Wikisource Conference 2020/Travel
Here is a friendly guide to travel regulations in Poland.
Please answer the questions:
1. Do you hold European Union citizenship?
- YES. This means you are allowed to freely enter Poland at any time and stay here as long as you wish. You need a travel document, but it doesn't have to be your passport, your national ID card will be enough. If you do meet a Polish border agent and you show them your passport, most likely it won't even get stamped. However, most likely you won't meet the agents, because you will be entering via land border with another EU Member State, and there no physical checks on those borders, or via the Schengen zone at the airport.
- NO. Please move on to the next question.
- I DON'T KNOW. Please check if the country of your citizenship is an EU Member State. Wikipedia is the fastest place to check :) All citizens of the Member States are automatically EU citizens.
2. Are you a citizen of the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein?
- YES. Please refer to the option YES in question 1. There are some non-EU countries, whose citizens are treated exactly the same as EU citizens when it comes to Polish (and indeed European) immigration law. The same applies to Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.
- NO. Please move on the next question.
3. Do citizens of your country require a visa to enter Poland?
- YES. Please move on the next question.
- NO. You are allowed to enter Poland at any time, using just your passport. Make sure you have an entry stamp in your passport from your point of entry in Poland or another Schengen Area country. Please remember that you can't spend more than 90 out of every 180 days within the Schengen Area (if you don't know what exactly Schengen Area means, it is explained in question 4). It doesn't matter how long do you stay in individual Schengen countries - what matters is your total stay in the entire Area. If you plan a longer stay, you will most likely require a visa.
- I DON'T KNOW. Please consult this list, provided by the Office for Foreigners of the Republic of Poland.
4. Do you already hold a valid Schengen visa / residence permit?
- YES. You don't need to apply for another document. In general, Poland respects immigration arrangments and decisions of other Schengen countries and you will be treated as if you had obtained your visa / permit directly from the Polish authorities.
- NO.. This means you need to apply for Schengen visa. Please start by registering here. There will be a conference team member assigned to help you obtain your visa. You will receive a written invitation from Wikimedia Polska, which you can attache to your application. If necessary, we will also be in contact with the relevant Polish authorities. If you prefer to apply for Schengen visa at a consular office of another Schengen country, you are free to do so. However, if our conference is your main reason for the trip into the Schengen Area, then we highly recommend that you use the Polish system. Please note Wikimedia Polska will be able to provide assistance only with the Polish authorities.
- I DON'T KNOW. Schengen Area means all EU countries except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Ireland and Romania. On the other hand, Schengen Area also includes three non-EU countries: Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
IMPORTANT: If you are denied Polish visa or refused entry to Poland for whatever reason, please let us know immediately.
Getting to Warsaw
Warsaw Chopin Airport
Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW, often referred to as "Okęcie" in spoken Polish, due to its location in the Okęcie neighbourhood of Warsaw), is the larger and more busy of the two Warsaw airports. It is home to most international flights coming to Warsaw, including all transatlantic flights.
This airport is located within city borders, in public transport Zone 1 and is served by a regular city transport system. It is conveniently connected to the city centre by a railway line as well as a bus line. Depending on the precise time and destination, it takes 15-60 minutes to go to the centre with a car/cab (time variation is huge here so stay on the safe side).
- When you leave the Customs area of the airport and enter the main arrivals hall, please note there are three useful lines on the floor:
- The green line will lead you to the railway station, with trains going to the city centre and to the Modlin airport. You can buy tickets from the vending machines located at the entrance to the station. The ticket to the city centre costs 4.40 PLN and it takes 20-25 minutes to get there.
- The purple line will lead you to the city bus stop. There are several public bus lines operating from there, serving different parts of the city. Tickets cost 4.40 PLN and can be purchased from a vending machine at the bus stop. However, please note the trains use the same tickets, but are usually faster (especially in the rush hours).
- The yellow line will lead you to the licensed taxi area. Please make sure to ignore people offering taxi services inside the hall - their services can be much more expensive that those of the licensed taxi, which you can find in the area just outside the terminal door. A taxi ride to the city centre will cost you ca. 40-50 PLN.
- Other options:
- Taxis/Uber: Warsaw is a city where cabs are usually called by phone from a service of your choice, and they come to you with no extra cost. Some operators are cheaper than the ones standing at the airport; also Uber and other applications (like myTaxi or Opti) are available; Uber ride should be ca. 20-25 PLN to the centre.
- Car rentals are available at the airport.
- Internet - there should be a free wifi at the airport. Moreover, mobile Internet is very affordable in Poland and you can ask at a newsstand for a Polish SIM card with a service dedicated to the Internet (and some gigabytes preloaded). Since recently, ID needs to be shown to activate the SIM card.
