While Poland is increasingly becoming less discernible from other western European countries (in a good way), there are still certain local traditions and laws which the foreign visitor should be aware of. This is In Your Pocket's run-down of the helpful things everyone should know when visiting Poland.
ClimatePoland has a temperate climate with hot summers and cold winters. Seasons tend to be more pronounced than in the west and temperatures can get down as low as -20 C in winter and as high as +30 C in summer. The coldest weather tends to hit around February although the last couple of winters have been fairly mild.
CustomsIf you are travelling within the EU those over 18 can now take 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer. Most countries will not allow more than 800 cigarettes from Poland. If purchasing art or books, you need to consider their age and value. In order to leave the country, art must be both less than 50 years old and under a certain value (varies depending by type; photos under 6,000zł, other art under 16,000zł, for example); if these conditions are met, the gallery curator can then provide you with a 'zaświadczenie' (permission document) describing the artwork's price and when and where it was created. If the work exceeds the permitted age or value, you must get permission from the 'Wojewódzki Konserwator Zabytków' (Regional Curator's Office) to take it out of Poland; bear in mind that this process will likely take 2-3 months. Books must be less than 100 years old and under 6,000zł in value in order to leave the country; if neither applies, permission must be obtained from the National Library. Obviously, problems arise when purchases are made at bazaars or flea markets where vendors cannot provide the necessary documents; if there is any doubt about the value or age of your purchase, we suggest you visit an 'Antykwariat' (antiques dealer – see shopping) for advice.
ElectricityElectricity in Poland is 230V, 50Hz AC. Plug sockets are round with two round-pin sockets. Therefore if you are coming from the US, UK or Ireland you are definitely going to need a plug converter. The best place to pick these up is at home though if you do arrive without a converter try your luck with your hotel reception; they should be able to point you to an electrical store if they can't provide a converter themselves.
Facts & Figures
Poland covers an area of 312,685 square kilometres and is the ninth biggest country in Europe. It borders the Baltic Sea (528km) and seven countries, namely Belarus (416km), Czech Republic (790km), Germany (467km), Lithuania (103km), the mysterious Russian exclave of Kaliningrad (210km), Slovakia (539km) and Ukraine (529km).
The river Vistula (Wisła) is Poland's longest river at 1,047km and flows through Krakow and Warsaw before reaching the Bay of Gdańsk (Zatoka Gdańska). Poznań sits on the Warta river which reaches the Baltic via the Odra at Szczecin.
The highest peak is Rysy (2,499m) in the Tatra Mountains on Poland's southern border.
Poland - 38,502,396
Warsaw - 1,729,119
Kraków - 759,800
Łódź - 708,554
Wrocław - 633,105
Poznań - 546,829
Gdańsk - 461,935
Katowice - 294,889
Poland is in the Central European (CET) time zone (GMT+1hr). When it’s 12:00 in Poznań it’s 6:00 am in New York City, 11:00 in London, 12:00 in Paris and Berlin and 19:00 in Tokyo. Polish summer time (GMT+2hrs) starts and ends on the last Sundays of March and October.
Health & EmergencyIn case of an emergency those dialling from a land line or public phone should use the following numbers: 999 for an ambulance, 998 for the fire brigade and 997 for the police. Mobile phone users should call 112 to be forwarded to the relevant department. English speaking assistance is not necessarily guaranteed, and rests on the linguistic capabilities of the operator.
English, German and Russian speakers have the option of using separate lines specifically designed for foreigners in distress: dial +48 608 599 999 or + 48 22 278 77 77. Both numbers can be reached from a mobile phone or a land line and are hotlines in case you run into any troubles during your stay. The lines are active year round with later hours during the high-tourist season.
If you've woken up to find you've got a raging headache, a swollen foot you can't put weight on and vague memories of some kind of calamity, we suggest you sort it out by calling a private clinic, thus avoiding the hassle of the notoriously long queues in Polish hospitals; a list of private clinics can be found in the Directory section of our guide. Further help can be provided by embassies and consulates, a list of which can also be found in the Directory. If it's a financial emergency your hopes will rest on a Western Union money transfer. Most banks and many exchange bureaus (kantors) can now carry out such transactions, just keep an eye out for the Western Union logo.
InternetInternet access is typically free and widely available in Poland, with practically every café and restaurant offering wi-fi to customers with laptops and smartphones. Getting on the network often requires nothing more than a password, which you can request of your favorite bartender or barista with a simple, “Poproszę o hasło do internetu.” If you are in the area of Stary Rynek, Pl. Kolegiacki and Pl. Wolności keep an eye out for Poznań Internet Free. You don't need a password, just enter your name and accept the rules and off you go. If you don't have your own gadgets we offer a few internet cafe options below.
