Safety in Riga - Latvia
Check your purses, tap your wallets and don’t take drinks from strangers. Latvia has a reputation for crime and scams targeted to the foreigner. Don’t take it personally; these issues are so prevalent that they are bound to touch on all types of tourists if the timing is right.
(Apparently they're delicious!)
Pick-pocketing: Who, When, Where
Tourists often make the easiest targets for would-be pick-pockets, so foreigners in Latvia are like walking bullseyes, especially during the busy summer months.
Those carrying backpacks not only make themselves more appealing to thieves, but they also make it easier if the person is poorly alert.
Thieves may act alone, or work in groups to divert the attention.
Some of the most notorious locations for this crime are Vecriga (Riga’s Old Town), Dzelzcela Stacija (central train station), the Autoosta (central bus station) and Centraltirgus (central market).
Scams: What to Look for and Avoid
Riga, being both the capital and most popular city, is the home to much of the tourist scam reports. Many of the reports revolve around pubs and clubs, and nightlife situations in general.
Avoid the beautiful girl inviting you for a drink
Many travelers on a popular travel forum warn against the scam that comes when being lured into a bar or pub by a pretty lady. Once inside, patrons are usually charged outrageous prices for drinks or taken advantage of in other ways, such as getting debit and credit cards skimmed when they have to get more money to pay for the inflated drink prices.
Check beforehand if cover charges are normal
Another scam is for bars and clubs to charge a cover to foreigners only upon entry. Check with your hotel or hostel in advance, and always watch locals as they enter to know if your money is required.
Some establishments that are considered shady for the above scams are Kapsula, Babylon and Sonali Pub to name a few. Clubs on Kalku lela and near the Freedom Monument have been pointed out as potential problem areas as well.
Further suggestions for avoiding scams while out include asking drink prices in advance, paying for each round individually (so you’re not smacked with a huge bill in the end) and avoiding using the ATMs in bars whenever possible.
Avoid becoming a stag-party statistic
When doing an initial search for hostels in Riga, one might be quickly reading notes of “no stag parties” allowed. Riga is a quite popular place for European groups of men, especially British, to travel to when seeking a men’s night out on the town, and as you can imagine, they get drunk and loud.
Besides being annoying to normal travelers in the area, having a party focus puts you at risk of becoming a target for the above crimes. One traveller online also mentions seeing drunken tourists getting beat up by locals.
Don’t accept drinks from strangers
Although not widely discussed as a major problem in Latvia for tourists, there have been reports of travelers getting drugged at bars and then robbed. It doesn’t matter where you are: You should always watch your drinks being made and never leave a drink unattended.
(Especially if they're a shade of green that does not appear in nature - what is that!)
Prejudice and racism could be an issue
Verbal harassment in Riga towards those of ethnic backgrounds has been reported. One traveler online notes this sort of abuse has lessened in recent years, while another says he was repeatedly told to go back to where he came from while out in Riga in 2009. The same sort of abuse can be expected towards homosexual travelers.
Be aware of the car theft rates in Latvia
Not only does Latvia have a high traffic accident rate, they also have a high car theft rate. If you’re on a driving holiday, do keep your cars locked and valuables out of sight (or just out of the car!) when left unattended.
Author: Phil Sylvester
watch yourself and enjoy
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