GENERAL INFO
POLAND, Capital:Warsaw

Traveling Cost / day US$25 $1= 3.93zl, Jan 8, 2002

Poland, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in the former Eastern bloc countries.
The most northern countries of the Central European countries. It has borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus.
One of the biggest countries in Eastern Europe, Poland offers a varied range of attractions to the visitor. Historical cities and sites, beach resorts, nature-based activities - sailing, hiking and skiing in lake and mountain areas.

Language
National Language Polish, romantic alphabet is used but some of them are different from English ones.
Foreign Languages German is commonly understood, particularly in the North and areas bordering Germany. English is not widely spoken amongst older people, but increasingly so amongst the young.
Most tourist offices have English speaking staff.

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Weather
Poland has a temperate climate with warm pleasant summers and cold winters - snow is common(skiing is popular in the Tatra mountains in the South).It is generally warmer along the Northern coastline than inland and in the south.
High season July/August.
Skiing during the winter Dec-Mar.
Best time to visit June to September. Specially September

Most popular destinations / itineraries
 
Krakow The former Polish capital and cultural center. A beautiful historic city. The most popular backpacker destination. Close by is the notorious Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz/Birkenau.
Warsaw: The capital of Poland, it suffered almost complete destruction during World War II.
Though modern Warsaw was rebuilt in typical communist style, the old quarter was faithfully reconstructed.
It is a beautiful area with a number of historic and cultural sights.
Gdansk: An attractive city in the NW, on the Baltic coast. Like Warsaw it was virtually flattened during the II World War and the old area was faithfully rebuilt. Close by are several popular beach resorts.
Torun: A small medieval city 200km S from Gdansk, 3-4 hours from Warsaw.
Famous as the birthplace of the astronomer Kopernicus.
Zakopane: Located in the Tatra mountain range in the South. One of the major destinations for domestic tourism. The main base for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. Gets crowded during holiday periods.
Poznan: Industrial/Institutional city, 300km NW from Warsaw. It was on the medieval trade road and developed as a trading town. Many 16 C. architecture are remained. It is the birth place for a famous composer, Paderewski, Ignacy Jan (1860.11.18-1941.6.29)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Warsaw, Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Zamosc, Medieval Town of Torun, Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska(the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park), Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica

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Tourist Info
The tourist information sector in Poland is, like in many Eastern European countries, undergoing restructuring.
The 2 main organizations with branches throughout Poland are PTTK , and IT. Staff are generally knowledgeable and helpful, they usually charge for maps, hotel reservations, etc.
Useful Publications:
What Where When (http:/www.inter.com.pl)

Monthly free magazine available from tourist offices and mid-range hotels. Have local versions for Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk. Include maps, some basic travel info, events info and features.
Travel Agencies: Orbis the semi-National Government travel agency (seems to be undergoing privatization), has branches everywhere. They act as agents for all kinds of transport and higher level accommodation.
They are often a better source for travel info than staff at train and bus stations, though they are not always helpful.
Almatur is the national student travel agency.
They issue ISIC cards, sell student transport tickets and some offices reserve accommodation in student dorms (Ask how much commission they charge - it may be as much as a night's accommodation charge).
Campus Travel Recently opened an office in Warsaw at the central University complex (Took over a former Almatur branch office).

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Bank/Exchange
CURRENCY : Zloty (zl). 1zl=100 grosz Recent rate : $1=3.9zl
DO NOT ACCEPT ANY OLD NOTES or COINS.
Credit Cards Accepted in many hotels, high class restaurants, dept. stores, some travel agencies - Orbis, etc.
ATM's Available in most cities and tourist areas. Usually accept Visa, MC, Cirrus, Plus, Eurocard and sometimes American Express Card.
Exchange: Cash rate and T/C rate are same. T/C can be changed at banks.
Banks: slow and bureaucratic. Cash no commission and T/C 10zl/check.
American Express don't charge for their T/C encashments and they offer low rates.
Moneychangers (Kantors) offer the best rates for cash,don't charge commission and are much more efficient than banks and are open longer hours, unfortunately they don't generally change T/C's.
Cash Advance At banks: Usually no charge
Rates at Airport $1=3.86zl
Black Market None.

