Getting there & away
If you’re Europe-based, it’s easy to travel to Poland by bus, train or boat. Of course it may be a long journey, but there’s nothing like a trip across the continent. If air travel is your only option, or you simply can’t face sitting in a bus or train for a day, consider offsetting your carbon emissions (the respected www.climatecare.org can organise this for you).
Theoretically, the expiry date of your passport should not be less than three months after the date of your departure from Poland.
Fierce competition on most European routes has resulted in price wars between no-frills carriers and full-service airlines. Discounted web fares offer the best deals, and one-way tickets make it easy to fly into one city and out of another. Note that if you’re booking on short notice (that is, less than around three or four weeks before departure), national carriers often offer better prices than the budget airlines.
On transatlantic and long-haul flights your travel agent is probably still the best source of cheap tickets, although there is an increasing number of online booking agencies. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of the cheapest fares before booking.
Polferries (www.polferries.pl) Operates the Ystad–Świnoujście (490kr to 540kr, seven hours, daily), Nynäshamn–Gdańsk (560kr to 670kr, 18 hours, daily) and Rønne–Świnoujście (250kr, 5¼ hours, Saturday only) routes.
Unity Line (www.unityline.pl) From Ystad to Świnoujście (Skr470 to Skr790, seven to nine hours, daily).
Sitting in the middle of Europe and sharing its borders with seven countries, Poland has plenty of rail and road crossings. Border crossings are more numerous with Germany to the west, and the Czech and Slovak republics to the south, than they are with the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia to the east and northeast.
Remember that Poland’s eastern border is now one of the external borders of the EU. If you’re travelling overland to Russia, be aware that you may need a Belarusian transit visa, which must be obtained in advance.
The following is a list of 24-hour border crossings for heading east out of Poland by road:
Belarusian border (south to north) : Terespol, Kuźnica Białostocka
Lithuanian border (east to west) : Ogrodniki, Budzisko
Russian border (east to west) : Bezledy, Gronowo
Ukrainian border (south to north) : Medyka, Hrebenne, Dorohusk
Eurolines Polska (www.eurolinespolska.pl) has daily buses to Warsaw from Minsk (85zł, 12 hours) in Belarus and Vilnius (125zł, 12 hours) in Lithuania. Polish State Railways also operate an overnight bus between Warsaw and Vilnius (€22, 10 hours).
Warsaw has direct trains to Kyiv (from €47, 15 hours) in the Ukraine and Minsk (from €36, 10 hours) in Belarus. These trains are sleeper only, and you’ll be automatically sold a sleeping berth when buying your ticket.
The fastest option from Warsaw to Vilnius (€21, 9½ hours) in Lithuania travels through Suwałki and requires a change in Šeštokai across the border. It’s a good option as there is no need to arrange a transit visa for Belarus.
Travel to Russia, however, requires a Belarusian transit visa. Without one you’ll be sent back to Warsaw by Belarusian border guards. One direct train daily over summer travels between Warsaw and St Petersburg (from €69, 30 hours), while three daily head year-round for Moscow (from €62, 20 hours); both are sleeper trains and pass through Minsk.
Eurolines (08705 808080; www.eurolines.co.uk) runs buses from London to Warsaw (one way UK£62, 26½ hours) via Poznań and Łódź, and to Kraków (UK£62, 26¾ hours) via Wrocław and Katowice. The frequency of the service varies depending on the season: it’s as often as daily in summer and slows down to twice weekly the rest of the year. Tickets can be bought from any National Express office and a number of travel agencies.
A number of German cities are linked by train (direct or indirect) with major Polish cities. Direct connections with Warsaw include Berlin, Cologne, Dresden and Leipzig. There are also direct trains between Berlin and Kraków (via Wrocław; €50, 9½ hours).
There are no direct trains from Brussels (Bruxelles-Nord) to Warsaw (from €91, 14½ hours); the quickest route is via Cologne. From Paris to Warsaw (€160, 16½ hours), a change is required in Cologne and Brussels.
