Map of Poland

The top places to visit

  1. Krakow - first capitol of Poland, lots of old architecture and history
  2. Warszawa - modern city, great entertainment scene, lots of modern history
  3. Malbork - enormous 13th century Teutonic Knights castle
  4. Auschwitz/Birkenau - biggest Nazi concentration camp in Europe
  5. Zakopane - very scenic mountain town, hiking/winter sports center
  6. Gdansk - prosperous thousand year old port town, lots of old architecture.

Suggested Trip Itinerary (from US)

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Overview

If there is one country in Europe that has seen it all, it is Poland. History of Poland includes everything from being medieval power to being a non-existent state; from Tartar invasions to German and Russian attacks, and brunt of World War II fighting. The architecture reflects this varied history, from thousand year old buildings and castles in Krakow, Gdansk and Malbork to the newly reconstructed "Old Town" and King's Castle in Warsaw. There is also natural scenic beauty, ranging from Baltic Sea in northern part, through 3000 post-glacial lakes in Mazurian district, all the way to sharp peaks of Tatra National Park in town of Zakopane.

Getting to Poland

General Pointers

  1. Credit cards are accepted everywhere.
  2. Use ATMs instead of traveling with cash - the exchange rate is better at ATM anyway.
  3. English is spoken in all major cities.
  4. Lots of museums and castles are closed on Monday, plan accordingly
  5. Bribery or "gifts" will help you go a long way in getting things accomplished, especially when it comes to better medical care.

Local Transportation

Train pointers:

  1. Use PKP web site to find itinerary and price information.
  2. Names of the stations to use in the reservation system: Krakow Glowny, Warszawa Centralna, Zakopane, Gdansk Glowny
  3. Avoid local/regional trains - stick to Express (Ex) and Intercity (IC) trains.
  4. The difference between 1st and 2nd class usually boils down to less than $10 - well worth the upgrade.

Car rental pointers:

  1. Note closely any scratches and dents BEFORE leaving the rental lot. Even better, take a couple pictures.
  2. Be ready for some European-style aggressive driving. Fines for speeding - about $35 for each 10km/h over the speed limit. Lots of time the fine is negotiable, most of the policemen are very pleasant and reasonable, as long as you are polite.
  3. Police can pull you over without the cause. They do it by waving the hand with signal in their hand, or red flashlight at night. At night, make sure the squad car is parked next to person pulling you over, to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Sobriety test can be administered without any cause.

Weather

Best time to visit is the middle of May through middle of October. The days are very long due to northern location, in northern Poland it is possible to be sitting outside eating dinner at 10pm and watch sun setting. Or one can watch sun rise while coming back from nightclubs at 3am :) June-August weather can range from sunny 80s all the way down to rainy 40s - be prepared, especially when travelling in polish mountains. May/September can be very pleasant, with cool mornings and evenings. Other times of the year, expect cold and rainy and/or snowy. The 40 degrees feels surprisingly chilly with humidity and rain (think Chicago).