Poland tips travel

Poland for first timers – useful tips

With the help of my fellow travel bloggers, I put together this list of useful tips on travelling in Poland. Whether Poland is on your radar or you’re already actively planning a trip, the information in this article will come in handy.

Things to know before visiting Poland

Money

By Or https://mypathintheworld.com/

Travelling to Poland, it’s important to know that the local currency is Zloty (or PLN), and not Euro. One Zloty is worth about 0.26 U.S. dollars and 0.23 Euros.

Whether you’re visiting big cities like Warsaw and Krakow or taking a road trip through less-touristy areas, it might take some time to find a place to exchange or withdraw your money. You could use your credit card, but you shouldn’t rely on it, and it would be better to have a little bit of cash with you. For that reason, I highly recommend arriving in Poland with some zloty that you’ve already exchanged in your own country.

Language

By Diana https://theelusivefamily.com/

Visiting a foreign country can be a mixed bag of emotions, especially when you aren’t sure what to expect. European travel is fascinating, some countries have an abundance of English speakers even in smaller cities, while other countries do not.  

If you are visiting Poland for the first time, knowing a bit of the language and learning basic phrases in Polish is one of the most important and useful things you can do for a successful visit. English is not as predominantly spoken in Poland as one might expect, particularly compared to its western neighbour. Larger cities in Poland, such as Warsaw and Krakow, may be a bit more used to English speakers in tourist-heavy areas. If you start venturing to smaller cities however, don’t be surprised if it becomes a bit more difficult to converse with people.

Knowing the language even a little can give you a tremendous advantage when visiting different parts of the country. Asking for directions, locations of places such as restaurants, prices and hours of opening/closing, and even knowing your medical information is going to benefit you on your travels to Poland.

History

By Dhara https://notaboutthemiles.com

If you are planning a visit to Poland, reading up a little bit about the history of the country will enhance your experience significantly. So much of what you see today is a result of Poland’s tumultuous past. When we did a walking tour of Gdansk Old Town and saw the beautiful buildings everywhere, our appreciation for the residents of Poland was enhanced a hundredfold, because we knew that most of what we were seeing had been patiently rebuilt from the devastation of World War II bombing.

Poland was fought over by Russia, Prussia, and Austria from the end of the 18th century until 1918. At that time, an independent Polish state emerged, following the weakening of the three external powers in WWI. But it lasted only until 1939 when Nazi Germany and Russia attacked Poland in WWII. Millions of Poles died under Nazi occupation until the Soviet Communists took over Poland in 1944 and 1945. As many as six concentration camps were established by the Nazis, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many of Poland’s cities were reduced to rubble. Poland then functioned as a communist satellite of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement facilitated a transition to today’s capitalist economy with a democratic government.

Weather

[4 photos above are by my Bro Jacek]

There are four distinct seasons in Poland although some people would add Polish Golden Autumn as the fifth one. Polish Golden Autumn, know in some places as the Indian Summer, happens around the end of September-beginning of October and, with its mild temperatures, beautiful golden light and changing colours of leaves, it often proves to be the best time to travel around Poland.

Winters are cold, usually snowy and require warmer clothing. Spring and autumn weather is changeable – you can get anything from frosty mornings, through sunny & warm days to overcast skies and rain for days. Summer usually hits the hardest in July, when temperatures can soar over 30°C.

Checking weather forecasts before you arrive should give you a good idea of how to pack.

Where to go in Poland?

Mountains

By Joanna https://overhere.eu/blog/

There are spectacular mountains in southern Poland. They are divided into three main groups: Swietokrzyskie, Sudety and Carpathian mountains. There are many different ranges suitable for all levels of hiking experience: smaller mountains like Beskidy or Bieszczady, and high granite mountains like High Tatra range.

Because of such variety of mountain ranges, there are also lots of hiking trails in the Polish mountains. They vary in length and difficulty – from nice and easy ones perfect for families with children, to difficult via ferrata-like trails.

There are many advantages of hiking in Polish mountains: amazing landscapes, well-developed mountain infrastructure, diversified nature, a variety of trails, low prices and well-marked trails. Also, hiking in Poland is relatively safe – there are no vast secluded areas like in the US and there are quite a lot of hikers on the trails.

