Cobblestones and stairs present challenging mobility issues in Warsaw's Old Town, 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.
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).
Accessible Poland Tours Specialises in organising tours for travellers with disabilities and mobility problems.
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
- Overall Warsaw is a safe place to visit, but you should take precautions while walking at night.
- Watch your possessions on public transport and in other crowded places.
- Bikes are particularly at risk; try not to leave your bike out of sight for too long, and always lock it firmly with the strongest lock you can find.
Warsaw Pass (www.warsawpass.com) Available from all Warsaw tourist offices, this card costs 129/169/199zł for 24/48/72 hours, and covers admission to 17 of the city's major attractions, including the Chopin Museum, Royal Łazienki Museum and the PKiN observation deck, as well as unlimited travel on the hop-on hop-off bus run by City Sightseeing Warsaw.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Poland's country code||48|
- 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. If visiting a synagogue or a Jewish cemetery, men should cover their heads with a hat or cap.
- 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 'smacznegos' (smach·neh·go; bon appetit)! End the meal by saying 'dziękuję' (jyen·koo·ye; thank you).
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…
You should have few problems getting online in Warsaw. Wi-fi is freely available across the city in many locations.
Warsaw's City Hall is committed to supporting LGBT+ rights and initiatives, and the Equality Parade is the annual Pride march through the city streets in mid-June. There are LGBT+ bars and clubs in Warsaw and they're not too difficult to find. That said, many Poles are conservative and not accepting of gay culture, so use caution in showing same-sex affection in public.
For more information, see https://queerintheworld.com/gay-warsaw-poland-travel-guide and https://queer.pl (in Polish only).
- Newspaper Warsaw Voice (www.warsawvoice.pl) is an online English-language newspaper and news site.
- Magazines You can usually pick up the monthly magazines Warsaw Insider (www.warsawinsider.pl) and Warsaw In Your Pocket (www.inyourpocket.com/warsaw) free at hotels, restaurants and tourist venues around Warsaw. Both contain listings for events and some local news.
ATMs and kantors (currency-exchange kiosks) are fairly common. Credit cards are generally accepted and often preferred to cash.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping is customary in restaurants, cafes and at service establishments such as hairdressers; optional elsewhere.
- Hotels Not expected but can leave 10zł per night for housekeeper; similar for bellboys and helpful concierges.
- Restaurants Standard is 10%. At smaller establishments and for smaller tabs round to nearest 5zł or 10zł increment. Leave tip in cash if you pay bill by credit card.
- Taxis Round up the fare for good service.
Most places open the following hours. Shopping centres generally open longer hours and from 9am to 8pm at weekends. Museums usually close Mondays, and may have shorter hours from December to March.
Banks 8am–6pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (varies)
Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (varies)
Post Offices main office 24 hours, other branches 8am–7pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday
Shops 8am–6pm Monday to Saturday
Shopping Malls 10am–10pm
Sunday Shopping Ban
A law introduced in 2018 bans shops trading on the first three Sundays of the month during 2019 and on all Sundays from 2020 (save for a few exceptions before the Easter and Christmas holidays). These trading rules don't apply to pharmacies, petrol stations, kiosks, bakeries, open-air markets and souvenir shops.
Poczta Polksa (www.poczta-polska.pl) is Poland's state-run postal service. It does not have a great reputation and while you can except your post to get to its destination (eventually), the bureaucratic process of dealing with individual post offices for anything beyond buying a stamp can border on frustrating. The following post offices are open 24 hours:
New Year's Day 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
Easter Sunday March or April
Easter Monday March or April
Labour Day 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 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
Standard VAT is 23% in Poland, 8% on some food and medicine, and 5% on some craftworks. If you are a permanent resident outside the EU, you may be eligible for a tax refund.
Claiming Tax Refunds
To qualify for a tax refund you must purchase a minimum of 300zł of goods in shops displaying a blue and white ‘Tax Free’ sign, and you must also inform the salesperson of your intention to recover the tax and fill out a special form. For more information, see www.globalblue.com/tax-free-shopping/poland and www.lotnisko-chopina.pl/en/tax-refund.html.
All telephone numbers, landline and mobile, have nine digits. There are no city or area codes.
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 some phones from North America or Japan; check with your service provider.
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.
There's also the option of using an internet phone service such as Skype.
- Warsaw and the rest of Poland is 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, 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 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 Office – PKiN Warsaw's official tourist information organisation provides maps, leaflets and plenty of friendly advice. There's no phone number, so visit in person.
Almatur Handles student travel.
Travel with Children
Warsaw does a good job of entertaining children of all ages. The city's tourist information offices offer a colourful, fold-out Free Map for Young Travellers aimed primarily at teens and students, but with some hints for younger travellers as well. For more ideas, see Kids in the City (http://kidsinthecity.pl).
Warsaw's top museum for kids of all ages is the wonderful Copernicus Science Centre, which also includes a Planetarium; note the museum can get very busy on weekends and school holidays. Older children might enjoy the visual and sound effects of the highly interactive Warsaw Rising Museum, though parental guidance is recommended in explaining its dark story. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jew has a dedicated children's section.
Parks abound. Łazienki Park has plenty of space to run, plus peacocks to spot, hungry ducks to feed and a boat trip to take. The Saxon Garden and Krasiński Garden both have good playgrounds. There are plenty of outdoor enclosures to explore at Warsaw Zoological Gardens.
In warmer months there's beaches and strolling and cycling boulevards along the Vistula as well as boat trips across and along the river.The illuminated Multimedia Fountain Park is fun and every winter Wilanów Park puts on an illumination show at the weekend.
Palace of Science & Culture
The view from the observation tower of the Palace of Culture & Science is impressive for all ages and just the start of many offerings here aimed at entertaining kids and families. The vast complex includes a youth club section, a dollhouse museum, a natural history museum, a metal sculpture gallery and a puppet theatre.
Need a few more ideas? Filharmonia Narodowa puts on regular concerts for children. At the retro-cool Fotoplastikon you can view 3D photos on a vintage device. All the family can join in painting designs on pottery at Galeria Bolesławiec & Studio Ceramiki. Great eye candy for all ages are the illuminated signage in and around the Neon Museum. There's flashing lights and a chance to perfect your classic arcade game skills at Pinball Station.