Accessible Travel

When it comes to accessible travel in Poland the general consensus is it's difficult, but doable.

Medieval town centres with cobblestones, stairs and high curbs present challenging mobility issues, and many older buildings, including hotels and museums, are not wheelchair friendly. However, all new buildings, including modern museums, art galleries, shopping malls and train stations, are designed to be accessible, and an increasing number of older buildings are being retrofitted with ramps, lifts and wider doors.

In terms of public transport, most trains, buses and trams have ramps and are designed to accommodate wheelchairs.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Accessible Poland Tours Specialises in organising tours for travellers with disabilities and mobility problems.

Nie Pelno Sprawni (www.niepelnosprawni.pl) Polish language only; up-to-date information on the current situation for people with disabilities in Poland.

ZTM Information on public transport in the capital (on the English-language website, click on Information and Travel Without Barriers).

Bargaining

At flea and tourist gift markets it's an acceptable practice to bargain a little over prices. Elsewhere prices are fixed.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Poland is a relatively safe country, but it pays to be alert around major train stations such as Warszawa Centralna and Kraków Główny, which are favourite playgrounds for thieves and pickpockets. There is also a small risk of theft on overnight trains, especially on international routes. Try to keep your luggage in sight, and share a compartment with other people if possible.
  • Theft from cars is common, so leave your vehicle in a guarded car park (parking strzeżony) whenever possible.

Discount Cards

A handful of Polish cities, including Warsaw, Kraków and Gdańsk, offer short-term ‘tourist’ cards. These usually provide discounted or free admission to museums, galleries and cultural institutions. Some also provide free public transport. Cards are normally available at tourist information offices and other sales points. Check online for details.

Hostel Cards

A HI membership card can get you a 10% to 25% discount on youth-hostel prices, though some hostels don’t give discounts to foreigners. Bring the card with you, or get one issued in Poland at the provincial branch offices of the PTSM (Polish Youth Hostel Association; www.ptsm.org.pl) in the main cities. Visit the website to find an office.

Student Cards

Students receive great discounts in Poland, including price reductions on museum entry, as well as on some public transport. To qualify you need to be under the age of 26 and have a valid International Student Identity Card (ISIC; www.isic.pl). The website has a list of hostels and establishments that honour the card.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance999
Fire998
Police997
Emergency from mobile phone112
Poland's country code48

Entry & Exit Formalities

Poland is an EU member state and part of the Schengen Area.

Customs Regulations

  • Travellers arriving from non-EU countries can bring in up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of pipe tobacco; and up to 2L of alcoholic drink (of 22% ABV or less), and up to 1L of spirits (above 22% ABV).
  • Travellers arriving from an EU member state can import up to 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars or 1kg of pipe tobacco; and up to 110L of beer, 90L of wine and 10L of spirits. This is seldom checked.
  • The export of most items of an age exceeding 50 years and of a value exceeding 16,000zł is prohibited without an export permit (pozwolenie eksportowe). Official antique dealers may offer to help you out with the paperwork, but the procedure is bureaucratic and time-consuming.

Visas

Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Further Information

EU citizens do not need visas and can stay indefinitely. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and many other countries can stay in Poland for up to 90 days without a visa.

Other nationalities should check with their local Polish embassy or on the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (www.gov.pl/web/diplomacy).

Border Crossings

Poland is a member of the EU’s common border zone, the Schengen Area, and frontier crossings to neighbouring EU countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania, don't involve checks of passports or visas.

This situation does not apply for visiting Belarus, Ukraine, or Kaliningrad, which is an exclave of Russia.

Belarus

A 30-day visa-free regime is in place for most visitors as long as they arrive in and depart from Minsk National Airport. If arriving or departing by land, everybody needs a visa – unless you are targeting either Brest or Hrodna, the two visa-free zones, or if you're hiking into Belarus from Białowieża National Park.

For stays longer than 30 days, everybody needs a visa.

Ukraine

Citizens of the EU, USA and Canada do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period, but citizens of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand need to get a visa in advance. Check the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry website (www.mfa.gov.ua) for details.

Kaliningrad

Most travellers need a Russian visa to enter Kaliningrad. Apply at the Russian embassy in your home country, and allow at least four weeks for processing.

Passports

EU citizens need only a valid ID to travel in Poland. For everyone else, a passport is required. Note some airlines may deny travel to passengers whose passports are within six months of expiration from the date of departure.

Etiquette

There’s a polite formality built into the Polish language that governs most interactions between people, though the rules are normally suspended for foreigners who don’t speak Polish.

  • Greetings It’s customary to greet people, including shopkeepers, on entering a premises with a friendly dzień dobry (jyen do·bri; good day). On leaving, part with a hearty do widzenia (do vee·dze·nya; goodbye).
  • Religion Treat churches and monasteries with respect and keep conversation to a minimum. It’s always best to wear proper attire, including trousers for men and covered shoulders and longer skirts (no short shorts) for women. Refrain from flash photography and remember to leave a small donation in the box by the door.
  • Eating & Drinking When raising a glass, greet your Polish friends with na zdrowie (nah zdroh·vee·ya; cheers!). Before tucking into your food, wish everyone smacznego (smach·neh·go; bon appetit!). End the meal by saying dziękuję (jyen·koo·ye; thank you).

