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Travel Hacks: Why Poland should be on your bucket list

22nd August 2019

When planning a European itinerary most Aussies go for the classics - pasta in Italy, croissants in Paris, sailing in Croatia, sunsets in Santorini… you get the gist. Europe is a big old continent though, and there is so much of it to explore, enjoy and uncover. 

What if I told you that there was a place that was cheaper than Greece, bursting with charismatic cities and unique history that also boasted some of the most beautiful scenery Europe has to offer? No, don’t tell her she’s dreaming. This is a real place, and it is, of course, Poland. 

Now, I have to admit that I have always been intrigued by Poland but I’ve never been able to put my finger on why. This being the case, I jumped on the opportunity to include it in my recent Euro trip itinerary. I’ve visited over 15 countries in Europe and I can now safely say that Poland is without a doubt my favourite. With this in mind, I’m almost apprehensive to shout from the hills (or write in a blog) about how wonderful it is. Part of its grandeur comes from the fact that it is relatively forgotten by tourists. Alas, my mum taught me to share so, lucky for you, here are some travel tips, tricks and must do’s when you visit Poland (and trust me, you HAVE to visit). 

Unique architecture in Krakow's main square. 

The Basics

For those without a map, Poland is nestled into the right of Germany, smack bang in the middle of Europe and bordered by heaps of Eastern European countries. 


In Poland, you will use Zloty (PLN) - probably the most fun currency name in the world. While I was travelling 10 Aussie Dollars converted to about 25 zloty. 

Pronounced shlotty, you will become accustomed to 10, 20, 50 and 100 PLN notes. There is also 200 and 500PLN notes available but they are harder to find and also kinda unnecessary because everything is super cheap. You can also get 1, 2 and 5 PLN coins. 

Now, 1 zloty is divided into 100 grosz which means you can get 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 grosz coins. 

You’ll want to have smaller notes and PLN coins available when purchasing at stalls and shops. Card is pretty widely accepted however there aren’t many (if any) travel cards that load the zloty. With this in mind you have two options:

  1. Exchange your AUD to PLN in Australia at Travel Money Oz before you leave. 
  2. Load AUD onto your Travel Money Oz Currency Pass and it will convert to zloty when you make any card purchases. Just be sure to decline Dynamic Currency Conversion or ‘paying in your home currency’ to avoid extra fees. In other words, if you get asked to pay in either AUD or PLN, choose PLN. 

ATM’s are pretty widely found, however their fees can be rather steep so I would just recommend sticking to cash. 

Soup, juice, 2 zloty and a Currency Pass - the ultimate lunch combination.


Polish is the main language spoken throughout Poland, however you will find most younger people will have a solid grasp of English, or at least enough English to tell you where the bathroom is. 

This isn’t always the case though, especially in smaller towns. Case in point: after a long day of hiking in Zakopane I was hoping to get a load of laundry done at the local laundromat. The attendant spoke two words of English. This language barrier coupled with my tired brain meant I got the conversion from PLN to AUD confused and almost paid $60 Aussie for a load of washing. Safe to say I hand washed my clothes that night. Moral of the story: have a solid grasp of your currency conversion and maybe get Google translate. 


Unlike a lot of Western Europe, Poland isn’t very well serviced by the train network. Instead you will rely on buses and flights to get yourself around. While the buses can be a bit time-tedious (read: the buses are looong), they are very well equipped with bathrooms and wifi and are incredibly affordable. I used Ecolines for all of my bus travel and had no issues. 

For an idea on pricing, I took a 12 hour bus from Vilnius in Lithuania to Krakow in Poland that cost me 19.80 euros. It was an overnight bus too, so I was able to save on a night’s accommodation in addition to the super cheap bus fare. 

Daily Budget

Your budget will obviously vary depending on where you go, how you like to travel and what you purchase. To give you a baseline idea though, here is what I would recommend budgeting for your day-to-day expenses in Poland, excluding accommodation. 

Budget Traveller: About 30AUD or 70-80PLN per person will cover you for supermarket breakfast, snacks and drinks, a solid meal in a restaurant, a free walking tour and bus transport around the city. See, I told you it was cheap. 

Pro tip: you can get SUPER CHEAP drinks (beers, wine etc) from supermarkets, just don’t drink them on the street as it is illegal.

Moderate Traveller: About 60AUD or 145-160PLN per person will get you a cheap but filling dish at a restaurant for each meal, drink or two at a bar and a low-cost day trip. 

Pro tip: there are a lot of organised tours to different attractions. Save money by getting your own transport there and either touring it yourself or booking a guide once you arrive at the attraction. It will save you quite a bit of cash. 

Luxury Traveller: I mean you can literally spend as much as you want, but 90AUD or 230-250PLN per person will have you living it up in Poland with fancy meals, drinking cocktails and enjoying guided tours to your heart’s content. 

If you’re keen on a more specific budget based on your needs, give our budget planner below a whirl. 

Food and Drink

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff - food. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have many expectations when it came to Polish cuisine, but boy oh boy was I surprised by how inexpensive and delicious their large serving sizes are. The cuisine itself is characterised by hearty, warming meals and has been influenced by the Eastern European countries around it. However, the cities are filled with a wide range of global cuisines. My recommendation is to try everything and bring a pair of sweatpants (or something with a stretchy waistband) as they aren’t afraid of a calorie or two. 

