Why Live in Riga, Latvia?

Monument of Freedom in Riga Latvia
Monument of Freedom

Riga is the capital of Latvia; it’s also the biggest city in Latvia. However, in my opinion, it sets it apart from other capitals around Europe is that the cost of living in Riga is affordable. That is, if you know how to live like a local.

My boyfriend and I traveled for 10 months last year (starting from Portugal all the way to Malaysia), and we concluded that Latvia is a pretty affordable (dare we say – cheap) country to live in! Of course, the price difference may have been in the fact that everywhere we lived, we only lived there for 1-2 months, so obviously the rent price was higher than for a long-term rental.

Apart from the cost, Riga also offers a lot of history, architecture, and culture. I’ve lived in Riga for 10 years and I still LOVE walking in Old Riga with its old stone pavements and Art Nouveau style buildings.

Sitting in a cafe, drinking some coffee and watching people go about their day – there’s a certain charm to Old Riga that you just can’t resist going! By the way, Old Riga is meant for tourists more than locals so it’s commons sense that everything is more expensive there, however, if you know where the locals go, you won’t have to empty your whole wallet. More on that later!

Doma Laukums or Old Town Riga
Doma Laukums or Old Town Riga

What does it Cost to Live in Riga, Latvia

Cost of accommodation in Riga

There are a lot of foreigner students coming to Riga for an Erasmus year, therefore, the summer is the hot season when apartments are quickly put on the market and even quicker taken off the market (if they’re not completely awful). This also means that the landlords try to put the biggest price possible for that room/apartment. During the winter it’s the other way around – landlords know that people aren’t actively searching for a place, plus utilities cost more during winter, which means a cosmic price won’t attract potential tenants.

Vērmane Garden Is One Example Good living in Riga
Vērmane Garden is the Oldest Public Garden in Riga, Latvia

I’d advise to come to Riga during the spring or autumn, and then look for an apartment for long-term rent.

One thing to always keep in mind, Latvians don’t mention the number of bedrooms an apartment has. They usually mention the number of rooms. Therefore, if you see an ad for 2-room apartment, then it means that this apartment has 1 bedroom and 1 living room (kitchen doesn’t count as a room, it is, of course, a given).

Riga is made up of areas/districts:

The most expensive ones will be:

  • Old Town (Old Riga) – the most expensive!!!
  • City Center
  • Skanste (which is also known as Quiet Center)
  • Andrejsala (because it has the view of Daugava river beside it)

As it is all over the world – the closer to the city center you will live, the more you will pay for that luxury.

A good, furnished, renovated 2-room apartment will probably cost around 450 EUR.

I’ve seen also, on occasion, 3-bedroom apartments in the city center for 600 EUR, meant for 3 students, each with their separate room. These types of offers disappear quickly.

A bit less expensive:

  • Brasa
  • Grīziņkalns
  • Ķīpsala (right over the river Daugava, so it is still very close to the City Center)
  • Mežaparks (it has the name Park in it, it has the Riga Zoo in it, it also has many concerts in it)

Prices here can vary. But usually, it will cost you about 350-400EUR for a neat, furnished 1-room apartment. You may get lucky and get that price for a 2-room apartment, but then it may not be fully furnished.

However, the more rooms, the more expensive the apartment will be. A 3-room apartment can go all the way up to 600 EUR (excluding utilities). It will also depend on what floor the apartment is (attic type apartments are more expensive due to the wide space they offer), what condition the apartment is in, and how truly close to the center it is.

Affordable prices (the majority of people live in these districts):

  • Teika
  • Jugla
  • Purvciems
  • Āgenskalns
  • Kalnciems
  • Sarkandaugava (right next to the expensive Mežaparks)
  • Maskavas forštate
St. Peter's Church in Riga Latvia
St. Peter’s Church in Riga, Latvia

On average, these are the “up to 30 minutes” bus ride from the city center to any of these districts.

You can easily find a good 2-room apartment for 300 EUR a month (excluding utilities). My boyfriend and I live in a modern, renovated (in the last 5 years), fully furnished 2-room apartment for 350 EUR in Teika. Our bus drive to city center is about 20 minutes; and we have a shopping center a mere 10-minute walk away.

But with a little bit of digging, you can definitely find cheaper options. However, at the moment, with market prices raised, I doubt you could find anything cheaper than 250EUR/per month, unless you want an apartment that you would need to put some work into, e.g., recolor the walls, buy your own furniture, etc.