The vast majority of international flights to Poland arrive at Warsaw-Frédéric Chopin Airport (Port Lotniczy im F Chopina, WAW; 022 650 4220; www.lotnisko-chopina.pl), although there is an increasing number of international carriers choosing to land at the country’s other international airports:
Gdańsk – Lech Wałęsa (GDN; 058 348 1154; www.airport.gdansk.pl)
Katowice (KTW; 032 392 7385; www.gtl.com.pl)
Kraków-Balice (KRK; 012 639 3000; www.lotnisko-balice.pl)
Wrocław (WRO; 071 358 1381; www.airport.wroclaw.pl)
Poland’s national carrier LOT (LO; 0801 703 703, from mobile phones 022 9572; www.lot.com) flies to all major European capitals as well as most major cities in Germany. Outside Europe it has direct flights to/from Chicago, Istanbul, New York, Tel Aviv and Toronto. Competition is currently fierce in the Polish market, with a wave of budget airlines, including CentralWings, EasyJet, GermanWings, SkyEurope, Ryanair and Wizz Air, moving in and offering cheap flights to not only Warsaw but also Wrocław, Kraków, Gdańsk, Poznań, Bydgoszcz, Katowice, Łódź, Szczecin and Rzeszów.
Fares vary greatly depending on what route you’re flying and what time of year it is. Poland’s high season (and that of Europe in general) is in summer (June to August) and a short period around Christmas. The rest of the year is quieter and cheaper.
The following are the Polish contact details for airlines flying to and from Poland:
British Airways (BA; 0800 4411 592; www.ba.com; hub London)
EasyJet (EZY; www.easyjet.com; hub London)
Lufthansa (LH; 022 338 1300; www.lufthansa.com; hub Frankfurt)
There are no direct scheduled flights between Australia and Poland; generally it’s cheapest to fly into London, Frankfurt or Amsterdam and continue to Warsaw from there. Round-the-world (RTW) tickets are another good bet and are often better value than standard return fares. There are a number of well-known travel agencies in Australia; STA Travel (1300 733 035; www.statravel.com.au) and Flight Centre (133 133; www.flightcentre.com.au) have offices throughout the country. For online bookings, try www.travel.com.au.
Both LOT and other carriers fly to Warsaw from all major European capitals, and the list of regional airports supported by budget airlines is constantly growing.
Anyway (08 92 30 23 01; www.anyway.fr)
Lastminute.com (08 99 78 50 00; www.fr.lastminute.com)
Nouvelles Frontiéres (08 25 00 07 47; www.nouvelles-frontieres.fr)
Just Travel (0897 473 330; www.justtravel.de)
Lastminute.com (01805 777 257; www.de.lastminute.com)
STA Travel (069 743 032 92; www.statravel.de) Specialises in student travel.
CTS Viaggi (199 501 150; www.cts.it)
Airfair (0900 7717 717; www.airfair.nl)
Barceló Viajes (902 11 62 26; www.barceloviajes.com)
Budget airline Ryanair offers the most comprehensive coverage of Poland, connecting 10 of the country’s largest cities with London Stansted, Bristol, Liverpool, East Midlands, Glasgow, Dublin and Shannon. CentralWings comes a close second, covering eight Polish cities with flights to London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Shannon and Cork. No-frills flyer EasyJet has flights from London Luton and Bristol to Warsaw and Kraków, along with Liverpool, Belfast and Newcastle to Kraków, and London Gatwick, Bristol, Belfast and Edinburgh to Gdańsk. Sky Europe flies between Kraków and Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin, while WizzAir has expanded its coverage and now connects Warsaw, Katowice, Gdańsk, Wrocław and Poznań with a plethora of destinations in the UK and Ireland.
Discount air travel is big business in London. Advertisements for many travel agencies appear in the travel pages of the weekend broadsheet newspapers, in Time Out, the Evening Standard and in the free magazine TNT.
The following are recommended travel agencies:
ebookers (0871 223 5000; www.ebookers.com)
Flight Centre (0870 499 0040; www.flightcentre.co.uk)
North-South Travel (01245-608 291; www.northsouthtravel.co.uk) Donates part of its profit to projects in the developing world.
STA Travel (0871 230 0040; www.statravel.co.uk) For travellers under the age of 26.
Trailfinders (0845 050 5945; www.trailfinders.com)
Travel Bag (0870 814 4441; www.travelbag.co.uk)
Agents often use indirect connections with other carriers such as British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM or Air France. Not only may these work out cheaper, but they can also let you break the journey in Western Europe for the same price or a little extra – a bonus if you want to stop en route in London, Paris or Amsterdam.
American Express (www.itn.net)