Poland, with its incredible history and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is a wonderful and too often overlooked destination. Most travelers come visit Krakow, maybe spend a day or two in Warsaw, and then go somewhere else.
It’s a shame.
There’s more to visiting Poland than just those places and you should even consider coming to the country as its own destination. From beautiful parks to old historic cities to cheap beer to empty coastlines, you can spend weeks upon weeks here.
And the best part is you’ll be far away from the tourists and have most of the place to yourself!
You can use this travel guide to Poland to plan your trip, figure out how to get around, get a sense of costs, and everything else you need to know!
Do more than the usual tourist attractions and get rewarded with a beautiful, culturally rich, and little explored country.
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Poland
1. Auschwitz Concentration Camps
2. Visit Krakow
3. Explore Wroclaw
4. Wander through Bialowieza National Park
5. Explore Warsaw
Other Things to See and Do in Poland
1. Tour the Szczecin underground tunnels
These concrete tunnels lie beneath the city of Szczecin. The tunnels were designated as a bomb shelter in the 1940s and then used as a fallout shelter during the Cold War. Located 17 meters below ground, you’ll see artifacts from WWII and learn how the shelter was used during the war. You’ll also learn how the tunnels were reinforced during the Cold War to survive a nuclear attack. Tours last around an hour and admission is 25 PLN. It can get cold in the tunnels so bring a sweater.
2. Visit a national park
Although national parks cover only 1% of the country, there are 23 that you can visit within Poland. Ojcowski National Park (near Krakow) is a very small (12 km) park filled with stunning caves and castles while Slowinski National Park (on the Baltic Coast), Biebrzanski, Narwianski, and Poleski National Parks (all located in the northeast) offer great bird watching. Entry to the parks is usually less than 10 PLN per person and they’re a great way to get away from the crowds and stretch your legs (especially in the summer when the weather is nice, or in the fall when the leaves are changing).
3. Climb up to Wawel Castle
This site in Krakow is one of the finest examples of a medieval castle in all of Poland. Castles here are rare as most were destroyed over the years, with the vast majority being destroyed during World War II. Built in the 13th century under the order of King Casimir III, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to an art museum that has medieval tapestries, the former Polish crown jewels, and also Ottoman Empire treasures. Admission ranges from 5-25 PLN depending on what you want to see. On Mondays in the summer, free tickets are available on Mondays for the Crown Treasury and Armory.
4. Visit the Wooden Churches
Tucked away in the southeastern corner of the country, The Wooden Churches of Southern Lesser Poland consist of six Roman Catholic churches that reflect the periods of religious architecture in Poland: from Medieval to Gothic, Rococo, Baroque, as well as the occasional onion dome or Greek cross. Dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, the interiors of these churches were intricately painted and carved by hand, with every inch of the church a veritable work of art. Just dress appropriately when you visit as these are sites of religious worship.
5. Tour the Wieliczka Salt Mine
This mine was first used in the Middle Ages as one of Krakow’s main industries and produced table salt until 2007. Today, it is no longer in use and tourists visit to marvel at the cavernous chambers, statues, chapels, chandeliers, and cathedrals, all carved out of salt by the miners. The mines reach depths of over 300 meters and are also home to contemporary works of art as well. Admission is 89 PLN.
6. Stroll through Gdansk
Formerly known as Danzig, Gdansk is a beautiful coastal city in northern Poland. Much of the city was rebuilt after World War II but you can still find plenty of history here. Be sure to spend some time wandering the old town and checking out the local markets and small artisan shops. And don’t miss the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the city’s towering 16th-century gothic church.
7. Admire Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
Located about an hour from Krakow, the monastery dates back to the 17th century and represents the Mannerist architectural style. Surrounding the monastery are over 5km of pilgrimage routes and 42 chapels and churches. Tours are free (though they must be booked in advance) and last around an hour. Donations are welcome.
