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"Poland" (Polish: "Polska"), is a large country in Central Europe. It has a long Baltic Sea coastline and is bordered by Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast), Slovakia, and Ukraine.



The first cities in today"s Poland, Kalisz and Elbl膮g on the Amber Route to the Baltic Sea, were mentioned by Roman writers in the first century AD, but the first Polish settlement in Biskupin dates even further back to the 7th century BC.

Poland was first united as a country in the first half of the 10th century, and officially adopted Catholicism in 966 AD. The first capital was in the city of Gniezno, but a century later the capital was moved to Kraków, where it remained for half a millenium.

Poland experienced its golden age from 14th till 16th century, under the reign of king Casimir the Great, and the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose rule extended from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas. In the 16th century, the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe; the country attracted significant numbers of foreign migrants, including Germans, Jews, Armenians and the Dutch, thanks to the freedom of confession guaranteed by the state and the atmosphere of religious tolerance (rather exceptional in Europe at the time of the Holy Inquisition).

Under the rule of the Vasa dynasty, the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596. During the 17th and the 18th centuries, the nobility increasingly asserted its independence of the monarchy; combined with several exhausting wars, this greatly weakened the Commonwealth. Responding to the need for reform, Poland was the 1st country in Europe (and the 2nd in the world, after the US) to pass a constitution. The constitution of May 3rd, 1791 was the key reform among many progressive but belated attempts to strengthen the country during the second half of the 18th century.

With the country in political disarray, various sections of Poland were subsequently occupied by its neighbors, Russia, Prussia and Austria, in three coordinated "partitions" of 1772 and 1793, and 1795. After the last partition and a failed uprising, Poland ceased to exist as a country for 123 years.

However, this long period of foreign domination was met with fierce resistance. During the Napoleonic Wars, a semiautonomous Duchy of Warsaw arose, before being erased from the map again in 1813. Further uprisings ensued, such as the 29 November uprising of 18301831 (mainly in Russian Poland), the 1848 Revolution (mostly in Austrian and Prussian Poland), and 22 January 1863. Throughout the occupation, Poles retained their sense of national identity, and kept fighting the subjugation of the three occupying powers.

Warsaw in 1900s

Poland returned to the map of Europe with the end of World War I, officially regaining its independence on November 11th, 1918. Soon, by 192021, the newlyreborn country got into territorial disputes with Czechoslovakia and, especially, the antagonistic and newly Soviet Russia with which it fought a war. This was further complicated by a hostile Weimar Germany to the west, which strongly resented the annexation of portions of it"s eastern Prussian territories, and the detachment of Germanspeaking Danzig (contemporary Gda艅sk) as a free city.

This put Poland in a precarious position of having potential enemies facing her again from all three sides.

World War II
World War II officially began with a coordinated attack on Poland"s borders by the Soviet Union from the east and Nazi Germany from the west and north. Only a few days prior to the start of WWII, the Soviet Union and Germany had signed a secret pact of nonaggression, which called for the redivision of the newly independent central and eastern European nations. Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, and the Soviet Union attacked Poland on September 17, 1939, effectively starting the fourth partition, causing the recentlyreestablished Polish Republic to cease to exist. Hitler used the issue of Danzig (Gda艅sk) and German nationalism to try to trigger a war with Poland in much the same way he used the Sudetenland Question to conquer the Czechs.

Many of WWII"s most infamous war crimes were committed by both the Nazis and Soviets on Polish territory, with the former committing the vast majority of them. Polish civilians opposed to either side"s rule were ruthlessly rounded up, tortured, and executed. Nazi Germany established both concentration and extermination camps on Polish soil, where many millions of Europeans were ruthlessly murdered; of these Auschwitz is perhaps the most infamous.

The Soviets rounded up and executed the cream of the crop of Polish leadership in the Katy艅 Massacre of 1940. About 22,000 Polish military and political leaders, business owners, and intelligentsia were murdered in the massacre, officially approved by the Soviet Politburo, including by Stalin and Beria.

Due to WWII, Poland lost about 20% of its population, added to the fact that the Polish economy was completely ruined. Nearly all major cities were destroyed and with them the history of centuries was gone. After the war Poland was forced to become a Soviet satellite country, following the Yalta and Potsdam agreements between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. To this day these events are viewed by many Poles as an act of betrayal by the Allies. Poland"s territory was significantly reduced and shifted westward to the OderNeisse Line at the expense of defeated Germany. The native Polish populations from the former Polish territories in the east, now annexed by the Soviet Union, were expelled by force and replaced the likewise expelled German populations in the west and in the north of the country. This resulted in the forced uprooting of over 10 million people and until recently had shadowed attempts at PolishGerman reconciliation.

Communism (People"s Republic of Poland)=
The Communist era (19451989) is a controversial topic. After World War II, Poland was forced to become a Socialist Republic, and to adopt a strong proSoviet stance. Between 19451953, proStalinist leaders conducted periodical purges.

After the bloody Stalinist era of 19451953, Poland was comparatively tolerant and progressive in comparison to other Eastern Bloc countries. But strong economic growth in the postwar period alternated with serious recessions in 1956, 1970, 1976, resulting in labour turmoil over dramatic inflation as well as shortages of goods. Ask older Poles to tell you about communism and you"ll often hear stories of empty store shelves where sometimes the only thing available for purchase was vinegar. You"ll hear stories about backroom deals to get meat or bread, such as people trading things at the post office just to get ham for a special dinner.

In 1980, the anticommunist trade union "Solidarity" (Polish: "Solidarno艣膰") became a strong force of opposition to the government, organizing labor strikes, and demanding freedom of press and democratic representation. The communist government responded by organizing a military junta, led by general Wojciech Jaruzelski, and imposing martial law on December 13, 1981; it lasted until July 22, 1983. During this time, thousands of people were detained. Phone calls were monitored by the government, independent organizations not aligned with the Communists were deemed illegal and members were arrested, access to roads were restricted, the borders were sealed, ordinary industries were placed under military management, and workers who failed to follow orders faced the threat of a military court. Solidarity was the most famous organization to be delegalized, and its members faced the possibility of losing their jobs and imprisonment.

But this internecine conflict, and ensuing economic disaster, greatly weakened the role of the communist party. Solidarity was legalized again, and soon led the country to the first free elections in 1989, in which the communist government was finally removed from power. This inspired a succession of peaceful anticommunist revolutions throughout the Warsaw Pact block.

Contemporary Poland (Third Republic of Poland)

Nowadays, Poland is a democratic country with a stable, robust economy, a member of NATO since 1999 and the European Union since 2004. The country"s stability has been recently underscored by the fact that the tragic deaths of the President and a large number of political, business and civic leaders in an aeroplane crash did not have an appreciable negative effect on the Polish currency or economic prospects. Poland has also successfully joined the borderless Europe agreement (), with an open border to Germany, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is on track to adopt the Euro currency in a few years time. Poland"s dream of rejoining Europe as an independent nation at peace and in mutual respect of its neighbors has finally been achieved.


Note that Catholic religious holidays are widely observed in Poland. Stores, malls, and restaurants are likely to be closed or have very limited business hours on Easter, All Saints Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas.

* "Easter" ("Wielkanoc, Niedziela Wielkanocna"), a moveable feast that is scheduled according to the moon calendar, usually in March or April. Like Christmas, it is primarily a meaningful Christian holiday. On the Saturday before Easter, churches offer special services in anticipation of the holiday, including blessing of food; children especially like to attend these services, bringing small baskets of painted eggs and candy to be blessed. On Easter Sunday itself, practicing Catholics go to the morning mass, followed by a celebratory breakfast made of foods blessed the day before. On Easter Sunday, shops, malls, and restaurants are commonly closed.

* "Lany Poniedzia艂ek", or "艢migus Dyngus", is the Monday after Easter, and also a holiday. It"s the day of an old tradition with pagan roots: groups of kids and teens wandering around, looking to soak each other with water. Often groups of boys will try to catch groups of girls, and vice versa; but innocent passersby are not exempt from the game, and are expected to play along. Common "weapons" include water guns and water baloons, but children, especially outdoors and in the countryside, like to use buckets and have no mercy on passersby. (Drivers this means keep your windows wound up or you"re likely to get soaked.)