- Currency exchange - it is doable at the airport but you will get much better rates in the city.
Warsaw Modlin Airport
Warsaw Modlin Airport (WMI) is the more remote one and smaller, used mainly by some low-cost airlines (Ryanair in particular) and for some charter flights. Generally speaking, flying to Modlin is usually cheaper than to Chopin, but then you need to spend more money and time to get to the city centre. The two basic ways of transfer to the centre are:
- Koleje Mazowieckie (KM, regional public railway company) operates a bus shuttle service from the airport to the nearest railway station, where you change for train. Tickets, which include both shuttle bus and train, cost 19 PLN.
- Private scheduled coaches (companies like ModlinBus or Translud) take you directly from the airport to the city center. Prices vary from 9 up to 33 PLN.
Other options include: a private taxi ride which can be 100 PLN and more (while specifically prearranged), or a shuttle service (needs to be preaaranged as well). A car ride there from the downtown usually takes 45-90 minutes, depending on the traffic.
This airport provides free wifi, some shops, ATM and currency exchange as well.
Warsaw has three main railway stations, called the Central Station (Warszawa Centralna), the West Station (Warszawa Zachodnia) and the East Station (Warszawa Wschodnia).
There are daily direct train services to Warsaw from all the countries neighbouring Poland, with the sad exception of Lithuania (but you can get a bus from Vilnius instead). There are also daily direct trains from Austria and Hungary.
Warsaw is connected by long-distance coach lines with majority of European countries. However, the trips can be long and tiresome. The largest companies include Flixbus and Eurolines, but it is always worth checking also with smaller operators of your prefered route. The main international bus station is located next to the Western Railway Station (Warszawa Zachodnia). There are also large long distance bus stations next to three Warsaw Metro stations Młociny, Centrum and Wilanowska.
Warsaw is connected to the German border by the modern and rather comfortable to drive on A2 motorway (also known as the Motorway of Freedom). Most of the motorway is tolled and you will spend ca. 100 PLN on motorway tickets. It takes ca. 5-6 hours (depending on your driving) to get to the border. In Germany, it meets the A12 motorway.
If you wish to drive to Warsaw from the south, it's best to use the S7 or S8 expressways. From the north, you can either use the National Road 7 (which is the shortest way from cities like Gdańsk, but quite uncomfortable for the driver) or A1 motorway to Łódź and then change for A2 (this solution is longer in distance and more expensive in toll, but can be faster due to much better driving conditions).
As for the Eastern border, Warsaw is about 190 km from the road crossing to Belarus (located in the town of Terespol). National Road 2 is the connecting route, but it is mostly single-lane. On the other hand, north-eastern parts of S8 (to Białystok, part of E67) and S7 are partially ready.
General advice for travellers to Warsaw
Warsaw has a large and efficient system of public transport, which consists of over 300 lines. Most of these are bus lines, but there is also a number of tram lines and two metro lines. The tickets can be purchased from vending machines located at major stops, as well as from vending machines placed in most vehicles. Tickets bought outside the vehicle need to be validated in a validator immediately after you enter the vehicle.
- You can use any entrance!
- Unlike to many other public transport systems worldwide, in Warsaw you can both enter and leave every vehicle (including buses) using every door. There is no obligation to use the front door when entering and you don't need to show your ticket to the driver. Tickets are checked only by the ticket inspectors, who appear randomly, in casual clothes, but they have special ID badges on them.
- Where to buy?
- The tickets can be purchased from vending machines located at major stops, as well as from vending machines placed in most vehicles. Please note that while vending machines at stops accept both cash and card payments, most on-board machines accept only cards, while some of them (older ones) accept only cash.
- Validation of tickets
- Tickets bought outside the vehicle need to be validated in a validator (see picture) immediately after you enter the vehicle. To validate, you need to insert the ticket into the validator, with the ticket's magnetic stripe facing down. When the ticket is validated properly, a green light flashes on the validator and an imprint is made on the ticket. There are at least 2-3 validators in each vehicle. You don't need to validate the ticket bought from the machine located inside the bus or tram - the machine automatically validates it for you. If you are using a 75 minute ticket, a 24h ticket or a weekend ticket, you need to validate it only once, in the first vehicle you're using after the purchase. There's no need to validate it on each trip. The only exceptions to this are the metro lines, where you need to insert your ticket into the station gate each time you pass through it.
- The are two transport zones in the Warsaw system: Zone 1 and Zone 2. We recommend that you buy tickets only for Zone 1, which covers entire Warsaw. Zone 2 consists of the smaller towns and villages, which are served by the Warsaw public transport, but are not parts of the City of Warsaw in the administrative sense. We don't think you will have time to explore those during your short stay.
