Difference between revisions of "Warsaw"
Revision as of 15:12, 1 October 2013
Warsaw  (Polish: Warszawa) is the capital of Poland and, with 1.7 million inhabitants, its largest city. It is located on the Vistula River (Polish: Wisła), roughly equidistant (350 km, 217 mi) from both the Baltic Sea (Bałtyk) in the north and the Carpathian Mountains (Karpaty) in the south.
The medieval capital of Poland was the southern city of Krakow, but Warsaw has been the capital of the country since 1596, and has grown to become Poland's largest city and the nation's urban and commercial center. Completely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, the city managed to lift itself from the ashes. Today, almost every building in Warsaw dates to the postwar era - with what little remains of the old structures being confined largely to the restored districts of Stare Miasto (the 'old city') and Nowe Miasto ('new city'), as well as selected monuments and cemeteries.
In 1939 the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany cooperated in the invasion and occupation of Poland only to strike against one another in 1941. A thriving European capital, Warsaw was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1939, and was the scene of two major uprisings: - the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 (by remaining inhabitants of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto), and - the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (by Polish resistance forces).
After five years under Nazi occupation, in 1944 the tide of war started to turn against the Third Reich. Soviet forces were approaching from the East, and so the leaders of Polish resistance movement confronted the choice of either liberating the capital or allowing for dubious Soviet 'liberation'.
The Uprising formally began on August 1, 1944 at 5PM. Fighting continued until October 5, 1944 when the Home Army and its allied organizations surrendered. In the first days of fighting, Nazis murdered about 60,000 civilians, including women and children. In total, the Uprising claimed lives of 180,000 civilians, and 18,000 insurgents. Polish fighters were outnumbered and outgunned as they hardly received any support from the Allies(the Soviet Union denied them airfields on the territories it controlled). The Soviet Union purposely allowed the Warsaw Uprising to fail.
Notwithstanding the terms of surrender, Nazis destroyed over 85% of Warsaw. Out of almost 1,000 historically and culturally important buildings only 64 survived. Polish soldiers were sent to concentration camps. Some of Warsaw's civilians were sent to concentration camps, others to Germany for forced labor or to different Polish cities. Once the entire city was turned into ashes, its inhabitants killed, its leaders killed or imprisoned, Soviet forces entered the city to establish a puppet government that would control postwar Poland for the next 50 years.
Post-World War II
Since the fall of communism in 1989, Warsaw has been developing much more rapidly than Poland as a whole. You wouldn't recognize the city if you saw it ten years ago, and more changes are constantly taking place. Warsaw has long been the easiest place in Poland to find employment, and for this reason many of the Polish inhabitants of the city are first or second generation, originating from all over the country.
Even though much of Warsaw seems to imitate western cities, there are many peculiarities to be found here that you will not find in western capitals. Examples include the communist-era bar mleczny (lit. 'milk bar') that remain in operation (essentially cheap cafeterias for no-frills, working-class traditional Polish dining, which have remained incredibly popular in the face of westernization). Europe's largest outdoor marketplace, once located around the old stadium, has disappeared as the new National Stadium has arisen for the Euro 2012 football championships.
Warsaw has a continental climate, with warm summers, crisp, sunny autumns and cold winters. Summers can vary from mild to quite hot. Travellers should bring light, summer clothes for the day, and an extra jacket for evenings, as they can sometimes get a little chilly. The main tourist season of Warsaw falls between May and September, from the middle of spring until the beginning of autumn, when the climate is at its most favourable. Although rainfall is generally evenly spread throughout the year, July does tend to be the wettest month according to weather statistics. Travellers would best be advised to bring heavy, water-resistant shoes with them when travelling in Warsaw in late autumn to early spring. The weather in winter varies, but it can get cold and very snowy. From December to March, the climate is at its coldest and overnight frosty weather becomes commonplace, along with some snow. The coolest months are January and February with temperatures falling a couple of degrees below zero.
The Warsaw Convention Bureau  is the official tourist information agency in Warsaw and can provide visitors with information regarding hotels, attractions, and events. They also have maps for travelers. Unfortunately, the bureau's website isn't well designed and doesn't provide all that great of information, though, it can be helpful. They operate three locations in Warsaw.
There are a few other organizations that are useful when planning or looking for information about a trip to Warsaw. The City of Warsaw  has a lot of useful information on its website and would be a good place to get some information. Destination Warsaw  has some useful information, but seems to trump up its members' products, restaurants, and services over others. Its main goal is the promotion of Warsaw as a destination abroad. The best source of practical tips, contacts, and current event information is the Warsaw Insider , available at every concierge, tourits information and larger newsagents'; the Warsaw Voice , an English language weekly newspaper, also maintains a good calendar of events  on its website.
