Travel, Uncategorized

Riga, Latvia 

Walking in and out of the picturesque streets, it would be hard not to think you were living in a medieval fairytale.

Riga, the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the baltic states, is a city that may not be the most popular destination for tourists. To be honest, before I left for Riga my parents had to ask me about 4 or 5 times where it was and what it was like and still never had a scooby about it prior to me leaving. However, for those who have experienced it’s beauty and charm would argue the case all day long that visiting Riga should be up there at the top of your bucket list and after visiting I couldn’t agree more.

The city that boasts a population of over 640,000, was voted European capital of culture in 2014 alongside Umeå in Sweden. With so much to see and do with such little time, I decided to stay in the old town for the 3 nights that I was there and man am I glad I did!

The old town is honestly like something out of a fairytale, with an eventful history spanning over 800 years it’s a place you can feel the history in every street that you walk down. The streets are filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops and a landmark is never more than a 5 minute walk away. Famous for it’s Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture It’s easy to see why the old town is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

I stayed just round the corner in a hostel from St Peter’s church, a Lutheran church dedicated to saint Peter. With a great view of it from my room I honestly couldn’t help but stare at it, even in passing I would stop for a minute or two to check it out every single time I passed it. It truly is a remarkable and astonishing building.

Another landmark which overlooks the old town is the freedom monument. A monument that honours the soldiers who were killed in the Latvian war of independence. Again, this was another landmark I couldn’t help but stop and stare at every time I passed it. Even for someone who has no ties to Latvia in anyway whatsoever I still felt a great amount of respect and pride for the Latvian people whilst looking at the monument, although perhaps being a Scotsman who longs for independence could have played a part in that.

One of the things that stood out for me about Riga was how cheap everything was. €7 for a decent meal at a restaurant, €3 for a pack of cigarettes and €2 for a beer! Ill say that again, €2 for a beer! Absolutely magic. To put it into perspective I read that if you want to save money you should buy a bus ticket for €1.15 at a designated area before getting on a bus, as you will then have to fork out €2 for a ticket if you buy it on a bus. When I read that all I could think was that people think that €2 for a bus is dear? That’s a bargain compared to back home. I also got a taxi from the airport to the hostel when I arrived aswell which cost me €12, for the same journey length back home it would have cost me more than double, potentially treble that. So it was happy days!

With so many landmarks, museums and gorgeous streets, there is so much to see and do in Riga. To be perfectly honest though I believe that if you’re travelling yourself, then 3 days is the perfect amount of days to visit. If you’re travelling with friends however I’d recommend staying a bit longer.

If you ever get the chance to visit then do it, I honestly can’t recommend Riga enough to you. It’s one of those cities that leaves a smile on your face when you think about it and it’s one of those cities that will always be with you.


Oh and for smokers, at Riga International Airport (RIX) after security there are plenty of smoking areas for you to enjoy a wee fag so you don’t have to wait ages for a cigarette. Hope this helps.

As usual, happy travels!

Cùm gàidhlig beò! 

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Travel, Uncategorized

Why I’d recommend staying in a hostel 

As someone who has stayed in lots of different hostels in lots of different countries, I can honestly say that I would be lost without them. They are more than just an alternative to hotels, they are quite honestly an asset to people like myself who love to travel but are restricted when it comes to money.

I write this today whilst sitting in my room in the red nose hostel, in old town Riga. In a single room which has cost me £55 for 3 nights. I decided to opt for a single room instead of sharing which would have saved me £35 because it was a deal I couldn’t refuse. A room to myself with a shared bathroom, something I can live with. A bargain. A night in a hotel for the same amount of time would have cost me well over £100, and the only difference being is that I would have a bathroom to myself. Again, that’s something I don’t mind doing without.

The room I’m currently staying in 

The hostel itself is a money saving gem that makes life so much easier if you’re like me and travelling on a budget. An excellent location, within 5 minutes walk from the main sites, shopping centre, and with pubs, bars and restaurants all around it it saves the need to spend lots of money on transport. The room may be fairly basic but the hostel in general has everything you really need concerning your basic needs including a kitchen and washing machines. Which again is perfect if you’re on a budget.

The view from my room 

Most people tend to have preconceived ideas when it comes to hostels, the hostel films probably not helping those preconceived thoughts much either. The thought of sharing a room with strangers can be a daunting prospect. The language barriers, the clash of cultures, the lack of privacy, the “are they going to murder me in my sleep” thoughts, we all have them. It’s natural. The funny thing is that 90% of the people that you’ll share a room with will be in the same position as you and more than likely share the same thoughts. I can honestly say that in all the times I’ve shared a room in a hostel I’ve only ever had one bad experience, and that was one person who was really noisy when I was trying to sleep. That’s my only negative experience, and it isn’t really that bad if when you think of it.

You don’t always need to share with someone though, like I mentioned above I’m currently staying in a room by myself at a much lower price than a hotel. So if staying yourself is your preferred option or if you’re not quite ready to take the leap to staying with strangers then it’s always worth a wee look to see if you can get a deal on a room in hostel.

If you’re looking to meet people on your travels, hostels are a great place to start. The beauty of hostels is that you never know who you’re going to meet, that’s one of the things I love most about them. When I was in Berlin I went out on a pub crawl with others who were staying at the hostel, and for two nights I never got back to my room until 4 & 6 am. I ended up becoming good friends with a group of English guys and a group of Irish girls, some of who I still keep in contact with more than a year later. The people I met in Berlin made it the best holiday I ever I’ve ever went on, that’s when I truly fell in love with hostels. In my experience I’ve found that the people who I’ve shared a room with have usually been sound. They’ll engage in conversation with you whether it be small talk, in depth conversations or even a simple hi. Everyone is different. As I said earlier though, the majority of people are in the same boat as you so it makes talking to them a little bit easier.

Probably the greatest thing that can come out of staying in a hostel is the confidence you get from it. Once you prove to yourself that you can do it, it opens up so many different windows for you for your future. After that dreaded first night is out the way, you’ll feel amazing. You’ll feel like a new person and begin to discover so much more about yourself and your limits than you previously knew, it’s honestly a life changing experience. And once that fear you once had about sharing a room with strangers disappears, it will put you in a better position than ever for any future travels you may have or aspire to go on.

Happy travels and as always,

Cùm gàidhlig beò!