Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week’s travel diary: A 33-year-old integrated marketing manager skips Thanksgiving to go on a solo adventure in the Latvian capital, Riga.
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Occupation: Integrated Marketing Manager
Travel Companion: Just me
Hometown: New York City, New York
Trip Location: Riga, Latvia
Trip Length: 6 Days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: Flexible/Unlimited
Cost: I departed JFK for Helsinki on Finnair. After a short layover in Helsinki, I flew Finnair to Riga. The reverse route was applicable to my return (RIX – HEL – JFK). The cash price was $641.11 but I redeemed 42,740 credit card points to cover the entire ticket.
I refuse to sit in the middle for flights longer than three hours and while I hate that even the nice airlines charge you to select your seat in economy, I couldn’t risk a middle seat on a nine-hour flight to Helsinki. I am a terrible plane sleeper so I booked my trusty aisle seats to avoid getting trapped in the window behind sleeping row-mates. On the outbound, I am toward the front to make it easier to get off quickly and make my connection, on the return I booked a cheaper aisle seat a little further back, since I’m just going home after deplaning. ($66.05).
Cost: I am staying at the Hotel Bergs, a boutique luxury hotel just outside of Old Town. I decided not to stay in the tourist-centric area so the hotel is just outside, but easily walkable to the Old Town. I also chose a luxury hotel versus a cheaper, mid-range hotel because I wanted to get a massage while there and, at these prices, why not indulge?
The price for four nights was $456 but I booked the hotel on HotelTonight, which offered the booking with free breakfast and cancellation. I would not have booked it had it been nonrefundable (I like to hunt for the best prices until the last possible second). By booking on HotelTonight, I was able to use a ChaseOffer that applied to my credit card, giving me a 5% return to my statement on the purchase with a $15 maximum.
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending
New Coat – Mountain Hardwear Super/DS Stretchdown Coat. Going to a climate where there’s a high probability of precipitation, I figured my wool coat wouldn’t be the best idea. Since that’s my only coat, I used this trip as a good opportunity to finally get a water-resistant down coat.
Miscellaneous post-vacation spending
International Day Pass on my cell phone: $10 a day
3:00 p.m. – It’s the day before Thanksgiving and I expect both Penn Station and JFK to be madhouses so I leave for the airport earlier than I normally would. I buy an LIRR ticket to Jamaica ($7.75) on the MTA app and head to the station. Luckily leaving early means getting to take an off-peak train with a cheaper fare. When I switch to the AirTrain at Jamaica I learn that the price has gone up over $2 since a couple of months ago! I swipe my MetroCard ($7.75), happy that I have enough preloaded because the lines to buy and fill cards actually are insane. Price increase or not, $15.50 and the one-hour door-to-terminal commute is light years better than whatever traffic I’d endure and what cab fare would be. $15.50
4:45 p.m. – The train and the airport are both surprisingly calm. I’m through security and deciding on plane snacks. I’d normally bring food with me but Finnair has strict 8 kg carryon limits and I was worried my bags would get weighed (combined they are already over this tiny limit). This terminal doesn’t have a Priority Pass lounge so I wander a bit, still one and a half hours until my plane boards! I settle on the mesmerizing aroma of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and get some pretzel bites to snack on now ($7.07) and grab some bottled water and candy for later ($13.70). $20.14
5:15 p.m. – I thought I had beat the system by checking in online and going right to security, avoiding the bag weigh process altogether. Nope! They called me up to the gate agent desk so they could verify my passport and there, they weighed our bags too. I removed my coat from my suitcase and snuck my makeup bag out with it so they could weigh my rolling carry-on, and it was a lovely 7.88 kilograms. Thank goodness they didn’t ask for my backpack, and that I didn’t have to check my bag.
6:30 p.m. – I’m nestled in my seat, check out the entertainment options (I’m excited to watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and hope that I can sleep on this nine-hour red-eye flight.
Day Total: $35.64
10:30 a.m. – I land in Helsinki and deplane. I’m thirsty, need to pee, and have to make a quick connecting flight so I dart through the airport looking for passport control. This airport is bright and beautiful and all one building but it is a very very long corridor and the arrival gate is at the farthest end of it. I finally find passport control, get stamped, and continue toward my gate at the complete opposite end of the airport. Thirsty and tired since I didn’t sleep on the red-eye, I stop at the last shop before my gate area and get a Coca-Cola No Sugar. It hits the spot. $4.30
11:15 a.m. – I’m at my gate watching the little propeller planes (that I will soon be flying on) and the people are boarding from the back! I’ve never seen that before and it makes my choice of a seat at 4B seem terrible because I like to be off planes fast. After boarding they have to shift weight around so I volunteer to go to the back of the plane!
