Lets explore the historic streets of Poland
Polish road infrastructure is extensive but generally poorly maintained, and high speed motorways currently in place are insufficient. However, public transport is quite plentiful and inexpensive: buses and trams in cities, and charter buses and trains for long distance travel.
LOT Polish Airlines offers domestic flights between Warsaw Chopin Airport and the airports of Kraków, Katowice, Wrocław, Poznań, Szczecin, Gdańsk, Bydgoszcz and Rzeszów. The only other scheduled domestic connection is between Warsaw Chopin and Zielona Góra Babimost Airport, operated by Sprint Air. There are no domestic flights to or from Modlin or Lublin airports.
Every Wednesday, LOT holds a 24 hours ticket sale for return flights originating at Warsaw airport and often some other Polish airports, also including some domestic connections. The discounted flights offered are usually a few months away from the date of sale, and the number of tickets and available dates is restricted, but if you are planning ahead on visiting Poland and/or other European countries, you may find this offer attractive.
In Poland, the national railway carriers are PKP Intercity (Polskie Koleje Państwowe) and Przewozy Regionalne. There are few local carriers that belongs to voivodships or major cities.
Train tickets are quite economical, but travel conditions reflect the fact that much of the infrastructure is rather old.
However, you can expect a fast, clean and modern connection on the new IC (InterCity) routes, such as Warsaw - Katowice, Warsaw - Kraków, Warsaw - Poznań and Poznań - Szczecin or RE (RegioEkspress). Consider first class tickets, because the price difference between the second and first class is not so big. The jump in comfort may be substantial but then it is also common to see trains where 2nd class carriages are recently renovated and 1st class carriages are old and correspondingly low quality.
EICP (Express Intercity Premium), EIC (ExpressInterCity) / EC (EuroCity) / Ex (Express) - express trains between metro areas, as well as major tourist destinations. Reservation usually required. Power points for laptops are sometimes available next to the seat. Company: PKP Intercity.TLK (Twoje Linie Kolejowe) - discount trains, slower but cheaper than the above. Not many routes, but very good alternative for budget travelers. Reservation obligatory for 1st class, usually no reservation for 2nd class. Use older carriages which are not always suited to high speed travel. Company: PKP Intercity.RE (RegioEkspress) - cheaper than TLK and even higher standard, but only 3 of these type are running: Lublin - Poznań, Warsaw - Szczecin and Wrocław - Dresden. Company: Przewozy Regionalne.IR (InterRegio) - cheaper than TLK and RegioExpress but most routes are supporter by poor quality trains. Company: Przewozy Regionalne.REGIO / Osobowy - ordinary passenger train; usually slow, stops everywhere. You can also buy a weekend turystyczny ticket, or a week-long pass. Great if you are not in a hurry, but expect these to be very crowded at times. Company: Przewozy Regionalne; other.Podmiejski - suburban commuter train. Varying degrees of comfort and facilities. Tickets need to be bought at station ticket counters. Some companies allow you to buy a ticket on board from the train manager, in the very first compartment. A surcharge will apply. Narrow gauge - Poland still retains a number of local narrow-gauged railways. Some of them are oriented towards tourism and operate only in summer or on weekends, while others remain active as everyday municipal rail. See Polish narrow gauge railways.
It's probably easiest to buy InterCity tickets on-line (see links below). You can also buy tickets on-line for Regio, RE, IR and TLK.
Tickets for any route can generally be purchased at any station. For a foreigner buying tickets, this can prove to be a frustrating experience, since only cashiers at international ticket offices (in major cities) can be expected to speak multiple languages. It is recommended that you buy your train tickets at a travel agency or on-line to avoid communication difficulties and long queues.
It may be easier to buy in advance during peak seasons (e.g. end of holiday period, New Year, etc.) for trains that require reserved seating.
Please note, that tickets bought for E-IC/EC/EXpress/etc. trains are not valid for local/regional trains on the same routes. If you change trains between InterCity and Regional you have to buy a second ticket.
Timetable search (in English, but station names of course in Polish)PKP information: +48 22 9436, international information +48 22 5116003.PKP Intercity serves express connections (tickets can be bought on-line and printed or shown to the conductor on a smart-phone, laptop or similar devices).Przewozy Regionalne tickets for Regio, RE and IR - only Polish version; you should provide yourself a ticket printout.Polrail Service offers a guide to rail travel in Poland and on-line purchase of tickets and rail passes for Polish and international trains to neighbouring countries. There's a fee of around 22 zł for every ticket.Traffic info about all moving trains - check, if the train has a delay.