8. Head to Lublin
Lublin is eastern Poland’s main city and was an important trading and military center during the Middle Ages. It developed its own architectural style at the end of the 16th century, which has become known as the Lublin renaissance as the city brought in many Italian architects. Be sure to visit the castle, the monastery, and the old town (which is sometimes called “Little Krakow” owing to its similarities with Krakow’s old town).
9. Visit the world’s tallest pope statue
Located in Czestochowa, this statue of Pope John Paul II (who was born in Wadowice, Poland) stands 13.8 meters tall and is made of fiberglass. There really isn’t much else to see here, but it makes for a quirky photo op if you’re in the area!
10. Visit the Exploseum
This abandoned Nazi explosive plant, founded by the inventor of dynamite, is now a museum open to the public. Here visitors learn about Alfred Nobel, his company, life for Polish residents during the German occupation, weapons used during the war, and about modern weapons of war. It’s an interesting and sobering museum. It’s tucked away in Bydgoszcz, the museum takes 1-2 hours to explore. Admission is 17 PLN, which includes a guide. Children under 6 are not allowed to enter.
11. Visit the Churches of Peace
These are the biggest timber-framed churches in Europe and are located in Jawor and Swidnica. They were built in the mid-17th century as the first Lutheran churches constructed in Roman Catholic Poland and are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since the churches were not Catholic, they were were only allowed to be built from wood and could not have steeples or bells (Lutherans were not allowed to construct stone churches that could compete with the dominant religion). Admission is 12 PLN and an audio tour is available. Just be sure to dress appropriately.
12. See the World War II Museum in Gdansk
The Museum of the Second World War opened in 2008 and is one of the best museums in the country. It’s an immersive experience that really opens your eyes to the death and destruction that the war unleashed in Poland and the rest of Europe. In addition to the weapons, clothing, letters, and maps there is an entire recreated street to give you a palpable sense of what it would have been like to live through the worst of the war. Admission 23 PLN.
13. Warsaw Rising Museum
This museum is a tribute to the people of Warsaw’s who fought and died for Polish independence. Opened in 2004, the museum is home to hundreds of artifacts from the uprising of 1944, when Polish citizens rebelled against German occupation. The uprising lasted 63 days and was the largest resistance movement during World War II. There are weapons, clothing, letters, and interactive films that shed light on one of the most important events in Polish history. Admission is 25 PLN for adults.
14. Explore the Tatras Mountains
This mountain range, part of the Carpathian Mountain, is located near the border of Poland and Slovakia. It’s here where you’ll find Tatra National Park (a protected UNESCO site), a great destination for hiking. Spanning over 200 square kilometers, there are plenty of day hikes available ranging from 2-12 hours. While you can’t camp in the park, there are mountain huts available if you book in advance and cost 50 PLN per night.
15. Take a free walking tour
One of the best things you can do when you arrive in a new city is take a walking tour. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and learn about the culture, people, and history of the destination. Walkative offers free tours in Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan, Lublin, and a few other cities around the country. These tours will give you much more insight than any guidebook. Just be sure to tip your guides at the end!
Poland Travel Costs
Accommodation – Most dorm rooms in Poland cost about 45-55 PLN per night. A private room in a hostel costs at least 150 PLN per night for a double bed. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities if you want to cook your own food. Lockers are available in most hostels too. Free breakfast is available at many hostels in Krakow and Gdansk but rare in Warsaw.
A double bed in a budget two-star hotel with free Wi-Fi costs around 100 PLN per night. Free Wi-Fi is common and many hotels also include a simple free breakfast as well. For a three-star hotel, expect to pay closer to 180 PLN per night.
Airbnb is available throughout the country with shared rooms starting around 40 PLN per night. For a private room, expect to pay at least 75 PLN per night while entire homes/apartments cost around 155 PLN.
There are plenty of campgrounds throughout the country. Expect to pay around 40 PLN per night for a basic tent plot. Wild camping is tolerated if you’re in the mountains and as long as you are not in a national park (camping in national parks is strictly prohibited in Poland).