* "The Feast of Corpus Christi", which is a moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Corpus Christi is observed after the fifty days of Easter are over. In Poland it is celebrated on the Thursday in all towns, cities and villages.
In smaller locations virtually the whole village or town becomes involved in an organized procession through the streets. The traffic is stopped and at midday the processions leave churches and walk through the street to an, usually, outdoor alter, where a mass is celebrated. The homes along the procession"s route have alters setup to venerate Christ. Corpus Christi is a Holy Day in Poland and most is not places of business are closed, offices,stores, etc.

* "Constitution Day" falls on May 3rd, in remembrance of the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791. The document itself was a highly progressive attempt at political reform, and it was Europe"s first constitution (and world"s second, after the US). Following the partitions, the original Constitution became a highly poignant symbol of national identity and ideals. Today, May 3rd is a national holiday, often combined with the May 1 (Labor Day) into a larger celebration.

* "All Saints Day" ("Wszystkich 艢wi臋tych"), 1st of November. In the afternoon and evening, people visit graves of their relatives and light candles. After dusk cemeteries glow with thousands of lights and offer a very picturesque scene. If you have the chance, be sure to visit a cemetery to witness the holiday. Many restaurants, malls, and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual on this holiday.

* "National Independence Day" ("Narodowe 艢wi臋to Niepodleg艂o艣ci") is a public holiday celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate Poland"s independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions and occupation by AustriaHungary, Germany and Russia. As with most other holidays, many businesses will be closed on this day.

* "Christmas Eve" ("Wigilia") and "Christmas Day" ("Bo偶e Narodzenie"), December 24th and 25th. Christmas is one of the most important holidays of the year, and its eve is definitely the year"s most important feast. According to Catholic tradition, celebration of liturgical feasts starts in the evening of the preceding day (a vigil, hence "wigilia"). In Polish folklore, this translates into a special family dinner, which traditionally calls for a twelve course vegetarian meal (representing the twelve apostles), which is supposed to begin in the evening, after the first star can be spotted in the night sky. On Christmas Eve most stores will close around 23pm; on Christmas Day people will still usually stay home, and everything apart from essential services will be closed and public transport will be severely limited.

* "New Year"s Eve" ("Sylwester"), December 31st. One of the party nights of the year. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you can get into even a decent club as most clubs will be packed. Most clubs will sell tickets in advance, but you"ll probably have to dish out at least 150 PLN, and that"s just for entrance and "maybe" a couple of drinks. If you"re a little more flexible, you might be able to get into nonclub parties. Otherwise, there are always the firework displays to entertain you.

The countryside throughout Poland is lovely and relatively unspoiled. Poland has a variety of regions with beautiful landscapes and smallscale organic and traditional farms. Travelers can choose different types of activities such as bird watching, cycling or horseback riding.

Culturally, you can visit and/or experience many churches, museums, ceramic and traditional basketmaking workshops, castle ruins, rural centers and many more. A journey through the Polish countryside gives you a perfect opportunity to enjoy and absorb local knowledge about its landscape and people.

Poland"s administrative regions are called "województwa", abbreviated "woj.". The word is roughly equivalent to a "duchy" or a "district". Some English dictionaries use the word "voivodship" to describe them, but the word is exceedingly rare, and likely not to be understood.


* Warsaw Poland"s capital and one of the EU"s thriving new business centres; the old town, nearly completely destroyed during World War II, has been rebuilt in a style inspired by classicist paintings of Canalletto
* Gda艅sk one of the old, beautiful European cities, rebuilt after World War II and a good departure point to the many sea resorts along the Baltic coast
* 艁ód藕 once renowned for its textile industries, the "Polish Manchester" has the longest walking street in Europe, the Piotrkowska Street, full of picturesque 19thcentury architecture
* Katowice most important city in Silesia, being both an important commercial hub and a centre of culture
* Kraków the "cultural capital" of Poland and its historical capital in the Middle Ages; its center is filled with old churches, monuments, pubs and the largest European medieval marketplace
* Lublin the biggest city in Eastern Poland, it has a wellpreserved old town with typical Polish and unusual Renaissance architecture, the socalled Lublin Renaissance
* Poznan the merchant city, considered to be the birthplace of the Polish nation and church (along with Gniezno); presents a mixture of architecture from all epoques
* Szczecin most important city of Pomerania with an enormous harbour, monuments, old parks and museums
* Wroc艂aw the old Silesian city that was successfully rebuilt; placed on 12 islands, it has more bridges than any other European town except Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg

Other destinations

* Auschwitz German Nazi Concentration Camp that became the centre of the Holocaust on the European Jews in World War II
* Bia艂owie偶a National Park a huge area of ancient woodland straddling the border with Belarus designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
* Bory Tucholskie National Park national park protecting the Tucholskie Forests
* Kalwaria Zebrzydowska monastery in the Beskids from 1600 with baroque Stations of the Cross
* Karkonoski National Park national park in the Sudetes around the 艢nie偶ka Mountain with beautiful waterfalls
* Malbork home to the Malbork Castle, the beautiful huge Brick Gothic castle and the largest one in Europe
* S艂owi艅ski National Park national park at the sea with the biggest dunes in Europe
* Wieliczka Salt Mine the oldest still existing enterprise worldwide, this salt mine was exploited since more than 700 years ago
* Wielkopolski National Park national park in Greater Poland protecting the wildlife of the Wielkopolskie Lakes
* Kotzyn Woodstock festival, a free music and arts outdoor festival, the largest in Europe, on the first weekend of August

Get in


Regular visas are issued for travellers going to Poland for "tourism and business purposes". Regular visas allow for one or multiple entries into Polish territory and stay in Poland for maximum up to 90 days and are issued for the definite period of stay. When applying for a visa, please indicate the number of days you plan to spend in Poland and a date of intended arrival. Holders of regular visas are not authorized to work.

Ukrainian citizens do not require a separate visa for transit through Poland if they hold a or UK visa.

By plane

Most of Europe"s major airlines fly to and from Poland. Poland"s national carriers are LOT Polish Airlines . There are also a number of low cost airlines that fly to Poland including WizzAir , EasyJet , Germanwings , Norwegian and Ryanair .

Apart from direct air connections from many European cities, there are also direct flights from United States and Canada: LOT operates direct flights from Toronto, New York and Chicago, as well as nondirect flights from other cities through the Star Alliance program.

International airlines fly mainly to Warsaw (WAW) . Other major airports in Poland are: Kraków (KRK) , Katowice (KTW) , Gda艅sk (GDN) , Pozna艅 (POZ) , Wroc艂aw (WRO) , Szczecin (SZZ) , Rzeszów (RZE) , Bydgoszcz (BZG) and 艁ód藕 (LCJ) .

As the number of flights and passengers has significantly increased since 1990, new terminal has been opened at the Warsaw Chopin airport which will significantly increase the airport"s capacity. Also airports in Katowice, Kraków, Pozna艅, Wroc艂aw and 艁ód藕 have been expanded to increase their standards and capacity.

By train

Direct connections with:
* "Berlin", EuroCity "BerlinWarszawaExpress (BWE)", 3 trains per day, "6 hours" + 1 train per day Berlin Poznan, "3 hours", EuroCity "Wawel" to Krakow, every day, "10 hours"
* "Amsterdam", via Hamburg, EuroNight "Jan Kiepura", everyday, "15 hours"
* "Vilnius", Night Train "Balti", "10 hours temporarily operated by bus"
* "Kiev", Night Train, "16 hours"
* "Vienna", Night Train "Chopin", every day, "9 hours", EuroCity "Sobieski", everyday, "6 hours", EuroCity "Polonia", every day, "8 hours"
* "Prague", Night Train "Chopin", EuroCity "Praha", every day, "9.5 hours"
* "Moscow", Night Train "OstWest", every day, "20.5 hours"

By car

You can enter Poland by one of many roads linking Poland with the neighboring countries. Since Poland"s entry to the Zone, checkpoints on border crossings with other EU countries have been removed.

