Visiting Poland

By  | April 3, 2014 | Filed under: Travel

The following contains comparisons to the UK.

Q. Does everyone in Poland speak English?
A. No. Many people under 30 do, but the middle aged women who man all the railway station ticket booths certainly don’t.

Q. Do you know a quick way to learn a bit of Polish:
A. Click here. “There is nothing here that you will associate with traditional learning.”

Q. Where can I look up travel information?
A. The best website is e-podroznik.pl. However, it misses some train journeys. intercity.pl has at least some of the missing rail routes.

Q. Would you recommend hiring a car?
A. No! Public transport is cheap and there are some crazy drivers in Poland. For example, overtaking is performed without much interest in whether another vehicle might be coming from the opposite direction.

Q. Is there a cheap way to use my phone in Poland?
A. Buy a Heyah SIM card from any small shop such as a kiosk at a train station or in the street. 25zl (~£5) is enough for three or four days of calling and Internet use.

Q. What are long train journeys like?
A. I enjoy them. Depending on where you are, you can go first class for five hours for less than £20, probably without changing trains. First class carriages have six person compartments and a toilet at each end. Usually we have a compartment to ourselves. There’s often a trolley service with very nice tea and usually a carriage that sells food and drink.

Q. What are long coach journeys like?
A. Tolerable. Imagine National Express except that there isn’t always a toilet onboard. Coaches stop at coach stations at least every three hours for a short break. Coaches advertise Wifi but it rarely works. Tickets are bought from the driver. PolskiBus is the most comfortable coach service (the best I’ve used in any country) and tickets can be pre-booked via their website. They have a hostess on board who distributes free hot drinks and pastries. Avoid small coaches for long journeys. They are less reliable and carry less pleasant passengers.

Q. Is Poland in the Euro?
A. No, they use the złoty. For the past three years the exchange rate has been very close to 5zł for £1.

Q. How should I change my clock when I arrive in Poland?
A. Polish time is one hour ahead of UK time. So if it’s 10am in UK then it’s 11am in Poland.

Q. How do I choose a flight from the UK?
A. Use ryanair.com and wizzair.com.

Q. What are public toilets like?
A. Public toilets at train and bus stations are usually run by full time cleaning staff who charge a small fee (around 2zl) for entrance. Generally they are better than their UK equivalents. Sometimes they are luxurious. Unfortunately the toilet paper is often of the cheap, barely absorbent kind. Toilets on trains are spartan, although often feature non-touch water activation and posh toilet roll holders. It’s not unusual to find no running water and a Brabantia toilet roll holder in the same toilet. Always check the water is working before applying soap!

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