Riga is definitely a place where you should stay in an apartment near the center of town. Charlie and I were able to rent a two bedroom apartment right smack in the middle of all the action for 35 EUR per night. We also took our time to really do our homework on this destination by surveying a bunch of people on CouchSurfing for the best bars, clubs, restaurants and other activities (click here for an Excel spreadsheet, places we actually visited and approve of are highlighted). Although we had a gigantic list of recommendations we ended up finding a couple of favorite bars near our apartment and just hanging out there the whole time.
The girl situation in Riga is absolutely astounding. Besides the fact that the women outrageously hot, intelligent and classy it turns out that, as in many Eastern European countries, there are more women than men. I stumbled upon an interesting little piece of research indicating that not only are there significantly more women than men in Latvia but they are relatively sexually promiscuous. To put it another way, Latvia just might be the holy grail of single dude travel. See the chart below and I think you’ll know what I’m talking about (hint, as close to the top left corner as possible is what you want and guess where Latvia is).
In Riga there are two distinctly different types of girls, Latvian Latvians and Russian Latvians. If you want to know about Russian Latvian look no further than El Matador’s article “An Introduction to Russian Girls“. As far as the Latvian Latvian girls, I can only say that they seem a touch more conservative and a touch more sophisticated, but either way you’re going to be finding plenty of the tall, thin, super model types. About 30% of the population in Latvia are Russians that were forced to resettle there during the Soviet Union. The Russian Latvians and Latvian Latvians don’t really seem to get along. It’s an extremely common sight to see alternating tables of Latvian Latvians and Russian Latvians throughout the entire bar. You can spot them really easily by looking at how the girls are dressed or simply listening to whether they’re speaking Latvian or Russian. Latvian Latvians might have a slight edge on English, pretty much every true Latvian we met could speak perfect Latvian, Russian, English and often another language or two. If you have a Phd from Harvard expect to find a Latvian teenager that will make you feel stupid and uneducated. These people really have their shit together.
With all these super positive things I’ve had to say about Latvia I do need to bring up two big negatives. Bar fights and ripoff bars. The entire time we were there we didn’t go one single night without seeing a bar fight and sometimes more than one. We even saw our local favorite bartender beat the shit out of a customer with a baseball bat. Not to worry though if you’re not an asshole and you stay alert you should be able to avoid getting involved in the fight. The closest I came to being involved in a fight was stumbling home drunk one night at about 5 am. A Latvian guy approached me and asked me if I wanted to fight. I said “Of course not, why?”. He explained that he didn’t want to fight me, he just wanted to know if I wanted to come fight with him and his friends because they were on their way out to find a fight. I politely declined and stumbled home.
Let’s talk about the other big drawback, ripoff bars. Latvia has a number of “black listed” bars whose sole purpose is to ripoff foreigners by charging exorbitant prices for drinks. There’s even a little more to it than that. I’m sad to say that Charlie and I got taken for a round in one of the beers. We were walking down the street minding our own business when two 5’10” (180 cm) Russian blondes picked us up. All along we were thinking “I know it’s Riga but this is too good to be true!”. Sure enough it was. They lead us into a ripoff bar. This story does have a happy ending though, unlike many other Eastern European countries the police in Riga are apparently not corrupt (or at least not so corrupt). As we were sitting there getting ripped off a police officer came into the bar and politely asked me to step outside. The officer then proceeded to tell me that we could do whatever we want but she would highly recommend that we leave because this bar is known for ripping off foreigners. That’s a big deal in Eastern Europe, in many other countries the police would show up to beat the shit out of us if we didn’t pay the tab! It’s nice to be in a country that doesn’t have crooked cops, trust me on that one.
Overall, Riga, Latvia is 100% single dude approved.