Travel with ease to Iran

27 01 2011
Beautiful Iran

Beautiful Iran

Not long awhile Georgia and Iran made an agreement for Visa Free travels between two countries. For Georgian travelers the period of Visa free entry has extended from 15 days to 45 days (maximum of 3 months). Regular flights will be carried out by Georgia’s Airzena (damn!). Thankfully Iran is reachable by other means of transportation, which I will discuss later. There are certain rules and regulation that you should know before traveling the Persian paradise. Non-compliance with these rules may result in fines from us$ 500 up to death penalties!

1. – Holders of passports containing a visa for Israel (either valid or expired) or any data that passenger has been to Israel or indication of any connection with the State of Israel, are refused entry. So what can you do about it? By Georgian law you can have as many passports as you please, so have a secondary passport free of Jewish Visa.

2. – Admission is refused to Women not wearing Islamic head cover, scarf, long sleeves or stockings. My personal recommendation would be to travel with the company of male tourists, either father, brother, husband or boyfriend. Men are also highly advised to wear long sleeve shirts and pants.

3 – Visitors must hold return/onward tickets and all documents.

4 – funds to cover their stay in Iran

5 – All foreigners entering Iran must report their arrival within 8 days after arrival at Police Head Quarters in Tehran or at Main Police Office in other Iranian cities in order to obtain a Residential Permit. Passengers are strongly advised to have on hand several passport photos and photo copies of their passport of page containing personal dates, as all owners of private or public places (e.g.hotels) are held responsible to inform Police Authorities and Foreign Nationals Residence Record Office. Non-compliance with above will result in prosecution.

6 – Now, this is important if you are Reporters, journalists, photographers and cameramen of any nationality other than Iranian! You still require a visa to visit the country, as much as visa free program does not apply to you. You need to obtained Visa from the representation of Iran either in the country of their residence or from the representation under which competence their country of residence belongs.

How to Travel

Imam Khomeini International Airport

Imam Khomeini International Airport

By mean of air – this is the fastest and easiest way to travel. All international flights to Tehran land at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport. There are few flights from Tbilisi. Georgia’s Airzena (from 299 Euro’s twice a week), Azerbaijan’s Azal (from 434 Gel) , Turkish Airlines (553 euro). Because of the close location of the country there are other cheaper options available for traveling by land.

Travel By train:

Via Azerbaijan – There is a railway from Baku to the border city of Astara. From there you can walk through the border to Iran. The railway is going to be joined to Tehran via Rasht and Zanjan.

Travel by bus:

Via Armenia – From Armenia there are daily, modern buses travelling Yerevan to Tabriz and even further to Teheran. Otherwise the only Iran/Armenia land border at Nuduz/Agarak is very badly served by public transport. On the Armenian side you can get as far as Meghri by one Marschrutka a day from Yerevan. In both directions the Marshrutka leaves quiet early in the morning. Kaplan and Karajan are more frequently served by marschrutkas but it is a long and mountainous (and therefore expensive) stretch to the border from there. From Meghri it is around 8 km to the border and hitching or a taxi is the only option. On the iranian side the closest puplic transport can be found around 50km to the west in Jolfa, so a taxi (around 10-15$) again is the only (commercial) choice. Expect to be asked a lot for all taxi rides, so hard bargaining is essential. Make clear (or pretend) that you have other choices (hitchhiking) to get fair prices.The border is not busy at all, so when hitching you have to mainly stick with the truck drivers and Russian or Farsi helps a lot here. Consider for yourself whether this is a safe option.

Travel Tbilisi Tehran by Land

Travel Tbilisi Tehran by Land

Via  Turkey – You can find Seir-o-Safar agencies in Istanbul, Antalya and Ankara to buy cheap bus tickets for Tehran. A one-way ticket between Istanbul or Ankara and Tehran costs US$ 35.00.Dogubeyazit/Bazergan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is easily (and fast) done by puplic transport. Take a bus to Dogubeyazit and a frequent minibus (ca. 5YTL, 15 minutes) to the border. Cross the border stretch per pedes, take the customs taxi (give the driver some 1000 Rial bakschis) to the next village and take a taxi (3-4$) to the bus terminal in Bazergan. There could also be buses to Bazergan, but the taxi drivers approaching you at the border are not the right people to ask for that. From there you can easily get buses to major destinations in Iran. Check the security situation in the region, due to the unsolved PKK conflict.

