Central Riga, seen from the tower of the 'Petera Baznica' church

Riga, Latvia...  This is Riga old town, seen from the tower of the 'Petera Baznica' church.

UK to Riga by train or ferry...

Riga is a great place to visit, with more of a 'big city' feel than Vilnius or Tallinn.  There are two basic options for travelling from the UK to Riga:  overland by train via Brussels, Berlin, Warsaw & Vilnius, or by by train from London to Stockholm, then by overnight cruise ferry to Riga.

Train times, fares & tickets...

  London to Riga by train via Brussels, Hamburg & Stockholm

  London to Riga by train via Berlin, Warsaw, Vilnius

  Train service within Latvia

  Riga to Vilnius by train or bus

  Riga to Tallinn by train or bus

  Riga to St Petersburg by train

  Riga to Moscow by train

  Useful country information currency, tourist info, time zone

  Hotels in Riga & Latvia

Sponsored links...

 

Route map:  London to Scandinavia, Estonia & Latvia by train & ferry...

Route map:  London to Stockholm & Gothenburg by train & ferry


Useful country information

Train operators:

Latvijas Dzelzcels (LDz, www.ldz.lv) also see www.pv.lv.

Train times in Europe: http://bahn.hafas.de

Train times in all ex-Soviet states:  www.poezda.net

All-Europe train times

 

 

Ferries to Riga:

www.tallink.lv  (Stockholm-Riga)

Time zone:

GMT+2 (GMT+3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).

Dialling code:

 

+371

Currency:

£1 = approx 1.15 euros, adopted by Latvia in 2014.   Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.inyourpocket.com & www.latviatravel.com.   Guidebooks

Hotels in Latvia:

Find a hotel in Riga    Hotel reviews: www.tripadvisor.com    Hostels:  Hostelbookers.com

Visas:

UK citizens do not need a visa for Latvia.

Page last updated:

20 November 2014.


London to Riga via Stockholm

Travel by Eurostar & comfortable connecting trains from London to Hamburg on day 1 from just €59, stay overnight in Hamburg, then travel from Hamburg to Stockholm on day 2 from as little as €39.  Take a bottle of wine and a good book, and enjoy a 2-day train ride across Europe on modern & comfortable trains with not an airport security queue in sight.  Stay overnight and spend most of day 3 exploring Stockholm.  Then take the overnight cruise ferry to Riga with a comfortable en suite cabin reserved, arriving on the morning of day 4.  What's the journey like?

London ► Riga

Riga ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?

...London to Cologne by Eurostar & ICE Watch the video guide.

...Cologne to Hamburg by InterCity train.

German InterCity train   InterCity 2nd class   InterCity 1st class (6-seat compartment type)

Most Cologne-Hamburg trains are InterCity trains, a few are high-speed ICEs.  Virtual tour of InterCity train...

 

InterCity 2nd class.  You'll also find a few compartment coaches on InterCity trains, and a bistro or restaurant car...

 

InterCity 1st class, often available in both open-plan saloons like this and in compartments.

...Hamburg to Copenhagen by ICE.

ICE3 second class ICE3 first class High-speed ICE3 train from Brussels to Frankfurt

ICE 2nd class.  All seats in both classes have power sockets for laptops & mobiles...

ICE 1st class, with real leather seats.  Staff provide at-seat service of drinks & food.

The Hamburg-Copenhagen ICE on board the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry.  More info on ICE.

...Copenhagen to Stockholm by SJ2000.

125 mph tilting 'X2000' from Copenhagen to Stockholm, at Copenhagen station   2nd class seats on the X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm   The self-service buffet on the X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm...

An SJ2000 train at Copenhagen, about to leave for Stockholm...

 

2nd class seating on the SJ2000.  All seats have power sockets...

 

Self-service buffet carMore information about SJ2000

...Stockholm to Riga by Tallink cruise ferry.

Boarding Tallink's 'Regina Baltica' from Stockholm to Tallinn   'C' grade cabin with en suite shower and WC on the ship to Tallinn   Sunset from the ferry to Riga

The daily Tallink ferry from Stockholm to Riga has a range of comfortable cabins, plus bars and restaurants.

 

Sunset as the ferry to Riga leaves Stockholm.  Courtesy of Alistair Weaver.

How to buy tickets by phone...

Custom-made train travel + hotel arrangements...

If you want a tailor-made trip with train & ferry travel, hotels & transfers all arranged for you, contact Railbookers.  Tell them what you want and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out.  They get positive reviews and look after their customers very well.

  In the UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

USA & Canada call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website


London to Riga overland via Berlin & Warsaw

The advantage of this route is that it may be a bit faster (but not much!).  The disadvantage is that UK rail agents can only book you as far as Warsaw, but can't book the leg from Warsaw to Vilnius or the bus from Vilnius to Riga.  You will need to buy tickets when you get to Warsaw and Vilnius, although this won't be a problem.

London ► Riga  (via Warsaw)

Riga ► London  (via Warsaw)

How to buy tickets...

