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.
Embassies & Consulates
The website http://embassy-finder.com maintains an up-to-date list of consulates and embassies around the world. Embassies are located in Warsaw, while several countries maintain consulates in other cities in Poland.
Emergency & Important Numbers
When calling between cities, it’s no longer necessary to first dial 0.
|Emergency from mobile phone||112|
|Poland's country code||48|
Entry & Exit Formalities
- Travellers arriving from non-EU countries can bring in up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of pipe tobacco, up to 2L of non-sparkling wine, and up to 1L of spirits.
- 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 items manufactured before 9 May 1945 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 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 area, the Schengen zone, and frontier crossings to neighbouring EU countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania, no longer involve passports or visas.
This situation does not apply for visiting Belarus, Ukraine or Russia's Kaliningrad enclave. For Belarus, most travellers will need to secure a visa in advance from a Belarusian consulate. You’ll need a valid passport, photo and application. See the Belarusian foreign ministry website for details: www.mfa.gov.by.
The situation for Ukraine and Kaliningrad is mixed. For Ukraine, citizens of the EU, USA and Canada do not need a visa for stays up to 90 days, but citizens of Australia and New Zealand (at the time of writing) need to get a visa in advance. Check the Ukrainian foreign ministry website (www.mfa.gov.ua) for details.
Everyone needs a Russian visa to enter Kaliningrad, though citizens from the EU and a handful of other countries, such as Switzerland and Japan, can obtain short-term tourist visas at the border. These need to be arranged via local agencies. Travellers from other countries are best advised to check with the Russian embassy in their home capital.
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).
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Homosexuality is legal in Poland but not openly tolerated. Polish society is conservative and for the most part remains hostile towards the LGBTQ 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 somewhat dated http://warsaw.gayguide.net and www.queer.pl (in Polish).
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 the majority of hotels, above a basic pension, offer some form of internet access (normally wi-fi) for you to log on with your own laptop, smartphone or tablet. Additionally, many bars, cafes and restaurants, including McDonald’s and Costa Coffee outlets nationwide, offer free wi-fi for customers, though the strength and reliability of the signal can vary considerably.
Finding a Computer
Locating a computer for a few minutes of web-surfing has become more problematic. Many hotels seem to be dropping the practice of making a computer terminal available for guests, although some still do, including many private hostels. Larger hotels will sometimes have a business centre for guests to use.
The situation with internet cafes is much the same. As more and more Poles purchase their own computers, the number of internet cafes has dropped. Still, there are some around (and we’ve done our best to find them). Other alternatives for finding a computer include tourist information offices, which usually have a terminal on hand for a few minutes of gratis surfing, and local libraries.
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, however, 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.
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 accepted in most 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'.
Change money at banks or kantors (private currency-exchange offices). Find these 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 its 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 typically 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.
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 is calculated at various rates depending on the product. The top rate is 23%. 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.
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 stable currency that has held its own with respect to the euro and US dollar in recent years.
Keep some small-denomination notes and coins for shops, cafes and restaurants – getting change for the 100zł notes that ATMs often spit out can be a problem.
Most places adhere to the following hours. Shopping centres generally have longer hours and are open from 9am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday. Museums are usually closed on Mondays, and have shorter hours outside of the high season.
Banks 9am-4pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat (varies)
Offices 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat (varies)
Post Offices 8am-7pm Mon-Fri, 8am-1pm Sat (cities)
Restaurants 11am-10pm daily
Shops 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm Sat
Postal services are provided by Poczta Polska (www.poczta-polska.pl). 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, fax and currency exchange.
- Postal service is reliable. Letters and postcards sent by air take less than a week to reach a European destination and two weeks if sent anywhere else.
- A standard letter, including a postcard, up to 50g costs 5.20zł to mail within Europe and 5.20zł to the rest of the world. Have letters and packages weighed at the post office to ensure proper postage.
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 Banned in all public indoor spaces, including bars and restaurants. While a few establishments defy the ban, the vast majority have complied. Most hotels are also entirely smoke-free.
Domestic & International Calls
Poland has dropped its former system of using city or area codes, and all telephone numbers, landline and mobile, have nine digits. Landlines are written 12 345 6789, with the first two numbers corresponding to the former city code. 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.
Local SIM cards can be used in European, Australian and some American phones. Other phones set to roaming.
Poland uses the GSM 900/1800 network, which is compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not always with the North American GSM or CDMA systems – check with your service provider.
Most smartphones are multiband, meaning that they are compatible with a variety of international networks. Before bringing your own phone to Poland, check with your service provider to make sure it is compatible, and beware of calls being routed internationally (very expensive for a 'local' call).
If you have a GSM multiband phone that you can unlock (check with your service provider), it is generally cheapest and easiest to buy a Polish prepaid SIM card. They sell for as little as 10zł and can be obtained relatively quickly and painlessly at any provider shop (GSM, Orange etc). No ID is required, and top-ups can be bought at phone shops, newspaper kiosks and even some ATMs.
Even if your smartphone is not compatible or unlocked, it can still be used as a wi-fi device. To avoid any unwanted charges, simply switch your phone to ‘airplane’ mode on arrival, which blocks out calls and text messages, and then enable wi-fi. Also turn off your phone’s ‘data roaming’ setting to avoid unwanted roaming fees.
Public phones usually require a phonecard, which you can buy from post offices and newspaper kiosks. Orange/TP cards cost 9/15/24zł for a 15-/30-/60-impuls (unit) card. A 60-impuls card is enough for a 10-minute call to the UK, or an eight-minute call to the USA.
Alternatively, buy a calling card from a private telephone service provider, such as Telegrosik (www.telegrosik.pl), whose international rates are even cheaper.
All of Poland lies within the same time zone, GMT/UTC+1, which is the same as most of continental Europe. Polish local time 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 are labelled ‘toaleta’ or ‘WC’.
- Men should look for ‘dla panów’ or ‘męski’, or a door marked by an upside-down triangle.
- Women should head for ‘dla pań’ or ‘damski’, or a door marked with a circle.
- Public toilets in Poland are few and far between and often not very clean.
- The fee for a public toilet is usually 1zł or 2zł, collected by a toilet attendant sitting at the door. Have small change ready.
Poland’s official tourist information portal is www.poland.travel. It’s a trove of useful information, with a large English-language section on festivals and events, accommodation, and tips on what to see and do.
Travel with Children
Travelling with children in Poland doesn’t create any specific problems. Children enjoy privileges on local transport, with accommodation and with entertainment; age limits for particular freebies or discounts vary from place to place, but are not often rigidly enforced. Basic supplies for younger children are readily available in cities. For general suggestions on how to make a family trip easier, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Travellers with Disabilities
Poland is not well equipped for people with disabilities, even though there have been significant improvements in recent years. Wheelchair ramps are available at some upmarket hotels and restaurants, though public transport will be a challenge for anyone with mobility problems. Few offices, museums or banks provide special facilities for travellers with disabilities.
There are several useful websites for travellers with disabilities. If your Polish is up to snuff, try www.niepelnosprawni.pl for up-to-date information on the current situation for people with disabilities in Poland. In the USA, travellers with disabilities can contact the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org). In the UK, a useful contact is Disability Rights UK (www.disabilityrightsuk.org).
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.