Insurance

Insurance can cover you for medical expenses, theft or loss, and also for cancellation of, or delays in, any of your travel arrangements. There are a variety of policies, and your travel agent can provide recommendations.

Always read the small print of a policy carefully and make sure the policy includes health care and medication in Poland. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ such as scuba diving, motorcycling, skiing, mountaineering and even trekking.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Poland is well wired, and wi-fi (pronounced vee-fee in Polish) is ubiquitous. Most hotels, pensions and youth hostels offer it free of charge to guests, though more expensive properties sometimes charge (or offer free wi-fi only in the lobby). Many bars, cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi (usually marked on the door with the international wi-fi sign). Free public wi-fi is also available in many city centres.

LGBT Travellers

Homosexuality is legal in Poland. However, the ruling Law & Justice (PiS) party is very anti-LGBTQ+ in its policies, reflecting the generally conservative, highly religious nature of many Poles. This said, in the major cities such as Warsaw, Kraków and Gdańsk, you'll encounter a much more liberal attitude.

All up this means the Polish LGBTQ+ scene is fairly discreet. Warsaw and Kraków are the best places to find bars, clubs and gay-friendly accommodation, and Sopot is noted as gay-friendly compared to the rest of Poland. The best sources of information are the Warsaw and Kraków city guides on www.queerintheworld.com, and www.queer.pl (in Polish only).

Media

  • Newspapers & Magazines Catch up on Polish current affairs at the Warsaw Voice website (www.warsawvoice.pl). Foreign newspapers can be found at Empik stores, bookshops and news stands in the lobbies of upmarket hotels.
  • Radio State-run Polskie Radio (www.polskieradio.pl) is the main radio broadcaster, operating on AM and FM in every corner of the country; all programmes are in Polish.
  • TV The two main state-run, countrywide TV channels are TVP1 and TVP2, the latter of which is more educational and culture focused. There are several private channels, including the countrywide PolSat.

Money

ATMs widely available. Credit cards widely accepted in hotels and restaurants.

ATMs

ATMs are ubiquitous in cities and towns, and even the smallest hamlet is likely to have at least one. The majority accept Visa and MasterCard.

  • Polish ATMs require a four-digit PIN code.
  • Inform your bank before travelling abroad, to avoid having your card blocked by bank security when overseas transactions start appearing on your account.
  • You'll often be given the choice to convert your ATM transaction to your home currency on the spot, but you'll get a better rate if you decline the option and choose 'Polish złoty'.
  • Avoid Euronet ATMs, which give a much poorer rate of exchange than bank ATMs.

Cash

The Polish currency is the złoty, abbreviated to zł and pronounced zwo-ti. It is divided into 100 groszy, which are abbreviated to gr. Banknotes come in denominations of 10zł, 20zł, 50zł, 100zł and 200zł, and coins in 1gr, 2gr, 5gr, 10gr, 20gr and 50gr, and 1zł, 2zł and 5zł. The złoty is a relatively stable currency, holding at around 4zł to €1 since 2010.

Keep some small-denomination notes and coins for shops, cafes and restaurants – it can be a problem getting change for the 100zł and 200zł notes that ATMs often spit out.

Changing Money

The best exchange rates are obtained by changing money at banks, or by taking cash out of bank ATMs.

Kantors (private currency-exchange offices) are found in town centres as well as travel agencies, train stations, post offices and department stores. Rates vary, so it’s best to shop around.

  • Kantors are usually open between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, and to 2pm on Saturdays, but some open longer and a few stay open 24 hours.
  • Kantors normally exchange cash only against major world currencies and neighbouring countries’ currencies. The most common and easily changed are US dollars, euros and UK pounds.
  • There’s usually no commission on transactions – the rate you get is what is written on the board (every kantor has a board displaying their exchange rates).

Credit Cards

Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. American Express cards are usually accepted at larger hotels and restaurants, though they are not as widely recognised as other cards.

Credit cards can also be used to get cash advances from banks and ATMs.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$12.68zł
CanadaC$12.85zł
Europe€14.28zł
Japan¥1003.44zł
NZNZ$12.54zł
UK£15.03zł
USUS$13.82zł

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

International Transfers

Have money sent to you through the money-transfer service Western Union (www.westernunion.com), which is generally quick and reliable, though fees can add up. Western Union outlets can be found in all Polish cities and most large towns.

Tipping

Tipping is customary in restaurants and at service establishments such as hairdressers, but is optional everywhere else.

Hotels Essentially restricted to top-end establishments, which usually have decent room-service staff and porters, who all expect to be tipped.

Restaurants At smaller establishments and for smaller tabs, round the bill to the nearest 5zł or 10zł. Otherwise, 10% is standard.

Taxis Drivers won’t expect tips, but round the fare up to the nearest 5zł or 10zł for good service.

