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Earth : Europe : Central Europe : Poland
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For other places with the same name, see Poland (disambiguation).
Main Square, Cracow
Poland in its region.svg
Flag of Poland.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Warsaw
Government Republic
Currency Złoty (PLN)
Area 312,685km²
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
Emergencies dial 112

Poland (Polish: Polska), is one of the larger countries in Central Europe. It has a long Baltic Sea coastline and is bordered by Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia (the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave), Slovakia, and Ukraine.


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. The first major cities were Poznan, Gniezno, Giecz, Ostrow Lednicki. Gniezno was probably the most important city at that time, as the first king's coronation - of Bolesław the Brave - took place there in 1025. A century later, in 1039, the capital was moved to Cracow, where it remained for half a millennium.

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 3 May 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 neighbours, 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 Jan 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 an attack on Poland by Nazi Germany from the west and north, followed by an attack by the Soviet Union from the east. 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 1 Sep 1939, and the Soviet Union attacked Poland on 17 Sep 1939, effectively starting the fourth partition, causing the recently re-established 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 on Polish territory. Much of the Holocaust took place in Poland, as Poland had the largest population of Jews of any country in the world, over three million, 90% of whom were murdered by the German Nazis. Poland’s cities had especially large Jewish populations. Before World War II Warsaw was 30% Jewish, Łódź 34%, and Lublin 35%. All six of the German Nazi extermination camps were located in Poland; of these Auschwitz is the most well known. Much of the Jewish resistance to the Nazis also happened in Poland, the most famous example being the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943.

In addition to the Jews, Polish non-Jews were vigorously persecuted by the Nazis with 2 to 3 million non-Jewish Poles murdered by them. Polish civilians were ruthlessly rounded up, tortured, put into concentration camps, and executed. Poland was treated much more severely than other countries occupied by Nazi Germany: for example, any Poles discovered to be hiding Jews (even those who were Polish citizens) risked being executed with their entire families (and yet many helped anyway, as documented in lists such as The Righteous Among the Nations.)

Meanwhile, 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 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 as lots of Polish soldiers fought in the British army. 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 Cracow, Charles Wojtyla, 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) became a strong force of opposition to the government, organizing labour 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 13 Dec 1981; it lasted until 22 Jul 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 made illegal 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 bloc.

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 President Kaczyński in a plane crash in 2010 did not have an appreciable negative effect on the Polish currency or economic prospects. Poland has also successfully joined the Schengen agreement for an open border to Germany, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is on track to adopt the Euro currency at a future time. Poland's dream of rejoining Europe as an independent nation at peace and in mutual respect of its neighbours has finally been achieved.


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, practising 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 3 May, in remembrance of the Constitution of 3 May 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, 3 May is a national holiday, often combined with the 1 May (Labour Day) into a larger celebration.
  • All Saints Day (Wszystkich Świętych), 1 Nov. 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), 31 Dec. 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 PLN150 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.


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. Travellers 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 centres 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.


Poland's sixteen administrative regions are called województwa, often abbreviated as "woj.". The word is roughly equivalent to the word "province" in English. The sixteen provinces have elected self-governments, who oversee local regional and economic policy, EU funding, and cultural affairs. Some English dictionaries use the word voivodeship to describe the provinces, although the use of the word is rare, and is likely not to be universally understood at first by some Poles.

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 Voivodeship, Lublin Voivodeship, Subcarpathia)
Home to spectacular mountain ranges, the world's oldest operating salt mines, fantastic landscapes, caves, historical monuments and cities. The magnificent medieval cities of Cracow and Lublin are major metropolitan centres.
Masovia (Łódź Voivodship, Masovian Voivodship)
Metropolitan center of Poland with Warsaw, and Łódź, the manufacturing city known as the "Manchester of Poland".
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 Voivodeship, Silesian Voivodeship)
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.
Very green area filled with lakes. It offers unspoiled nature and possibility of camping in beautiful countryside.


  • Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa) — capital of Poland and one of the EU's thriving new business centres; the old town, nearly completely destroyed during World War II, has been rebuilt in a style inspired by the classicist paintings of Canalletto
  • Cracow (Polish: Kraków) — the "cultural capital" of Poland and its historical capital in the Middle Ages; its centre is filled with old churches, monuments, the largest European medieval market-place and, more recently, trendy pubs and art galleries. Its city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Łódź — once renowned for its textile industries, the "Polish Manchester" has the longest walking street in Europe, Piotrkowska Street, full of picturesque 19th-century architecture
  • Wrocław — an old Silesian city previously known as Breslau, with great history; placed on 12 islands, it has more bridges than any other European town except Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg
  • Poznań — the merchant city, considered to be the birthplace of the Polish nation and church (along with Gniezno), 2nd biggest necropolis of Polish kings & rulers, presenting a mixture of architecture from all epoques. Solving the Enigma mystery began here in Poznań.
  • Gdańsk — formerly known as Danzig, one of the old, beautiful European cities, and rebuilt after World War 2's destruction
  • Szczecin — most important city of Pomerania with an enormous harbour, monuments, old parks and museums
  • Lublin — the biggest city in Eastern Poland having a well-preserved old town with typical Polish architecture, along with unusual elements of the so-called Lublin Renaissance
  • Katowice — Metropolis of Upper Silesia and a cultural hub

Other destinations

Get in


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. In addition to the Schengen visa exemption, citizens of Israel, South Korea, and the United States are permitted to stay in Poland for 90 days without a visa regardless of the amount of time spent in other Schengen states. Time spent in Poland, however, will be counted against the time permitted by other Schengen states.

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 carrier is LOT Polish Airlines. There are also a number of low cost airlines that fly to Poland including WizzAir, EasyJet, Germanwings, Norwegian and Ryanair.

Apart from direct air connections from many European cities, there are also intercontinental flights from the United States, Canada and China operated by LOT with direct flights from Beijing, Toronto, New York and Chicago. In terms of long haul flights also Emirates and Qatar Airways flights operates to Dubai and Doha respectively as well as non-direct flights from other cities through the Star Alliance program.

International airlines fly mainly to Warsaw (WAW) [1]. Other major airports in Poland are: Warsaw-Modlin (WMI) [2], Kraków (KRK) [3], Katowice (KTW) [4], Gdańsk (GDN) [5], Poznań (POZ) [6], Wrocław (WRO) [7], Szczecin (SZZ) [8], Rzeszów (RZE) [9], Bydgoszcz (BZG) [10], Łódź (LCJ) [11] and Lublin (LUZ) [12].

As the number of flights and passengers has significantly increased since 1992, new terminal has been opened at the Warsaw Chopin airport which significantly increases the airport's capacity. Also airports in Gdańsk, Katowice, Kraków, Poznań, Wrocław, Łódź, Lublin and Rzeszów have been expanded to increase their standards and capacity.

By train

National long distance operator is PKP Intercity. Direct connections to Warsaw:

  • Berlin, EuroCity "Berlin-Warszawa-Express (BWE)", 4 trains per day, 5½ hours
  • Oberhausen via Koeln, EuroNight "Jan Kiepura", every day, 14½ hours
  • Kiev, Night Train, every day, 17 hours
  • Vienna, Night Train "Chopin", every day, 9 hours; EuroCity "Sobieski" and "Polonia", every day, 7 hours
  • Prague, Night Train "Chopin", every day, 8 hours; EuroCity "Praha", every day, 8 hours
  • Budapest, Night Train "Chopin", every day, 11 hours
  • Moscow, Night Train "Polonez", every day, 17½ hours

By car

You can enter Poland by one of many roads linking Poland with the neighbouring 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 neighbours, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, are still large and in areas congested with truck traffic it can take up to several hours to pass.

