Poland

Poland essential Information

Visas

As a member of the European Union and a member of the Schengen treaty, the same visa rights apply as in other EU countries. EU nationals are not required to get a visa and can stay as long as they like.

Stays of 90 days or less, also do not require a visa for nationals from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Other nationalities should check with the Polish embassy in their own countries.

Further information can be found here or here.

Advantages

In many ways Poland is a hitch-hikers dream. A growing European power but with a lack of transport infastructure, Poland is a country crying out to be hitch-hiked. The positives are so numerous, hitch-hiking used to be very common in Poland and so people know the concept. The lack of motorways makes it easy to hitch-hike legally, with a constant flow of traffic. A large percentage of the population are bilingual to some degree, with a good level of English amongst the young. Even the undercurrent of religious devotion can work in your favour, as a good turn deserves another. Trains are a cheap, if slow, alternative if you ever find yourself running out of light or time. A remarkably useful route planner can be found by following the link here.

Graffiti covered car, on Józefa - Krakow, Poland (1)Disadvantages

Polish cities tend to cover a large surface area and finding the edge of a city can be tough. This is especially true in the Silesian conglomerate as you might walk straight out of one city into another oneEnglish may not be spoken outside the big cities’ young population, so be prepared for a lot of clumsy attempts at consonant clusters because Polish is not the easiest language to learn. In the winter, Poland, to put it mildly, is extremely cold, so be prepared for the worst if trying to hitch-hike in winter. Polish roads are also infamously bad, so also give up any notion of travelling long distances fast.

View over Warsaw, Poland

Food & Drink

1) Lack of restaurants 

The restaurant culture is not so engrained in Poland as it is in other European countries, perhaps because of the quality of their home cooking. So outside the big tourist cities, be warned that the option may be limited.

2) Don’t drink the water

Rather annoyingly Poland is one those countries where drinking the water is not advisable. Simply pop to the local supermarket and stock up there instead.

Czarny Staw pod Rysami, Tatry, Poland

Accommodation

3) Rely on CouchSurfing or camp

In the big cities, there are hostels available but the prices are not the bargain they once were. When in rural areas look to camp, in cities the couchsurfing community is a strong one and finding a bed is never normally a problem.

Weather

4) Be prepared for everything

Due to the influences of a continental climate from the east and a maritime climate from the west. The weather in Poland is very changeable with significant variation from day to day and year to year. Seasons are clearly defined with wet, windy & occasionally sunny springs and autumns, pleasantly hot summers and sometimes harsh winters.

Zamek Ogrodzieniec (4), Ogrodzieniec Podzamcze, Poland

Transport & Hitch-hiking

5) Hitch-hiking need to knows

There are some toll roads in Poland so either make it clear before you start that you have no money or offer a few Złoty towards the cost. Polish people will generally not ask for any money as they consider hitch-hiking to be free, but it’s still good to know! On Sundays there will be less traffic, as this day is traditionally devoted to rest or church so if you are planning a long journey, Sunday might not be the day to do it.

6) Buses for short distances, trains for long

Buying a ticket can be a frustrating experience for those who don’t speak Polish and it puts a lot of people off from taking the buses. For shorter distances buses are probably your best bet as they will certainly get you there quickly and the price is pretty comparable.The cheapest intercity coach company is Polski Bus which offers rides as cheap as 1 zł, but you have to book in advance for the best deals. Use e-podróżnik search engine to find all intercity bus connections.

For long distance train rides booking your ticket in advance (either online or in person) is advised, although you can normally get train tickets on the go as well. Use the PKP search engine to find train connections, both within Poland and to/from abroad.

Skansen - Górnośląski Park Etnograficzny, WPKiW, Chorzów, Poland

Culture & Tradition

7) Central Europe… not Eastern Europe

Poles see themselves very much as European and dislike the connotation connected with being seen as ‘Eastern’ which they associate with Russia. Thus, it is advisable to refer to Poland as Central Europe, and not Eastern Europe. Although not very offensive, if used, it may reflect foreigners’ ignorance and project a certain disrespect of the history and clearly Latin cultural heritage of Poland. 

