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For any traveller, Poland is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. With its diverse landscapes, from the sand dunes of Łeba to the Old Town squares to the Tatry mountains to the lakes near Olsztyn, the country has so much to offer to tourists. It is also one of the cheapest countries in Europe to visit, though many tourists fall into the trap of visiting the same old haunts as their fellow tourists. So how can you really save money in Poland? Here are some great tips to cut down the cost of your trip.
Polish trains astound travellers by their modern carriages, clean and tidy bars and range of routes, however many tourists end up paying full fare and expensive rates, unaware of the real money-saving options. One fantastic option to save money on Polish trains is the Weekend Ticket (Bilet Weekendowy). It is a set price of 81 złotych for unlimited use of certain Polish trains from 6 p.m. Friday evening until 6 a.m. Monday morning. Again, unlimited use of certain trains. You can literally tour the whole country like this, hopping on and off as you please; you will need to read the small print to confirm which trains are included and which are not.
Another train option is ‘standing ticket only’. You won’t have a seat and will pay the cheapest rate, but you’ll often get lucky and find a seat not taken, so you can sit down anyway. The final money-saving train option is to take a normal seat on a night train. You can still get a decent night’s sleep but will avoid high prices and the need to pay for accommodation for the evening.
There are a number of companies that serve various routes throughout Poland, but the real bargain hunters choose Polskibus. Polskibus offer bus seats between towns and cities from five złotych if you book early enough. As a bonus, the bus also has Wi-Fi on board, and the company now does some cross-border routes including routes to Berlin (Germany), Prague (Czech Republic) and Budapest (Hungary).
To save money while drinking in the bars in Poland, there are a few tricks of the trade. First of all, Happy Hours are very common in bars in the big cities, so be on the lookout for signs outside the bars for this period of reduced prices. During this time, beers, wines and vodka can be as cheap as four złotych. If you are part of a big group and drinking shots, it is cheaper to buy Polish Vodka by the bottle. In terms of bars that consistently offer bargain drinks, head to Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa. Pijalnia is a popular local chain of old-school traditional bars all decorated the same way and all serving cheap beer, water, coffee, wine and vodka. There are also cheap bar snacks on the menu, they include toast and kiełbasa (Polish sausage). There are Pijalnias in most Polish cities and many big towns.
The cheapest restaurants in Poland are known as Bar Mleczny (Milk Bars); these cosy and traditional little bistro venues are a Polish institution and always worth a visit. They are frequented mostly by locals and are generally open in daylight hours, closing around 7 p.m. You can get a drink of Kompot (juice) for as cheap as two złotych, pierogi (Polish dumplings) from six złotych and soups from four złotych. You can see our list of the most famous Bar Mleczny venues in Poland here.
For Poland’s cheapest and most popular supermarket, head to Biedronka. Biedronka stores are located throughout Poland, and it is the largest chain of no frills supermarkets in the country with over 2,690 stores. It is a Portuguese company that employs 55,000 staff. From local food to international groceries to seasonal products and all sorts of bargains, this is the place to get your supplies for cheap prices as you travel around Poland.
If paying for tickets and entry to museums is something you want to avoid, you can do it easily in Poland. Most government-funded museums have special days where entry is completely free. The National Museum in Gdańsk is free every Friday and in Warsaw it is free every Tuesday. To make sure you keep up-to-date with these free days, keep tabs on this site.
Poland is packed these days with excellent cheap backpacker hostels. Not only are these great sleeping options to meet other tourists and enjoy a social atmosphere, but they are also cheaper than most hotels and can really help reduce the costs of your trip. If you book directly through the hostels, you will also avoid the online booking fee.
If hostels and sharing dorm rooms with backpackers and fellow travellers is not your style, and you want a more private place to stay with your own room and en suite, then a great money saver is to be on the lookout for Noclegis. These are basic, no frills mini hotels, found in all major towns and cities and offering simple yet cosy rooms for prices to suit everyone. These are normally used by Polish people when visiting towns or cities where they have no friends or relatives to stay with. Therefore, you can get a great room for the night.
All the major cities in Poland now offer Free Walking Tours. While most tourists seem to believe they are some kind of scam where you are obliged to give a tip, please note this is not the case. All of these free walking tours are completely free, and a tip is at your own discretion. Most people do give a good tip, but part of the reason for these tours is to educate tourists on the real history of Poland.