A wise investment may be the Warsaw Tourist Card , which can either be purchased for a 24 hour period or three days. The card will get you into museums for free or for a discount. It also doubles as a ticket for public transportation in Warsaw. You may also be able to get discounts at galleries, sports facilities, shops, restaurants, and discounted tours, car rentals, or accommodation. The card can be purchased at the tourist agency's offices around the city, some hotels, and a few other locations.
As is the case with most major cities, Warsaw is situated on a river. The river's name is Vistula (Polish: Wisła) and it crosses the city on a north-south axis, dividing it into two parts, usually referred to as the left bank (Polish: lewy brzeg adj. lewobrzeżna Warszawa) and the right bank (Polish: prawy brzeg adj. prawobrzeżna Warszawa).
Historically, the right bank was the first one to become populated, during the 9th or 10th century. However, the present city's central district, called Śródmieście lies on the left bank. The Old Town is fully contained within the borders of the city center.
The central point of the city is located at the intersection of Al. Jerozolimskie and ul. Marszałkowska, near the entrance to the Metro Centrum subway station. It is good to know that the Palace of Culture is a landmark visible from almost any location in Warsaw. Should you ever get lost in the city, just walk toward the Palace of Culture and Science.
The quarter delimited by Al. Jerozolimskie, ul. Marszałkowska, al. Jana Pawła II, and ul. Świętokrzyska, contains Dworzec Centralny, the main railway station, and the Palace of Culture and Science.
Warsaw (all airports code: WRW) is served by a total of two airports: Chopin Airport (IATA: WAW) (also known as 'Okecie') for major airlines. Modlin Airport (IATA: WMI) was opened in July 2012 and it handles the low cost traffic. Łódź Airport (IATA: LCJ) is also conveniently accessible from Warsaw.
Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport
Chopin Airport  (IATA: WAW, ICAO: EPWA) is located in the area of Okęcie in Włochy, around 10 km south the city centre. For many years the airport used to be called just Okęcie, but this reportedly caused confusion and it was renamed.
N.B. Local people may use the name Okęcie to refer either to the airport, or to the residential area and local transportation terminal P+R Al. Krakowska which is on the other end of the airfield. Always ask for the airport (lotnisko in Polish) to avoid confusion.
There are two terminal buildings, until 2010 marked as: Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, now both denoted as Terminal A. The terminals are very close to each other (there is a pedestrian corridor linking them on public side as well as on the secure side), but it's best to know from which terminal you will be departing. Check-in counters with numbers 100-199 are in (former) building of Terminal 1, 200-299 in Terminal 2.
The Etiuda Terminal was used by budget airlines and for charters, but now it's closed.
Getting to/from Chopin Airport (WAW)
The airport train station, Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina, opened on 1 June 2012. Trains depart every 10-12 minutes during peak times and every 15 minutes otherwise. Both the Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM; Warsaw's S-Bahn-like suburban railway system) and Koleje Mazowieckie (Mazovian Railways or KML; the provincial local train operator) operate trains to and from the airport.
The SKM offers the following connections from Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina:
Koleje Mazowieckie offers connections ending at Warszawa Wschodnia, calling at Warszawa Zachodnia and Warszawa Centralna. These trains are less frequent than SKM services.
Regular Warsaw transport tickets issued by ZTM (the local transport operator which runs city buses, trams and the metro) are valid on SKM train services between the airport and Warsaw. There are ticket machines in the terminal as well as on board; tickets can also be bought at the ZTM counter in the public part of the arrivals hall (after customs). ZTM day passes, three-day passes and monthly tickets are also valid on Koleje Mazowieckie trains, but not regular tickets. Note that while there is no Koleje Mazowieckie ticket office at the airport, it is possible to purchase single tickets for KML services from the airport to the city center aboard the train.
Currently (Feb 2013) the rail station can only be accessed by leaving the arrivals area of the terminal building, crossing the bus station and walking about 300m in the open. The route is however well sign-posted. It seems that eventually the rail station will be accessed through an extension to the terminal building not yet completed.
