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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Travel Tuesday: Traveling Cheap in Poland

Dearest sweethearts,
Dear travellers,

What better way is there to enrich ourselves than by travelling, rather then piling up money in a bank account or piling goods. In the end, what you remain, when someone strips you naked, is your conscience and your memories. I have always loved Poland for that - it has so many amazing, hidden gems. Travelling here is way cheaper than going to Dubai, Paris or Zurich... but everyone has a wide variety from which they can pick and choose.  If you love the seaside you can try the "Tricity" (Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot), if you're into castles as palaces there are several hundreds of them (including the biggest medieval castle in Europe: Malbork), if you love history - especially second world war then the list is loooooong (start with Krakow and Warsaw)... everyone can find something they will like or even love in Poland!
When people start booking their holidays they usually plan where they go, what is the budget and how they can have a good time - mostly for a decent amount of money. Europe is worldwide known to provide quality and cheap holiday locations. Maybe Poland is not that popular but I have seen a steady growing trend. Word of mouth is one way the information circulates and that's how more and more people choose Poland. The fact that Pope Francis was in Krakow last year, and the World Youth Day was celebrated in 2016 in Krakow was also a huge boost ;)
Poland has accessed in the last year's quite a few European funds and managed to work on the infrastructure really well! It is not an immense country, like Mother Russia, but it's still big enough... to be fair, it used to be bigger until other nations decided to take pieces of it... but! If you are planning on a low budget trip and you have transport in mind, I really suggest taking a bus or a train. When it comes to buses I had only positive experiences with PolskiBus - it takes you l over Poland at an extremely low price, especially if you book in time. There is also free internet and you have charger sockets next to each seat. When it comes to trains I recommend them even higher then buses! I'm not a car/ bus person if there are many curves along the road, so I rather prefer the train. Let's take for example the train from Warsaw to Krakow - takes you around 2 hours and a half and if you book it a month or more in advance you get high discounts. Of course... if you don't want to spend a lot of time on the road, you also have the option of flying: instead of a Warsaw - Gdansk train (around 5 hours) you could always take a flight (45 minutes by LOT Polish Airlines - book it a couple of months in advance and it could be 10 euros!). Also, when it comes to public transport, inside the cities, I always choose that rather then taxis. The timetables are reliable and tickets are cheap and you can buy them at the automat. In Krakow, a regular 20 min ticket costs 2.8 zloty (a little more than half a euro!).
English breakfast @ Niebieskie Migdaly, Krakow
Pancakes @ MoJa Cafe, Krakow
When it comes to Food & Housing / Accomodation there is again a wide variety of options from where one can choose from. Food - depending on how picky you are or if the accommodation provided has a kitchen/refrigerator or if you have a breakfast option, you could choose from:
1) picking your own veggies, fruits, dairies, cold cuts at the local market or one of the supermarket chains spread throughout Poland (Carrefour, Auchan, Kaufland, Lidl, Biedronka, Lewiathan, Zabka) and preparing your own meals. This is the cheapest option and you get to pick and choose exactly what you want, when you want it. You can go to the market in the morning and use even sign language if you don't speak polish. People are friendly and open and usually the prices are placed on the products. It's going to be fresh, organic and tasty!
English breakfast @ MilkBar Tomasza 
2) going to the "Milk Bar" / "Mleczarnia" - actually this should be a must, when travelling to Poland! It's a reminder of the communistic times when all men and women were equal and entitled to a hot meal. They are called "bar mleczny" but don't worry, they don't sell only dairies ;) these places are "push the tray" kind of places, self service but with usually very friendly staff. Make sure you don't miss them out - they are in each city, town and they provide locals (usually students) with hot meals, cooked in large pots, giving them kinda an army look, taste and feel. You'll see traditional food here, nothing a gourmet would probably fancy, but be brave! Try the zurek or the rosol (chicken soup) and the traditional pierogi. If ever in Krakow, I highly recommend MilkBar Tomasza on Tomasza street, Old Town.
Accomodation related, in each city in Poland you'll be able to find an AirBNB deal that would match your pocket. That's if... you don't mind selecting any of the hostels available - there are also plenty, with rooms ranging from 2 to 10 people in a room. Depends on so how adventurous you feel sleeping with other strangers in the same room...
Sightseeing is something we always strive for when we go on holidays, so this part is always important. Keeping a balance between what we want to see - what we can see - the time one has is crucial. That brings us again to transportation, to public transport. I, for one, rather love walking and learning a place by wondering through it on foot. Cities in Poland are big enough to be conquered by foot, bit depending where you found the accommodation you might need some kind of transportation to the main attractions. You should choose the bus and tram options - the fast tram lines almost work like metro lines!
Also, if you are a bike person, you might find interesting the fact that you can rent a bike by hour, day and not necessarily bring it back to the spot you took it from + the first 20 min you usually get for free! Take for example Wavelo bike options in Krakow - throughout the city ( not only the touristic route!) there are stacks of bikes placed there for people to use. All you need if to register, hop on, bike away and when you are done take it to the nearest Wavelo rack, hop off and log out ;) Easy! When it comes to "What to see" / "What to do" it depends on what kind of person you are. If you are a museum lover, each national museum has a day in which the entrance is free (for example in Krakow that day is Sunday). If you love churches they are free of charge and they usually (in the weekend) host classical concerts - ticket price is usually 50-60 zloty (around 12-13 euro per person). There are many things, like beautiful architecture, lovely parks and amazing monuments that are free of charge and you can just walk by them. Also there are numerous festivals (especially during summer), activities and shows in the open air. If you are a fan of classical music, make sure to note down in your #bucketlist to go to one of Warsaw's open air Chopin concerts. They are held each summer since 1959, next to the Chopin Statue in the Lazienki Park. There are 2 classical recitals of Chopin's music - 12 noon and 4 P.M. each Sunday from May to September.
If you have any questions about travelling to and though Poland, don't hesitate to contact me and ask away! Especially if it is Warsaw or Krakow related - I've been there countless times and I live in Krakow for more than 6 years now! Also... have you ever been to Poland? How do you compare it to any other country you've been to, or your home country? I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Do you feel, like myself, that Poland is a cheap country to move around and visit, if you plan ahead and take the time to set up a route?

P.S. In case you will go by train, this might come in handy - Discounts on trains:
Not everybody is aware that in Poland you may be eligible for one of the so-called statutory reliefs when using trains or municipal transportation.
Eligible group; scope of relief; required document(s) confirming eligibility:
- Children under the age of 4; 100%; document confirming child's age
- Guardian of a person incapable of self-existence/ Guide of a blind person; 95%; official document stating disability/incapability of self-existence
- Persons incapable of self-existence, excluding blind people; 49% on local "stop-trains", 37% on all other trains; official document stating incapability of self-existence
- Persons who are blind, but they are not found to be incapable of self-existence; 37% on all trains; official document
- Persons who are blind and are incapable of self-existence; 93% on local "stop-trains", 51% on all other trains;
- Children above the age of 4 until reaching pre-school age; 37%; document stating child's age
- Children/youth who are enrolled as pupils at a school (primary, junior high, senior high), until the age of 24; official school-issued pupil card and identity card/passport confirming child's age, if not stated on the pupil's card/school ID card
(Technically, the regulation states that this applies only to Polish citizens. This is obviously against the EU laws and I've heard that foreigners used this relief without a problem. To be sure, ask the cashier when buying your ticket)
- University-level students until the age of 26; 51%; ISIC student card and identity car/passport (if ISIC doesn't state the name of your uni, you'll also need a student card issued by your uni)
Yours very much sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves To Travel