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Basic Travel Costs
Traveling Cost / day US$25
Basic min. prices
Room (single): University hostel 30zl
Hotel 80zl Private room 50zl
Youth hostel dorm 25zl
Food rest 25zl milk bar canteen 4-10zl
coffee(instant) 2-4zl Mineral Water 1.5lt. 2zl
Misc. goods price: Big Mac 5.8zl
Coke can 3zl
Beer 5+zl breakfast(Cont.) 13zl
breakfast(Amer) 9zl breakfast(local) 15zl
Ice Cream 1.5zl Toilet Paper 0.5zl/roll

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Opening Hours
Government M-F 10-17/18:00
Bank M-F 8-19:00
Shops for food 6-20:00. 24 hour shops are available
Shops for goods 10-19:00
Museums Tu-Su 10-17/18:00

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Immigration/Visa
No Visa required: British, EU citizens up to 180 days, US Japanese citizens up to 90 days.
Visa required: Australian/New Zealand/Canadian.

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Border Crossing
Poland borders on the Baltic Sea to the north-west, shares borders with Germany to the west, the Czech and Slovak republics to the south, Russia to the North-east and Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east.
Airports Warsaw: Okecie Int., Krakow: Balice Int.
Gdansk:
Rebiechowo Int. Poznan - Lawica Airport
Departure tax :
Int'l Included in flight ticket price.
LAND Bus and train. Main crossing points. ???
Border crossing Slovakia-Poland via Javorina-Lysa Polana
Can take bus from Poprad, Stary Smokovec or Tatranska Lomnica to the border(Javorina)
from Poprad the ticket costs: 38sk, 7sk for large luggage.
The last stop is in a parking area, continue walking along the main road, cross a small bridge, you'll pass through customs - banks are operating on both sides of the border. From the Polish side (Lysa Polana) there are regular public buses to Zakopane - 2.80zl. Or you can take one of the many private minibuses waiting there - 5zl.
The journey through the mountains is scenic, passes through many villages.
There is also a bus directly from Poprad to Zakopane, it leaves daily during the high season and holidays at 16:50, other times of the year + holidays: Th, Sa 6:00, it stops in the high Tatras on route.
SEA Ferries operate between the Baltic coastal ports of Gdansk, Gdynia, Swinoujscie and Scandanavia.

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International Transport
Bus/Train
There are train & bus connections from most main cities in Poland to cities throughout Europe.
Unlike in some other Eastern European countries foreigners pay the same prices for transport as Poles. International trains to other Eastern European countries are reasonable but to Western Europe they are much more expensive than buses. When taking international trains it may be much cheaper to buy a ticket to the border, cross over and buy another ticket in the next country.(Though it will often take much longer as you may have to wait for the following train).
!Warning: Certain trains require an international supplement so even if you attempt to buy just to the border of one country and from the border of another you may have to pay a supplement. Also sometimes the ticket collect may demand a supplement even though one isn't necessary.
!Warning Theft from tourists is common on overnight, international trains. An ITIS Researcher was the victim of attempted robbery on the Praha to Warsaw overnight train.
Rail Passes: Eurail, Interrail, Eastrail and Explorer Pass are valid.
Bus Passes: Not valid.
Bus: Buses to Western Europe are much cheaper than the train. There are many private international bus companies, the best place to get information about their timetables/prices is from travel agencies. However travel agencies only deal with a few companies so you should check around. Eurolines is one of the major operators.
Bus services to Eastern European destinations have been reduced, and information is often difficult to find.

