Poland - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Poland


Travellers to Poland will be enchanted by its remarkable history of heroic resilience and tragedy, and delight in the charming character of its cities and in the natural beauty of the countryside. From romantic tales of medieval knights and battles, kings and splendid castles, to the horrors and destruction of World War II, from its determined stand against communism to today's modern outlook and booming economy, the country abounds with evidence both of a historically turbulent past and a bright future to come.

It was the country most devastated by World War II in Eastern Europe, losing about a quarter of its population and almost its entire Jewish community. The aftermath of the war greatly influenced the character of the country. Former Jewish centres in the cities and the stark concentration camps where the Nazis carried out their extermination atrocities remain as the most stirring reminders of the nation's tragedies. Cities destroyed by the war had to be rebuilt from scratch and the many meticulously restored buildings and historic old towns are testimony to the pride and determination of a strong and durable nation.

Warsaw, the capital, was almost totally destroyed by the war and now presents an unusual mix of beautifully restored historic buildings, communist-era concrete structures, and modern fashion and consumerism. The maritime city of Gdañsk, home to the historic garrison at Westerplatte and the legendary Lenin shipyards, was the stage for both the beginnings of the Second World War and the disintegration of Eastern European communism. But it is Krakow, the ancient royal capital, that draws the crowds, rivalling the elegance of cities like Prague and Vienna. Having largely escaped the destruction of the war it retains its charming medieval character: the Royal Castle, the grand Market Square, the old Jewish quarter and the nearby Nazi death camps of Auschwitz are all steeped in historical importance.

The unspoilt Baltic coastline and the splendour of the rugged mountain ranges of the Tatras will impress outdoor enthusiasts, with a variety of activities and scenery to provide a peaceful and relaxing break from the intensity of the country's history. Along with the legendary hospitality of Polish people, a sense of nationhood to which the Catholic Church is fundamental, and a strong musical and cultural sense of identity, its tourist infrastructure is flourishing and the country is experiencing a remarkable increase in the number of visitors to its shores.

Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

When sightseeing around Poland you'll find all the hallmarks of European charm in abundance: alpine mountains, historic buildings, resplendent lakes, lush meadows, untainted beaches and, as a less-than-rosy bonus, the setting for some key events from the Second World War.

The capital of Warsaw was the first city to fall to Hitler and had to be almost completely rebuilt after the 1944 invasion. Parts of the Old Town were built to replicate the city as it had stood in the 17th and 18th centuries and is the site of the Historical Museum of Warsaw, a salute to the city's violent past.

About two hours north of Warsaw is the Bialowieza Primaeval Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is one of the last remnants of the European primeval forest. Further north we find another rare vestige of olden Europe, the Gothic Castle in Malbork, the largest and most impressive brick fortress in Europe. There are several other wooden and stone churches, temples and other constructs throughout Poland's vast and glorious countryside, which can be chartered by bus or train.

An overview of the must-sees of Poland would not be complete without a mention of the most significant landmark of the country's violent past, Auschwitz - Hitler's biggest and most notorious concentration camp.


Poland has an interesting mix of the old and the new, and this is apparent in the business world too. Women can expect a kiss on the hand rather than a handshake from the older generation and one can expect to be warmly offered drinks during meetings; it is impolite to refuse. Although the Polish are hospitable and friendly, business is still conducted formally. Punctuality is important, dress should be formal and conservative (a suit and tie the norm) and business cards are exchanged. Use titles and first names unless otherwise indicated. English is widely spoken, though attempting some basic Polish phrases will be appreciated. Business hours in Poland are traditionally 7am to 3pm Monday to Friday, with a long lunch taken after 3pm. Western influence, however, means that hours are starting to shift to the more common 9am to 5pm.


Poland has a temperate climate characterised by cold winters and warm summers. Winters become increasingly severe inland from the Baltic coast, with January temperatures in Warsaw averaging 23°F (-5°C). In summer it is hotter inland; with July temperatures in Warsaw averaging 66°F (19°C). Rain can be expected throughout the year, particularly in the southern mountains.


The international access code for Poland is +48. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)22 for Warsaw and (0)12 for Krakow. Cheap rates apply between 4pm and 6am, and on weekends. Mobile phones work throughout the country, local operators use GSM networks, which may not be compatible with some US cell phones. Internet cafes are available in most towns.


Jay walking is an offence in Poland, which is punishable with a fine. Public drunkenness is severely viewed; police will take drunk people to drying out clinics until sober and the person will be charged for the stay, and driving after drinking alcohol is punishable by law.

Duty Free

Travellers to Poland over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 250 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre wine and 1 litre spirits; cosmetics and medicines for personal use; gifts up to the value of EUR175. Travellers to Poland arriving from within the EU do not have to pay duty on 800 cigarettes or 200 cigars or 1kg smoking tobacco; 10 litres spirits, 90 litres wine and 110 litres beer. Prohibited items include birds and poultry arriving from countries infected with Avian influenza. The export of all articles of artistic, historic or cultural value are subject to special regulations.

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The standard two-pin European style plugs are used.

There are few health risks associated with travel to Poland. Those visiting forested areas are advised to seek medical advice about inoculations for tick borne encephalitis, and tick bite prevention measures due to the presence of Lyme disease. Bird flu was first discovered in northern Poland in March 2006; there is little risk to travellers, but close contact with live birds should be avoided and all egg and poultry dishes well cooked as a precaution. It is safest to drink bottled water to avoid stomach upsets. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK and most EU countries, whose citizens are entitled to low-cost emergency medical treatment on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but full health insurance cover is still advised. Medical facilities and standards of health care are good, but not many nurses or doctors speak English.

The national language is Polish. English is widely understood in tourist areas.

The official currency is Zloty (PLN), divided into 100 groszy. Poland is essentially a 'cash country', and it is difficult to negotiate credit cards and travellers cheques in the cities, and well nigh impossible in rural areas. American Express, Diners Club, Visa and MasterCard are, however, accepted in places frequented by tourists. ATMs are also beginning to proliferate in Polish cities, where the sign 'Bankomat' indicates them. Money (preferably US$ or Euros) can be exchanged in the cities and larger towns at banks, hotels or bureaux called 'kantors', which offer the best rates. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and some are open on Saturday till 1pm.

Passport Visa

A passport valid for at least six months after arrival is needed for those who require a visa. Visa exempt nationals must have a passport valid for period of intended stay (other than EEA nationals). The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.


Tourists should be alert to the risk of robbery in tourist areas in large cities in Poland, particularly in the vicinity of hotels, markets and banks. Vigilance against theft should also be exercised at central railway stations, as well as on overnight long distance trains, and when travelling on public transport between Warsaw's Frederic Chopin Airport and central Warsaw. Avoid walking alone at night. Tourist sites, areas near big hotels, money exchange facilities and ATMs are popular with thieves.


Tipping is not customary in Poland, but small gratuities of 10% can be offered for excellent service. In restaurants, when your money is collected, by saying 'thank you' this signals to the waiter/waitress to keep the change.

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