General information on Poland
Poland’s situation means that in the past it functioned not only as a bridge, but also as a frontier separating Eastern from Western Europe. Poland is now a member of the EU, and is a country with many faces. Medieval cities that have achieved the leap into the 21st century in a masterly fashion, horse-drawn carts moving slowly through a stunningly beautiful landscape; these are the kinds of things that make travellers fall in love with Poland and want to get to know the country better.
With its surface area of 312,677 square kilometres, the Republic of Poland corresponds roughly to the size of Germany without Baden-Württemberg. Poland’s population is around 38.62 million.
The Central European Republic of Poland is bordered by Germany to the west, by the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, by Belarus and the Ukraine to the east, by Lithuania and Kaliningrad to the north-east, and by the Baltic Sea to the north. It is a lowland country formed largely in the Ice Age, and forms a transitional region between the lowlands of Eastern Europe and those of Northern Germany. Poland’s coastal area in the north is not very agricultural, and this region is adjoined by the lowlands and lakes, which form part of the "Baltic Ridge”, the ancient valley of central Poland and the high mountains including the Sudetes and the Tatra Mountains, which form part of the Carpathians. The High Tatras also contain Poland’s highest mountain, the Rysy, which stands some 2,500 metres above sea level. Virtually 30% of Poland’s land area is wooded.
Poland’s climate is temperate, becoming more continental towards the east and south-east. Summers are moderately warm to warm as a rule, with average temperatures between 16°C and 19°C. Winters are cold with average temperatures of around 0°C in the north-west and down to -5°C in the south-east. There is precipitation all year round, although the winter – especially in the east – is drier than the summer.
Poland’s climate is similar to Germany’s. It’s a good idea to pack some practical clothing, not forgetting a waterproof/windproof jacket.
Polish cooking combines influences from Jewish, Ukrainian, White Russian and Lithuanian cuisine. Polish cooking also incorporates unmistakeable influences from Russian, German, Czech and Austrian cuisine and additional inspiration from Italy, France and the Orient. Food in Poland is exquisitely tasty. People generally eat a great deal of meat, washed down by a glass of vodka whenever possible. Typical ingredients in Polish cooking include sauerkraut, beetroot, kohlrabi, gherkins, sour cream, eggs, mushrooms, dill, marjoram, caraway seeds, boiled and smoked sausage.
In recent years standards of hotels in large cities and holiday areas on the Baltic have improved, and many are now very good. In the smaller towns and rural areas, hotels are often still appointed in the old communist style, with small rooms and old-fashioned furnishings. Even if standards in furniture, bathrooms, etc. have not yet caught up with other European countries further to the west, Poles make a great effort with cleanliness in their hotels and also lavish tender care upon their guests.
The currency in Poland is the zloty. 1 zloty = 100 groszy. Foreign currencies can be changed in banks or foreign exchange bureaus at the border, in the larger hotels or at travel agencies. In all the larger cities and holiday areas cash machines can be found; these accept credit cards and Eurocheque cards. All the common types of credit card are accepted, but travellers’ cheques cannot be exchanged for cash. Change will only be given if the purchase price is at least 50% of the value of the cheque.
You should find the Polish telephone system straightforward to use. Large areas of the country are covered by GSM networks, which operate roaming agreements with German providers. The international prefix for Germany is 0049, and to call Poland you need the international prefix 0048.
Medical care in Poland is good. No inoculations are required for entry into Poland, but we would nonetheless advise travellers to check that they have been inoculated recently against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. If you need particular medication on a daily basis, please be sure to bring it with you in sufficient quantity.
Travellers should obtain information and medical advice on how to protect themselves against infection, what vaccinations are required and other prophylactic measures well in advance of their departure date. We would refer you in particular to the general information available from health authorities, doctors experienced in travel medicine, doctors of tropical medicine, travel medicine information services or the Federal Centre for Health Education [Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung].
Mains voltage is generally 220 volts, with a frequency of 50 Hz. Sockets conform to European standards.
Customs checks at the Polish border became a thing of the past on 1st May 2004, and the import and export of goods is now subject to EU regulations. No artworks, antiquities, books or artefacts produced before 9th May 1945 are allowed to be removed from the country without authorisation from the heritage conservation official of the voivodship (province) in question or the national library in Warsaw.
Poles themselves describe their country as the "land of hospitality”. As a foreigner you will be treated with great respect, and you will receive a warm welcome in Poland. In the cities, particularly the larger ones, the everyday lives of people are really quite similar to those of people in Germany. In rural areas experience has shown that the inhabitants are extremely appreciative of visitors who make a real effort to engage meaningfully with the people and the culture. Thus, for instance, you can virtually guarantee a positive response if you make the effort to speak at least a few words in Polish. This is worthwhile, even if your attempt is met with a degree of merriment because of your strangely foreign pronunciation.
Poland is generally considered to be a safe country to travel in. There is, however, considerable risk of theft. To reduce the risk of theft from your car you should only ever park it in patrolled car parks when visiting the larger cities. You should never leave valuables or luggage unattended in your car or indeed anywhere else. Our advice is to keep your valuables close to your body and always be aware of what is happening around you.
Stages through Poland
This information has been compiled to the best of our knowledge, however this may be subject to change. We are not liable for the accuracy of the stated information.