How well prepared you usually are when it comes to travelling to a foreign land? It’s always satisfying to do the homework in advance. And the research part gets tricky when you’re travelling to a country where everything is quite contrasting compared to your home land. On that note, let’s talk about travelling in Poland – the country where I have been living since 2018.
This blog includes smart travel hacks, general travel tips, and some very specific dos and don’ts to be kept in mind while you’re on a Poland trip. As one of the most attractive destinations in central-eastern Europe, Poland is quite beautiful, fairly affordable, and attracts tourists from around the world. I’ll share more insider information that every visitor must know before their arrival in Poland.
With cheerful Polish people, bustling city squares, excellent local transport, and fairly cheap prices (compared to western Europe & Nordic countries), the land with its notable mention in engrossing myth and history, proffers every traveller fair share of excitement and joy. Are you all set to soak up the vibes of enchanting Polish cities and modernist flair? Then this blog is for you!
Most common things to keep in mind while travelling in Poland
i) Generic Poland travel tips
1. It’s always nice to learn some basic Polish words/phrases. It can act as a good gesture when you’re visiting new people at the supermarket, restaurants, cafe, or ticket counter. Dzień Dobry, Do widzenia, Dobry Wieczor, Miłego dnia, Dobranoc, Prosze, Przepraszam, and Dziękuję are some of the key words that I’d recommend you to learn before travelling to Poland. Polish people are warm and welcoming, and appreciate the gesture of greeting.
2. Try seeking suggestions/information from youngsters compared to aged people. Most of the youngsters in Poland speak English and are easy to communicate with as compared to old folks.
3. Also, avoid any confrontation with drunk people mostly during the late-night hours. You might find them in the city centre region, on public transport, or close to the clubs. Getting into a brawl will only leave you with a bad taste in the mouth.
4. Always look for the free wifi connection at popular restaurants and city centre area of major polish cities. If you want to buy a local sim card, try Lycamobile connection. It has super cheap internet and national/international calling offers. All you need to do is take your passport and head to the nearest Zabka store.
5. Don’t get loud after 10 pm. The cities are mostly quiet and your neighbours won’t appreciate it. And if they don’t like it, they definitely call the police.
6. If you are travelling to Poland in winter, try starting your day excursion as early as possible. The sunset time in winter is mostly around 3:45 – 4:00 pm. Make use of the daylight until it lasts. On the contrary, summer in Poland is the opposite, and you can take advantage of the excellent weather and prolonged day hours. Summer nights are pleasant and quite happening.
7. Don’t take Polish winters for granted. The temperature gets as low as -16 degrees in the cities, forget about the mountains. Come well-equipped with the right clothes to brave Polish winter.
8. If you plan to go shopping for groceries, Biedronka, Lidl, and Carrefour are the stores you should be looking in the first place. Optionally, you can spot Zabka in almost every nook and corner in major Polish cities, but Zabka is pricier than Biedronka and Lidl. And then Zabka comes to the rescue on Sundays. So it’s good to know where and when to shop.
ii) Getting around – trains, local transport, and discount tickets
1. Make good use of the public transport especially in major cities in Poland.
2. Follow the traffic lights carefully while crossing the streets. Even on the busiest city roads, people drive quite fast. Wait for your light to go green. Moreover, on a bad day, you can also get a ticket for jumping the pedestrian red signal too.
3. Make the most of Next Bikes – city bikes, during autumn and summer in Poland. Nextbikes are free for the first 20 minutes, and then they charge you 2 pln for the next 40 minutes. There are well-marked bicycle tracks across most of the cities in Poland. Keep in mind that riding a bicycle is forbidden in the main square area.
4. Make use of the 24 or 48-hour public transport ticket. The same goes for the offers form of regional trains and intercity trains.
5. Rail routes in Poland are quite extensive, easily accessible and pretty much affordable for everyone travelling across Poland. Moreover, regional trains like Koleje Dolnośląskie in Lower Silesian region keep bringing exciting ticket offers for solo travellers as well as those in a group.
If you are under 26 years of age and study at a Polish university, you can get a train ticket with a 51% discount. Moreover, there are weekend offers valid for a couple of days which comes handy if you have a lot of travelling to do, this includes multiple transfers in different IC trains.
