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Traveling to Poland: Tips for First-Timers

20 Jan 2006 /  #1
If you are going to Poland for the very first time all you need to bring with you an open mind (the rest will be easily provided for you.) Actually an open mind is a prerequisite, to enjoying your time in the country.

I assume that you do not speak the exotic language that Poles use to communicate among themselves and according to some, at times, sounds very much like a lot of strange insects making mating noises.

Although, knowing the language can be an advantage, I promise you, you will do great without, possibly even better. You see, as a real foreigner, you are expected, possibly even supposed to master more than a couple of the most rudimentary words like "good day," "thank you, "good bye" and possibly a couple of swearwords.

Knowing more Polish than that can put you at disadvantage; "He knows Polish, he can manage." If you don't, everyone will be more than happy to help. If you do, you're on your own.

Some Poles will use every opportunity to practice their own variant of sign language that - at least that is what they believe - works on any foreigner, others will use this occasion to test their, often limited, fluency in English on a real live foreigner.

Beware that although most Poles are not very capable when it comes to the mastery of foreign languages most of them fancy themselves as real polyglots. Thus, you may very well have to listen to long and convoluted explanations involving the country's dire past and their family's success or lack thereof in real life.

You don't have to understand every word, in fact you don't even have to listen, Just nod from time to time and issue some well suited grunts and your on your way. And for God's sake do not decline if you have been offered a glass of vodka with a traditional Polish "śledź" (herring). You have just found yourself a friend.

Language aside, you will need money. The hotels are not cheap, although the food is relatively inexpensive, the cheapest in the EU, which will allow you to taste the Polish specialties without being worried about going broke. And taste you should, since the Polish kitchen, at least according to myself and a few other experts, is one of the best in the world.

Since Poland has been for so long under influence from so many different sources, Italians, French, Germans, Austrians, Russians, just to name a few, it contains an eclectic mix of dishes and influences from all of the above. Poles do enjoy their food and so should you. But beware, the typical Polish dinner consists of three dishes: soup, main meal and dessert. Thus, you should be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours at a real Polish dinner. Add to the above a need for refreshments, be it beer, wine, vodka or foreign stuff, and you understand now that dining in Poland is a serious business. Better practice in advance as not to shame yourself. According to Poles the eating habits in the West are seriously neglected. The Poles eat, the Westerners are on a diet.

Once you are full, it is time for entertainment. There is enough nightlife, especially in the big city, for anyone's taste. Dance the night, or relax in a pub. Whatever makes you happy. And in the morning, provided you are up to it after a night in town, you can enjoy wandering around the Old City in Warsaw, going to museums, visiting the Wawel, the ancient castle of the Polish kings. And there is more. Poland will cater to any taste, so whatever your preferences - we've got it.

Take a swim in the Baltic Sea, although water can be a bit cold, walk the beautiful white beaches, climb in mountains, pick mushrooms in the old forests. Whatever you need it's all there.

True you can't go hunting lions or elephants, but there are some - if you wish to watch them - at the Zoo. On the other hand, hunting of the Polish native animals is another option.

It is all there for you to choose from, so why not start now. As a first time traveler you are in for a treat, and don't let me spoil it by revealing it all. After all, at least half the pleasure is to discover things on your own. The best tips I can give you is "to make friends," this will take you everywhere you want to go and possibly to other places you don't even know they exist.

--- by Steven ---
21 Jan 2006 /  #2
Yep, most Polish people think they know English very well. Some of them do, but others don't. Like any other nation though.
18 Jun 2006 /  #3
Most middle aged Poles speak a bit of English, but teenagers have learned it in school sincethey were 5 years old. I have several tennaed Polish nieces and nephews who e-mail me regularly, and chat on the phone with perfect English. So, if you are in Poland, and you need translation, ask a teen!

bossie 1 | 123  
9 Jul 2006 /  #4
Poles, unlike Brits, don't have a hunting tradition. Fishing - yes, drinking - yes, but hunting is not perceived as a regular hobby. Going to forests is usually for mushrooms or just fresh air.
9 Jul 2006 /  #5
Some Poles will use every opportunity to practice their own variant of sign language that - at least that is what they believe - works on any foreigner, others will use this occasion to test their, often limited, fluency in English on a real live foreigner.

