We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

First Visit Questions

Janesville...
Level Contributor
220 posts
481 reviews
Save Topic
First Visit Questions

My wife and I are planning a five day visit to Warsaw for August or September 2014. We've been debating between Prague and Warsaw as of recent, but I think we've become entranced by the beauty and history of Warsaw. A few questions for those who call Warsaw home, or frequent the region.

1. Is it difficult to move around (i.e. shop, order meals, public transport) for non-Polish speaking visitors? Half our friends who have visited Poland say it's very difficult for English speaking only visitors, while the other half say it's no problem in the larger communities. Those who have visited Prague say we'd have an easier time navigating Prague v. Warsaw.

2. Is five days too much time in Warsaw? I was lobbying for Gdansk or Cracow, but have learned five days in either city may be too much. Once we read more about the history of Warsaw, we immediately were drawn in.

3. Is there a good planning tool for visiting outside Warsaw via rail? We would like to day trip one day outside the city to either Lodz or Plock.

We're 28 / 33 years old and looking for the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the history and beauty that is Warsaw. We won't have a rental car, and still considering hotel options throughout the city. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks all - D

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Prague
Prague
Bohemia, Czech Republic
Poland
Poland
Europe
Gdansk
Gdansk
Pomerania Province, Poland
Lodz
Lodz
Lodz Province, Poland
Leicester, United...
Level Contributor
2,377 posts
112 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: First Visit Questions

We lived in Warsaw for a few years and survived!. Actually we did more than survive and had a great time. Really like Warsaw. Your questions:

1. Is it difficult to move around..... No! Have a look at the pinned item at the top for transport info. Many restaurants have menus in English and a good many Poles speak very good English. Particularly younger people. Navigating Warsaw is easy. Have a look at "Warsaw in Your Pocket", available online and hard copies in most (?) hotels.

2. Is five days too much time in Warsaw..... No! Really depends on your interests. You could get a decent overview in less time but 5 days is fine.

3. Is there a good planning tool..... There is but I'll leave that for someone more knowledgable.

We have also visited Prague and that is also worth a visit but "do" Warsaw first!

Taxis are cheap and plentiful and apart from the odd "pirate" honest. Genuine taxis will have names and phone numbers on them and have a meter clearly in view.

Public transport is excellent but do see the pinned item

Edited: 28 November 2013, 08:39
Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Prague
Prague
Bohemia, Czech Republic
Nowy Sacz, Poland
Level Contributor
4,025 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: First Visit Questions

Is 5 days too much in London, or New York, or any other ajor city? It all depends on what you want to see and do.

My only warning with ref to Warsaw is that 85% if the city was destroyed in World War 2 so what you see is either modern or reconstructed. There is, however, a lot to see ad do in and around the city and I'd certainly not discourage you from going.

However, for maybe your next trip, krakow has more than you can do in 5 days, when you incude things like Auschwitz, the Wieliczka Salt Mine and trips out to places like Zakopane, Tarnow, Ojcow.... And Krakow has a city museum spread over a fair number of historic buildings, the main units of the National useum and the Natioan Air Museum pus the Wawel complex - the castle and cathedral - and it's all original. Ktrakow was chosen to be one of the caitals of German-occupied :Poland and suffered very little damage.

Gdansk, too - it is not ine city, bit ne of the three - the Tricity, comprising the repaired pre-war Danzig, the 1920s Gdynia (Poland's port, built on gaining independence in 1918 because Danzig was still German, and contains wonderful 1920s and 1930s architecture as well as beaches, etc) and Sopot - the spa and beach playground for Gdansk and Gdynia. To that you have to add the Hel peninisula, famous for watersports and home to a seal sanctuary, and a tri to Malbork Castle, which you should not miss!

So, either of these has easily enough to fill five days. But so does Warsaw.

Language - well, young people learn English in school but basivcally the further off the beaten track you get, the less likely it gets that English is spoken. But if you research where you're going and print off instructions for routes, etc, you'll be ok.