Food – Polish meals are quite hearty, usually containing potatoes, meats, cabbage, and spices. The country also has lots of traditional desserts too, like Paczki (a Polish donut) and makowiec (poppy-seed cake).
Most cheap local meals cost around 20 PLN. These will be the kind of meals you get at a Mleczny (a “Milk Bar” is the name for small local restaurants that cook traditional food). For something a little fancier, a meal at a mid-range restaurant costs closer to 50 PLN for a three-course meal with a drink. For fast food (think McDonald’s), expect to pay around 18 PLN for a basic meal.
When it comes to drinking, a beer out at a restaurant or bar costs at least 8 PLN, while you can get it for less than half that price if you buy it in a store. For a cappuccino at a café, expect to pay around 8 PLN.
Prices are a little higher in Warsaw by about 5-10% for things like food, activities, and accommodation.
If you plan to buy your own groceries and cook your meals, expect to pay about 140 PLN per week for groceries that includes the basics like pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods.
Activities – Most museums and attractions cost around 25 PLN, though there are a few outliers such as the salt mines (89 PLN) or a guided tour of Auschwitz (60 PLN). If you’re visiting in the winter, lift passes for skiing cost between 60-130 PLN. If you want to rent a bike, expect to pay around 25 PLN per day.
Backpacking Poland Suggested Budgets
Poland is an affordable destination for travelers, though how cheap it is depends on your budget and travel style. To help you plan your trip, here are some suggested budgets and travel styles.
On a backpacker budget, you can visit Poland for 115-190 PLN ($30-40 USD) per day. On this budget, you’ll be staying in a cheap hostel or camping, cooking most of your meals, and using public transportation. Additionally, you’ll have to stick to mostly free activities like hiking or free walking tours. If you want a little more flexibility, I’d add another $10 per day so you aren’t on such a tight, bare bones budget.
On a mid-range budget of about 230-290 PLN ($60-75 USD), you’ll be able to stay in a budget hotel, eat out at cheap local restaurants, do paid activities, drink more, and really have the flexibility to do what you want while here. You’re not going to live large here but you’ll be able to get by without worrying too much on your spending.
On a luxury budget of 540+ PLN ($140+ USD), you can stay in a 4-star hotel, eat out for every meal at nicer restaurants, drink what you want, and visit as many museums and attractions as you’d like (including skiing in the winter or multi-day hiking trips), take taxis, and more. This is your floor but, on this amount per day, you don’t really need to watch your spending. After that, the sky is the limit.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Poland Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Poland is a very affordable country so there aren’t too many tips out there to help you save. You won’t be spending a lot of money anyways unless you go out of your way to spend money! Doing regular, everyday things here won’t bust your budget. Living costs are inexpensive in Poland. That being said, there are still a few extra ways you can save money while you visit Poland:
- Eat at Milk Bars – You’ll get a taste of Poland at a Bar Mleczny (Milk Bar) hearty pierogis, homemade soups, plenty of meat, and a local beer makes a great meal for under 30 PLN. Expect no-frills and cafeteria-style where you order from a counter, but it’s a great way to save money and take in the scene.
- Get a tourist card – Certain cities, like Krakow and Warsaw, offer tourist cards which give unlimited access to public transportation (normally for one or three days) and free or discounted access to museums. If you plan to see lots of sites, be sure to go to the local tourism office and pick up one of these cards! They usually cost between 130-150 PLN.
- Watch your drinking – Cities like Krakow are known for their partying, and big pub crawls and long nights out are the norm. These can add up quickly, so watch how much you drink. Start off by grabbing your favorites from a grocery store first whenever possible. You’ll save more than 50% of the price that way.
- Take a free walking tour – Free tours from companies like Free Walking Tours can be found in some of Poland’s larger cities, like Krakow, Gdansk, and Warsaw. They are a great way to explore the city while learning about the history, culture, and architecture. Just be sure to tip!
