POLAND TRAVEL GUIDE CONTENTS
At a Glance
Poland Quick Information
Electricity Socket: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are usually two-prong round sockets. To avoid the hassle of having to buy new adaptors for everywhere you go, we recommend picking up a Universal Travel Adaptor before you leave.
Visa: As Poland is a part of the Schengen Zone, Australian, Canadian and US nationals can travel for up to 90 days in Poland visa-free, whilst EU nationals can stay for an unlimited period of time. Citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, require visas. Otherwise, normal schengen visa requirements apply to other foreign citizens.
While there is no need to apply for a tourist or business visa for this period, if EU nationals know they will be staying longer than the 90 day period, they must register with the local authorities beforehand.
Safety:Traveling in Poland is very safe, you just have to be cautious and vigilant at appropriate times which is the same for almost any big city. Pickpocketing and scams are probably the most serious threats that you could come across but as long as you are aware of your bags when in big crowds or on public transport, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Language: Although not a native language, English is one of the most common languages that are learned and spoken in Poland. In fact, almost 37% of the population speak English as of this year (2017) and you’ll find that most of these people are the younger generation as well as people who work within the tourism industry. Obviously, as the official language is Polish, we always recommend grabbing a phrase book and give it a try as much as you can – it’s a fascinating language to try and learn!
Poland Trip Planning
Best Time to Go
Like any other country, you can visit Poland at any time of the year and have a fantastic time. However, it is worth deciding what you would like to do when you are there to then choose the BEST time for that activity.
Best Time to Go: March-May or Sep-Nov (Main cities)
Typically, the weather is similar to other parts of Europe and it can be broken down into tourist seasons:
- Low Season (Nov-Feb) – The weather is very cold in winter so the perfect time for avid skiers and anyone who wants to bustle the crowds over Christmas and New Year. Bear in mind that attractions in smaller towns may be closed in this season.
- Mid Seasons (March & April, Oct) – With cooler weather, the shoulder months are great for exploring the main cities and avoiding the crowds, however, many attractions may have shorter hours or be closed all together so check this beforehand. Easter weekend is also a popular time so expect crowds.
- High Season (May-Sep) – As the weather is all sun in June and July, tourists flock here in this season, especially at weekends and over the holidays. Just remember to also pack something just in case it rains!
Although Europe is expensive, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you get to Poland. Based on our experience, Polish accommodation, transport, food and, of course, beer is cheap. Even the branded or higher end stuff can be reasonable. When traveling around Poland, you could budget for as low as 120-150 Złoty (PLN) per day ($30- 40) with accommodation being the largest expense. This budget is lower end, taking into account staying in hostels, eating at local milk bars (bar mleczny) which are canteen style restaurants, and using public transport. For a guide to different types of travel, here is a rough break down of costs:
Budget: 25-60 PLN ($7-17)
Mid-Range: 110-250 PLN ($30-70)
Splurge: 300+ PLN ($83+)
Food (Typical Meal For One)
Milk bars: 20-40 PLN ($6-11)
Restaurant: 60-80 PLN ($14-22)
Very nice restaurant: 100+ PLN ($28+)
Tram: 5+ PLN ($1+)
Train: 45-65 PLN ($12-18)
Bus: 5-30 PLN ($1-8)
Taxi: 10+ PLN ($3+)
What to Pack for Traveling Poland
For Poland, you will need a variety of clothes to suit all weather conditions. Seriously, even in the Summer, you could come across a few rainy days and it gets especially cold if you’re spending time up in the mountains. Make sure to bring lots of things that you can layer if you’re cold but that would also be suitable to wear alone for the warmer days. For a complete guide on what to pack for Europe, check out our full article.
Best Things to Do in Poland
Get Lost Exploring the Beauty of Krakow
Being one of the big three for Polish tourism, Krakow is a city you can not miss visiting. With its charming 13th century Old Town, Krakow is full of beauty, packed to the brim with historic monuments, winding cobbled streets, and quaint sights around every corner. As one of the most impressive cities in Europe, there is no shortage of amazing things to discover. From the stunning UNESCO site of Rynek Główny Square, boasting majestic monuments such as St Mary’s Basilica and the Cloth Hall, to the impressive Wawel Castle, you are never far away from medieval history and picturesque sights. Also nearby you’ll find the popular attractions of the Krakow Salt Mines and the concentration camps of Auschwitz that are not to be missed.
