Poland is a popular destination for visitors from Western Europe. Poland, a former Eastern bloc country, is a rich tourist destination because of its painful history: architecture, landscapes, traditions, the sense of Polish warmth. Poland is a must-see excursion from Krakow to Warsaw through Gdansk, without missing Zakopane.
I have spent a couple of weeks in Poland in 2023. Based on my observations and staying in this this beautiful country, I can share with you the list below of the main things you should know before heading to Poland:
1) It may be chilly
It is thus not surprising that Eastern Europe is covered in snow every year and that the region is becoming colder, yet many tourists who visit Poland in the winter don’t bring enough clothing to keep warm.
If you want to visit Warsaw’s skyscrapers or Krakow’s cobblestone alleys between December and March, you run the chance of having to wait in negative temperatures, which includes long lines, thermals, and the full nine yards.
2) It may get rather heated
Summers in Poland are the polar opposite of winters, with snow on the streets and temperatures well below freezing. From May through September, the southern continental climate heats the air in places like as Wroclaw and Krakow.
Not only does this raises the temperature, but it may also make things excessively uncomfortable and heated. And then, you may come across thunderstorms. I did experience on when I was in Zakopane. It happened all of a sudden, with heavy rain and strong wind.
3) You can buy tickets inside Buses, Trains and Trams
The tram is one of the greatest ways to travel around in Polish cities, whether it’s between museums in Warsaw or fashionable nightclubs in hedonistic Krakow. Don’t get trapped in queue with the other oddball guests at the station ticket machine.
Climb on and use the ticket distributor that is waiting for you. Keep a few coins on hand, though, as many things are only available with payment in cash.
4) Do not consume alcohol in public
One Polish legislation that always seems to catch foreign tourists off guard is the one governing public use of alcohol. Perhaps it’s Krakow’s unapologetic hedonism that makes individuals believe they can do what they want on the streets.
Perhaps it’s Gdansk’s laid-back, chilled attitude that keeps folks looking at grog all the time. In brief, don’t drink beer in public areas (You can drink beer on terraces though).
5) Poland is more beautiful than you imagine
Don’t forget to bring your camera on your first vacation to Poland. It is a frequent misconception that this part of the continent is made up of all of the post-war depots and industries. It couldn’t be more incorrect.
Great Gothic works may be found in historic communities over 1200 years old. Warsaw modernism glows and shines. Gdansk is rich in mediaeval remains. Then there’s the stunning hinterland, which includes everything from the towering Tatra Mountains to Slowinski’s changing dunes.
6) Go beyond Krackow and Warsaw
While most people choose to visit Krakow’s cultural capital (with its castles and UNESCO Old Town) or Warsaw’s booming contemporary city (the current capital), it’s a shame that so few choose to go the extra mile and explore Poland’s other urban marvels.
Consider Gdansk, a fashionable city with beatnik pubs and ancient harbours. I recommend to explore to Lodz, where Jewish heritage is still very much alive. Or Wroclaw, with its magnificent cathedral and lovely waterways.
7) A warning for Veggies
Polish cuisine is renowned for its hearty and inviting portions, high-carb ingredients, and meat content. Yes, whether it’s blood red sausages or bigos stew, pork shanks or lamb shanks, there’s not much here to entice vegetarian foodies.
There are choices, of course, like the pierogi dumplings (just make sure they come with onions, not pork scrapings) and the meatless version of the zurek soup (ask for it without the sausage) .
8) The mountains are a long way to the south
Images of the chiselled Tatras or the undulating peaks of the Beskidy are too regularly shared to entice Poles. In truth, Poland is mostly flat, with a continuous plain stretching from the Slovak border to the Baltic Sea.
Mountains can be found only in the country’s far south. Keep in mind that when they appear, they truly appear. Visit Zakopane (two hours outside of Krakow) to observe the snow-capped peaks from above.
9) You may need to hire a car
Looking at a map of Poland, it is evident that it is a large nation. It is a colossus carved out of Central and Eastern Europe, covering over 310,000 km2 and ranking tenth on the continent.
This implies that hiring a car may be worthwhile for those who wish to explore the key landmarks, from the Baltic beaches of the north to the vast woods of the east and the culturally rich towns of the south.
If you can’t or don’t want to hire a car, you can use Poland reliable railway system that links the major cities as well as the mountainous extreme south bordering Slovenia.
10) Vodka is a must
Don’t expect to go to a Polish town to meet locals without being invited to try a bit of the local produce at least once. Vodka isn’t just ubiquitous in Poland, it’s a national obsession.
11) When the light is red, do not cross
Anyone who claims there is insecurity in Central Europe has obviously never visited Poland. The pedestrian green light is taken extremely seriously here, between the bustling streets of Warsaw and the mediaeval cobblestone lanes of Krakow.
During my stay, I have noticed that Poles are eagerly awaiting the man’s transition from czerwony (red) to zielony (green). They will only cross the lines after that. Even if there isn’t a car in sight. The reason is the Polish traffic Police is very strict, and if caught, you’ll be fined.
12) Don't bring up religion
Okay, this may be a very general norm anywhere you go. Yet, It is important to emphasise to anybody visiting Poland that this vast part of central Europe remains one of the continent’s most devoutly Catholic countries.
Of course, this does not apply to everyone you meet, especially the younger generation, but nothing is certain.
By the way, John Paul II is untouchable in Poland. Whatever your feelings about the previous Pope, he is still regarded as a Polish national hero.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. These notes are based on my observations during my stay in Poland. I have visited the country from North to South, and similar things happened in different cities.
Let me know in the comment section below if you have noticed any other things and behaviours Thant are worth mentioning.