to get more money to pay for the inflated drink prices.

Check beforehand if cover charges are normal

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.

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.

Avoid becoming a stag-party statistic

When doing an initial search for hostels in Riga, one might be quickly reading notes of "no stag parties" allowed. Riga is a quite popular place for European groups of men, especially British, to travel to when seeking a men's night out on the town, and as you can imagine, they get drunk and loud.

Besides being annoying to normal travelers in the area, having a party focus puts you at risk of becoming a target for the above crimes. One traveller online also mentions seeing drunken tourists getting beat up by locals.

Don't accept drinks from strangers

Although not widely discussed as a major problem in Latvia for tourists, 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.

(Especially if they're a shade of green that does not appear in nature - what is that!)

Prejudice and racism could be an issue

Verbal harassment in Riga towards those of ethnic backgrounds has been reported. One traveler online notes this sort of abuse has lessened in recent years, while another says he was repeatedly told to go back to where he came from while out in Riga in 2009. The same sort of abuse can be expected towards homosexual travelers.

Be aware of the car theft rates in Latvia

Not only does Latvia have a high traffic accident rate, they also have a high car theft rate. If you're on a driving holiday, do keep your cars locked and valuables out of sight (or just out of the car!) when left unattended.

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11 Comments

  • Matthew said

    In addition to bar scams there are Russian Language scams. Russian Language School of Baltic International Academy is a scam. I paid for intensive classes and after I paid, they couldn't hold them and wouldn't refund my money. They give free classes to locals and those are the only good reviews for that school. Don't go there unless you like giving your money away and getting nothing in return.

  • Alan said

    I went to Latvia in 2008, and we were targeted all over Riga. I was one of 6 out of a group of over 40 that didn't get scammed.

  • Roy said

    Just came back from a Stag weekend in Riga and none of us got scammed, only met lovley people and had a great time. I guess you have to keep you wits about you but we never at anytime felt under any threat.

  • Cam said

    We are niow at Riga and my husband's wallet was stolen this afternoon.Some ppl(SOME!) came to open my husband's backbag and steal the wallet inside in less than one minute when my husband was picking up the luggage from bus. My husband ran to catch one of the thefts and found nothing, we are so sure they have a group to do this when ppl pick up luggages after getting off the bus in central bus terminal. When we came back from police station, we found a woman trying to steal something from me and my bag was openned when we going up from a tunnel. Lucky that we had noticed and she ran away. This is our second time to be in Riga and last one was a perfect trip at last year. We have no idea why everything changed here and we will not come back again.

  • Kuss said

    This comes as a first result for googling "Travel safety Latvia" and it paints a very negative picture of the country. The article is right about the "drink scam" so if you're a single male, don't be naive and don't follow beautiful girls into shady bars. There are "professionals" which specialize on sex- and attention-craving middle aged men. If what she says or promises sounds too good to be true - it probably is. I can tell you a secret - most Latvian women are not interested in foreigners. If you want to get to know a Latvian women (which are beautiful indeed) try to be genuinely interested and respectful. Also be a bit more aware than in your own country when carrying bags with valuables, hold them where you see them, especially around Central Train station and Central market. Groups of Roma women are known to commit thefts and can also become aggressive when caught. Avoid Maskachka (Moscow) District at night (it's an area east to Central Market). It doesn't have a good reputation but many hotels and hostels are there because it is cheaper and foreigners are not aware of its "fame". If you need to get to hotel there at night it is better to take a taxi than walk although it is quite close to the center. Other than that - you're welcome. We have more than 3 million tourists every year and 99% of visits are trouble - free.

  • 2017 said

    Latvians are very, nice people. Avoid there living Russians- Russians every where are scams.
    But I liked there a lot. Nothing bad happen to any of us- only pleasant stay.

  • Harri Jenk said

    Riga must be avoided at all costs. I left Rock Cafe in Riga Old Town at 2am to go back to the apartment on Saturday night and work up in the hospital with my face black and blue. I also had my phone and wallet robbed. I'm from London where walking around is safe, not in Riga. It's a very dangerous place unless you're only planning on going out during the day.

  • Derek Keogh said

    Riga is very unsafe and dangerous city.
    Russian gangs will rip your head off.
    In Riga there is about 70% Russians and %30 Latvians.
    Latvians are good people. Russians are very bad. They are the scammers and robbers.

    Riga has the highest kidnap rates in whole Europe combined.
    Russian gangs usually kidnap American tourists and cut out human organs and ship to Russia and UK.
    There is high demand for organs in black market.

    Folks stay away from Riga, Latvia.

    Visit Tallin, Estonia.

  • 2018 said

    Derek are you serious.?Human organ harvesting.? Sound like a troll.
    My husband and I are seniors and we have travelled to Latvia 5 times. Just been back from Riga a month.We have parked our rental car in carparks and streets overnight and have never had a problem. We don’t frequent bars and don’t wander down dark alleys at night ,drunk, but then we wouldn’t do that here in Sydney or in no go areas of London.
    Latvians are very quiet , introverted people who don’t really cause problems. The large Russian population in Riga is another story. So for those of you who want to visit , do so confidently , but just dont behave like low class yobbos and you will be fine.

  • John said

    So now the question is, how do you tell the Latvians and Russians apart?

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