If you're traveling with a US license, be sure to take an international license with you. Poland is one of the few countries in Europe requiring US persons to travel with an international license in order to rent a car. Also note that most car rentals are manual. If you want an automatic it must be booked well in advance.

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) [13]
  • Eurolines [14] (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 [15]
  • [16] 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 [17]

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 centre 17 km. next to the city centre 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 ("przejściówka" 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 advantage 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: [24]
  • The railway between Harrachov (Czech Republic) and Szklarska Poręba (Poland) in the Krkonoše/Karkonosze mountains ([25]) 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 km) 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 railway 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 traffic 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 km, 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 km).
  • 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 min 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: [26]
  • The easiest way to discover Poland is to get to InterCity train which takes you from Berlin to Poznań (2,5h journey) and then Warsaw (5h journey). Prices starts from 49€ [27]
  • There's a railway connection between Dresden and Wrocław, run by a regional company named Koleje Dolnośląskie.[28]

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.

[update: as for January 2015, the only passenger train connecting Poland and Lithuania, TLK Hańcza from Warsaw to Šeštokai, has been suspended on the segment Suwałki - Šeštokai]

  • 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 local routes may be 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 [29] has daily connections between the biggest cities with a hub in Warsaw. Other option is Eurolot [30] which connects other bigger cities directly.

By train

In Poland, the national railway carriers are PKP InterCity [31] and national regional line Przewozy Regionalne [32]. There are several provincial-level carriers that are run by the voivodeships, as well as several Fast Urban Rail systems. The schedule of every train can be found in this official route planner [33].

Train tickets are quite cheap, but travel conditions (especially on most cheaper long-distance trains) reflect the fact that much of the infrastructure is rather old.

However, you can expect a fast, clean and modern connection on the new PKP IC's routes, such as Warsaw - Katowice, Warsaw - Kraków, Warsaw - Poznań, Warsaw - Szczecin and Wrocław - Kraków. Price difference between the second and first class is not so big, same as the quality difference.

There are no universal train tickets in Poland and combining trains of different companies means that you have to buy separate tickets (which usually cost much more than keeping to a single carrier on a long trip). In general the long-distance trains (EIP, EIC, IC, TLK) are run by PKP Intercity and regional ones are usually owned by different companies. It is sometimes possible to make a long trip across the country by only REGIO trains which belong to Przewozy Regionalne company, and that usually is the cheapest option of all.

Train types

  • EIP (ExpressInterCity Premium) - fastest, newest and most comfortable trains (operated by Alstom Pendolino trains, introduced in Dec 2014) between five main Polish cities. Seat reservation included. No possibility to buy a ticket on board and boarding without one is seriously penalized!
  • EIC (ExpressInterCity) / EC (EuroCity) - express PKP IC's trains between main cities, as well as major tourist destinations. Seat reservation included. Power points for laptops are usually available next to the seat.
  • IC (InterCity) - discount PKP IC's trains, they are slower but cheaper than those above. Most long-distance trains are of this standard. Seat reservation included. Only new or recently modernised carragies.
  • TLK (Twoje Linie Kolejowe) - The same as IC but operated usually by older carriages. Seat reservation included.
  • REGIO and other regional (often called osobowy) - ordinary passenger train; usually slow, stops everywhere, the cheapest tickets. Great if you are not in rush, but expect these to be very crowded at times. Run by Przewozy Regionalne, or other local carriers (like Koleje Mazowieckie, Koleje Wielkopolskie, Arriva RP, Koleje Dolnośląskie, etc.). This depends on the voivodeship.
  • Narrow gauge - Poland still retains a number of local narrow-gauged railways. Most of them are oriented towards tourism and operate only in summer or on weekends, while some remain active as everyday municipal rail. See Polish narrow gauge railways.