Hmm - I wonder how many English speakers who come here had learned a foreign language. It is compulsatory here for all higschool children to learn at least 2..

Just nod from time to time and issue some well suited grunts and your on your way.

Well, I was to lazy to read all of your scribble that you have produced in your rather lenghty text - I just somehow haven`t seen the point in reading all of that nonesense - but who konws, perhaps I`m going to do that in the future.
rafik 18 | 589  
10 Jul 2006 /  #6
come on wujek relax a bit :) ive read it all and i think its an interesting article.i cant find anything rude or offensive there- its just funny.we all make silly things try to look,behave more serious than we are.the foreigners who come to our country may not understand everything.when i started learning english i used to nod and smile all the time because i did not want to be inpolite. when people realized that i did not understand they tried to demonstrate what they mean and it was very funny.probably he exaggerated a bit all spent his holiday with some old gits.steven-next time try to hang around with someone younger:)
semper_malus - | 21  
15 Oct 2006 /  #7
Take a swim in the Baltic Sea, although water can be a bit cold, walk the beautiful white beaches

Well I did'nt saw any white beaches. And swiminig in the Baltic- well not anyone wanna try estreme sports :)

Except Warsaw, Krakow & Gdańsk you can go to Warmia & Mazusry region for exemple to Olsztyn (about 200 km from Warsaw direction north, from Gdansk direction east) woods and lakes inside the city area.

After all there is in Poland much to see beside Karkow, Warsaw, Gdansk (Poznan, Wroclaw,Rzeszow,Przemysl, Sandomierz, Elblag, Elk, Zamosc & more). We have even village with three hundred thousand inhabitants :)
31 Dec 2006 /  #8
Having traveled to Poland last Christmas for the first time, I was very pleasantly surprised by the rich history I discovered there, and a beauty to behold in the cities as well as the countryside; but the best discovery of all was the abundant joy and genuine friendliness I found in the Polish people I met. Nearly everyone was full of comraderie and eager to tell me a story or a joke that was clearly meant to impress me. Impressed I was! Having ditched some backward-thinking notions I had of Poland as a former Communist-bloc country and how that might have affected its people, I was happy to find a people who are very proud indeed of their rich heritage and their many accomplishments. I look forward to another visit soon, as soon as I can lose the weight I gained in the many wonderful eateries I discovered. By the way, I hope to improve my Polska before I return so I can communicate better with my new friends.
kaka 1 | 142  
1 Jan 2007 /  #9
hotels are expensive? relativly they are still cheaper then in the west
dannyboy 18 | 248  
15 Feb 2007 /  #10
I couldn't find anybody that spoke English in Poland (even in Warsaw), but thats part of what I love about it - it hasn't been spoilt by American bull.

Most of western Europe, particularily Ireland and the UK are very badly americanized, sometimes like the 51st and 52nd states.

Until you go to Rome or Warsaw, you wouldn't realise there is a different way of doing things.
18 Feb 2007 /  #11
slow down man to compare rome with warsaw,

dont touch the mighty empire:)
Frank 23 | 1,183  
18 Feb 2007 /  #12
Most of western Europe, particularily Ireland and the UK are very badly americanized, sometimes like the 51st and 52nd states

Oh, Dannyboy...not sure about this slur on the Emerald Isle...steady have to remember, curiously, that many values and value systems were imported from both countries mentioned and then modified to meet the needs of a new part of there current attitudes, ways of doing things are OUR fault to start with.

All nations have become Americanised to a degree.....and those of us with two eyes in our heads and multiple sources of media input plus have travelled make our own minds up......

I see myself as a European.....:)...I don't feel that everything Irish is always best etc....

slow down man to compare rome with warsaw,

E....Danny was only exampling the two cities not comparing..........:)
clunkshift 2 | 82  
26 Feb 2007 /  #13
According to Poles the eating habits in the West are seriously neglected. The Poles eat, the Westerners are on a diet.

