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Poland: Krakow and the Tatra Mountains /Warsaw /Auschwitz - FAQ
|Krakow and the Tatra Mountains |
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Poland, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Old and New Warsaw or the Krakow and the Tatra Mountains tours. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your Polish adventure.
Poland is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States and 1 hour ahead of GMT. Like most European countries, Poland has daylight savings time which lasts from late March to late September. It moves its clocks ahead an hour in late spring and an hour back in the fall, corresponding roughly to daylight saving time in the United States, but the exact dates vary. When it's noon in Poland, it's 6 a.m. in New York and 3 a.m. in San Francisco.
There are many great souvenirs to bring back with you from Poland, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase and pack light. Poland is a modern European country, and there are no special packing needs. Rest assured that anything you might forget at home is fairly easily obtainable once you arrive. You do not need formal clothing for this trip. We'll be dining at several nice restaurants, but no formal clothing is required. For most of the trip, you'll feel most comfortable in "weekend casual" clothing. No hiking boots are required for the hike in the mountains, but you should have comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good traction.
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Poland is a member of the "Schengen Zone" (EU term for the European Union's common border area), and if you're arriving from another EU member state, you're don't even to have to show a passport at the border. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This Old and New Warsaw tour starts at 3:00PM on Saturday, July 13, 2019 at the Warsaw International Airport (airport code WAW), and your flight should arrive no later than 12 noon. That means that you'll probably depart North America on Friday, July 12, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early, especially that we will be actually touring Warsaw already on Day 1. We have arranged for private, individual airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival. At the conclusion of the Old and New Warsaw, you will be most likely joining the Krakow and the Tatra Mountains tour, and your flight between Warsaw and Krakow will be provided. If you are not joining the Krakow and the Tatra Mountains tour, we will provide you with a private transfer to the Warsaw airport in accordance with your flight's departure time.
If you are not joining the Old and New Warsaw tour, the Krakow and the Tatra Mountains tour starts at 4:00PM on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at the Krakow International Airport (airport code KRK), and your flight should arrive no later than 2:00PM. That means that you'll probably depart North America on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early, especially that we will be actually touring Krakow already on Day 1. We have arranged for private, individual airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival. The tour will end on Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Krakow, and we'll arrange for a private airport transfer in accordance with your flight departure time. If you are adding the optional post-tour extension to tour the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial, you will depart on Friday, July 26, 2019 and we'll arrange for a private airport transfer in accordance with your flight departure time. If you need help with your flights to Poland, please feel free to give us a call.
To avoid jet lag, drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals during your flight. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Poland tour group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. However, because we have only 11 rooms available on this tour, if there are a lot of people requesting a single room, we may have a smaller group that 16 people. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by private local guides, one in Warsaw and one in Krakow and Zakopane, who will be sharing their insights about Poland with the group throughout the tour.
A trip to Poland poses no unusual health concerns, aside from the bromides of not overindulging in food and, especially, drink, and looking both ways before you cross the streets (especially for trams). Still, there are a few things to keep in mind. Bottled water is cheap and widely available. Polish health care is generally of high standard. Hospitals and doctors' offices may look shabby on the outside, but they are impeccably clean and well maintained. Polish dentists have a reputation around Europe for high-quality work and are usually much cheaper than their American counterparts. Travelers do not require any specific shots before a trip to Poland. Pharmacies sell common over-the-counter remedies, as well as all prescription drugs, but bring along extra doses of prescription medications since the local pharmacist may not recognize your doctor's prescription. Polish air quality has improved, but during winter you may encounter short periods of poor air quality, particularly in industrial areas.
Tap water is generally safe, but the locals may act surprised that you want to drink tap water as bottled water is very cheap and widely available. You may also think twice about drinking from taps in older buildings with rusty pipes. If you're concerned, let the water run a few seconds before drinking.
Polish restrooms are equipped with the standard Western-style toilets. Public toilets are a relative rarity, so you'll find yourself seeking out nearby restaurants or hotels, and asking to use the facilities. This is usually not a problem. Some establishments will charge 1 zl. for the privilege. Service stations and other places often have toilets available for free or a nominal fee. So you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them. Some public toilets still use the older symbols to designate men's and women's facilities: men are upside-down triangles; women are circles.
Poland is a relatively safe country to travel in, but it does have its fair share of crime. Always keep your eyes open and let common sense prevail. Problems mostly occur in big cities, with Warsaw being perhaps the least safe place in Poland. Take care when walking alone at night, and be alert at the Warsaw Central train station, the favorite playground for thieves and pickpockets. Other large cities appear to be quieter, but keep your wits about you. By and large, the smaller the town, the safer it is. Keep a sharp eye on your pockets and your bag in crowded places such as markets or city buses and trams. Beware of being short-changed at train stations, taxis, restaurants etc. Always have some smaller bills in order to make change more easily. Since WWII Poland has been ethnically an almost entirely homogeneous nation, and Poles, particularly those living in rural areas, have had little contact with foreigners. As a result, travelers racially different to the average Pole may attract some stares and a few giggles from the locals. In most cases, this is just a curiosity, without any hostility in mind. Homosexuality is publicly frowned upon, but openly gay travelers are not likely to experience specific problems. Polish police and law-enforcement agencies are invariably friendly and helpful to tourists, but they take a dim view toward public drunkenness. Drugs of any kind, including marijuana, are strictly illegal, and anti-drug laws are rigorously enforced. Remember to be respectful around churches, particularly during masses. Make sure to wear appropriate dress. The rules aren't too strict on this, but in practice, women should cover their shoulders and avoid too-short skirts; men should wear long pants. Both sexes should wear shoes. Also, be sure to heed any prohibitions against making noise or taking photos, videos, or using flash photography. Finally, be sure to donate something, however small, at the entrance if the church is not taking an admission fee. Many churches wouldn't be able to survive without visitor donations.