Opening Hours

Most places adhere to the following hours. Shopping centres generally have longer hours and are open from 10am to 10pm on weekends. Many (but not all) museums are closed on Mondays, and have shorter hours outside high season.

Banks 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (varies)

Offices 8am–4pm Monday to Friday (varies)

Post Offices 8am–8pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (cities)

Restaurants 11am–11pm daily

Shops 8am–6pm Monday to Friday, 10am–8pm Saturday

Sunday Trading Ban

In 2018 a ban on Sunday trading was introduced in Poland. Shops must close on three Sundays a month in 2019 and then all Sundays from 2020, with some exceptions before the Easter and Christmas holidays.

There are also exceptions for shops where the owner is the only worker, and for stores located in train stations, airports, ports, as well as florists, bakeries (until 1pm), ice-cream sellers, sellers of religious items, ticket sellers, newspaper sellers, post offices and tobacco sellers.

Post

Postal services provided by Poczta Polska (www.polish-post.pl) are generally reliable. In large cities there will be a dozen or more post offices, of which the poczta główna (main post office) will have the widest range of facilities, sometimes including poste restante and currency exchange.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January

Epiphany 6 January

Easter Sunday March or April

Easter Monday March or April

State Holiday 1 May

Constitution Day 3 May

Pentecost Sunday Seventh Sunday after Easter

Corpus Christi Ninth Thursday after Easter

Assumption Day 15 August

All Saints' Day 1 November

Independence Day 11 November

Christmas 25 and 26 December

Smoking

  • Smoking Smoking and vaping are banned in all public indoor spaces, including hotels, bars and restaurants, on public transport and at transport stops and stations. Some restaurants, bars and clubs have a separate, closed-off room for smokers.

Taxes & Refunds

Poland’s VAT (PTU in Polish) is calculated at 23%, 8% or 5% depending on the product. The tax is normally included in the prices of goods and services as marked.

Telephone

Domestic & International Calls

All telephone numbers, landline and mobile, have nine digits. Landlines are written 12 345 6789. Mobile-phone numbers are written 123 456 789.

To call abroad from Poland, dial the international access code (00), then the country code, then the number. To dial Poland from abroad, dial your country’s international access code, then 48 (Poland’s country code) and then the unique nine-digit local number.

Mobile Phones

Poland uses the GSM 900/1800 system, the same as Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It's not compatible with most cell phones from North America or Japan (though many mobiles have multiband GSM 1900/900 phones that will work in Poland).

Further Information

If your mobile phone is unlocked, a cheaper and often better option is to buy a prepaid local SIM card, available from any mobile-phone shop. Prepaid SIMs allow you to make local calls at cheaper local rates. In this case, of course, you can’t use your existing mobile number.

Before leaving home it's a good idea to contact your home provider to consider short-term international calling and data plans appropriate to what you might need.

There's also the option of using an internet phone service such as Skype.

Phonecards

Most payphones in Poland require a phonecard, which you can buy from post offices and newspaper kiosks. Alternatively, buy a calling card from a private telephone service provider, such as Telegrosik (www.telegrosik.pl), whose international rates are even cheaper.

Time

Poland lies in the same time zone (GMT/UTC plus one hour) as most of continental Europe, which is one hour ahead of London and six hours ahead of New York.

Poland observes daylight saving time (DST), and moves the clock forward one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in March, and back again at 3am on the last Sunday in October.

Toilets

  • Toilets are labelled ‘toaleta’ or ‘WC’.
  • Men should look for ‘dla panów’ or ‘męski’, or a door marked by a downward-pointing triangle.
  • Women should head for ‘dla pań’ or ‘damski’, or a door marked with a circle.
  • Public toilets often charge a fee of 2zł, collected by a toilet attendant sitting at the door. Have small change ready.

Tourist Information

The Polish Tourism Organisation (www.poland.travel) is a trove of useful information. Many towns have local tourist information offices that vary greatly in terms of usefulness and language ability, though they should be able to provide a free map of the city and practical advice on places to stay and eat.

Travel Agencies

Kampio Focuses on ecotourism and organising kayaking, biking, walking and birdwatching trips.

Travel with Children

Poland is a strongly family-oriented place and travelling with children doesn’t create any specific problems.

For general suggestions on how to make a family trip easier, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.

Practicalities

  • Almost all city buses and trams have special areas to accommodate prams and pushchairs.
  • Many restaurants cater for children with play areas, high chairs, and children’s menus (menu dla dzieci or menu dziecięce).
  • Children get discounts on local transport, accommodation and museum admission fees; museums often have child-friendly play areas.
  • Nappies and toddlers' supplies are readily available in pharmacies, corner shops and supermarkets.
  • Most hotels and pensions are child-friendly and can supply cots and high chairs.
  • Child seats are available for rental cars, but should be requested at the time of booking.

Volunteering

The main opportunity for volunteering in Poland is teaching English as a second language; check online for various programmes.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Poland uses the metric system.

Work

Without a high standard of Polish, most people will need to arrange a job in Poland through an international company or be prepared to teach English. Teaching standards are high, however, and you’ll probably need a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate to secure a job.