A number of apps and websites can help make your life easier in Latvia. Here are a few favourites, which I use for everything from ordering cabs and food to learning Latvian.
Loecsen – a great app for learning Latvian. A little effort will go a long way to getting to where you need to be or making friends with locals. Loecsen includes pronunciation and short little quizzes. It covers useful language for getting around and living in Latvia including greetings, numbers, taxi vocabulary, and restaurant and bar phrases. Be wary of Google, there have been some very interesting translations!
Bolt – used to be called Taxify, and many people may still use “taxify” as a verb. This is the local equivalent of Uber, quick and easy to use. The taxis here are very cheap. You can pay drivers via the app if it’s connected to your credit card. To date, I haven’t heard of anyone having issues with this. Bolt can be used across the Baltics and in some other places in Europe (I used it in Prague and Poland too).
Mobilly – a do-it all “travel” app. You can pay for parking, buy train tickets and pay for RedCab and Baltic Taxi, and a whole bunch of other things, all from this handy app. It doesn’t need to be synced with your credit card, you can instead put money on it through its direct debit function. When creating an account, it will ask you for a “resident number” to help verify you, but you can fill the space with zeros if you don’t have a resident number!
Waze – a useful app if you drive a lot. Real time updates allow you to plot the best route, especially during rush hour and will provide new routes immediately as road conditions change. It is a global app, and is used heavily in Latvia, so it is fairly reliable. Waze will also inform you of speed cameras, police on the road, and even obstacles that have just appeared on your route (e.g.: boxes have just fallen off a delivery truck).
1188 – great website to figure out train and bus schedules (especially outside Riga). While Google Maps does a great job with public transport inside the city, www.1188.lv has been far more reliable in bus schedules in places like Sigulda. Not the most user-friendly site and there’s no app yet, but a good resource when getting out of the city and exploring.
Wolt – a food delivery app. Make sure you select Riga before you start searching for delicious restaurants as Wolt is international. Select restaurants from a large range of categories including salad, vegetarian, fast, pizza, and Asian. The offer is constantly expanding. Pay via the app as long as you’ve entered your card details.
Barbora – part of the Maxima family of grocery stores. The Barbora app and website allow you to order groceries directly to your front door (even if you live in a walk-up without an elevator!). Everything, including fruit and vegetables, need to be ordered by weight, so the first time you order bananas or apples, be careful! Delivery times within Riga can be selected for same-day delivery and usually their windows are small and they are pretty good about being on time.
Facebook – many businesses and even some restaurants in Latvia do not have webpages, instead they use Facebook to keep people up-to-date and share specials, menu changes and opening hours. Facebook is also the main platform for many of the meet-ups and interesting organisations in Riga. Connecting through Facebook is often your only option!
WhatsApp – locals tend to use WhatsApp instead of texting. Data is very cheap in Europe and so this is often a “free” way to communicate.
Most service providers also have handy apps that allow you to manage your accounts, including the banks (compared to North America, app-based banking here is great), telecoms, and even Forum Cinema.
Disclaimer – we’re not receiving any kickbacks for listing these apps. This list is based purely on our own experience. Tabatha Soltay contributed this article on apps in Latvia. She’s a Riga-based entrepreneur from Canada and runs TabTalks, a custom board and card game company. Feature image by Tanja Cappell under creative commons license.