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Riga, Latvia

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Feb 02, 2023

Summary: People describe Riga, Latvia as a vibrant and beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage. Expats love the city's vibrant nightlife, its many parks and green spaces, its affordable cost of living, and its friendly locals. The weather in Riga is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-60s Fahrenheit in the summer and the mid-teens to the mid-30s Fahrenheit in the winter. The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,500 per month, including rent. The cost of a one bedroom apartment in Riga is around $500 per month, while a two bedroom apartment is around $700 per month. The approximate population of Riga is 641,000.

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What do I need to know about living in Riga?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Riga, they said:

"1. Being a retiree in Riga can be quite advantageous to those looking for a quieter lifestyle. 2. The cost of living in Riga is relatively low, making it easier for retirees to save money. 3. Riga is full of cultural attractions and activities, and retirees can have an interesting and fulfilling life in Riga. 4. The climate in Riga is moderately cold in the winter and cool in the summer, making it ideal for those who don’t want to experience extreme weather conditions. 5. Healthcare in Riga is of a high quality, and if you plan to retire in Riga it’s important to understand the local healthcare system and what services are available. 6. There are several ways to apply for the Latvian pension, so make sure you research the process, the documentation you’ll need, and the deadlines for submitting your application. 7. Although the majority of the people in Riga speak Latvian, many also speak English as a second language, so you won’t be completely out of your depth. 8. Establishing a residence in Latvia is a legal process, so make sure you understand the necessary steps and are familiar with the local requirements. 9. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the local customs, laws, and regulations and be sure to obtain a valid visa if necessary. 10. Expats in Riga benefit from the relatively relaxed pace of life and the many beautiful spots where they can spend quality time," remarked another expat in Riga.

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What do I need to know before moving to Riga?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Riga, they said:

"Before moving to Riga, it is important to familiarize yourself with the city and its culture. Research the average cost of living and the availability of jobs and housing. Ensure you have all necessary paperwork in order, such as valid visas, if needed. Familiarize yourself with basic Latvian phrases so you can navigate the city more easily. Learn about the public transportation and administration systems. Research the various health care, insurance, and banking options available to you. Additionally, it is important to be aware of Riga’s culture and customs, especially when it comes to interacting with locals," remarked another expat in Riga.

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How do I find a place to live in Riga?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"There are many options available when it comes to finding a place to live in Riga. The most popular option is to look for a rental apartment, which can be found through real estate agencies, property websites, and classified ads. You can also find rooms in shared apartments or dormitories, or find short term accommodation through sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. For those looking for something more permanent, consider purchasing an apartment, or talk to your colleagues about subletting their apartments for a reasonable price," remarked another in Riga.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Riga?

"A typical expat home or apartment in Riga is likely to be modern, spacious, and well-provided with amenities. Living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen areas are usually furnished with high-quality pieces, and many homes and apartments are additionally equipped with luxuries such as saunas, balconies, and home entertainment systems. Many expat flats and houses are conveniently located near amenities such as restaurants, shops and transportation hubs," added another person living in Riga.

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What is the average cost of housing in Riga?

If you are thinking about moving to Riga, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Riga varies depending on the location and the type of housing. Generally speaking, rents for apartments in the city center range from around 500 euros to 1500 euros per month, while outside the city center, rents range from around 300 euros to 900 euros per month," explained one expat.

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How do I meet people in Riga?

When we asked people living in Riga about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"One great way to meet people in Riga is through social groups or events where local people gather. You can join online groups or look for local events, such as sports, meet-ups, workshops, or art exhibitions. Additionally, you can check out Riga’s many bars and cafes, or take a class or join a club. Volunteering or getting involved with a charity project is also a great way to meet people in Riga. Lastly, getting involved with a co-working space or local organization can be a great way to expand your network and make new connections in Riga," remarked another expat in Riga.

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What should I bring when moving to Riga?

People living in Riga were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"Clothes for all seasons, enough for a few weeks; any prescriptions and over-the-counter medications needed; toiletries; cell phone and charger; a laptop/computer and charger; work and study documents; power adapters for electronics; towels and linen; any special items like kitchen utensils, furniture, and appliances; important documents like passports, visas, licenses, and permits; books, music, magazines, and other entertainment items; insect repellent; and cash in Latvian currency," said another expat in Riga.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Riga?