Women do not face any particular travel difficulties in Poland. They are treated with courtesy and respect in both big cities and small towns. However, female visitors who go out in public looking unkempt might earn a few disapproving looks because Polish women take great pride in their appearance and what they wear. If any church visits are planned, remember that women are expected to wear tops with sleeves and bottoms that fall beneath the knees. Churches and some museums post their dress codes and they will turn you away if you are not in compliance. Carrying a light weight scarf in your purse can come in handy to cover your shoulders or tie around your waist as a skirt.
During the Poland tours, we will travel by a private bus. We will also be walking quite a bit. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 5 miles throughout the day, sometimes on cobbled streets and uneven surfaces. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles, including boats, without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is busy. You must be prepared for a couple of full days and some early starts.
Poland’s climate is influenced by a continental climate from the east and a maritime climate from the west. As a result, the weather is changeable, with significant differences from day to day and from year to year. Summers are usually warm and sunny, but occasionally they can be cold, wet and disappointing. The seasons are clearly differentiated. Summer begins in June, and is predominantly warm, in mid 70s, even hot at times in mid 80s, with plenty of sunshine interlaced with heavy rains. July is the hottest month.
Poland's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Poland's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests. Poland's code is +48.
Voltage in Poland is 220 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European plug with two round prongs. If you are bringing only "travel" electronics, such as a smart phone, a camera, a laptop, a Kindle or an iPad, such electronics are dual voltage, and only need an plug adapter. Electronics which are not "meant for travel", may need a converter. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate converters and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival at the Warsaw airport. Converters are sometimes referred to as "transformers". If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Any heat generating appliances that you bring (curling iron) will need a voltage converter, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage.
The main language spoken in Poland is Polish. English is spoken in most hotels, restaurants, and shops. In smaller places, you'll often need the help of a phrase book or dictionary. If you speak Russian, you will most likely be understood, as many people had to study Russian at school, but it will not make you any friends.
The Polish currency is the zloty (zl.), and it's divided (in theory) into 100 groszy (gr.). The official currency exchange symbol is PLN. Bills come in denominations of 10 zl., 20 zl., 50 zl., 100 zl., and 200 zl. The most useful coins are the 5 zl., 2 zl., and 1 zl. Though Poland is a member of the European Union, the euro does not circulate in Poland and cannot be used for making purchases. For convenience's sake, some hotels will quote their rates in euros and accept euros as payment, but in general, it's best to carry local currency. You can change money at nearly any bank or exchange office, identified in Polish as a kantor. You'll see these privately run exchanges everywhere, but be sure to shop around for the best rates and fees, since these differ from office to office. You'll get the best, no-hassle exchange rate simply by using your credit or debit card at a bank ATM. In large cities and towns, you'll see an ATM on nearly every block. Before you leave home, be sure to alert your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad. The bank or card company could block your card if security personnel see unusual charges coming through. Also, make sure your card has a four-digit PIN code, since some Polish ATMs cannot take longer codes. Credit cards are now almost universally accepted at hotels and expensive restaurants. Travelers' checks can still be cashed at large banks, but are almost more of a hassle than they are worth since they aren't usually accepted at shops, hotels, or restaurants.
As a member of the European Union, Poland imposes a 22% value-added tax on most goods and services and excise duties on tobacco, alcohol, and gasoline. The VAT is already included in the displayed price. Visitors from outside the EU can get a VAT tax refund at the airport when departing, but the minimum that you must spend at one store to obtain the refund is 200zl. The VAT refunds are not made for services. To get a VAT refund on purchases that qualify, present your passport to the salesperson and ask for the special stamped form. Present the form with your purchases at the booth marked IVA Tax Refunds at the airport, as you leave EU.
Restaurants', drivers' and guides' gratuities are included in both Poland tours' price. While dining on your own, up to 10% gratuity is expected in upscale restaurants to reward good service. Otherwise, it is considered polite to leave any coins from your change on the table in cafes and restaurants. A small (5zl to 10zl) tip for other service providers (taxi drivers, hotel maids, bellmen) is the norm.
Poland is famous for its amber and silver. Apart from the classic necklaces and those polished, gold-like nuggets, it is worth looking for original work from young artists. High quality Polish linen can be found in the Cepelia stores and the best place to buy the traditional leather Highland shoes is in Zakopane. The cobalt-cream ceramics from Boleslawiec has its devoted fans, and Poland is also famous for hand painted Christmas tree ornaments. Chocoholics will delight in the quality and the variety of chocolate at Wedel.