Beautiful banners are coming to every article and you can help!
Check out our guidelines and learn how to create your own!

Poland

From Wikitravel
Central Europe : Poland
Revision as of 13:50, 14 July 2006 by MD (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
For other places with the same name, see Poland (disambiguation).
[[File:250px|250px|frameless|Poland]]
Flag
[[File:Pl-flag.png|108px|frameless]]
Quick Facts
Capital Warsaw
Government republic
Currency zloty (PLN)
Area 312,685 sq km
Population 38,625,478 (July 2002 est.)
Language Polish
Religion Roman Catholic 95% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and other 5%
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +48
Internet TLD .pl
Time Zone UTC+1

Poland [1] is a large country in Central Europe. It has a Baltic sea coastline and is bordered by Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast), Slovakia, and the Ukraine. Historically, it has been an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain.

Regions

Map of Poland

Poland has 16 voivods or voivodships (województwa, singular - województwo). Grouped roughly by geography, these are:

North

West

South

====East==== iver (with the capital Bialystok)

Middle

UNESCO World Heritage list

File:PolskaWarszawa.jpg
Castle Square in Warsaw
  • Old Town in Warsaw - after the settlement in Jazdow has been destroyed by Mendog in 1265 the new mediviael Warsaw was located at the nowerday Old Town north of the castle. The Old Town was compleatly destroyed by the German Wehrmacht and SS after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. It was rebuilt in the 1950´s. The Royal Castle was finished in the 1980´s.
  • Old Town and Wawel Castle in Krakow - after the ancient Krakow was destroyed by the Tatars in 1241 Boleslaus IV located the new town in the current shape with the Mainmarket and the straight streets. Many fine buildings, museums, theatres and restaurants are situated there.
  • Wieliczka Salt Mine (actually in nearby Krakow) - the oldest still existing enterprise worldwide, as it was founded other 700 years ago. Once it made the Polish kings very rich, as salt was the expensive white gold. 4,5 km of nearly 400 km of the mine can be visited. The tourist route shows the most beautiful halls and salt pieces of art made by the miners throughout the centuries.
  • Auschwitz Nazi Concentration Camp (near Krakow) - after occuping Poland the German Nazis established the Nazi Camp in 1940 for Polish prisoners. From 1942 to 1945 it became the center of the Holocaust on the European Jews.
  • Malbork Castle of the Teutonic Order - was built in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights to christianize northern Poland and Lithuania. In 1309 it became the headquarters of the Order and the biggest medieval castle in Europe. In 1457 it was sold to Poland. After being damaged in World War II it has been rebuilt after 1945.
  • Toruń Old Town - the birthplace of Niclaus Copernicus has hundreds of fine buildings from the Middle Ages. There is a beautiful panorama of Torun from the left side of the Vistula river.
  • Zamość Old Town - it was built by Bernardo Moreno from 1580 in the late Polish Renaissance style. Jan Zamojski, the founder, invited people from the whole Europe to settle there. It is one of the most beautiful Renaissance cities in Europe.
  • Jawor Church of Peace in Silesia made of wood in Baroque style
  • Świdnica Church of Peace in Silesia made of wood in Baroque style
  • Southern Little Poland (Małopolska near Krakow) wooden churches in the Carpathian mountains from the Middle Ages. One of the most beautiful is in Debno at Lake Czorsztyn
  • Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (near Krakow) - monastry in the Beskids from 1600 with a Baroque way of the Cross in the mountains
  • Łęknica park of duke Muckow
  • Bialowieza Forest a jungle in with very old trees and the last European Bisons

National Parks

Other destinations

Big Cities

There are a lot of big cities in Poland that are worth seeing. Most of them have a flourishing medieval history. The five most famous, beside Krakow and Warsaw, are:

  • Gdansk - one of the most beautiful European cities. Although it was destroyed in World War II, it has been perfectly rebuilt.
  • Wroclaw - a perfect mixture of gothic and baroque architecture, it was also destroyed and successfully rebuilt. It has more bridges than any other European town except Venice and St. Petersburg.
  • Poznan - a merchant town and a host city of the fameous international expo. The Town Hall is one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings worldwide.
  • Lublin - an ethnic melting pot of Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, Armenians and others. The Union between Poland and Lithiania was signed there and there was the Highest Court of the Republic.
  • Lodz - the Polish Manchester has the longest walking street in Europe, the Piotrkowska Street is full of beautiful 19th century architecture.

