Whenever a “Western” friend visits Latvia, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the words “oh my gosh this is so cheap” escape their mouths at some point.
Pints of beer, ice creams, meals out, cinema tickets, public transport fares and similar tourist expenses are all branded cheap by these visitors. Sure, this makes for a cheap holiday but living here is a different story.
A single public transport ticket: 2 euro if you buy from the driver / 1.15 euro if you buy from a machine or at a shop
A 0.5 litre glass of beer in a decent Old Town pub: 3-4 euro
Set lunch or lunch of the day at a decent central location: 5-8 euro
Weekend brunch at a mid-range cafe or restaurant: 10-15 euro
Takeaway coffee at a Narvesen convenience store: 1.65 euro
250 g loaf of bread from the online Rimi supermarket: 0.59 euro
A litre of milk from the Barbora online supermarket: 0.91 euro
A weekday evening cinema ticket at Forum Cinemas: 7,70 euro
A litre of 95 petrol at a Riga branch of Circle K: 1.254 euro
(Prices last checked in December 2019)
Moving here means learning to adjust your budget according to local standards, budgeting for things like whopping central heating bills in winter and steep petrol prices.
Take into account that the minimum monthly gross salary in Latvia is 430 EUR in 2019.
(Note, this is an official figure that for obvious reasons disregards the “ēnu ekonomika” or shadow economy which sees a fair amount of people receiving all or part of their salary in an envelope thus avoiding taxes.)
As an expat you may be fortunate enough to be working for an international company or institution, earning a respectively “international” salary, or you may just be an average citizen working 9–6 and receiving sub-European average remuneration.
If the former applies, I’d advise caution when discussing prices. What may seem cheap to you may not be affordable to friends and family. Those on a lower salary may therefore take offence.
If the latter applies, it won’t take long for you yourself to realise that Latvia just ain’t that cheap if you’re used to living comfortably – not knowing how much you have left in your bank account at any one time, eating out more than once a week, buying drink after drink on a night out etc.
While the average salary continues to grow year on year, prices aren’t exactly staying the same, let alone decreasing.
Found this post on prices in Latvia insightful? Continue with a real life account of life in Riga by Rick from the Netherlands!