It’s set. You have your pass in your pocket and you're ready to set off for the coolest Baltic tech conference there is - TechChill. You're ready for the intense pitching, networking and partying that awaits you on the 9th and 10th of February. But are you ready for Riga? No worries, we've done the research and have got you covered. Here are 10 things you should know before coming to Riga.
1. Bring warm clothes - February is the dead of winter
You're in luck - the week of TechChill is appropriately the chilliest week yet of this winter, ranging from -12°C to -5°C. Be sure to bring warmer layers with you, especially if you’d like to explore city outside conference hours.
2.Enjoy fast internet in virtually any public space
This won't be the trip that will test your off-grid anxiety levels.
Riga is techie heaven. Not only is Latvia ranked as the country with the 10th fastest internet, free wifi can be found almost everywhere in the city center. The largest telecommunications company of Latvia, Lattelecom, has ensured an average of 3 free wifi connection spots per square-kilometer. Here's a map of all of free wifi spots in Riga.
To connect to the free wifi, choose the “Lattelecom-free” network, open your browser, choose “connect”, and watch the 15 second ad. One connection will last for 30 mins, afterwards you'll have to re-connect using the same method.
3. Getting around Riga - tips & tricks
Though there is no Uber available in Riga, we have alternative called Taxify (an app for iPhone and for Android). Feel free to download the app, set your payment method (you can choose by card or by cash), and then use at your heart's desire. Or you can use the regular taxis – the green ones take cards as payment as well as cash, while other taxis might not accept cards. They’re called Baltic Taxi and you can order one by calling 8500. There shouldn’t be any language issues.
If you do feel adventurous enough and want to use public transport, know that tickets, called e-talons, should be purchased before the ride. They take the form of yellow cardboard credit-cards, equipped with NFC capabilities. Tell the vendor how many rides you want to buy, and then when getting into the bus/tram/trolley, simply tap it to the receptors located throughout the vehicle. We suggest buying them in advance in Narvesen corner stores, Statoil gas stations, and Rimi or Maxima grocery stores. One ride costs 1,15eur if purchased before, it grows to 2eur if you purchase the ticket from the driver.
The most convenient way of getting to the venue from Old Riga would be by jumping on a tram that’s heading away from the centre (number 2, 4, 5 or 10), across the bridge and exit at the next stop, called “Nacionālā bibliotēka”.
You can certainly walk the bridge, but the bridge is quite windy and in this cold weather you might regret it halfway there.
4. Where to stay in Riga - from budget to luxury
If you’re looking for a full accommodation stay - the most convenient place to stay would be almost next to the National Library of Latvia – the Radisson Blu Daugava Hotel. It’s a 5 minute walk from the event venue and on the same side of the river. But there are also plenty of choices of hotels in Old Riga, which is just one bridge across from the venue.
Some great AirBnB accommodation can be found in Riga. Keep in mind that the West side of the river is where the conference is, while the East side is the city center - where the after parties will be happening.
For a budget-friendly stay, you can consider any of the hostels in the old town. They're centrally located, well-priced, and right in between the venue and the after parties. For example Frank's Hostel is right across the river from the venue.
5. Where to eat - satisfy your cravings in Riga
Riga is becoming an increasingly foodie-esque city. Take a look at the top-rated places to eat in Riga for some inspiration. There are also plenty of options for vegetarians. And we also highly suggest the Saturday brunch.
If you're looking for a bite to eat later at night, Deli Snack is a reliable diner that will serve you all night long.
6. Discover Riga with free walking tours
You have the opportunity to discover more of Old Riga every day at 11:00am and 12:00pm for free talking tours. The starting point is next to St. Peter's church and the guide will show you through the main attractions of Old Riga.
While conferences are great and parties are even more entertaining, the dark evenings are the time to explore the charm of Old Riga with all its restaurants, bars, narrow streets and architecture. A walk through in the dark is a must!
Fun fact: Did you know that first spy camera by Mintox was developed in Riga in 1930s? Inventing and innovations run deep in Latvian blood, so it's no wonder that Latvians tend to choose the start-up life.
7. Enjoy the architectural masterpiece of the conference venue
This building that hosts event is National Library of Latvia and was opened in 2014 after 6 years of hard work. There were quite a lot of discussions about the building and its purpose, but the end result is stunning – each level of library is devoted to a different topic with a wide range of technology involved and the design is inspired from different nominals of Latvian former currency - Lats. And if possible – take the elevator and see Riga from the upper levels of library to take in the beauty of the building and Riga.
Sign up at the library's main registration table for a guided tour. Available times are:
- Feb. 9 - 15:40-16:10
- Feb. 10 - 9:30-10:00
- Feb. 10 - 13:00-13:30
- Feb. 10 - 15:15-15:45
8. Book your side-events and afterparties
TechChill is by no means limited to the conference itself. The organizers have made the effort to create an inclusive startup experience that continues outside the venue. Take a look at all of the events going on under the wings of TechChill, and make sure to book your favourites.
Workshop: Communicating with purpose
National Library, Deal Room, Underground. Feb. 9, 14:00-15:00, Feb. 10, 12:40-13:40
Learn the keys to qualitative information, that will not only impact your everyday communication, but will also teach you meaningful skills to build trust to sell your product.
VR/AR Strategy Meetup
National Library, IT Demo center. Feb. 9, 6pm-8pm
Join VR/AR startups to discuss this disruptive industry. Spots are limited, so make sure to register.
As the conference is on for two days, you can expect two days-worth of afterparties! The Day 1 afterparty will be held at KKC (Short for Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs, roughly translated to the Hemp Culture Center - you can immagine, it's hipster central). Enjoy good music, good drinks, and good vibes. Join the Facebook event to mark that you're going.
The Day 2 afterparty, aka the "Massive Afterarty", takes place in a grand location indeed - the K.K. fon Stricka villa. Though outside of the Old Town, this place with it’s unique vibe will suit perfectly for the party. To get there via public transport you can catch a trolley No.5 or No.25 from Valdemara street and hop out at the “Miera iela” stop, or you can take 11th tram from Krišjāņa Barona street to “Mežaparks” and hop out at the “Laima” stop. We suggest you take advantage of your newly made friends from the conference and go together to minimize the risk of getting lost along the way.
To know who is going - go to event page and click “going” to join in!
There is one saying that will set your expectations for the party: work hard, party harder. After hard work of the conference, we believe you'll experience this to the full.
9. Consider Latvia as a potential growth hub
Changes are afoot. The Latvian government has decided to make startup development a priority in Latvia. For that reason, they're implementing changes that will make it easier for startups to thrive - from increased funding, helpful tax exemptions to relaxed immigration requirements for foreign talent. If you choose to develop your starup in Latvia, you can expect the country to lend a helping hand.
Keep your eyes and ears open, never before has it been so important to forge relationships and take full advantage of networking and the afterparties!
10. Give Latvians some time to open up
While the conference's main idea is to network and communicate, don’t be too shocked if at first some Latvians might seem shy or quiet – it’s in their nature to open up slightly slower than the rest of the extroverted world. Don’t worry, it’ll pass, so go ahead and start that conversation!
Note: this does not apply to afterparties - with the right amount of inebriation, even Latvians will open up and be the nice, funny people you’ll love to have around.