Information & Facts
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
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.
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.
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.