There are also buses from Van to Urmia crossing from Esendere-Sero border. The buses cost €13 and it takes more than 6 hours to finish the 300-kilometer path. That’s because of poor roads in the Turkish side and also too many check stops at the Turkish side (more than 5) because security reasons concerning P.K.K.You can also take mini buses to the town Yüksekova near the border and ask for taxis to bring you to the border. Cross the border check point on your own since the taxis won’t cross into Iran.

By boat :

There are some scheduled services from Baku to Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea and from cities on the Persian Gulf to cities on the Iranian coast. They are usually of low quality.Starting in late 2007 and 2008; high quality semi-luxurious ferry service started between Kish Island and Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This service is of nominal fee (@ $50 USD) and the journey across one of the busiest stretches of water is sure to entertain. It is not currently known what the Customs and Entry Visa process is like using this service however as the boats do not enter via the airport. While the entry/exit process at the airport is fairly well established, it is unknown if the process is as well managed when entering via the docks. It is likely to be more chaotic and it is not know whether visas are issued on the spot as is the case at the airport. There are also ferries from Bandar Abbas to Dubai and Sharjah in UAE, and also ferries from Bushehr to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain – basically speaking a lot of interesting ways to travel.





Who’s Behind GoDaddy!

3 12 2010

Fraud? Yes Please!They are registering domain names and providing hosting solutions for a long time, but not as long as me. So when it comes to experience they are nowhere near me (Don’t mean to brag though). Still, over the years they’ve gained quite a reputation and became popular among the people who do the web-stuff. I’ve had few domains registered through this company myself, but it was not until recently I’ve started to question myself – who is behind them!

Now, as you know privacy is a very sensitive issue and it’s become quite a thing these days. So, while many national domain registrars lack the privacy ethics (for example our .ge domain registrar), godaddy.com among other foreign registrars were good solutions not asking any stupid and private questions. Least not until recently. I would call the last experience with godaddy anything but pleasant.

After having a domain registered in a good manner and standard way and setting up working name servers and nearly launching a new website I’ve been contacted by GoDaddy and asked to provide a copy of my ID. Not as if the information provided while registration was not enough, additionally I was asked to provide my photo, ID, billing documentation and a copy of my Credit Card! Well, I’m not the kind of person who easily jumps into conclusions, but all that leads to a suspicion that someone (bad) is using GoDaddy to gain the control over private information by sneaking into our private lives! No wonder there are so many ID’s stolen lately!

Passports, ID’s and Credit Cards are private! Only certain embassies and government organizations SOMETIMES have the right to request it. International border officers have the right to look at your passport check validity! But, there is no way any LLC, LTD or other unknown (or known) organizations, companies or people could ask for it, unless you are willing to become a happy victim of a human trafficking and have your ID stolen!

Be aware of that and REPORT any suspicious activities! Never provide your private information to people ask for it by email or in person (or any other way)! When it comes to domains, there’s are many professional registrars who respect the common ethics and will be happy to provide services without any unnecessary troubles. Ditch the companies and people who ask for it pretending to be “Fraud Department” or other factious characters and ask if they are willing to provide their own IDs first. Legal entities should have no problems to provide their IDs before requesting yours! And remember, you never know who you are sending your fragile information to. There could be criminals or ex-convicts on the other end!





Eka Kvaliashvili Makes a Music Video

19 07 2010

She hardly ever makes any music videos, but when she does it’s something.

This time I was not only invited to the shooting venue, but also was one of the cast. Eka made a progressive move and arranged a facebook casting. She said that it has turned out to be very successful, because all the users already had online profiles and photos and she knew who she was dealing with.

She tried to find models through agencies, before announcing a facebook casting and as Eka said – “They’ve sent me some feminine sissy boys, which is certainly not what a girl wants!” I believe facebook casting is the thing for the future.