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National Transport
There is an extensive, efficient and cheap transport system.
Transport information: Orbis Travel has train information. Tourist offices may have transport information.
TRAIN
Prices vary according to class and type of train. Intercity trains are the most expensive, express are the next level (listed on timetables in red), ordinary trains are the cheapest (listed in black).
The sign 'R inside a box' means that a seat reservation is compulsory on that train. Can reserve at train stations or Orbis Travel Agencies (usually less queues and the commission is 10%).
Time tables: white backed =Arrivals (Przyjazdy)
Yellow backed = Departures (Odjazdy). Time tables at train stations, Orbis TA's and some tourist offices.
Warning Staff at train information counters don't usually speak English and can sometimes be unhelpful, even rude. Orbis travel agency is a good place to find out train info but their staff can also be unhelpful.
Student Discounts Reductions usually between 10-20% on international tickets if you have an ISIC card. Foreigners don't qualify for student discounts on National services unless they are studying in Poland. Wasteels Travel Agency sell train tickets with discount to students and under 25's. There is an office at Warsaw's Central Train Station.
BUS
The semi-state run bus company PKS operates throughout Poland.
There are a number of private bus companies starting up - Polski Express between Warsaw and other major cities gives Students discounts for buses Tu-Th only. There are several companies running buses between Krakow and Zakopane. These are often faster and run more frequently than PKS buses.

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Local Transport
Most cities and tourist areas have a cheap and efficient public transport system. Warsaw has a limited metro system. Tickets are available from 'Ruch' kiosks, news-stands or machines. Sometimes it is possible to buy tickets from the driver but they will usually cost more. Day tickets are recommended to save money. You must always validate tickets when you get on the bus/tram. Inspections are common. Without a valid ticket, you may face to fine, about 100zl. A luggage ticket is also required. International students can use the local student ticket ONLY in Warsaw, everywhere else Foreign travellers must pay full adult price.
Taxis Metered - make sure it is on. Tourists are often overcharged. It's better to book a taxi at your hotel reception or by phone.
If possible use other transport.
Rental ANN Rent a Car: available at most airports. from 55zl/day with insurance.

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Mail/Telephone
POST OFFICE
General opening hours: M-F 8:00-20:00, Sa8:00-14:00 - check local info.
Poste Restante mail service available at GPO's in main towns. When addressing mail to the Main Post Office add '1' after the city.
Since 1999, the postage is increased by about 40%. The info below is old, 99 info.

Mail

Japan

Europe

USA

Aust
Post Card

2.30?zl

2.60zl

2.80zl

3.60zl
letters up to 20g 2.60?zl 2.60zl 2.80zl

3.60zl
Parcel 2kg
Airmail

?zl

146zl

187zl

217zl
Surface

?zl

29.20zl

36.70zl

66.70zl
Telephone Office Often open 24hr - Check local info.
Telephone:
Cardphones: newer and reliable. Telephone cards (Karty magnetyczne) can be bought from the Post Office and some kiosks. No coin/token phones are available.25units = 11:30zl 50units = 23zl 100 units = 46zl
International calls Can be made from most card phones.
International Direct Dialling:00 + country code + area code+ no.
International Rates Japan Europe USA Australia
(1 min.) ? ? ? ?
Home Country Direct:
USA (AT&T) 00 800 993 0048 Canada 00 800 890 6143
UK (BT) 00 800 890 048 Australia 00 800 881 048
Japan (KDD) 00 800 811 2143  