You can book this journey from London as far as Warsaw through Deutsche Bahn's UK office on 08718 80 80 66 (lines open 0900-1700 Monday-Friday, no booking fee) or www.europeanrail.com on 020 7619 1083 (£20 booking fee, but can have more time to help).  Then book the Warsaw-Vilnius train at the station in Warsaw when you get there.  Then book the Vilnius to Riga bus when you get to Vilnius.

On the return journey, book the Riga-Vilnius bus at Riga bus station, and the Vilnius-Warsaw train at either Vilnius station.  Deutsche Bahn can, of course, reserve the rest of your return journey from Warsaw back to London.


Train travel within Latvia...

Trains link Riga with many Latvian towns, including Daugavpils (4 trains daily, 3-4 hours), Krustpils, Lugaži, Tukums & Jelgava.  The official Latvian Railways website is www.ldz.lv.  Click 'English' at the top, then 'Passenger traffic'.  There's now also a Latvian passenger trains website, www.pv.lv (click 'ENG' middle left for the English version).  However, the best source of times and fares for both trains and buses within Latvia is www.118.lv, which also has an English version.


Moving on from Latvia...

Riga ► Vilnius by train...

Sadly, there are now no direct Riga-Vilnius trains at all.  At least the Communists knew how to run a railway!  The Riga to Vilnius journey is now much faster and more frequent by long-distance bus, see the section below.  However, if you prefer to travel by train, no problem:  You can use a daily local train from Vilnius to Daugavpils in the evening, stop overnight in a hotel at Daugavpils, then travel by local train Daugavpils-Vilnius next morning.  Being an evening train-hotel-morning train arrangement, it's quite time-effective even if slower than the bus.

  • Evening day 1, travel from Riga to Daugavpils by train, leaving Riga main station at 17:32 and arriving Daugavpils 21:07, or there's an earlier fast train at 16:12 arriving 19:08.  The fare is around €7 (£6).  You can check times & fares at www.ldz.lv (Click 'English' top left then 'passenger traffic').  No prior reservation required, just buy a ticket on the day at the station.

  • Spend the night in Daugavpils, hotels from around £25 per room.

  • Morning day 2, travel from Daugavpils to Vilnius by once-daily international train leaving Daugavpils at 05:50 and arriving Vilnius at 08:06.  The fare is about €27.  Simply buy a ticket at the station on the day as this train cannot be pre-booked.  You can check times for this train at www.litrail.lt (click 'EN' for English, then 'Passenger transportation').

  • See the Lithuania page for details of the northbound service. 

Traveller Russell Goddard went this way between Vilnius & Riga, and used the Eurolines bus between Riga & Tallinn:  "While not unpleasant, the coach was a distinctly soulless experience, lacking the character of the trains. The coaches are a way of getting people from A to B with a minimum of bother, which I'm sure is a plus in many people's books, but as someone who travels as much for the sake of the journey itself, I was glad I'd gone by train from Vilnius to Riga via Daugavpils rather than taking the coach all the way from Vilnius to Tallinn! In Tallinn itself, the bus station is inconveniently located some distance from the city centre, while the rail station is right on the edge of the old town - if only it had a decent international service!"

Riga ► Vilnius by bus...

If you'd rather travel by bus, as in this case it is certainly more frequent and faster, there is a regular bus service from Riga to Vilnius, with several departures daily, fare €17-€23, journey time 4½ hours, see www.luxexpress.eu.

Riga ► Tallinn by train...

At last some good news from the Baltic States!  The Latvian and Estonian railways finally co-ordinated their timetables in 2011 and it's possible once more to travel between Riga and Tallinn on a fairly comfortable and cheap daily train service, with one simple change of train at Valga on the border.  It must be stressed that both the Latvian and Estonian trains are local services rather than anything fancy, and it takes a few hours longer and is less frequent than the bus (the train service runs only once a day), but it's cheap, easy to use, no prior reservation is necessary and you may find it an interesting and more enjoyable alternative to a long bus ride.  And as from 2014, the Estonian train between Valga & Tallinn is now a smart modern air-conditioned train with power sockets, on-board information screens and free WiFi.

 Riga Tallinn

          

 Tallinn ► Riga

 Local train service

Daily

 Local train service

Daily

 Riga station

depart

12:55

 Tallinn station

depart

08:12

 Valga (on Latvian train)

arrive

16:32

 Tartu

depart

10:16

 Valga (on Estonian train)

depart

17:00

 Valga arrive (on Estonian train)

arrive

11:30

 Tartu

arrive

18:16

 Valga depart (on Latvian train)

depart

11:43

 Tallinn station

arrive

21:17

 Riga station

arrive

15:17

Fares:  Riga to Valga costs just €5.60 for the 168 km.  Valga to Tallinn costs €13.90.

How to buy tickets: There's no need to reserve, indeed you can't.  Just turn up at Riga station, buy a ticket to Valga and get on the train.  You'll need to buy the Valga-Tartu & Tartu-Tallinn tickets on board the Estonian trains.