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 on-line 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 the trains of one company can not be used on the train of another one. There is one exception in Warsaw, where the ticket of Warsaw Transport Authority can be used on Masovian Railways trains, but only in the area of Warsaw. If you are not sure you can travel with WTA's ticket on Masovian Railways, board through the first doors, find the conductor, and ask him. If your ticket is not valid, he will sell you one.

  • Timetable search [34] (in English, but station names of course in Polish), information: +48 22 9436, international information +48 22 5116003.
  • PKP Intercity [35] serves express connections (tickets can be bought on-line and you can show it to the conductor on your smartphone, laptop or similar devices)
  • Przewozy Regionalne tickets for Regio and IR - [36]; the ticket can also be shown to the train staff on mobile devices.
  • Traffic info about all moving trains [37] - check, if the train has a delay.

If you travel in a group with the Przewozy Regionalne, 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 18:00 (regional) or 19:00 (Intercity) until Monday 06:00:

  • for all PKP Intercity trains (EIP, EIC, IC, TLK) Bilet Weekendowy (from 154 PLN, not available on-line) - please remember to get your free seat reservation at the ticket office.
  • for TLK Bilet Podróżnika (74 PLN) - please remember to get your free seat reservation at the ticket office.
  • Bilet Turystyczny*- (mini - 39 PLN) if travelling only on REGIO; (regular version extended by other regional operators - 45 PLN). When travelling also on InterRegio, price increases to PLN79.
  • -Please note that, if a weekend is extended for some national holiday, the ticket will also extend.

An early booking of the Intercity trains (7/15 days before departure) will be rewarded with additional discount (20/30%). There is also a limited amount of reduced tickets in the EIP/EIC trains - see superpromo offer [38].

For some TLK/IC trains you can travel with the offer Bilet Relacyjny - you will get an automatic discount on chosen routes [39].

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 barriers.

There is an on-line timetable available. Available in English, it includes bus and train options, so you can compare: [40] On-line 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 [41] 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

A motorway-level road sign.
An expressway-level road sign.
A standard national road-level road sign.
A provincial voivodeship road-level road sign.

In the past, driving in Poland was often described as stressful, frustrating and often time-consuming, due to the poor quality of roads, a lack of motorway-level routes, and the aggressive driving style of the locals. Thankfully, much has changed since the early 2000s, and today, a majority of all the republic's major cities are connected by motorways and expressways thanks to a construction boom fueled by Poland's strong economy and generous EU development funds. As of 2014, there are nearly 3,000 km of completed motorways and expressways throughout the country. However, much still needs to be done, as will be evidenced by construction detours or finding yourself traveling on roads far below capacity for the volume of traffic they are carrying for.

Roads in Poland can be divided into several categories. Red-backgrounded and white-numbered roads are known as national roads (droga krajowa), which handle the bulk of the republic's traffic. A subcategory of national roads are motorway-class A roads, which are signed with an A followed by a number. The speed limit on the roads is typically 140 km/h. A second high speed subcategory are expressway-class S roads, whose speed limits range from 100 km/h to 120 km/h. Confusingly, many S-class roads often look and feel like motorways, although there are several S-class roads that are limited to one lane in each direction. Finally there are the standard national roads without an A or S, and are often limited to two lanes between 90 to 100 km/h. A separate category of roads are the voivodeship roads (droga wojewódzka), which are roads maintained by the provinces. They are typically lower in importance than national roads, and will be signed on a yellow background with black letters, involving three digits. Voivodeship roads are often smaller than their national road counterparts.

As a rule of thumb, assume 2 hr for each 100 km of travel (allowing for unexpected delays). If you're driving through large cities, you can safely double that. When travelling between smaller cities or towns you will 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, although this activity is considered highly illegal.

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 potentially expected in certain areas. 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 manoeuvre that is commonly done in a hazardous way in Poland. In heavier traffic it's common to overtake "on 3rd" meaning that at some point during the manoeuvre 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, but this is rare.

Various speed limits in Poland.