1:10 p.m. – We land in Riga and I search for an ATM at the airport. I need some euros and don’t know whether the cabs will take credit cards. I find one near the exit, think about various tips and reasons I will need cash, and withdraw 50 euros. Since my bank doesn’t have any partnerships with banks in the Baltics, this transaction comes with an ATM fee ($5) and a Foreign Transaction Fee ($1.65). Cash in hand, I decide against a taxi and call a Bolt (the Latvian version of Uber) and get a car to my hotel. ($9.70) $16.35
3:30 p.m. – I want to adjust to the time and after checking in to my hotel, decide to walk around and start exploring. After a couple of hours meandering the city with no real objective, the sun sets and I start to feel my hunger and fatigue. I stop at Narvesen (the Latvian version of 7-Eleven) to buy some candy. I love foreign candy, but the real reason for this purchase is to break the big bill the ATM gave me. The cashier looks at me like I’m rude to use a 50 for a two-euro transaction, but I need the change. $2.18
6:00 p.m. – I get dinner at Cydonia, a gastropub that the hotel recommended. It is really close to the hotel and has a menu with a lot of variety, but I would felt weird ordering fajitas in Eastern Europe. So I got a burger (better, right?) and a variation on a Moscow Mule. $25.78
9:00 p.m. – With the seven-hour time difference and the fact that I didn’t sleep at all on the plane, I have now been awake for over 30 hours. I get ready for bed, set an alarm for tomorrow morning, and pass out.
Day Total: $48.61
9:15 a.m. – The only thing I actually have planned today are free walking tours. I like to do them when I first get to a new city because I can learn a little about the city while seeing the major highlights, and then decide where, if anywhere, I want to return to during my visit. On my way to Old Town for the tour, I stop at Caffeine near my hotel for a coffee to keep me warm ($2.04). However, the coffee is so small it doesn’t even last until the tour starts. I have a lot of walking ahead of me so I pick up a bottle of water at a Narvesen before the first tour begins ($1.42). $3.46
11:30 a.m. – A huge group showed up for the morning tour of Riga Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour, through Riga Free Tours, gave a good overview of the Old Town. We ventured through small, storied cobblestone streets and learned about the history of Riga, its architectural influences, the effects WWII had on the city. After this two-hour tour, I don’t think I need to come back to Old Town, but could definitely wander around here some more if I have time. Free walking tours are tip-based, so I give the guide a 10 euro tip and try to make the most of my 30-minute break ($11.00). Before the second tour begins, I go to Crumble Cake, a coffee shop the guide recommended for another hot coffee and a bathroom break. The cakes look so good but are definitely not portable ($3.64). $14.64
12:00 p.m. – The “Alternative Riga” tour begins, and I have the same guide I had in the morning. It’s a smaller group and we have a longer tour, exploring the “suburbs” as the guide calls it. It’s not really the suburbs, it’s just real Riga, where normal people go and live, versus the tourist-centric Old Town. He shows us Central Market (which is housed in former World War I Zeppelin hangers), takes us to the Holocaust Memorial, and gives a great tip about going to the top of the Latvian Academy of Sciences building for views instead of St. Peter’s Church. The tour concludes back in Old Town near the Opera House and I tip him another five euros. $5.50
2:30 p.m. – After four hours of walking tours, I need food! I head back to the Central Market to take it all in, as well as get some lunch in the food hall section. I do a couple of loops around the different stalls to decide what I want and choose Pel Man – a stand that sells pelmeni, a Russian-style dumpling (when in Riga!). I get the small order of beef & pork, which comes with 15 dumplings! They are served steamed, are so fresh and delicious and I eat them so fast, but I think next time I need to try them with the broth add-on ($4.85). I look for some dessert at the bakery stands and finally settle on something that looks like a blondie. The woman behind the counter doesn’t understand English when I ask her what’s in it, but it’s 70 cents so I buy it anyway ($0.77). I start picking it apart to eat, and it tastes like a chocolate chip blondie at first, but then I realize there’s some sort of jelly in the middle that has a banana flavor. It’s interesting and local, but also cheap so I finish it as I walk to the Latvian Academy of Sciences. $5.62