The Polish LanguageMany Poles, particularly young people, have a healthy command of the English language. Many are also adept at other European languages with German being the most commonly spoken. Older Poles will fiercely contest that they have ‘forgotten’ the Russian taught to them at school but most will still have a reasonable understanding.
Mastering the Polish tongue can be a terrifying ordeal, often resulting in personal degradation as shop assistants laugh at your flustered attempts. That aside, learning a few key phrases will smooth your time in Poznań and may even win you friends and admirers.
On the downside, Polish is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. On the upside, unlike in English, words in Polish are spelled the way they are pronounced. This is a great help once you know how to pronounce each letter/combination of letters. While many letters represent the same sounds as they do in English, below we have listed those particular to Polish, followed by some basic words and phrases. Powodzenia (Good luck)!
‘ą’ sounds like ‘on’ in the French ‘bon’
‘ę’ sounds like ‘en’ as in the French ‘bien’
‘ó’ is an open ‘o’ sound like ‘oo’ in ‘boot’
‘c’ like the ‘ts’ in ‘bits’‘
'j’ like the ‘y’ in ‘yeah’
‘w’ is pronounced like the English ‘v’
‘ł’ like the ‘w’ in ‘win’
‘ń’ like the ‘ny’ in ‘canyon’
‘cz’ and ‘ć’ like the ‘ch’ in ‘beach’
‘dz’ like the ‘ds’ in ‘beds’
‘rz’ and ‘ż’ like the ‘su’ in ‘treasure’
‘sz’ and ‘ś’ like the ‘sh’ in ‘ship’
‘drz’ like the ‘g’ in ‘George’
'r' is always rolled
Polish Words & Phrases
Yes Tak (Tahk)
No Nie (Nyeh)
Hi/Bye (informal) Cześć (Cheshch)
Hello/Good day (formal) Dzień dobry (Jen doh-bri)
Good evening (formal) Dobry wieczór (Doh-bri vyeh-choor)
Good-bye Do widzenia (Doh veet-zen-ya)
Good Night Dobranoc (Doh-brah-noats)
Please Proszę (Prosheh)
Thank you Dziękuje (Jen-koo-yeh)
Excuse me/Sorry Przepraszam (Psheh-prasham)
My name is... Mam na imię... (Mam nah ee-myeh…)
I’m from England. Jestem z Anglii (Yehstem zanglee)
Do you speak English? Czy mówisz po angielsku? (Che moo-veesh po an-gyel-skoo?)
I don’t speak Polish. Nie mówię po polsku. (Nyeh moo-vyeh po pol-skoo.)
I don’t understand. Nie rozumiem. (Nyeh row-zoo-me-ehm.)
Two beers, please. Dwa piwa proszę. (Dvah peevah prosheh.)
Cheers! Na zdrowie! (Nah zdrovyeh!)
Where are the toilets? Gdzie są toalety? (Gdjeh sawn toe-letih)
You are beautiful. Jesteś piękna. (Yes-tesh pee-enk-nah.)
I love you. Kocham cię. (Ko-hahm chuh.)
Please take me home. Proszę zabierz mnie do domu. (Prosheh za-byesh mnyeh doh doh-moo.)
Call me! Zadzwoń do mnie! (Zads-dvoan doh mnyeh!)
Airport Lotnisko (Lot-nees-ko)
Train station Dworzec PKP (Dvoar-jets Peh Kah Peh)
Bus station Dworzec PKS (Dvoar-jets Peh Kah Ess)
One ticket to… Jeden bilet do… (Yeh-den bee-let doh…)
Law & OrderIn general Poznań is far safer than most Western cities, and visitors are unlikely to face any problems if they simply employ common sense. Petty crime does exist, and travellers should be on guard against pickpockets; if you’re in a bar or restaurant keep your wallet inside your trouser pocket, not inside a jacket casually left lying around. Those travelling by car are advised to use a guarded car park. Avoid being ripped off by opportunistic taxi gits by using clearly marked cabs, something to bear in mind around the train station and airport. The vagrants and pondlife who gather around the train station are by in large harmless and easily ignored.