Tailgating can rarely happen. 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, and you are under slight obligation to do so, the law states you should keep to the right most lane whenever possible. Rather don't expect that the driver may throw something out of his window or suddenly step on his brakes once he has passed you, but better let drive faster people, who know aera better than you.

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, so peak time in major cities frequently last till 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.

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 23:00-05:00), 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 grey 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 about 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 travelling 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

Cycling is a good method to get a good impression of the scenery in Poland. The roads can sometimes be in quite a bad condition and there is usually no bicycle lane. Car drivers are sometimes careless but the situation is gradually improving as cycling becomes more popular and drivers become more aware. However, it is recommendable to avoid roads leading to/from big cities in the rush hours (7-8am and 3-6pm).

Especially in the south you can find some nice places for bicycling; eg: 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.

Don't be surprised when using the Euro Velo routes, which in Poland often exist only on paper and can lead you into difficult terrain (long stretches of sand and dirt). It is usually much better to take a road map and plan the route yourself. Fortunately Poland, as most European countries, has plenty of minor roads which are perfect for cycling.

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.


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, Belarusians, 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, Belarusians, Silesians and Kashubians all speak Polish and few regional dialects remain except in the south and in small patches of the Baltic coast.


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


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.

Poznańis a underestimated place, but definitely worth a visit. With oldest Cathedral in Poland which is also 2nd biggest necropolis of polish kings and rulers, a beautiful Renaissance town hall with fiery 2 billy goats (can be seen only at 12:00/ noon), picturesque Town Hall and XXth century Imperial Castle - just to mention few attractions - makes great impression on most of the visitors.

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.


Hit the trail with professional guide and reach some peaks of the Beskid Mountains. Knowledgeable guide will choose hiking destinations based on your fitness level and interests. Whether you’re a casual walker or an advanced hiker, the guide can customize your hike to include panoramic views or lush wooded trails. Visit Poland Just Now website and create itinerary for a trip. Piotr Andrzejewicz (talk) 12:52, 3 March 2015 (EST)


Studying in Poland can be an incredible experience for foreigners. Foreign students can finance a B.A. education for as low as PLN24,000 and a M.A. education for as low as PLN20,000.

There are many international schools and great universities in Poland and of them the Jagiellonian University [42] 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.


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 work visa or EU/EEA citizenship, it should be no problem for you to offer private lessons. The going rate is about PLN30 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 [43] is useful for finding students, and everything else, including accommodations, used cars, pets, Polish tutors, etc.

Ekorki [44] 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 in the US.


Polish PLN100 banknote

The currency in Poland is the Polish złoty (international symbolisation: PLN), often abbreviated locally as "zł" placed after the amount. The złoty is 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 US dollar 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.

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 card issuer, but usually ends up being pretty favourable, and comparable to reasonably good exchange offices. Many banks will charge fees for using the card abroad, though, so check your fine print beforehand.

A word of warning: You will be offered the "service" of having your card billed in your home currency almost everywhere. This option gives you a very unfavourable exchange rate (including up to 7% commission), even if it says "no fees". Always insist on paying in złoty when using your card - you always have the right to do so. On automated machines, hit the "cancel" button if it mentiones your home currency; you can then proceed to pay in złoty.

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.

Export of antiquities

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.

Super and hypermarkets

Hypermarkets are dominated by the western chains: Carrefour, Tesco, Auchan, Real, Biedronka, Lidl, Netto. Some are open 24 hours a day and they are 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 some of the lowest in the 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.


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 PLN10 coffee with a PLN100 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 dinner at around 4PM or 5PM, then supper at around 7PM or 8 PM.

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 centre. Vegan options remain extremely limited, however.

Traditional Local Food

barszcz czerwony

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.