Seaside

The Polish coast is more than 500 km long and has fine sandy beaches as well as the highest European dunes.

  • Sopot - has the longest wooden molo in Europe and fine Art Nouveau architecture.
  • Gdynia - is the biggest haven at the Baltic Sea. It has a very interesting naval museum.
  • Hel - is surounded by water, as it is situated on the top of the Hel Peninsula.
  • Kołobrzeg - is the biggest Polish spa at the Baltic Sea with many hotels.
  • Świnoujście - is the most western Polish sea town on the Uznam island.

Other famous seaside towns from west to east: Miedzyzdroje, Dziwnow, Kamien Pomorski, Trzesacz, Ustronie Morskie, Mielno, Darlowo, Ustka, Rowy, Leba, Jastrzebia Gora, Rozewie, Wladyslawowo, Chalupy, Jastarnia, Jurata, Puck, Krynica Morska, Kadyny and Frombork.

Lake Districts

Just after Finnland Poland has the biggest number of lakes per km2 world wide. The lake glacial districts are in the north.

Mountains

The Polish mountains are in the south of the country, with Rysy (2499m) as the highest peak.

Understand

History

Poland is an ancient nation that was united and baptised around the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 14th to 16th century during the reign of the Jagiellonians, whose rule extended from the Baltic to the Black and Adria Sea. Later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the biggest country in Europe. Due to its tolerance many foreigners like Germans, Jews, Dutch and Armeniers emigreted to Poland that was a multiethnic country since the Middle Ages. During the 17th and 18th century the strengthening of the gentry, internal disorders and many wars weakened the Nobleman´s Republic, until an agreement in 1772, 1793 and 1795 between Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned it. Nethertheless Poland managed to sign the first modern European constitution on 3rd of May 1791. It regained its independence in 1918 and defended it in the war of 1920-1922 against Soviet attempt to overrun Poland and invade Europe.

After a period of relative peace and development, just as it was recovering from the great economic crisis of the 1920's, Poland was overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in what became the World War II. After the war it became a Soviet satellite country following the Yalta and Potsdam agreements between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union which to this day are viewed by Poles as a betrayal. After the brief but sometimes bloody Stalinist era of 1945-1956 Poland was comparatively tolerant and progressive as compared to other Eastern Block countries.

Labour turmoil in 1970 and then 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and by 1989 had swept the first Warsaw Pact State parliamentary elections and the presidency. A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, boosting hopes for acceptance to the EU. Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999 and it joined European Union in 2004.

Countryside

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

Culturally you can sight-see at many churches, museums, ceramic and traditional basket-making workshops, castle ruins, rural centres and many more. A journey through the Polish countryside gives you a pefect opportunity to enjoy and absorb local knowledge on its landscape and people.

Get in

Visas

As Poland is a member of the European Union, citizens of the EU and of the countries belonging to the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein), as well as Swiss nationals, can enter Poland with a valid passport or identity card.

Beside the countries outlined above, citizens from the following countries may travel to Poland for tourism and business purposes with a valid passport and without a visa if their planned stay does not exceed 90 days: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, USA, Uruguay, Vatican and Venezuela. Citizens of all other countries must obtain a visa in order to enter and stay in Poland legally. Always check with the local Polish Embassy or on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Eng.) website for updates as this information can change quite quickly.

Regular Visas are issued for travelers 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. Downloadable Visa Application Form

By plane

Most of Europes major airlines fly to and from Poland. Polands national carriers are LOT Polish Airlines, and a low cost airline (owned by LOT)Centralwings. There are several low cost airlines that fly to Poland including WizzAir, SkyEurope, EasyJet, Germanwings, Norwegian and Ryanair.

Apart from direct air connections from many European cities there are also direct flights from United States and Canada. LOT operates direct flights from Washington D.C., New York and Chicago, however tickets for those flights are far from cheap and most people with limited budgets fly with other airlines which stopover in major European airports.