We asked expats in Riga what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"The following banks in Riga offer bank accounts: SEB, Sampo Banka, Nordea, Swedbank, Luminor, Citadele and Rietumu Bank. Typically, to open a bank account, you will need to provide identification documents (ID or passport and proof of residence) and proof of income (such as a paystub or a tax return). Many banks also require an appointment for an in-person consultation and for account activation," explained one expat living in Riga.

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Will I be able to find a job in Riga?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Riga, they reponded:

"Riga is the capital of Latvia and has a strong and growing economy with an active job market. There are many international companies based in Riga, including some of the world's top technology companies. The city also has a vibrant start-up culture, meaning there are numerous opportunities for those willing to take risks to follow their dreams. The job market also contains many opportunities in banking, finance, and services, while manufacturing and technology remain popular Industries. With its vibrant cultural life, excellent universities, and enchanting old town, Riga is becoming increasingly attractive to foreign professionals, making it an inviting place to search for and secure employment," remarked another expat in Riga.

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What is life like in Riga?

When we asked people living in Riga what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Living as an expat in a new country can be a daunting experience but is exciting when exploring the unknown. Learning about the culture can take some time, but the locals are usually welcoming and friendly. Living costs can vary and can depend on the area. Transportation options can also depend on the location. For example, buses and taxis are the main ways to get around in some places; while in other areas it may be easier to have a car or get around by bike. Depending on the expat's situation, language may or may not be an issue. Overall, living as an expat can be an enjoyable and enriching experience and a great way to explore a new place," remarked another expat in Riga.

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What do expats in Riga appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Riga appreciate the easygoing, friendly atmosphere of the city. The strong Baltic heritage is particularly attractive for many. The vibrant street art culture and eclectic music scene can also be enjoyed in Riga. One of the city’s most beloved characteristics is the cuisine, which ranges from traditional Latvian dishes to modern international fare. Additionally, the affordability of the city enables expats to have a great lifestyle without compromising on quality," explained one expat living in Riga.

"The Latvian culture is beautiful and interesting - as are the people. I appreciate that most Latvians work in Riga (or other city) and then immediately disappear to the woods in their other homes to be out in nature. They are fine, decent people. They sort of just keep to themselves, like most Europeans, and this can be seen by us Americans as being stand-offish or even rude," said another expat in Latvia.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expats often find cultural differences, language barriers and distance from family and friends to be the most challenging aspects of life abroad. Everyday things, such as finding housing and navigating unfamiliar bureaucracy, can also present significant challenges. Additionally, adapting to the different customs and way of life in a new country can be a challenge that takes time to overcome," explained one expat living in Riga.

"The languages. They're tough. This winter was very cold/snowy but being a Minnesota girl, just took a few weeks to remember this is what I grew up in even though I'd done the last 4.5 years in the tropics! It was beautiful too even with the mounds of snow. Just dress warm," said another expat in Riga.

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Is there a lot of crime in Riga?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Riga has generally been considered to be a safe city with low levels of reported crime. It is generally considered to be safe to walk around the city at night and to use public transportation. Despite low crime rates, as in any other city, it is important to remain aware of your surroundings, to avoid carrying large amounts of cash, and to avoid visiting areas known to be more dangerous," said another person in Riga.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Riga accepting of differences?

"Riga is a diverse city with multiple ethnicities, languages, and cultures living together in harmony. People in Riga are open-minded and accepting of differences, and there is a warm atmosphere of respect and appreciation between residents regardless of their backgrounds. Furthermore, there is a wide variety of cuisine and activities that cater to the different ethnicities and orientations of the people of Riga," said another expat in Riga.

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What are the schools in Riga like?

"Riga has a strong tradition in education, offering a wide range of pre-school, primary, middle and secondary school options. Primary education is provided by public and private schools and is compulsory for children aged 7 to 16. There are many high-quality private schools that specialize in a variety of different subjects and follow the international curricula of leading British, American, and other European education systems. University education is offered at the Riga Technical University, the University of Latvia and the Riga Stradins University, amongst others. Both the Technical University and Stradins University offer a wide range of study options to international students," said another parent with children at in Riga.

"The school has a great director that keeps pushing education standards. Recently the school introduced a new English language programme which worked great for my son who had some problems with English. They are committed to grow the school into higher grades as there is a lot of kids in Grades 3-6. In my view, you'll make a good choice if you enroll your kids there," commented one expat when asked about International School of Riga in Riga.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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