If you’re thinking about going to Poland, you might have a few questions that you’d like answered before your trip. I definitely didn’t know a lot about Poland before we went there for the first time.
Is Poland safe? What’s Polish food like? What about the people? Is the weather always cold? Is there anything weird I need to know before going to Poland? What’s the language like?
If any of these questions have crossed your mind, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve visited Poland quite a few times now, both in summer and in winter, and I absolutely love it! It’s quickly becoming one of my favourite European destinations of all time!!
To be honest, I had zero expectations about Poland before I went there the first time. I’d heard some good things but really wasn’t sure what to expect. I basically went to Poland without knowing anything! But, I learned a lot during my visits that I want to share with you!
So, based on my personal experiences, here is an overview of everything you need to know before going to Poland.
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About Poland – A Quick Summary
It’s hard to summarise any country in a few sentences. But, if I were to try, I’d say Poland is a beautiful, clean and safe country.
It’s a country with a sombre history, a vibrant tourism industry, wholesome food and, on the whole, it’s still an extremely affordable destination!
Poland is also a massive country. In fact, it is the 17th largest country in the world! So, you should expect it to take a bit of time to travel from one place to the next.
As you may already know, Poland is part of the EU. But, so far, Poland has retained its own currency – the Złoty (PLN). Currently, you’ll get about 4.70 Złoty for your Euro. (Check the most accurate exchange rate on xe.com)
Side note: Since Poland is part of the EU and Schengen area, you won’t need a separate visa to visit Poland.
In Poland, they speak Polish although many people speak English really well (especially younger people). We never had any issues even when someone didn’t speak English at all. Polish people were always willing to try to communicate and we got by just fine.
As always, it definitely helps to learn a couple of words in Polish before going! The effort will be appreciated.
- Hello = Dzien Dobry (Pronounced Djin Doh-breh)
- Thank You = Dziękuję (Pronounced Djin Coo-yeh)
I recommend downloading the Google Translate App and downloading the Polish language so you can use it offline.
Poland runs on standard European time, which is GMT + 1 hour.
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Is Poland Safe?
One of the most common questions people ask about Poland is whether it is a safe country to travel to. And, while I’m sure things do happen, as they do anywhere, I never once felt unsafe during my time in Poland.
On the whole, Polish people were very friendly and helpful, and most spoke English well.
As pedestrians in Poland, we were happily surprised by the courtesy most drivers give to pedestrians there. If there are no traffic lights at a crossing, you can basically cross at your leisure. Cars will (almost!) always stop for you! (I mean, do use your common sense of course!) If there are lights, Polish pedestrians seemed to obey them 100% of the time.
Poland also seemed to be really, really clean everywhere! (Although we did see some graffiti in Warsaw). Cities, towns, parks, mountains, public transport. Really everywhere we went we were really impressed by the lack of rubbish.
Way to go, Poland!
The Best Time To Visit Poland
Honestly, I don’t think there’s truly a bad time to visit Poland. The weather in Poland during spring and autumn is mild so if you’re not a big fan of hot weather, this may be best times to visit Poland. And, being that it’s shoulder season, you may find it’s a bit quieter as well. Although, it’s important to know that the best places to visit in Poland are always popular and will always have crowds.
We first visited Poland during the summer (in mid-August) and had absolutely gorgeous weather throughout the country. The weather was a very comfortable mid- to high- 20 degrees celsius and mostly sunny. We did get a couple of heavy rain showers and one full day of rain while we were in Krakow as well as on our way from Krakow to Zakopane.
Otherwise, the weather in Poland was quite simply wonderful!
As I’m sure you can imagine, Poland is magical in the winter too though. The weather is cold (in truth – it can get very, very cold) and snowy. In fact, many cities like Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk and Poznan are known for their beautiful Christmas markets, arguably making winter one of the best times of all to visit Poland.
We visited the Christmas Market in Gdansk this past December, which was just lovely! I’d love to head back to Poland for some of the other famous Christmas markets in the future!
Polish Food (And Drink)
If you like good, hearty home cooked meals, you’ll be glad to know that you’re in for a treat with the local food in Poland!
Head to a milk bar (Bar Mleczny) for incredibly affordable food. Don’t expect any milkshakes here though. These are canteen style restaurants that are subsidised by the government. Some are definitely better than others. Our favourite by far was Schaboszczak d Dziadka in Poznan. The portion sizes were insanely big!! I’d suggest you get one meal to share between two unless you haven’t eaten in a week!
Some of my favourite Polish foods include Pierogi (of course!), gołąbki (Pork & Rice wrapped in cabbage with red sauce), and gypsy pancake.
Bonus – Bakeries are everywhere! Absolute heaven if you’re a bread lover like me!
It’s worth noting that service in restaurants can be a tad slow… We often need to get the attention of waiters, as few came to us proactively.
Also, a service charge is sometimes added, although not always and it doesn’t seem to be clearly advertised. The amount (or percentage) of the service charge also varied widely, so it may be worth checking this before sitting down.
Drinks are cheap (depending on where you go). Beers can range from PLN 7-12 and a glass of wine tends to go for around PLN 10-15. Of course, next to beer, vodka is the drink of choice here (and quite often very cheap)!