3:30 p.m. – The Latvian Academy of Sciences has a viewing deck in the city near the river. I was planning to go up to St. Peter’s Church for views, but the tour guide suggested this instead, so since I am back in the area I go for it. I buy a ticket, went up to the 16th floor, and could not have chosen a better time or location. Not only is it a golden hour, but since it had rained most of the day, I see a rainbow too! And it’s very uncrowded, at most, there are four people up here at one time, whereas St. Peter’s would have had many more in a smaller space. $5.50
4:45 p.m. – I don’t really have a dinner plan so on my way back to the hotel I stop by the mini-grocery store and grab some chips and a chocolate bar to nosh on. $2.75
6:30 p.m. – I heard about the Skyline bar for the views, but also that it gets busy and has a cover charge after 9:00 p.m., so instead of going after dinner I decide to go beforehand. I grab a seat at a tall table that overlooks the city and order a To The Moon, a specialty cocktail that contains two types of Riga Black Balsam. While I sip my drink, I search Trip Advisor for places to go for dinner. $16.62
8:45 p.m. – I try a few places that aren’t able to accommodate me right now and as I walk around looking for a restaurant, I come across Restaurant Riits which was on the list I pulled from TripAdvisor. They can seat me now for dinner and I order a local beer when I sit down. When the server comes back I order some bread and their roasted chicken entree, which comes with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables. The bread comes with delicious herb butter and the chicken is the juiciest, most delicious chicken I can remember ever eating. When I leave the restaurant, I realize it is just a couple of blocks from my hotel, so I go home and to bed very quickly. $15.44
Day Total: $69.53
8:30 a.m. – My alarm goes off and I instantly regret the day trip I decided to take today. It took forever to fall asleep last night so I’m running on about four hours of rest. Because I’m paranoid about missing this 10:30 a.m. train to Cesis, I plan to get to the station extra early to buy a ticket and get coffee and breakfast.
9:30 a.m. – Oh my gosh it is gorgeous! After two days of constant drizzle, it’s finally sunny and bright! I am still regretting the decision to ride a train for two hours each way today instead of walking to a local Saturday market the tour guide told us about. But I’m awake, dressed, and nothing is going to change that so off I go!
9:45 a.m. – I arrive at the train station and start looking for somewhere to purchase tickets. After a loop, I decide to Google Translate “ticket” into Latvian and hope I can find it on a sign somewhere. I find the windows and buy my one-way train ticket ($3.50). I think I will need to take the bus back to Riga because of the train times and frequency (I used Rome2Rio to help me figure out the best way to get there and back). I again go hunting for some coffee and a croissant and finally find a place to get a (tiny) coffee and a cheese bun, which kind of tastes like an Asiago cheese bagel ($1.85). Before going to the platform, I visit Narvesen and buy a bag of pretzels. ($0.76). $6.09
10:30 a.m. – I board the train and it departs for Cesis. There are no screens inside to tell your stop and all announcements are in Latvian so I follow on my phone while I watch episodes of Peaky Blinders to try to keep up with my stop.
12:25 p.m. – The train arrives in Cesis. I look over the bus schedule before leaving the station and head out in the direction of the castle. Around the station, the city is pretty modern, but as I keep walking I finally come across the old medieval town that I read about. Instead of following my map, I turn in the direction of a cool-looking building and eventually get to the entrance to the castle grounds.
12:45 p.m. – The town has an old medieval castle in ruins, and the owners built a new one right next to it. The castles are available to tour, but I feel like just walking the grounds. I take a series of photos in front of the ruins and walk down the stairs to the frozen pond with a clever statue of a man standing on it and look for another way to exit the grounds than the one I entered. I walk up some sketchy stairs to find a dead-end (and a lot of broken stones) and carefully head back down so I can go back up the way I came.