Four bus lines operate between points in the city and the airport from 4:40am to 11:00pm. At all other times, night bus N32 runs between the city centre and the airport. Single-fare tickets for the bus cost 4.40 PLN (effective 2013.Jan.1) from any kiosk; or buy one from the bus driver or vending machine in the bus (this is more risky - you will need exact change for the driver, or coins - not notes - for the machine; driver may refuse to sell ticket if he is late, the machine may be broken...). You can also buy tickets from the ticket machine at the bus stop (which accept coins, notes and credit cards) or from the ZTM counter in the public area of the arrivals hall (not the Tourist Information counter, but near it).
Avoid the taxi drivers soliciting customers inside the terminal, as they severely overcharge. Instead, use one of the companies recommended by the airport authorities (Merc Taxi, MPT Radio Taxi, Ele, or Sawa Taxi). They are slightly above market average in terms of prices and stop near the exit from terminal. You can also order a taxi from another corporation by phone (there is no surcharge). A typical fare to a hotel near Warszawa Centralna station is around 40 zł at night, less in the daytime.
In any case, the most you should pay is 3.00 zł (up to 4.50 zł on Sundays; but typically no more than 2.40 zł) per km in the daytime plus an initial fee of no more than 8 zł. The meter should be running and display a tariff number (1 in the daytime, 2 at night and on Sunday, 3 or 4 when leaving city limits or entering 2nd zone) You are entitled to a receipt (which must specify the route used) upon request. The Polish word for receipt is rachunek. There is no obligation to tip the taxi drivers, but most won't refuse if you offer. See the Taxis section for a more in-depth explanation of taxi fares.
Warning! Some of the "official" taxi-despatchers (dressed in yellow wests) outside the terminal building deliberately points you to some "alternative" taxis some 15 meters away from the "normal" taxis. The price for this trip to Radisson Centrum hotel (which should have been 35-40 Zloty at most for a Friday night) was charged with almost 97 Zloty on the taxameter. It seems there is some kind of "deal" between at least one of these taxi despatchers and some pirate taxis in WAW airport, so if the taxi despatcher tries to point you to other taxis than the ones you are queing up for (along with the "local" Poles) then either refuse to be sent away to the other taxi or ask the price in advance. As this scam was done by people I regarded to be "official" led to the fact that I did not discover this fraud before it was too late... It has been confirmed from several sides that a taxi transfer should not cost more than 40-45 Zlotys, and it is irritating to start off your vacation being overcharged for a taxi trip. (Had this experience late SEP 2013, so quite recent)
By other means
Some hotels offer a shuttle to/from the airport, while some will send taxis for you.
Warsaw Modlin International Airport
Modlin Airport  (IATA: WMI, ICAO: EPMO) was opened in June 2012. It's located near a town Nowy Dwor Mazowiceki 40 km north from Warsaw. WizzAir moved to Modlin from WAW and Ryanair started operating flights to Modlin and have announced a base at the new airport.
Getting to/from Modlin Airport (WMI)
Koleje Mazowieckie  operates connections between Modlin and Warszawa Centralna. From the airport terminal you need to take shuttle bus to the railway station and get on a train to Warsaw. A combined ticket for bus and train costs 12 zł.
There is a direct bus by Modlinbus  from the airport terminal to the center of Warsaw (car park near Warszawa Centralna station). The price is 29 zł.
There is also indirect bus connection by Translud  - ticket costs 8 zł. Take bus no 2 or 6  from Warsaw Center (next to Domy Towarowe Centrum) to Modlin Twierdza Pętla station. Remember to tell driver of bus no 2 or 6 that you are going to the airport - he will contact with the driver of another bus which will take you from Modlin Twierdza Pętla directly to the airport. Whole trip should be less than 1,5 hour.
Warsaw has three stations for long-distance trains:
Unless you really know what you're doing, the best option is Dworzec Centralny (Warszawa Centralna) station, as it has best connections with all the places in the city. All long-distance trains pass through this station and all stop there. It is the only long-distance station underground. It isn't the last station on the route!
Trains running eastwards start at Warszawa Zachodnia, stop at Warszawa Centralna and then at Warszawa Wschodnia, while trains heading westwards make the same trip in the opposite direction (except that they don't always stop at Warszawa Zachodnia). The same is true for arriving trains. Tourists often find it confusing that the main train station (Warszawa Centralna) is not the last station on the route.
The Berlin-Warszawa Express runs from Berlin to Warsaw daily and is quite inexpensive if booked in advance. Students get discounts as well. It's a fairly comfortable six hour trip. Schedule are available on Intercity's website  and tickets can be booked through Polrail Service  or on the Deutsche Bahn website.
