Most of Poland has a continental climate, giving warmer summers and colder winters than in Denmark; Gdansk is though mainly affected by the Baltic Sea, which causes temperatures closer to what is normal in Southern Scandinavia. The pre-summer period can offer periods with a lot of rain, but the summers are usually sunny and quite warm. In July and August I can almost guarantee beach weather. Winters are obviously cold but very low minus temperatures are rare, and even the coldest month, January, is generally in the plus temperatures during the daytime.
The local SKM (Quick City Line) connecting Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia is an outstanding construction in an agglomeration that is mainly long and not very broad. The suburban train starts at the Main Station in Gdansk and stops every 1-2 kilometres until Gdynia. More or less every second or third train continues to the towns Rumia, Reda and Wejherowo.
It would be nice if the train ran more frequently during the weekend and in the evenings and some of the wagons are slightly worn-out, but it's bearable and it's a perfect way of getting around town. Unfortunately the ticket system is independent from that of the buses and trams, but in most cases you wont need to change to other means of transport. For temporary tickets you will find cooperation between the different systems, see buses and trams.
On workdays from 5.30-21.00 the suburban train runs every 10 or 15 minutes, whereas they are much less frequent the rest of the time, and only one train runs between 1.00 and 4.30 in the morning. Saturdays and Sundays they normally run every half hour.
The price for a ticket depends on the amount of kilometres between the stations. A ticket for one ride within the city borders costs 3 zloty and 8 zloty for a 24 hour ticket. Different kinds of family and group tickets. Children below 4 years of age travel for free (you must be able to prove the child's age). Furthermore a number of discounts are given to different groups, but you need a Polish document to prove it so forget about it, also for children and pensioners.
Tickets can be bought in kiosks and ticket offices, and you need to validate them in a small yellow machine before you enter the platform. It is also possible to buy tickets in slot machines: in that case the ticket is validated automatically. In emergency cases you may buy a one-way ticket at the train (only the first wagon).
Public transport in 3-city is quite efficient but may be quite slow during peak hours.
Tickets for buses and trams may be bought in kiosks and slot machines at metro stations and major junctions.
In emergency cases you may buy a one-way ticket from the conductor at an additional fee.
Gdansk has a well-functioning network of trams within the city borders. 11 tramlines run alongside the town at some distance from the train line and in this way most of the city is covered with public transport, but the train is the quickest way to get around. Also some trams will run across the town to areas that are not covered by the other lines; In the direction of the coast they go to Stogi, Nowy Port and Brzezno, inside the country towards Siedlce and Chelm. All trams stop by the central station in Gdansk. Furthermore a broad network of buses run outside the main roads and also a few night buses. Two water trams go from the centre in Gdansk to Stogi and Westerplatte (Price: 10 zloty for a one way ticket, which can be purchased on the ferry).
Buses in Sopot are maintained by the bus companies of Gdansk as well as Gdynia. There exist a few local lines, but most of them continue to Gdansk or Gdynia.
Gdynia doesn`t have trams but the public transport is being managed by a close network of buses, trolleybuses and a single water tram.
In general the prices are as follows within the borders of the town, but there may be an additional fee for night transport or express buses:
3 zloty for a one-way ticket (no transfer).
3,60 zloty for a ticket valid for an hour.
If you want to travel around 3-city the best thing is to buy a metropolitan ticket, valid in all the 3 towns. It costs 14 zloty for 24 hours and 28 zloty for 72 hours, if you only go by buses and trams. There also exist other ticket types, so you need to find out what you need and ask them at the ticket office. The most expensive, covering all kinds of transport, cost 20 zloty for 24 hours and 40 zloty for 72 hours.
The above-mentioned prices apply for a normal ticket. (bilet normalny)
Some groups are entitled to transport free of charge, among others people who have attained 70 years of age (remember passport) and children until the age of four years.
A discounted ticket (Bilet ulgowy) costs exactly 50% of a normal ticket. Among others the following groups have the right to discounted tickets: Students up to the age of 26 years (remember ISIC-legitimation card. Furthermore children attending school are entitled to the discount, but they have to prove this by showing a Polish school identification card. Children below 16 years of age attending school outside Poland are entitled to the discount if they can prove their age.
The train is a relatively efficient way of getting around Poland, but notice that the railway grid is worn-out and the speed is moderate.
The following types of trains operate in Poland:
· Osobowe (person) - cheap, not especially comfortable, normally only 2nd class.
· Pospieszne (fast) - a bit more expensive, but still cheap, medium comfort. Usually 1st and 2nd class.
· Express - Fully acceptable standards, the speed is ok and they are still not expensive. Seat reservation is mandatory.
