** TRAVEL  TIPS  FOR  POLAND **

         Entry formalities and Health     Campsites in Poland
         Camping cards, Camping Gaz and Internet     Guidebooks and maps for Poland
         Driving in Poland     Supermarkets, credit cards and ATMs
         Beers of Poland     Review of Polish campsites

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ENTRY FORMALITIES
and
HEALTH MATTERS:







 

The Republic of Poland has been an EU member state since 2004 and UK passport-holders may visit the country without a visa for up to 6 months and drive with a standard UK-EU driving licence.  But carry your passport at all times as identification.

For current Foreign and Commonwealth Office official advice on travelling to Poland, consult:

     FCO advice on travelling to Poland

You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK, and carry your EHIC with you at all times in case of emergency. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, and only entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Polish nationals. It does not cover you for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature.  It is essential therefore to have comprehensive travel insurance.

CAMPSITES in
POLAND:
             

 


 

 




 

 

 

 

 










 






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Campsites: there is a ready availability of campsites ll across Poland (kemping or the more basic pole-namiotowe). Many however are still relatively straightforward, having evolved from chalet-huts (chaty) encampments which provided cheap holiday accommodation dating back to the Communist era. Some campsites still have chaty, now looking rather woe-begone, but still used; other campsites form an annexe to hotels, pensions or leisure complexes. Even in the less visited parts of the country, it is still possible to find campsites, albeit of variable standards. We toured the whole country in June~September 2010 and our experience of campsites is summarised in our Campsites Review which also includes campsite GPS coordinates to help with location:

    Review of Polish campsites

We attach great significance to the attitude shown on arrival, and standards of hospitality are variable. There is no national accreditation process for campsites and despite the transition to market economy since 1990, commercial competitiveness seems to have made variable impact. Where campsites were private or family-run, campsite owners generally were hospitably welcoming and helpful; at larger sites however, employed staff tended to show casual or indifferent attitudes clearly indicating no awareness of the link between levels of hospitality shown towards guests and commercial success/failure, and therefore their job security. With some notable exceptions, many of the sites we experienced had fairly basic or old-fashioned standards of facilities, but generally were clean with hot water, and many had cooking facilities (common in Eastern Europe) with wash-ups (kuchnia lit. kitchen). 

Websites listing Polish campsites: the most useful web sites we found to help with pre-trip planning were:

    Polish Camping Federation  
    Rento-camp - Campsites in Poland
    Camperpark Poland
    
Camping-Info Poland

The Polish Camping Federation does not operate any form of quality-assuring accreditation and inclusion in their listing is no indication of standards. Their campsite numbering system does seem to be observed nationally and has been included in our Campsite Review. They also publish a 1:750k map with location, details and GPS coordinates of Polish campsites, which can be picked up free of charge at many campsites, but not obtainable from their web site.

The Dutch camping organisation ACSI web site selectively lists its favoured sites and includes the Google mapping facility as a helpful means of pinning down a campsite's location (NB not always reliably accurate). ACSI accreditation however does not guarantee acceptable standards: some of our lowest rated sites were ACSI recognised, which certainly says something about its dubious value. They also tend to attract hoards of noisy Dutch caravaners in August - be warned.   ACSI - Poland

Campsite opening dates: the camping season is quite short with campsites opening from April/May to September; there are a few sites open all-year-round.

Campsite prices: prices charged varied enormously and generally reflected the greed of the owners rather than the standards offered, with the most reasonable prices at campsites graded at 2 stars or less. The cost of living in the Poland (reflecting much lower income levels) still represents remarkably good value by our inflated West European standards. Expect to pay between 40zł and 60zł (with the £-sterling exchange rate at around 4.5zł, this translates as £8.80 and £13.33) for a night's camp (2 adults, pitch for camper plus electricity), although in August the more elaborate sites will charge considerably more. In our Campsites Review, we give the nightly charge we paid; prices may include a local tourist tax.

Wild-camping:  in the more remote and hilly areas, with awareness of potential security issues and basic common sense and courtesy, wild-camping is certainly practicable though with the number of reasonably priced campsites, rarely necessary.

