Our sole journey on Latvian Railways was a short return trip to Darzini, about 20 minutes outside Riga, to visit the site of the former Salaspils concentration camp, now a memorial with some amazing brutalist statues. More of that in a separate review which includes how to get there from the Darzini train stop.
Riga’s Central Station is the hub of the rather modest Latvian railway system. From a tourist perspective the most used line would be that to the seaside town of Jurmala about 25 kilometres west of Riga.
The train system is primarily geared to providing cheap transport within Latvia. That said, there are a few ‘on again, off again’ international options (http://www.ldz.lv/en) for the determined traveller with lots of time on their hands.
There is a once daily service to Tallinn in Estonia. This involves a change of trains at the border station of Valga and takes around 8 hours. Looking at timetables (in Dec 2015) it seems that the weekday service from Tallinn to Riga requires an overnight stop or transfer to bus at Valga with the train for Riga departing Valga 40mins before the one from Tallinn arrives into Valga. How’s that for organisation! Much as I love trains, when I went on from Riga to Tallinn I took the bus!
Services to Lithuania require an overnight stop at Daugavpils and connection on the following morning – though, again at the time of writing this review, it appears that the international train from Daugavpils to Vilnius may not be operating and that (Dec 2015) bus is the only option on this route.
There is still a once daily service to Moscow but the service to St. Petersburg (which does not go through Belarus) stopped in mid 2015.
The train station is indeed central, located just to the east of the Old City. It is easy to get to on foot (if you don’t have too much luggage) and most local transport options go there or pass close by. If accessing on foot, walk directly to the very obvious station building rather than trying to take short cuts through the shopping centre and underpasses en-route. We tried this and got totally lost in the process.
The train station itself looks flashier on the outside than on the inside. Internally it is basic though entirely functional and certainly when we were there had sufficient open ticket windows such that there was no queuing for tickets. Ticket machines are also available. Advance bookings may be made on Daugavpils and Rēzekne diesel services.
There are a few basic retail outlets in the station.
Our electric train was of a good standard, though the internal sliding doors on our compartment jammed on our return to Riga. There are no dining cars on Latvian trains. Toilets are, however, available. Where a comfort class car option is available ( Riga-Rezekne-Riga, Riga-Valga-Riga and Riga-Daugavpils-Riga at a Euro 1.40 premium to the standard class ticket price) you have access to a roomier car with tables, power supply, magazines and a travel rug in addition to free Wi-fi and the opportunity to buy tea, coffee, water (carbonated and non carbonated – my goodness, Latvian Railways really do spoil you!) and fruit juices.
Riga transportation tickets and passes are not valid on the Latvian railways system.
This is the last blog entry in group (loop) of General entries Riga, Latvia. I trust you have enjoyed reading these entries and invite you to partake of another of the loops (including two on Riga) on my “Travel Loops” page, by clicking HERE.