Thinking of traveling to Poland sometime soon?
Poland has a lot to offer, from busy cities to beautiful forests to sunny beaches on the Baltic Sea. However, just as there are plenty of amazing things to do and see, there are also plenty of things to know before going to Poland.
Here are our top Poland travel tips to know before you go:
1. Know What to See In Poland
Many people simply visit Krakow or Warsaw, and maybe Gdańsk, when they visit Poland. While these are great cities (I live in Warsaw, myself), Poland has so much more to see.
There’s Wrocław, Jelenia Góra, Lublin, Kielce, and Poznań. The Wieliczka Salt Mine, Malbork Castle, the Masurian Lakes, the Tatra Mountains, and Białowieża National Park. And so much more!
Read Further: 15+ Things to Do in Poland: Best Sites to Visit, Polish Places to Go & More
2. Spend Money Wisely
Poland is one of the few countries in the European Union which uses their own currency, the złoty, rather than the euro. At the time of writing, one USD equals around 4 Polish złoty, making a nice and easy calculation on the fly.
When using your foreign credit or debit card in Poland, the machine will often give you two options: paying in Polish złoty (PLN) or in your home currency. Always choose to pay in Polish złoty, as your bank’s exchange rate will no doubt be cheaper than the one they give you there.
3. Remember It’s Closed on Sundays
Back in 2018, Poland approved a law that would ban most stores from business on Sundays. In 2018, it was 2 Sundays per month, and in 2019, it was 3 Sundays per month, to ease it into effect. Now most stores are closed on every Sunday, except for a few Sundays near important dates, such as back to school or holidays.
You will find small shops open, such as the ubiquitous Żabka convenience store and a few others. For the most part, large groceries, malls, retail stores, and other places of business are closed. You can still patronize restaurants, cafes, gas stations, pharmacies, and a few other places.
Related Read: Polish Holidays: Important Events & Days Off for Poland
4. Speak a Little Polish
Most Polish people in the bigger cities speak a bit of English, and sometimes they’ll have better English than you! However, they’ll always appreciate you trying to speak some Polish as you buy something or order a meal, likely with the thought of “oh, bless their heart for trying” or something. They all agree that their language is one of the most difficult languages in the world on any measure, so you get many points for trying.
5. Stay Safe
Generally speaking, Poland is one of the safest places to visit. General precautions, such as keeping your wallet in your front pocket, are usually all you need to follow.
However, if you are of a darker skin tone, particularly Middle Eastern-looking, you may face some discrimination, particularly in smaller towns. With the general rise of nationalism and immigrant-unfriendliness around the world, it feels easier for some people to be more open about their bigotry (not just in Poland, of course). This is even more true if you are an LGBT traveler in smaller Polish towns. Though violence is rare, just please stay safe.
6. Know How to Get Around Poland
For the most part, Poland is quite modern and European when it comes to getting from place to place. If you’re thinking of getting around the city or town you’re visiting in Poland, public transportation, such as buses, trams, and the metro (in a few cities) can easily get you just about anywhere for very cheap.
To go from city to city in Poland, it’s also quite easy. While you can take a flight from a major city to another major city, it’s usually not worth the hassle. An hour-long flight will take you three hours or more when you factor in all the airport nonsense. You can easily get from city to city by train or bus. Trains are pretty fast, especially when you consider that you are going from one city center to another (rather than from one airport to another, as airports are often located outside the city).
Related Read: Warsaw Travel Guide: What & Where to Go, See, Shop, Visit, Eat, Drink
7. Don’t Bundle Up Too Much
When I first told some people back in the States that I now live in Poland, “bundle up” was one of the Poland travel tips I heard the most. Yes, Poland does get cold in the winter, and my first winter visiting (February of 2012) was insanely so, at -30°C (-22°F). However, this was an anomaly, one of the coldest winters in all of Europe.
For the most part, you do have to bundle up in the winter, but the cold is similar to a New York or Chicago type of cold. In fact, this past winter (2019-2020), New York was way colder almost every day. In the summer, Poland can get super hot, reaching 35°C (95°F) in Warsaw, in fact.
8. Respect Polish History
The Polish people and nation have been through a lot in the past, and their history can be a sensitive subject. Between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, they had a rough time, to put it extremely mildly. One of the main Poland travel tips and things to remember is not to call Auschwitz or other concentration camps in Poland you may visit as “Polish concentration camps” – that’ll get you in trouble, perhaps even legally.
Related Read: Poland History: A Quick Timeline of Polish Historical Events
9. Try Polish Cuisine
To save money and try all the great Polish cuisine, check out the “milk bars” (bar mleczny) which you’ll find everywhere. These are really small cafeterias which serve traditional Polish foods. Some popular options are bigos (meat and cabbage stew), kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet), pierogi (dumplings), makowiec (poppy swirl cake), and zapiekanka (an open-faced baguette with toppings).
10. Take the Right Adaptor
Poland uses the standard European plug adaptors – 230 V, 50 Hz, Plug Types C / E. If you are visiting from most European countries, you shouldn’t need to change. However, some European plugs don’t have the third grounding hold, and many Polish outlets do, so you want to make sure you have it, as well.
Related Read: Plug Types: Electricity Adapter Table & Graphics of International Styles
Well, that’s all our Poland travel tips for now, and we hope they help you enjoy this great country! Got any questions, feedback, or other tips for traveling to Poland to add to our list? Let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!