CAMPING CARD INTERNATIONAL (CCI):

 

The Camping Card International (CCI - Camping Carnet) is a worthwhile small investment; it only costs £5.50, lasts for a year and, if you are an AA or RAC member, can be bought through Camping Organisations like the Caravan Club. It gives a degree of camping insurance, and since it also carries passport details, you can offer it to campsites in place of your passport during your stay. But on leaving, always ensure you have been given back the right card!

More importantly, many Polish campsites are prepared to offer a discount on production of a CCI; always make sure you ask for a discount.

CAMPING GAZ IN POLAND: Simple answer - there is none! Camping Gaz is unavailable in Poland and we failed to find any opportunity to exchange Camping Gaz 907 cylinders; there may be semi-legitimate sources of re-filling empty cylinders at gas supply outlets if you are really desperate. It is essential therefore to take sufficient for your planned period of stay in the country.
INTERNET IN POLAND:


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Disappointingly few Polish campsites yet offer wi-fi internet hotspots; the few we found (indicated in our Campsites Review) generally were limited in range and signal weak. Those with wi-fi generally offered it as a free facility. There is however a ready availability of relatively cheap internet cafés in every town and city; it's a good test of the local Tourist Office if they know of internet café whereabouts.

GUIDEBOOKS for POLAND:

 










 


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Guidebooks we found most helpful were:
 
                              Rough Guide                    published by Rough Guides, 7th edition July 2009
   
                     to Poland:                   ISBN no: 978 1 84836 0648   Price £14.99

                        As always, the Rough Guide impress us as the most reliable, detailed
                        and thoroughly researched guidebooks available

 
                               Lonely Planet Guide      published by Lonely Planet Guides, 6th edition May 2008
                        
to Poland:                   ISBN no: 978 1 74104 479 9  Price £14.99
  

                        The Lonely Planet guide includes some features not mentioned in Rough Guide,
                        and the 2 complement one another well to give a thorough coverage
                        
                         Sunflower Walking        published by Sunflower Books,
                               Guide to the    
            Landscapes series,  1st edition 2006
                         Tatras Mountains:       ISBN no:
1-85691-305-8  Price £14.99

                         This guide book covers the Tatras both the southern approach
                         from Slovakia and the northern side from Poland
                           
MAPS for
POLAND:




 
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For the soundest advice and supply of maps for Poland, as always we recommend consulting
The Map Shop, Upton upon Severn, Worcs:    
  

    Map Shop, Upton for Polish maps

For planning and 'big picture' general use, the most useful overall map of Poland is that published by Michelin (sheet no 720 - 1:700k) - see left
Details on The Map Shop web site.

The 1:200k scale detailed Road Atlas of Poland (Atlas samochodowy) (see right) published by the Polish cartographers Navigo-Copernus, covers the whole of the country, and includes city plans; it is clear to read, reasonably up to date and is invaluable for travelling around the country.
Again for details, see the Map Shop web site.


Local tourist information offices will generally sell detailed walking maps for their local area at very reasonable prices and certainly a lot cheaper than buying in UK. They can supply town and city plans, as well as generally useless glossy brochures by the forest load.

DRIVING in
POLAND:


            





 




















 

 


 
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Driving standards: the most essential feature to appreciate about driving in Poland is that Poles are possessed by instinct with an irresistible compulsion to overtake, though most do this without the aggressive tail-gating that has become the bane of UK driving. Minor roads are of reasonable standard, well-signed and driving felt reasonably relaxed. Major roads however, particularly if not dual-carriageway felt ultra-hazardous with constant and inconsiderate overtaking and cutting-in, needing defensive awareness. One road sign you will see frequently includes the word koniec, which means 'end' - eg the 'bends' symbol followed by koniec simply means the bends are finished.


Road standards:
Poland has benefitted by huge amounts of EU development funds in recent years; as a result road conditions and signposting are generally good on both main and minor roads.

