Most visitors with just a day or two in Riga will generally not have time to venture beyond the Old City area and what they want to/ have time to see can easily be reached on foot. There is no doubt that walking is the best way to get around the Old City area and, indeed, slightly beyond.
In planning my trip I knew I wanted to spend a bit of time exploring the Moscow District. I also wanted to visit the massive Soviet Victory Monument across the Daugava River and the former KGB building. The latter I ended up walking to and it’s really not that far from the Old City centre anyway.
In terms of public transport, Riga has nine tramlines, 19 trolleybus routes and 53 bus routes. These operate from as early as 5:00am to as late as 1:00am, depending on the route. While I only mention a couple of ticket options below, there are others so have a look at the website mentioned to ascertain what meets your needs. Note that Riga Transport tickets cannot be used on ‘mainline’ train services.
While I could have just bought single tram or bus tickets for my needs I decided to buy a three day pass (loaded onto an E-Talon card) for Euro 10. A five day pass costs Euro 15 while a one day pass costs Euro 5 (2015 prices).
As the price of individual trip tickets rose significantly in early 2015, to Euro 2 when paid on board (Euro 1.15 if you get a E-Talon card and pre-load a few trips onto it), buying the pass was probably the right decision and I came out a few Euro ahead, especially as having it let us take a few short tram hops in instances when we would have otherwise walked. More importantly, the pass offered convenience at a very small cost and saved having to worry about having change to buy a ticket on board when we wanted to use the transport system.
E-Talon cards can be bought from and topped up via ticket machines at a few central tram stops or Narvesen convenience stores (equivalent to 7-Eleven for those more familiar with that chain). If using single tickets pre-loaded onto an E-Talon card don’t forget to validate your ticket when you board. Likewise, if using one of the pass options validate it first time you use it. Not not being sure if it needed validation each time it was used, we did this anyway with our 3 day passes.
As it happened we mainly used trams though we did take a couple of short bus trips too. The trams I especially liked, as there were a mixed bag of older trams and very modern new ones. Visitors with a mobility impairment may find it a little difficult climbing up onto and down from some of the older trams – just take your time.
One tram you may notice during your visit is the historic 1901 service. Sorry about the rather fuzzy picture above. This is a special tourist service with only a limited operating schedule. As I didn’t travel on it I cannot comment further.
SIXT Self Service Bicycle Hire
Another option to consider when you are ready to venture outside of the Old City is bicycle.
Self service cycle rental schemes are becoming increasingly popular in Western Europe but I hadn’t expected to find one in Riga.
My expectations proved to be wrong and a scheme called SIXT exists. Interestingly, SIXT is primarily a car rental company.
The concept behind SIXT is the same as that behind similar schemes elsewhere, bicycles are located at various locations (stations) around the city and the renter (having registered) picks up a bicycle from any location, uses it for a time and returns it to the same or more likely a different station. Generally these schemes are intended for short term rentals and as such the first 30min or an hour is at minimal cost or free, with longer rentals getting progressively more expensive per hour. The idea it that instead of retaining a bicycle all day your return it while you visit a museum, etc and pick a new one up when you are ready. This means that other people can use the bicycle when you are not.
In Riga the scheme is still in it infancy, with 28 stations with 250 cycles (there are four additional stations at Jurmala – a seaside town about 25-30km from Riga). Yes, you can cycle between the two.
To access the scheme you first need to register – a Eur9 deposit is charged at this point – refundable to the extent not used should you/when you close the account. Registration can be done via the website listed below, via telephone or using the Nextbike App (available for various phones).
Having registered (and provided your credit card details – mandatory) and located a bicycle you contact SIXT by phone or the App. You will be provided with a combination code to release the bicycle and your rental time will start. When you are finished with the bicycle return it to a station and re-lock it (resetting the code). Then contact SIXT again and your rental will be deactivated and your account charged as appropriate. With one client account it is possible to rent up to 4 bicycles.
While I did not use the scheme I did notice a couple of stations one close to Freedom Monument (pictured above) and the other in Dome Square beside Riga Cathedral (pictured along-side. When I passed them there was 1 bicycle available at the Cathedral while the Freedom Monument station was full. You can check in advance, (in real time) on the website or App, if bicycles are available at your desired location or if it is full, preventing you immediately returning a bicycle – pictured below webpage screen shot.
In terms of cost (all at 2015), for the casual rental a single rental of up to 30 minutes costs Eur0.90 with each additional 30 minutes, or part there-of, costing the same. There is a daily cap of Eur9 and you can rent a bicycle for up to 5 days.
A monthly (calendar) pass can be bought for Eur9.99 (annual Eur29.99). With a pass you are entitled to 2 hours rental per day free with each additional 30 minutes costing Er0.45 with a daily cap of Eur4.50.
Fines are applied for various indiscretions such as loosing your lock, not properly returning the bicycle or not returning the bicycle at all (the latter Eur75, others Eur20).
I certainly think this scheme is worth considering and I would have done so had I been in the city any longer than I was. As it was I was happy to, and wanted to, walk where I wanted to go and supplement this with a few tram rides. I would have felt safe cycling on any of the roads/paths I saw within the city.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of General entries on Riga, Latvia. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Riga’s Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Services – or to start this loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – Riga – A Turbulent Past Left Behind?