I can’t wait to see the final video. It promises to be very vivid and funny.

Here are some photos from the shooting venues (courtesy Shorena Tevzadze)





Premiere Destination – Her Majesty, UK!

12 07 2010
London Eye

London Eye

London is a truly majestic place! Everyone should visit UK at least once. What I really liked about it was that everyone spoke perfect English!:) Most of my journey was fun and joy, except some minor obstacles along the way. The major problem was the flaming volcano in Iceland – Eyjafjallajökull. I was travelling together with my lovely companion Tika Jokhadze. Sadly for us the flight to London was cancelled because of the Volcano and we have spent endless hours in a northern hub – waiting for our connection! Minutes start turning into the hours and the hours turn into the days -roaming about the passenger zone hating all the duty free shops, cafe bars and airports, but we have survived it. It was already late when finally skies have opened up and the planes were allowed to fly again. We got on board and in about two hours and at about 10 p.m local time we have landed at London’s Gatwick Airport.

One thing that you need to know about UK transportation is that you can reach most of the destinations by train, but they stop operating between 0:30 and 5:00 am (proximately and depending on directions). Had we have arrived a bit later we would be stuck in the airport (again!!!) until the morning. Fortunately we had just about time to make it to the last train. You need a “first capital connect” to take you to the center – either London Bridge or Victoria Station. You can check your rout on a transport for London’s web-site.

Mind the gap

Mind the gap

Transport in London is very expensive so it is advisable to buy pre-paid travel cards. I recommend buying 7 day travel card that is valid for Tube, DLR and London Overground, Bus, Tram and National Rail. It may cost some 25-30 GBP depending on the zones that you intend to travel, but compared to what you will have to pay as you go without the card, that is really cheap! It is also very comfortable, as you don’t have to mess with the ticket machines each time you need to make a journey. And you can avoid cues during the busy hours. If you don’t intend to use London’s transport very often you may consider another option – that is Oyster Card (Oyster pay as you go). For example, is you normally have to pay 4£ by cash for a single journey with Oyster card that would be only 1.80£ (Zone 1).

London DLR

London DLR

London’s rail system is large and may seem confusing, but once you get used to it London’s Transport is the most convenient and easy way to travel! Even if you get lost TFL has a special staff for you to help! Just ask them the directions and they will be glad to help you! Rail and tube maps are also freely available, so grab one. You will need it.

There are many mini cafes on the platforms that sell very delicious muffins, coffee and other snack that you can take on train and enjoy your meal while reading the papers. People are generally very noisy and talk a lot. During the late evening hours most of the passengers tend to be a bit drunk, but it’s still quite safe.

Food in London

Angus Steak House

Angus Steak House

Fish and chips! Definitely! There are just too many restaurants and pubs and most of them are great. Especially the ones with traditional English green woody look and feel. I am not really big fan of English beer (or Ale), so I tried to find the places where they had some Czech or German beer. Tika and I both loved to dine at Angus – I went with freshly battered fillet of fish served with chips and mushy peas or Grilled Scottish Salmons With spinach and mashed potato (Yammm!).

Tika ate so many ribs and steaks of the poor animals, until she got sick 🙂 So be careful not to over eat! Everything is very tasty and tempting, but be reasonable. Otherwise you will end-up swimming in a steak sauce.

Angus Steak House

Angus Steak House

These are some of our photos. Approximate bill for two – 60 £. I have to mention thought that Angus is one of the most expensive places and if you are on a budget, you can dine somewhere else for as little as 4-5£. Especially during the happy hours, when prices drop by 50 % !!!

Enjoy the spirit of London

Tika and I had a plenty of time to enjoy London and have most of it. We have spent two wonderful weeks there walking in the parks, visiting countless museums and attractions. When had some homework to do we went to green park and did it there. Under the shades of blooming trees. We didn’t have much homework to do though and it took only couple of minutes, but fooling around like we were some teenage students was really a rewarding experience!

Have you heard about Ale? – Personally I didn’t like it. I still prefer a good old Czech beer! But it was still worth trying.
But being in London why not take advantage and try varieties of Irish beers and Gueness of course!