International airlines fly mainly to Warsaw's Frederic Chopin Airport (WAW) in Okęcie, though some also land at Bydgoszcz (BZG), Katowice (KTW), Kraków (KRK), Gdańsk (GDN), Łódź (LCJ) and Poznań (POZ). Domestic flights operated by LOT (under Eurolot brand) connect Warsaw with Bydgoszcz, Katowice, Kraków, Gdańsk, Poznań, Łódź, Szczecin and Wrocław. (Other smaller cities don't have airports with facilities that would allow commercial airlines to operate internationally, however there are often charter flights available - of course, these are for travelling businessmen with thick wallets and busy agendas.)

As the number of flights and passengers has significantly increased since 1990, a new terminal is being built at the Okęcie airport which will significantly increase the airport's capacity. Also airports in Krakow and Poznan have been expanded to increase their standards and capacity.

By train

Direct connections with:

For more information on traveling in Poland by train, please see Get Around::Rail section below.

By car

You can enter Poland by car via one of many roads linking Poland with neighbouring countries. Since Poland entry to EU, road queues to check points with other EU countries have greatly decreased, in most cases the time delay in check points has been reduced to just a few minutes. Queues on borders with non-EU countries are much larger and in areas congested with truck traffic can last several hours or more. You can view the current waiting times on Polish Border Guard page (wjazd = enter, wyjazd = exit, osob. - car, autob. - bus, cieżar. - truck).

Polish road network is average - a bit underdeveloped by European standards, but quite functional and dense. There are only few highways connecting major towns, the network is far from complete. Small 2-way roads span the entire country. As long as you keep by the main roads, you should get to where you want fairly easy. Estimate twice as much time and exhaustion compared with driving in countries like Germany or France.

Poles drive aggressively and with little or no regard to speed limits. Scenes seen on the Polish roads are sometimes described as shocking by the foreigners not accustomed to the way locals handle their machines. Drunk driving is also a big problem, despite heavy penalties. Overall, Poland has a higher index of deaths on the roads than many European countries.

By bus

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

  • PEKAES part of Eurolines (from: A, BY, B, HR, CZ, DK, GB, EST, F, D, GR, NL, I, LV, LT, N, RUS, E, S, CH, UA), +48 22 6269352, +48 22 6522321, online reservation
  • Orbis (from: B, BG, F, GR, E, NL, D, CH, GB), +48 22 6227356, +48 22 5001500, +48 22 5001550
  • Polka Service (from: F), +48 22 8275050
  • Gullivers (from: D), D +49 30 31102110, Intl +80048554837
  • Visitor from London (their buses feature numbered seats)
  • PPKS Warszawa +48 22 7208383 (from: BG, D, LT, S, UA)
  • more...

By boat

By yacht

  • Modern yacht port in Łeba

Get around

Poland has relatively poorly developed road infrastructure with only few motorways. Public transport is quite plentiful, both buses and trains. Some local trains are considered dangerous at nights.

By car

Travelling by car is not easy in Poland. There is essentially no intercity highway system, and road signs are often poorly marked. Most major intercity roads have two lanes, and are used by everyone -- including passenger cars, vans, buses, trucks, tractors, and yes, even horse-drawn vehicles. This makes travelling by car in Poland frustrating at times. When travelling between cities or towns, you should always add about 30 minutes for everyone 100 km that you travel to leave time for getting stuck behind slow moving vehicles. To make matters worse, Poland has spent considerable resources into improving the roads, so as of 2006, you'll find further delays because of construction.

Some laws particular to Poland include:

  • Speed limit is : 90kph outside city, 110kph on car-only roads (white car on the blue sign), 10kph more if directions are separated, 130kph on freeways and 50kph in city (60kph at night).
  • Driving after drinking alcohol is a serious offence. BAC limits are: up to 0.02% - not prosecuted by law, up to 0.05% - an offense, above 0.05% - criminal offence (up to 2 years in jail). Despite the strict laws, DUI's are a serious problem in Poland. Be especially careful during national holidays, etc...
  • 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 stop rule is seldom respected by polish drivers). All above does not apply if right turning traffic has separate (red-yellow-green) signals.
  • On T-crossing or crossroads without traffic signs, traffic at the right always has right-of-way unless your road is a priority route, shown by a road sign displaying a yellow diamond with a white outline.
  • After turning into a crossing street, driver can select any lane.
  • Driving with lights on is obligatory between October 1st and February 28th. Also in bad weather, fog, etc. and recommended in general.

