Updated: Nov 10
Many of you ask us about safety in Riga and we usually fire straight back by asking, how safe is any big city? The truth is that for tourists Riga offers a fairly safe travel experience as long as you take the usual precaution to keep your person and belongings safe. Whenever one is travelling it pays to take note of the areas you plan to visit, understand your transport options and plan ahead.
Common sense and knowing your surroundings will go far in any city but just in case we will list here some things that you may need to look out for to stay safe in Riga. In the modern era a fully charged smart phone is going to be your saving grace not only when you get lost and need to find yourself in the big city but also to reach out for help and assistance if needed.
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Stay safe in Riga with these tips.
We have listed below some basic things you may want to consider when visiting Riga. Please feel free to contact us if you think we have missed something that can help other visitors
PICK POCKETS: Keep an eye on your belongings. Pick pockets operate around Riga's main tourist sites and you need to take special caution in the tunnels, central market, entrances to tourist sites where crowds gather and at all times be aware of who is standing close by to you. Groups disguised as tourists who operate as pickpockets are easy to see. They hold maps high, use umbrellas and jackets to hide their actions. Fake tourists should be easy to spot, they look unnatural.
DRINKING AND FIGHTING: Be careful when drinking in the evenings. Riga is not really a brawlers city but around Old town on weekends drunk foreigners can get rowdy and either cause issues amongst themselves or step too far on locals toes and end up in trouble. As the Old town is under constant police surveillance you will likely get caught quite fast if you are involved in a fight. As most of you will not be in the sleeping districts or further out areas of Riga where some of the slightly questionable districts are you will probably find Riga rather peaceful.
TRAFFIC: Watch out for the cars and be careful when using pedestrian crossings. Drivers are not always looking out for you as a pedestrian or as a cyclist. You need to keep your wits about you before stepping into the road, even if the light is green for you to go.
PAYMENTS: Card payments are the norm nowadays but we advise to still check your bill before entering your pin at bars and restaurants. This is not so much of an issue these days but worth noting.
RESPECT LOCAL MONUMENTS AND FLAGS: Respect local monuments and do not end up as one of the people arrested for doing something disrespectful like urinating on the Freedom Monument or pulling down Latvian flags, you will get in serious trouble.
POLICE: The Police in Riga are actually quite helpful these days for tourists and many of them around the tourist hotspots will speak English. In fact on an average weekend for locals we feel that the Police who should be protecting and patrolling residential areas are focused mostly on dealing with tourist issues and drunks in Old town.
DRUGS: "Drugs are bad umkay". You can get in serious trouble if found buying, selling or using illegal drugs in Latvia. This is not Amsterdam so just remember in the post-Soviet world even a small amount of an illegal substance for personal use can get you in a situation that will not be worth writing home about. Do not be fooled by shops with cannabis leafs on their windows, this is CBD products.
BICYCLE THEFT: This is an actual issue in Riga. As bicycle usage has increased so has the theft of bikes. Its easy and simple to cut a lock with basic tools and I personally have lost a handful of bikes. In a way I know the guys who take them are most likely drug addicts and I can accept that this is a health issue rather than criminality. The advice is simple, keep bikes inside apartments. Do not leave locked in stairwells, this is one the most common places to loose the bikes as thieves have the cover and will operate usually between 0300 - 0500 when everyone is sleeping. Use a good lock if you keep outside and place in view of a camera.
To summarise, do as you would do anywhere and keep your head screwed on. Its not hard to stay safe in Riga but for some, it seems they will get into trouble wherever they go. Stay safe, stay cool and keep an eye on your pockets.
In all my years of working with tourists I can honestly say that 99% of crime / trouble for tourists has been due to the misuse of alcohol. The other 1% are the unlucky few who have been pick pocketed. Gone are the days of the strip bars / rip off bars who extorted money from people in order to let them leave the bar. I mean, the last time I heard of a man who had been handcuffed to a radiator and physically assaulted until he went to withdraw his limit from an ATM was in 2008, times have changed and Riga for the most part is a more pleasant place. As long as you play by the rules. Stay safe, keep your wits about you and do not get too drunk.
We have added some of the Riga City Police videos to give you an idea of some of the kinds of trouble people get themselves into in Riga.
Our group of local pick pocketers can be seen in action before being caught.
Below we can see how alcohol really helps those pick pockets to get the good they want!
And here we see a rather funny video where an Australian tourist is complaining to local police about the quality of the Cocaine he purchased
And last but not least a really strange situation with a guy who starts a fire at the freedom monument and eventually knocks himself out