1:15 p.m. – Upon exiting the park, I walk toward a beautiful church steeple. On a plaza just beyond the church, I see tents… a Christmas market! I peruse the stalls to see if there’s anything interesting and I stop at a bread vendor. I heard the rye bread in Latvia is supposed to be amazing, so I buy a roll from her to have a snack to nosh on while I continue to walk around. However, when I go to pull the bread apart, it’s so incredibly dense that I can’t rip it. I take a bite straight from the roll and the taste isn’t what I expected. After two bites I throw it out and carry on exploring this old town. $1.10
2:00 p.m. – I actually am hungry and start looking for a place to stop for lunch. The best looking places are pizza places, and I am planning to have pizza for dinner so I pass on those. More importantly, I need to find a bathroom so I look for another bakery or something small instead. I have looped around this entire little town and stop into what I thought was a cafe and bar to find a tiny space with just a couple of bistro tables. I buy an Americano and leave, deciding there’s not much else to do and go back to Riga earlier than anticipated. $1.65
2:30 p.m. – Back at the bus station, I visit the window to buy my ticket home. The one-way bus ticket is more expensive than the train ticket, which blows my mind! ($4.58) I need to use the restroom before this long drive, and something I’ve noticed in my last few European trips is they charge for public restrooms. No difference here. I spend 30 euro cents ($0.33) to use the restroom and then hit the Narvesen in the station for some snacks. I leave with a Peanut Butter Kit Kat, some string cheese, and water ($2.49). $7.40
2:55 p.m. – It’s starting to snow pretty heavily, so it appears I’ve made the right choice to leave. The bus arrives to pick up the passengers and on my ticket where it says “place” I think is a seat number, but it’s actually a boarding order. The driver is calling out in Latvian so after the first few people get on the bus, I ask another passenger what he said. They told me he said “eight,” which is my number! So I board and head for a window at the back. I watch a couple more episodes of Peaky Blinders on the two-hour drive while the snow continues to fall around us.
5:00 p.m. – Back in Riga and it’s already so dark. There’s a store I saw in Lonely Planet I want to go to, Bold Concept Store, that’s open until 6:00 p.m. today and closed tomorrow (Sunday), so I rush up to browse quickly. I have a tradition that instead of cheesy souvenirs when I travel, I like to get a little piece of jewelry, and that’s what I am looking for here. They have a lot of cute stuff but nothing that I have to have and am ready to spend $70+ on, but the girl working there tells me they might be open tomorrow. I want to shop around and see what else I can find but do decide to return tomorrow in the event they are open.
5:30 p.m. – I head to an Italian restaurant that got lots of good reviews, Casa Nostra. I ask for a table for one, but without a reservation, they have to check. I ask about doing takeout instead, but they come back and tell me they have a table for me as long as I can finish in an hour because of a reservation. As a single person who eats fast anyway, I tell them no problem as long as the food comes out quickly. I order a beer, a Pomodoro soup, and a Margherita pizza (and a to-go box). I’m watching my clock, and after a few slices of pizza, I attempt to flag my server down for a box and the check before heading back to my hotel. $18.19
6:45 p.m. – Back at the hotel just in time for my college football team’s big rivalry game at 7:00 p.m. I am worried about the streaming situation with my iPad and this game so I ask the front desk on my way upstairs if they know of any good sports bars that might possibly show American football games. They give me a couple of options and I go to my room to try to start streaming. Despite connecting with my cable subscription to the network’s app, it won’t show the live broadcast because I am not near a local Fox station and their Sports app doesn’t have anywhere to stream the games, only video clips so I am very confused and trying everything.
7:00 p.m. – My brother texts me to ask if I found any sports bars in Latvia and I recount my current streaming struggles. All of a sudden I get a FaceTime call from him, but I think I accidentally hit the FaceTime button while messing with the apps. He is actually FaceTiming me with his TV in the frame, to stream me the game (gotta love him!). I love this gesture and I chat with him and my sister in law for a bit while the first quarter gets underway. I give them a FaceTime tour of my massive hotel room and after we score our first touchdown, decide to call up one of the bars the hotel recommended. I ask if they can show this game, they look for a couple of minutes, and then tell me they can, so excitedly I tell them I’ll be there in 20 minutes. I thank my brother, say goodbye, and head out the door.
7:40 p.m. – I get to Kiwi Bar and see my game on one TV, which is all I need. I find one of the staff to tell them I’m the person who called for this, and I grab a seat at the bar and order a local beer.
11:15 p.m. – We hung with them the first half, but in the second half, our arch-enemies pulled away and ultimately kicked our butts. I pay for my beers, leave a nice tip (because they streamed this game from a computer for me!) and make my way home through Old Town. I had heard Riga has great nightlife, but it seems so quiet down here. And it’s starting to snow so my nighttime detour in Old Town, while pretty, is probably not the best idea. $10.91
12:00 a.m. – I get back to my hotel and reheat my leftover pizza from dinner. I finish the rest of my pizza while watching Netflix and go to bed.