If you travel in a group with the Regional, you should get a 33% discount for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th person (offer Ty i 1,2,3).
If you are a weekend traveller think about the weekend offers, which are valid from Friday 19:00 until Monday 06:00:
for all Intercity trains (E-IC,Ex,TLK) Bilet Weekendowy (from 154zł, reservation not included)for TLK Bilet Podróżnika (74zł) + REGIO Bilet Plus (from 17zł)for all Regional trains (REGIO, IR, RE) Bilet Turystyczny (from 79zł)only for REGIO trains Bilet Turystyczny (from 45zł)
Please note that, if a weekend is extended for some national holiday, the ticket will also extend.
Travellers under 26 years of age and studying in Poland are entitled to 26% discount on travel fare on Intercity's TLK, EX and IC-category trains, excluding the price of seat reservation.
An early booking (7 days before departure) nay be rewarded with additional discounts.
For some IC trains you can travel with the offerBilet Rewelacyjny - you will get an automatic discount (ca 20%) on chosen routes  [dead link].
Poland has a very well developed network of private charter bus companies, which tend to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than travel by rail. For trips under 100 km, charter buses are far more popular than trains. However, they are more difficult to use for foreigners, because of language barrier.
There is an on-line timetable available. It available in English and includes bus and train options so you can compare:  Online timetables are useful for planning, however, there are multiple carriers at each bus station and departure times for major cities and popular destinations are typically no longer than thirty minutes in-between.
Each city and town has a central bus station (formerly known as PKS), where the various bus routes pick up passengers; you can find their schedules there. Bus routes can also be recognized by signs on the front of the bus that typically state the terminating stop. This is easier if picking up a bus from a roadside stop, rather than the central depot. Tickets are usually purchased directly from the driver, but sometimes it's also possible to buy them at the station. If purchasing from the driver, simply board the bus, tell the driver your destination and he will inform you of the price. Drivers rarely speak English, so often he will print a receipt showing the amount. Buses are also a viable choice for long-distance and international travel; however, be aware that long-distance schedules are usually more limited than for trains.
In 2011 a new bus company called Polski Busappeared in Poland with more 'western' approach - you can only buy tickets through the Internet and the prices vary depending on the number of seats already sold. They have bus links between Warsaw and most of bigger Polish cities (as well as few neighboring capitals).
While the road network in Poland still lags behind many Western European countries, in particular its western neighbour Germany, there has been continued significant improvement in the 2010s with the opening of many new motorway segments and refurbishments of some long-neglected thoroughfares that were used far above capacity.
In particular, travelling East-West is now generally much easier, with Berlin, Poznań and Warsaw connected with the A2 (E30), and the southern major metropoles in Lower Silesia, Silesia, Lesser Poland and Podkarpackie connected by the A4 (which continues as the E40 into Germany all the way to Cologne, and then further to Brussels and terminates in Calais in France).
Travelling North-South across the country is still not as comfortable as the major routes are still under construction or undergoing major repairs upgrades as of 2014. Most large and medium-sized cities have ring roads allowing you to bypass them even on lower-level roads, as do even smaller towns that are directly located by the major roads. That said, there is still quite a lot of roads that are not up to snuff for the traffic they are supposed to carry and in disrepair.
