An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983.
Situated at the heart of Eastern Europe, Poland has much to offer for the intrepid traveller. Ancient castles and old churches dot the landscape, while the forests and grasslands of the country offer some remarkable sights for those wanting to take in some natural scenery. Take in the pristine beauty of Białowieża Forest, or go for a stroll through Warsaw’s historic Old Town – whatever you decide to do, you’ll find no shortage of incredible new experiences to be had in Poland.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Trains are cheap and convenient, with inter-city services between major cities. Bus services are also widely available, though be sure to purchase a ticket from the bus station to ensure you get a seat.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, environment and weather
Poland covers an area of 313k square kilometres, and is largely flat, with the ‘Polish Plain’ stretching across the centre of the country. The northeastern region features many lakes and dense forests, while the Carpathian Mountains rise up at the southern end of the country.
Poland has a largely temperate climate, featuring warm summers, cold winters, and cool to warm spring and autumn periods. If travelling between November and March, be prepared for cold weather, with freezing temperatures being common in winter.
World heritage sites
Poland has 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/pl). While every site has something of value, here are a few highlights:
- Centennial Hall in Wrocław, a visually striking example of modernist architecture, and the largest concrete dome in the world at the time of its construction
- Białowieża Forest, a large area of enchanting undisturbed forest rich in wildlife
- Medieval Town of Toruń, a well-preserved example of medieval Polish settlements
Festivals and events
Numerous festivals and events dot the calendar in Poland. Perhaps the biggest and most important national celebration is National Independence Day – held on 11 November, Independence Day commemorates the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty in 1918 and features military parades, festive celebrations, and even commemoration runs. The Warsaw Internationl Film Festival attracts thousands of film lovers and participants, and screens films from all over the world. All Saints Day on November 1 is another important day on the national calendar, where families decorate cemetries with thousands of glowing candles and remember deceased loved ones.
- Poland, by Adam Zamoyski
- Playground: A History of Poland, by Norman Davies
- The Doll, by Bolasław Prus
- The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric Kelly
Eating and drinking
Polish food heavily features meat, winter vegetables and starch. One of the best known dishes of Poland is pierogi, dumplings made out of unleavened dough and filled with either sweet or savoury filings. Bigos is another national favourite, a dish of various meats stewed with sauerkraut and shredded fresh cabbage. The Polish are famously enthusiastic consumers of vodka, though beer is also very popular. Tea is also widely consumed, while other non-alcoholic beverages include kvass and kefir.
Health and safety
Poland is generally a safe country to travel around in, though exercise common sense whenever travelling.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adapter. The standard voltage in Poland is 230V, while the standard frequency is 50Hz. Poland uses Type C and Type E electrical plugs.
Warsaw old town
Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork
Poland has a single time zone, Central Standard European Time (UTC+1). Daylight Savings in Poland starts at the end of March and concludes at the end of October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. Tipping is customary for good service in hotels and restaurants, though it is not obligatory. Tips are generally 10-15% of the bill in restaurants and bars.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Poland. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Poland
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.