However, the queues on the borders with Poland"s nonEU neighbors, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, are still large and in areas congested with truck traffic it can take up to several hours to pass.

By bus=

There are many international bus lines that connect major Polish cities, with most of major European ones.

* PEKAES part of Eurolines (from: A, BY, B, HR, CZ, DK, GB, EST, F, D, GR, NL, I, LV, LT, N, RUS, E, S, CH, UA), +48 22 6269352, +48 22 6522321, "online reservation"
* Orbis (from: B, BG, F, GR, E, NL, D, CH, GB), +48 22 6227356, +48 22 5001500, +48 22 5001550 See also
* Polka Service (from: F), +48 22 8275050
* Gullivers (from: D), "D" +49 30 31102110, "Intl" +80048554837
* Visitor from London (their buses feature numbered seats)
* PPKS Warszawa +48 22 7208383 (from: BG, D, LT, S, UA)
* Certain routes are operated under the EuroLines brand
* Interbus
* "" Comfortable low cost bus company provides pointtopoint services to and from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Bratislava. It"s the cheapest option for travellers who plan ahead.

By boat

* "From Sweden": Ystad (79 hours, 215 z艂) by Unity Line ; Karlskrona (10 hours, 140220 z艂) by Stena Line ; Nynäshamn (18 hours, 230270 z艂), Visby (13.5 hours, 170 z艂), Ystad (9.5 hours, 230 z艂) by Polferries

* "From Denmark": Copenhagen (911 hours, 220 z艂), Bornholm/Rønne (5 hours, 125 z艂) by Polferries.

* "From Finland": Helsinki (~18 h) by Finnlines

By yacht

There are more and more ports along Polish coast, at least at every river mouth. Bigger marinas are located in Szczecin, 艁eba, Hel, Gdynia and Gda艅sk. Gdansk, has two yacht docks one next to the old time (market) which is usually quickly overloaded and one in the national sailing center 17 km. next to the city center close to the Baltic sea. The newest yacht dock will be located on the longest wooden peer in Sopot and will be ready in 2011. Although there are many sailors in Poland, there is still room for improvement which has been seen by the regional government.

By thumb (hitch hiking)

If you are an adventurous and openminded person, you can get very quick with the thumbs (hitch hiking). The fastest places to be taken at are the main roads between Gdansk Warsaw Poznan and Krakow.

From Czech Republic
* In local, express and fast trains (not IC or EC!), it is possible to buy a special "crossborder ticket" ("bilet przechodowy" in Polish) which is valid between the Czech and Polish (or vice versa) border stations and costs only 15 CZK or 2 PLN. You can buy it from the conductor on the train (or completely ignore it if the conductor does not emerge before you reach the other border station, which happens) and to your advantege combine it with domestic tickets of the two countries (the one you buy before departure and another one you may buy if your train stops for an amount of time in the first station after the border and you have time to quickly reach for the ticket office or you buy the other domestic ticket at the conductor with a low surcharge).
* In the vicinity of the CzechGermanPolish three country border, you may profit from the unified fare of the "ZVON" transport system:
* The railway between "Harrachov" (Czech Republic) and "Szklarska Por臋ba" (Poland) in the Krkonoše/Karkonosze mountains () has been out of order since WW2 and is planned to reopen in summer 2010. There are trains terminating in Szklarska Por臋ba Górna and Harrachov, respectively. You can walk on foot between the two (approximately 16 kilometeres) by following the road (which is good state, though meandering and going through a vast uninhabited area with a modest altitude peak in the middle). Or, if you are afraid of the passing trucks, you could follow the railroad under construction (it is legal to follow it as long as it is not yet being operated, but it may not be very comfortable and won"t spare you any significant distance in this case).
* After a severalyearlong period of electrification, there are now several trains a day again between "Lichkov" (Czech Republic) and "Mi臋dzylesie" (Poland). Yet, if for instance you arrive by the last train of the day which terminates before the border, you may try walking to the other side. From Mi臋dzylesie, you can follow the trafic directions to Brno and reach the border by following the road and passing through the villages of Smreczyna and Boboszów. Soon after you"ve crossed the border, make a sharp right turn at the cross road and walk the rest to Lichkov. The terrain is quite flat there. This is a little detour and takes some 13 kilometers, but while the railway is somewhat shorter, you should not follow it because it goes through a dark forest and you would risk collision with night cargo trains, and of course the law.
* The Polish train station of "G艂ucho艂azy" is served by Czech trains passing between Jeseník and Krnov and can be reached with a domestic Czech train ticket (with "Gluchlolazy" as the destination). You can also get a ticket starting in that station or a return ticket in advance, but you cannot buy Czech tickets in the station itself. There are Polish trains departing from G艂ucho艂azy to inner Poland.
* There are very few connections a day between "Bohumín" (Czech Republic) and "Cha艂upki" (Poland; once called Annaberg and at the three country border of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland), but it is easy to cross the border on foot if you miss your connection. Bohumín is a major Czech train station and Cha艂upki a terminal of trains to inner Poland. Between the two places, you are passing through the Czech settlement of Starý Bohumín, situated right at the border which is briefly formed by the river Odra in this place, which you cross by an old pedestrian bridge. The walk is on a completely flat terrain, almost straight, goes almost exclusively through inhabited places and is short in distance (5 kilometers).
* The divided city of "膶eský T臎šín" (Czech Republic) / "Cieszyn" (Poland) is a very easy spot for border crossing. If you reach one of them, you can walk to the other very comfortably and at a short distance (20 minutes from one station to another). It"s the river Olše/Olza in the city center that forms the border. The train stations in both 膶eský T臎šín and Cieszyn have good connections to other destinations.

From Germany
* In the vicinity of the CzechGermanPolish three country border, you may profit from the unified fare of the "ZVON" transport system:

From Lithuania
* While the main railway connecting Lithuania and Poland is now crossing a piece of Belarus (which cannot be entered without a visa by most), there is fortunately a minor line left that connects the two countries directly. The border stations are "Šeštokai" (Lithuania) and "Suwa艂ki" (Poland). There are only a few passenger connections a day and you need to change trains at the border, because of the different rail gauge used in the two countries.
* A popular alternative of crossing the border, if you are going on a longer distance, is to use the bus between "Vilnius" and "Warsaw".

Get around

Polish road infrastructure is extensive but generally poorly maintained, and high speed motorways currently in place are insufficient. However, public transport is quite plentiful and inexpensive: buses and trams in cities, and charter buses and trains for long distance travel.

By train

In Poland, the national railway carriers are PKP InterCity (Polskie Koleje Pa艅stwowe) and Przewozy Regionalne. There are few local carriers that belongs to voivodships or major cities.

Train tickets are quite economical, but travel conditions reflect the fact that much of the infrastructure is rather old.

However, you can expect a fast, clean and modern connection on the new IC (InterCity) routes, such as Warszawa Katowice, Warszawa Kraków, Warszawa Pozna艅 and Pozna艅 Szczecin or RE (RegioEkspress). Consider first class tickets, because the price difference between the second and first class is not so big. The jump in comfort may be substantial but then it is also common to see trains where 2nd class carriages are recently renovated and 1st class carriages are old and correspondingly low quality.

Train types

* "IC (InterCity) / EC (EuroCity)" express trains between metro areas, as well as major tourist destinations. Reservation usually required. Power points for laptops are sometimes available next to the seat. Company: PKP InterCity.

* "TLK (Tanie Linie Kolejowe)" discount trains, slower but cheaper than the above. Not many routes, but very good alternative for budget travellers. Reservation usually required. Use older carriages which are not always suited to high speed travel. Company: PKP InterCity.

* "RE (RegioEkspress)" cheaper then TLK and even higher standard, but only 3 of these type are runnig: Warszawa Pozna艅, Warszawa Szczecin and Wroc艂aw Dresden. Company: Przewozy Regionalne.

* "IR (InterRegio)" cheaper then TLK and RegioExpress but most of the routes are supporter by poor quality trains. Company: Przewozy Regionalne.