Go Beyond !

Prime Meridian

Prime Meridian

You may spend many hours if not days visiting fabulous shops, theaters, pubs, parks and many other places in the downtown, but you should go a little bit farther!

One of the options is Greenwich. The famous meridian 0°00′00″

The Prime Meridian and its opposite the 180th meridian (at 180° longitude), which the International Date Line generally follows, form a great circle that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

On a Prime Meridian

On a Prime Meridian

By international convention, the modern Prime Meridian passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in southeast London, United Kingdom, known as the International Meridian or Greenwich Meridian, although the Prime Meridian is ultimately arbitrary unlike the parallels of latitude, which are defined by the rotational axis of the Earth with the Poles at 90° and the Equator at 0°.

The modern Greenwich Meridian, based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was established by Sir George Airy in 1851. By 1884, over two-thirds of all ships and tonnage used it as the reference meridian on their maps. In October of that year, at the behest of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, 41 delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, D.C., USA, for the International Meridian Conference. This conference selected the Greenwich Meridian as the official Prime Meridian due to its popularity. However, France abstained from the vote and French maps continued to use the Paris Meridian for several decades.

London's Only Planetarium

London’s Only Planetarium

The Greenwich Meridian is now marked at night by a laser beam emitted northwards from the observatory.

Greenwich also has the great Planetarium with breathtaking effects and a Live narrator!

The show is interactive and fun. I wish all the children in the world were as lucky to have planetariums like this. We’ve enjoyed it much. Highly recommended especially if you are traveling with children.

The place is easily accessible by train and it is only minutes away from the center.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

If you have some more time go outside London one of the must see destinations is Stonehenge of course. It is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the center of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC, as described in the chronology below.

The tour takes only a couple of hours so you can take a combined tours with Roman Baths and Windsor Castle. All major tour operators make this tour available.

Back to London for some more entertainment now

London's I-max

London’s I-max

Best I-max experience in the world! The London IMAX is an IMAX cinema in the South Bank district of London, England, just north of Waterloo Station. It is operated by the British Film Institute.

The cinema is located in the centre of a roundabout on Waterloo Road.

The London IMAX was designed by Avery Associates Architects and completed in May 1999. By far the largest screen in Britain (20m high and 26m wide) it has a seating capacity of just under 500 and a 12,000 Watt digital surround sound system.

I-Max and the Prince of Persia

I-Max and the Prince of Persia

We were lucky enough to be able to be on a premiere of the “Prince of Persia, The Sands of Time” – 2010 fantasy-adventure film written by Jordan Mechner. The film is based on the 2003 video game of the same name. Sadly, the movie was not in 3D, but we’ve enjoyed watching in in a gigantic screen with true I-max experience!

Besides cinemas there are tens of theaters playing the masterpieces of eternal classic musicals and modern advantaged – from “Les Misérables” to “Naked Soldiers in the Warehouse” – The choice is yours!

A Flight on a London Eye

On a London Eye

On a London Eye

You may visit the Windsor palace and the Tower and all the famous sightseeing in London, but your journey would not be complete without a flight on a London eye. It’s called flight, because the construction of this attraction was sponsored by British Airways.

This year London eye celebrates its 10th year anniversary and offers discount tickets for only 10 pounds. Alternatively you can take advantage of Southern Railways (if you use one) and get it for 2 for 1 promo price. (Tika found out about this promo, so all the credits go to her!)

Useful Tips

London may seem expensive on a first sight, but it really is not. There are certain golden rules that you have to know about traveling on a budget. It certainly applies to London too.

There are two things that hurt you budget most – accommodation and food.

1. Remember that residential areas away from the touristic hot spots tend to be less expensive. If you have a cheap and safe place to stay, you are good to go! Don’t be tempted by super luxurious accommodations, you will hardly spend any time there anyway. You just need a simple, clean and safe place to spend a night there.

2. Dining in the restaurants and cafe-bars are expensive. Just a single visit to a good restaurant for a couple may cost you about 60-80 pounds. While going to supermarkets with the same amount of money you could buy wide variety of products for 3-4 days. Go to Tesco’s, cause you know – every little counts!

