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).
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:
- Exchange your AUD to PLN in Australia at Travel Money Oz before you leave.
- 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.
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.
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.