There are several webstes for planning journeys. Dont dismiss coach travel - a lot of the time the coach is better and faster than the train (NOT a hard and fast rule, note, but roads and coaches are generally better than trains and railways here as that's where money has been invested - a lot of the time, rail has been the poor cousin)

http://en.e-podroznik.pl/

Edited: 28 November 2013, 08:44
Mentioned in this post
London
London
England, UK
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Auschwitz-Birkenau State...
11,758 Reviews
Oswiecim, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine
10,400 Reviews
Wieliczka, Poland
Zakopane
Zakopane
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Krakow
Krakow
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Poland
Poland
Europe
Gdynia
Gdynia
Pomerania Province, Poland
Sopot
Sopot
Pomerania Province, Poland
Gdansk
Gdansk
Pomerania Province, Poland
Hel
Hel
124 Reviews
Baltic Coast, Poland
Durham, North...
Level Contributor
887 posts
29 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: First Visit Questions

1. While virtually all information at bus stops, on buses, trams, or the metro is in Polish only, I think it's very intuitive to follow. Timetables in Warsaw are not difficult to make use of and you can always use a transport planner that we use also in some other cities such as Lodz and Krakow: http://warszawa.jakdojade.pl/?locale=en It may be a little more difficult travelling between cities but doable.

As mentioned above, taxis are also cheap. Warsaw is bigger than, for instance, Krakow and so you'll definitely depends on public transportation more than in other cities but for most part the public transportation system works very well.

You'll be totally fine with English only in Warsaw. That does not mean that everybody speaks perfect English but most people, especially younger ones, will speak English well-enough to communicate and are usually eager to help out. I am not sure how this looks in Lodz and especially Plock, being the smallest of the cities you've mentioned, but people go there and survive so don't worry too much :)

2. If you were to spend the entire 5 days in Warsaw only, I'd say it depends on you, but since you're also planning some day trips, this should not be too much. It all depends on your travelling style, whether you like to visit museums, do you enjoy seating in a cafe and just soaking in the atmosphere, etc.

3. For trains the website to use is: http://rozklad-pkp.pl/bin/query.exe/en?

The best station to use in Warsaw for most destinations is Warszawa Centralna, with few exceptions.

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Lodz
Lodz
Lodz Province, Poland
Krakow
Krakow
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Bedfordshire...
Destination Expert
for Berlin
Level Contributor
11,279 posts
108 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: First Visit Questions

Sorry if I am being dim, but where is the 'pinned item' about transport?

We are coming to Warsaw next week for a few days and are really looking forward to our first visit to the city.

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Warsaw, Poland
Level Contributor
3,483 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: First Visit Questions

1. Language skills are generally improving. In tourist areas you will have no problem at all. Outside tourist areas, if you need some information in English, your best bet are those looking like students. No point asking 50-60 year old ladies however nice they may seem. They may be English teachers but it is not very likely. For buying tickets etc, take timetables printouts so there is no need for much communication

As for public transport, Warsaw Transport Authority has a very informative website in English as do rail and coach operators

http://www.ztm.waw.pl/?c=126&l=2

http://warszawa.jakdojade.pl/?locale=en

http://rozklad-pkp.pl/bin/query.exe/en?

http://intercity.pl/en/

http://en.e-podroznik.pl/

2. There is enough in Warsaw to fill 5 days, it all depends on your interests

warsawtour.pl/en/zabytki-i-inne-atrakcje.html

3. Consider also Kazimierz Dolny. It's about 3 hours by coach one way so it may be wise to stay overnight

www.mp.pr.radom.pl/kazimierz_dolny/index.html

Obviously if you decide that 5 days in Warsaw is too long and you do not mind an overnight stay somewhere else your choice of destinations widens (Toruń, Kraków, Poznań are all within a 3-hour range)

Most hotels are in the city centre which is not exactly the same as the old town (Warsaw's main tourist attraction) but public transport is very good and you should not have any trouble getting where you want without too much hassle.