However, hikers need to remember that weather can change abruptly, also in low mountains. It is necessary to have good hiking gear and take lots of water and snacks. There are mountain huts offering food and drinks, but it is better to come prepared. Colours of trails are just for identification, not for marking the difficulty.

Don’t Just Stay in the Cities

By Shandos https://travelnuity.com [if you’re travelling with your dog make sure to check out tips on travelling Poland with a dog]

When visiting Poland for the first time, it can be tempting to just stick to the cities. After all, there’s so much to see in popular cities such as Krakow and Warsaw. But then you would be missing out on so much of Poland!

Poland is a big country (the 9th largest in Europe), and while admittedly there is a lot of flat farmland, there are also some beautiful sights. For example, in the country’s north is Malbork Castle, built in the 13th century and the largest castle in the world by area! In the south are the gorgeous Tatra Mountains, bordering the Baltic Seas are endless beaches, and then there’s the many historic wooden churches tucked away in the countryside. Unless you’re wanting to go skiing it’s best to skip visiting the countryside in winter time, with the lazy (yet uncrowded) months of summer or the colourful early fall period being my picks.  

What about the capital?

By Veronika https://www.travelgeekery.com/

Most people don’t come to Poland to visit Warsaw, the capital. It thus stays off the beaten tourist path. But, if you’re considering visiting Poland, I can only recommend Warsaw!

There are many reasons to visit Warsaw. The city breathes history and even though the historical city centre was nearly fully destroyed, the restoration that took place after the war was carried out sensitively, which even UNESCO has recognized.

What’s often missing in other Polish cities is the alternative side that’s thriving in Warsaw. You can visit plenty of alternative bars, such as one made out of a former train stop.

The few tourists that come to Warsaw stick to the Old Town mostly, so anywhere else you go, you’ll encounter just locals. That’s a refreshing thing, given how crowded popular tourist towns get.

Restaurants in Warsaw are geared towards locals and so you can find a wide array of options. From hipster food halls to traditional restaurants in the Old Town to the famed Polish milk bars.

The fact that Chopin called Warsaw his home for 20 years, together with the only Polish vodka museum in the world, make Warsaw a unique destination for anyone interested in more than just the ‘touristy stuff’.

See the authentic historical architecture

By Wendy https://www.thenomadicvegan.com/

Cities such as Warsaw and Gdansk are full of beautiful buildings. However, most of these are not nearly as old as they look. Both cities suffered massive damage during World War II, and their older parts were painstakingly rebuilt.

St. Anne’s Church in Warsaw, barely a stone’s throw from the Royal Castle, remarkably escaped major damage. But the Royal Castle, the Barbican and virtually all of the Old Town had to be completely rebuilt.

The same is true of Gdansk, which is famous for its two most prominent architectural styles – the low countries style houses and the monumental brick architecture.

Most of the examples you’ll see of these styles, including the beautiful buildings on Marlacka Street, are essentially modern-day copies of the buildings that once stood there.

If you want to see authentic historical buildings, you are better off visiting Krakow, which came out of the war relatively unscathed and contains some wonderful examples of Renaissance and medieval architecture.

Wawel Castle, Florian Gate and the Market Square, with its16th-century Renaissance Cloth Hall, are all architectural masterpieces that are completely original.

Explore the best of Poland’s nature

By Jonathan https://www.journeymaxx.com/

When thinking of Poland it is more often than not the major cities that immediately spring to mind. Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Gdansk and Wroclaw certainly boast a wealth of fascinating attractions and monuments, colourful buildings and many centuries of eventful history. But many visitors seem to overlook that beyond the main urban areas, Poland is also blessed with multiple locations for outdoor enthusiasts too.

Centred around the tranquil town of Zakopane in the south, the Tatras National Park covers a very large area of outstanding natural beauty that also goes over the border into its namesake park in Slovakia. Come the Spring and Summer, the area surrounding its largest lake Morskie Oko (meaning the Eye of the Sea) is at its most green and the waters could not be more crystal clear. The various mountains and massifs nearby ensure visitors and nature lovers are spoilt for choice.

