Bydgoszcz

Bydgoszcz City Basics

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While Poland is increasingly becoming less discernible from other western European countries (in a good way, that is), there are 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 Bydgoszcz, and Poland in general.

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Basic Data

Population (2017)
Poland - 38,858,000
Warsaw - 1,763,615
Kraków - 766,739
Bydgoszcz - 352,313

Languages
Polish
Gwara Bydgoska - a local dialect of Polish still used by some in Bydgoszcz and the surrounding region.

Territory
Poland - 312,685 square kilometres (9th largest in Europe)
Bydgoszcz - 176 square kilometres

Borders
Baltic Sea (528km), Kaliningrad (210km), Lithuania (103km), Belarus (416km), Ukraine (529km), Slovakia (539km), Czech Republic (790km) and Germany (467km)

Waterways
Bydgoszcz's city centre is located on both sides of the Brda River - a tributary of the Wisła (Vistula), Poland's longest river.

Local Time
Central European (GMT+1hr).
Polish summer time (GMT+2hrs) starts and ends on the last Sundays of March and October.

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Smoking
The legal smoking age is 18, though it is barely enforced, as proven by the prevalence of young teens proudly smoking cigarettes and vape pens. After a protracted holdout, in 2010 Poland adopted the same regulations on smoking that you'll find across the EU, and smoking tobacco products and e-cigarettes is banned on public transit, at transport stops and stations, schools and universities, workplaces, sports arenas and other places where the public gather. Violators are supposedly subject to a 500zł fine, though, again, we've never seen such a thing enforced, particularly at transit stops where the lines are blurry. In the case of cafes, bars, clubs, and restaurants, the law states that there can be a separate room for smokers as long as it is ventilated and closed off from the other public areas. As a result, many venues feature smoking sections, in fact some venues have given over most of their space to smokers. On our website it's easy to determine which venues have a designated space for smoking. On the main Cafes, Restaurants and Nightlife chapter pages, simply click 'Show all' below 'Our most popular categories' and then choose 'Smoking place' from the Amenities menu to sort the desired results.

Drinking
The drinking age in Poland is 14, but the legal drinking age is apparently 18. If you can't find an alcohol shop, ask a tennager to point you in the right direction. 24-hour alcohol shops (appropriately known as 'alkohole' in the local vernacular) are prevalent across town, and some bars in the centre basically never close, so bottoms up. Again, a reminder that drinking in public places outside the purview of the pub is not allowed and will result in a fine.

Electricity

Electricity 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 at the airport or with your hotel reception; they should be able to point you to an electrical store if they can't provide a converter themselves.

Health & Emergency

In the case of an emergency, mobile phone users should dial 112 to be forwarded to the police, fire department or ER. From a landline or public phone dial the following: Ambulance: 999; Fire: 998; Police: 997. English, German and Russian speakers have separate lines specifically designed for foreigners in distress: +48 608 599 999 or +48 22 278 77 77 (mobile or landline).

The emergency room in PL is called SOR and should only be visited when absolutely necessary. In less urgent crises we recommend you visit a private clinic, where you'll get better service and avoid the notoriously long queues in Polish hospitals.

Market Values

Prices in Poland are still fairly competitive with those in the West, despite steady increases over the past decade. Here are some typical everyday products and prices.

Market values as of January 14, 2019 based on €1 = 4.29 zł

Product Price (zł) Price (€)
McDonald's Big Mac 10.50 zł € 2.45
Snickers candy bar 1.89 zł € 0.44
0.5ltr vodka (shop) 23.99 zł € 5.59
0.5ltr beer (shop) 3.50 zł € 0.82
0.5ltr beer (bar) 10.00 zł € 2.33
Loaf of bread 2.69 zł € 0.63
Pack of Marlboro cigarettes 16.00 zł € 3.73
1ltr of unleaded petrol (98) 4.98 zł € 1.16
Local transport ticket (1 journey) 3.80zł € 0.89

Money Matters

Despite joining the European Union in 2004, Poland is one of the few EU countries to have not adopted the Euro as its currency, and there is no current timetable to do so. As such, the Polish Złoty - a comparably weak currency - remains in place, and prices for food, drink, cultural venues and transport are a bargain compared to Western Europe. A ticket to the cinema typically costs 15-30zł, while admission to most museums costs around 5-15zł.

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 at the airport, train station and close to tourist sites. Shopping around will reward you with the best rate.

Thinking of paying for your tram ticket with one of the 100zł notes in your pocket, though? Think again. Small shops, newsagents, public toilets, automated ticket machines, merchants at outdoor markets and even the occasional restaurant or bar, will often refuse to break a large note for you. As annoying as coins can be, they are essential if you intend to pay in cash, so hang on to your change - you'll need it.

Although well behind in terms of service and properly stocking the register before opening for business, Poland is ahead of the curve when it comes to cashless transactions. Credit or debit can be used just about anywhere (except those places mentioned above where change is essential). Those making purchases with a credit card whose base currency isn’t Polish złoty, should beware however (and unless you’re Polish, this probably means you). If you are asked by a merchant, wait staff or on the card reader itself whether you want to be charged in your home currency or PLN, always choose złoty. 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 should be vigilant and monitor receipts when paying with a credit card - should you be charged in your card's original currency, don't be afraid to insist on having your purchase refunded and charged again in złoty.

