Poland is such a unique country to visit, but accurate, helpful information can be hard to come by! So, after my second trip to Poland (and my husband’s first!), I decided to come up with a quick, concise top 10 list of the most helpful information to have for your first trip to Poland. Here you go!
The Currency is the Zloty
The Polish zloty, or PLN, or zl, is the official currency of Poland. The exchange rate when we visited was about 4 PLN to the USD, so basically 1 zloty was worth about 25 American cents. That is an amazing exchange rate, and pretty easy to convert in your head, too–a 100 PLN note could be thought of as a $25 bill. Poland is incredibly affordable for Americans, making it a great place to go for budget travelers. Always check the exchange rate (I love using the XE App for real-time updates) during your trip, as exchange rates definitely fluctuate over time.
Also very helpful: The Best Apps for Travelers on the Go
Credit Cards are Accepted Almost Everywhere
We found only a very few instances where a credit card wasn’t an option–mostly tipping at restaurants and street vendors. This made everything very easy, and dare I say this is a gift from the pandemic? Many formerly “cash” societies and individual businesses had to go to contactless payments starting in 2020, and that contactless option is sticking around. That said, definitely get some cash out at an ATM inside a bank when you arrive, just in case. And as previously mentioned, many restaurants required tips only in cash. It’s good to have some on-hand!
(Coming soon) Read next: The Best Places to Eat in Krakow, Poland
It’s a Great Solo Travel Destination
I traveled solo to Poland in my 20s, and I just recently went back with my husband! I would definitely go back again solo without hesitation. It’s entirely safe to walk around, especially in the old cities, and Poles are incredibly helpful to tourists. And as previously mentioned, it’s a budget-friendly destination as well, which is always a consideration when going anywhere solo–there’s no one to split the bill! If you’re new to solo travel, interested in trying it out, or even if solo travel is already your passion, Poland is a great place to go!
Trains are the best way to get around (but they can be unreliable)
Poland’s main cities and small towns are connected by a train system, making train travel a viable option if you don’t want to waste a lot of time at airports or rent a car. The catch, however, is that they are not as reliable as trains in other parts of Europe. Two out of our three trains were delayed, and in fact, one of them was delayed “indefinitely” due to a “broken locomotive.” Yikes! Also, the trains can be quite full in the high season, leaving only standing room for your trip. We ended up in first class for one train ride, standing room only for an hour and 45 minute ride, and standing room only again for a three-hour journey! Pro tip: The restaurant car is open to all, so if you can snag one of the few seats in that car, you’ll be in luck!
Also helpful: The Ultimate Guide to Train Travel in Poland
Specify Still or Sparkling
This is true of water throughout Europe. Water is not complimentary at restaurants, and so if you decide to buy water with your meal, you will have the choice of still (flat water) or sparkling (carbonated water). Neither Steve nor I likes sparkling water, but if you do, you’ll be in luck! Also, most restaurants did not seem to mind if we brought our own water. Because we were there in summer, we always had some with us.
Read next: What to Know Before You Visit Krakow
They’re Known for Amber
If you’re looking to do a little gift shopping or bring home a little something for yourself, be on the lookout for jewelry and other items made of amber! Amber comes in earth-tones ranging from brown to gold to green to yellow, and even shades of white or red. There are often fossilized things inside the amber, which makes each piece unique, and they come in settings of gold, silver, and beyond. You can find earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets, and even things like chess sets and figurines! Be sure to visit the Amber Museum in Gdansk, and pop into local shops to see what they have to offer.
(Coming soon) Get it from the source: The Best Things to Do in Gdansk
World War II Started Here
Poland has a history that will bring tears to your eyes, even from long before World War II ever came on the history scene. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, which kicked off the Second World War and all but genocide of the Polish people–Jews and non-Jews alike. The Nazis came in through Gdansk, situated on the Baltic Sea, and today there is a very moving World War II Museum there that is well worth your time to visit.
(Coming soon) Helpful info: What to Know Before You Visit Gdansk
It’s always important to know a few words in the local language, wherever you go! No one will expect you to know Polish if you’re not from Poland or a neighboring country, and in the tourist areas, almost everyone speaks excellent English. (Not so much in the countryside!) That said, learning a few words in Polish will be a nice way to show respect, and it will help you get around. Here are some important ones:
- Dziękuję (jen-koo-ya): Thank you
- Stare Miastro: Old Town
- Glowny: Main (Main Station, Main Square, etc.)
- Toalety: Toilet
- Billety: Ticket (train ticket, museum ticket, site ticket, etc.)
Many Museums are in Polish Only
Major museums will have information in both Polish and English, and often in a couple of other languages as well. Smaller museums, however, often only had information in Polish. There was almost always information in English in a booklet available to take around with you, but don’t count on it. Admire the museum’s items anyway, and ask questions if needed!
More here: The Best 10 Things to Do in Krakow
It’s More than Just Pierogis
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pierogis! I definitely had dozens of them over the course of our 10-day trip around the country. But don’t forget to try out the game meats, sausages, cheeses, fresh bread, potato pancakes, chimney cakes, bagels, and even the stuffed cabbage. (Skip the bigos, though!) Polish food is hearty, even in summer, so come hungry and refuel yourself at each meal to keep up with all the walking you’ll be doing. Enjoy!
Keep eating: The Best Foods You Must Try in Poland
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