Emergency numbers American Express: 00800-44-11200

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Accommodation
As yet there are no all year round, traveler style hostels.
Youth Hostels - HI 25zl. There are many youth hostels throughout Poland. Though very cheap, they are often full with groups of Polish teenagers.
They tend to have lots of rules, curfews and lock out periods during the day. None HI members pay extra.
University dorms (From end of June to end of August-mid Sept only though some have a limited number of rooms available all year round). Universities offer cheap accommodation in student dorms. about 30zl/p. Often the best value for budget travelers. Though 2-4 bedded rooms, you won't usually have to share.
Private rooms 50+zl. Check at tourist offices or travel agencies. Check whether the rooms are in the center before you accept them.
You may be offered rooms by elderly people outside train stations and tourist/travel agencies. Usually okay but use your common sense.
All kinds of accommodation can be booked through Tourist Offices, and private agencies. Usually free but sometimes a commission or fee is charged. PTTK, the government tourist agency, also operate hotels throughout the country. Most of them offer a range of accommodation from cheap dorm rooms to mid-range hotel level.
Camping In the large towns, such as Krakow, Torun, camping is easily the cheapest option for about 15-20zl
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Food
Thick soups, meat, potatoes, dumplings and sauerkraut are the typical Polish cuisine.
Pierogi - dumplings can be savory or sweet. Borsch the pink beetroot-based soup is a traditional dish.
Deserts, cakes and ice cream are delicious. Poppy-seed pastries,Nasliki pancakes with seasonal fruit and cream, cheesecake, apple pie.Good coffee is also available everywhere.
Restaurants
Milk bars
canteen style, are the cheapest places to eat. The food is filling, quality variable.
There are a wide variety of other Polish restaurants where you can sample traditional polish cuisine at a wide range of prices.
Most cities/towns have Chinese restaurants. In Warsaw there are many cheap Chinese stalls (usually a red cabin style) and simple restaurants. In other towns Chinese restaurants tend to be expensive however some will offer a good value lunch menu. particularly in Warsaw,
Pizza can be found everywhere, McDonald's and other international fast food chains are well-established.
Alcohol: Vodka, Beer- local brews include Zywiec, EB, Lech, Okocim, Lezajsk.

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Shopping
General opening hours: 10-19:00. Shops in tourist areas open longer.
Souvenirs T-shirts, amber stones and jewelry, naiv art carvings, religious icons.
Photo Developing/Quality. Developing Cost 36film = ?
English Language Newspapers ?The Warsaw Voice, available on line at:
Voltage, Plug type 220 V 50 cycles, Hz AC.
Rounded 2-pinned plugs.Multi-adapters are hard to find, bring with you.
Goods hard to get here transformers for electronic goods.

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Customs
Toilets Male toilets are often indicated by a triangle and female toilets by a circle.
Tipping Yes and no. Some locals say that tipping is not the custom but it seems to be the practice in higher class/ tourist restaurants, around 10%
Dress Conservative casual.
Bargaining Fixed prices are the norm in Poland.

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Health & Safety
No one on our staff has any medical background, our information on this subject is limited.
Health Hazards ?
Water We don't recommend. Buy drinking water.

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Entertainment
Opera & classical music performances are very popular.
It's customary to dress up to go to the theater.
Many theaters have a summer break.
Tourist Office usually have information on what's happening. The What Where When Magazine lists festival, events, concerts, etc for the month.
A number of cities have their own edition. Can be accessed on internet:
(http:/www.inter.com.pl)

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Festivals/Public Holidays 2002
Poland is a strongly Roman Catholic country, Christian Holidays are honored/celebrated throughout the country. See local info for local festivals.
Jan 1 PH New Year's Day
Mar31-Apr 1 PH Easter Sunday & Monday
May 1 PH Labor Day
May 3 PH Constitution Day
May 30 PH Corpus Christi
Aug 15 PH Feast of the Assumption
Nov 1 PH All Saints Day
Nov 11 PH National Independence Day
Dec 25-26 PH Christmas

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@ Internet @
Internet facilities are available most of the palces in Poland. Telecom offices are beginning to operate internet facilities. Sometimes their service is free, sometimes there is a small fee. The quality is high although they often have a limited number of terminals. Internet Cafes &/or telecom services are available in Warsaw, Krakow,.Gdansk, Wroclaw, Torun, Zakopane.
Charges are around5-10zl/hr.

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