Staying on the right side of the law is significantly easier for tourists who accept that Polish beer and vodka are rocket fuel and drink accordingly. If you’re determined to make an idiot of yourself then make sure it’s not in front of the law. In recent years visitors ranging from folks in Chewbacca costumes to complete fools who’ve thought it’s perfectly acceptable to drop trousers and urinate in a city centre fountain have tested the patience of the local law enforcement. Their tolerance threshold is now decidedly low so don’t push your luck. Those who do may well be treated to a trip to Poznań’s premier drunk tank (ul. Podolańska 46), where you can expect a strip search, a set of blue pyjamas and the company of a dozen mumbling vagrantsa chastening experience which will set you back 250zł for a 6-24 hour stay. In return for your cash expect a strip search, a set of blue pyjamas and the company of a dozen mumbling vagrants. Not to mention a hefty fine (credit cards not accepted, of course).
Other easy ways for tourists to cross cops are by riding public transport without a ticket (see Arrival & Transport, Public Transport) and, silly as it seems, by jaywalking. If you are from a country which doesn’t have or respect jaywalking laws, you'll be surprised to see crowds of people standing obediently at a crossing waiting for the lights to change. The reason for obeying this little rule is the fact that the local city police (Straż Miejska) will quite freely give you a 50-100zł fine for crossing a road at a place where no crossing is marked or a 100zł fine when the ‘walk’ light is red. And don’t think you are exempt by being a foreign visitor. You too are subject to the law and your non-residency means you will be forced to pay the fine on the spot.
Prices in Poland are still fairly competitive despite increases over the last couple of years particularly in the prices of cigarettes. Here are some typical everyday products and prices.
Market values as of June 18, 2015 based on €1 = 4.11zł
|Product||Price (zł)||Price (€)|
|McDonald's Big Mac||8.70zł||€2.12|
|0.5ltr vodka (shop)||26.69zł||€6.49|
|0.5ltr beer (shop)||2.89zł||€0.70|
|0.5ltr beer (bar)||8.00zł||€1.95|
|Loaf of white bread||2.39zł||€0.58|
|Pack of Marlboros||15.00zł||€3.65|
|1ltr of unleaded petrol (98)||5.06zł||€1.23|
|Local transport ticket (1 journey)||4.60zł||€1.12|
MoneyThinking of paying for your tram ticket with one of the 100zł notes in your pocket? Think again. Small shops, newsagents, public toilets, even the occasional restaurant or bar will often refuse to break a large note for you. As annoying as coins can be, do carry small change for such moments.
Currency can be exchanged at airports, hotels, banks and anywhere with a sign proclaiming 'Kantor'. Kantors will often provide better value than the banks in your home country or the ATM, though for obvious reasons be very wary of Kantors in the airports, bus stations and close to tourist sites. Shopping around will reward you with the best rate. For a list of Kantors in Poznań, see Directory.
Since EU ascension, prices in Poland have been on the rise, making the country less of a bargain than it was ten years ago. Having said that, however, prices for food, drink, cultural venues and transport still remain comparably cheap in contrast to Western Europe. A ticket to the cinema typically costs 15-25zł while admission to most museums costs around 5-15zł.
Credit Card ChargesIf you’re visiting Poland and plan to pay for any purchases with a credit card whose base currency isn’t Polish złoty (and unless you’re Polish, this probably means you) odds are you may find merchants asking whether you want to be charged in your home currency or złotys. At times (though this is more rare) it’s not even a question – the merchant will simply take it upon himself to charge your credit card in your home currency, no questions asked. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your credit card company won’t charge a foreign transaction fee if you opt to be charged in your native currency; crossing the border is what they care about, not the currency. And that’s just one of the reasons why, when given the choice, it’s in the best interest of your wallet to choose złotys.
Why? Because the companies that process credit card transactions typically tack on fees for converting the money, and then do so at a lousy exchange rate. Depending on the size and number of your purchases while in Poland, the cost can really add up. Visitors will have to be vigilant and monitor receipts when paying with a credit card, and should you be charged in a different currency put your foot down. Merchants don’t benefit from those additional fees, only the company that processes the transaction does. So be firm about asking to have your purchase refunded and done over again in złotys.
Polish National Holidays
With a full calendar of religious holidays, seasonal traditions and name days, it seems there's always something being celebrated here in Poland. Not to be confused with unofficial holidays like Women's Day (March 8th), national holidays that are still regular work days like the Day of Pope John Paul II (October 16th), or the rash of spontaneously decreed days of national mourning that occur each year, below we list Poland's annual non-working public holidays:
April 5 Easter Sunday
April 6 Easter Monday
May 1 Labour Day
May 3 Constitution Day (May 3, 1791)
May 24 Pentecost Sunday
June 4 Corpus Christi
August 15 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also Polish Army Day
November 1 All Saints' Day
November 11 Independence Day (Nov 11, 1918)
December 25 First Day of Christmas
December 26 Second Day of Christmas
January 1, 2016 New Year's Day
January 6, 2016 Three Kings