- Use ridesharing apps – Ridesharing apps like BlaBlaCar are a great way to get around the country for cheap. You simply download the app, find someone looking for passengers, and go! Everyone is rated and verified, and it’s usually more convenient (and cheaper) than other forms of transportation. For travel within a city, use Uber. It’s cheaper than the local taxis.
- Stay with a local – While accommodation is not expensive in Poland, Couchsurfing is a great way to lower your accommodation costs. Not only will you save some money by getting a free place to stay, but you’ll also be able to make a local friend and get insider knowledge about where you are!
- Bike share – For 10 PLN, you can register for Vetrulio, a bike-rental company in Warsaw. After you sign up, bike use is free for 20 minutes, making it essentially free to bounce around the city during your visit. After 20 minutes (and up to an hour) it’s just 1 PLN and then 3 PLN for the next hour.
Where To Stay in Poland
Accommodation in Poland is very affordable. Even if you don’t want to do the whole hostel thing, you can find really comfortable but inexpensive hotels throughout the country. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Poland:
How to Get Around Poland
Public Transportation – Public buses and trams cost around 2-5 PLN for one-way ride, depending on how far you go. For a single-day pass, expect prices to start at 15 PLN per person. In Warsaw, a 3-day public transportation pass starts at 36 PLN.
Buses and trams are the most common ways to get around in each city. Only Warsaw has a subway system and the prices are the same as the bus and tram.
Flying – Flying around Poland is relatively cheap thanks to budget airlines like Ryanair and Wizz. From Warsaw, you get to pretty much any city in the country for under 300 PLN, round trip.
For example, Warsaw to Krakow takes just under an hour and cost 215 PLN while Warsaw to Gdansk takes an hour and cost 255 PLN.
It’s also easy to get to/from Poland via plan as Wizz and Ryanair fly all over the continent. You can find flights for as little as 50 PLN to destinations all around Europe if you book early and are flexible.
Bus – Poland has an extensive bus network so you can easily travel around the entire country by bus if you’re on a budget. Flixbus (and its partner company, Polski Bus) is the best option as it has comfortable buses for affordable prices. For example, the 5-hour journey from Warsaw to Krakow costs around 25 PLN while the 9-hour ride to Gdansk from Warsaw costs around 40 PLN.
The buses have bathrooms, electrical outlets, and Wi-Fi, making them a good choice for budget travelers.
Train – While they won’t be as cheap as buses, trains are a good option for long-distance trips in Poland as they are more comfortable and wont require as many transfers. They are also more comfortable for longer rides if you’re willing spend a little more money. There are around 10 different companies operating trains here with a variety of train types. The 3 most important to travelers are the ExpressInterCity Premium (EIP), ExpressInterCity (EIC), and InterCity (IC).
The EIP trains are fast (up to 200km/hour) and operate between major cities. They have first-class and second-class seats and reservations are mandatory. These are the newest trains and the have a dining car if you’re looking to eat during your trip.
EIC trains also run between major cities but are a little slower. They are still perfectly safe and comfortable, with a dining car and business class seats available. Since the services aren’t as great, the prices here are lower than on EIP trains.
IC trains are the cheapest of the three but also the slowest as they make more stops. They have basic amenities such as power outlets.
InterRegio (IR) trains are another option, as they top in most medium-sized cities. There is no first class or seat reservations here, so they can be a bit busier and sometimes won’t have space for luggage. But they are cheap!
Rideshare – BlaBlaCar is the best ride sharing option for intercity travel. It’s cheap, fast, and drivers are verified and have reviews so it’s quite safe. Just make sure you have flexible plans as drivers are often late or change their plans entirely.
For getting around within each city in Poland, Uber is your best bet as it’s cheaper than taxis. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v
Hitchhiking – Poland is one of the most hitchhiking-friendly countries in the EU. If you have a sign that says wher you are going and you look presentable, you usually don’t have to wait too long for a ride. Having a flag from your home country will also help.