Speed limits and traffic code peculiarities
Some peculiarities of driving in Poland include:
Speed limits are: 50 km/h in city (60 km/h23:00-05:00), 90 km/h outside city, 100 km/h if lanes are separated, 100 km/h on single carriage way car-only roads (white car on the blue sign), 120 km/h on dual carriageway car-only roads, and 140 km/h on motorways / freeways (autostrada). Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence. BAC limits are: up to 0.02% - not prosecuted by law, up to 0.05% - an offence, above 0.05% - criminal offence (up to 2 years in jail). Despite the strict laws, drunken drivers are a serious problem in Poland, not least as there is ample anecdotal evidence of police officers accepting bribes instead of handing out traffic offence notices. Be especially careful during (and after) national holidays and late night on weekends on the small roads in the countryside as drivers commonly take to the road inebriated. There is no right turn at a red light. Exception is when there is green arrow signal in which case you still have to come to a complete stop and yield to pedestrians and cross traffic (although the stop rule is seldom respected by Polish drivers). All above does not apply if right turning traffic has separate (red-yellow-green) signals. At a 'T-junction' or crossroads without traffic signs traffic at the right has right-of-way unless your road is a priority route, shown by a road sign displaying a yellow diamond with a white outline or a yellow sign with a black outline of the crossing with the priority flow in bold. This can be very confusing so keep your eyes open as this isn't always clear from the structure of the crossing (i.e. the lower quality, narrower and slower road coming in from the left may have right of way.) Driving with dipped lights on is obligatory at all times. A warning triangle is a mandatory part of a car's equipment and needs to be displayed some distance back from any accident or when, e.g. changing a tire. This does not mean that they are necessarily used every time they should be.
Roads marked droga szybkiego ruchu (rapid transit road) are frequently anything but that. The rule of roads going through towns and not around them still applies and speed limits change rapidly from the allowable 90 km/h to 70, down to 40 and then up again to 70 within only a few hundreds of metres. Speed cameras (in dark gray or yellow pole-mounted boxes, usually marked using proper sign) are common (and the income from those goes to the local council or government.) Radar-equipped traffic police are also frequent but that apparently does little to deter the speeding drivers. In recent years there has been a resurgence in CB radio popularity. The drivers use it to warn each other about traffic hazards and speed traps.
Driving in cities
Poles work long hours so peak time in major cities frequently lasts until after 20:00. Roadworks are common as many new road developments are under way and roads require frequent maintenance.
Parking in cities and towns is often allowed on sidewalks, unless of course there is a no-parking sign. There is usually no provision for parking on the tar-sealed part of the street so do not leave your car parked at the curb, unless it is clearly a parking bay. Parking meters in cities and even smaller towns are widely used.
Communicating with other drivers
Some drivers flash their headlights to warn those approaching from the opposite direction of a police control nearby (you are likely to encounter this custom in many other countries). It may also mean that you need to turn your lights on since dipped headlights need to be on at all times while driving. A "thank you" between drivers can be expressed by waving your hand or, when the distance is too great, by turning on blinkers or hazard lights - typically a quick left-right-left pattern is used for the blinkers; for the hazard light a one or two blinks.
Hazard lights can be used to indicate failures but also as a way of showing that the vehicle is rapidly slowing down, or already stopped in a traffic jam on a highway.
Gas and service stations
At the gas stations Pb means unleaded gasoline (Pbis the periodic table symbol for plumbum, or lead) and ON (olej napędowy in Polish) means diesel fuel. Petrol and diesel are roughly the same price and quite in line with prices across the European Union, with Poland tending to be one of the cheaper countries of the EU with regard to that. LPG is widely available, both at 'branded' gas stations and independent distributors and is about half the price of petrol. CNG is not quite popular, but CNG filling stations can be found in major cities and some other locations where CNG-fuelled fleets are based or natural gas is extracted or stored. Ethanol-based fuel (E85 or E100), common in Sweden, for example, is almost nowhere to be found.
Electric vehicle charging stations are very few and far in between and generally limited to the largest cities, where you can find them in large shopping malls and otherwise prominent locations where they serve mostly PR purposes, as there are no incentives to owning or driving an electric car in Poland and the electric car fleet is minuscule.
The largest gas station chains in Poland are Orlen, Lotos (the two are Poland's local oil companies), Shell, Statoil, BP and Lukoil. Some supermarket chains, including Tesco and Auchan, operate a network of gas stations next to their stores. Credit cards or debit cards can be used to pay at most gas stations, although you may still find a non-branded local station that may not be accepting cards. Most drivers are filling up their vehicles themselves and otherwise helping themselves at gas stations, although there are attendants at some. The only chain that consistently provides attendants at all stations is Shell - although, as many drivers do not wish to call upon their services, you may have to indicate you would like for them to help you. You are supposed to tip the gas station attendant small change, e.g. between 2 or 5 zł depending on services rendered.