Day Total: $45.36
10:30 a.m. – I finally have a sleep-in day. However, I’ve been waking up all night with a terrible cough and runny nose. But I don’t want to waste daylight so I officially get up and get ready for the day.
11:30 a.m. – On the way to Big Bad Bagels for breakfast, I stop to pick up some cough drops (but the apothecary is closed) and some tissues ($0.42). The tissues come in super handy all day, as this cold is not going anywhere anytime soon. I had read in some Google and TripAdvisor searches that Big Bad Bagels was good, and being a New Yorker I had to see if the Latvian bagels measured up. They do! My everything bagel is the perfect mix of soft, chewy, and seeded ($5.51). $5.93
12:30 p.m. – There’s a street called Miera Iela that’s supposed to have cool shops and be a hip little enclave in the city, so I go north to check it out. However, I have learned that on Sundays shops are closed, so I am not sure what I’ll find when I get there. After a while, I don’t encounter anything… open… so I turn around because I know I want to go back to the Bold Concept Store and see if they opened today. En route, there’s an open pharmacy! Using Google Translate to communicate, I ask for some cough drops and walk out with some lime-y Latvian lozenges. $6.60
1:25 p.m. – Back at the (open!) Bold Concept Store, I gravitate toward these hammered silver ear crawlers that caught my eye yesterday. They’re more than I want to spend, but I like them and want to keep my tradition going. $65.08
2:00 p.m. – Riga is known for its vast amount of Art Nouveau-style buildings and many of them are concentrated in a certain neighborhood. I give myself a brief Art Nouveau tour on Albert Street and Elizabeth Street.
2:50 p.m. – After venturing down the windy waterfront and halfway across the Vansu Bridge, I find myself back in Old Town, at a Christmas market! I love European Christmas markets and this one does not disappoint. There’s live music, a wooden carousel that a man is spinning manually, a petting zoo, even pony rides! This is perfect for kids, and with lots of mulled wine, Black Balsam, and smoked meats, perfect for grown-ups too. I take in all the market has to offer and stop at a stall for a snack. I choose a donut that has little caramel pieces on the outside (yum) and when I bite into it, I find out there’s caramel inside too! $1.65
3:40 p.m. – The sun is setting and it’s getting cold, so I duck into a store to warm up for a bit. This store (Reserved) turns out to be a Polish fast-fashion retailer and my eye is drawn to neon. I see a neon yellow scarf, think about it for a second, look at the price tag, and decide I can wear two scarves on the plane home to avoid extra weight in my suitcase. $16.70
4:45 p.m. – On the way back to the hotel, I stop in a Narvesen. Earlier at the train station, I saw Salted Caramel M&M’s which I know my friend would love (as would I) and I want to pick her up a bag. I didn’t buy the M&M’s in the morning when I first saw them, so I visit another store in the chain to see if they have any. This store doesn’t have them, but the third store I go to does. I get two bags of the M&M’s, two bags of Haribo Berries for my roommate (who loves European Haribo), and a Coca-Cola Light. $7.20
5:30 p.m. – I drop my purchases off at the hotel and go to Restaurant/Cafe Mio, a restaurant I attempted to go to on Friday but they were full. I figured since it’s early it should be okay to find a table. When I arrive and ask for a table, they tell me they have reservations but can seat me as long as I finish in two hours. Totally not a problem. I order a glass of Rioja, an appetizer of bread, and a cinnamon roasted chicken entree with truffle mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes are to. Die. For. They are so creamy and come out as this flavor trio with cheese, chive, and fried onions. These mashed potatoes with my chicken from Riits would be the most perfect meal ever. $25.47
Day Total: $128.63
7:00 a.m. – I pack up, leave the maid tip on the nightstand ($5.50), and am checking out of the hotel because I want some time in the lounge (aka free food) before going to the gate. I learn what the local call I made to the bar about the football game cost me: $1.09. Hopefully, that’s cheaper than if I called from my cell phone. I call a Bolt car to take me to the airport ($10.65) and off I go. $17.24
9:00 a.m. – After hitting up the lounge for some breakfast, I stop in a shop to buy water ($2.20). I have a really close connection in Helsinki and fear I won’t have time to stop and get something there. On the way to my gate, a display catches my eye – a donation collection for homeless dogs. Animals are my heart and soul, and even though it’s very small, I drop in my leftover small coins, lightening my wallet ($0.10) $2.30
11:25 a.m. – My first flight lands and my second flight is supposed to depart at 12:40 p.m. I run from the actual end of the airport to the complete opposite side, stopping at passport control. I am so thankful that my flight is actually delayed a half hour, which gives me more time to get there before boarding. I manage to get to the gate before the boarding process begins and have time to visit the bathroom and get a few more snacks, I grab a bottle of water, some chips and a giant Twix at the closest kiosk, then reorganize my suitcase so I’m not putting so much under my seat. $8.21
12:45 p.m. – We start boarding, but our flight continues to be delayed. The 1:10 p.m. departure actually becomes around 2:00 p.m. by the time we get off the ground. But with the bad storms reported in the northeast, I am so excited to get home.
