By William Mills
Fancy a birthday long weekend away? Or maybe you have a stag night or hen party coming up and are looking for some fun which is neither too expensive or risky?
Then consider a UK or Western European resort before flying to the Baltic. The-news.co interviewed a number of intreprid travellers looking worse for wear returning from Latvia’s capital Riga.
John, Jeff and Stu had flown out on Friday for a three night break in rip off Riga. “The scamming started at Gatwick Airport.” Said a rueful John, organiser of the trip booked through online Expedia. “I’m sure the airline brochure said one piece of hold luggage included.” He added. “No!” Said Baltic Air. “You must pay extra.” Rather than throw away their luggage or not travel the Lads paid an extra £64 each adding £192 to the overall cost.
They saved the taxi fare by catching the local bus, No 22 from the airport to the Old Town centre of Riga passing drab Soviet era blocks in the gathering gloom.The hotel rooms were small flats in nearby blocks with water tepid and radiators just warm. The tiny city centre where tourists are encouraged to stay has some buildings to look at, a tiny park to explore with a polluted river nearby.
The restaurants they visited all had hopes diners might want to spend a £100 a course, but accepted they had to get by on a lot less. The Lads agreed the food was OK but not good enough to remember what they actually had.
On Saturday night they sat in their room reading the hotel’s brochure advising them they were likely to be targeted by robbers if they went out. However after a drink to fortify themselves and having no desire to spend their holiday indoors our explorers ventured outdoors and to the nearest bar across the road. “Don’t split up.” Said Jeff.
However the ravenous pack of harpies that descended upon them had little trouble in separating them. John, with a dicky tummy retired early. Both Jeff and Stu had similar stories to tell. When their money had run out the girls obligingly came back to their rooms to help them collect more. By the morning they discovered their spending money all gone along with the girls. Stu even remembers a £25 taxi ride with two girls either side of him.
Stu, annoyed his watch was also missing thought the hotel might like to be told. Eventually a Policewoman and interpreter arrived. It was clear that making criminal charges against a Latvian woman was a very serious matter. Stu just wanted his watch back. “You want crime number for the insurance?” But his travel insurance excess was more than the total he had lost so there was little point.
After it was decided not to pursue the complaint the burly policewoman nonetheless had to write out her report after explaining that if you want to talk to a Latvian woman you must pay her.
Two hours later she wanted Stu to sign each page after the translator had signed it. However the pretty translator couldn’t read the other woman’s writing and was fearful of not getting paid herself. Stu rapidly warming to her agreed to sign. Relieved the two smiled at him. “Riga is good for park and museums, but not bars.” Said one. The other continued; “Latvia used to have 9,000 Police. Now only has 5,000, but still takes three hours to fill in each crime report. Latvia is a developing nation. Wages are poor and women need money.”
The three Brits were more cautious going out on Sunday evening for supper. Sober and looking over their shoulders they searched for an open restaurant with at least one other customer. The streets were eerily quiet except for the occasional pair of girls walking nonchalantly in the drizzle perhaps realising the best pickings had gone.
If the country who are visiting is too rough to safely go out in the evening maybe a different destination would be a better choice. Although the Lads had probably drunk too much it does seem more should should have been done to keep them and their possessions safe. The two men both said neither of them gave away the name of the hotel nor was its name on their room key. Stu said the Policewoman admitted that the girls would have known which hotel they were staying in, and did see the men safely back but wanted paying for their time. They stole all the cash but left the cards and cameras behind.
It does sound like Riga is a free for all on Western tourists, with little to recommend in going there. For these three it worked out more expensive than if they had gone to a top Mediterranean destination where the weather was likely to be warmer.