Even more affordable (because they’re the furthest districts from city center, but no more than 40 min bus ride to the center)

  • Pļavnieki
  • Torņakalns
  • Ziepniekkalns
  • Imanta
  • Zolitūde
  • Bolderāja
  • Iļģuciems (however, if you’re studying in RSU, this is the perfect district as the university is located here)

As I mentioned earlier, the market prices aren’t the lowest currently, therefore, you probably won’t find a comfy apartment for less than 250 EUR/per month.

Central Market in Riga Latvia
Central Market in Riga

However, if you’re looking for the cheapest options, then these are definitely the districts to look at. Especially, Bolderaja, it’s the furthest from city center, but it has the sea next to it. However, locals also know this as a bit of a shady district. So, prices here will probably be the lowest in all of Riga.

Utilities (water, electric, internet, moblie phone, cable, etc.)

We loved living in Portugal; however, compared to Portugal, utilities are not that bad in Latvia. Since Portugal thinks it’s a hot country all year round, a lot of things run on electricity (at least our apartment) By the way, Portugal, install some radiators in your homes, you’re not a hot country all year round just because you’re next to Spain, and we lived in the very south part of Portugal, supposedly the warmest part.

Latvians enjoy either central heating or they heat up their home with a fireplace/furnace, which requires stocking up on wood in the summer.

But usually, in Riga you will see central heating.

You get one bill that will include heating, water (cold and hot), and trash. Electricity is a separate bill.

During the warm months (April – October), your total bill for heating and water will be around 50 – 80 EUR, depending on the amount of people living in an apartment and the amount of water used. During the cold months (November – March), your bill can go anywhere from 100 to 150 EUR (due to central heating).

Electricity is paid separately. If you have a water boiler, then the hot water amount will cost you more (as it was the case for us in Portugal – but it was the only way to stay warm in an otherwise cold apartment). We are 2 people and we pay around 20 EUR a month for electricity, it would probably be more during the winter months, as you use more lights around the house during darker months.

So, for example, we are two people in a 2-room apartment paying around 70-80 EUR a month during the warm months and around 120 EUR during the winter months.

Internet expenses vary from provider to provider. But a good range is anywhere between 10 EUR to 20 EUR. Just for the internet, though. There are packages available where TV programs are also included. However, you can rest assured that internet in Latvia is one of the fastest in Europe, so if you’re a digital nomad – come here! Another lovely aspect to getting internet here is that it doesn’t take a couple of weeks to get it (like I’ve had the experience in Belgium, England and France). Here you go to the provider’s shop, sign up as a client, and get the router that will ensure a speedy wireless internet at home. The best internet providers, in my experience are LMT and Baltcom.

Mobile phone costs. The biggest, probably the best too, mobile providers are LMT, Bite (although, some coverage problems in some rural areas), and TELE2.

Price-wise, the cheapest will be Bite, then TELE2, the most expensive being LMT (especially for new users). However, LMT has great customer service and their coverage throughout all areas (even countryside) is great! For unlimited calls, texts and a bit of internet you’ll probably pay around 12 – 15 EUR, for unlimited internet, calls, texts it can be more in the 20 EUR range.

Transportations Costs in Riga

In Riga, if you will be commuting to work each day, then it is wiser to buy a month pass. We don’t have the city divided in zones. If you need to go 2 stops or if you need to go 22 stops, the price will still be the same.

For 1 singe-way ride (bus, tram, trolley, minibus) you will pay 1,15 EUR, if you buy it before hoping in the transport. If you forgot to buy a ticket beforehand, then you can purchase it from the driver, for 2 EUR.

Where can you buy the ticket beforehand? There are these little shops called Narvesen. They’re pretty much everywhere.

Narvesen Grocery Store in Riga
Narvesen Convenience Store in Riga

There are also 24-hour tickets, which cost 5 EUR and you can ride in any mode of transport an unlimited amount in those 24 hours.

But a month pass ticket will cost 35 EUR (for one route, e.g., for Bus no. 3 only), and for all routes, all modes of transport (bus, trolleybus, tram) it will cost you 50 EUR/month.

For timetables, routes and stops for each type of transport (bus, trolleybus or tram) you can look here: https://www.rigassatiksme.lv/en

Cost of food and eating out in Riga

How does one say if the cost of food is expensive or not? We spend around 350 EUR – 400 EUR on groceries per month, per 2 people. We use an app called Wally where you put all your expenses by category. I looked at the past year, we’ve spent around the same amount everywhere we’ve lived, maybe around 50 EUR difference more or less. So, if you think 350 EUR per month is a lot, and then maybe it’s just us that spend so much.