4:00 p.m. – We land at JFK about an hour later than scheduled amidst some wet snow in New York. I breeze through global entry and make a beeline for the AirTrain. I add some more money to my Metrocard to get through the turnstile at Jamaica ($7.75) and try to make the next train to Penn Station ($7.75). I miss it, but there’s another one along in 3 minutes, which is why I love JFK the most. $15.50
Day Total: $43.20
How did you prepare for this trip?
I tried to use Instagram to prepare as I like to use it for inspiration, but there aren’t many Riga, Latvia tourism accounts. I did a lot of googling which led me to random travel blogs, as well as looking at Lonely Planet, Culture Trip, TripSavvy, and Fodors.
Did you use credit card points/miles to pay for parts of this trip?
I redeemed credit card points for the cost of the flight. I would only go somewhere that had reasonable availability with points. The way Chase Sapphire Reserve works is that if you redeem for travel through their portal, your points are worth 1.5 points per dollar. So the $641 ticket was valued at 42,740 points (if the conversion was 1:1 it would have cost 64,111 points and if I transferred points to an airline loyalty program it would have been at least 60k points plus some cash for taxes). This redemption used about half of the points I had in my account, and I’ll spend the next few months replenishing my stash to take another trip.
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation?
No, I always pay my cards in full on time.
If flight, when did you book? Do you think you got a good deal?
I booked my flight less than three weeks from departure and I think I got an OK deal. I wasn’t really looking at traveling to Riga much before I booked it to be able to compare the prices, it just happened to be the best-priced destination at the time. But soon after I booked it, the prices skyrocketed!
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
I had a fantastic dinner at Restaurant Riits which I found on TripAdvisor. It’s a small place in the downtown area that sources ingredients locally, and I had an amazing, juicy roasted chicken with grilled vegetables and roasted potatoes. The bread included local rye and some herb butter and I had a local beer with it and the price was very affordable. When I left, it turned out to be just around the corner from my hotel.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Be aware that most shops are closed on Sundays and many places generally close on the earlier side. People eat dinner early too (6:00 p.m. seemed fairly normal and restaurants got busy.)
Is there anything about your trip you would do differently in retrospect?
I would not have gone on the day trip, I would have instead gone to a local market (Kalnciema) in a different section of the city. I ended up spending more time in transit than I actually spent at the destination and it took up a lot of daylight (which is minimal this time of year). I also would have loved to travel with enough time to visit the other major Baltic cities, Tallinn and Vilnius. It’s not easy to get there, so to see them all in one trip would have been great.
Would you stay at your hotel again?
Absolutely! The hotel was nice, the room was massive, the location was great and I got a good deal. It turned out my room didn’t include breakfast, but it was still generally reasonable.
Where were you located in the specific city and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
I stayed in Centrs, or the downtown area. It was nice to stay where local people go, as opposed to Old Town which I feared would only have tourist traps.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I wish I had gotten a massage at my hotel, especially since I booked a hotel that specifically had that amenity. The prices are much lower than in NYC at reputable spas. But since the days are short and I also wanted some sleep, I didn’t want to waste too much daylight with a massage. I wish I had gone to the Saturday Kalnciema Market which my tour guide recommended. I like to act as local as possible when I’m traveling, and avoid too many tourist traps but still see the necessities.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
I could have done one less day if I didn’t do the day trip, and if daylight lasted later would have helped. If the price of the flight was better, I would have chosen to leave on Sunday (instead of Monday), which would have meant I didn’t go on the day trip and did my shopping on Saturday, avoiding the closed shops on Sunday.
I would recommend visiting Rīga on a longer trip visiting the other Baltic States, maybe in warmer weather.
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