8) Traditional Etiquette 

Some men, particularly of the older generation, will kiss a woman’s hand when greeting or saying goodbye. Although, this tradition is rare amongst the young.  It is fairly common practice for people to greet each other dzień dobry (good day) when entering elevators and say do widzenia (good bye) when exiting. Good manners also dictates that women must enter and exit doors first, often leading to a comical shuffle around the lift in order to form the correct queue.

Roadside Shrine, Katowice, Poland

Types of roads

Knowing what roads to hitch-hike on is easy with our Poland hitch-hiker essentials guide:

Poland A road sign1. Autostrada (A) – motorways with a speed limit of 140 km/h. There are currently 6 motorways running:  east to west the A2 (centrally) and A4 (southerly), north to south A1 (centrally) and three shorter motorway stretches (A6, A8, A18). Hitch-hiking on them is illegal.

Poland S road sign2. Droga ekspresowa (S) – dual carriageways that run concurrently with the motorway system only the speed limit is a little lower 100 – 120 km/h. Hitch-hiking on them is illegal

Poland National road sign3. Droga krajowa (National road) – mostly single lane and regional roads with a speed limit of 50 – 90 km/h.  There are 94 national roads in Poland, covering 18,801 km. Hitch-hiking on them is legal.

Poland Voivodeship road4. Droga wojewódzka (Voivodeship road) – one step below the national roads in importance. Roads are numbered from 100 to 993, covering  28,536 km. Hitch-hiking on them is legal.

Map of Motorways and Main Roads

road map of Poland

source: ezilon.com

Speed limit on Polish roads

 poland speed limits

source: wikipedia.org

Absolutely essential hitch-hikers phrasebook

- hello – informal: cześć (TCHE-sh-ch) formal: dzień dobry (dgeyn DOB-ry)
- thank you – dziękuję. (DGEN-ku-ye)
yes – tak (tak)
no – nie (nye)
please / you’re welcome – proszę (PRO-sh-air)
- goodbye – informal: cześć (TCHE-sh-ch) formal: do widzenia (do vee-DZE-nya)
- hitch-hiking – autostop (AWTO-stop)
- I don’t have money –  nie mam pieniędzy (nye mam pier-NIEN-dzy)
- We don’t have money – nie mamy pieniędzy  (nye MA-my pier-NIEN-dzy)
- money – pieniądze (pier-NION-dze)
I’m going to… – Idę do.. (E-de do; if you are walking); Jadę do… (YA-de do, if you are using transport)
We’re going to… – Idziemy do (e-DZYEAH-me do; if walking); Jedziemy do… (yeah-DZYEAH-me, if you are going by transport)
I am… – Jestem (YES-tem)
I am from… – Jestem z… (YES-tem z)
Nice to meet you! – Bardzo mi miło (BAR-dzo mee MEE-woh)
I don’t understand – Nie rozumiem (nye ro-ZOOM-jem)
now – teraz (TE–ras)
today – dzisiaj (DGEE-sh-eye)
yesterday – wczoraj (VCHOR-eye)
tomorrow – jutro (YOU-tro)
– friend –
kolega (koh-LEH-ga)
→ Very useful when they ask you where you’re staying. The concept of Couchsurfing is often too difficult to explain, so just say you’re staying with a friend. You can also use this word to express the relationship between you and your fellow travellers.
Can you stop? Czy może się Pan (if you’re talking to a man) /Pani (if talking to a woman) zatrzymać? (czy-MO-
I want to get out – Chcę wysiąść (htse vy-SHEONG-szcz)
- We want to get out Chcemy wysiąść (HTSE-mer vy-SHEONG-szcz)
turn left – Skręć w lewo (skrenczi f-LE-vo)
turn right  Skręć w prawo (skrenczi f-PRA-wo)
straight ahead – prosto (PRO-sto)
- beer –  piwo (PI-vo) → You should know this word, you will be often invited for some.
- bus station – dworzec autobusowy (DVOR-‘s*’ets awto-bu-SO-vy)
* the ‘s’ from leisure. You should know this word and listen out for it to avoid situations when your driver, in their best intentions, takes you off the road and drives you to a station.
– train station –
dworzec kolejowy (DVOR-‘s*’ets ko-le-YO-vy)
– help me! – pomocy! (po-MO-tsy)
look out! – uważaj! (u-VA-*s*’eye)
– street – ulica (u-LEE-tsa)
road – droga (DRO-ga)
roundabout – rondo (RON-do)
crossroads – skrzyżowanie (skr*s*y-*s*o-VA-nie)