There're also trains to Russia - Moscow, Saint Petersburg and even direct cars to Saratov or Irkutsk, Belarus - Minsk, Ukraine - Kiev and direct cars to Simferopol or even Astana in Kazakhstan. There are many direct connections to central and western European cities too.
In domestic trains, reservation is obligatory only on EC, EIC or Ex trains. In the most popular TLK (cheapest, sometimes only a little slower than expensive EIC) seat reservation is possible (but not obligatory!) only in 1st class.
There are also some IR (InterRegio) trains, operated by Przewozy Regionalne. These are the cheapest trains in Poland, but often not very comfortable and slow. Only IR Warsaw-Szczecin-Warsaw (called "Mewa") and Warsaw-Rzeszow-Warsaw (called "WOŚP") are highly recommended - they're equipped with air-conditioning, CCTV, power sockets for every seat and free wi-fi connection, although the price is extremely low. Seat reservation is possible for as little as 3zł (~0,75€), but only when purchasing internet ticket on website .
If you don't have a reservation, you may get a better seat by boarding the train at its point or origination. During peak season, you may not be able to get a seat at all.
There is no central station for suburban trains, but the most important one is Warszawa Śródmieście (close to Warszawa Centralna and Metro Centrum). Some destinations you can reach from there are Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Łowicz, Milanówek, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Otwock, Piława, Pruszków, Radom, Siedlce, Skierniewice, Sochaczew, Sulejówek, Terespol, Tłuszcz, Wołomin, Żyrardów.
Warsaw Commuter Railway
WKD  (Polish: Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa) is separate train service that runs from a distinct platform at Warszawa Śródmieście WKD to Grodzisk Mazowiecki, a city some 50 km west of Warsaw through Pruszków, Milanówek, and Podkowa Leśna.
Regional and long-distance bus connections in Poland are traditionally called PKS. Once it was a legitimate abbreviation for the state-owned monopoly. Now, however, bus routes are operated by completely independent companies, some of which have chosen to retain the old PKS as a part of their name. In Warsaw, there's PKS Warszawa  but PKSes from various other cities also operate. Most PKS buses arrive and depart from either of two major terminals:
Unlike most European capitals, Warsaw has no real bypass, so all transit traffic is routed through the city streets. The following streets, which constitute a circle with the radius of some 10 km (six mi) from the city centre, can be considered an ersatz ringroad: Trasa Toruńska-Trasa Armii Krajowej-al. Prymasa Tysiąclecia-Al. Jerozolimskie-ul. Łopuszańska-ul. Hynka-ul. Sasanki-ul. Marynarska-ul. Rzymowskiego-ul. Dolinka Służewiecka-ul. Sikorskiego-al. Witosa-Trasa Siekierkowska-ul. Marsa-ul. Żołnierska.
Four European "E-roads" lead to Warsaw: E30 (A2), E77 (7), E67 under the unofficial name of Via Baltica, (A8), and E372 (17). The E-numbers are usually displayed on signs but it is best to know the national road numbers too, which are the numbers in parentheses.
What follows is a list of streets you will find yourself on when approaching the city from different directions:
The cities listed above are the ones displayed on signs in the city. The abbreviations in (parentheses) show you which neighboring countries can be reached with a road. If you are coming to the city, follow the blue-on-white Centrum signs. One exception is when you are coming from the north-east: follow the Praga sign unless you are driving a lorry.
Driving distances to other cities:
In Poland - Białystok 190 km (118 mi); Gdańsk 390 km (242 mi); Kielce 180 km (112 mi); Kraków 290 km (180 mi); Olsztyn 210 km (130 mi); Poznań 310 km (193 mi); Siedlce 100 km (62 mi); Toruń 210 km (130 mi)
Car hire. At the Frederic Chopin airport you will find Avis, Hertz, Budget and Sixt. Telephone numbers can be found in free magazines lying around in hotel and cafe lobbies. Also refer to the individual companies websites. It is a legal requirement for you to carry your driving licence, insurance documents and the vehicle registration details at all times. If the Police stop you without them, they are likely to impose a fine.
There is a paid-parking zone in the center of the city. This applies Mon-Fri 8AM-6PM. Parking costs 3.00 zł for the first hour. Subsequent hours cost more although there is no hour limit. 0.60 zł is the minimum payment. You can pay with coins (must be exact amount - the parking meters give no change) or with the Warsaw City Card (not the tourist card).