This is a puzzle to me - I know it is true about the Polish appetite and I've had wonderful food of diverse types in Poland, by why is it that English girls still make Polish girls look anorexic?

Does binge drinking make a difference?

Can Polish women explain this paradox?
Alicja - | 44  
26 Feb 2007 /  #14
We usually eat in Poland freshly prepared food without all those strange additions. I think that we also tend to walk more. However, the percentage of overweight Polish teenagers is becoming higher nowadays because of McDonald's + coke+ crisps...
Dora 2 | 29  
6 Mar 2007 /  #15
Ahhh the food in Poland. I am going to visit in May, can't wait...

everything fresh fresh fresh...salads & the wonderful Polish bread
krysia 23 | 3,058  
6 Mar 2007 /  #16
I am going to visit in May

Ha! Beat you!!! I'm going in April.
7 Mar 2007 /  #17
Im leaving march... I was born in Poland however i was only a year old when i left to the USA. So, i am very scared. I know the language, i know the food, i know some of the people, but still it scares me to go back to the country i was born in. I know i will have an amazing time........
Tamara 9 | 202  
7 Mar 2007 /  #18
There is no reason to be scared - it can still be very different, expecially if you will be staying with a family but it is a great place !
krysia 23 | 3,058  
7 Mar 2007 /  #19
Hi Beatka. Poland if different than the US, but you don't have to be scared! Poland is very beautiful, you get to ride on tramways, buses, lots of interesting architecture, castles and churches. The weather is really nice right now in Poland, birds singing.

You will probably miss some things in the US, but enjoy your stay while there. They will treat you like a princess.
And the food is excellent. Palce lizać!
21 Mar 2007 /  #20
what is shopping like in poland? i mean clothes, shoes.. etc?
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
21 Mar 2007 /  #21
depends where youre goin naz - larger cities have a great slection of shops selling clothes and shoes
21 Mar 2007 /  #22
to lodz,
jus some casual clothes, but generally is it cheaper newhere specific, or ne particular design shops/ chains?
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
21 Mar 2007 /  #23
there are a couple of polish chainstores that sell alright casual stuff...

among others - prices vary but sales always offer good bargains
21 Mar 2007 /  #24
thanx, ive checked out the links, but they all seem kinda 'sporty' i was lookin for more 'trendy/smart' fashion-able stuff.. bit more girly casual.

but il jus check it out when i get there.. thanx!
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
21 Mar 2007 /  #25
cool naz - you will find plenty of stuff i imagine - check out large shopping centres - centrum hanlowe
FireWire - | 23  
22 Mar 2007 /  #26
Good post Steven =)

One of the things i would like to know a little about in Poland is the local transport. Train? Bicycle? other?

Also, maybe a question for broader travel throughout europe:
My mother is polish, and my understanding is that while i am born australian, i am able to get a polish passport.

I have heard rumours that this can be handy, but also that in some places you are treated better with a foreign passport (at the airport for example).

Anyone have any experience with this either way?
29 Mar 2007 /  #27
What are the areas that first-time tourists should avoid?

What are the areas a first time tourist should avoid? What about fun?
15 Apr 2007 /  #28
I am going to Poland for 2 1/2 weeks in May. It will be my first time and I will be staying with my girlfriends family. With that considered, I'm trying to figure out how much money I should bring with me? Any ideas anyone? Thanks!
16 Apr 2007 /  #29
I think this is the world's first FREE animated baby sign dictionary. I think they have 200 plus signs. Check it out at and tell your friends!Any one else tried it

Thank you.
21 Apr 2007 /  #30
I am glad to hear you had such a good time in Poland. My husband and I are planning to go there summer of 2008. I read somewhere else about the friendliness of the people in Poland and a Polish saying....Guests in the home, God in the home....

What are the names of the good eateries and where are they located? My ancestors emmigrated from Galicia to Chicago around 1900, I would like to visit Southern Poland and explore the Tatras, Carpathians and the villages of my ancestors.

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