My Erasmus experience in Riga, Latvia

Why did you chose to go to Riga?

Because I wanted an experience completely different to one I would have had going to countries similar to Spain. I wanted to improve my English, meet people, travel...

I don't agree with what people say about the poverty either. There is obviously a lot of prejudice, but when you go even the slightest bit away from the city centre you realise the massive difference between the rich and the poor. It's a shame to realise that these things are indeed true.

How long did your grant last? How much money did you get to help?

In my case, the exchange was 9 months and for the most part they gave me money to cover this time. At my university, UGR (Granada), they give a minimum of 600€/month to every Erasmus student and 300€ more (900€ if you will) to the Erasmus students who had received money from the Ministry of Education the year before. They only give this money to people going on an Erasmus exchange for the first time.

What's the student atmosphere like in Riga?

The university I went to (Baltijas Psiholoģijas un Menedžmenta Augstskola) put on loads of activities, like the San Valentín parties and many other things. The atmosphere was amazing, but everything was always in Russian, given they teach all the classes in it over there.

In terms of it being a student town, you could say that as there a lot of students knocking about and you notice it. Probably as in general the people from other towns and villages go there to study.

Would you recommend Riga and its University to other students?

Of course! Riga is completely different to Spain. The architecture, the people, the food, the weather... It's worth getting a taste of it for yourself!

There are stunning buildings, in one part they are all built in the art nouveau style from the WW2 era. The churches and cathedrals are very different to the ones in Spain too, and from my point of view are absolutely stunning.

The people can seem quite abrupt (and in some cases they really are) but they are also very welcoming, and if you try and speak their language (even if it's just 'hello' or 'thank you') they are much friendlier and more approachable. Also the people that don't speak English still help you whenever they can (the level of English there is definitely better than in Spain, so you shouldn't have many problems in that regard).

And the weather... Well, let's just say it's an experience to walk over a river completely frozen over. The answer to these freezing temperatures, warm clothes and suitable footwear!

What's the food like?

I myself liked it a lot. At first I missed Spanish food a lot but you have to give everything a chance. They use a lot of sauces and a lot of potato and meat. Also a lot of apples! It's pretty common for a Latvian friend to randomly give you some apples one day. Pancakes are also really common (sweet or savoury, they are really good).

How did you find your accommodation?

I was very lucky as I answered another girl's advert on Facebook. She was looking for a girl housemate and that was that. No scam, no worries.

What are the costs of accommodation like? And prices in general?

Accommodation, compared to Granda for example, is much cheaper. I paid 120€/month and was in the most expensive part of the city. Some of my other friends paid less than 100€ in other areas, close to the centre.

Prices are in some cases very similar to Spain, supermarkets for example (apart from the Spanish stuff that goes for quite a bit), going out to eat or have a coffee is usually cheaper; clothes, shoes and books are more expensive. Music is probably cheaper and you can go to the opera for as little as 4€ (30€ at most if I remember rightly).

Transport in general will cost you 1€ a journey, but you can get travel cards that work out slightly cheaper.

What was the language like? Did you do a language course of some kind?

I didn't do any sort of course. I learnt four basic words that everyone will pick up just from day-to-day use, but it is a bit complicated at first. The Erasmus office at my university offered me an EILC course (minor European language course) a month before I started, and I think they offer it to everyone.

What's the best/cheapest way to get to Riga from your city?

I went from Alicante. There are quite a few options, but the least difficult are Alicante-London-Riga (with Ryanair, if I remember rightly) or Alicante-Düsseldorf-Riga (Air Berlín-Air Baltic). The cheapest would be with Ryanair, but with Air Berlin, when I went at least, they were the best choice in terms of suitcase allowance and I didn't have to worry about my suitcase during the transfer. If I'm right, there are also direct flights to Riga from Madrid and Barcelona.

What places would you recommend for going out in Riga?

The French bar is the usual place for Erasmus students, but I know they changed owner last year and don't know if they changed the name too. In general, the city centre is really good for going out. In winter you can go to the open air ice rink.

And eating in Riga? What are your favourite places?

  1. LIDO: Typical Latvian food. There are loads dotted all over the city but I recommend the one closest to the centre, we called it 'el LIDO grande'. It's where you'll find the ice rink I talked about and as it's the biggest one, there are more options to choose from. It's not too expensive although the prices rise around April/May time if I remember rightly.
  2. Cili-Pica: chain of Lithuanian restaurants that are also dotted around the whole city. The food is really good and a great price, although sometimes they refused to serve us everything we asked for as it was 'too much' (obviously we weren't offended by this, but we realised that the Latvians ate... but not like us), and you have to bear in mind the time they ate as well.
  3. Double-Coffee: a chain of cafes like Starbucks, but it doesn't serve food or anything like that. I don't recommend the alcoholic drinks either, but each to their own. The price matches the quality, it's pretty cheap.
  4. The Japanese restaurant in the Cathedral (Doma Laukums) square does the best Miso soup I've ever had, but I don't remember the name of the place. There's also a little place inside that do amazing pancakes.

What about a cultural visit?

There's a lot on offer. The views, churches, cathedrals, buildings, the opera, the canal and the parks, the concerts... if I were to write everything you can see or do then this post would never end!

Any advice for future students going to Riga?

Buy suitable clothing for the winter, shoes especially. If you don't your toes will freeze! Bear in mind that you have to get a permit/visa to live there. Me and my friends didn't have a clue about that at first and we had to do it last minute (we were there as 'illegals' for a while but nothing happened... it's better to get it sorted and avoid the situation altogether).

And finally... travel a lot! You can go to Stockholm, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland for just 4€!

Share your Erasmus Experience in Riga!

If you know Riga as native, traveler or as exchange student... share your opinion on Riga! Rate different characteristics and share your experience.

Comments (1 comments)

  • Michelle Puska 6 years ago

    Hey, you wrote about traveling to Stockholm and more for just 4€, am I right? Which bus or train or boat did you choose to travel? May you be so kind to tell me some, because I am going to live for about 4 months in Riga and we wanted to visit these cities as well.
    Kind regards Michelle

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