Generally, it’s quite safe to hitchhike here though you’ll still want to use common sense and take precautions (such as keeping your valuables on you instead of in your bag). HitchWiki is the best website for hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Poland
The best (and most popular) time to visit Poland is during the summer, from June to August. Temperatures will be hot and rain will be infrequent. Expect temperatures around 25 C (77 F) during this time (the regional differences will be negligible: expect a 1-3 degree difference from Gdansk in the north to Krakow in the south).
The summer is also be the busiest months of the year for tourism, though and you’ll only really notice it in the main tourist cities (such as Warsaw and Krakow).
The shoulder season on late April-May and September-October are great times to visit as well. You’ll beat the crowd and have much milder temperatures. You’ll get more rain in the spring, but you’ll get the stunning autumn colors in the fall which makes for a stunning backdrop to your trip.
Winter is Poland can be quite cold, with temperatures dropping to around -1 C (30 F) during the day and to -5 C (23 F) overnight. Snow is common, which can affect conditions if you’re traveling by car. In short, I wouldn’t recommend a winter visit unless you plan on going skiing or taking part in other winter activities.
How to Stay Safe in Poland
The risk of theft or getting pickpocketed is much lower here than it is in other parts of Europe, but you’ll want to make sure you keep your valuables secure and out of sight when riding public transportation and while you’re in popular tourist areas (or any other places with a crowd).
Taxi scams are rare, but always make sure your driver is using the meter. If they aren’t ask them to stop and find a taxi that will.
Solo travelers (including solo female travelers) will find the country quite safe. However, you’ll still want to make sure you take the standard precautions when you’re out exploring (don’t accept drinks from strangers, don’t walk home alone at night while intoxicated, etc.).
ATM skimming (when criminals attach a covert device to an ATM that can read and steal your information) can occur here, so always make sure you use verified ATMs. If you can, go into the bank to withdraw your money (as opposed to using outdoor ATMs that are easier to tamper with).
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Poland Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Poland. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are always my starting point when I need to book a flight, hotel, tour, train, or meeting people!
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings! (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Poland, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
- BlaBlaCar – This is a helpful ride sharing app for intercity travel around Poland. It’s not as cheap as the train or bus but it’s usually much faster!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Poland Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading to Poland, here are my suggestions for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack.
The Best Backpack for Poland
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for other suggestions and tips on how to pick the best one.
What to Pack for Poland
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 6 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 8 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 7 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Poland Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising , by Miron Bialoszewski
This is a poetic first-hand account of the Warsaw Uprising. It’s gripping and eye-opening, told from the view of Miron when he was just a young man. The book encapsulates the city, it’s people, and the urgency of the time. It’s considered one of the best books ever written about the Uprising and makes for a great place to start for anyone looking to dive into modern Polish history.
The Doll, by Boleslaw Prus
The Doll is considered one of the best — if not the best — Polish novel. Published in 1890, the book is set in the 1870s and is a grand literary panorama of social conflict and political intrigue set in a Poland under Russian Rule. Originally, the book was censored before it was published, however, the original translation can now be read as the author intended.
Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Rozewicz , by Tadeusz Rózewicz
Tadeusz Rozewicz is one of Poland’s most praised and important poets, part of the first-generation of artists born after Polish independence in 1918. He served in the resistance during World War II, where his brother (also a poet) was caught and executed by the gestapo. His writing is sharp, reflective, and surprising. If you’re into poetry, this is a great book to read before your trip.
Medallions, by Zofia Nalkowska
Medallions is a short book — just 49 pages — but in those pages are 8 powerful short stories from World War II that hit hard. Each story paints a vivid and sobering picture of what happens when we let brutality take the reins. It is a harrowing, gut-wrenching masterpiece that everyone visiting Poland needs to read.
The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass
Published in 1959, The Tin Drum is the first book in the Danzig Trilogy. Set in Gdansk (formerly Danzig), the story is narrated by a main character in an insane asylum, so his stories and thoughts are unreliable, making the reader always second guess each and every fact. In 1979, the book was adapted into a film which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to Poland
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Poland Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Europe travel and continue planning your trip: