Help Wikitravel grow by contributing to an article! Learn how.

Difference between revisions of "Poland"

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search
m (From Lithuania)
(Tickets)
Line 278: Line 278:
 
It's probably easiest to buy InterCity tickets online (see links below). You can also buy tickets online for Regio, RE, IR and TLK.
 
It's probably easiest to buy InterCity tickets online (see links below). You can also buy tickets online for Regio, RE, IR and TLK.
  
Tickets for any route can generally be purchased at any station. For a foreigner buying tickets, this can prove to be a frustrating experience, since only cashiers at international ticket offices (in major cities) can be expected to speak multiple languages. It is recommended that you buy your train tickets at a travel agency or online to avoid communication difficulties and long queues.   
+
Tickets for any route can generally be purchased at any station. For a foreigner buying tickets, this can prove to be a frustrating experience, since only cashiers at international ticket offices (in major cities) can be expected to speak multiple languages. It is recommended that you buy your train tickets online to avoid communication difficulties and long queues.   
  
 
It may be easier to '''buy in advance''' during peak seasons (eg. end of holiday period, New Year, etc.) for trains that require reserved seating.  
 
It may be easier to '''buy in advance''' during peak seasons (eg. end of holiday period, New Year, etc.) for trains that require reserved seating.  

Revision as of 15:28, 30 March 2013

For other places with the same name, see Poland (disambiguation).
[[File:
Krakau Markt.jpg
Statue of Adam Mickiewicz in the Old Town Square in Kraków|250px|frameless|Poland]]
Location
[[File:noframe|250px|frameless]]
Flag
[[File:Pl-flag.png|108px|frameless]]
Quick Facts
Capital Warsaw
Government Republic
Currency Złoty (PLN)
Area 312,685 km²
Population 38,636,000 (2006 est.)
Language Polish
Religion Roman Catholic 93%, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and other
Electricity 230V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +48
Internet TLD .pl
Time Zone UTC+1

Poland [1] (Polish: Polska), is a country in Central Europe. It has a long Baltic Sea coastline and is bordered by Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast), Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Contents

Understand

History

The first cities in today's Poland, Kalisz and Elbląg on the Amber Trail to the Baltic Sea, were mentioned by Roman writers in the first century AD, but the first Polish settlement in Biskupin dates even further back to the 7th century BC.

Poland was first united as a country in the first half of the 10th century, and officially adopted Catholicism in 966 AD. The first capital was in the city of Gniezno, but a century later the capital was moved to Kraków, where it remained for half a millenium.

Poland experienced its golden age from 14th till 16th century, under the reign of king Casimir the Great, and the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose rule extended from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas. In the 16th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe; the country attracted significant numbers of foreign migrants, including Germans, Jews, Armenians and the Dutch, thanks to the freedom of confession guaranteed by the state and the atmosphere of religious tolerance (rather exceptional in Europe at the time of the Holy Inquisition).

Under the rule of the Vasa dynasty, the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596. During the 17th and the 18th centuries, the nobility increasingly asserted its independence of the monarchy; combined with several exhausting wars, this greatly weakened the Commonwealth. Responding to the need for reform, Poland was the 1st country in Europe (and the 2nd in the world, after the US) to pass a constitution. The constitution of May 3rd, 1791 was the key reform among many progressive but belated attempts to strengthen the country during the second half of the 18th century.

With the country in political disarray, various sections of Poland were subsequently occupied by its neighbors, Russia, Prussia and Austria, in three coordinated "partitions" of 1772 and 1793, and 1795. After the last partition and a failed uprising, Poland ceased to exist as a country for 123 years.

However, this long period of foreign domination was met with fierce resistance. During the Napoleonic Wars, a semi-autonomous Duchy of Warsaw arose, before being erased from the map again in 1813. Further uprisings ensued, such as the 29 November uprising of 1830-1831 (mainly in Russian Poland), the 1848 Revolution (mostly in Austrian and Prussian Poland), and 22 January 1863. Throughout the occupation, Poles retained their sense of national identity, and kept fighting the subjugation of the three occupying powers.

Warsaw in 1900s

Poland returned to the map of Europe with the end of World War I, officially regaining its independence on November 11th, 1918. Soon, by 1920-21, the newly-reborn country got into territorial disputes with Czechoslovakia and, especially, the antagonistic and newly Soviet Russia with which it fought a war. This was further complicated by a hostile Weimar Germany to the west, which strongly resented the annexation of portions of its eastern Prussian territories, and the detachment of German-speaking Danzig (contemporary Gdańsk) as a free city.

This put Poland in a precarious position of having potential enemies facing her again from all three sides.

World War II

World War II officially began with a coordinated attack on Poland's borders by the Soviet Union from the east and Nazi Germany from the west and north. Only a few days prior to the start of WWII, the Soviet Union and Germany had signed a secret pact of non-aggression, which called for the re-division of the newly independent central and eastern European nations. Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, and the Soviet Union attacked Poland on September 17, 1939, effectively starting the fourth partition, causing the recently-reestablished Polish Republic to cease to exist. Hitler used the issue of Danzig (Gdańsk) and German nationalism to try to trigger a war with Poland in much the same way he used the Sudetenland Question to conquer the Czechs.

Many of WWII's most infamous war crimes were committed by both the Nazis and Soviets on Polish territory, with the former committing the vast majority of them. Polish civilians opposed to either side's rule were ruthlessly rounded up, tortured, and executed. Nazi Germany established both concentration and extermination camps on Polish soil, where many millions of Europeans were ruthlessly murdered; of these Auschwitz is perhaps the most infamous.

The Soviets rounded up and executed the cream of the crop of Polish leadership in the Katyń Massacre of 1940. About 22,000 Polish military and political leaders, business owners, and intelligentsia were murdered in the massacre, officially approved by the Soviet Politburo, including by Stalin and Beria.

Due to WWII, Poland lost about 20% of its population, added to the fact that the Polish economy was completely ruined. Nearly all major cities were destroyed and with them the history of centuries was gone. After the war Poland was forced to become a Soviet satellite country, following the Yalta and Potsdam agreements between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. To this day these events are viewed by many Poles as an act of betrayal by the Allies. Poland's territory was significantly reduced and shifted westward to the Oder-Neisse Line at the expense of defeated Germany. The native Polish populations from the former Polish territories in the east, now annexed by the Soviet Union, were expelled by force and replaced the likewise expelled German populations in the west and in the north of the country. This resulted in the forced uprooting of over 10 million people and until recently had shadowed attempts at Polish-German reconciliation.

Communism (People's Republic of Poland)

The Communist era (1945-1989) is a controversial topic. After World War II, Poland was forced to become a Socialist Republic, and to adopt a strong pro-Soviet stance. Between 1945-1953, pro-Stalinist leaders conducted periodic purges.

After the bloody Stalinist era of 1945-1953, Poland was comparatively tolerant and progressive in comparison to other Eastern Bloc countries. But strong economic growth in the post-war period alternated with serious recessions in 1956, 1970, and 1976, resulting in labour turmoil over dramatic inflation as well as shortages of goods. Ask older Poles to tell you about communism and you'll often hear stories of empty store shelves where sometimes the only thing available for purchase was vinegar. You'll hear stories about backroom deals to get meat or bread, such as people trading things at the post office just to get ham for a special dinner.

A brief reprieve from this history occurred in 1978. The then-archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła, was elected as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, taking the name John Paul II. This had a profound impact on Poland's largely Catholic population, and to this day John Paul II is widely revered in the country.

In 1980, the anti-communist trade union "Solidarity" (Polish: Solidarność) [2] became a strong force of opposition to the government, organizing labor strikes, and demanding freedom of the press and democratic representation. The communist government responded by organizing a military junta, led by general Wojciech Jaruzelski, and imposing martial law on December 13, 1981; it lasted until July 22, 1983. During this time, thousands of people were detained. Phone calls were monitored by the government, independent organizations not aligned with the Communists were deemed illegal and members were arrested, access to roads was restricted, the borders were sealed, ordinary industries were placed under military management, and workers who failed to follow orders faced the threat of a military court. Solidarity was the most famous organization to be illegalized, and its members faced the possibility of losing their jobs and imprisonment.

But this internecine conflict and ensuing economic disaster greatly weakened the role of the Communist Party. Solidarity was legalized again, and soon led the country to the first free elections in 1989, in which the communist government was finally removed from power. This inspired a succession of peaceful anti-communist revolutions throughout the Warsaw Pact block.

Contemporary Poland (Third Republic of Poland)

Nowadays, Poland is a democratic country with a stable, robust economy, a member of NATO since 1999 and the European Union since 2004. The country's stability has been recently underscored by the fact that the tragic deaths of the President and a large number of political, business and civic leaders in a plane crash did not have an appreciable negative effect on the Polish currency or economic prospects. Poland has also successfully joined the border-less Europe agreement (Schengen), with an open border to Germany, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is on track to adopt the Euro currency in a few years time. Poland's dream of rejoining Europe as an independent nation at peace and in mutual respect of its neighbors has finally been achieved.

Holidays

Note that Catholic religious holidays are widely observed in Poland. Stores, malls, and restaurants are likely to be closed or have very limited business hours on Easter, All Saints Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas.

  • Easter (Wielkanoc, Niedziela Wielkanocna), a moveable feast that is scheduled according to the moon calendar, usually in March or April. Like Christmas, it is primarily a meaningful Christian holiday. On the Saturday before Easter, churches offer special services in anticipation of the holiday, including blessing of food; children especially like to attend these services, bringing small baskets of painted eggs and candy to be blessed. On Easter Sunday itself, practicing Catholics go to the morning mass, followed by a celebratory breakfast made of foods blessed the day before. On Easter Sunday, shops, malls, and restaurants are commonly closed.
  • Lany Poniedziałek, or Śmigus Dyngus, is the Monday after Easter, and also a holiday. It's the day of an old tradition with pagan roots: groups of kids and teens wandering around, looking to soak each other with water. Often groups of boys will try to catch groups of girls, and vice versa; but innocent passers-by are not exempt from the game, and are expected to play along. Common 'weapons' include water guns and water balloons, but children, especially outdoors and in the countryside, like to use buckets and have no mercy on passers-by. (Drivers - this means keep your windows wound up or you're likely to get soaked.)
  • The Feast of Corpus Christi, another moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, or sixty days after Easter. It is celebrated across the country; in smaller locations virtually the whole village or town becomes involved in a procession, and all traffic is stopped as the procession weaves its way through the streets. Corpus Christi is a major holy day of obligation, and most stores will closed.
  • Constitution Day falls on May 3rd, in remembrance of the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791. The document itself was a highly progressive attempt at political reform, and it was Europe's first constitution (and world's second, after the US). Following the partitions, the original Constitution became a highly poignant symbol of national identity and ideals. Today, May 3rd is a national holiday, often combined with the May 1 (Labour Day) into a larger celebration.
  • All Saints Day (Wszystkich Świętych), November 1st. In the afternoon people visit graves of their relatives and light candles. After dusk cemeteries glow with thousands of lights and offer a very picturesque scene. If you have the chance, be sure to visit a cemetery to witness the holiday. Many restaurants, malls, and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual on this holiday.
  • National Independence Day (Narodowe Święto Niepodległości) is a public holiday celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate Poland's independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions and occupation by Austria, Prussia and Russia. As with other holidays, most businesses will be closed on this day.
  • Christmas Eve (Wigilia) and Christmas (Boże Narodzenie), December 24th, 25th and 26th. Christmas is one of the most important holidays of the year, and its eve is definitely the year's most important feast. According to Catholic tradition, celebration of liturgical feasts starts in the evening of the preceding day (a vigil, hence wigilia). In Polish folklore, this translates into a special family dinner, which traditionally calls for a twelve course meatless meal (representing the twelve apostles), which is supposed to begin in the evening, after the first star can be spotted in the night sky. On Christmas Eve most stores will close around 2-3pm; on Christmas Days people will still usually stay home, and everything apart from essential services will be closed and public transport will be severely limited, on the Second Day of Christmas less so.
  • New Year's Eve (Sylwester), December 31st. One of the party nights of the year. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you can get into even a decent club as most clubs will be packed. Most clubs will sell tickets in advance, but you'll probably have to dish out at least 150 PLN, and that's just for entrance and maybe a couple of drinks. If you're a little more flexible, you might be able to get into non-club parties. Otherwise, there are always the firework displays to entertain you.

Countryside

The countryside throughout Poland is lovely and relatively unspoiled. Poland has a variety of regions with beautiful landscapes and small-scale organic and traditional farms. Travelers can choose different types of activities such as bird watching, cycling or horseback riding.

Culturally, you can visit and/or experience many churches, museums, ceramic and traditional basket-making workshops, castle ruins, rural centers and many more. A journey through the Polish countryside gives you a perfect opportunity to enjoy and absorb local knowledge about its landscape and people.

Regions

Poland's administrative regions are called województwa, abbreviated "woj.". The word is roughly equivalent to a duchy or a district. Some English dictionaries use the word voivodship to describe them, but the word is exceedingly rare, and likely not to be understood.

Polish regions
Greater Poland (Greater Poland Voivodship, Lubusz)
A varied landscape, profusion of wildlife, bird-watcher's paradise and inland dunes.
Lesser Poland (Holy Cross Mountains, Lesser Poland Voivodship, Lublin Voivodship, Subcarpathia)
Home to spectacular mountain ranges, the world's oldest operating salt mines, fantastic landscapes, caves, historical monuments and cities. The magnificent medieval city of Kraków is a major metropolitan center.
Masovia (Łódź Voivodship, Masovian Voivodship)
Metropolitan center of Poland with Warsaw, and Łódź, the manufacturing city known as the "Manchester of Poland".
Podlachia
Unique primeval forests and picturesque backwaters (e.g. Biebrza river) with protected bird species make the region increasingly interesting for tourists.
Pomerania (Pomeranian Voivodship, Kuyavia-Pomerania, West Pomerania)
Home to Poland's attractive seaside; sandy beaches with dunes and cliffs; lakes, rivers and forests.
Silesia (Lower Silesia, Opole Voivodship, Silesian Voivodship)
Colorful mixture of different landscapes. One of the warmest regions in Poland with the very popular, dynamic city of Wrocław (region's historic capital)and the country's biggest metropolitan area of the Upper Silesia. Place of Polish, German and Czech heritage.
Warmia-Masuria
Very green area filled with lakes. It offers unspoiled nature and possibility of camping in beautiful countryside.

Cities

  • Warsaw — capital of Poland, and one of the EU's thriving new business centers; the old town, nearly completely destroyed during World War II, has been rebuilt in a style inspired by classicist paintings of Canalletto.
  • Gdańsk — formerly known as Danzig; one of the old, beautiful European cities, rebuilt after World War II. Located in the center of the Baltic coast, it's a great departure point to the many sea resorts along the Baltic coast.
  • Katowice — central district of the Upper Silesian Metropolis, both an important commercial hub and a centre of culture.
  • Kraków — the "cultural capital" of Poland and its historical capital in the Middle Ages; its center is filled with old churches, monuments, the largest European medieval market-place - and more recently trendy pubs and art galleries. Its city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site [3].
  • Lublin — the biggest city in Eastern Poland, it has a well-preserved old town with typical Polish architecture, along with unusual Renaissance elements (the so-called Lublin Renaissance).
  • Łódź — once renowned for its textile industries, the "Polish Manchester" has the longest walking street in Europe, the Piotrkowska Street, full of picturesque 19th-century architecture.
  • Poznań — the merchant city, considered to be the birthplace of the Polish nation and church (along with Gniezno); presents a mixture of architecture from all epoques.
  • Szczecin — most important city of Pomerania with an enormous harbor, monuments, old parks and museums.
  • Wrocław — an old Silesian city with great history; placed on 12 islands, it has more bridges than any other European town except Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

Other destinations

  • Auschwitz — German Nazi Concentration Camp that became the center of the Holocaust for European Jews during World War II. UNESCO World Heritage Site [4].
  • Białowieża National Park — a huge area of ancient woodland straddling the border with Belarus. UNESCO World Heritage Site [5].
  • Bory Tucholskie National Park — national park protecting the Tucholskie Forests.
  • Kalwaria Zebrzydowska — monastery in the Beskids from 1600 with Mannerist architecture and a Stations of the Cross complex. UNESCO World Heritage Site [6].
  • Karkonoski National Park — national park in the Sudety around the Śnieżka Mountain with beautiful waterfalls.
  • Malbork — home to the Malbork Castle, the beautiful huge Brick Gothic castle and the largest one in Europe. UNESCO World Heritage Site [7].
  • Słowiński National Park — national park next to the Baltic Sea with the biggest dunes in Europe
  • Wieliczka Salt Mine — the oldest still existing enterprise worldwide, this salt mine was exploited continuously since the 13th century. UNESCO World Heritage Site [8].
  • Wielkopolski National Park — national park in Greater Poland protecting the wildlife of the Wielkopolskie Lakes.

Get in

Visas

Poland is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).

Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.

Regular visas are issued for travellers going to Poland for tourism and business purposes. Regular visas allow for one or multiple entries into Polish territory and stay in Poland for maximum up to 90 days and are issued for the definite period of stay. When applying for a visa, please indicate the number of days you plan to spend in Poland and a date of intended arrival. Holders of regular visas are not authorized to work.

Ukrainian citizens do not require a separate visa for transit through Poland if they hold a Schengen or UK visa.

By plane

Most of Europe's major airlines fly to and from Poland. Poland's national carriers are LOT Polish Airlines [9]. There are also a number of low cost airlines that fly to Poland including WizzAir [10], EasyJet [11], Germanwings [12], Norwegian [13] and Ryanair [14].

Apart from direct air connections from many European cities, there are also direct flights from United States and Canada: LOT operates direct flights from Toronto, New York and Chicago, as well as non-direct flights from other cities through the Star Alliance program.

International airlines fly mainly to Warsaw (WAW) [15]. Other major airports in Poland are: Kraków (KRK) [16], Katowice (KTW) [17], Gdańsk (GDN) [18], Poznań (POZ) [19], Wrocław (WRO) [20], Szczecin (SZZ) [21], Rzeszów (RZE) [22], Bydgoszcz (BZG) [23] and Łódź (LCJ) [24].

As the number of flights and passengers has significantly increased since 1990, new terminal has been opened at the Warsaw Chopin airport which will significantly increase the airport's capacity. Also airports in Katowice, Kraków, Poznań, Wrocław, Łódź and Rzeszów have been expanded to increase their standards and capacity.

By train

Direct connections [25] with:

  • Berlin, EuroCity "Berlin-Warszawa-Express (BWE)", 4 trains per day, 5,5 hours , EuroCity "Wawel" to Krakow, every day, 10 hours
  • Amsterdam, via Koeln, Hannover, EuroNight "Jan Kiepura", everyday, 12 hours
  • Kiev via Lviv, Night Train, 16 hours
  • Vienna, Night Train "Chopin", every day, 9 hours, EuroCity "Sobieski", everyday, 6 hours, EuroCity "Polonia", every day, 8 hours
  • Prague, Night Train "Chopin", EuroCity "Praha", every day, 9.5 hours
  • Moscow, Night Train "Ost-West", every day, 20.5 hours

By car

You can enter Poland by one of many roads linking Poland with the neighboring countries. Since Poland's entry to the Schengen Zone, checkpoints on border crossings with other EU countries have been removed.

However, the queues on the borders with Poland's non-EU neighbors, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, are still large and in areas congested with truck traffic it can take up to several hours to pass.

By bus

There are many international bus lines that connect major Polish cities, with most of major European ones.