Budget

So how much money you need to plan your trip to London?

Total spendings in London for two weeks including Air fare, accommodation, food, trip to Stonehenge, attractions, travel cards, study and a bit of a shopping – about 1500 Euros!

To break it down:
1. Air Fare – 350 Euros (approx.)
2. Accommodation (Half Board) and Study – 560 Euros
3. Travel cards for London transport – 60 GBP + 20 GBP (approx. for shuttle services)
4. London Eye – 10 GBP (Limited Time Offer) other discount options available
5. Museums – Almost all museums in London are free
6. Trip to Stonehenge – 25 GBP
7. Restaurants and shoppings – Uncountable :))





Georgia covered by clicknetwork.tv

7 07 2010

You know how I love to travel and tell you about all the nice and interesting places. Well, there are many other people who do the same thing and some of them even come to Georgia and find it amazing!

A few days ago Miss Xiaxue from clicknetwork.tv has visited Tbilisi and made a real nice coverage. She was guided by the famous Georgian blogger Mari from Sweet.Ge

The funniest part was the scene in a sulfur baths! Good going girls!

Take a look!





Kvariati Hosted “Georgian Blogging Days”

27 06 2010

In June 24-26 the first Georgian blogging Days were held in Kvariati, Georgia. The bloggers in Kvariati were invited from different parts of Georgia and abroad. Most of them practicing and leading bloggers. Along with specific workshops following issues were underlined. E-manual creation for start-up bloggers, marketing and branding strategies for private companies, blogging through Batumi promoting the rally arrangement of the materials collected, Government’s recommendations to establish social media activities (for GOV 2.0) and others.

Among many other topics the blogging ethicist were discussed followed by informative tutorials of how bloggers should act in case of information war. News reporters Jakhaia (cyxymu), Oleg Panfilov, Saba Lekveishvili and other local vloggers (along with bloggers), talked about their experiences of August 2008 and the social role of Media for the state interests.

Attendees received short trainings about information security and defense tactics. Electronic strategies during the cyber-attacks was one of the hottest topic discussed. All the guest gained valuable knowledge from the experts and shared their experiences with each-other.

Sadly, not all the bloggers made it to the conference in Kvariati, as only selected few most active reporters were chosen. This caused a massive discontent and negative remarks inside the “outcast”.





Latvia Re-Visited

15 06 2010

Now days we often see Latvia promoting its tourism on Georgian market. Colorful (but typo) fliers can be seen all over Tbilisi with corrected spellings later (better than never). So what should you expect from “City of Memories” as they refer to Riga, the Capital of of of the Baltic country with pure intentions to lure Georgian tourist to Nordic direction.

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

From my previous posts on the blog you may have already noticed my lesser fascination with this country, but due to its renewed ambitions to become a new tourists destination I’ve decided to give it a second try. I have visited Riga and Jurmala and gathered some more useful information for you. Have things changed? Let’s see…

First thing that you should know about Latvia is that it is a Nordic country and it means it is usually very cold there, especially for southern people. So probably the best time to visit Latvia would be July or August. Unfortunately for me, I had a trip in June and it was still too cold. The weather changes frequently during the day, so keep something warm to carry around with you at all times.

Second thing that you should know about Latvia is that it seams cheap at a glance, but it’s more expensive than you would expect. With their crazy currency stronger than British Pound it could be quite deceiving when looking at the price tags. But we have to give it a credit for really nice and cheap hotels, starting form only 24 euros per night for doubles and delicious food served in local restaurants and bars. The service is also very nice everywhere in Latvia. Latvian are very nice and friendly and it is a great place if you enjoy socializing and interacting with people. You will certainly notice their hospitality, especially when it comes to Georgian. Latvians and Georgians have very special friendship!

So let’s get started … You can visit Latvia either with the help of the agency (if you are novice) or plan it on your own. If you are not a holder of EU or US passport you will certainly need Visa. I have no up to date information about the changes in Latvian embassy. It used to be really bad and I even had to black-list it as not recommended embassies for their irregularities. A short time ago the old council had been exiled from the country because of the numerous breaches of the law. If you had recent encounters with this embassy could you please report about infringements (if there was any). You will find a lot of useful information how to prepare for your visa in thetips section. Some of my articles are also being printed in the Commercial Times Weekly and I hope they will include these recommendations as well.