Optionally, there is also a group discount for people planning a trip to Poland with a small group. I would highly recommend you to check for any such available offers with the ticket counter person. And good luck finding a person with a good understanding of English. The railway ticket counter is one of those places where foreigners often find themselves vulnerable.
6. There are places/cities where you can buy tickets on trams/trains. For example – you can buy tram tickets inside a tram/bus in Wroclaw but not in Gdansk. Be careful about this part, and you can hop on the tram/bus if it has already arrived and you’re running short of time to buy the tickets.
7. Jakdojade app is a quintessential app with all the whereabouts of public transport in Poland. The app helps you locate bus/trams and their stations across all the major Polish cities. It is recommended to install the app while on your trip to Poland.
8. Don’t fall for the taxis roaming around the train station or airports, they are usually expensive than the taxi booked through online apps. Almost every touristic destination in Poland has good public transport connectivity from the airport to the city centre. Try calling a cab through apps like Bolt or Uber. Optionally, at some airports, they also have an option to share the taxi/cab. It will cost you way less than Uber/Bolt anyday.
9. Blablacar is another cheap alternative to travel long distance in Poland hassle-free. It comes as a saviour when you have to travel during odd hours when buses/trains aren’t available or are way too expensive.
ii) Money matters!
1. Be careful about the places where you can pay in cash and where you can pay by card. Carry sufficient cash when you are travelling, but always try paying by card first. Paying by card always saves you a lot of money that you can possibly lose at the exchange Kanotrs, also keep you aside from collecting annoying coins which will eventually stay with you till eternity.
2. Avoid currency exchange counters at the airport. Try carrying some Euros/Zloty from your home country, and look for options where they give you the good exchange rate at the Kantor. The shops labelled as Kantor Cent are reputed for the best money conversion rate, always look for this shop in the major cities in Poland. If you already live as an expatriate in Poland, ING bank app gives you a good exchange rate.
3. Compare the price online before exchanging to find out which Kantor gives you the best money exchange rate in Poland. Also, take quotations from 3-4 places to know what’s the best available rate. Moreover, you can also use your debit card which is mostly international. While withdrawing the money at the ATM they display the additional charges you have to pay, in some cases, this charge is nominal and you won’t lose much money.
iii) Food, water, and alcohol
1. Tap water is mostly drinkable across Poland. If you are keen on buying packaged water make sure that it has been labelled as ‘Niegazowana’ which means ‘No Gas’.
2. Try the morning coffee with one of the many sweetbreads at Piekarnia. They come with different fillings like chocolate, peach, berry, apple, and cheese, and taste divine especially when they are fresh out of the oven in the morning.
3. Pierogi, Bigos, żurek (soup), and Oscypek are a few local delicacies that are worth a try on your trip to Poland.
4. Zapiekanka is the Polish answer to Italian pizza. It is a baguette cut in half, and topped with mushrooms/salami, cheese and soaked in garlic mayonnaise.
5. Alcohol in Poland is extremely cheap! It’s so cheap that sometimes you can find a can of beer for 2 pln or 45 cents. Don’t come back without trying Zubrowka & Soplica.
6. That said, refrain from drinking alcohol in public places or even public transport. It can attract heavy fine.
iv) Events, gigs, and live shows
1. Watch out for live gigs at bars and restaurants in the city centre region of popular touristic cities in Poland like Warsaw, Krakow, Zakopane, Wroclaw, and Gdansk
2. Try walking around the Old Towns and City Centers and you might stumble upon a few amazing performances from the local artists.
3. You can find plenty of local Polish things like chocolates, cheese, a scarf from the mountains, magnets, and Polish vodka that you can gift to someone or treasure for a long time.
4. If you are travelling to the Polish Mountains in winters don’t forget to layer yourself well. Carry a hiking pole and an extra pair of shoes with spikes. It snows frequently in Polish mountains, and you will need these gears to walk comfortably.
v) There are no freebies, don’t get scammed!
1. Don’t trust people giving you something for free, you can get conned by people you don’t know.
2. If you start to look beyond the city centre region, you can find a lot cheap of stay options. Always look for recommended hostels, homestays, and apartments with great reviews. They charge you less than customary hotels in the centre region.
I have tried to cover almost every aspect of comfortable living and safe travelling in Poland. That said, I am sure, I might have missed out on something. Please feel free to mention in the comment section below. Also, let me know about your travel experiences in Poland. Dziękuję