I definitely advise going to the Central Market, in the city center. After 18:00 it turns into “night market”, where prices for produce are lowered and you can buy in bulk and from local farmers. Also, a great place where to eat as one pavilion was recently restored and is full of local entrepreneurs with small cafes and restaurants.

Lido Restaurant in Riga Latvia
Lido Restaurant in Riga Latvia

As for eating out, the following cafes are just a few of my personal favorites:

  • Chez Olivier Cafe (Kaleju Street 23) – a french cafe owned by an actual French guy, so you KNOW the croissants will be fresh and delicous. The croissants are freshly made each morning. The same cafe of Bernard (the owner) is on Kr. Barona Street 52, if you’re more in the city center, not Old Riga.
  • Mārtiņa Beķereja (Martin’s Bakery) – a very inexpensive bakery and cafe. You can buy a pastry for as little as 0.40 EUR.
  • Tokyo City – there are a couple of these restaurants all over the city center and Old Riga, the prices are very reasonable. We go a lot there with my friends.
  • Čili pica, Lulu pica, Picu darbnīca – if pizzas are what you’re after, these are great options (Čili is the cheapest, hands down).
  • Gan Bei – has good food, but it is more expensive than others, about 20-25 EUR per person, which isn’t terrible if you’re just going there a couple times a month, or as a tourist.
  • Lido – a lot of office workers go to eat here for lunch because there you can get classic Latvian food. Lunch will cost you around 4 to 7 EUR. Definitely try at least once!
  • Pelmeņi – translation: Dumplings. Oh, cheese dumplings, you will be the death of me. A must try at least once. With sour cream, of course, because otherwise you’re not eating like a Latvian would be.

Entertainment

Entertainment depends on what you consider as entertainment.

If you want to watch a movie, then you can go to any cinema because the original English movies are played in their original language, Latvian subtitles are simply added under. There are two big cinemas – Cinamon in Teika, in the shopping center Alfa; and Forum Cinemas, which is in the center of Riga.

Cost per ticket is roughly around 7 EUR.

There are also Escape Rooms. And I mention them because a lot of them are also in English (probably because a lot of Erasmus students go there too). A room from which you need to escape in one hour costs 50 EUR after 18:00, before 18:00 it will be 35-40 EUR.

The before-mentioned district of Riga, Mežaparks, holds a lot of activities – the Zoo, Kaķa trase (which is physical climbing on ropes, ladders, etc.), bike rent, roller skate rent, and paintball outdoors.

If partying is what you’re after, then Old Riga is full of bars, where a beer will cost anywhere from 2 EUR to 4 EUR, and cocktails will be around 6 to 9 EUR.

For entertainment you can look at the biggest shopping centers: Alfa, Akropole, Riga Plaza, and Spice.

[Other shopping centers are Galleria Riga and Galerija Center, where there isn’t entertainment, but you can do your clothes or grocery shopping]

A walk in the park is something you can do without cost. For that the best parks would be Vērmanes Dārzs, Viesturdārzs, Kronvalda Parks, and Bastejkalna Parks are all located in a walking distance from each other in the city center. But other Riga districts usually have their own little forest or park where you can enjoy a quiet walk, which is something I LOVE about Riga – although, it’s the capital, it’s still quite green.

Pelmeni Restaurant
Pelmeni Restaurant

To Sum Up The Cost of Living in Riga, Latvia

I think it is pretty reasonable to live in Riga for 1000 EUR – 1500 EUR a month (for 2-3 people), depending on how often you go outside to eat, do some fun things (e.g., cinema), etc. Riga has around 630 000 people, which, compared to some bigger capitals like London, Berlin or Paris seems like living in a modern countryside. Just kidding. But it is one of the reasons why I like Riga as a big city more than others – you live here with all these possibilities to do, see, taste things, with access to everything, but still not being over-crowded.

A little side note: Latvians are notorious for being introverted, quiet and not too talkative or smiley people. However, once you make friends with a Latvian, you know you are truly friends.

About the Author

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Cynthia is a semi digital-nomad. Together with her boyfriend, they traveled almost all of 2018, starting from friendly Portugal, all the way to even friendlier Bali. Her boyfriend has his own traveling blog where she’s a frequent content contributor, however, she wanted to try her own luck with blogging and making money from it, so she started her own women’s blog (MissCoty) where she talks about everyday struggles of womanhood.

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