Public 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:

January 1, 2019 New Year's Day
January 6, 2019 Three Kings
April 21, 2019 Easter Sunday
April 22, 2019 Easter Monday
May 1, 2019 Labour Day
May 3, 2019 Constitution Day (May 3, 1791)
June 9, 2019 Pentecost Sunday
June 20, 2019 Corpus Christi
August 15, 2019 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also Polish Army Day
November 1, 2019 All Saints' Day
November 11, 2019 Independence Day (Nov 11, 1918)
December 25, 2019 First Day of Christmas
December 26, 2019 Second Day of Christmas

Public Toilets

Generally speaking toilets in Poland come marked with a circle for women, and a triangle for men. Some restaurants and bars still charge a nominal fee for use of their facilities – no matter how much cash you’ve already spent in the establishment. This is a practice also used in train stations and most public conveniences. Keep small change handy.

Religion

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 95% of Poles are Roman Catholics. And though that figure is based on baptisms and the number of actual practising Catholics is probably closer to 75% (and falling), Poland remains one of the most religious countries in Europe. For over one thousand years Poland has been a bulwark of Catholicism, fighting against the horrors of pagan invasions and looking to Catholicism for a sense of social and national unity. When Poland was partitioned in the 19th century, many turned to the Church for solace and during the communist era, underground resistance meetings were surreptitiously held in churches. Pope John Paul II remains a genuine source of pride for all Poles, and is beloved in a way more profound than cynics in the West can understand. Those used to the more easy-going habits of the West may find the Polish enthusiasm for the Church a bit unnerving at first, particularly the solemn and opulent processions that occur from time to time, and the droves that flock to mass. Tourists should remember while visiting Bydgoszcz's many churches that these aren't museums, but active places of worship to be treated with the requisite respect.

Staying Out of Trouble

In general Bydgoszcz is safer than most West European cities, and visitors are unlikely to face any problems if they simply keep their wits about them and employ common sense. Like the rest of Poland, probably the biggest danger in Bydgoszcz is posed by groups of drunken football hooligans who can be easily avoided and heard coming a mile away. Staying safe and on the right side of the law is significantly easier for tourists who accept that Polish beer and vodka are rocket fuel, drink responsibly, and respect the fact that they are guests in a foreign country.

There are three popular ways for tourists to get themselves into trouble, which we will ennumerate in hopes that you avoid these easy pratfalls. The first is by drinking in public spaces like parks, along the river, or generally anywhere outside the territory of a bar/restaurant or the privacy of your own home; it's not legal no matter how nice the weather is. The second is by riding public transport without a valid ticket; random inspections are common, so make sure you have a ticket and you validate it as soon as you board. The third is, silly as it seems, by jaywalking; the reason you don't see anyone doing it is because for this and the previously stated offenses you will by fined on the spot by the local city police (Straż Miejska).

Tipping

Polish tipping etiquette can be a bit confusing for foreigners. While in other countries it’s perfectly normal and even courteous to say 'thanks' when the wait staff comes to collect the bill, you’ll be startled to learn that in Poland uttering the word ‘dziękuje’ (thank you), or even 'thank you' in English, is an indication that you don’t want any change back. This cultural slip-up can get very embarrassing, not to mention aggravating, if you're later forced to track down your server and shamefully ask for your change. In order to avoid these situations, we strongly suggest that you only say ‘thank you’ when the service of your waiter/waitress is no longer needed and you are happy for them to keep all of the change. When that’s not the case, the word you need learn is ‘proszę’ (pronounced pro-sheh). Meaning ‘please’ in Polish, this is a vital social cue that translates to ‘yes, I want all of my change, no matter how small it is.’

Despite the fact that the standards of service in Poland have skyrocketed in the last decade, the average waiter/waitress in this country still only makes a paltry 8-12zł/hr (although there is a government move to set a minimum national wage of 13zł/hr), and a customary tip is still only 10% of the meal's total (though being a foreigner may make staff expectant of a bit more generosity). Those numbers look pretty low to us, so we strongly encourage you to reward good service when you feel it's deserved.

Finally, it is not common practice to add the tip to your credit card payment because the wait staff are then forced to pay tax on the gratuity; most likely you will not even have an opportunity to leave a tip on your card. For that reason, try to have some change handy so you can still leave a cash tip, or ask your server for change if you need to.

Water

Despite being officially stamped as safe to drink, many older locals will scold you for drinking the tap water - an act which they seem to find uncouth and also can't seem to imagine how it could possibly be healthy. Indeed, antique plumbing in some buildings can affect the water quality, but we've never had any issues ourselves. If you want to play it safe, you'll find that bottled water is widely available and inexpensive...unless you're in a restaurant, that is. Tourists from countries where the right to drink water is a guaranteed freedom may be surprised to find that water is not complimentary in Polish restaurants; in fact it’s downright expensive and comes in a tiny glass that will barely satisfy your thirst. By comparison, beer is a much better value as you get more than twice as much for only a couple złoty more; such is Poland’s ‘drinking problem.’ If you’re still set on drinking water with your meal, be prepared to declare a preference between gazowana (carbonated water) and niegazowana (still water).
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