To book your flight simply go to airBaltic website where you’ll be able to choose departure/arrival dates and buy your tickets. The earlier you make your booking the cheaper the price will be. During high season the air fare could reach 300-350 euros, but it could be 189 euros should you have made an early booking. The food is served on board but it is not free. You have to buy it. Alternatively you can pre-order hot meals from the special menu available online. The fleet is not the best, but it’s what you get for a cheap flight. After some three and a half hours of flight you will reach Riga – The mysterious icy city. Take in consideration that flights from Georgia arrive really early – at 6:00 am. It might be very cold at that time so booking an early check-in (instead of standard 14:00) would be reasonable. And it would only cost you some 5 euros more. You have to make this arrangement with the hotel in advance.

Shopping in Riga

Shopping in Riga

Latvia has it’s own currency called Lat. As much as most services accept only national currency you will have to convert your money at nearest Bureaux de Change. The one at the airport is the real rip-off, so convert just as much as you need to get to the city. The rest of the money can be converted in the city. You can take Baltic bus or Baltic taxi to get to the city – it costs 5 and 9 lats respectively. So if there are two or three people traveling together it is reasonable to take taxi. 9 lats is about 15 Euros at the current exchange rate. Baltic bus has a fixed rout where as Baltic taxi can take you directly to the hotel with the fixed price. (Alternatively you can request a hotel pick up. Check fares with your hotel.)

Credit cards are widely accepted in Riga, but there was a huge problem with it a while ago. It was because of the wide spread problems with local banks. It is not a wise idea to rely on credit cards only. At the moment the country is experiencing a severe economic crisis, but don’t panic, there is a lot of food in markets (you won’t be starving) and there are a lot of fashion shops, but far too few locals afford to go shopping these days. The economy basically hangs on the income derived from tourists and the government tries its best to keep it coming. A lot of fliers inviting to visit Riga are advertised in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Hotels

There are many good hotels in Riga and you can make booking online using your preferred websites. Mine is venere.com. I can even offer you a 4% discount for any hotel listed at venere.com. Just request the discount coupon by posting your email below in the comments section (your post will be hidden). Make sure find the hotel near the old city. That is the place you want to stick to and there are less hobos and drunk beggars there.

Food

Latvian Cold Soup

Latvian Cold Soup

Latvian cuisine is not famous, and there is no such thing as a national dish. General menu is influenced by the Polish, Ukrainian and German cuisine. In Latvian restaurants and fast foods you will find a lot of fish, pork, potatoes, cabbages, kinds of salads and soups. All of them are very delicious and most of the times you will have difficulties choosing from the extended menu of the dishes that are available. They have very tasty dumplings with cinnamon that you should have for a desert (Highly Recommended) and there is a special cold soup that you are bound to taste (you may not like it, but give it a try!). Latvians also have great marinated vegetables and nice variety of cheese. If there’s one thing I like about Latvia, that is food and dining places 🙂

Pencakes in a Raspberry

Pencakes in a Raspberry

One of the common questions that people often ask about dining places is where exactly they should go. So here are the few tips. If you are really hungry and feel like eating a lot than you should definitely go to Lido. It is a perfect place to go as a family, large group of tourists, couples or alone… You will be amazed by the amount of the food that is prepared right in front of your eyes. You will be tempted to taste everything, which is impossible, so choose you menu wisely. I had been ending up overfed each time. The biggest Lido center is a little away from a down town. Just take a trolley number 7 to Lido station and you will be there in 15 minutes. Lido has a chain of many dining places and the one I am talking about is a Lido Recreation Center. You will find more on the website.

During the summer season, when it is warm and sunny, Riga offers many open air restaurants, bars and pubs. Many of them have their own little stages for live performances and entertainment.