Here are some must-try dishes for your visit to Poland. 

1- Pierogi or Polish Dumplings. I’ve never met a Pierogi I didn’t like and, if I’m being honest, I still find myself drifting off and dreaming of their soft, delicious embrace. They can be filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits and sweets and will set your life alight. I wish I had a picture, but every time I ordered a plate I ate them all before I even considered getting my phone out. A plate of 12 will set you back around 5AUD, but you’ll probably want to eat more than that. 

2 - Soup. Whether it’s a chicken broth or tomato soup with noodles, the soup in Poland is yummo and one of the cheapest options on the menu. Most soups I got were no more than 7 zloty (less than $3). 

3 - Milkbar meal deals. Milkbars are reminiscent of traditional Poland. Here you will find heaps of uniquely Polish dishes that won’t break the bank. When I was there I got a soup and schnitzel (or breaded pork cutlet) meal deal for 20zloty (about $7 Aussie).  


4 - Pork. You can get pork schnitzels, pork pasties, pork pancakes, pork sandwiches… you name it you’ll probably get a pork version. I got an incredible pork sandwich from Andrus Food Truck in Krakow and it was 11/10 amazing. I’ll let the picture do the talking. Prices vary depending on the dish you choose, but my sandwich was 15pln (about $6AUD)


5 - Market delicacies. Head to any of the markets in towns to stumble upon a myriad of unique and delicious delicacies. Freshly baked bread, unique sweets, ice cream and oscypek which is a smoked sheep-milk cheese. Ask for some tastes before you purchase one though, as the flavour certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s complemented nicely by some fresh berry jam. 

Polish market sweets. Don't ask me what they are called, I have no idea. All I know is that they taste great. 

Where to Visit 

Now I have to admit that I’ve only been to Krakow and Zakopane, and they were enough to leave me wanting more. 

Thankfully, Amber has visited Warsaw and Wroclaw and has written about it for us, so be sure to check it out if you are interested in those cities. From what I’ve read and heard, both cities are worth adding to your itinerary. 


A buzzing city on the doorstep of some of Poland’s most popular tourist attractions and historical sites. The city alone is bursting with eclectic bars, cobblestoned streets, amazing nightlife, incredible food, a castle and the best bit, a dragon that spits fire. 

I would recommend a minimum of four nights in Krakow to fully make the most of the city. You can spend a day or two exploring the streets and sampling delicious food (I had the best ice cream of my life in Krakow) before spending time doing trips out of the city. 

Must do in Krakow:

1. Visit the UNESCO listed ‘Wieliczka’ Salt Mine. Just outside Krakow is a breathtaking underground salt mine boasting cathedrals, statues and walkways all made of salt. Save money by catching a bus to the site and getting a guide/ joining a tour when you arrive. In total the whole trip will take about half a day. Alternatively, their sunrise masses are meant to be a profound experience (despite the fact that you are underground and can’t see the sun). 

2. Eat! Fill up on pierogi (of course), obwarzanek krakowski (polish pretzels that cost less than 2PLN) and a chimney cake, which is an ice cream made from a cinnamon coated pastry dough cone and filled with Nutella. 

3. Pay your respects at Auschwitz/ Birkenau concentration camp. Full disclosure, this is a heavy day, but it is also incredibly educational and necessary. It’s hard to put it into words, as the devastation experienced by the 1.1million people that were killed there was profound. You cannot leave Krakow without visiting. Like the salt mines, save money by catching a bus there (shuttles run from the main bus station) and booking a tour through the Auschwitz museum site. Book in advance as tickets sell out. 


4. Go bar hopping in the old town and Jewish quarter. There are heaps of unique bars with different themes and cheap drinks. Personal favourites were Singer, Alchemia od Kuchni, Wodka bar and Wezza Krafta. 

When you're this close to Russia you need to take advantage of the vodka. 

5. See the Dragon statue that spits fire. Duh. 


Visiting Zakopane was a last-minute decision, but it was perhaps the best decision I made during my whole Europe trip (apart from when I got that ice cream in Krakow). Zakopane is located in the very south of Poland close to the border of Slovakia. Not only does it boast the friendly Polish culture that you will grow to love, but it is home to the Tatra mountains. 

These mountains are perfect for hiking and mountain biking in the summer, and offer world world-class skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Zakopane itself is an adorable little town and the perfect place to chill out after a day of activities in the mountains. 

I did a 30km hike that took about nine hours. It was breathtaking, both from the fact that I was literally climbing mountains and because the scenery is like nothing I have ever seen before. Once again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

You can catch a 4-hour bus to Zakopane from Krakow that costs less than 20 euros per person (Ecolines uses euros as payment). I recommend staying in a cute little Airbnb with a fire to get the full mountain experience. 

Throughout my trip I was often excited to leave one place in preparation for the next, however I was very sad to leave the tranquillity and fresh mountain air of Zakopane. It is a true travel ‘pinch yourself' location. 

Moral of the story, the next time you are planning your European itinerary, please prioritise pierogi in Poland amidst your Italian pasta, french pastries and Greek sunsets. 

If you’re planning a Polish adventure, be sure to visit the team at Travel Money Oz to stock up on zlotys (and maybe practice the pronunciation a few times). 

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