By train

In Poland there is only the national railway - the PKP (Polskie Koleje Państwowe) which is divided into several companies - Intercity (Intercity, Express, Night Express,TLK) and Regional (pospieszny and osobowy)).

Tickets are quite cheap, but travel conditions reflect the fact that majority of railworks and wagons are from few decades ago. Unfortunately, sometimes it's not very safe to travel by train, especially on some non-express suburban routes - it is recommended to travel close to the front of the train (where train staff is more likely to provide assistance), and to avoid traveling by night. Express and Intercity routes are much safer then slower connections.

You can expect fast, connection on modernized routes, as the Gdańsk - Warszawa - Kraków line.

Train types

  • Express / IC InterCity< / EC EuroCity -- Express trains. usually compulsory reservation (paid) Popular routes include: Warsaw-Kraków (290 km, 3 hours, 73-81 zł) Warsaw-Zakopane (430 km, 6 hours, 80 zł)
  • Pospieszny -- long distance, priority trains stops only in larger cities. Popular routes include Warsaw-Kraków (320 km, 3.3-4.5 hours, 43 zł), Warsaw-Zakopane (460 km, 7.5 hours, 50 zł), Warsaw-Łowicz (80 km, 50 minutes, 20 zł).
  • Osobowy -- long distance, ordinary train usually slow, stops everywhere. Warsaw-Łowicz: (80 km, 80 minutes, 12 zł)
  • Podmiejski -- suburbian train

Tickets

Tickets for any route can be purchased in any station. Buying in advance may be necessary for peak seasons (eg. end of vacation, New Year, etc.) for those trains that has obligatory reservations.

If you change trains Intercity/Regional you have to buy two tickets. It connects all major cities, but it is also good choice to get to many small towns on internal routes.

By taxi

Note on taxis: try to use only those with phone number on the side/top. The unaffiliated ones are likely to cheat and charge you much more. Be especially wary of these taxis near international airports and train stations (but then, shouldn't one be wary of them everywhere?). 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 (corporation as they are called) 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. There are also stands, where you can call for their particular taxi for free, often found at railroad stations.

Rule number two: never negociate the fare with the driver as you will probably end up paying more than you should. Just make sure that the driver turns the meter on and sets it to the appropriate tariff (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

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. You can ask the driver for 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, but mostly they are ok. The cars drivers are not as careless as they are said to be. Especially in the south you can find some nice places for bicycling; e.g. along the rivers Dunajec (from Zakopane to Sczczawnica) or Poprad (Krynica to Stary Sacz).

By thumb

Hitch-hiking in Poland is (on average) OK. Yes, it's slower than its Western (Germany) and Eastern (Lithuania) neighbours, but your waiting times will be quite acceptable! Not necessarily a thumb but waving an extended hand is a much better recognised sign that you need a lift in Poland.

If you are using a cardboard sign, you should write city codes on it. The country has 15 regions, and the first letter in car number indicates its region, the second one - city. But beware, sometimes drivers will only know the code of their home region, not the place where they are going to. For example WA - Warszawa, BI - Bialystok, EL - Lodz, KR - Krakow.

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.

Non-Polish speakers will find that most of the younger generation (35 and under), speak, or at least understand, English reasonably well. Since English is taught at 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, however, especially those outside the main cities, will speak little or no English at all. Visitors will find that there is no rhyme or reason to the foreign languages that Poles speak; some speak French, English, German, Russian or Ukranian -- this all depends on their education, the location of the city, and the history of individual families. Since Poland's borders have changed radically in the last 100 years (notably with Russian/Ukraine and Germany), you'll find that many Poles have had to relocate great distances, and these individual histories often determine what foreign language older Poles will be able to speak and/or understand.

A few phrases go a long way in Poland. Contrary to other tourist cities, like Paris, where natives will often scoff at how bad a foreigner's use of the native language is, Polish people generally love it when foreigns learn Polish, even if it's only a few phrases. Younger Poles, however, will jump at the chance to practice their English as well.

Polish is very difficult language for native English-speakers to learn, although knowledge of Latin will help tremendously. It is notoriously difficult because of its unrelenting strings of consonants in words (like the city Szczecin). It's best to get a pronounciation guide or phrasebook well in advance -- if you go in cold, you won't be able to read anything properly.