One thing I thought was funny, and I definitely didn’t know before we went to Poland is that locals seem to drink beer through a straw! You can get a draft of beer in 300 and 500ml measures.
Insider Tip: Don’t go drinking in the streets! This is illegal and you’ll face a hefty fine.
Another thing that’s good to know before you go is that tap water in Poland is safe to drink. What we thought was really great is that there are often drinking fountains available for water refills! Look out for them in old town squares and at the station.
If you’ve forgotten to bring anything at all, Zabka is a convenience store which you’ll find absolutely everywhere! Prices are reasonable, and they open seven days a week with varying hours. Some are open 24 hours, but most seemed to open from 6am to 11pm. Although, having said that, we definitely saw them close before this, so may not always hold true. If you’re looking for a slightly bigger and cheaper grocery shop, Biedronka will sort you out.
Poland’s Culture And History
One thing you’re bound to figure out quickly, if you don’t already know this before going to Poland, is that the country has an incredibly rich and fascinating history.
You’ll be spoilt for choice if history is your thing! Medieval castles, picturesque old town squares and countless museums can be found all around Poland. Many museums and churches are free of charge on a specific day each week, making it even more budget friendly than it already is.
Insider Tip: Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk is well worth a visit, and is free on Tuesdays!
Some of the most beautiful old town squares include Warsaw and Krakow, both of which are UNESCO world heritage sites! In addition, Krakow’s Wawel Castle is definitely worth a visit.
Of course, there is also a much more sombre part to Poland’s past. A visit to Auschwitz Concentration Camp near Krakow is a sobering, but worthwhile, experience. It was the largest Nazi concentration camp of WWII, where more than 1.1 million people lost their lives. A visit there will be both educational and emotionally draining.
The Best Places To Visit In Poland
I can honestly say there hasn’t been anywhere I’ve visited in Poland so far that I haven’t enjoyed. Sure, some places were better than others, but the whole country is, quite simply, fantastic.
We spent almost a week in Krakow, and found there was so much to see and do both in the city itself, and within easy reach on day trips. Poznan was lovely because it is one of the smaller cities in Poland so everything is walkable. Gdansk is more touristy but the architecture in the old town is just spectacular. And finally, Zakopane is the gateway to the Polish Tatra Mountains and has some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. Which is saying a lot!
If I had to pick somewhere in Poland that I wasn’t as big a fan of, it would have to be Warsaw. But, only because it’s such a big city and I’m not a city girl at heart. The old town is still beautiful and we did enjoy some of the lovely parks dotted around the city.
While we haven’t been to Wroclaw yet, I hear it is the number one place to go for Christmas Markets in Poland, so it is definitely next on my list of Polish places to visit!
Travelling In And Around Poland
One of the (many!) reasons that I love Poland so much is that it is so easy to travel from place to place. Public transport is punctual, affordable and plentiful.
Insider Tip: Transport in Poland is super punctual so don’t be late!!! If your train leaves at 9:56, it leaves at 9:56. Not a minute sooner or later.
Most Polish cities are very walkable (and pedestrian friendly!) But, if you want to get places fast and in an eco-friendly way, electric scooters are the way to go these days!
Trams are another great (and cheap!) option for slightly longer distances in bigger cities like Warsaw and Gdansk, while local buses are frequent too. For both trams and buses, you can buy a ticket either at the automated kiosk at the stop, or on the tram/bus.
Insider Tip: Don’t get caught without a ticket unless you want to get a hefty fine!
For inter-city travel, trains are my favourite way of getting around. Trains in Poland are fast, affordable, clean and comfortable.
Buses are potentially a little cheaper or on par with the cheaper trains, so they are another good option. While you can book seats for the bus, it mostly seemed to be a case of picking any seat, so don’t bother paying extra for this! Also make sure you bring some food and drinks with you as in our experience, there weren’t many stops on long-distance journeys. Luckily, there will generally be a toilet on the bus!
Money And Shopping In Poland
It’s good to know that most places in Poland accept card as well as cash payment. However, I’d recommend you hav some cash as this is useful for public toilets and tips. At restaurants, the waiter will ask you whether you’d like to pay by cash or card when you ask for the bill. If you opt for card payment, they’ll bring the card reader to you. Tipping is not expected in Poland.
One important thing to know before going to Poland is that public toilets are often paid. While it’s usually only about PLN 2, (although it varies from PLN1-3), you’ll need cash (coins) for this.
It’s also worth noting that shops in Poland close early on Saturdays and may be closed altogether on Sundays. They’ll also be closed on public holidays. But, don’t worry if you forgot to buy something. Your local Zabka (a convenience store chain) will still be open. Apparently that’s because they sell stamps, and so they’re considered a “Post Office” which means they are allowed to be open when everything is supposed to shut!
I really hope you found this Poland travel guide useful for planning for your trip to this amazing country. One thing’s for sure, you’ll have an absolutely incredible time no matter where or when you go to Poland. If you have any questions about Poland that I haven’t answered, please drop me a comment below!
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