The maximum base fare (taryfa 1) is 3.00 zł/km and applies to journeys within the city (zone 1) on weekdays. The cheapest companies charge between 1.40 zł/km and 2.00 zł/km. Taxi drivers can charge 150% of the base fare (taryfa 2) at night or on weekends and public holidays, and 200% of the base fare (taryfa 3) for journeys into the suburbs. Watch out for blue rectangular signs saying taxi 2 strefa (Taxi Zone 2), they can charge 300% of the base fare (taryfa 4) at night and in the suburbs or on weekends and public holidays).
In addition, they can also charge you 8 zł initial fee (closing the door), 40.00 zł an hour for waiting for you if you you are not in the first zone, and for getting back to the boundary of the first zone if you left in zone 2. There are no surcharges for additional passengers (normally up to 4 should fit), or for luggage.
They cannot charge you for anything else. There is no obligation or custom of tipping the drivers. The driver is required to give you a receipt on request. The full route must be written on the receipt. If the route was suboptimal, the fare can then be challenged. Call the City Guard (Polish: Straż Miejska) at 986 (+48 22 986 from a mobile phone) should there be any problems.
The aforementioned prices apply only to officially registered taxis. Others (non-taxi carriers) may charge you whatever they feel like, so they are best avoided.
A legal taxi will have its number displayed on the front door under the window (black digits on white), on a TAXI sign (not TAX1 or TAKI), on a sticker with the base fare displayed on the passenger (rear) door window, and on the driver's ID card visible inside the cab.
Attention! Legal taxi drivers never approach you, even if they flash something that looks like professional id. Do not trust people in airport halls, at train stations, coming to you and asking if you want a taxi and grabbing your luggage to 'help you'. You may end up with ridiculously high bill or travelling around city. Safe and legal taxi drivers wait in prepared spots. Always ask one how much it will cost you before getting in (approximately).
Warsaw train stations are not further than few kilometers from strict center of the city (Gdański and Centralny are almost in the middle). Gdański train station is connected with metro line, which will take you for around 50 cents to the strict center (around 8 minutes). Centralny is few hundred meters from metro and in strict center.
Airport Okęcie is also within city limits.
Airport Modlin is far from the city, but taxi should have fixed price around 100 PLN to the center of Warsaw. Airport shuttle and bus connecting to direct train are available.
The public transport system in Warsaw is generally well-developed, with some 200 bus routes and 30 tram lines. The route descriptions on the tram stops are easy to follow (although bus stop notices are more complex) and the tickets are cheap. It can be painfully slow, however, to travel between destinations far from the city center.
There is also a modern underground line going from south to north on the left bank, and a recently-introduced Rapid Urban Railway (Polish: Szybka Kolej Miejska or SKM) which has proved to be a big disappointment, but now it's becoming more and more popular. Travelling to districts like Włochy, Ursus, Rembertów or Wesoła by SKM instead of bus can save a lot of time.
Warsaw's metro system opened in 1995 and is one of the newest underground railway systems in Europe. Operated by Metro Warszawskie sp. z o.o.  it runs daily from early morning until midnight at 3-10 minute intervals. On Friday and Saturday, Metro operates until 3 am. Trains and stations are clean and neat. The system currently consists of only one line, which was designed to carry commuters from the densely populated new districts at the northern and southern outskirts into the city centre. As a result, the metro does not go to many tourist destinations, however several stations will take you in a general vicinity of some attractions. A second route is under construction, which will link the centre with the right bank of the river Vistula (i.e. Praga) with a segment containing 7 stations now expected to be completed in 2013 at the earliest.
Buses operate usually from 5.00 to 23.00, but you should always check the schedule. The intervals can be anything from as little as 5 minutes (crowded routes during peak hours) to nearly 2 hours (certain suburban routes). Usually, you will wait 20 minutes at most.
Warsaw has well-developed night bus communication, that will take you basically to every part of city. Most buses start and finish at the back of Central Railway Station (Dworzec Centralny). They start every 30 minutes, hour by hour, at XX:15 and XX:45.
Bus route numbers consist of three digits. Only the first digit has any meaning, the latter being merely ordinal. Here's the key to understanding Warsaw bus route numbers:
Other than that:
There are a few routes that are of certain interest to tourists:
Requesting a stop - certain bus stops are request-only (Polish: na żądanie):
Sometimes (all-year in air-conditioned buses and trams, October-March in every bus or tram), the door will not open automatically. To open it, locate the button drzwi (blue) and press it. Then you have 15 seconds until the door closes back.
Night buses operate on 38 routes: N01 to N95 . The first digit indicates the area of Warsaw the bus travels to. All parts of the city are covered, but travelling to distant locations is particularly time-consuming. All buses from the centre operate at 30-minute intervals and depart from their central stop at Dw. Centralny 15 and 45 minutes after the hour, which facilitates changing.
