Latvia. Ever heard of it? If you’re anything like me 7 years ago, then no you haven’t. Ignorant Americans. Well, Latvia is a European country located in the eastern part of the continent in between Lithuania and Estonia. To the right of it is Russia, and the Baltic Sea is to the left. Bet you weren’t expecting a geography lesson today.
It just so happens that my husband was born in Latvia and lived there for most of his life before moving to the United States as a teenager. Of course he still has family living there, so I was super excited when we planned a trip to the mother country-and by we, I mean me.
I’ve traveled quite a bit since 2010 when I got bit by the travel bug, and Latvia has been my favorite spot by far! We left December 26, 2015 and didn’t return until January 6, 2016. While there we spent a large chunk of time in Riga, Liepaja and took a road trip to see Jekabpils and multiple castles around the country. Here are my top five tips for traveling to Latvia, as I’m sure it is now on all of your lists:
- Airfare- I saved us a ton of money by flying out of JFK in New York City. We flew on the Russian airline Aeroflot. Our total flying time was about 10.5 hours with a quick layover in Moscow. Overall it was a good flight- even though the husband’s tv didn’t work so we shared mine to watch movies. Anyways, I saved us about $400 flying out of JFK vs. any other airport. JFK was about a 4 hour drive from our home in DE, but it was worth the extra savings in my book. So I’d recommend you do your research and consider widening your flexibility with nearby, and not so nearby airports. I use kayak.com to search for flights, and cross reference with skiplagged.com as well.
- Weather- Is it cold in Latvia? It was balls freaking cold. For some reason, my dear husband suffered from amnesia when he was asked about how cold it was and insisted it wasn’t that bad. It was a cold, I don’t think I’ve experienced before. I might be exaggerating a bit, it wasn’t like arctic temps, but it was very cold- like -18ºC (I’m so European now). If you’re planning a trip in January, make sure you have the appropriate gear. I’m talking sweaters, two layers of pants, gloves – not the cute little Old Navy cotton knit gloves that will look so dear with your matching scarf because they have hearts or puppies on them, I’m talking the kind you’d wear for the Antarctica expedition you’re never going to take- wool scarf, hat-again, leave the hearts and puppies at home- THICK socks and winter boots. We each have a three in one coat from North Face that did the trick for both of us. Here is a link to the one I have.
- Latvian, Russian, and English, oh my! -They have their own language, Latvian, in Latvia. There’s also a very large population of Russians who live in the country as well, so Russian is also a common language you’ll hear there. Buuuuuut, you don’t have to speak either of these languages to visit this beautiful country. English has been widely taught to younger generations as a second language, so you’d definitely be able to get by without being fluent in Latvian. I downloaded an app called Lingopal though and selected Latvian as my language as choice. It was 99¢ but has all sorts of helpful words and phrases. Here are some screenshots of what you can learn:
Let’s take a closer look at the Insults-X-rated:Worth the 99¢ even if you don’t ever go to Latvia.
- Riga and Public transportation- Riga is the capital of Latvia and they have AMAZING public transportation. It’s affordable and easy to understand. I’ve been to NYC multiple times and I still can’t grasp how to read the subway. Riga’s bus, trolley bus, tram, and train system is so convenient and you can buy tickets online, from the driver, or from many kiosks and shops. You can find specific prices and times here and here. I recommend you do the e-ticket. It’s cheaper and it’s 2016- get with the times.
- Castles- Have you ever been to a castle? They’re super gorgeous. You know what’s even more gorgeous? Castles covered in snow. And there are a bunch you can tour and visit in Latvia. We saw Bauskas Castle, Rundale Palace, Cesis Castle and Sigulda Castle. I highly recommend them all!
We were only able to see all of these magnificent beasts because we rented a car and road tripped our way around the country on a whim.
Here is the route we took:And here you can experience some of our Latvian overlanding:
Not all of the roads are paved, but we still made it through fine in this sweet little ride:
And those are 5 tips for your next trip to Latvia! I’ll share more in future posts, I didn’t even begin to talk about the FOOD, but those are enough to get you started. In the meantime, enjoy these adorable photos of family and our other adventures on the trip.
Where should we go next? Comment below with your recommendations!