Poland lags a little behind western Europe and North America when it comes to catering to the needs of travellers with disabilities; the general consensus is: 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 (www.accessibletour.pl) Specialises in organising tours for travellers with disabilities and mobility problems.
- Warsaw City Transport (www.ztm.waw.pl) Information on public transport in the capital (on the English-language website, click on Information and Travel Without Barriers).
- Nie Pelno Sprawni (www.niepelnosprawni.pl) Polish language only, for up-to-date information on the current situation for people with disabilities in Poland.
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 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.
Several cities and regions 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.
Popular discount cards include the Warsaw Pass (www.warsawpass.com), Kraków Card (www.krakowcard.com) and Tri-City Tourist Card (www.gdansk4u.pl) for use in Gdańsk and Sopot.
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 in the main cities. Go to www.ptsm.org.pl to find an office.
Students receive great discounts in Poland, including price reductions on museum entries, 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). The website www.isic.pl has a list of hostels and establishments that honour the ISIC card. Purchase cards online or at Almatur (www.almatur.com.pl), which has offices in major cities.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Emergency from mobile phone||112|
|Poland's country code||48|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Poland is an EU member state and part of the Schengen Area.
- 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.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days.
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 at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (www.msz.gov.pl).
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, no longer involve checks of passports or visas.
This situation does not apply for visiting Belarus, Ukraine or Russia's Kaliningrad enclave.
- Belarus Most travellers will need to secure a visa in advance from a Belarusian consulate (Russian, Israeli and Chinese citizens do not need visas). See the Belarusian foreign ministry website (www.mfa.gov.by) for details.
- 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 (for details check www.visitrussia.org.uk). Apply at the Russian embassy in your home country, and allow at least four weeks for processing.
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 date of departure.
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 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).
Homosexuality is legal in Poland but not openly tolerated. Polish society is conservative and for the most part remains hostile towards the LGBT+ community.
The Polish gay and lesbian 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 for Poland’s scene are the Warsaw and Kraków city guides on www.queerintheworld.com, and www.queer.pl (in Polish only).
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.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
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.
Checking insurance quotes…
Poland is well wired, and wi-ﬁ (pronounced vee-fee in Polish) is ubiquitous. Most hotels, including 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.
- Often the most convenient and reliable places to get wi-ﬁ access in a pinch are McDonald's, Starbucks and Costa Coffee restaurants, which offer free wi-ﬁ around the country.
- Many hotels regrettably are dropping the practice of making a computer terminal available for guests, though some still do, including most hostels. Larger hotels will sometimes have a business centre for guests to use (for a fee).
- For those without a laptop, there are still a few internet cafes scattered about the larger cities, and most tourist offices have an internet computer for visitors to use.
Foreigners in Poland, as elsewhere, are subject to the laws of the host country. While your embassy or consulate is the best stop in any emergency, bear in mind that there are some things it can’t do for you, like getting local laws or regulations waived because you’re a foreigner, investigating a crime, providing legal advice or representation in civil or criminal cases, getting you out of jail and lending you money.
- A consul can usually issue emergency passports, contact relatives and friends, advise on how to transfer funds, provide lists of reliable local doctors, lawyers and interpreters, and visit you if you've been arrested or jailed.
- In Poland the legal blood-alcohol content for drivers is 0.2.
- Buying, selling and possession of drugs of any kind, including cannabis, is illegal.
- Jaywalking is illegal, and can result in an on-the-spot fine.
Poland produces good quality, inexpensive maps that can be purchased at tourist information offices, bookstores and many large petrol stations.
Local mapmakers Demart and Compass both produce reliable city and hiking maps. Prices range from 14zł to 20zł per map.
You probably won’t need to buy special maps for cities and tourist hot spots, but they will come in handy for smaller cities and especially on hiking and biking trips. Stock up on maps in big cities as you go along, since they may not be available locally.
Don’t forget to bring along your satellite navigation system if you are driving or plan on renting a car. Polish navigation maps are usually included in most companies’ European maps packages.
Newspapers & Magazines
- 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 newsstands in the lobbies of upmarket hotels.
- Radio The state-run Polskie Radio is the main radio broadcaster, operating on AM and FM in every corner of the country; all programs are in Polish.
- Television Poland has two state-owned, countrywide TV channels: TVP1 and TVP2, the latter of which is more educational and culture focused. There are also several private channels, including the countrywide PolSat.
ATMs widely available. Credit cards widely accepted in hotels and restaurants.
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'.
- Beware of the widespread Euronet ATMs, which give a much poorer rate of exchange than bank ATMs.
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. It’s a relatively stable currency, holding at around 4zł to €1 since 2010.
Keep some small-denomination notes and coins for shops, cafes and restaurants – getting change for the 100zł and 200zł notes that ATMs often spit out can be a problem.
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 Saturday, but some open longer and a few stay open 24 hours.
- Kantors usually 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).
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted for goods and services. The only time you may experience a problem is at small establishments or for a very small transaction. 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.
Have money sent to you through the Western Union (www.westernunion.com) money-transfer service, 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.
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.
- When to tip Customary in restaurants and at service establishments such as hairdressers; optional everywhere else.
- Restaurants At smaller establishments and for smaller tabs, round the bill to the nearest 5zł or 10zł increment. Otherwise, 10% is standard.
- Taxis No need to tip, though you may want to round up the fare to reward good service.
- In restaurants, tip 10% of the bill to reward good service. Leave the tip in the pouch the bill is delivered in or hand the money directly to the server.
- Tip hairdressers and other personal services 10% of the total.
- Taxi drivers won’t expect a tip, but it’s fine to round the fare up to the nearest 5zł or 10zł increment for good service.
- Tipping in hotels is essentially restricted to the top-end establishments, which usually have decent room service staff and porters, who all expect to be tipped.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Most places adhere to the following hours. Shopping centres generally have longer hours and are open from 9am to 8pm at weekends. Museums are usually closed on Mondays, and have shorter hours outside high season.
Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (varies)
Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (varies)
Post Offices 8am–7pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (cities)
Restaurants 11am–10pm daily
Shops 8am–6pm Monday to Friday, 10am–2pm Saturday
Sunday Trading Ban
In 2018 a ban on Sunday trading was introduced in Poland. Shops must close on two Sundays per month, rising to three Sundays a month in 2019 and finally 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.
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, including (sometimes) poste restante and currency exchange.
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 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.
Domestic & International Calls
All telephone numbers, landline and mobile, have nine digits. Landlines are written 12 345 6789, with the first two numbers corresponding to the area code (there is no zero). 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 area code (minus any initial zero) and 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.
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).
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.
However, modern 'smartphones' like an iPhone or Android device are not easily unlocked. With these phones, it's best 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.
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.
- Poland lies in the same time zone (GMT/UTC+1) 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.
- The 24-hour clock is in widespread use.
- 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.
- Polish Tourism Organisation (www.poland.travel) Poland's official tourism website.
- Warsaw Tourism (www.warsawtour.pl) Official tourist information for Warsaw.
- Magic Kraków (www.krakow.pl) Official tourism website for Kraków.
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.
- Almost all city buses and trams have special areas to accommodate prams and pushchairs.
- Many restaurants cater for children with play areas, highchairs, and children’s menus (menu dla dzieci or menu dziecięce).
- Children get discounts on local transport, accommodation and museum admission fees; the latter 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 highchairs.
- Child seats are available for rental cars, but should be requested at the time of booking.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Poland uses the metric system.
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. The website International TEFL Academy (www.internationalteflacademy.com) offers handy tips for getting started.