Traditionally styled restaurants

Traditional Polish restaurant made of wood, with housewares adorned in floral patterns

All around Poland, but especially in the Lesser Poland and Silesia regions, you can find restaurant, styled in a traditional way. They are usually called chata, gospoda or oberża, which can be translated to a tavern or an inn. Usually they are made of wood and have plenty of colorful ornaments hanging on the walls. Inside you can feel as if you were in a 19th century family house. Restaurant's menu includes traditional dishes and beverages, and the food is often served in decorated tableware.


The drinking and purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18.

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, however in practice most small stores found throughout Poland will not ID you if you look like you could possibly be 18.


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)
  • Perła (pronounced Perwa)

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.


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 a 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 commonly 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 PLN100 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.


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 ([45] 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 - 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. Mead is produced by several companies including Apis in Lublin Today Poles have a strange relationship with mead. All of them have heard of it, almost none have ever tried it.


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 PLN8-12 a cup, while a cup of tea can be purchased for around PLN6-9 unless you happen to order a small kettle, in which case you'll probably pay something between PLN9-12.


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. Across the country there is broad choice of bottled water with very high content of minerals, called woda mineralna.

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


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.

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.


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.


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.


As a result of German and Soviet terror in the first half of the 20th century, modern Poland is a very homogeneous society. While quite a lot of east Asian and rather fewer 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 are warm, hospitable people who are often curious to learn more about other cultures.

If possible, try to avoid football stadiums during and right after the matches and confrontations with football supporters groups.


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 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.



In Polish, it takes some time before adults become familiar enough with one another to refer to each other using the equivalent of "you" ("ty", equivalent to the French "tu"). Often, people who have worked together or have lived as neighbors for years still do not use the form "you" when speaking to one another. Men are called "Pan" and women "Pani" (in direct address; as Polish nouns are declined, the form of "pan" and "pani" change depending on how they are used in a sentence). That said, most Poles would just use their first names when speaking in English (or in another language without a similar form). If you are speaking in Polish, make sure to use the correct form.

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 also customary to greet shop-keepers or shop-assistants with "dzień dobry" upon entering a shop or at the beginning of a transaction at the cash register, and to say "do widzenia" before leaving the shop or at the conclusion of the transaction. Some Poles also use these greetings to the people standing in line when they enter a post office.

It is normal to say "dzień dobry" when entering a compartment on the train and to say "do widzenia" when you leave the compartment at your final destination, even if you have no other interaction with your fellow-passengers for the duration of your journey.

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. Boxes of chocolates are also a very common present when invited to someone's home for a meal or special occasion; at First Communion time (May), you will find special boxed chocolates with First Communion pictures on them for the occasion.

It is customary to hold doors and chairs for women, as well as offering help with heavy packages (to acquaintances), getting heavy luggage down from overhead racks on the train (even strangers), and - if you know the woman - helping her on and off with her coat. Polish men in general have great respect for women and show women especial courtesy in these ways.

On busses and trams, seats are set aside for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women and women travelling with very small children (who must sit on their mothers' laps). These seats are usually at the front of trams. You can find pictures indicating which seats these are. It is permitted for anyone to sit in these seats, but the young, men, and the able-bodied are expected to give up their seats to the less able, pregnant women and the elderly, especially those seats clearly marked for such people.

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. You can expect to be rebuked by other passengers if you put your feet up on the seats in a train while wearing shoes (in stocking feet, it may be accepted).

Poland can be described as either Central or Central-Eastern Europe. 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). Poles would not, however, consider Poland to be part of Western Europe or the "West". Try to avoid referring to the country or its people as Eastern European, otherwise you will be looked at as if you know nothing about the world. 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, in the continent's center, however in all definitions, always west to the centre. Religion, alphabet and political affiliances of Poland are clearly western, too. Unless you lived through the Cold War, relegating Poland to Eastern Europe will not be forgiven easily.

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 depolonization 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.