When travelling on a night bus, it is essential to know the location of your bus stop at Dw. Centralny. There is a map  that will help you.
All night bus stops except Dw. Centralny and Centrum are request stops. Signal well in advance as some night bus drivers may be too busy accelerating to notice.
There is also a map of all the night bus routes including those that do not serve the centre: .
Note that not all bus stops that have Centrum in their name are in the city center. For example, there is a bus route 525 that goes from Centrum (the real city center) through Centrum Optyki in Praga Południe to Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka in Wawer. This is always clear from the route map so please read it carefully.
Although trams are not faster than buses unless there is a heavy traffic jam, they may have some appeal for a tourist as it is easier to predict where they are going - they usually go straight ahead and only rarely turn. However, it may be worth travelling by tram in the city centre during rush hours.
Trams have numbers below 50 (for the curious, the 50+ numbers were used by the long-lost trolley buses). Trams with numbers above 40 operate during peak hours only. A map of tram routes is available to assist you in planning your journey: .
There is a special route T operated by historic cars from pl. Narutowicza. The stops can be found here: . Note: 'T' only runs in July and August.
The tram services can end as early as at 10PM, but most routes are served until midnight.
Although there are many carrier companies, tickets are issued and controlled by the single Warsaw Transport Authority (Polish: Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego or ZTM)  and are valid for all means of transport. Tickets for 24-hour and more are valid also in the suburban trains (usually painted in green and white) and Rapid Urban Railway (S1, S2 and S9 routes) within the relevant zone limits.
Tickets can be purchased in kiosks, ticket machines and any shop that displays the Sprzedaż biletów ZTM ("WTA tickets sold here") stickers for around 3-6 Euros depending on the type of ticket. For buses and trams, the single-ride ticket can also be bought on board from the driver. In Rapid Urban Railway (SKM) you can buy a ticket from train attendant or (in new trains) in the ticket machine. There is no extra charge for buying tickets from drivers, though they can refuse to sell you a ticket if the bus is over 3 minutes late.
Timed (24-hour or 3-day) tickets are probably the simplest way of paying for public transportation, if you want to see as much as possible. If you will be taking a bus, subway, or tram at least three times in a given day, it's best to buy one of these tickets, especially as they are valid for all modes of transportation, including night buses. You may choose a 24 hour ticket, or a three day ticket. Additionally, there are one month and three month travel cards for those who are staying in Warsaw for a longer time.
Prices are for 16th Aug 2011 - 31st Dec 2011. The next pricing changes are scheduled for 1st January 2012, 2013 and 2014. Prices will rise a bit, but the structure will probably remain the same.
The ticket system is quite complicated, but as a tourist you shouldn't need to trouble yourself about knowing all the details. What you need to know, however, is that you will probably travel only in the 1st zone (this includes the airport), so:
Note that the tickets and prices above can only be used for travel within Warsaw (zone 1), except the time-based tickets (20, 40 and 60-minute tickets). For suburban travel outside Warsaw, a more expensive ticket covering zones 1 & 2 is required.
Ticket rules and pitfalls
Immediately validate your ticket after boarding the bus or tram (in a yellow validator), or at the subway station gate (it's obvious). Timed tickets only need to be activated once, on your first journey, except in the underground where touching in (or inserting a ticket) is required to open the entrance gate to the station. Exit gates open without a ticket.
Tickets are not checked by a driver. They may be randomly inspected in a station or in a bus/tram (by plain-clothed inspectors with portable ticket/card readers), so it is up to you to have a valid (activated) ticket. If you buy a ticket from a driver, you still have to activate it.
If one validator is out of order, look for another. A steady yellow light means that only the plastic card reader is working. If all the validators in a bus glow red - they may be locked, likely because an inspection is underway (and you are lost...).
Most of the major sightseeing attractions are located in Centrum area, which encompasses seven districts, however, the most important district for sight seeing is likely to be considered Śródmieście. The other districts all have something else to offer too, but the further from Centrum you journey, the less likely you're to find much of anything that is of any major interest, although Wilanów's palace and Kabaty forest are interesting enough.