* "REGIO / Osobowy" ordinary passenger train; usually slow, stops everywhere. You can also buy a weekend "turystyczny" ticket, or a weeklong pass. Great if you are not in a hurry, but expect these to be very crowded at times. Company: Przewozy Regionalne; other.

* "Podmiejski" suburban commuter train. Varying degrees of comfort and facilities. Tickets need to be bought at station ticket counters. Some companies allow you to buy a ticket on board from the train manager, in the very first compartment. A surcharge will apply.

* "Narrow gauge" Poland still retains a number of local narrowgauged railways. Some of them are oriented towards tourism and operate only in summer or on weekends, while others remain active as everyday municipal rail.


It"s probably easiest to buy InterCity tickets online (see links below). You can also buy tickets online for RE, IR and some TLK.

Tickets for any route can generally be purchased at any station. For a foreigner buying tickets, this can prove to be a frustrating experience, since only cashiers at international ticket offices (in major cities) can be expected to speak multiple languages. It is recommended that you buy your train tickets at a travel agency or online to avoid communication difficulties and long queues.

It may be easier to "buy in advance" during peak seasons (eg. end of holiday period, New Year, etc.) for trains that require reserved seating.

Please note, that tickets bought for IC/EC/express/etc. trains are not valid for local/regional trains on the same routes. If you change trains between InterCity and Regional you have to buy a second ticket.

* Timetable search ("in English, but station names of course in Polish")
* PKP information: "+48 22" 9436, international information "+48 22" 5116003
* PKP Intercity serves express connections ("tickets can be bought online" but you"d need to carry the ticket printout with you on the train)
* Przewozy Regionalne tickets for RE and IR only polish version.
* Polrail Service offers a guide to rail travel in Poland and online purchase of tickets and rail passes for Polish and international trains to neighboring countries.

Travellers under 26 years of age are entitled to 26% discount on travel fare on Intercity"s TLK, EX and ICcategory trains, excluding the price of seat reservation.

In some IC trains (but not on main routes to Warsaw) you can buy cheap "Last Minute" ticket (30 min. before departure time). Prices from 13 PLN. There are also Super Bilet limited tickets pricess from 59PLN.

By bus

Poland has a very well developed network of private charter bus companies, which tend to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than travel by rail. For trips under 100km, charter buses are far more popular than trains. However, they are more difficult to use for foreigners, because they are definitely oriented towards locals.

There is an online timetable available. It available in English and includes bus and train options so you can compare:

Each city and town has a central bus station (formerly known as "PKS"), where the various bus routes pick up passengers; you can find their schedules there. Tickets are usually purchased directly from the driver, but sometimes it"s also possible to buy them at the station.

Buses are also a viable choice for longdistance and international travel; however, be aware that longdistance schedules are usually more limited than for trains.

By car

Speed limits in Poland

Driving in Poland may be stressful and timeconsuming, due to the poor quality of roads, lack of motorways and the driving style of the locals. Polish road network contains fewer highways and more ordinary twolane roads than is common in western countries. A lot of these roads are far below capacity for the volume of traffic they are carrying and the average quality of the road surface is poor.

As a rule of thumb, assume 2h for each 100km of travel (allowing for unexpected delays). Due to lack of motor ways you will be passing through lots of smaller and bigger towns and often big cities which will significantly slow you down. When travelling between smaller cities or towns you will also routinely encounter slow moving vehicles, such as farm vehicles and tractors, and sometimes bicycles. Drunks, on foot or on bicycles, are a common sight. This includes having them weave through fast moving traffic.

Polish road death statistics are high for European standards and driver behaviour is sometimes very poor in terms of impatience, rudeness and absence of ordinary common sense or foresight. "Dynamic driving style" is expected. In practice this means that Poles often drive aggressively, push in, "meander" through surrounding cars, routinely disrespect speed limits (frequently by a large margin) and overtake at lessthansafe distances. Overtaking is a critical and potentially dangerous manoeuvre that is commonly done in a hazardous way in Poland. In larger traffic it"s common to overtake "on three" meaning that at some point during the manoeuvre there will be three cars (the overtaken, the overtaking, and the vehicle approaching from the opposite direction) next to each other side to side (or close to that). An unwritten code is followed to make this possible and "safe". The driver that is driving behind a slower vehicle and preparing to overtake expects that the slower vehicle will move to the right as far as feels comfortable also using the halflane if it is separated with a dashed line and completely sure to be free of bicycles or pedestrians. This is considered a polite thing to do, not obligatory. The vehicle approaching from the opposite direction is advised or sometimes forced to also slightly move to the side. "Such style of overtaking is illegal and unsafe. The above information is intended to explain the reality on the ground and help understand the traffic." Particularly reckless drivers will attempt to overtake "on four", when overtaking in both directions is taking place in roughly the same space.

If you leave a safety gap in front of your car, it will be filled by another driver as he is trying to push through the traffic.

Poles work long hours so peak time in major cities frequently last till after 8pm. Roadworks are common as many new road developments are under way and roads require frequent maintenance due to damage inflicted by winter conditions and as the roads are often built to subpar quality to start with. Drivers in Warsaw are particularly aggressive with taxi drivers setting the tone.

Parking in cities and towns is often allowed on sidewalks, unless of course there is a no parking sign. There is usually no provision for parking on the tarsealed part of the street so do not leave your car parked at the curb, unless it is clearly a parking bay. Parking meters in cities and even smaller towns are widely used.

Some peculiarities of driving in Poland include:

* Speed limits are: "50km/h" in city ("60 km/h" 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.), "90 km/h" outside city, "100 km/h " if lanes are separated, "100 km/h" on single carriage way caronly roads ("white car on the blue" sign), "120 km/h" on dual carriageway caronly roads, and "140 km/h" on motorways / freeways ("autostrada").
* Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence. BAC limits are: up to "0.02%" not prosecuted by law, up to "0.05%" an offence, above "0.05%" "criminal offence" (up to 2 years in jail). "Despite the strict laws, DUI"s are a serious problem in Poland, not least as there is ample anecdotal evidence of police officers accepting bribes instead of handing out traffic offence notices. Be especially careful during (and after) national holidays and late night on weekends on the small roads in the countryside as drivers commonly take to the road inebriated."
* There is no right turn at a red light. Exception is when there is green arrow signal in which case you still have to come to a complete stop and yield to pedestrians and cross traffic (although the stop rule is seldom respected by Polish drivers). All above does not apply if right turning traffic has "separate" (redyellowgreen) signals.
* At a "Tcrossing" or crossroads without traffic signs traffic at the right has rightofway unless your road is a priority route, shown by a road sign displaying a yellow diamond with a white or a yellow sign with a black of the crossing with the priority flow in bold. This can be very confusing so keep your eyes open as this isn"t always clear from the structure of the crossing (ie. the lower quality, narrower and slower road coming in from the left may have right of way.)
* Driving with dipped lights on is obligatory at all times.
* A warning triangle is a mandatory part of a car"s equipment and needs to be displayed some distance back from any accident or when, eg. changing a tire.

Roads marked "droga szybkiego ruchu" (rapid transit road) are frequently anything but that. The rule of going through towns and not around them still applies and speed limits change rapidly from the allowable 90 kmh to 70, down to 40 and then up again to 70 within only a few hundreds of metres. Speed cameras (in unmarked dark gray polemounted boxes) are common (and the income from those goes to the local council.) Radarequipped traffic police are also frequent but that apparently does little to deter the speeding drivers. In recent years there has been a resurgence in CB radio popularity. The drivers use it to warn each other about the traffic police.

Some drivers flash their headlights to warn those approaching from the opposite direction of a police control nearby (you are likely to encounter this custom in many other countries). It may also mean that you need to turn your lights on since dipped headlights need to be on at all times while driving. A "thank you" between drivers can be expressed by waving your hand or, when the distance is too great, by turning on blinkers or hazard lights for one or two blinks.

Hazard lights can be used to indicate failures but also as a way of showing that the vehicle is rapidly slowing down, or already stopped in a traffic jam on a highway.

A recent plague of flashing LED advertising hoardings has been spreading along Polish roads. As well as adding to the already high level visual pollution these have a more immediate effect of distracting drivers during the day and blinding them at night as advertisers leave output levels set at "high". Poland has no legislation to prevent this from happening, and the hoardings are placed at or only slightly above the line of sight. This, added to the condition of the roads and the behaviour of the locals, makes driving on rainy nights additionally difficult.

At the gas stations PB means unleaded gasoline and ON means diesel. Petrol and diesel are roughly the same price. LPG is widely available, both at "branded" gas stations and independent distributors and is less than half the price of petrol. Credit cards or debit cards can be used to pay at branded stations, less frequently so at independent distributors.

In Autumn or in Spring it is common for small traders to set up their stands with blueberries, strawberries, wild blueberries, or wild mushrooms along the roads. They don"t always stay in places where it"s safe for cars to stop and you should be careful of drivers stopping abruptly and be watchful if you want to stop yourself. Wild mushrooms are a speciality if you know how to cook them. A cautionary note: There is a slight possibility that the people who picked the mushrooms are not very good at telling the good ones from the poisonous, so eat at your own responsibility. Never feed wild mushrooms to small children as they are particularly vulnerable. Rely on the judgement of your Polish friends if you consider them reasonable people.

By taxi

Use only those that are associated in a "corporation" (look for phone number and a logo on the side and on the top). There are no British style minicabs in Poland. Unaffiliated drivers are likely to cheat and charge you much more. Be especially wary of these taxis near international airports and train stations (but then, shouldn"t one be wary of them everywhere?). They are called the "taxi mafia".

Because of travellers advice like this (and word of mouth), taxis with "fake" phone numbers can be seen on the streets, although recently this seems to have decreased possibly the police have taken notice. Fake phone numbers are easily detected by locals and cater for the unsuspecting traveller. The best advice is to ask your Polish friends or your hotel concierge for the number of the taxi company they use and call them 1015 minutes in advance (there"s no additional cost). That"s why locals will only hail taxis on the street in an emergency.

You can also find phone numbers for taxis in any city on the Internet, on municipal and newspaper websites. Some taxi companies, particularly in larger towns provide for a cab to be ordered online or with a text message. There are also stands, where you can call for their particular taxi for free, often found at train stations.

If you negotiate the fare with the driver you risk ending up paying more than you should. Better make sure that the driver turns the meter on and sets it to the appropriate fare ("taryfa"):
* "Taryfa" 1: Daytime within city limits
* "Taryfa" 2: Nights, Sundays and holidays within city limits
* "Taryfa" 3: Daytime outside city limits
* "Taryfa" 4: Nights, Sundays and holidays outside city limits

The prices would vary slightly between the taxi companies and between different cities, and there is a small fixed starting fee added on top of the mileage fare.

When crossing city limits (for example, when traveling to an airport located outside the city), the driver should change the tariff at the city limit.

Every taxi driver is obliged to issue a receipt when asked (at the end of the ride). You can inquire driver about a receipt ("rachunek") before you get into cab, and resign if his reaction seems suspicious or if he refuses.

By bicycle

Bicycling is a good method to get a good impression of the scenery in Poland. The roads can sometimes be in quite a bad state and there is usually no hard shoulder or bicycle lane. Car drivers are careless but most do not necessarily want to kill cyclists on sight which seems to be the case in some other countries.

Rainwater drainage of both city streets is usually in dreadful condition and in the country it is simply nonexistent. This means that puddles are huge and common, plus potholes make them doubly hazardous.

Especially in the south you can find some nice places for bicycling; e.g. along the rivers Dunajec (from Zakopane to Szczawnica) or Poprad (Krynica to Stary Sacz) or Lower Silesia (Zlotoryja Swierzawa Jawor).
Specially mapped bike routes are starting to appear and there are specialised guide books available so ask a bicycle club for help and you should be just fine. Away from roads which join major cities and large towns you should be able to find some great riding and staying at "agroturystyka" (room with board at a farmer"s house, for example) can be a great experience.

By thumb

Hitchhiking in Poland is (on average) OK. Yes, it"s slower than its Western (Germany) and Eastern (Lithuania) neighbors, but your waiting times will be quite acceptable!

Use a cardboard sign and write the desired destination city name on it.

Do not try to catch a lift where it is forbidden to stop. Look on the verge of the road and there should be a dashed line painted there, not a solid one.

As in any country, you should be careful, there are several reports of Polish hitchhiking trips gone awry, so take basic precautions and you should be as right as rain.

The official language of Poland is "Polish".

Foreign visitors should be aware that virtually all official information will usually be in Polish only. Street signs, directions, information signs, etc. are routinely only in Polish, as are schedules and announcements at train and bus stations (airports and a few major train stations seem to be an exception to this). When it comes to information signs in museums, churches, etc., signs in multiple languages are typically found only in popular tourist destinations.

Most of the young people and teenagers know English well enough. Since English is taught from a very young age (some start as early as 4 years old), only Poles who grow up in isolated towns or communities will not be given English lessons. Older Poles, however, especially those outside the main cities, will speak little or no English at all. However, it is highly possible that they speak either French, German or Russian, taught in schools as the main foreign languages until the 1990s. However unless you have no other choice, Russian should be avoided because of the historical conotations.

Russian, with many similarities to Polish has now largely been abandoned, but German is still taught in many schools throughout the country, and is especially popular in the Western districts. Ukrainian also has many similarities to Polish.

A few phrases go a long way in Poland. Contrary to some other tourist destinations, where natives scoff at how bad a foreigner"s use of the native language is, Polish people generally love the few foreigners who learn Polish or at least try to, even if it is only a few phrases. Younger Poles will also jump at the chance to practice their English. Be advised that if you are heard speaking English in a public setting outside of the main cities and tourist areas you may be stared at; people may also listen in to practice their understanding of English.

Do your homework and try to learn how to pronounce the names of places. Polish has a very regular pronunciation, so this should be no problem. Although there are a few sounds unknown to most English speakers, mastering every phoneme is not required to achieve intelligibility; catching the spirit is more important.

Poland"s recent history has made it a very homogenous society today, in stark contrast to its long history of ethnoreligious diversity; almost 99% of the population today is ethnic Polish; before World War II, it was only 69% with large minorities, mainly Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Germans and less than twothirds Roman Catholic with large Orthodox and Protestant minorities as well.

Poland also had the largest Jewish community in Europe: estimated variously at 10% to 30% of Poland"s population at the time. Outside of the very touristy areas of the major cities, you"ll find that there are few, if any, foreigners. Most of the immigrants in Poland (in the main Ukrainians and Vietnamese) stay in the major cities for work. Poland"s small group of contemporary ethnic minorities, Germans, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Silesians and Kashubians all speak Polish and few regional dialects remain except in the south and in small patches of the Baltic coast.

* There are Polish language schools in 艁ód藕, Kraków, Wroc艂aw, Sopot and Warsaw.




Studying in Poland can be an incredible experience for foreigners. Foreign students can finance a B.A. education for as low as 24,000 z艂 and a M.A. education for as low as 20,000 z艂.

There are many international schools and great universities in Poland and of them the "Jagiellonian University" in particular is renowned as member of the "Coimbra Group" and is also a core member of the "Europaeum". The "University of Warsaw" is the top ranked public university in Poland. "National Film School" in 艁ód藕 is the most notable academy.

Private universities are a recent invention, but have been successful enough where several private schools are competing with the major public universities in terms of quality. Private schools may actually be cheaper for foreign students, who are not entitled to a free education at one of Poland"s public universities.


At the moment Poland is one of the best places around the world to find a job as an English teacher. TEFL courses (that"s Teaching English as a Foreign Language) are run in many cities across Poland. The demand for TEFL teachers is enormous and teaching language is a brilliant way to fund your travel and earn as you go.