Types of tickets
We recommend that you use the following types of tickets, depending on your plans and needs:
|20 minutes||3,40 PLN||It gives you full access to the entire network for 20 minutes after validation.|
|single fare transfer||4,40 PLN||It gives you full access to the network in Zone 1 for 75 minutes after validation.|
|one-day ticket||15 PLN||It gives you full access to the network in Zone 1 for 24 hours after validation.|
|three-day ticket||36 PLN||It gives you full access to the network in Zone 1 for 72 hours after validation.|
|weekend ticket||24 PLN||It gives you full acccess to the entire network from 7pm on Friday to 8am on Monday.|
|group weekend ticket||40 PLN||It gives full acccess to the entire network from 7pm on Friday to 8am on Monday to a group of up to 5 people travelling together.|
Types of lines
You can generally know the type of line by looking at its number:
- M1, M2 - metro lines
- xx (two digit numbers) - tram lines
- xxx (three digit numbers) - bus lines
- Nxx (letter "N" and two digits) - nightly bus lines
If you want to plan your public transport journey like a true Warsaw guy, we recommend the mobile app JakDojadę (which means "How do I get there?" in Polish). You can also use the official planner at the website of the Warsaw Transport Authority.
Poland is not a member of the eurozone, it still uses its own currency called Polish zloty (in short: zł or PLN). While some outlets will accept payments in Euro (especially large stores), we definitely recommend you to have at least a small amount of PLN in cash. You can either use one of the many exchange offices or an ATM, of which there are plenty in Poland.
Payment by cards is widely accepted in Poland, especially in Warsaw. All international card systems (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, UnionPay) are recognized, however when anything issued by Visa or Mastercard (including Electron, Maestro etc.) should be recognized, others like AMEX, Diners Club and such may be refused in some places.
To check the latest official currency exchange rates, provided by the National Bank of Poland, go to this page.
Examples of basic prices in Warsaw
- McDonalds meal - ca. 20 PLN
- local restaurant meal (casual restaurant, no luxuries) - ca. 20-50 PLN
- 0.5l bottle of Coke - ca. 3-4 PLN
- single local transport ticket - 4,40 PLN
- 24h bus ticket - 15 PLN
- Starbucks coffee - 10-15 PLN
- 1.5l mineral water bottle - ca. 2 PLN
- pack of cigarettes - 10-15 PLN
- 0.5l beer in a shop - regular ca 3 PLN, craft 6-10 PLN
- 0.5l beer in a bar - ca. 10 PLN
Polish is the main language of Poland. It is a West Slavic language, written in modified Latin alphabet. Speakers of languages such as Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian or - to some degree - Russian, should be able to get some basic understanding of Polish due to the similarities between those languages. As for the foreign languages, English is most commonly spoken in Poland. If you get lost in Warsaw, you should be able to find someone with at least basic knowledge of English very quickly. Other foreign languages with a number of speakers are German, French, Spanish and Italian. Russian is understood and usually also spoken quite universally by the older generation of Poles, but the knowledge of it is much more rare among the younger ones.
Poland uses so called Type C (ungrounded) and Type E (grounded) electrical plugs and sockets, used in e.g. France, Czech Republik and Slovakia; modern Schuko plugs (Type F) should work as well (all types are listed here, with photos). Voltage is ~230V. If you are coming with a device using a different type of plugs, please remember to bring an adapter.
Here are some aspects of the Polish law that you may find useful to know:
- All recreational drugs are totally illegal in Poland. Posession of any quantity of any such drugs, including marihuana, may be cause of arrest.
- Alcohol is widely available and relatively cheap in Poland. However, it is generally forbidden to drink it in outdoor public spaces, except for some designated areas, such as outdoor gardens of restaurants and bars. Drinking in the streets, parks etc. is subject to fine.
- Smoking is forbidden in most indoor public spaces (restaurants, hotels, stations etc.) and outdoor (bus stops). However, with some exceptions, such as bus stops and railway stations, you can smoke outdoors.
In case of emergency
The general emergency line is 112 and it can be used for all kinds of accidents. However, if you want direct access to any given emergency service, you can call their alarm lines directly by using:
- 997 - police
- 998 - fire brigade
- 999 - paramedics
- 986 - Warsaw municipal police (for minor incidents)
If you find yourself in a situation, in which you don't want to make a call (due to your own safety concerns), but you do need help and you can still use your phone, please send a text message (including type of incident and location) to the number: +48 723 986 112. That's a special emergency texting line monitored 24/7 by the Warsaw Municipal Police.
Additionally, Warsaw is running a safety line for foreigners: + 48 608 599 999, available 8.00 - 20.00 in English, German and Russian.