Despite being a part of the European Union, Latvia is far from an expensive country to visit. It is, in fact, a haven for the young backpackers and other travellers that need to keep to a budget. A couple hundred dollars will go far here if you know how to use it. There are a number of free and cheap attractions in Latvia; it is just a matter of discovering them.
When it comes to eating cheap on the cheap in Latvia, visitors should skip the international restaurants and stick to the traditional cafeterias and canteens. True to other Eastern European cuisine, Latvia specializes in hearty and rich food that once sustained its peasant culture. It's high in fat and grains and low in spice, which visitors from the Mediterranean will find bland while those from places like the United Kingdom or the Midwestern United States will find quite familiar. Hearty soups and stews will almost always be accompanied by flavourful black or rye bread to sop up the juices while smoked fish and pork are common meat dishes. Visitors will be assured to leave any restaurant with full bellies and full wallets.
Explore Gutmanis Cave
Ever wonder what graffiti artists in the 16th century wrote or drew on the walls? Well, Gutmanis Cave is the place to find out. Inside this massive limestone labyrinth, visitors can see names, poems and crude pictures carved in the walls dating back to the country's middle ages. The water that pours in the cave is also said to have healing properties, so if visitors get sore from walking around, hop on in. However, it's spring fed and generally quite cold.
Taking a Day on the Beach
Latvia's northern border runs along the Baltic Sea and it is privileged to one of the longest sand beaches in Europe. The sea has a very slow slope so it is excellent for wading and swimming with cleaner water and brighter sand due to its open sea front instead of being in a gulf. Although occasionally the water is quite chilly, the best time for swimming rolls around July and August and, because of the low salt content, visitors will rarely have to shower after taking a quick dip. Jurmala is arguably the best city to head to for a day at the Baltic Sea due to its large number of spas and other attractions as well as its close proximity to the nation's capital city, Riga.
Visit the Venta Waterfall
Those who have been lured to Kuldiga, likely due to its stunning intact historical architecture, will want to take a trip outside of town into the wilderness for something magnificent. The Venta Waterfall outside of the city is the widest waterfall in Europe. This 240 meter wide waterfall formed naturally and has been the inspiration for a number of legends and historic events. Many visitors often flock to Kuldiga during the springtime to watch the flying fish shows as salmon make the journey over the falls to get to their breeding grounds. This annual migration has also been a source of food for the locals since ancient times when they would harvest the fish by catching them as they went over the falls.
Take the Bus or Travel by Thumb
While the trains in Latvia are a little pricey, taking the bus or hitching a ride around the country is the best way to get around. Of course, as with hitch hiking in any foreign country, it is best done in groups, especially for women. However, for those that do hitchhike, they can get far and learn a lot about the country all for free. Those who want to play it safe can also take the bus for an affordable fee. Visitors can travel in between cities in relative comfort for only a couple of dollars each trip.
Enjoy Walking Tours of Riga
As Latvia's capital and privileged to more than 800 years of its storied history, Riga is a marvel of a town. It is not only an exciting place that a number of European's enjoy for stag parties abroad, but a beautiful town, rich with a variety of historic sites and varied architecture. Walking tours of the city can be booked in the tourist office at the House of Blackheads or visitors can pick up an informative map and pamphlet to explore the city on their own. There are also a number of private companies that operate alternative tours on both foot and by bike for a small fee as well. However, the true penny pincher will want to take advantage of a somewhat secret free tour of the city. Every day at noon, a man with a yellow suitcase in front of St. Peter's Church departs with or without anyone following him, giving information on the various sights about town. It's rather odd, but informative and visitors truly don't feel like they are part of a tour group.