Drinking in the early morning fog with friends, Rogacz, Poland

Main Border Crossings

Poland – EU countries

Since 2004 the border crossings with fellow EU states (Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania) have become obsolete. They are no longer manned and thus should not present any problems for travellers.

Poland – Ukraine

There are four border crossings between Poland and Ukraine.

→ A major crossing can be found at Medyka, 75km east of Rzeszów. Medyka also constitutes the main rail crossing between the two countries. We have experience of crossing this border on foot and do not be surprised to find long queues and hundreds of people taping cigarettes to their bodies as they attempt to smuggle them across into the EU.

→ The other crossings are at KorczowaHrebenne and Dorohusk. More information can be found here

Poland – Belarus

There are three border crossings between Belarus and Poland

→ Major crossings can be found at Terespol on the E30 route that connects Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk and Moscow, and Kukuryi situated on the Poland’s National Road 68. More information can be found here and here.

→ An alternative crossing is located at Kuźnica which was recently upgraded to become an external Schengen border point. More information can be found here.

Poland – Russia

There is one border crossing between the Russian Kalingrad Oblast (Polish: Obwód Kaliningradzki) and Poland

→ Located 10km north-west of Bartoszyce, the only border crossing is in the Polish village of Bezledy. More information can be found here.

Baltic Coastline, Gdynia, Poland

Most Beautiful Nature Spot

The not so hidden treasure of Poland are its beautiful snow capped southern mountains. The Tatras, covering an area of 750 km², contain the highest peaks in the larger Carpathian mountain range and form a natural border between Poland and its southern neighbour Slovakia. The highest summit in Poland can be found here, Rysy standing imposingly at 2,499m. The stunning landscape simply takes the breath away.

Spectacular views whilsts hiking in the Tatra Mountains, Poland

Zakopane hidden in the valleys of the mighty peaks is a picturesque, if tourist heavy, town and is used as a base by those who come to take advantage of the skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. The hiking paths are some of the best we have walked and the views something to behold.

Tatry mountains, Poland (8) – Rocky peaks and wooden huts

Best City / Town

Toruń, with its UNESCO listed medieval old district, is one of the oldest cities in Poland and was the birthplace of the renowned astrologer Nicolas Copernicus. Less touristy than Kraków, and all the better for it, Toruń is a joy to behold and one can spend hours walking around its jaw-droppingly beautiful old town. The city also maintains a large student population that keep the night-life buzzing along nicely.

Toruń, Poland – Fortified tower on ul. Podmurnej in Toruń Old Town

Warsaw is a bustling modern metropolis that remains distinctly unpopular with all Poles not living there. Whilst living in Poland, many times I tried to persuade my Polish friends to see the benefits of their own capital, but to little avail. But what is there not to like? Containing the best museum in Poland (the Warsaw Uprising Museum), acres of inner city parkland and a painstakingly restored old town, Warsaw will continue to attract the political elite and tourists alike.

Warsaw, Poland (9) – Old town Rynek and flower stalls

Our Experience

We hitch-hiked in Poland as part of our ‘Farewell to Poland’ trip in 2010. Ania lived in Poland from her birth until 2010. Jon lived in Poland between 2007 – 2010. We have crossed the border more times than we can remember and drunk a wide variety of vodka (we recommend Wódka Gorzka Żołądkowa ) and beer (Lech everytime).

When hitch-hiking in Poland we covered 886km.

This was our route:

.

If you have any questions, enquires or observations about Poland then feel free to contact us.

written by: Jon

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