Poland's history has made it a very homogenous society. Outside of the very, very touristy areas of the major cities, you'll find that there are few, if any, foreigners. Most of the immigrants in Poland (notably Ukranians) stay in the major cities for work. Be advised that if you are heard speaking English in a public setting you will get looks; many people will listen in to practice their understanding of English. However, speaking English loudly in public also marks you immediately as a tourist, which can be dangerous in certain areas of the cities. Use common sense!

  • There is a Polish language school in Lodz operated by the University of Lodz, as well as in Wrocław at the University there.

Buy

The unit of currency in Poland is the polish zloty (PLN), though Poland is expected to adopt the Euro as early as 2007 (more realistically, full Polish entry into the Eurozone will occur around 2010).

  • 1 zł (złoty, plural złote (2 only), or złotych (3+)) = 100 gr (grosz, plural grosze, or groszy)

Private exchange offices in Poland usually offer better rates than commercial banks. They are called Kantor and are very common, especially in places like railway stations. Be cautious about those in tourist hot-spots, such as the Warsaw Old Town, since they may overcharge.

Outside of the tourist areas, you'll find that many Polish businesses don't like to give change. For example, if you buy gas at a gas station and the total comes out to 52,47 zł, and you give the attendant 53 zł, it's more common than not that you will not receive any change at all.

Most Polish restaurants and stores will take foreign credit cards -- in particular Visa and MasterCard cards. American Express is only accepted in the very, very touristy areas, so if you plan to use a credit card, it's best to not even bring your Amex card at all. The same is true of American Express Traveller's Cheques. Many Polish stores outside of major tourist hot-spots will not even know what to do with traveller's cheques, and will likely not accept them. Perhaps a reason for this is because Poland has no checking system whatsoever: there's no such thing as a check in Poland.

Exportation of historical goods is forbidden by law. Individual permission may be issued by the Department of Art. At least all objects made before 1945 needs such permission.

Eat

It is no longer difficult to avoid meat, with many restaurants offering at least one vegetarian dish. Also many major cities such as Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, and Wrocław have vegetarian restaurants, especially near the city center.

If you want to eat cheaply, you should visit [bar mleczny] (milk bar). Bar mleczny is a typically Polish kind of a fast food restaurant. 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 (especialy during the martial law period of the beginning of the 1980s, when meat was rationed).

There is a list of Polish milk bars in many different cities available in the Internet: [[2]].

Restaurants and other types of food service are generally inexpensive for those accustomed to price in Western Europe or the United States. Finer restaurants are on par with the best in those regions but cost two or three times less.

Drink

Poland is on a border of European "vodka" and "beer culture". Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks at least as much as other Europeans. You can buy beer, vodka and wine. Although Poland is known as the birth place of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead. Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and certificate self with a valid ID or passport. .

Vodka

  • Żubrówka - grass flavoured from eastern Poland.
  • Żytnia - rye vodka
  • Zoladkowa - bitter vodka
  • Biała Dama
  • Deluxe (more expensive) brands include Chopin and Belvedere. Expect to pay about 70 złoty a bottle (2004 prices). Most Poles consider these brands to be "export brands", and usually don't drink them.

Beer

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

  • Żywiec (pronounced ZHIV-y-ets)
  • Tyskie (pronounced TIS-kee)
  • Okocim (pronounced oh-KO-cheem)
  • Warka (pronounced VAR-kuh)
  • Lech (pronounced LEH: the H is like the Hebrew gutteral sound, pronounced unvoiced)

Wine

Poland does make only little own quality wines around Zielona Gora, the Southeast and in the Beskids. You usually can by them only at the places, where they are produced or at wine festivals, like in Zielona Gora. As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania or Moldavia available.

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

Black tea is traditionally a popular non-alcoholic drink. It is usually served plain with sugar or with sugar and a slice of lemon.

Water

Most Polish people will tell you not to drink the tap water in Poland, regardless of where you are. Almost all Poles drink bottled spring water or boil water to filter it. Foreigners should note that drinking water with a meal is not a Polish tradition; you will almost always have to ask for water with your meal. Some Westerners will be surprised to discover that most Poles drink carbonated water, although bottled water without gas is generally widely available. The phrase "woda niegazowana" ("non-carbonated water") works well.