The Poles may well be the most devoutly Catholic people in Europe. The late Pope John Paul II in particular is revered 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. Poles typically dress in their "Sunday best" for Mass; dressing in sloppy or very casual clothes will be seen by many as a lack of respect, unless it is clear that someone probably does not have more appropriate clothes for the occasion (for example, a poor person or a traveller).

It is generally considered offensive to enter a church for purely touristic purposes while a service is going on. Many churches that attract tourists (such a major cathedrals) post signs indicating that tour groups should not enter the church during services, but these signs may not be in your language. Also, do not talk loudly or take flash photos inside a church when there are people present kneeling in prayer (as there almost always will be).

Non-Catholics can attend Catholic worship, but should never go forward for communion (not even for a blessing - there is a general blessing at the end of Mass). Instead, non-Catholic visitors can remain seated or kneeling when the congregation goes forward.

Catholics customarily genuflect (bend the right knee, touching it to the floor) or at least stop and bow when passing in front of the tabernacle (usually behind the altar; look for a metal - usually gold - box, and for a light - often red or an oil lamp or candle - that is burning near it). Failure to make some gesture - such as a brief pause, turning toward the tabernacle - can be seen offensive to the faithful, especially in churches where non-Catholic tourists are not common.

For the faithful, a light burning near the tabernacle indicates the presence of God in the Eucharist, inside the tabernacle. This light is burning 364 days of the year in every Catholic church (i.e., it is only turned off once per year, when the tabernacle is empty and left standing open). Thus loud talking, running, audible conversations, eating and drinking, taking flash photos, posing for pictures or other behavior that seems oblivious to the presence of God is highly offensive.

Men and boys should always remove their hats upon entering a Catholic church and keep them off while inside the church.

Several national holidays of Poland follow the religious calendar; i.e., Catholic Holy Days of Obligation are also national holidays. These include the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1); the Epiphany of the Lord (January 6); the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi; in June, the date varies); the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15); All Saints' Day (November 1); Christmas (December 25); and Easter (the date varies). Poles also traditionally go to Mass (and have the day off) on the Feast of Saint Stephen (December 26) and Monday in the Octave of Easter (the Monday after Easter), though these are not Holy Days of Obligation in the Church calendar. You can expect parish churches to have the normal Sunday Mass schedule on these holidays. (You can also expect most businesses to be closed and busses and trams will probably be running on the Sunday/holiday schedule.)

The most famous religious shrine in Poland is the Shrine of our Lady of Częstochowa. Her feast day is August 26th. Pilgrims from all over Poland walk (some ride bicycles or take motor vehicles) from their home parishes to the shrine especially in the period between May and August, though year-round there is a constant stream of pilgrims to the site of the shrine, the monastery of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa.

In Warsaw, Roman Catholics can attend English Mass at St Paul the Apostle of Nations Church in Radna Street.

In Wrocław, Roman Catholics can attend English Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation at the church of Sw Karol Boromeusz (Charles Borromeo) in Krucza Street. The Pastoral Centre for English Speakers in the parish also offers confession and can arrange weddings and baptisms in English, as well as catechesis for converts and pastoral care in English.

Just like in most European countries, small Muslim and Buddhist communities (of locals and non) of various denominations operate, generally in private settings in the bigger cities. They are usually poorly advertised and can be better approached first via internet searches.

Holocaust and World War II

The Holocaust was the genocide of European Jewry. The Nazis murdered 90% of Poland's Jews. In addition other ethnic, religious and political groups were also targeted. It is now estimated that the Germans killed 3 million 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. The Soviets (who invaded Poland shortly after the Nazis and later occupied it after the World War II) also were determined to exterminate various sections of 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 most all of Polish society. Poland was the only Nazi-occupied region where 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 seen in Poland as offensive to downplay the sufferings of non-Jewish members of Polish society during World War II. At the same time, there was some collaboration between Poles and Nazis ("szmalcownicy"), and this topic is still being hotly debated in Polish society.

