While Poland is increasingly becoming less discernible from other western European countries (in a good way, that is), 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.
- Facts & Figures
- Health & Emergency
- Law & Order
- Market Values
- National Holidays
- Public Toilets
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 long winter of 2009/10 saw a record low temperature in Poland of -32 degrees. Below is a graphic showing average temperatures and rainfall.
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 in your home country, 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
TerritoryPoland covers an area of 312,685 square kilometers and is the ninth biggest country in Europe. It borders the Baltic Sea and seven countries, namely the Baltic Sea (528km), Belarus (416km), Czech Republic (790km), Germany (467km), Lithuania (103km), the 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).
The highest peak is Rysy (2,499m) in the Tatra Mountains to the south of Poland.
Population (2016)Poland - 38,483,957
Warsaw - 1,744,400
Kraków - 761,100
Łódź - 700,982
Wrocław - 635,800
Poznań - 542,300
Gdańsk - 462,249
Katowice - 301,834
Local TimePoland is in the Central European (CET) time zone (GMT+1hr). When it’s 12:00 in Łódź it’s 06:00 (AM) in New York, 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 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. 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.
For urgent medical emergencies, a list of Emergency Rooms can be found in the Directory section of this guide. 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 also be found in our Directory. Further help can be provided by embassies and consulates, a list of which can also be found in our Directory.
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 don't have your own gadgets we offer a few Internet cafe options below.
Law & OrderIn general Łódź is safer than most West European 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. Perhaps the biggest danger in Łódź is posed by groups of drunken football hooligans who can be easily avoided and heard coming a mile away.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 officially sanctioned state company MPT (tel. 42 191 91) is possibly the best bet, and their switchboard features English speaking operators. The vagrants and pondlife who gather around the train stations are by and 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. Those who do may well be treated to a trip to Łódź's premier drunk tank (ul. Kilińskiego 232), which unlike other cities is a rehabilitation clinic for addicts that can involve a 6-24 hour stay. The experience is free of charge and nets you a strip search, a set of blue pyjamas and the company of a dozen mumbling vagrants. Those resisting arrest may well find themselves strapped down to a bed, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-style.
Other easy ways for tourists to cross cops are by riding public transport without a ticket (see our section on 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 (particularly ironic if you're aware of how little Poles respect the rules of the road in a vehicle). The reason for obeying this little rule is the fact that local city police will quite freely give you a 100zł fine for crossing at a place where no crossing is marked, or a 100zł fine for crossing when the light is red. And don’t think you are exempt by being a visitor. In fact your non-residency simply means you will need to pay the fine on the spot.
Market ValuesPrices 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 January 04, 2018, based on €1 = 4.16zł
|Product||Price (zł)||Price (€)|
|McDonald's Big Mac||10.20zł||€2.45|
|0.5ltr vodka (shop)||23.99zł||€5.77|
|0.5ltr beer (shop)||3.29zł||€0.79|
|0.5ltr beer (bar)||8.00zł||€1.92|
|Loaf of white bread||2.79zł||€0.67|
|1ltr of unleaded petrol (98)||4.95zł||€1.19|
|Local transport ticket (1 journey)||4.40zł||€1.06|
MoneyCurrency 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 Łódź that won't rip you off, see our 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 15-30zł, while admission to most museums costs around 5-15zł.
Thinking of paying for your tram ticket with one of the 100zł notes in your pocket, though? Think again. Small shops, newsagents, public toilets, 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 for obwarzanki vendors and outdoor markets). 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.
National HolidaysPoland has a series of public holidays spread throughout the year. These for the most part will fall on a precise date meaning you could find yourself here in the middle of an otherwise busy week to find the city bolted shut. While more restaurants and bars have appreciated the opportunities of staying open when the rest of the country is taking a free day, do not expect very much open on important religious holidays such as All Saints' Day (November 1) or Easter Sunday.
January 1, 2018 New Year's Day
January 6, 2018 Three Kings
April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday
April 2, 2018 Easter Monday
May 1, 2018 Labour Day
May 3, 2018 Constitution Day (May 3, 1791)
May 20, 2018 Pentecost Sunday
May 31, 2018 Corpus Christi
August 15, 2018 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also Polish Army Day
November 1, 2018 All Saints' Day
November 11, 2018 Independence Day (Nov 11, 1918)
December 25, 2018 First Day of Christmas
December 26, 2018 Second Day of Christmas
Public ToiletsGenerally speaking, toilets in Poland come marked with a circle for women, and a triangle for men. Although the habit is gradually dying 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.
Despite a contest for a new public toilet at ul. Piotrkowska 73/75, the winning project hasn’t pleased the apparently picky jury. Until the issue is resolved the city has designated several local businesses with signs to show tourists that they can use their facilities for free until the new toilets are completed. The signs say “toaleta bezplatna.” Alternatively, pay toilets for 2.50zł can be found at these locations: Łódź Kaliska Train Station (G-4), Łódź Widzew Train Station (J-4), or for 1.50zł at ul. POW 35 (E-3), ul. Piotrkowska 92 (C-5) and Pasaż Schillera (C-5).
ReligionAccording 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. The deceased 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. In fact, many Poles genuinely believe that John Paul II single-handedly started the overthrow of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. Small wonder then, that your average Pole takes Catholicism very seriously. 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 Łódź's many churches that these aren't museums, but active places of worship to be treated with the requisite respect.
WaterThough officially stamped as safe to drink, hypochondriacs and others with a weak constitution may want to avoid drinking Polish tap water; indeed, locals will still scold you for drinking from the tap. The antique plumbing in many buildings can affect the water quality, so - despite our honest belief that the water is fine - to play it safe we recommend you just drink bottled water, which 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 wet 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).