Other

Interestingly, a very wide variety of fruit juices is available, with choice rivaling - and often surpassing - those of many other countries. The same applies to mineral water. Bottled ice tea is getting increasingly popular, although the choice is limited. Coffee bars, although thankfully not Starbucks, are becoming prevalent and are popular as well.

Sleep

Many hotels, hostels, motels and apartments of various quality (from no star to 5 stars) are available.

Obviously the majority of those are to be found in big cities and near popular tourist destinations, and that eastern part of Poland is less developed (and so has lower average density of hotels and such), and star rating and prices are a reasonable guide to their quality (just like all over the world).

Increasing number of those places can be found through Internet.

Some camping sites are also available, but in the South they are opened only during summer months. In September they are already closed.

Budget travellers can stay in a youth / backpackers' hostel

Learn

Study

There are many international schools and great universities in Poland, and of them Jagiellonian University in particular is renowned as member of the Coimbra Group and is also a core member of the Europaeum. National Film School in Łódź is the most notable academy that has many famous alumni.

Work

At the moment Poland is one of the best place around the world to find a job as 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 in Poland and teaching language is brilliant way to fund your travels and earn as you go.

Stay safe

Polish emergency numbers are different for stationary and cellular phones. For stationary phones these are:

  • Ambulance: 999 (Pogotowie, dziewięć-dziewięć-dziewięć)
  • Firefighters: 998 (Straż pożarna, dziewięć-dziewięć-osiem)
  • Police: 997 (Policja, dziewięć-dziewięć-siedem)

For cellular phones the number is standard 112 (Telefon alarmowy, sto dwanaście). The USA-like emergency number 911 can be also called from cellular phones (on the Plus GSM network for sure).

Pickpockets operate in larger cities, especially in public transport or rail station areas, fairly common for most European cities.

  • Keep an eye on your belongings when travelling on a bus or train.
  • Don't display any bags, valuables or your car radio if you leave your car parked in the streets. Use guarded parking lots whenever possible.

There are also certain neighbourhoods in most cities that should be completely avoided by foreigners/tourists. An example would be the whole Praga District of Warsaw; especially at night.

Walking around alone in residential Communist-era block neighborhoods is also not recommended, as they are frequented by bored teenagers and hooligans who are either in need of a fight or want something of yours (cell phone, wallet, bag, etc) to alleviate their boredom. These hooligans are usually dressed in track suits, Adidas or rip-offs, and more often than not, have shaved heads. ("Dresiarze" is a common slang name for them in Poland.)

Buses are also targeted by thieves who will even follow you out of the bus if they want something of yours.

Sometime on trains and trams, small groups of young children get on and ask you for or about something. If you tell them to leave or that you wont give them anything, they will leave, but sometimes they will call someone (an older brother who is part of a gang) and tell them what you look like. This person might be waiting for you at the next stop, and might want to fight you, beat you or steal whatever their younger brother wanted in the first place.

Walking around is usually safe, particularly in city centres. Every city has pickpockets etc. So use common sense.

Stay healthy

Avoid drinking tap water, especially in the older parts of large cities, and also in rural areas.


Respect

Remember that the vast majority of Poles are Catholics, so respect the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II, even though he is no longer the pope. Be advised Poles are ardent anticommunists. Be careful not to talk disrespectfully about anything relating to World War II because Poland and its people were hurt badly, more than any other country in Europe. 6 million Poles died as a result of the German occupation, as well as the Soviet annexations of some of its territory. Be aware, however, that the locals will gripe continuously about this subject, even if you don't want them to, and if you dare to voice a contradicting opinion, they'll just wave their hands in the air and tell you that you don't understand.

Anti-Russian sentiment may occasionally be expressed by Poles. Poles blame the Soviets for allowing the Warsaw Uprising to fail. Furthermore, in the 1970's and 1980's some Poles viewed the Moscow as taking advantage of Poland's sovereignty and even a heated arugment over which country owned the rights to which country produced "genuine vodka." In 2004 Moscow accused the Polish government of interfering in the Ukraine's presidential election, which strained relations even further. Despite the occasional anti-Russian sentiments Poles are normally quite accepting and take a particular interest in foreigners as a kind of museum exhibition.