Center for Modern Art (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej) http://csw.art.pl/
Royal Lazienki (Lazienki Krolewskie) http://www.lazienki-krolewskie.pl/en,home.html
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw - loacted only a few minutes walk from the Central Railway Station the Museum invites to step into the world of contemporary art by Polish and international artists. Guided tours every Sunday at 2 pm. Free entry http://www.artmuseum.pl/en
National Museum in Warsaw (Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie) http://www.mnw.art.pl/
The State Ethnographical Museum in Warsaw (Panstwowe Muzeum Etnograficzne w Warszawie) http://ethnomuseum.website.pl/en/
Heavens of Copernicus (Niebo Kopernika) Thanks to its equipment, quality of shows and design, the Heavens of Copernicus is one of the most modern and original planetariums in Europe. It offers sky displays, film projections, lectures and meetings.
Go on a Tour of Warsaw - the Old Town and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
Explore old Praga to get more shady (but safe) insight into old Warsaw. Find charming art cafes and galleries hidden around Ząbkowska, Targowa, Wileńska, 11 listopada, Inżynierska streets. In night, there are lot of vibrating clubs on these streets.
Multimedial Fountain Park http://parkfontann.pl/
Copernicus Science Center. Copernicus Science Centre conducts modern science communication through interactive exhibitions addressed to different groups of recipients (adults, adolescents and children), shows and workshops on scientific themes, debates and discussions as well as activities from the borderland of science and art. The mission of the Centre is to inspire curiosity, assist the independent discovering of the world, help to learn and inspire social dialogue on science. It is one of the largest and most modern institutions of this type in Europe. http://www.kopernik.org.pl/en/
Concerts and performances
Warsaw is home to several professional musical and play companies. Being the capital city means the Polish National Opera  and the Warsaw Philharmonic (also, National Philharmonic)  call Warsaw home. There are a number of other companies, including play companies and theaters that will likely be of interest to travellers.
Warsaw is not internationally known for its sports teams or for any of its sports venues, although that may change in 2012 as Warsaw, and Poland as a whole with Ukraine, has improved their sporting infrastructure and stadiums as the hosts of the European Football Championship in 2012. Renovation of the Legia football team's stadium has finished.
Despite all the emphasis on football, no traveller to Warsaw should be so naive as to think that football is the only sport to do in Warsaw. There is a mixture of both professional sports teams for spectators to visit and participatory sports for travelers to participate in.
Home to many international companies, Warsaw has an excellent job market for potential expats. Of course there are several immigration hurdles, but landing a job should not be overly difficult if you have the right skill sets.
If you're a backpacker and looking for short-term employment this may be somewhat more difficult, as you are legally required to have a work permit. You could possibly find short-term work in the hospitality industry, or possibly as a tutor or an ESL teacher.
If you'd like to work in Warsaw, or Poland for that matter, but don't want to go through the hassle of finding a job opportunity, there are some employment recruiting agencies you can use in your search for a job. Just a few are:
Indoor shopping malls (Polish: centrum handlowe pl. centra ~, often abbreviated CH) are also plentiful in Warsaw. Usually open until 8-10PM, most malls will have a food court, restaurants, cinema and some may have a sports hall with billiards tables or a bowling alley.
Tesco and Carrefour are the largest stores in Europe, and sell just about everything, including groceries, at low prices.
Finding an unique place to eat is easy, as there are no international chain restaurants present here, as in Western Europe.
For those on a budget, there are many kebab shops sprinkled around Warsaw, especially in Śródmieście, which offer decent food and portions for the fair price of 7-13 zł a kebab. Other cheap alternatives are milk bars, which are discussed later in the section, and Vietnamese restaurants.
Tourists on budget will be happy to know there's no shortage of fast food in Warsaw. The most popular brand names are of course McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut, but there are also a few Subway sandwich shops and even a few Burger King restaurants. The prices charged in most of these restaurants can be expensive by Polish standards.
Remnant of the communist era, milk bars (Polish: bar mleczny, bary mleczne) were originally created in the sixties to serve cheap meals based on milk products. After the fall of communism, most of them closed down but some survived and still bear the climate from the old days. Almost everything inside looks, feels and smells like in the 1980s. Milk bars attract students and senior citizens, because of the low prices (soup and the main course together may cost as little as 10.00 zł). The food served by milk bars can actually be quite palatable. Even if you can afford more expensive meals, milk bars are interesting because they offer somewhat a view of life before democratization in Poland.
Old Town and areas like pl. Trzech Krzyży, ul. Nowy Świat, ul. Chmielna, Krakowskie Przedmieście in Śródmieście are saturated with cafés. Coffee typically costs about 10.00 zł. Beer can cost anywhere from 5.00 zł to 15.00 zł for half a liter (the supermarket price being about 2.50-3 zł). Drink prices in clubs can go up to 50.00 zł (and possibly more). Drinking alcoholic beverages in public places is prohibited, but this is often ignored by locals with regard to public drinking in parks.
Clubs are plentiful in Warsaw and are a very popular way to spend nearly every night out.
The most popular nice and chic clubs are on ul. Mazowiecka in Śródmieście. Note that you will definetly be denied entrance if you wear sport shoes, no matter how expensive they are. Inconspicious black shoes will normally do the trick.
Student clubs are popular and usually moderately priced, but can be hit or miss. Normally, the centrally located Hybrydy is a good option for night out. Other student clubs, like Stodoła or Remont in Śródmieście, and Park in Mokotów, are less predictable and quality isn't necessarily a concern for these clubs' patrons. If the point is to get drunk, then these are the place to go for a cheap drink. Beware of certain bouncers (for example in Park), they are not the talkative kind if they suspect you of something.
It's a matter of knowing where to look because Warsaw has an abundance of musical and club delights, they just need to be find out. The thumb rule is stick to people born in Warsaw, who usually know what and where to go this weekend. Those, who came here during their studies or later will most likely take you to Mazowiecka like places. Not bad if you look for one-nighter, but you'll not meet real Varsovians there.
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. As such, you're likely come across dozens and dozens of cafés. Chain-wise, Coffee Heaven  and W Biegu Cafe are the big players. Starbucks  just setup shop in Poland, opening its first store in Warsaw in April 2009. The real treat of Warsaw, however, are small cafés that are littered about Warsaw. For the most part, a good cup of tea or coffee can be had for 5-10 zł a cup. A small tea kettle is between 20-30 zł.
There are plenty of accomodation options in Warsaw at all budget levels. The best accomodation options are located in Śródmieście, Wola, and Mokotów. There are also many business travel hotels in Warsaw/Włochy, near the airport.
If you are on a budget, do not assume that hostels are your only option. Booking in advance at 3/4 star hotels can yield prices only slightly higher than backpacker hostels, for far greater comfort. Reception staff are paid low wages and can be quite rough when it comes to social interaction :) Nathan's Villa is famous for its bedbugs!
Free wi-fi is available in most of the Old Town, as well as in several cafés and restaurants, including McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Coffee Heaven, and W biegu.
Computers / Internet Cafes
Internet cafés (Polish: kawiarenka internetowa) are rare in Warsaw.
The area code for Warsaw is 22, and it must be dialed even when making local calls. When calling internationally to Warsaw, dial the country code, +48, followed by the rest of the number. There is no necessity to use "0" at the beginning of the telephone number. When dialing from a mobile phone, you must dial any number as if it was an international number.
Pay phones are very rare and it is therefore best to rely on other means of communication. Pay phones are only operable using calling cards that can be bought at post offices.
Pre-paid SIM cards with Polish phone numbers cost as little as 5zł and can be purchased from just about any major carrier. Many kiosks sell them.
Warsaw is generally a safe city. The city center has a strong police presence and is generally a very safe area. The Praga districts are reputed to be dangerous, but this is generally more hype than reality. Of course, it would be wise to exercise a little extra caution if you're in an area you do not know well. The bus and rail stations can be a magnet for homeless and drunkards, who, for the most part, will leave you alone.
Violent behaviour is very rare and if it occurs it is most likely alcohol-related and at night. 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.
Pickpockets can sometimes be a problem and you should be careful to hold onto your belongings when in a large crowd or on buses (Number 175, which runs from the airport to city center, is reportedly infamous for pickpockets).
Just like in any other major European city, football hooligans can be a problem before or after large football events. Naturally, it's best to avoid them, because they might be violent. At the same time, all major sport events are monitored and controlled by special police units, so unless you find yourself in the middle of the confrontation between hooligans and the police, you should be fine.
In 2011, the 11 November Independence March resulted in some violence between the right, the left and the police forces. While this should not discourage travellers from coming to Warsaw for the Independence Day celebrations (or for the march itself), it is worth noting that this event has become extremely politicised and may at times turn violent. Just use common sense, as you would in the case of any political marches in Europe.
In case of emergencies, call emergency services. The number for the police: 997, firefighters: 998, Ambulance: 999. The common European emergency number 112 works too.
Most hotels and hostels either offer laundry services or have washers and dryers available for use by guests. Additional fees may be incurred for use of these services or machines. Otherwise, you can find a full-service laundry shop at just about any mall, however, these might be expensive. There are self-service laundromats in Warsaw: