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Later this summer I will be travelling with a connection in Riga. I expect the luggage to be checked straight through. We have about 10 hours between flights on the way there and 8 hours on the way back. Both times the first flight arrives in the morning and the second one leaves in the afternoon/evening.

I'm not inclined to spend 8+ hours in the airport and would rather do some sightseeing while I'm there (I haven't been to Riga before).

There will be 2 adults with 4 children aged between 8 and 11, all British citizens. A few things I'd like to confirm.

  • Is the airport easy to navigate? From what I'm reading, it's a small airport, but even a small one can be confusing.
  • How quick is it to get through passport control and later through security on the way back?
  • Is there an easy transfer to/from the city centre?
  • Is there a tourist information office in the airport? If not, what about at the point where we arrive into the city centre?
  • And separately, if the weather is really bad and we end up staying in the airport, is there international transfer zone?

Lastly, with a combined knowledge across us of English, Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian languages, with a basic level of French, what will be the preferred option for communicating locally (outside of airport)? I have heard, for example, that Russian isn't particularly welcome there, especially now. How widely is English spoken there? I suspect that Ukrainian, Georgian and French won't be of much use.

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I found Riga airport to be easy to navigate.

I would recommend ride-hailing apps (Bolt usually is more convenient in Baltic states than Uber) especially because you have such a big group of people, the price difference to buy six public transportation tickets is not very huge and it saves a lot of hassle.

For the language part, I would say your set of languages is actually quite optimal. While it is true that Latvian-speaking Latvians might find it offensive to assume they speak Russian, they usually speak English (especially people under the age of 40). At the same time, it is worth remembering that some 40% of Riga's residents speak Russian as their native language, so you will certainly find people who speak Russian.

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    Offer the different languages as an option (or start with English and if that does not work name the others till they react.)
    – Willeke
    May 25, 2023 at 17:19
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Air Baltic (the Latvian airline) used to offer a prepaid taxi to/from the airport (which is small) for €25 or so, which turned out to be about standard. Depending on your children's interests, I would suggest (1) an architecture tour; (2) the former KGB HQ; (3) the Central Market.

Riga is an absolutely beautiful city, which we also saw only because of a stopover.

Warning: the check-in queue at the airport was very long (in 2014).

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I have been to Riga many times for business purposes, albeit not for a few years.

You should simply head for the old town, it is very nice, and you can "waste" your time here easily. Of course, do your research ahead of time to find the right activities and sights which suit you and your family best. But the old buildings in the centre are a good starting point.

Riga airport is small and simple enough to navigate around, that is not an issue. But give yourself extra time to get through security etc. even if you are already checked in. And an extra few minutes to get to the airport in case something goes wrong. Security and passport control were never quick, but it is a small airport so never terrible, I found it simply depends on timing.

I would warn about local Taxis. They were the bane of my life in all of my trips, as their prices tend to mysteriously double or even tripple at the sight/sound of a tourist. And the Taxi meters were also rigged accordingly! It was always better to negoiate a fixed price in advance of getting in the Taxi, but propbably best to pre-book transport if possible ahead of time.

I always found that the people were not very service-orientated, and if something does go wrong, they are not really willing to help even if it is part of their job! And certainly not pro-actively, so bear this in mind when allowing time to get back to the airport and don't take it personally.

There was always underlying tension between the different communities in Latvia (and other Baltic States). Given the current geopolitical situation, then I would certainly suggest to use English as your preferred language, even if a lot of people can/do speak Russian.

In all the times I went there, it was never a major problem for me and my other colleagues from all over Europe to use English the whole time. The tourist scene has also grown in recent years, so I'm sure it is better than ever, especially in the old town & city centre and you are only there for a few hours so it will be fine. I don't believe that my colleagues ever found anybody who could speak French.

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