Almost all Poles dislike Poland being thought of as a "Holocaust Tourist Country," and the Polish government has taken an active role in changing the official names of Holocaust sites to remove references to Poland (i.e. the term Polish concentration camp was official changed to Former-Nazi concentration camp). Even though Poland has by far the most history with respect to the Holocaust and WWII, many Poles will scoff at foreigners who come here solely to view Jewish memorial sites or World War II monuments, even though it's basically impossible to avoid seeing them. Poland has a thriving culture all its own, and native Poles get annoyed at foreigners who dismiss it altogether.

It's illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public, though it's often done by the locals, especially in parks, on some buses, and some of the more congested city streets.

When seated at a table for dinner or drinks, it's custom to stand up to greet someone who's joining you.

Cope

  • Be aware that in Poland and throughout Europe comma is used as decimal point, and space to group numbers. eg.

10 500,46 zł is ten thousand five hundred zlotych and 46 groszy. Occasionally dot is also used as grouping character.

Contact

Telephony

  • There is national operator for fixed lines - TPSA (Polish Telecommunications, Telekomunikacja Polska), and number of smaller operators. TPSA has a de facto monopolist status. http://www.tpsa.pl/
  • Cell phones operates in GSM 900/1800 standard (UMTS is currently accessible only in major cities). There are three cellular operators: Plus GSM (code 260 01), Era (260 02), Orange (260 03), and each of them covers more than 95% of Poland area. Most countries have roaming with all three of them.
  • Pre-paid cellular phones can be purchased for relatively inexpensive prices from any of the three major carriers (SimPlus, Orange and Era are the most well known). Although domestic calls are cheap, international calls from cellphones are much more expensive. Travellers are better off using phone cards for international calls.
  • When planning to stay longer, or make many phone calls, you can also consider buying prepaid activation of any of theses operators. It will probably save you a lot of money on roaming charges. Starter kits are on sale usually for less than 20 zł (in a Post office for example), and later you will need to buy credit for calls. Note that some cell phones are locked not to allow use of foreign SIM cards.
  • Data communication is available using standard data transfer (CSD), high speed HSCSD , GPRS (if in roaming - subject to additional roaming agreement with your operator), EDGE, UMTS (only major cities).

Telephone numbers:

  • All numbers in Poland are 10 digits long and start from 0. Still many numbers are written in old way eg. often only last 7 digits are listed. In that case you need to add 0 and area code for the area that number is in. Cell phones are sometimes referred by 9 digits. Prefix them with 0.
  • When calling from abroad, dial your country international access code (eg. +, 00 or 011), Polish country code 48 and the number _without_ the leading 0. (eg. 00 48 121234567)
  • Numbers starting 0 800 are free (but may be inaccessible or paid from cell phone)
  • Numbers starting 0 801 are reduced fare (but may be inaccessible or paid from cell phone)
  • Numbers starting 0 70x and 0 300 are additionaly paid (0.60 - 11 zł/minute, may be inaccessible from cell phone)
  • SMS numbers 7xxx or 7xxxx are additionaly paid (0.61 - 25 zł/message). Exact rate should be published each time along with the number.
  • SMS numbers 80xx are free,
  • When calling to cell phone, it's often cheaper when you call within network of one operator:
    • PlusGSM prefixes: +48 601, 603, 605, 607, 609, 691, 693, 695, 697, 661, 663
    • Sami Swoi (PlusGSM subnetwork) prefixes: +48 885, 887
    • Era prefixes: +48 600, 602, 604, 606, 608, 692, 694, 696, 698
    • Heyah (Era subnetwork) prefixes: +48 880, 888, 889
    • Orange prefixes: +48 500, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 511, 512, 513
    • CENTERTEL NMT (old NMT network) prefixes: +48 690

Internet

  • with cell phone - see above
  • WLAN (hot spots) available in limited areas. Most chances to find one in airport, some business centers, some shopping malls, sometimes in old town market squares. All three GSM operators and many independent providers have their WLAN services. Sometimes free, otherwise not very cheap. Comprehensive list of hot spots: http://www.pdaclub.pl/hs/ (Płatny? Tak/Nie/Brak danych is Paid? Yes/No/Unknown)
  • Internet cafe - available in cities
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