Latvia Open Air

Latvia Open Air

These places are all side by side in an old city center, creating a really nice atmosphere. Most of the tourist are found exactly here, chilling and enjoying their trip with a glass of Latvian Beer (which is very strong by the way, so don’t drink to much).

Another lovely place that I like to go to is the “Salt and Pepper” – a nice bar with very nice staff. (Hi Oksana, if you ever read this!) I remembers spending all of my previous trip in the “Salt and Pepper” – because it was cold and wet outside. So visiting Latvia in Winter or Spring is not a very good idea (but some of you may like it).

Viva La Internet

Latvians are doing their best to share the internet with anyone. There are so many free wi-fi spots there that you won’t feel discomfort from being disconnected. You can update your travel blogs (if you have one), keep in touch with facebook friends and stay tuned. I only mentioned this, because I have been to many places where internet is not so easily accessible, for example in Roma, Italy you have to have you ID or passport to access the net.

What to see?

There is not much to see. Just roam around and enjoy beautiful architecture of the old town Riga. If you wish, you may extend your experience with some extreme and go beyond tourist areas. Walk to Maskavas Iela (On your own risk, could be dangerous) and see old Jewish ghettos, wooden houses and creepy buildings.

Jurmala

Jurmala

If you have time don’t just limit yourself with Riga. Train services operate very well offering fast and convenient travel to nearby cities. You can go to little jewel called Jurmala. It takes only 20 minutes by train from the central station and costs only about 1 euro one way. On your way back you can take an alternative means of transport – ferry. It is more expensive and takes good 2 hours to get back to Riga, but it’s totally worth it.

Pay close attention to the distinguishing architectural features in Jurmala. There are many wooden houses dating from the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Most of the buildings were built by Baltic German and Latvian architects, but there also are works of Russian, Finnish and other architects. Jurmala’s architecture typically falls into classicism, national romanticism, and modern styles. The town has an official list of 414 historical buildings under protection, as well as over 4,000 wooden structures.

Jurmala Beach

Jurmala Beach

Jurmala has a very beautiful sea-side with golden (quartz) sands, but it’s such a shame that the sea is too cold to swim, even during the summer. I have only managed to get my feet wet. It was freezing in June. Jurmala’s beach is 33 km long. The shallow coastal waters are suitable and safe for children. The beach is equipped with playgrounds, small benches, football fields and volleyball courts, as well as descents for prams and wheelchairs. In Spring and Autumn amber pieces can be found on the beach.

Each region’s beach has its own character. In Majori and Bulduri, where the Blue Flag flies, it is possible to rent water bicycles or relax in the beach cafe. In Dubulti and Dzintari competitions in beach football and volleyball take place, but on Pumpuri beach there is kite surfing and windsurfing.

Shopping Malls

This is one of the most interesting subjects for most of the tourists. Shopping has become a new kind of addiction world wide. In Riga you can find many shopping centers that are open 9am – 11pm. Riga has a splendid range of shops to choose from, so we’re sure you’ll find something to match your budget and demands. Be warned however that Western labels are something of a status symbol in Latvia and as such they can be more expensive than back home. Bargain hunters might prefer to see what reputable national stores offer – or for real cut price deals check out the Riga Central Market.

There are huge shopping centers like Stockmann, Origo, Mals and more …

What has changed?

Latvian girls playing national music

Latvian girls playing national music

After my last visit to Latvia there seems no change for the better. People are still very poor.

The old city center looks nice, but as soon as you go a little bit farther you see ruins and neglected sites. Poverty is visible everywhere. Drunk men and hobos are sleeping at the stations and bus stops.

There is a high rate of unemployment and most of the people find it hard to use transportation services and prefer to stay home. Clubs, bars and restaurants are mainly filled with tourists, because of the unaffordable prices. In numerous conversations with Latvians, they expressed their sadness because of the fact that Latvian youth is unable to have fun or have proper jobs. Clubs and Discos are very expensive.There are almost no openings for a job and those who could find better jobs abroad have already fled. More and more Latvian working force is draining towards UK and Scandinavian countries, putting the country into an even worse situation. Many of them wished they had a president like M.Saakashvili to turn Latvia into another European paradise! Well, We can lease 😛