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Nowy Sacz, Poland
Level Contributor
4,025 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: First Visit Questions

First thread in the Poland forum - about tickets and validation. I wrote the first post becuase so, sp many people do not realise that bus and tram tickets are sold in shps and kiosks as well as the machines at stops, and instead they get on the bus or tram expecting to pay the driver. In Poland that's unusual, rarerly ppossible and the drivers need to keep the bus or tram moving so a nuisance for other travellers. So you buy a handful of tickets when you're buying pop, sweeties, biscuits or and - VITAL, THIS - validate them AS SOON AS YOU BOARD. Or you buy a multi day pass and validate only one, the first time you use it.

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g274723-i959-k68…

Mentioned in this post
Poland
Poland
Europe
Bedfordshire...
Destination Expert
for Berlin
Level Contributor
11,279 posts
108 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: First Visit Questions

Thanks, John. I was just looking on the Warsaw forum.

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Janesville...
Level Contributor
220 posts
481 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: First Visit Questions

Thank you all very much! My wife and I enjoy exploring museums, but we also love finding cafes to sit and soak in the local environment. I would like to learn some basic phrases, I always think it shows good character if you at least attempt to speak the local language. You have put our minds at ease, and I think we'll move forward with planning our five days in Warsaw. I greatly appreciate the websites you've shared, sometimes it's difficult to know what's a legit or current website for planning purposes. Thanks again :)

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
NE Victoria...
Level Contributor
2,675 posts
18 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: First Visit Questions

I hope that you have a marvellous time in Warsaw - we love it, it's one of our favourite cities, and we're very much looking forward to going back in a couple of years' time!

I wouldn't say, though, that it was "pretty" or "beautiful" in a traditional way, not in the way that say Prague or Krakow are - as johnb121 mentioned above, so much of it was destroyed during the war that, from an architectural perspective, it is generally modern and, dare I say it, a little bland in parts.

But it's this, walking through it and considering its history, that makes it "beautiful" to us. There's a real spirit to Warsaw that, for me, sets it apart - the more I go there, the more intrigued I am by this wonderful city. (And it's a great place to hang out at cafes or in one of the many parks and people watch, too!)

You might be interested in some websites that I found helpful when planning our last trip (mostly for "colour" rather than cold hard facts!):

http://warsawzone.blogspot.com.au/ (you'll need Google Translate for this one!)

http://use-it-warsaw.pl/

http://garthsgranduer.blogspot.com.au/

Enjoy your trip. :)

Mentioned in this post
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Prague
Prague
Bohemia, Czech Republic
Krakow
Krakow
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Anchorage, Alaska
Level Contributor
612 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: First Visit Questions

Hello goose3nbc,

My husband and I spent a week in Krakow and 3 days in Warsaw in late September. Hands down--Krakow was our favorite city on our 4 1/2 week trip. Prague was our 2nd favorite. Warsaw was our least favorite city, and 3 days here was too long for us. We also visited Munich, Prague, Salzburg, and Vienna. JohnB121 is absolutely correct in saying that most of Warsaw was destroyed during the war. Krakow was left largely unscathed (from the standpoint of building destruction--certainly NOT otherwise). The architecture in Krakow is beautiful, it has a certain charm; I describe is as a lovely "faded glory" charm. In my opinion, Warsaw is not a beautiful city, nor especially interesting. Just my 2 cents worth!

We had no trouble communicating, and we only knew just a couple of Polish worlds! We found many people spoke some English, and we could always make ourselves understood.

RE: Trains. We found the Polish train system very easy to use. Indeed, train travel in Europe is a treat!

We have posted many pictures of Krakow, Warsaw and Prague on our travel blog: www.thevacationqueen.blogspot.com Might give you a different perspective, as well as ideas of what to see, etc.

We were also very happy with our hotel and/or apartment choices on this trip. If you have any questions or would like a recommendation, you can PM me.

Have a lovely trip, whatever your destination!

Mentioned in this post
Krakow
Krakow
Lesser Poland Province, Poland
Warsaw
Warsaw
Mazovia Province, Poland
Prague
Prague
Bohemia, Czech Republic
Munich
Munich
Upper Bavaria, Germany
Salzburg
Salzburg
Salzburg Region, Austria
Vienna
Vienna
Vienna Region, Austria
Europe
Europe
World