In Autumn or in Spring it is common for small traders to set up their stands with fruit or wild mushrooms along the roads. They don't always stay in places where it's safe for cars to stop and you should be careful of drivers stopping abruptly and be watchful if you want to stop yourself. Wild mushrooms are a specialty if you know how to cook them. A cautionary note: There is a slight possibility that the people who picked the mushrooms are not very good at telling the good ones from the poisonous, so eat at your own responsibility. Never feed wild mushrooms to small children as they are particularly vulnerable. Rely on the judgement of your Polish friends if you consider them reasonable people.
Use only those that are associated in a "corporation" (look for phone number and a logo on the side and on the top). There are no British style minicabs in Poland. Unaffiliated drivers are likely to cheat and charge you much more. Like everywhere, be especially wary of these taxis near international airports and train stations. They are called the "taxi mafia".
Because of travelers advice like this (and word of mouth), taxis with fake phone numbers can be seen on the streets, although recently this seems to have decreased - possibly the police have taken notice. Fake phone numbers are easily detected by locals and cater for the unsuspecting traveler. The best advice is to ask your Polish friends or your hotel concierge for the number of the taxi company they use and call them 10–15 minutes in advance (there's no additional cost). That's why locals will only hail taxis on the street in an emergency.
You can also find phone numbers for taxis in any city on the Internet, on municipal and newspaper websites. Some taxi companies, particularly in larger towns provide for a cab to be ordered on-line or with a text message. There are also stands, where you can call for their particular taxi for free, often found at train stations.
If you negotiate the fare with the driver you risk ending up paying more than you should. Better make sure that the driver turns the meter on and sets it to the appropriate fare (taryfa):
Taryfa 1: Daytime within city limitsTaryfa 2: Nights, Sundays and holidays within city limitsTaryfa 3: Daytime outside city limitsTaryfa 4: Nights, Sundays and holidays outside city limits
The prices would vary slightly between the taxi companies and between different cities, and there is a small fixed starting fee added on top of the mileage fare.
When crossing city limits (for example, when traveling to an airport located outside the city), the driver should change the tariff at the city limit.
Every taxi driver is obliged to issue a receipt when asked (at the end of the ride). You can inquire driver about a receipt (rachunek or paragon) before you get into cab, and resign if his reaction seems suspicious or if he refuses.
Cycling is a good method to get a good impression of the scenery in Poland. The roads can sometimes be in quite a bad state and there is usually no hard shoulder or bicycle lane. Car drivers are careless but most do not necessarily want to kill cyclists on sight which seems to be the case in some other countries.
Rainwater drainage of both city streets is usually in dreadful condition and in the country it is simply non-existent. This means that puddles are huge and common, plus pot-holes make them doubly hazardous.
Especially in the south you can find some nice places for bicycling; e.g. along the rivers Dunajec (from Zakopane to Szczawnica) or Poprad (Krynica to Stary Sącz) or Lower Silesia (Złotoryja - Swierzawa - Jawor). Specially mapped bike routes are starting to appear and there are specialized guide books available so ask a bicycle club for help and you should be just fine. Away from roads which join major cities and large towns you should be able to find some great riding and staying atagroturystyka (room with board at a farmer's house, for example) can be a great experience.
Bike sharing systems (system roweru miejskiego) exist in all Polish major cities in which there is a growing net of bicycle segregated cycle facilities (bike lanes and bike paths are the most common). It is a self-service system in which you can rent a bike on 24/7 basis from early spring to the end of autumn, with rental fees charged according to local tariffs. First 20 minutes of a rent is usually free of charge. Charge for next 40 minutes is 1-2 zł, then every consecutive hour 3-4 zł. The major system operator in Poland is Nextbike. You should register online to get an account, make pre-payment (usually 10 zł) and then can rent bikes in all cities in which this system exists (including towns in Germany and other Central European countries).
Hitchhiking in Poland is (on average) OK. Yes, it's slower than its Western (Germany) and Eastern (Lithuania) neighbors, but your waiting times will be quite acceptable! The best places to be picked up at are the main roads, mostly routes between Gdańsk - Warsaw - Poznań and Kraków.
Use a cardboard sign and write the desired destination city name on it.
Do not try to catch a lift where it is forbidden to stop. Look on the verge of the road and there should be a dashed line painted there, not a solid one.
As in any country, you should be careful, there are several reports of Polish hitchhiking trips gone awry, so take basic precautions and you should be as right as rain.
Written by The Travel Valet
Photo courtesy of Foto Polska