  • Voyager website that allows you to find most international bus connections (Eurolines, Ecolines, PPKS, Visitor, Inter-bus and more) [26]
  • Eurolines [27] (from: A, BY, B, HR, CZ, DK, GB, EST, F, D, GR, NL, I, LV, LT, N, RUS, E, S, CH, UA), biggest European bus network.
  • Ecolines [28]
  • PolskiBus.com [29] Comfortable low cost bus company provides point-to-point services to and from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Bratislava. It's the cheapest option for travellers who plan ahead.
  • Simple Express [30]

By boat

By yacht

There are more and more ports along Polish coast, at least at every river mouth. Bigger marinas are located in Szczecin, Łeba, Hel, Gdynia and Gdańsk. Gdansk, has two yacht docks one next to the old time (market) which is usually quickly overloaded and one in the national sailing center 17 km. next to the city center close to the Baltic sea. The newest yacht dock will be located on the longest wooden peer in Sopot and will be ready in 2011. Although there are many sailors in Poland, there is still room for improvement which has been seen by the regional government.

From Czech Republic

  • In local, express and fast trains (not IC or EC!), it is possible to buy a special cross-border ticket ("bilet przechodowy" in Polish) which is valid between the Czech and Polish (or vice versa) border stations and costs only 15 CZK or 2 PLN. You can buy it from the conductor on the train (or completely ignore it if the conductor does not emerge before you reach the other border station, which happens) and to your advantege combine it with domestic tickets of the two countries (the one you buy before departure and another one you may buy if your train stops for an amount of time in the first station after the border and you have time to quickly reach for the ticket office - or you buy the other domestic ticket at the conductor with a low surcharge).
  • In the vicinity of the Czech-German-Polish three country border, you may profit from the unified fare of the ZVON transport system: [37]
  • The railway between Harrachov (Czech Republic) and Szklarska Poręba (Poland) in the Krkonoše/Karkonosze mountains ([38]) has been out of order since WW2 but reopened again in summer 2010. There are trains terminating in Szklarska Poręba Górna and Harrachov, respectively. You can walk on foot between the two (approximately 16 kilometeres) by following the road (which is good state, though meandering and going through a vast uninhabited area with a modest altitude peak in the middle). Or, if you are afraid of the passing trucks, you could follow the railroad under construction (it is legal to follow it as long as it is not yet being operated, but it may not be very comfortable and won't spare you any significant distance in this case).
  • After a several-year-long period of electrification, there are now several trains a day again between Lichkov (Czech Republic) and Międzylesie (Poland). Yet, if for instance you arrive by the last train of the day which terminates before the border, you may try walking to the other side. From Międzylesie, you can follow the trafic directions to Brno and reach the border by following the road and passing through the villages of Smreczyna and Boboszów. Soon after you've crossed the border, make a sharp right turn at the cross road and walk the rest to Lichkov. The terrain is quite flat there. This is a little detour and takes some 13 kilometers, but while the railway is somewhat shorter, you should not follow it because it goes through a dark forest and you would risk collision with night cargo trains, and of course the law.
  • The Polish train station of Głuchołazy is served by Czech trains passing between Jeseník and Krnov and can be reached with a domestic Czech train ticket (with "Gluchlolazy" as the destination). You can also get a ticket starting in that station or a return ticket in advance, but you cannot buy Czech tickets in the station itself. There are no more Polish trains departing from Głuchołazy to inner Poland, only buses from the city (1,5 km walk-away from the station).
  • There are very few connections a day between Bohumín (Czech Republic) and Chałupki (Poland; once called Annaberg and at the three country border of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland), but it is easy to cross the border on foot if you miss your connection. Bohumín is a major Czech train station and Chałupki a terminal of trains to inner Poland. Between the two places, you are passing through the Czech settlement of Starý Bohumín, situated right at the border which is briefly formed by the river Odra in this place, which you cross by an old pedestrian bridge. The walk is on a completely flat terrain, almost straight, goes almost exclusively through inhabited places and is short in distance (5 kilometers).
  • The divided city of Český Těšín (Czech Republic) / Cieszyn (Poland) is a very easy spot for border crossing. If you reach one of them, you can walk to the other very comfortably and at a short distance (20 minutes from one station to another). It's the river Olše/Olza in the city center that forms the border. The train stations in both Český Těšín and Cieszyn have good connections to other destinations.

From Germany

  • In the vicinity of the Czech-German-Polish three country border, you may profit from the unified fare of the ZVON transport system: [39]


From Lithuania

  • While the main railway connecting Lithuania and Poland (which has been partially dismantled on Lithuanian side near the border) is crossing a piece of Belarus, there is fortunately a minor line left that connects the two countries directly. The border stations are Šeštokai (Lithuania) and Suwałki (Poland). You need to change trains at Šeštokai, because of the different rail gauge used in the two countries. This is a "technical" change and the connection always wait in case one of the trains delay, the ticket should be purchased to your destination city.
  • A popular alternative of crossing the border, if you are going on a longer distance, is to use the bus between Vilnius and Warsaw.

Get around

Polish road infrastructure is extensive but generally poorly maintained, and high speed motorways currently in place are insufficient. However, public transport is quite plentiful and inexpensive: buses and trams in cities, and charter buses and trains for long distance travel.

By plane

Polish national carrier LOT [40] has daily connections between the biggest cities with a hub in Warsaw. Other option is Eurolot [41] which connects other bigger cities directly.

By train

In Poland, the national railway carriers are PKP InterCity (Polskie Koleje Państwowe) [42] and Przewozy Regionalne. There are few local carriers that belongs to voivodships or major cities.

Train tickets are quite economical, but travel conditions reflect the fact that much of the infrastructure is rather old.

However, you can expect a fast, clean and modern connection on the new IC (InterCity) routes, such as Warsaw - Katowice, Warsaw - Kraków, Warsaw - Poznań and Poznań - Szczecin or RE (RegioEkspress). Consider first class tickets, because the price difference between the second and first class is not so big. The jump in comfort may be substantial but then it is also common to see trains where 2nd class carriages are recently renovated and 1st class carriages are old and correspondingly low quality.

Train types

  • E-IC (ExpressInterCity) / EC (EuroCity) / Ex (Express) - express trains between metro areas, as well as major tourist destinations. Reservation usually required. Power points for laptops are sometimes available next to the seat. Company: PKP InterCity.
  • TLK (Twoje Linie Kolejowe) - discount trains, slower but cheaper than the above. Not many routes, but very good alternative for budget travellers. Reservation obligatory for 1st class, usually no reservation for 2nd class. Use older carriages which are not always suited to high speed travel. Company: PKP InterCity.
  • RE (RegioEkspress) - cheaper than TLK and even higher standard, but only 3 of these type are running: Lublin - Poznań, Warsaw - Szczecin and Wrocław - Dresden. Company: Przewozy Regionalne.
  • IR (InterRegio) - cheaper than TLK and RegioExpress but most of the routes are supporter by poor quality trains. Company: Przewozy Regionalne.


  • REGIO / Osobowy - ordinary passenger train; usually slow, stops everywhere. You can also buy a weekend turystyczny ticket, or a week-long pass. Great if you are not in rush, but expect these to be very crowded at times. Company: Przewozy Regionalne; other.
  • Podmiejski - suburban commuter train. Varying degrees of comfort and facilities. Tickets need to be bought at station ticket counters. Some companies allow you to buy a ticket on board from the train manager, in the very first compartment. A surcharge will apply.
  • Narrow gauge - Poland still retains a number of local narrow-gauged railways. Some of them are oriented towards tourism and operate only in summer or on weekends, while others remain active as everyday municipal rail. See Polish narrow gauge railways.

Tickets

It's probably easiest to buy InterCity tickets online (see links below). You can also buy tickets online for Regio, RE, IR and TLK.

Tickets for any route can generally be purchased at any station. For a foreigner buying tickets, this can prove to be a frustrating experience, since only cashiers at international ticket offices (in major cities) can be expected to speak multiple languages. It is recommended that you buy your train tickets online to avoid communication difficulties and long queues.

It may be easier to buy in advance during peak seasons (eg. end of holiday period, New Year, etc.) for trains that require reserved seating.

Please note, that tickets bought for E-IC/EC/EXpress/etc. trains are not valid for local/regional trains on the same routes. If you change trains between InterCity and Regional you have to buy a second ticket.

  • Timetable search [43] (in English, but station names of course in Polish)
  • PKP [44] information: +48 22 9436, international information +48 22 5116003.
  • PKP Intercity [45] serves express connections (tickets can be bought online [46] and you can show it to the conductor on your smartphone, laptop or similar devices)
  • Przewozy Regionalne tickets for Regio, RE and IR - [47] - only Polish version; you should provide yourself a ticket printout.
  • Polrail Service [48] offers a guide to rail travel in Poland and on-line purchase of tickets and rail passes for Polish and international trains to neighboring countries. The company takes provision - cca. 22PLN for every ticket.
  • Traffic info about all moving trains [49] - check, if the train has a delay.

If you travel in a group with the Regional, you should get a 33% discount for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th person (offer Ty i 1,2,3).

If you are a weekend traveller think about the weekend offers, which are valid from Friday 6* or 7 p.m. till Monday 6 a.m.:

  • for all Intercity trains (E-IC,Ex,TLK) Bilet Weekendowy (from 154 PLN, reservation not included)
  • for TLK Bilet Podróżnika (74PLN) + REGIO Bilet Plus (+ 17 PLN)
  • for all Regional trains (REGIO, IR, RE) Bilet Turystyczny (from 79 PLN)*
  • only for REGIO trains Bilet Turystyczny(from 45 PLN)*.

Please note that, if a weekend is extended for some national holiday, the ticket will also extend.

An early booking (7 days before departure) will be rewarded with additional discounts.

For some TLK trains you can travel with the offer Bilet Rewelacyjny - you will get an automatic discount (cca 20%) on chosen routes [50].

