5 Tips For Travel In Poland

After my two weeks in the city of Łódź, I’m happy to say I came back a changed person – or at least a wiser one. For your benefit, I’ve compiled a list of top tips I wish someone had told me before I went.

 

  • Don’t expect everyone to speak English.

I’m not naïve. I’ve travelled abroad quite a few times, and I know that English is not the only language out there. But you’ll often find at tourist-rich destinations (mainly western Europe) that most locals have a basic understanding of English, which comes in handy when asking for directions or buying tickets at the train station. This is not the case in Poland.

While a lot of youth have studied English at school, virtually none of the adults (especially in industrial cities like Łódź) known anything more than Hello. If you don’t speak Polish, you may find yourself in a tricky situation, particularly when trying to figure out the public transport system.

Your best bet is to plan ahead, so you know how to buy and use tickets before you arrive, and bring along a dictionary/guide book with some basic Polish phrases to help you along – just make sure you know how to pronounce them!

 

  • Remember to validate your tickets.

Some of you may be familiar with this system, but for UK travelers using key cards for buses and ticket barriers for trains, the public transport in Poland may be a little confusing.

Tickets are little paper slips that can be bought from kiosks, card machines, or, occasionally, the driver. Then once you get onboard the tram or bus, the ticket must be validated in machines near most of the exits. This is entirely your responsibility and if you forget, the ticket inspector will fine you.

 

  • Be careful when crossing roads.

In Łódź especially, the pedestrian lights on side roads are not official. It may tell you to walk, but that doesn’t mean the cars are going to stop. Some will choose to keep driving. So make sure you look both ways as usual, but also keep an eye on cars coming from around the corner, because if they’re in a hurry they’ll just keep going.

 

  • Everything’s shut on Bank Holidays.

And I mean everything. Obviously there are no banks, but supermarkets from big chain ones like Tesco to the Zabka you see on every corner will close their doors. Bank Holidays are religious events in Poland and everyone participates. So if you’re staying over on a Bank Holiday, either stock up on food the day before or search around as there might be one odd store opening for a few hours.

 

  • Make sure you exchange enough money.

This goes without saying for most travelers but it’s especially important in Poland. While you may find a Kantor every few metres, they aren’t necessarily open over the weekend. Most are shut by 2pm on Saturdays and don’t open at all Sundays, making it extremely difficult to exchange money on the two days when you’ll probably want to spend the most. When Friday rolls around, count up your notes and check you’ll have enough, unless you’re lucky enough to have a 24hr Kantor in your neighbourhood (one with decent rates, that is).

5 Things To Not Take On A Hike

Arriving home after my practice expedition for Silver Duke of Edinburgh, I dumped my rucksack on the floor and climbed into bed. The next morning, I emptied out my bag. I then sorted each of the items into two piles: Used and Not Used. The latter pile was far too big for my liking and here’s my chance to make sure you guys don’t make the same mistake.

CLOTHES

This is something that everyone always overpacks. Remember you will be wearing clothes when you arrive, so that counts as one outfit. Our expedition was only three days long, in which case you’ll need one change of clothes at the most, just in case it rains. Take a waterproof jacket and plenty of hiking socks, but really limit yourself when it comes to tops and bottoms. Pyjamas are optional and as long as you have a decent sleeping bag, you should be cosy enough (this depends what the weather is like where you live).

FOOD

Obviously, you need to bring food with you. The issue is what you pack it in. Absolutely no tins or jars allowed – they take up too much room and can burst, leaving you with a very sticky situation. Pack food into plastic containers and ziplock bags (preferable) and plan your menu carefully. Make sure you have the right quantities of food, don’t bring luxuries like ketchup or salt, and eat the heaviest food the first day. Always have some emergency food on you – mint cakes or jelly work well.

TECHNOLOGY

You should have a phone on you at all times, and designate someone back at home to be your emergency contact. Keep the phone off or at least on airplane mode (if you want to take pictures) to conserve the battery. If you want to record anything, bring a separate cheap digital camera that has a long battery life. Don’t bother with tablets – it’s not worth the risk of water damage. If you’re looking for entertainment, cards are your best option. Hours of fun, minimal weight, and can be used in the rain.

EQUIPMENT

This takes up the most space in your bag and so you want to be conservative. A map and a compass are necessary for any hike, even if you think you know the route. For cooking purposes, get a compact trangia stove set. These come packed up with several pots, a frying pan, and you can also put some things inside like matches, washing up liquid, and a tea towel. The only thing that needs to be carried separately is the gas. Don’t bring plates or bowls. Use a mess tin instead which doubles as both and can be used to pack toiletries inside. Finally, buy a camelback or platypus. These are lifesavers and can carry 2 litres or more of water – plenty for a day’s hike. They also save you the trouble of getting a bottle out every time you need a drink.

PEOPLE

This is my final tip. For any hike, no matter what the length, you shouldn’t be doing it with strangers. You need to make sure the people you’re hiking with know what they are doing. If they make stupid decisions, like not bringing enough food or water, this puts your life at risk. You’ll need to designate a first aider, who brings a proper first aid kit, not just some plasters and paracetamol. And, for the sake of your sanity, make sure you all get along really really well. You’ll be surprise how much people change after walking for miles.

 

Enjoy your hike. Stay safe, guys.