Similarly to Germany and Austria, displaying Nazi symbols is illegal, except when used for educational purposes, and holocaust denial is a crime in Poland; both could 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 a swastika. That said, the laws against swastikas are not enforced nearly as strictly as they are in Germany, and neutral display of the symbol will almost never be a problem, although it is sure advised against. Prosecutors have been known to dismiss charges against swastikas due to the ambiguous nature of the symbol.


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.


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 [46] (code 260 01), T-Mobile (formerly ERA) [47] (260 02), Orange [48] (260 03) and Play [49]. Most of them have information avalible in Polish only. Their prepaid servicies are often calls "na kartę". Prepaid brands or virtual brands with english information on it's web sides are as follow: Heyah [50], Klucz [51], Lycamobile [52] and Vectone [53]. 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. 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 PLN, 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 (Doładowanie [do-wa-do-va-nye] 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 PLN2.46, 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 PLN20)
  • talk over the Internet
  • get virtual number from your country[54]


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.

  • T-Mobile (former Era) - Blueconnect Starter - cost: 25 PLN - 83MB data included - 0,30 PLN / 1MB [55]
  • Plus - iPlus simdata - cost: 20 PLN - 67MB data included - 0,30 PLN / 1MB [56]
  • Orange - Orange free na kartę - cost: 20 PLN - 65MB data included - 0,30 PLN / 1MB [57]
  • Play - Play Online na kartę - cost: 19 PLN - 1GB data included [58] NOTE: Play network does NOT cover the entire country. You can use internet service only in cities listed on this map [59]. 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 [60], a Polish language instant messenger program, or Skype [61]. Gadu-Gadu will be difficult to use for non-Polish speaking people, but alternatives such as Adium [62] (Mac OSX), Kadu [63] (Mac OSX/Linux), and Pidgin [64] (Linux, Windows), all of which can be used in English, can be helpful.


Poczta Polska is the national postal service in Poland. If you wish to send letters by post, look out for the red post boxes though they are not as plentiful as in developing countries but are still available. A stamp to Europe for a standard letter or postcard costs 5 PLN whilst a stamp to the rest of the world costs 5.20 PLN and can usually be paid only with cash.



Poland has a thriving media landscape, though the media is largely restricted to the Polish language and will largely not be understood by visitors. However, English-speaking visitors can still remain informed on national, provincial, and local news in the country through a variety of sources.

  • Radio Poland - English language arm of national public radio broadcaster Polskie Radio, broadcast from Warsaw. Covers European, domestic, cultural, and sports news, along with interviews and commentary. Radio Poland's website additionally offers a 24-hour English stream for Internet listeners. There are additional Belarussian, Russian, and Ukrainian language services.
  • Warsaw Business Journal - weekly English language newspaper. Despite its Warsaw base, the publication largely covers national, economic, political, and cultural news.
  • Polish Press Agency - daily Internet-based English news service. Basic summarization of major national and economic news.
  • New Poland Express - weekly Internet-based English language publication, based in Sopot. Covers national and provincial news, sports events, and business.
  • The Warsaw Voice - monthly English language newspaper. Offers national, Central European, economic and cultural news, often geared for expats.
  • The Krakow Post - monthly English language magazine, based in Kraków. Offers local, national, economic, and cultural news and commentary, as well as provincial news from Lesser Poland.
  • Lodz Post - regularly-updated English language Internet publication, based in Łódź. Covers local, national, and cultural news.


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 the separator for groups of 3 numerals rather than a space.


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 PLN100) 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.


Most public toilets have turned to pay-per-use schemes; expect to pay PLN1-2 to use a public restroom, eg. at a bus station or at a fast-food place (unless you're a customer there).

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 or remote venues, organizers provide so called toi-toi toilets (from one of companies that service them). From outside, they have an appearance almost identical to the American "Porta-Potty." They are narrow plastic booths, usually blue, not very comfortable, often not very clean, and hardly ever with water or paper. Expect them to smell bad.

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