By bus

Poland has a very well developed network of private charter bus companies, which tend to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than travel by rail. For trips under 100 km, charter buses are far more popular than trains. However, they are more difficult to use for foreigners, because of language barrier.

There is an on-line timetable available. It available in English and includes bus and train options so you can compare: [51] Online timetables are useful for planning, however, there are multiple carriers at each bus station and departure times for major cities and popular destinations are typically no longer then thirty minutes in-between.

Each city and town has a central bus station (formerly known as PKS), where the various bus routes pick up passengers; you can find their schedules there. Bus routes can also be recognized by signs on the front of the bus that typically state the terminating stop. This is easier if picking up a bus from a roadside stop, rather than the central depot. Tickets are usually purchased directly from the driver, but sometimes it's also possible to buy them at the station. If purchasing from the driver, simply board the bus, tell the driver your destination and he will inform you of the price. Drivers rarely speak English, so often he will print a receipt showing the amount. Buses are also a viable choice for long-distance and international travel; however, be aware that long-distance schedules are usually more limited than for trains.

In 2011 a new bus company called Polski Bus [52] appeared in Poland with more 'western' approach - you can only buy tickets through the internet and the prices vary depending on the number of seats already sold. They have bus links between Warsaw and most of bigger Polish cities (as well as few neighboring capitals).

By car

Speed limits in Poland

Driving in Poland may be stressful, frustrating and time-consuming, due to the poor quality of roads, lack of motorways and the driving style of the locals. Polish road network contains fewer highways and more ordinary two-lane roads than is common in western countries. A lot of these roads are far below capacity for the volume of traffic they are carrying and the average quality of the road surface is poor. Motorways are being constructed but Poland is towards the bottom of motorway kilometre rankings in Europe.

As a rule of thumb, assume 2h for each 100km of travel (allowing for unexpected delays). If you're driving through large cities, you can safely double that. Due to lack of motorways you will be passing through lots of smaller and bigger towns and often big cities which will significantly slow you down. When travelling between smaller cities or towns you will also routinely encounter slow moving vehicles, such as farm vehicles and tractors, and sometimes bicycles. Drunks, on foot or on bicycles, are a common sight. This includes having them weave through fast moving traffic at night.

Polish road death statistics are high for European standards and driver behaviour is sometimes very poor in terms of impatience, rudeness and absence of ordinary common sense or foresight. "Dynamic driving style" is expected. In practice this means that Poles often drive aggressively and recklessly, push in, "meander" through surrounding cars, routinely disrespect speed limits (frequently by a large margin) and overtake at less-than-safe distances. Overtaking is a critical and potentially dangerous maneuver that is commonly done in a hazardous way in Poland. In heavier traffic it's common to overtake "like 3rd" meaning that at some point during the maneuver there will be three cars (the overtaken, the overtaking, and the vehicle approaching from the opposite direction) next to each other side to side (or close to that). An unwritten code is followed to make this possible and "safe". The driver that is driving behind a slower vehicle and preparing to overtake expects that the slower vehicle will move to the right as far as feels comfortable also using the half-lane if it is separated with a dashed line and completely sure to be free of bicycles or pedestrians. The vehicle approaching from the opposite direction is advised or sometimes forced to also slightly move to the side. Such style of overtaking is illegal and unsafe. The above information is intended to explain the reality on the ground and help understand the traffic. Don't do it. If you hit someone or something on the shoulder, you get penalised and the driver who caused you to do it has long since driven off. Particularly reckless drivers will attempt to overtake "on four", when overtaking in both directions is taking place in roughly the same space. Tailgating is routine. Aggressive driving up behind you and flashing of headlights means "get out of my way". If you're driving on a two-lane road, which will be most of the time, you are under no obligation to do so. Just be aware that the driver may throw something out of his window, or suddenly step on his brakes once he has passed you. This is done to "teach you a lesson."

If you leave a safety gap in front of your car, it will be filled by another driver as he is trying to push through the traffic.

Poles work long hours so peak time in major cities frequently last till after 8pm. Roadworks are common as many new road developments are under way and roads require frequent maintenance due to damage inflicted by winter conditions and as the roads are often built to subpar quality to start with. Drivers in Warsaw are particularly aggressive with taxi drivers setting the tone.

Parking in cities and towns is often allowed on sidewalks, unless of course there is a no-parking sign. There is usually no provision for parking on the tar-sealed part of the street so do not leave your car parked at the curb, unless it is clearly a parking bay. Parking meters in cities and even smaller towns are widely used.

Some peculiarities of driving in Poland include:

  • Speed limits are: 50km/h in city (60 km/h 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.), 90 km/h outside city, 100 km/h if lanes are separated, 100 km/h on single carriage way car-only roads (white car on the blue sign), 120 km/h on dual carriageway car-only roads, and 140 km/h on motorways / freeways (autostrada).
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence. BAC limits are: up to 0.02% - not prosecuted by law, up to 0.05% - an offence, above 0.05% - criminal offence (up to 2 years in jail). Despite the strict laws, DUI's are a serious problem in Poland, not least as there is ample anecdotal evidence of police officers accepting bribes instead of handing out traffic offence notices. Be especially careful during (and after) national holidays and late night on weekends on the small roads in the countryside as drivers commonly take to the road inebriated.
  • There is no right turn at a red light. Exception is when there is green arrow signal in which case you still have to come to a complete stop and yield to pedestrians and cross traffic (although the stop rule is seldom respected by Polish drivers). All above does not apply if right turning traffic has separate (red-yellow-green) signals.
  • At a 'T-crossing' or crossroads without traffic signs traffic at the right has right-of-way unless your road is a priority route, shown by a road sign displaying a yellow diamond with a white outline or a yellow sign with a black outline of the crossing with the priority flow in bold. This can be very confusing so keep your eyes open as this isn't always clear from the structure of the crossing (ie. the lower quality, narrower and slower road coming in from the left may have right of way.)
  • Driving with dipped lights on is obligatory at all times.
  • A warning triangle is a mandatory part of a car's equipment and needs to be displayed some distance back from any accident or when, eg. changing a tire. This does not mean that they are necessarily used every time they should be.

Roads marked droga szybkiego ruchu (rapid transit road) are frequently anything but that. The rule of roads going through towns and not around them still applies and speed limits change rapidly from the allowable 90 kmh to 70, down to 40 and then up again to 70 within only a few hundreds of metres. Speed cameras (in unmarked dark gray pole-mounted boxes) are common (and the income from those goes to the local council.) Radar-equipped traffic police are also frequent but that apparently does little to deter the speeding drivers. In recent years there has been a resurgence in CB radio popularity. The drivers use it to warn each other about the traffic police.

Some drivers flash their headlights to warn those approaching from the opposite direction of a police control nearby (you are likely to encounter this custom in many other countries). It may also mean that you need to turn your lights on since dipped headlights need to be on at all times while driving. A "thank you" between drivers can be expressed by waving your hand or, when the distance is too great, by turning on blinkers or hazard lights for one or two blinks.

Hazard lights can be used to indicate failures but also as a way of showing that the vehicle is rapidly slowing down, or already stopped in a traffic jam on a highway.

A recent plague of flashing LED advertising hoardings has been spreading along Polish roads. As well as adding to the already high level of visual pollution these have a more immediate effect of distracting drivers during the day and blinding them at night, as advertisers leave output levels set at "high". Poland has no legislation to prevent this from happening, and the hoardings are placed at or only slightly above the line of sight. This, added to the condition of the roads and the behaviour of the locals, makes driving on rainy nights additionally difficult.

At the gas stations PB means unleaded gasoline and ON means diesel. Petrol and diesel are roughly the same price. LPG is widely available, both at 'branded' gas stations and independent distributors and is labout half the price of petrol. Credit cards or debit cards can be used to pay almost at all stations so at independent distributors.

In Autumn or in Spring it is common for small traders to set up their stands with fruit or wild mushrooms along the roads. They don't always stay in places where it's safe for cars to stop and you should be careful of drivers stopping abruptly and be watchful if you want to stop yourself. Wild mushrooms are a speciality if you know how to cook them. A cautionary note: There is a slight possibility that the people who picked the mushrooms are not very good at telling the good ones from the poisonous, so eat at your own responsibility. Never feed wild mushrooms to small children as they are particularly vulnerable. Rely on the judgement of your Polish friends if you consider them reasonable people.

By taxi

Use only those that are associated in a "corporation" (look for phone number and a logo on the side and on the top). There are no British style minicabs in Poland. Unaffiliated drivers are likely to cheat and charge you much more. Like everywhere, be especially wary of these taxis near international airports and train stations. They are called the "taxi mafia".

Because of travellers advice like this (and word of mouth), taxis with fake phone numbers can be seen on the streets, although recently this seems to have decreased - possibly the police have taken notice. Fake phone numbers are easily detected by locals and cater for the unsuspecting traveller. The best advice is to ask your Polish friends or your hotel concierge for the number of the taxi company they use and call them 10-15 minutes in advance (there's no additional cost). That's why locals will only hail taxis on the street in an emergency.

You can also find phone numbers for taxis in any city on the Internet, on municipal and newspaper websites. Some taxi companies, particularly in larger towns provide for a cab to be ordered online or with a text message. There are also stands, where you can call for their particular taxi for free, often found at train stations.

If you negotiate the fare with the driver you risk ending up paying more than you should. Better make sure that the driver turns the meter on and sets it to the appropriate fare (taryfa):

  • Taryfa 1: Daytime within city limits
  • Taryfa 2: Nights, Sundays and holidays within city limits
  • Taryfa 3: Daytime outside city limits
  • Taryfa 4: Nights, Sundays and holidays outside city limits

The prices would vary slightly between the taxi companies and between different cities, and there is a small fixed starting fee added on top of the mileage fare.

When crossing city limits (for example, when traveling to an airport located outside the city), the driver should change the tariff at the city limit.

Every taxi driver is obliged to issue a receipt when asked (at the end of the ride). You can inquire driver about a receipt (rachunek) before you get into cab, and resign if his reaction seems suspicious or if he refuses.

By bicycle

Bicycling is a good method to get a good impression of the scenery in Poland. The roads can sometimes be in quite a bad state and there is usually no hard shoulder or bicycle lane. Car drivers are careless but most do not necessarily want to kill cyclists on sight which seems to be the case in some other countries.

Rainwater drainage of both city streets is usually in dreadful condition and in the country it is simply non-existent. This means that puddles are huge and common, plus pot-holes make them doubly hazardous.

Especially in the south you can find some nice places for bicycling; e.g. along the rivers Dunajec (from Zakopane to Szczawnica) or Poprad (Krynica to Stary Sacz) or Lower Silesia (Zlotoryja - Swierzawa - Jawor). Specially mapped bike routes are starting to appear and there are specialised guide books available so ask a bicycle club for help and you should be just fine. Away from roads which join major cities and large towns you should be able to find some great riding and staying at agroturystyka (room with board at a farmer's house, for example) can be a great experience.

Hitch hiking

Hitchhiking in Poland is (on average) OK. Yes, it's slower than its Western (Germany) and Eastern (Lithuania) neighbors, but your waiting times will be quite acceptable! The best places to be picked up at are the main roads, mostly routes between Gdansk - Warsaw - Poznan and Krakow.

Use a cardboard sign and write the desired destination city name on it.

Do not try to catch a lift where it is forbidden to stop. Look on the verge of the road and there should be a dashed line painted there, not a solid one.

As in any country, you should be careful, there are several reports of Polish hitchhiking trips gone awry, so take basic precautions and you should be as right as rain.

Talk

The official language of Poland is Polish.

Foreign visitors should be aware that virtually all official information will usually be in Polish only. Street signs, directions, information signs, etc. are routinely only in Polish, as are schedules and announcements at train and bus stations (airports and a few major train stations seem to be an exception to this). When it comes to information signs in museums, churches, etc., signs in multiple languages are typically found only in popular tourist destinations.

Most of the young people and teenagers know English well enough. Since English is taught from a very young age (some start as early as 4 years old), only Poles who grow up in isolated towns or communities will not be given English lessons. Older Poles, particularly in rural regions, will speak little or no English at all. However, it is highly possible that they will speak either French, German or Russian, taught in schools as the main foreign languages until the 1990s.

It is wise to refrain from speaking Russian on account of the countries' historically turbulent relations. In spite of this, German is still taught in many schools throughout the country, and is especially popular in the Western districts. Ukrainian also has many similarities to Polish.

A few phrases go a long way in Poland. Contrary to some other tourist destinations, where natives scoff at how bad a foreigner's use of the native language is, Polish people generally love the few foreigners who learn Polish or at least try to, even if it is only a few phrases. Younger Poles will also jump at the chance to practice their English. Be advised that if you are heard speaking English in a public setting outside of the main cities and tourist areas people may listen in to practice their understanding of English.

Do your homework and try to learn how to pronounce the names of places. Polish has a very regular pronunciation, so this should be no problem. Although there are a few sounds unknown to most English speakers, mastering every phoneme is not required to achieve intelligibility; catching the spirit is more important.

Poland's recent history has made it a very homogeneous society today, in stark contrast to its long history of ethno-religious diversity; almost 99% of the population today is ethnic Polish; before World War II, it was only 69% with large minorities, mainly Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Germans and less than two-thirds Roman Catholic with large Orthodox and Protestant minorities as well.

Poland also had the largest Jewish community in Europe: estimated variously at 10% to 30% of Poland's population at the time. Outside of the very touristy areas of the major cities, you'll find that there are few, if any, foreigners. Most of the immigrants in Poland (in the main Ukrainians and Vietnamese) stay in the major cities for work. Poland's small group of contemporary ethnic minorities, Germans, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Silesians and Kashubians all speak Polish and few regional dialects remain except in the south and in small patches of the Baltic coast.

See

Ever since Poland joined the European Union, international travellers have rapidly rediscovered the country's rich cultural heritage, stunning historic sites and just gorgeous array of landscapes. Whether you're looking for architecture, urban vibes or a taste of the past: Poland's bustling cities and towns offer something for everyone. If you'd rather get away from the crowds and enjoy nature, the country's vast natural areas provide anything from dense forests, high peaks and lush hills to beaches and lake reserves.

Pay attention to the remarkable details on Krakow's historic buildings

Cities

Most of the major cities boast lovely old centres and a range of splendid buildings, some of them World Heritage sites. Many old quarters were heavily damaged or even destroyed in WWII bombings, but were meticulously rebuilt after the war, using the original bricks and ornaments where possible. Although remains of the Soviet Union and even scars of the Second World War are visible in most of them, the Polish cities offer great historic sight seeing while at the same time they have become modern, lively places. The capital, Warsaw, has one of the best old centres and its many sights include the ancient city walls, palaces, churches and squares. You can follow the Royal Route to see some of the best landmarks outside the old centre. The old city of Kraków is considered the country's cultural capital, with another gorgeous historic centre, countless monumental buildings and a few excellent museums. Just 50 km from there is the humbling Auschwitz concentration camp which, due to the horrible events it represents, leaves an impression like no other World Heritage site does. The ancient Wieliczka salt mine is another great daytrip from Krakow.

Once a Hanseatic League-town, the port city of Gdańsk boasts many impressive buildings from that time. Here too, a walk along the Royal Road gives a great overview of notable sights. Wrocław, the former capital of Silesia, is still less well-known but can definitely compete when it comes to amazing architecture, Centennial Hall being the prime example. Its picturesque location on the river Oder and countless bridges make this huge city a lovely place. The old town of Zamość was planned after Italian theories of the "ideal town" and named "a unique example of a Renaissance town in Central Europe" by UNESCO. The stunning medieval city of Toruń has some great and original Gothic architecture, as it is one of the few Polish cities to have escaped devastation in WWII. Other interesting cities include Poznań and Lublin.

Natural attractions

Tatra National Park

With 23 national parks and a number of landscape parks spread all over the country, natural attractions are never too far away. Białowieża National Park, on the Belarus border, is a World Heritage site for it comprises the last remains of the primeval forest that once covered most of Europe. It's the only place where European Bisons still live in the wild. If you're fit and up for adventure, take the dangerous Eagle's Path (Orla Perć) in the Tatra Mountains, where you'll also find Poland's highest peak. Pieniński National Park boasts the stunning Dunajec River Gorge and Karkonoski National Park is home to some fabulous water falls. The mountainous Bieszczady National Park has great hiking opportunities and lots of wild life. Wielkopolska National Park is, in contrast, very flat and covers a good part of the pretty Poznań Lakeland. The Masurian Landscape Park, in the Masurian Lake District with its 2000 lakes, is at least as beautiful. Bory Tucholskie National Park has the largest woodland in the country and has a bunch of lakes too, making it great for birdwatching. The two national parks on Poland's coast are also quite popular: Wolin National Park is located on an island in the north-west, Słowiński National Park holds some of the largest sand dunes in Europe.

Castles & other rural monuments

Malbork castle

The Polish countryside is lovely and at times even gorgeous, with countless historic villages, castles, churches and other monuments. Agrotourism is therefore increasingly popular. If you have a taste for cultural heritage, the south western parts of the country offer some of the best sights, but there's great stuff in other areas too. The impressive Gothic Wawel Castle in Krakow may be one of the finest examples when it comes to Poland's castles, but most of the others are located in smaller countryside towns. The large, red brick Malbork castle (in northern Poland) is perhaps the most stunning one in the country, built in 1406 and today the world's biggest brick Gothic castle. The castle of Książ, near Wałbrzych is one the best examples in historic Silesia, which also brought forward the now semi-ruined Chojnik castle, located on a hill above the town of Sobieszów and within the Karkonoski National Park. After surviving battles and attacks for centuries, it was destroyed by lightning in 1675 and has been a popular tourist attraction since the 18th century. The picturesque Czocha Castle near Lubań originates from 1329. A bit off the beaten track are the ruins of Krzyżtopór castle, in a village near Opatow. The Wooden Churches of Southern Lesser Poland are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage, just like the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica. The Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa and the beautiful, World Heritage listed Kalwaria Zebrzydowska park are famous pilgrimage destinations. The lovely Muskau Park in Łęknica, on the German border, has fabulous English gardens and is a UNESCO listing shared with Germany.

Do

Learn

Studying in Poland can be an incredible experience for foreigners. Foreign students can finance a B.A. education for as low as 24,000 zł and a M.A. education for as low as 20,000 zł.

There are many international schools and great universities in Poland and of them the Jagiellonian University [53] in particular is renowned as member of the Coimbra Group and is also a core member of the Europaeum. The University of Warsaw is the top ranked public university in Poland. National Film School in Łódź is the most notable academy.

Private universities are a recent invention, but have been successful enough where several private schools are competing with the major public universities in terms of quality. Private schools may actually be cheaper for foreign students, who are not entitled to a free education at one of Poland's public universities.

Work

At the moment Poland is one of the best places around the world to find a job as an English teacher. TEFL courses (that's Teaching English as a Foreign Language) are run in many cities across Poland. The demand for TEFL teachers is enormous and teaching language is a brilliant way to fund your travel and earn as you go.

Even if you don't have a working visa or Polish citizenship, it should be no problem for you to offer private lessons. The going rate is about 30zł for conversation or lessons. Doing these private lessons is a great way to make some money and meet some English-speaking educated, interesting poles at the same time. In general students, private and in classes, are very friendly toward their teachers, inviting them for dinner or drinks, and sometimes acting quite emotional during their last lesson. Post your services on telephone poles and bus stops with an email or phone number, or use Gumtree, Poland's version of Craigslist.


Gumtree Polska [54] is useful for finding students, and everything else, including accommodations, used cars, pets, Polish tutors, etc.

Ekorki [55] good to make a profile if looking for longer term teaching gigs. More formal than Gumtree, and used by serious employers. A little bit like Monster.com in the US.

Buy

Polish 100 zł banknote

Paying

The legal tender in Poland is the Polish złoty (zł, international abbreviation: PLN). The złoty divides into 100 grosze. Poland is expected to adopt the Euro (€) sometime after 2020, but those plans are still tentative.

Private currency exchange offices (Polish: kantor) are very common, and offer Euro or USD exchanges at rates that are usually comparable to commercial banks. Be aware that exchanges in tourist hot-spots, such as the train stations or popular tourist destinations, tend to overcharge. Avoid "Interchange" Kantor locations, easily recognised by their orange colour; the rates they offer are very bad.

Cash
Linguistic note: Polish has two types of plural numbers, which you are likely to encounter when dealing with currency. Here are the noun forms to expect:

  • Singular: 1 złoty, 1 grosz
  • Nominative plural: 2 - 4 złote, grosze, then 22 - 24, 32 - 34, etc.
  • Genitive plural: 5 - 21 złotych, groszy, then 25 - 31, 35 - 41, etc.


There is also an extensive network of cash machines or ATMs (Polish: bankomat). The exchange rate will depend on your particular bank, but usually ends up being pretty favorable, and comparable to reasonably good exchange offices, but you will probably find very high "service fees" in your bank statement when you get home.

Credit cards can be used to pay almost everywhere in the big cities. Popular cards include Visa, Visa Electron, MasterCard and Maestro. AmEx and Diners' Club can be used in a few places (notably the big, business-class hotels) but are not popular and you should not rely on them for any payments.

Cheques were never particularly popular in Poland and they are not used nowadays. Local banks do not issue cheque books to customers and stores do not accept them.

Goods

It is illegal to export goods older than 55 years that are of ANY historic value. If you intend to do so you need to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage [56].

Shopping

Super and hypermarkets

Hypermarkets are dominated by western chains: Carrefour, Tesco, Auchan, Real, Biedronka, Lidl, Netto. Some are open 24 hours a day. Usually located in shopping malls or suburbs.

However Poles shop very often at local small stores for bread, meat, fresh dairy, vegetables and fruits - goods for which freshness and quality is essential.

Prices in Poland are around to be one of the lowest in EU.

Town markets

Many towns, and larger suburbs, hold traditional weekly markets, similar to farmers' markets popular in the West. Fresh produce, baker's goods, dairy, meat and meat products are sold, along with everything from flowers and garden plants to Chinese-made clothing and bric-a-brac. In season wild mushrooms and forest fruit can also be bought. Markets are held on Thursdays / Fridays and/or Saturdays and are a great way to enjoy the local colour. Prices are usually set though you can try a little good-natured bargaining if you buy more than a few items.

Eat

Tipping
For the most part, Polish restaurants and bars do not include gratuity in the total of the check, so your server will be pleased if you leave them a tip along with the payment. On average, you should tip 10% of the total bill. If you tip 15% or 20%, you probably should have received excellent service. Also, saying "Dziękuję" ("thank you") after paying means you do not expect any change back, so watch out if you're paying for a 10 zł coffee with a 100 zł bill. With all that said, many Poles may not leave a tip, unless service was exceptional. Poles don't usually tip bar staff.


Poles take their meals following the standard continental schedule: a light breakfast in the morning (usually some sandwiches with tea/coffee), then a larger lunch (or traditionally a "dinner") at around 1PM or 2PM, then a supper at around 7PM.

It is not difficult to avoid meat, with many restaurants offering at least one vegetarian dish. Most major cities have some exclusively vegetarian restaurants, especially near the city center. Vegan options remain extremely limited, however.

Traditional Local Food

Traditional Polish cuisine tends to be hearty, rich in meats, sauces, and vegetables; sides of pickled vegetables are a favorite accompaniment. Modern Polish cuisine, however, tends towards greater variety, and focuses on healthy choices. In general, the quality of "store-bought" food is very high, especially in dairy products, baked goods, vegetables and meat products.

A dinner commonly includes the first course of soup, followed by the main course. Among soups, barszcz czerwony (red beet soup, a.k.a. borscht) is perhaps the most recognizable: a spicy and slightly sour soup, served hot. It's commonly poured over dumplings (barszcz z uszkami or barszcz z pierogami), or served with a fried pate roll (barszcz z pasztecikiem). Other uncommon soups include zupa ogórkowa, a cucumber soup made of a mix of fresh and pickled cucumbers; zupa grzybowa, typically made with wild mushrooms; also, flaki or flaczki - well-seasoned tripe.

Pierogi are, of course, an immediately recognizable Polish dish. They are often served along side another dish (for example, with barszcz), rather than as the main course. There are several types of them, stuffed with a mix of cottage cheese and onion, or with meat or even wild forest fruits. Gołąbki are also widely known: they are large cabbage rolls stuffed with a mix of grains and meats, steamed or boiled and served hot with a white sauce or tomato sauce.

Bigos is another unique, if less well-known, Polish dish: a "hunter's stew" that includes various meats and vegetables, on a base of pickled cabbage. Bigos tends to be very thick and hearty. Similar ingredients can also be thinned out and served in the form of a cabbage soup, called kapuśniak. Some Austro-Hungarian imports have also become popular over the years, and adopted by the Polish cuisine. These include gulasz, a local version of goulash that's less spicy than the original, and sznycel po wiedeńsku, which is a traditional shnitzel, often served with potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

When it comes to food-on-the-go, foreign imports tend to dominate (such as kebab or pizza stands, and fast-food franchises). An interesting Polish twist is a zapiekanka, which is an open-faced baguette, covered with mushrooms and cheese (or other toppings of choice), and toasted until the cheese melts. Zapiekanki can be found at numerous roadside stands and bars.

Poland is also known for two unique cheeses, both made by hand in the [Podhale] mountain region in the south. Oscypek is the more famous: a hard, salty cheese, made of unpasteurized sheep milk, and smoked. It goes very well with alcoholic beverages such as beer. The less common is bryndza, a soft cheese, also made with sheep milk (and therefore salty), with a consistency similar to spreadable cheeses. It's usually served on bread, or baked potatoes. Both cheeses are covered by the EU Protected Designation of Origin (like the French Roquefort, or the Italian Parmegiano-Reggiano).

Milk bars

If you want to eat cheaply, you should visit a milk bar (bar mleczny). A milk bar is very basic sort of fast food restaurant that serves cheap Polish fare. Nowadays it has become harder and harder to find one. It was invented by the communist authorities of Poland in mid-1960s as a means to offer cheap meals to people working in companies that had no official canteen. Its name originates from the fact that until late 1980s the meals served there were mostly dairy-made and vegetarian (especially during the martial law period of the beginning of the 1980s, when meat was rationed). The milk bars are usually subsidized by the state. Eating there is a unique experience - it is not uncommon that you will encounter people from various social classes - students, businessmen, university professors, elderly people, sometimes even homeless, all eating side-by-side in a 1970s-like environment. Presumably, it is the quality of food at absolutely unbeatable price (veggie main courses starting from just a few złotych!) that attracts people. However, a cautionary warning needs to be issued - complete nut jobs do dine at milk bars too, so even if you're going to for the food, you'll end up with dinner and a show. Curious as to what the show will entail? Well, each show varies, but most of them will leave you scratching head and require the suspension of reality.

Drink

Poland is on the border of European "vodka" and "beer culture". Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks but they drink less than the European average. You can buy beer, vodka and wine. Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead. Polish liqueurs and nalewka (alcoholic tincture) are a must.

Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and be able to prove it with a valid ID (which is strictly enforced).

Beer

Poland's brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages. Today Poland is one of top beer countries in Europe.

Although not well known internationally, Poland traditionally sports some of the best pilsner-type lagers worldwide. The most common big brands include:


  • Żywiec (pronounced ZHIV-y-ets)
  • Tyskie (pronounced TIS-kye)
  • Okocim (pronounced oh-KO-cheem)
  • Lech (pronounced LEH)
  • Warka (pronounced VAR-kah)
  • Łomża (pronounced Uom-zha)

Micro-breweries and gastro-pubs are on the rise, in particular in the larger cities, and many delicatessen or supermarkets carry smaller brands, including hand-crafted beers of many types.

Vodka

Common brands are:

  • Żubrówka (Zhoo-BROOF-ka) - vodka with flavors derived from Bison Grass, from eastern Poland.
  • Żołądkowa Gorzka (Zho-wont-KO-va GOSH-ka) - vodka with "bitter" (gorzka) in the name, but sweet in taste. Just like Żubrówka, it's an unique Polish product and definitely a must-try.
  • Wiśniówka (Vish-NIOOF-ka) - Cherry vodka (very sweet).
  • Krupnik (KROOP-nik) - Honey and spices vodka, a traditional Polish-Lithuanian recipe (very sweet). During winter, many bars sell Grzany Krupnik (warm Krupnik), where hot water, cinnamon, cloves, and citrus zest or slices are added.
  • Żytnia (ZHIT-nea) - rye vodka
  • Wyborowa (Vi-bo-RO-va) - One of Poland's most popular rye vodkas. This is also one of the most common exported brands. Strong and pleasant.
  • Luksusowa (Look-sus-OH-vah) "Luxurious" - Another popular brand, and a common export along with Wyborowa.
  • Starka "Old" - A vodka traditionally aged for years in oak casks. Of Lithuanian origin.

Deluxe (more expensive) brands include Chopin and Belvedere. Expect to pay about 100 zł a bottle (2007 prices). Most Poles consider these brands to be "export brands", and usually don't drink them.

  • Biała Dama (Be-AH-wa DAH-ma) is not actually a vodka but a name given by winos to cheap rectified spirits of dubious origin, best avoided if you like your eyesight the way it is.

Wine

Poland does make wines around Zielona Góra in Dolnośląskie, Małopolskie and Podkarpackie in the Beskids with the most famous Polish vineyard in of the Dionisos of Jasło ([57] website only in Polish) and Świętokrzyskie in central Poland. They used to be only available from the winery or at regional wine festivals, such as in Zielona Góra. But with a new law passed in 2008, this has changed and Polish wines are also available in retail stores.

As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from central and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans, and Georgia.

It winter, many Poles drink grzaniec (mulled wine), made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the more popular method.

Mead

Mead - Miód Pitny is a traditional and historical alcohol drink in Poland. Mead is brewed from honey and has excellent unusual taste similar to wine. Original Polish mead contain 13-20% alcohol. Sometimes it can be very sweet. Today Poles have a strange relationship with mead. All of them have heard of it, almost none have ever tried it.

Cocktails

Poles are very keen on beer and vodka, and you'll find that cocktails are often expensive but can be found in most bars in most major cities.

Tea and coffee

Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not wódka or beer, but rather tea and coffee.

When ordering a coffee, you'll find that it is treated with respect reminiscent of Vienna, rather than, say, New York. Which is to say: you'll get a fresh cup prepared one serving at a time, with table service that assumes you'll sit down for a while to enjoy it. Mass-produced to-go coffee remains highly unpopular, although chains such as Coffee Heaven have been making inroads. Curiously, there are still only a few Starbucks shops in the whole country.

Ordering a tea, on the other hand, will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that the customer can put together a tea that's as strong or as weak as they like. This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors. Tea houses with large selection of good quality teas and a relaxing atmosphere are gaining popularity.

For the most part, a good coffee can be had for 5 - 10 zł a cup, while a cup of tea can be purchased for the same, unless you happen to order a small kettle, in which case you'll probably pay something between 20 - 30 zł.

Water

Drinking water with a meal is not a Polish tradition; having a tea or coffee afterwards is much more common. If you want water with a meal, you might need to ask for it - and you will usually get a choice of carbonated (gazowana) or still (niegazowana) bottled water, rather than a glass of tap water. As a result water is never free, and is pretty expensive too compared to the average price of a meal (about 4zl for one glass). Beware that even "still" bottled water, while not visibly bubbly, will still contain some carbon dioxide.

Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available. Poland was known for its mineral water health spas (pijalnie wód) in the 19th century, and the tradition remains strong - you can find many carbonated waters that are naturally rich in minerals and salts. You can also travel to the spas such as Szczawnica or Krynica, which are still operational.

Opinions regarding the safety of tap water vary: odds are it's OK, but most residents opt to boil or filter it anyway.

Sleep

Lodging prices are no longer the bargain they used to be several years ago; now they're comparable to standard European prices. For the bargain hunter, standard tactics apply: if hotel prices are too much, look on the Internet for private rooms, pensions, or apartments for rent, which can sometimes be found for a very reasonable price. Best deals are usually offered off-season.

Hostels affiliated with the national hostelling association are often horrid options for backpackers because of imposed curfews. Additionally, Hostelling International (HI) affiliated hostels are frequently used by large school groups, which means young children may very well be screaming their heads off and running around the halls. Some private hostels are clean and welcoming, but others can be worse than HI hostels.

  • Amber Baltic Hotel, PL 72-500 Miedzyzdroje, ul. Promenada Gwiazd 1, 48 91 32 28 760, [58]. This 4-star hotel in Międzyzdroje, offers views of the Baltic Sea and provides 191 guestrooms, a spa and wellness area with an indoor pool, and meeting facilities for up to 400.


Stay safe

The European unified emergency number 112 is being deployed in Poland. By now, it certainly works for all mobile-phone calls and most landline calls. There are also three "old" emergency numbers that are still in use. These are:

  • Ambulance: 999 (Pogotowie, dziewięć-dziewięć-dziewięć)
  • Firefighters: 998 (Straż pożarna, dziewięć-dziewięć-osiem)
  • Police: 997 (Policja, dziewięć-dziewięć-siedem)
  • Municipal Guards: 986 (Straż Miejska, dziewięć-osiem-sześć) it is a kind of auxiliary Police force found only in large cities. They are not armed and their role is primarily to cope with parking offenses and minor cases of unsocial behavior.

Theft

Poland is generally a safe country. In fact, you are much less likely to experience crime in places like Warsaw or Krakow than in Paris or Rome. Overall, just use common sense and be aware of what you're doing.

In cities, follow standard city travel rules: don't leave valuables in the car in plain sight; don't display money or expensive things needlessly; know where you're going; be suspicious of strangers asking for money or trying to sell you something.

Pickpockets operate, pay attention to your belongings in crowds, at stations, in crowded trains/buses (especially to/from the airport), and clubs.

In any case, do not be afraid to seek help or advice from the Police (Policja) or the Municipal Guards (Straz Miejska). They are generally helpful, professional and can speak English if in larger towns or touristic spots.

Train Awareness

Be astute on sleeper trains, as bag robberies sometimes happen between major stations. Ask for ID from anyone who asks to take your ticket or passport and lock backpacks to the luggage racks. Keep valuables on you, maintain common sense.

Violence

Violent behavior is rare and if it occurs it is most likely alcohol-related. While pubs and clubs are generally very safe, the nearby streets may be scenes of brawls, especially late at night. Try to avoid confrontations. Women and girls are generally less likely to be confronted or harassed since the Polish code of conduct strictly prohibits any type of violence (physical or verbal) against women. By the same token, in case of a fight between mixed gender travelers, Polish men are likely to intervene on the side of the woman, regardless of the context.

Racism

As a result of German and Soviet terror, modern Poland is a very homogeneous society. While quite a lot of Asian and rather less of African migrants have settled in the larger cities in the last couple of years, it is still quite rare to see non-Caucasians on the Polish streets. If you are a non-white traveller do not be surprised (or alarmed) if some people (especially young children) stare at you with curiosity. The overwhelming majority of Poles is composed of warm, hospitable people who are often curious to learn more about other cultures. Racist incidents are extremely rare, but, just like anywhere else in Europe, have taken place, so exercise caution and common sense. If possible, try to avoid football stadiums during and right after the matches and confrontations with football supporters' groups.

LGBT

LGBT issues remain very controversial, still very much taboo (although decreasingly so), and routinely exploited by conservative politicians. Polish culture also has a long tradition of chivalry and strong, traditional gender roles. That said, in larger cosmopolitan areas, gays and lesbians shouldn't have a hard time fitting in, although trans visitors will immediately attract attention.

Driving Conditions

The quality of Polish roads has greatly improved in the recent years (mainly due to the EURO 2012 preparations) and it is now generally safe and comfortable to travel across the country. At the same time, there is still plenty of room for improvement, so be careful and watch out for potholes, especially in the country-side. Polish drivers often tend to ignore speeding restrictions (despite great numbers of speed cameras and hefty fines), do not feel compelled to do the same, as penalties for speeding are quite severe. Non-EU drivers are obliged by law to pay their fines on the spot and the EU ones can get their fines posted to their home countries.

Children younger than 12 years old and who are shorter than 150 cm (4’11”) must ride in a child car seat. You must use headlights year round, at all times, day and night. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited except for hands-free models.

Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol (defined as above 0.2‰ of alcohol in blood), and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are extremely severe.

Note that that this zero-tolerance policy extends to cyclists. By Polish law one is not allowed to cycle under the the influence of alcohol and the penalties for doing so are equally severe and may include a prison sentence.

Respect

Etiquette

Some men, particularly older men, may kiss a woman's hand when greeting or saying goodbye. Kissing a woman's hand is considered to be chivalrous by some, but is more and more often seen as outdated. Handshakes are quite common; however, it is very important to remember that men should not offer their hand to a woman - a handshake is only considered polite if the woman offers her hand to the man first. For a more heartfelt greeting or goodbye, close friends of opposite sex or two women will hug and kiss three times, alternating cheeks.

A fairly common practice is for people to greet each other with a dzień dobry (good day) when entering elevators, or at the very least, saying do widzenia (good bye) when exiting the elevator.

It is usual to bring a gift when invited to someone's home. Flowers are always a good choice. Florists' kiosks are ubiquitous; be sure to get an odd number of flowers, as an even number is associated with funerals. Poles will often bring vodka or whisky, but this depends on the level of familiarity, so tread carefully.

It is customary to hold doors and chairs for women. Poles are generally old-fashioned about gender etiquette.

Men should not wear hats indoors, in particular when entering a church. Most restaurants, museums, and other public buildings have a cloakroom, and people are expected to leave bags and outerwear there.

The practice of placing one foot on a chair while reading or studying something is very much frowned upon.

It is hardly advisable to refer to Poland (as well as to some other countries like Czech Republic, Slovakia, or Hungary) as Central Europe, and not Eastern Europe. Although not very offensive, if used, it may reflect foreigners' ignorance and a certain disrespect of the history and clearly Latin cultural heritage of the countries from the region. Poles themselves refer to the "old" EU west of its borders as "Zachód" (West) and to the states created after the break-up of the USSR as "Wschód" (East). Geographically this is borne out by drawing a line from the tip of Norway to Greece and from the Urals to the coast of Portugal. For better or worse, Poland remains at the cross-roads of Europe, right in the continent's center. In global terms, politically, culturally and historically, Poland belongs to "the West".

Another small faux pas involves confusing Polish language with Russian or German. Poles value their language highly as it was kept at a high price during a longer period of oppressive depolonisation during the partitions and WWII. For example this means not saying 'spasibo' or 'danke' for 'thank you' just because you thought it was Polish or you didn't care. If you're not sure if your 'Polish' words are indeed Polish or not it would be seen as extra polite to ask.

Religion

The Poles may well be the most devoutly Catholic people in Europe. The late Pope John Paul II in particular is adored here, and the Church is held in generally high esteem. Bear this in mind if religion is brought up in conversation with a Pole. Also be sure to dress modestly if you enter a church, especially during services.

Holocaust and World War II

The Holocaust, as many historians note, was the genocide of European Jewry. While it is true that the Nazis were determined to annihilate Jews, one needs to remember that other ethnic, religious and political groups were also targeted. Poland was undoubtedly particularly painfully experienced during the war. It is now estimated that the Germans killed at least 6 million Poles. Among the victims, 3 million were Polish Jews. Additionally, over 3 million non-Jewish Poles were also murdered, and many others were enslaved. Many members of minority groups, the intelligentsia, Roman Catholic priests, and political opponents of the Nazis were among the dead. What is more, also the Soviets (who invaded Poland shortly after the Nazis and later occupied it after the World War II) were determined to exterminate various sections of the Polish society (including, among others, members of the anti-Nazi resistance, business owners and democratic activists). Between the census of 1939 and the census of 1945, the population of Poland had been reduced by over 30% from 35 million to 23 million.

In this context, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that the time of war and Soviet occupation was a tragedy for not only Polish Jews, but nearly all members of the Polish society. And while some Poles might have expressed active or benign support for the Nazi acts of anti-semitism, the vast majority of the society was vehemently opposed to it and suffered together with their Jewish compatriots at the hands of the oppressors. It is worth noting that Poland was the only Nazi-occupied region were helping Jews was punishable by death to one's entire family - a policy that was to a large part implemented in response to the widespread solidarity between Jews and non-Jews in occupied Poland. It is hence seen in Poland as insensitive to either accuse the Poles for any aspect of the Holocaust or to downplay the sufferings of non-Jewish members of the Polish society during World War II.

Visitors should also note that similar to Germany and Austria, displaying Nazi symbols are illegal except when used for educational purposes, and that holocaust denial is a crime in Poland, and both would result in a prison sentence. While exceptions are technically made for the Swastika when used in a religious context for Buddhists, Hindus and Jains, you may be subject to lengthy questioning by the police if you choose to wear the symbol.

Communism

Due to the extremely painful experiences of Soviet occupation and brutal communist rule, the topic of communism (or socialism) are quite controversial and sensitive in Poland. While some tourist-oriented businesses might be playing with communist symbols or offer "communist-style tours" (especially in Cracow), many Poles see communist symbols and rhetoric as only slightly less unacceptable than Nazi swastikas or slogans. Unlike in the West, few people in Poland (and especially few elderly people) find communist symbols romantic, funny or trendy. For most of the Poles, communist times were marked by shortages of consumption goods, state-terror and closure of borders. Many Poles are proud of the Solidarity movement and its part in the breaking down of the European communist system. Bear these issues in mind if communism is brought up in conversation with Polish people and make sure not to disrespect anyone's memory or feelings regarding this issue.

Contact

Landline phones

There is the de facto monopoly operator for landline phones - TP (Polish: Telekomunikacja Polska), a subsidiary of France Telecom, renowned for its leaving-much-to-be-desired services. There is also a number of smaller, often regional operators (Dialog, Netia, NOM, Energis). They are mainly serving the business market.

Mobile phones

There are four mobile phone operators in Poland: Plus [59] (code 260 01), T-Mobile (formerly ERA) [60] (260 02), Orange [61] (260 03) and Play [62]. The last one is mainly using Plus GSM [63] coverage network. About 98% of the country's surface is covered by the standard European GSM 900/1800 MHz network, the remaining 2% are wildlife reserves or high mountains. UMTS is available in in about 50% of the country. Due to the introduction of virtual brands, some operators now have two names for their prepaid services: Plus has Sami Swoi and Simplus, T-Mobile has Heyah and Tak Tak, while Orange operates Pop and Orange Go. Domestic call rates are roughly the same across all services. Prepaid starter kits with SIM card (called starter in Polish) are widely available in reasonable prices(from 5 to 20 pn, of witch most is available for calls), in many shops(for example Żabka and most malls). Ask for starter and be sure to name the network You want. Accounts are valid for outgoing calls for few days, so it is good to fill them up for, lets say, 20 pln (do-wa-do-wanie in Polish, be sure to give the value you want).

Polish telephone numbers

All telephone numbers in Poland are 9 digits long, and never start with 0 - although they used to do so. Sometimes numbers are written the old way, that is often only the last 7 digits are listed, in which case you need to prefix the now obligatory area code (eg. 22 - Warsaw, 61 - Poznan, 12 - Krakow) - OR a 0 is included in the beginning, in which case it must be skipped. As of yet, it does not matter whether you call from a landline or a mobile.

There are some special numbers, notably:

  • 800 xxxxxx - toll-free call from a landline phone and from a phone booth, but may still cost something from a mobile phone
  • 801 xxxxxx - reduced fare, costs as much as a local call from a landline phone at most (but will cost more from a mobile phone)
  • 70x xxxxxx - premium fare, can be very expensive - read the fine print in that advert you've got the number from :) On the other hand, cheap international calls can often be made through special numbers beginning with 708.

Also, texting (= sending SMSes) to:

  • 7xxx - Premium SMS, 2nd digit is cost in Zloty plus 23% tax, eg 72xx costs 2.46zł, 70xx is less than one Zloty.
  • 7xxxx - can cost quite much (again, read the small print)
  • 8xxx - is toll-free

When calling overseas, use 00, or +, and then country code.

International calls

To call abroad from Poland:

  • From a landline phone: 00 Your Country Code The Number Abroad
  • From a mobile phone: + Your Country Code The Number Abroad

To call to Poland from abroad, dial the Polish country code,48, then the number without the leading 0, as if calling from a domestic mobile phone.

International and roaming calls are expensive. To reduce your bill you can:

  • buy "phone cards" for international calls
  • activate a Polish pre-paid account to make or receive calls (the cost can be as little as 20 zł)
  • talk over the Internet

Internet

If you're bringing a laptop, Wireless LAN Hot-Spots are available in distinct places, sometimes free, otherwise not very cheap. Best chances of finding one are at airports, railway stations, in cafés, shopping malls and universities. You can ask in your hotel, but be prepared to pay. For those who need to connect at an internet cafe, fear not, because Poland's major cities have internet cafes.

With your mobile phone you can use: CSD, HSCSD, GPRS or EDGE, but the cost may be unattractive. UMTS/HSPA is available in almost every big and mid-size cities. If your phone is not SIM-locked, you may consider purchasing a pre-paid SIM card designed for data access. Every mobile operator offering his own pre-paid internet offer. You may purchase Era Blueconnect Starter, iPlus Simdata, Orange Free na kartę or Play Online na kartę. Internet service from Era, Plus and Orange covers all country area with GPRS/EDGE technology. In almost every big, medium and some small size cities it's possible to recive 3G/3.5G signal.

  • Era - Blueconnect Starter - cost: 25 PLN - 83MB data included - 0,30 PLN / 1MB [64]
  • Plus - iPlus simdata - cost: 20 PLN - 67MB data included - 0,30 PLN / 1MB [65]
  • Orange - Orange free na kartę - cost: 20 PLN - 65MB data included - 0,30 PLN / 1MB [66]
  • Play - Play Online na kartę - cost: 19 PLN - 1GB data included [67] NOTE: Play network does NOT cover the entire country. You can use internet service only in cities listed on this map [68]. Despite this, voice services are still available in whole country. Play Internet is only 3G capable. It means, that you need modem or phone that supports 3G technology. Play also limits speed of his internet up to 1Mb/s to provide satisfactory speed connection for reasonable price.

You can refill your Play account with 30 or 50 PLN

  • Top-up for 30 PLN - 2GB data traffic valid for 28 days
  • Top-up for 50 PLN - 4GB data traffic valid for 56 days

You can also consider buying a wireless 3G modem from Play

  • Starter kit with HSDPA modem + 1GB data traffic valid for 14 days costs 269 PLN
  • Starter kit with HSDPA modem + 31GB data traffic valid for 365 days costs 499 PLN

If you want to communicate with Poles, you'll need two programs - Gadu-Gadu [69], a Polish language instant messenger program, or Skype [70]. Gadu-Gadu will be difficult to use for non-Polish speaking people, but alternatives such as Adium [71] (Mac OSX), Kadu [72] (Mac OSX/Linux), and Pidgin [73] (Linux, Windows), all of which can be used in English, can be helpful.

Euro 2012

Category:Euro 2012

Cope

  • Be aware that in Poland the comma is used as decimal point, and the space to group numbers. eg. 10 500,46 zł is ten thousand five hundred złotych and 46 groszy. That said, the period is increasingly often used as the decimal point, especially on price tags and bills. Occasionally a dot is also used as grouping character.
  • It is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages or use drugs in public, though it's quite often done by the locals, especially in parks, on some buses, and some of the more congested city streets. Doing it puts you at risk of a small fine (from 20 to 100PLN) and being scoffed at by the City Guards. And losing your booze.
  • It is illegal to be drunk in public, if you behave in bad way - you may be taken to special place (izba wytrzeźwień) to sober up... but it is not a very interesting place to find yourself in - you will be treated as an alcoholic and won't be released until sober. And you'll have to pay around 240PLN for that experience.
  • Possession of drugs is illegal and it causes a criminal offence. any amount any time.

Toilets

Most public toilets have turned to pay-per-use schemes; expect to pay 1 - 2 zł to use a public restroom, eg. at a bus station or at a fast-food place.

Toilets for women are marked with a circle on the door, and toilets for men are marked with a triangle.

All restaurants and bars are forced by law to have toilets inside (but not all comply). It's not a common practice to use their toilet without ordering (at least coffee), but if you ask a waiter, he wouldn't mind in most cases. Sometimes you have to get a key to the toilet at the counter. If there seems to be a lack of public toilets you may want to try to visit McDonald's (or another fast food place) just to use the toilet.

In case of larger events, organizers provide so called toi-toi toilets (from one of companies that service them). They are narrow plastic booths, usually blue, not very comfortable, often not very clean, and hardly ever with water or paper.





This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!

Variants

Actions

Destination Docents

In other languages

other sites