Motorways: the map (right) gives an outline of the current (shown in green) and planned (shown in red) Polish motorways network which crosses the country. Click on the map for an enlargement. Further sections extending the network or upgrading existing main roads are in constant state of development. The web site below gives up to date information about current motorway and highways development:

   Current and planned Polish motorways

Polish motorway tolls: motorway vignettes are not required to use Polish motorways; tolls (opłata drogowa) however are charged on the A2 Poznań~Warsaw motorway, and on the A1 A2 motorway near Poznansouth from Gdańsk; but compared with the now extortionate charges for French Autoroutes and Italian autostrada, tolls on these Polish motorways seemed very reasonable (eg for a 40 miles stretch on the A1 south of Gdańsk, we paid just over £1). Even at these low rates, Poles seem to resent paying tolls so that motorways are virtually empty (see left) and parallel main routes hazardously crowded. The southern A1 motorway running between the German border and Katowice and Kraków was toll-free.

Fuel:  fuel is readily available throughout the country and credit cards are accepted at garages. Fuel prices are marginally cheaper than in Western Europe with diesel priced at around 4.3zł/litre (around £1).

Speed limits:
      within built-up areas:     50 kph (30 mph)
                    open road and highways:     90 kph (65 mph)
                                      motorways:   130 kph (80 mph)

Polish drivers do seem consistently to observe speed limits when entering built-up areas; whether this is genuine respect for the law or fear of police speed checks is debatable. The whole country is festooned with speed cameras, and despite rumours that only 1 in 10 is 'live', you would be well-advised to reduce speed; radar speed traps are frequent and on-the-spot fines for speeding are hefty.

Driving regulations: Poland has a zero alcohol policy for drivers, and penalties for offenders are SEVERE. Drivers with any trace of alcohol in their body will be arrested; there is no permitted level other than 0%.  If you are involved in an accident while driving the Police will give you a breath test regardless of who is to blame. The use of dipped headlights is compulsory at all times and on all roads.

SUPER-MARKETS and
SHOPS:







CREDIT CARDS:

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Part of the experience of finding your way around a new country is doing your daily shopping, and the cost of foodstuffs is comparatively cheap in Poland reflecting lower income levels. The dreaded Tesco have carved out a significant presence with supermarkets in many Polish towns and cities around the country. Similarly you will find a number of supermarkets operated by other western supermarket chains (Carrefour, LeClerks, Kaufland, Lidl, Intermarché). All offer a good range of choice but are more expensive. Even more ubiquitous are the smaller Biedronka (Ladybird) Polish supermarkets although these offer less choice

Every village has a sklep spożywczy (grocery shop), and some towns have a vegetable market (targ) usually still held in the town's rynek (market square).

There was no difficulty anywhere in Poland with supermarkets or garages refusing to accept payment by credit card. Similarly you trip over ATMs every few paces in every town, city or supermarket foyer, so obtaining cash in Polish złotys  is problem-free.

POLISH BEERS:

Żubr Brewery at Białystok

Żywiec Brewery at Żywiec

Tatra Brewery at Leżajsk






















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Lech Brewery at PoznańPoland has a long-established tradition of brewing and no visit to the country would be complete without enjoying their wonderful beers. Their bottom fermented beers are as unlike the overpriced, tasteless, chemicalised lager-fizz served in English pubs as the proverbial chalk and cheese. The different Polish brewing companies all produce distinctively tasting products. There are 3 main groups of national brewing companies whose products can be found all across the country. The first group is part of the international brewing conglomerate SAB-Miller who also own the CzechTyskie Brewery at Tychy Pilsen Urquell:

Warka Brewery at WarkaThe second group of brewing companies is part-owned by Heineken:

  • Żywiec Brewery at Żywiec in Southern Poland
  • Warka Brewery at Warka in Central Poland
  • Tatra Brewery at Leżajsk in SE Poland

The third national brewery is part of the Carlsberg brewing group:Okocim Brewery at the village of Okocim near Brzesko

  • Okocim Brewery at the village of Okocim near Brzesko in Southern Poland

Beers from the Zwierzyniec Brewery near to Zamośź Given the zero alcohol policy for drivers, some of the brewers produce an alcohol-free beer which, unlike its English equivalent, is reasonably acceptable in taste.

In addition to the nationally available large brewers, many towns have a local brewery (browary) or micro-brewery, so that you can enjoy distinctive beers in all corners of the country. An example is the Zwierzyniec Brewery near to Zamośź in SE Poland. Given the numbers of Poles now working in UK, you can even buy some of the national beers in British supermarkets but at a considerably higher price than in Poland.

 
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