Even if you don"t have a working visa or Polish citizenship, it should be no problem for you to offer private lessons. The going rate is about 30z艂 for conversation or lessons. Doing these private lessons is a great way to make some money and meet some Englishspeaking educated, interesting poles at the same time. In general students, private and in classes, are very friendly toward their teachers, inviting them for dinner or drinks, and sometimes acting quite emotional during their last lesson. Post your services on telephone poles and bus stops with an email or phone number, or use Gumtree, Poland"s version of Craigslist.

Useful for finding students, and everything else, including accomodations, used cars, pets, Polish tutors, etc.

Good to make a profile if looking for longer term teaching gigs. More formal than Gumtree, and used by serious employers. A little bit like in the US.


Polish 100 z艂 banknote


The legal tender in Poland is the "Polish z艂oty" ("z艂," international abbreviation: "PLN"). The "z艂oty" divides into 100 "grosze". Poland is expected to adopt the "Euro (€)" sometime after 2014, but those plans are still tentative.

Private currency exchange offices (Polish: "kantor") are very common, and offer Euro or USD exchanges at rates that are usually comparable to commercial banks. Be aware that exchanges in tourist hotspots, such as the train stations or popular tourist destinations, tend to overcharge. Avoid Orange Kantor. It is easily recognize by its orange color. The rates they offer are very bad.

There is also an extensive network of cash machines or ATMs (Polish: "bankomat"). The exchange rate will depend on your particular bank, but usually ends up being pretty favorable, and comparable to reasonably good exchange offices, but you will probably find very high "service fees" in your bank statement when you get home.

Credit cards can be used to pay almost everywhere in the big cities. Popular cards include "Visa", "Visa Electron", "MasterCard" and "Maestro". "AmEx" and "Diners" Club" can be used in a few places (notably the big, businessclass hotels) but are not popular and you should not rely on them for any payments.

Cheques were never particularly popular in Poland and they are not used nowadays. Local banks do not issue cheque books to customers and stores do not accept them.


It is illegal to export goods older than 55 years that are of ANY historic value. If you intend to do so you need to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage .


Super and hypermarkets

Hypermarkets are dominated by western chains: Carrefour, Tesco, Auchan, Real.
Usually located in shopping malls or suburbs.

However Poles shop very often at local small stores for bread,
meat, fresh dairy, vegetables and fruits goods for which freshness and quality is essential.

Prices in Poland are some of the cheapest in Europe.

Town markets

Many towns, and larger suburbs, hold traditional weekly markets, similar to farmers" markets popular in the West. Fresh produce, baker"s goods, dairy, meat and meat products are sold, along with everything from flowers and garden plants to Chinesemade clothing and bricabrac. In season wild mushrooms and forest fruit can also be bought. Markets are held on Thursdays / Fridays and/or Saturdays and are a great way to enjoy the local colour. Prices are usually set though you can try a little goodnatured bargaining if you buy more than a few items.


Poles take their meals following the standard continental schedule: a light breakfast in the morning (usually some sandwiches with tea/coffee), then a larger lunch (or traditionally a "dinner") at around 1PM or 2PM, then a supper at around 7PM.

It is not difficult to avoid meat, with many restaurants offering at least one vegetarian dish. Most major cities have some exclusively vegetarian restaurants, especially near the city center. Vegan options remain extremely limited, however.

Traditional Local Food

Traditional Polish cuisine tends to be hearty, rich in meats, sauces, and vegetables; sides of pickled vegetables are a favorite accompaniment. Modern Polish cuisine, however, tends towards greater variety, and focuses on healthy choices. In general, the quality of "storebought" food is very high, especially in dairy products, baked goods, vegetables and meat products.

A dinner commonly includes the first course of soup, followed by the main course. Among soups, "barszcz czerwony" (red beet soup, a.k.a. borsch) is perhaps the most recognizable: a spicy and slightly sour soup, served hot. It"s commonly poured over dumplings ("barszcz z uszkami" or "barszcz z pierogami"), or served with a fried pate roll ("barszcz z pasztecikiem"). Other uncommon soups include "zupa ogórkowa", a cucumber soup made of a mix of fresh and pickled cucumbers; "zupa grzybowa", typically made with wild mushrooms; also, "flaki" or "flaczki" wellseasoned tripe.

"Pierogi" are, of course, an immediately recognizable Polish dish. They are often served along side another dish (for example, with barszcz), rather than as the main course. There are several types of them, stuffed with a mix of cottage cheese and onion, or with meat or even wild forest fruits. "Go艂膮bki" are also widely known: they are large cabbage rolls stuffed with a mix of grains and meats, steamed or boiled and served hot with a white sauce or tomato sauce.

"Bigos" is another unique, if less wellknown, Polish dish: a "hunter"s stew" that includes various meats and vegetables, on a base of pickled cabbage. Bigos tends to be very thick and hearty. Similar ingredients can also be thinned out and served in the form of a cabbage soup, called "kapu艣niak". Some AustroHungarian imports have also become popular over the years, and adopted by the Polish cuisine. These include "gulasz", a local version of goulash that"s less spicy than the original, and "sznycel po wiede艅sku", which is a traditional shnitzel, often served with potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

When it comes to foodonthego, foreign imports tend to dominate (such as kebab or pizza stands, and fastfood franchises). An interesting Polish twist is a "zapiekanka", which is an openfaced baguette, covered with mushroooms and cheese (or other toppings of choice), and toasted until the cheese melts. "Zapiekanki" can be found at numerous roadside stands and bars.

Poland is also known for two unique cheeses, both made by hand in the mountain region in the south. "Oscypek" is the more famous: a hard, salty cheese, made of unpasteurized sheep milk, and smoked. It goes very well with alcoholic beverages such as beer. The less common is "bryndza", a soft cheese, also made with sheep milk (and therefore salty), with a consistency similar to spreadable cheeses. It"s usually served on bread, or baked potatoes. Both cheeses are covered by the EU Protected Designation of Origin (like the French Roquefort, or the Italian ParmegianoReggiano).

Milk bars
If you want to eat cheaply, you should visit a milk bar ("bar mleczny"). A milk bar is very basic sort of fast food restaurant that serves cheap Polish fare. Nowadays it has become harder and harder to find one. It was invented by the communist authorities of Poland in mid1960s as a means to offer cheap meals to people working in companies that had no official canteen. Its name originates from the fact that until late 1980s the meals served there were mostly dairymade and vegetarian (especially during the martial law period of the beginning of the 1980s, when meat was rationed). The milk bars are usually subsidized by the state. Eating there is a unique experience it is not uncommon that you will encounter people from various social classes students, businessmen, university professors, elderly people, sometimes even homeless, all eating sidebyside in a 1970slike environment. Presumably, it is the quality of food at absolutely unbeatable price (veggie main courses starting from just a few z艂otych!) that attracts people. However, a cautionary warning needs to be issued complete nut jobs do dine at milk bars too, so even if you"re going to for the food, you"ll end up with dinner and a show. Curious as to what the show will entail? Well, each show varies, but most of them will leave you scratching head and require the suspension of reality.


Poland is on the border of European "vodka" and "beer culture". Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks but they drink less than the European average. You can buy beer, vodka and wine. Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead. Polish liqueurs and "nalewka" (alcoholic tincture) are a must.

Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and be able to prove it with a valid ID (which is strictly enforced).


Poland"s brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages. Today Poland is one of top beer countries in Europe.

Although not well known internationally, Poland traditionally sports some of the best pilsnertype lagers worldwide. The most common brands include:

* Lech (pronounced "LEH")
* 呕ywiec (pronounced "ZHIVyets")
* Tyskie (pronounced "TISkee")
* Okocim (pronounced "ohKOcheem")
* Warka (pronounced "VARkah")
* 艁om偶a (pronounced "Uomzha")
* Tatra


* "呕ubrówka" (ZhooBROOFka) vodka with flavors derived from Bison Grass, from eastern Poland.
* "呕o艂膮dkowa Gorzka" (ZhowontKOva GOSHka) vodka with "bitter" ("gorzka") in the name, but sweet in taste. Just like 呕ubrówka, it"s an unique Polish product and definitely a musttry.
* "Wi艣niówka" (VishNIOOFka) Cherry vodka (very sweet).
* "Krupnik" (KROOPnik) Honey and spices vodka, a traditional PolishLithuanian recipe (very sweet). During winter, many bars sell "Grzany Krupnik" (warm Krupnik), where hot water, cinnamon, cloves, and citrus zest or slices are added.
* "呕ytnia" (ZHITnea) rye vodka
* "Wyborowa" (ViboROva) One of Poland"s most popular rye vodkas. This is also one of the most common exported brands. Strong and pleasant.
* "Bia艂a Dama" (BeAHwa DAHma) is not actually a vodka but a name given by winos to cheap rectified spirits of dubious origin, best avoided if you like your eyesight the way it is.
* "Luksusowa" (LooksusOHvah) "Luxurious" Another popular brand, and a common export along with Wyborowa.

Deluxe (more expensive) brands include "Chopin" and "Belvedere". Expect to pay about 100 z艂oty a bottle (2007 prices). Most Poles consider these brands to be "export brands", and usually don"t drink them.

* "Starka" "Old" A vodka traditionally aged for years in oak casks. Of Lithuanian origin.


Poland does make a few quality wines around Zielona Góra in Dolno艣l膮skie, Ma艂opolskie and Podkarpackie in the Beskids with the most famous Polish wineyard in of the Dionisos of Jas艂o ( website only in Polish) and 艢wi臋tokrzyskie in central Poland. They used to be only available from the manufacturer or at wine festivals, like in Zielona Góra. But with a new law passed in 2008, this has changed and Polish wines will also be available in retail starting in 2009.

As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from central and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans, and Georgia.

It the winter time, many Poles drink "grzaniec" (mulled wine), made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the most popular method.


Mead "Miód Pitny" is a traditional and historical alcohol drink in Poland. Mead is brewed from honey and has excellent unusual taste similar to wine. Original Polish mead contain 1320% alcohol. Sometimes it can be very sweet. Today Poles have a strange relationship with mead. All of them have heard of it, almost none have ever tried it.


Poles are very keen on beer and vodka, and you"ll find that cocktails are often expensive but can be found in most bars in most major cities.

Tea and coffee
Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not "wódka" or beer, but rather tea and coffee.

When ordering a coffee, you"ll find that it is treated with respect reminiscent of Vienna, rather than, say, New York. Which is to say: you"ll get a fresh cup prepared one serving at a time, with table service that assumes you"ll sit down for a while to enjoy it. Massproduced togo coffee remains highly unpopular, although chains such as "Coffee Heaven" have been making inroads. Curiously, there are still only a few Starbucks shops in the whole country.

Ordering a tea, on the other hand, will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that the customer can put together a tea that"s as strong or as weak as they like. This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors. Tea houses with large selection of good quality teas and a relaxing atmosphere are gaining popularity.

For the most part, a good coffee can be had for 5 10 z艂 a cup, while a cup of tea can be purchased for the same, unless you happen to order a small kettle, in which case you"ll probably pay something between 20 30 z艂.


Drinking water with a meal is not a Polish tradition; having a tea or coffee afterwards is much more common. If you want water with a meal, you might need to ask for it and you will usually get a choice of carbonated ("gazowana") or still ("niegazowana") bottled water, rather than a glass of tap water. As a result water is never free, and is pretty expensive too compared to the average price of a meal (about 4zl for one glass). Beware that even "still" bottled water, while not visibly bubbly, will still contain some carbon dioxide.

Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available. Poland was known for its mineral water health spas ("pijalnie wód") in the 19th century, and the tradition remains strong you can find many carbonated waters that are naturally rich in minerals and salts. You can also travel to the spas such as Szczawnica or Krynica, which are still operational.

Opinions regarding the safety of tap water vary: odds are it"s OK, but most residents opt to boil or filter it anyway. Water in Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw and the rest of Silesia has a particularly poor reputation. Residents of those cities sometimes opt to buy bottled water to use for making tea or coffee because of poor taste of the tap water.


Lodging prices are no longer the bargain they used to be several years ago; now they"re comparable to standard European prices. For the bargain hunter, standard tactics apply: if hotel prices are too much, look on the Internet for private rooms, pensions, or apartments for rent, which can sometimes be found for a very reasonable price. Best deals are usually offered offseason.

Hostels affiliated with the national hostelling association are often horrid options for backpackers because of imposed curfews. Additionally, Hostelling International (HI) affiliated hostels are frequently used by large school groups, which means young children may very well be screaming their heads off and running around the halls. Some private Hostels are clean and welcoming, but others can be even more dangerous than HI hostels.

Stay safe

The European "unified emergency number 112" is being deployed in Poland. By now, it certainly works for all mobilephone calls and most landline calls. There are also three "old" emergency numbers that are still in use. These are:

* Ambulance: 999 ("Pogotowie, "dziewi臋膰dziewi臋膰dziewi臋膰"")
* Firefighters: 998 ("Stra偶 po偶arna, "dziewi臋膰dziewi臋膰osiem"")
* Police: 997 ("Policja, "dziewi臋膰dziewi臋膰siedem"")
* City guards: 986 ("Stra偶 Miejska, "dziewi臋膰osiemsze艣膰"") it is a kind of auxilary Police force found only in large cities.


Poland is overall a fairly safe country. In general, just use common sense and be aware of what you"re doing.

In cities, follow standard city travel rules: don"t leave valuables in the car in plain sight; don"t display money or expensive things needlessly; know where you"re going; be suspicious of strangers asking for money or trying to sell you something.

Pickpockets operate, pay attention to your belongings in crowds, at stations, in crowded trains/buses, and clubs.

LGBT issues remain very controversial, still very much taboo (although decreasingly so), and routinely exploited by conservative politicians. Polish culture also has a long tradition of chivalry and strong, traditional gender roles. That said, in larger cosmopolitan areas, gays and lesbians shouldn"t have a hard time fitting in, although trans visitors will immediately attract attention.

Driving Conditions
Poles are extremely reckless drivers, and even at night time, driving can be extremely dangerous. Drivers attack their act with a mix of both aggressiveness and incompetence. Guidelines and Lax, in practice are rarely followed. Roads are of varying quality, from very narrow, to very good, but traffic density is usually very high. Due to this, add 1/3 to half time to your usual average travel time. Quality of surface is usually (ca. 70%) "good" or "satisfactory". However, even national roads are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Petrol stations are virtually nonexistant in rural areas, and so if you are planning to drive to the rural areas, have your tank filled.

Children younger than 12 years old and who are shorter than 150 cm (4’11”) must ride in a child car seat. You must use headlights year round, at all times, day and night. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited except for handsfree models.

Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are extremely severe.

Some men, particularly older men, may kiss a woman"s hand when greeting or saying goodbye. Kissing a woman"s hand is considered to be chivalrous by some, but is more and more often seen as outdated. Handshakes are acceptable; however, it is very important to remember that men should not offer their hand to a woman a handshake is only considered polite if the woman offers her hand to the man first. For a more heartfelt greeting or goodbye, close friends of opposite sex or two women will hug and kiss three times, alternating cheeks.

A fairly common practice is for people to greet each other with a "dzie艅 dobry" (good day) when entering elevators, or at the very least, saying "do widzenia" (good bye) when exiting the elevator.

It is usual to bring a gift when invited to someone"s home. Flowers are always a good choice. Florists" kiosks are ubiquitous; be sure to get an odd number of flowers, as an even number is associated with funerals. Poles will often bring vodka or whisky, but this depends on the level of familiarity, so tread carefully.

It is customary to hold doors and chairs for women. Poles are generally oldfashioned about gender etiquette.

Men should not wear hats indoors, in particular when entering a church. Most restaurants, museums, and other public buildings have a cloakroom, and people are expected to leave bags and outerwear there.

The practice of placing one foot on a chair while reading or studying something is very much frowned upon.

It is advisable to refer to Poland (as well as to some other countries like Czech Republic, Slovakia, or Hungary) as Central Europe, and not Eastern Europe. Although not very offensive, if used, it may reflect foreigners" ignorance and certain disrespect on the history and clearly Latin cultural heritage of the countries from the region. Poles themselves refer to the "old" EU west of its borders as "Zachód" (West) and to the states created after the breakup of the USSR as "Wschód" (East). Geographically this is borne out by drawing a line from the tip of Norway to Greece and from the Urals to the coast of Portugal. For better or worse, Poland remains at the crossroads of Europe, right in the continent"s center. In global terms, politically, culturally and historically, Poland belongs to "the West".