How to check these times and fares:  You can check times for the Latvian train times and fares at www.ldz.lv, click 'English' top left then 'Passenger traffic'.  You can check the Estonian train times and fares at www.elron.ee.  At time of writing it's only in Estonian, but click sõiduplaan (= timetable) at the top then look at the Tartu-Valga timetable.  It helps to know that in Estonian, Riia = Riga.  It looks as if the Valga-Tartu & Tartu-Tallinn trains are separate trains, one correspondent reports that an easy cross-platform change at Tartu was necessary, though another correspondent says it was the same train all the way Valga-Tallinn with a 19 minute layover at Tartu.  Just go there and see!

Tallinn to Riga by train:  Seating on the Valga-Riga train   Tallinn to Riga by train:  This is the Valga-Riga Latvian train

1) Riga to Valga by Latvian train...  This is a classic Soviet-era local train, 2nd class only, with a modernised interior (above left).  There's no catering on either train, so bring your own beer and picnic!  Photos courtesy of Jan Špaček

On board the Estonian train between Tallinn and Valga, en route to Riga.   Estonian train from Tallinn to Valga, seen at Valga

2) Valga to Tallinn by Estonian train...  These smart new air-conditioned local trains have on-board information screens, free Wifi & power sockets for laptops & mobiles.  Above left, first class seats are also available.  At Valga, it's a simple cross-platform interchange, in the exterior photo that's the front of the Latvian train on the right.  Photos courtesy of Daniel King.

Riga ► Tallinn by bus...

There is a regular bus service between Riga & Tallinn, taking about 4½ hours from €16-€27, with regular departures through the day.  See www.luxexpress.eu.  A couple of other bus companies (Ecolines & Hansabus) operate on this route too.

Riga ► Moscow by train...

There is a comfortable and safe daily sleeper train from Riga to Moscow, the Latvijas Express, with 1st class 2-berth sleepers & 2nd class 4-berth sleepers.  In summer there may be an additional daily sleeper train, the Jumala, leaving a little later.  To check train times, see www.poezda.net.

 Riga ► Moscow

          

 Moscow ► Riga

 Latvijas Ekspress

Daily

 Latviajas Ekspress

Daily

 Riga 

depart

16:45

 Moscow (Rizhskaya)

depart

19:00

 Moscow (Rizhskaya)

arrive

09:40

 Riga 

arrive

09:45

Fares:  Riga to Moscow costs around €60 in a 4-bed sleeper if bought at the station.  This train does NOT go through Belarus.

To check train times and book online in either direction, use the Real Russia booking system here.  Real Russia charge a 15-23% mark-up over ticket office prices, included in the prices they show.  For journeys starting in Riga you'll need to have tickets sent to you at a small extra charge as the e-ticket option doesn't work for departure from Vilnius, only for departures from Moscow.

A 2-berth sleeper on the Riga to Moscow train      Through the Latvian & Russian countryside on the train from Riga to Moscow

Above left:  A comfortable 2-berth sleeper on the Latvijas Ekspress Riga to Moscow train, with 2 lower bunks.  Note the tablecloth, serviettes, and various goodies available for purchase.  4-berth sleepers are similar to 2-berth ones, but with two upper bunks as well. The Riga to St Petersburg train has similar sleepers.  Above right: Through the countryside, en route from Riga to Moscow   Photos courtesy of John Walton.

Riga ► St Petersburg by train...

There is a comfortable and safe daily overnight sleeper train from Riga to St Petersburg, the Baltiya, with 2-berth and 4-berth sleepers.

 Riga ► St Petersburg

          

 St Petersburg ► Riga

 Baltija

Daily

 Baltija

Daily

 Riga 

depart

18:30

 St Petersburg (Vitebski)

depart

19:40

 St Petersburg (Vitebski)

arrive

09:20

 Riga

arrive

09:35

Fare:  Riga to St Petersburg costs around €50 in a 4-bed sleeper if bought at the station.  This train does NOT go through Belarus.

To check train times and book online in either direction, use the Real Russia booking system here.  Real Russia charge a 15-23% mark-up over ticket office prices, included in the prices they show.  For journeys starting in Riga you'll need to have tickets sent to you at a small extra charge as the e-ticket option doesn't work for departure from Vilnius, only for departures from St Petersburg.


The European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe/Maps--Atlases/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.


Recommended guidebooks:

The Man in Seat 61 book - click to buy onlineMake sure you take a good guidebook.  For the independent traveller, this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  I personally prefer the layout of the Lonely Planets, others prefer the Rough Guides.  Both books provide a similarly excellent level of interesting background and practical information.  You won't regret buying one of these!  My own book, an essential handbook for train or ferry travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon.co.uk with shipping worldwide.

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk...

 


Find hotels in Riga & Latvia...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

  • www.tripadvisor.com is the place to find independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

  • www.booking.com is my own preferred hotel booking system (Hotels Combined being a search/comparison system).  It has a simple interface, a good selection in most countries worldwide, useful online customer reviews of each hotel, and decent prices, usually shown inclusive of unavoidable extras such as taxes (a pet hate of mine is systems that show one price, then charge you another!).

Backpacker hostels...

  • www.hostelbookers.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelbookers offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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