Poland: Europe's Hidden Gem is in the Limelight in 2016
Poland is one of the few European countries that is still a good deal for Canadians. While the dollar is declining against the Polish zloty (1 CAD = 2.78 PLN compared to as high as 3.12 PLN just a year ago), the low cost of living in Poland makes up for it. Kraków is consistently listed as one of the five least expensive cities to visit in Europe. A stay in a 4-star hotel is as low as $60 per night, meals are typically under $10 per person and beer here is the least expensive in all of Europe, with a pint costing under $3. This is the year to book a trip to Poland; the new government is looking to adopt the Euro soon, which will raise the cost of living.
Poland is known for…
Its incredible history! Polish culture has been resilient through a millennium of subjugation, triumph, changing borderlines and decimated population; the entire country is a living history museum. Nothing speaks to the strength of the Polish people like the beauty of the country: the postcard-perfect villages like Zakopane and Zalipie, the colourful old town square in Poznan, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, hidden castles throughout the country, the modernist glass exterior of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. After World War II, Warsaw was entirely rebuilt from pictures, so it resembles a pre-1940s city, whereas other towns are dominated by communist architecture. Borders have changed so often, and the country has had to rebuild so many times, the result is a beautiful variation of foreign influences, centuries of architectural trends, and modern interpretations.
One insider tip…
Don’t miss the landscapes. Poland abounds with natural beauty in every direction: the Karkonosze Mountains in the southwest, the Tatra Mountains in the southeast, the Baltic coast, spotted with sandy beaches and seaside towns, in the north and the Masurian Lake District, home to more than 2,000 lakes, in the northeast. To miss the landscapes of Poland is a massive disservice.
Best time to visit…
September and October see good weather and fewer crowds, which mean better deals. Avoid winter unless you’re strapping on skis. The summer weather is lovely but the country can feel crowded by tourists and vacationing locals.
The śledź w oleju is herring in oil, often served at Polish weddings, and worth a try. It’s a slightly salty dish, dipped in pickled onion oil or garlic sour cream and seasoned with dill. Oscypek cheese is a culinary treasure, smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk, but it’s only available in the Tatra Mountains region. Poles also love ice cream, and ice cream shops are abundant. Try it with szarlotka (apple pie), for a familiar treat with a Polish twist.
- Passport needed: Yes
- Money used: Though Poland is a part of Europe, they’re not yet on the Euro and instead use the złoty. Money can be withdrawn from ATMs, so long as your PIN is four digits.
- Visa requirements: No visas are needed for visits shorter than 90 days.
- Plugs: Poland uses European standard two-pronged plugs.
- Internet availability: Almost all hotel rooms will have Wi-Fi or internet accessibility, and it’s not hard to find cafes or restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi or with purchase.