An another small faux pas involves confusing Polish language with Russian or German. Poles value their language highly as it was kept at a high price during a longer period of oppressive depolonisation during the partitions and WWII. For example this means not saying "spasiba" or "danke" for "thank you" just because you thought it was Polish or you didn"t care. If you"re not sure if your "Polish" words are indeed Polish or not it would be seen as extra polite to ask.

The Holocaust

The Holocaust, as many historians note, is the genocide of European Jewry. However, it"s also a particularly painful time for Poland. Among the victims, 3 million were Polish Jews. Additionally, over 3 million Polish Catholics were also murdered, mostly by the Germans. Many other members of minority groups, intelligentsia, and political philosophies were murdered. Between the census of 1938 and the census of 1946, the population of Poland had been reduced by over 30% from 35 million to 23 million.

Landline phones
There is the "de facto" monopoly operator for landline phones "TP" (Polish: "Telekomunikacja Polska"), a subsidiary of France Telecom, renowned for its leavingmuchtobedesired services. There is also a number of smaller, often regional operators (Dialog, Netia, NOM, Energis). They are mainly serving the business market.

Mobile phones
There are four mobile phone operators in Poland: Plus ("code 260 01"), TMobile (formerly ERA) ("260 02"), Orange ("260 03") and Play . The last one is mainly using Plus GSM coverage network. About 98% of the country"s surface is covered by the standard European GSM 900/1800 MHz network, the remaining 2% are wildlife reserves or high mountains. UMTS is available in in about 50% of the country. Due to the introduction of virtual brands, some operators now have two names for their prepaid services: Plus has "Sami Swoi" and "Simplus", TMobile has "Heyah" and "Tak Tak", while Orange operates "Pop" and "Orange Go". Domestic call rates are roughly the same across all services. International call rates (at least within Europe) are the lowest in Heyah.
Prepaid starter kits with SIM card (called starter in polish) are widely available in resonable prices(from 5 to 20 pn, of witch most is available for calls), in many shops(like,for example, Zabka and most malls). Ask for starter and be sure to name the network You want. Accounts are valid for outgoing calls for few days, so it is good to fill them up for, lets say, 20 pln (dowadowanie in polish, be sure to give the value you want).

Polish telephone numbers
All telephone numbers in Poland are 9 digits long, and never start with "0" althugh they used to do so. Sometimes numbers are written "the old way", that is often only the last 7 digits are listed, in which case you need to prefix the now obligatory area code (eg. 22 Warsaw, 61 Poznan, 12 Krakow) OR a "0" is included in the beginning, in which case it must be skipped. As of yet, it does not matter whether you call from a landline or a mobile.

There are some special numbers, notably:
* "800 xxxxxx" tollfree call from a landline phone and from a phone booth, but may still cost something from a mobile phone
* "801 xxxxxx" reduced fare, costs as much as a local call from a landline phone at most (but will cost more from a mobile phone)
* "70x xxxxxx" premium fare, can be very expensive read the fine print in that advert you"ve got the number from :) On the other hand, cheap international calls can often be made through special numbers beginning with 708.

Also, texting (= sending SMSes) to:
* "7xxx" Premium SMS, 2nd digit is cost in Zloty plus 23% tax, eg 72xx costs 2.46z艂, 70xx is less than one Zloty.
* "7xxxx" can cost quite much (again, read the small print)
* "8xxx" is tollfree

When calling overseas, use "00", or "+", and then country code.

International calls

To call abroad from Poland:
* From a landline phone: "00" "Your Country Code" The Number Abroad
* From a mobile phone: "+" "Your Country Code" The Number Abroad

To call to Poland from abroad, dial the Polish country code,"48", then the number "without" the leading "0", as if calling from a domestic mobile phone.

International and roaming calls are expensive. To reduce your bill you can:
* buy "phone cards" for international calls
* activate a Polish prepaid account to make or receive calls (the cost can be as little as 20 z艂)
* talk over the Internet

If you"re bringing a laptop, Wireless LAN HotSpots are available in distinct places, sometimes free, otherwise not very cheap. Best chances of finding one are at airports, railway stations, in cafés, shopping malls and universities. You can ask in your hotel, but be prepared to pay. For those who need to connect at an internet cafe, fear not, because Poland"s major cities have internet cafes.

With your mobile phone you can use: CSD, HSCSD, GPRS or EDGE, but the cost may be unattractive. UMTS/HSPA is available in almost every big and midsize cities. If your phone is not SIMlocked, you may consider purchasing a prepaid SIM card designed for data access. Every mobile operator offering his own prepaid internet offer. You may purchase Era Blueconnect Starter, iPlus Simdata, Orange Free na kart臋 or Play Online na kart臋. Internet service from Era, Plus and Orange covers all country area with GPRS/EDGE technology. In almost every big, medium and some small size cities it"s possible to recive 3G/3.5G signal.

* "Era" Blueconnect Starter cost: 25 PLN 83MB data included 0,30 PLN / 1MB

* "Plus" iPlus simdata cost: 20 PLN 67MB data included 0,30 PLN / 1MB

* "Orange" Orange free na kart臋 cost: 20 PLN 65MB data included 0,30 PLN / 1MB

* "Play" Play Online na kart臋 cost: 19 PLN 1GB data included NOTE: Play network NOT cover all country. You can use internet service only in cities listed on this map . Despite this, voice services are still available in whole country. Play Internet is only 3G capable. It means, that you need modem or phone that supports 3G technology. Play also limits speed of his internet up to 1Mb/s to provide satisfactory speed connestion for reasonable price.
You can refill your Play account with 30 or 50 PLN
* Topup for 30 PLN 2GB data traffic valid for 28 days
* Topup for 50 PLN 4GB data traffic valid for 56 days
You can also consider buying a wireless 3G modem from Play
* Starter kit with HSDPA modem + 1GB data traffic valid for 14 days costs 269 PLN
* Starter kit with HSDPA modem + 31GB data traffic valid for 365 days costs 499 PLN

If you want to communicate with Poles, you"ll need two programs GaduGadu , a Polish language instant messenger program, or Skype . GaduGadu will be difficult to use for nonPolish speaking people, but alternatives such as Adium (Mac OSX), Kadu (Mac OSX/Linux), and Pidgin (Linux, Windows), all of which can be used in English, can be helpful.

Euro 2012


* Be aware that in Poland the comma is used as decimal point, and the space to group numbers. "eg. "10 500,46 z艂" is ten thousand five hundred zlotych and 46 groszy". Occasionally a dot is also used as grouping character.

* It is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public, though it"s often done by the locals, especially in parks, on some buses, and some of the more congested city streets. Doing it puts you at risk of a small fine(from 50 to 100 zlotych) and being scoffed at by the City Guards. And losing your booze.

* It is illegal to be drunk in public, if you behave in bad way you may be taken to special place(izba wytrzezwien) to sober up... but it is not very interesting place to be in you will be treated as alcoholic and wont be left until sober. And you must pay 250 zlotys for it.


Most public toilets have turned to payperuse schemes; expect to pay 1 2 z艂 to use a public restroom, eg. at a bus station or at a fastfood place.

Toilets for women are marked with a circle on the door, and toilets for men are marked with a triangle.

All restaurants and bars are forced by law to have toilets inside ("but not all comply"). It"s "not" a common practice to use their toilet without ordering (at least coffee), but if you ask a waiter, he wouldn"t mind in most cases. Sometimes you have to get a key to the toilet at the counter. If there seems to be a lack of public toilets you may want to try to visit McDonald"s (or another fast food place) just to use the toilet.

In case of larger events, organizers provide so called "toitoi" toilets (from one of companies that service them). They are narrow plastic booths, usually blue, not very comfortable, often not very clean, and hardly ever with water or paper.




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