Discover the History of Warsaw
In complete contrast to Krakow, the bustling capital of Warsaw is a modern and developing city that tells all about its tough history. Since being almost completely destroyed during WWII, the city has since become an alluring mixture of state-of-the-art attractions and contemporary buildings with some areas, such as the old and new towns, being completely restored to what they would have looked like in its former glory. Although Warsaw is a vibrant hub of activity with a wicked culinary scene, the highlight of your visit will be learning about the city’s past and how it has become what it is today. Make sure to take a free walking tour to really experience the culture!
Hike the Tatra Mountains
Surprisingly, Poland is quite the adventure paradise! Covered in a variety of landscapes which are plush with vegetation in the Summer and buried in snow in the Winter, Poland has all its bases covered for outdoor enthusiasts at any time of the year. Our top recommendation though has to be to hike the Tatra Mountains! Known as the ‘Polish Alps,’ these incredible mountains sit along the border with Slovakia and are the highest range of the Carpathian Mountains. Long story short, for some truly breathtaking views and some of the best hiking, rock climbing, and cycling in Poland, the Polish Tatra can’t be missed!
Explore Wroclaw, One of Poland’s Lesser Known Destinations
This is a city that isn’t on many travelers radars but trust us when we say it soon will be! Bringing together the best parts of Krakow and Warsaw and throwing in a healthy dose of its own character, you’ll discover Wrocław and why it is a favorite among the travelers that venture there. The epitome of charming, idyllic Wrocław is an impressive city with an alluring mix of cultures. Full of Bohemian, Austrian and Prussian influences, this one destination is packed full of stunning architectural buildings and beautifully preserved monuments, complete with riverside parks and a lively community to round it off as THE perfect place to be.
Mix with the Locals
Wherever you decide to travel to in Poland, one of the best things to do is to make friends with the locals. Not only will they show you the best spots for culture and authentic Polish cuisine but they will also share with you about their history and their culture in a way that you just can’t experience anywhere else. Oh, and did we mention that they love a good party?
Experience the Majestic City of Gdańsk
Discover the last of the big three cities in Poland by exploring the uniqueness of the port city of Gdańsk. Although Gdańsk is another city with a difficult past, it is very different to other Polish cities that you will come across on your travels. Spend some time wandering its cobbled streets and absorbing the feel and culture of the city and you’ll soon see what we mean. Full of striking architecture that reflects the cultures of its inhabitants throughout the past, Gdańsk is home to grand and elegant buildings, intriguing museums, and Medieval Malbork Castle which is one of the biggest castles in the world.
What to Eat in Poland
One thing can be said about Polish food and that is that every dish is a delicious, heart-warming belly filler! Whether you eat out at a local joint or are lucky enough to be eating home-cooked meals with a family, you can be sure that you are in for a treat. For the best value with just as good food, eat with the locals at a milk bar. With great food and even better company, you can’t find this atmosphere anywhere else.
With so many amazing dishes to try, we’ve narrowed down our top few choices that you can’t miss:
A list of Poland’s must-eats wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the crazy good Polish dumplings that are Pierogi. Packed full of flavor with cream cheese and potato, you can have your pick of dumplings which are filled with all kinds of delights. Whether you like a hearty meat dish or a savory treat with creamy cabbage and mushroom, you will not be disappointed with this staple food.
All the soups are amazing in Poland but the one that takes the crown has to be Zurek. A sour rye broth made from floured stock and herbs, this dish is left to boil before adding the boiled eggs and smoked sausage that make it delicious. Readily available almost everywhere, you can have it as it is or served in a hollowed bread as a bowl (the latter is obviously the best!).
If a warm belly is what you’re after then look no further than this national dish. Bigos is a mouth-watering stew full of country flavors and packed to the brim with red cabbage and sauerkraut, cured ham and pork shoulder, bacon bits and bay leaves, juniper berries and onions, and typically served with a vodka shot or two. Need we say more?
A halved baguette topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese, and baked until it oozes melted goodness. Garnished with chives or fried onions, this simple yet delicious creation is perfect for a fresh and filling breakfast.
Places to Stay in Poland
There are so many options for accommodation in Poland from camping your way across the country to staying in a hostel or luxury hotel, so there is definitely no shortage of options. If you’re traveling during peak season or holidays, it is best to book your accommodations in advance. We recommend checking sites like Booking.com, Agoda, or Hostel World. While we can highly recommend Bubble Hostel in Krakow and Downtown Hostel in Warsaw, we think that there is nothing like being welcomed in by a family so try and stay with locals where you can! Whether on couch surfing or if you meet anyone on your travels, you’ll soon find that the Polish people are some of the most fun-loving and hospitable people you will ever meet! Just remember to be flexible when you travel and you won’t regret it, trust us!