Further east the Białowieża Forest and National Park is one of the most important regions of ecological preservation in the world. For this is one of the very few remaining intact primaeval forests in Europe and also the only location of the European bison, still a vulnerable species. Not too far away, the Biebrza marshes and wetlands are one of the best birdwatching locations and home to various otter and stoats.

The Great Masurian Lakes in the north make for Poland’s Lake District. Sailing, kayaking and other gentle summertime river pursuits are a perfect fit here. Poland may not be one of the first countries in the world when you think of beaches and sandy dunes but think again. The region of Słowiński on the Baltic coast with its striking sand dunes almost brings a little touch of the desert here but another great summertime home of hundreds of different types of birds and wildfowl.

Mountains, forests, parks, lakes, marshlands, beaches and a great variety of flora and fauna – there is so much of so many different types in Poland.

Food in Poland

Cheap Eats

By Mark https://www.theseforeignroads.com/

photo by theseforeignroads.com

Poland is one of the best countries in Europe for finding cheap, traditional food. Smaller restaurants will often have a set menu for each day of the week. For around 20-25zl (5-6 €), you’ll typically enjoy a soup, followed by a decent portion of meat, vegetable side and a pile of potatoes swimming in butter and dill. And while this is a fantastic option, if you really want an authentic Polish experience, head to a bar mleczny – a milk bar.

Holding on to the simplistic, cafeteria-like style of the communist years, milk bars are again rising in popularity around the country. The once basic, dairy and vegetable-based menus now feature a phenomenal assortment of delicious Polish dishes.

Turkey meatballs in dill cream, pea and sorrel soup, cheese pancakes in mushroom sauce, and a variety of stewed meats and vegetables are just a sampling of what you may find. The best part, it’s not uncommon to leave utterly stuffed and satisfied for under 15zl (3.50 €)!

Vegan & Vegetarian

By Amélie https://mostlyamelie.com/

If you’re vegan like me (or a vegetarian) and fear you might be stuck eating only potatoes and bread if you visit Poland, I urge you to think again!

The larger Polish city centres are some of the most vegan-friendly (and cheapest!) places to visit in Europe. Happy Cow lists well over 800 vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in the whole of Poland – 180 in Warsaw alone, 101 in Krakow, 76 in Wroclaw and 63 in Poznan.

Veganism is hip and Poland is hip, so there’s no doubt you’ll find hip cafes serving hip food that is mostly vegan all over the place. From pierogi stuffed with all sorts of yummy vegetables to green and health-minded cafes, down to the most amazing vegan sushi I’ve ever eaten in the world (at a place called Youmiko in Krakow), you won’t be disappointed by the abundance of vegan food you can find in Poland. And the most amazing part of it all is that it is so cheap!

So go on travelling in peace knowing you’ll be able to fill your boots with delicious vegan food on the cheap.

Fine Dining

In most big cities like Kraków, Wrocław or Warszawa, you’ll find some fantastic fine dining restaurants. Polish chefs are creative, talented and know how to get the most out of seasonal produce.  

The quality of resulting dishes could compare (or even exceed) some of the famous European fine dining restaurants. But what’s also an added bonus is the price – you won’t break the bank on fine dining in Poland. It’s really affordable. Both Wierzynek and Albertina in Kraków have mains costing around PLN 75-120 (USD 19-31).

Getting around Poland

Polish cities are fairly well linked. There are trains and buses connecting almost every corner of the country. Travelling by car is also getting more and more pleasant so don’t be afraid to rent one.

 

Where to find info and buy tickets?

You can check timetables as well as buy tickets for buses and trains on e-podróznik. For public transport in bigger cities (as well as online tickets purchases via app) jakdojade.pl might be the best option.

Buses

By Alex https://www.swedishnomad.com

I think that travelling by bus is the best way to explore Poland. It is cheap, convenient and there are bus routes to almost every destination you could want to visit. There are also affordable and relatively fast intercity buses which allows you to explore much of the country within a short period.

I’ve tried a few operators, including Flixbus which has a few routes in Poland. Previously, Polskibus was the major bus line in Poland, but in 2018, they merged with Flixbus, which took over all of its operational routes. It is easy to book tickets online with Flixbus, and they’re cheap. I have had no problems or whatsoever and they have always been on time. And you get the ticket in your phone, so you don’t have to print out your tickets.


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