Here is my analysis of my time in Poland recently focusing mostly on the train system, because I took a fair share of them during my visit and it’s a really easy and affordable way to get around.
There is however, such a variety of experiences I feel a need to report back and share this information.
The stations are clean, well equipped and pleasant. Easy to get around and lots of understandable signage. The tickets, despite being in Polish are easy to read and clear.
When you get on the train there has been ample luggage storage. The services is on time and they share information on delays on the platform in Polish and English. When you are on the train and underway, a conductor will come for your ticket and will scan or stamp it, asking also for ID on some lines but not others.
Coming from Wroclaw back to Krakow we were “boarded” by the Polish border police and asked for ID. It was a set of two, a man and a women, in very Russian style uniforms with an iPad. They asked for my passport and “engaged” with me for a full 20 minutes. They did not speak English well at all, nor did anyone in the cabin with me. This is were being a person with 1 language, AGAIN, bites me in the ass. I began to sweat profusely when they started asking if I had a residency card and other entry and exit questions.
As it turns out my entry stamp was done with invisible ink and was not at all noticeable to them, despite searching and searching. It appeared to them that I had entered the UK back in December and never left. (Arabic stamps are in the back of the book.) Once I realized the trouble I produced my boarding pass from Marrakech to Krakow from 12 days earlier and all was well. KEEP YOUR BOARDING PASSES. This habit has saved me on more than a few occasions.
It’s way easy to purchase your tickets online, and they make it really well known when you buy this way that you need to print the ticket. However, it’s not so necessary and they take pretty much any version you offer, whether on your phone or printed.
But that’s pretty much were the commonality ends
Krakow to Warsaw: First Class
The first train we took was Krakow to Warsaw and it was amazing! We had these fancy plastic molded seats that were wide and cozy, with a large tray table and a fancy ass reading light over your shoulder. The power was between the two seats so we had space between the seats, another bonus. The seats were at the window and no obstruction so it was clear sailing.
When we got on board a nice porter came with a menu and gave us a choice of egg bread or meat and cheese plate for a meal. We both chose the egg bread and it was a small snack served on a plate and quite lovely. Coffee, tea, juice or water on a complimentary basis. It was about 3 hrs and really a great ride.
The Warsawa Centralina main train station is giant and attached to a HUGE mall. Escalators and elevators up and down to track level.
Warsaw to Gdansk: Second Class
This was a 3 hour journey and I remember none of it. We were not able to get first class but we had the same seats that must be newish with the plastic shaping. No fancy lighting but still very comfortable and pleasant trip.
Gdansk to Warsaw: First Class
This train back to Warsaw was different again. We had assigned seats in a compartment of 6, 3 seats facing each other. We had 3 other men that all looked remarkably alike in our compartment and one of them apologized on behalf of Poland for us getting an older train.
We were offered complimentary coffee, tea, juice or water and given a Twinky-like wrapped croissant snack and a Lindor chocolate ball in a Valentines wrapper. Lovely.
Train was a little delayed. Again the nice man apologized for that too. And the announcements were read out by a mouse who couldn’t find the volume button. Pleasant experience all around really.
Warsaw to Wroclaw : First Class
So I have 3 nights in Poland after David has flown back to Canada. I was meant to meet another friend in Europe and when that didn’t pan out I found myself needing to wait out the Ryanair scheduled return from Krakow.
I decided to take 2 nights in Wroclaw which gives me a 4 hr train ride up front and then a much shorter journey to Krakow for my last night. So I had two legs on my own.
I made my way to the track easily enough, with luggage and a coffee. Boarded the train and found my seat. This is a whole different train again. It’s older with cloth seats and most of the seats have the benefit of a tray table. It stops at a lot of places along the way and must be a commuter because when the food trolley came by it was a paid service for coffee and the snack on offer was a Snickers bar. Glad I brought Scooby snacks with me.
When the conductor came along I dutifully got out my ticket and my passport and he made a big show of saying “that’s not necessary” to my ID. “Ok, well then.”
Also, I looked around the car before we took off and finally asked out loud, “this is the train to Wroclaw is that right?” Because in my experience you can check all the things many times and still find you are headed in the wrong direction. So I like to quintuple confirm.
I actually asked a woman, but the man that chose to reply took it upon himself to give me a language lesson in the most condescending voice he could muster.
You see, I said “roe-claw” because that is phonetic. I have not had any luck working out the Polish language but I can tell you that there is absolutely ZERO relationship between the phonetic version and the actual pronunciation. None. So I have no choice but to just say it and make sure my Canadian flag is visible or carry paper and write down.
“Uh, I think you mean Bratislavavacasiv, or Slatilbaclavovivich in Polish.”
Ok buddy look, one language, one pronounication. Apparently one of those is the English pronunciation, according to him.
And he is an older man so he literally looked down his nose at me. He might as well have just said “you f*ckibg tourist.”
I wanted to say “hey, buddy. I’m not stupid and I’m not disrespectful. It’s just that I have a capacity. I can learn Arabic and I can learn French but then it stops. I think your country is lovely but you talk some craziness here and I’m having some trouble even picking up a pattern so help a sister out.”
Anyway. Loooongggg trip to a city who shall not be named and not as comfortable as I had hoped for. Also the lady with whom I shared a tray was a little hog-sey. I eventually moved to seat with no one next door and a foot rest which was much lovelier.
Here are some other random observations from our time in Poland. And it was a lovely time, I highly recommend it to anyone who is asking.
- Uber is super efficient as always and also shockingly inexpensive.
- There are little scooter type things all over the place. Just stopped and on the road. I assume they are locked and tracked by GPS, maybe even self destructive who knows. Spy stuff. But if you are looking for a way around – that looks like fun.
- Airbnb and other accommodations were very inxpensive $55 CDN a night in general. In February.
- I felt totally and completely safe. Aside from the double homicide in Warsaw. You see, one night in our Cold War era apartment, while surfing the Internet, David and I distinctly heard two gun shots. Maybe it was fireworks, but maybe not. The next day when we arrived back from tourist-ing, we discovered several police cars and vans with their lights on, parked in a “command post” style way in the adjacent parking lot. David Googled double homicide in Warsaw and got a hit, but not for the previous night. Much like in Marrakech, I felt a distinct lack of crime simply because the news is inaccessible in English. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Doesn’t mean it did either.
- All the train stations I was in had elevators to track level without exception and this is delicious if you have luggage or offspring.
- You can pay in credit card almost everywhere for any minor amount. It’s very much like Canada. Also the currency is NOT Euros so be very careful getting all greedy at the bank machine for the local currency because with UBER and the Visa thing, I ended up with way more cash than I needed.
- The beds are universally comfortable.
- The wifi is pretty decent and available. Only a few spots of trouble.
- They are very generous with the toilet paper. Which is nice because in Croatia we had to call the AirBnb hosts and ask for more on more than one occasion.
Dining reservations are required in the newer restaurants. I don’t really understand the dining culture in Poland but we were disappointed a few times with the newer and finer places being booked out on week nights.
It was also a pleasure to dine in some larger places. We sat beside tables of 12 and 14 on a few occasions and you would never know there were there. All quiet and polite and very hush hush. Such a pleasant change from the “oh so loud” groups in some other countries you might travel to with office get togethers gone wild.
The Poles really don’t speak English. Not even tourist English which I tend to stupidly rely on in many countries of late, so be prepared to point, and use Google translate A LOT.
We found the Polish people to be extraordinarily polite. I mean, Canadian level polite. Aside from old Grump-o on the train that is.
That’s all. Please enjoy your time in Poland.