· Intercity and Euro-city are Express-trains with extra comfort. Strongly recommended.
· TLK - Tanie Linie Kolejowe (CheapTrains) - Operate on the most popular routes. Acceptable standard and quite cheap.
If comfort is important to you then check what type of train you take before you buy the ticket.
On longer routes there will normally be a WARS (restaurant car) with the train, but you may prefer to make or buy your own sandwiches before the trip. The restaurant cars in Intercity and Euro-city are excellent.
Only use taxis equipped with: 1) the phone number of the taxi central at the sides. 2) A pricelist on the side window. 3) The logo of Gdansk, Sopot or Gdynia on the door. You may take a taxi without a phone number to the taxi central, many of them have an official licence, but be prepared that they may use different ways to be able to charge you more, and it is more difficult to complain if you can't just call the taxi central.
The normal fare consists of a minimum starting price of 6 - 8 zloty and 1,8 - 3 zloty per kilometre. The fee when the taxi stops is 36 -50 zloty per hour (the meter also runs when the taxi stops at a traffic light). The price per kilometre must be shown on the price list on the window.
Night fares and holiday fares are an additional 50% of the normal fare.
Outside the city borders you pay double price = tariff 3 or 4 zloty (unless you return with the same taxi). The tariff is activated at the municipality border. Many taxi companies consider the entire 3-city (Gdynia, Sopot, Gdansk) as one zone and do not activate the extra charge when driving between these three towns. Among them are at the moment (September 2013):
Hallo Taxa (http://www.hallotaxi.gda.pl/) (should NOT be mistaken with Taxi Hallo Express)
Sopot Taxi Service (http://www.19194.com.pl/)
There are other companies considering the entire 3-city as one zone, but the two above are advertising it clearly. If you take a taxi on the street you may ask the driver if it is on tariff 1 – he might accept it, also for a trip across the municipality border.
Sometimes there are fixed prices to and from the airport. Ask the driver/company. As a rule you get more for the money if you call a taxi to come to the airport than if you take one of the cabs waiting in front of the terminal.
Some taxi companies will offer you a 10-20% discount if you order a taxi by phone.
The taximeter will inform you about the tariff:
Taryfa 1: Normal price
Taryfa 2: Night and holiday tariff
Taryfa 3: Outside town
Taryfa 4: Outside town at night/holidays.
Taxis can be found at taxi stands, but the easiest is normally to call a cab. You don't normally hail taxies on the street.
Until a few years ago it was quite normal that tourists were cheated when using a taxi in Poland. A big effort has been taken to eliminate this practice, and if you go by the advice I give on this page you will be rather unlucky to be cheated. There is no reason to tip the driver, but he won't be offended if you round up the amount.
3-city is the best biking region in Poland, with biking paths stretching all along the coast and along the main junctions and most of them are well kept. The biking paths are normally only found on one side of the road ie: They are made for two-way traffic.
Cars do not show the same attention to bikes as they do in some Western European countries, and you should be careful when biking. Quite a few people ride on the pavement. Theoretically this is illegal for adults, but it is socially acceptable. It can be expensive though, if you ride into someone or something.
It is an offence and punishable by law to ride a bike after consuming alcohol and the ban is executed effectively. A malicious rumour has it that it is much easier for the police to catch drunken bikers than motorists, and that they simply try to catch the easiest in order to prove their efficiency.
The Lech Walesa Airport in Gdansk is an average sized, modern airport around 10 km from the centre of Gdansk, and a newly built express road from Wrzeszcz to the airport makes the trip fairly uncomplicated. You may take a bus to Wrzeszcz (line 110), the Central Station in Gdansk (line 210) or the Central Station in Gdynia (line 510). Within the next few years a train connection to the airport should be ready.
A few companies have fixed prices on taxis to and from the airport, but the prices are absolutely not favourable. On weekdays the price is 60 zloty to the Central Station in Gdansk, 75 zloty to Sopot, and 120 zloty to Gdynia. The tariff is 50% higher at night and on holidays, it is though substantially cheaper to call a taxi. If you get a cab without the name of the taxi company placed on the car, a price list in the side window and a logo you may risk to pay several times the prices I quoted before. The same consequence applies if you get a taxi from a nice gentleman offering to get you a car while waiting in the air terminal.
On weekdays SAS flies to Copenhagen 4 times daily, Wizzair flies to and from Malmø 4 times a week, and the prices are really cheap, especially if you order beforehand. Wizzair also flies to Oslo, Stockholm and other Scandinavian towns as well as destinations in Great Britain, Germany and Spain. Furthermore the Polish carrier, LOT, flies to Warszawa several times every day.
During the summer from Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia to Hel and other places in the area.
Stenaline leaves from Gdynia for Karlskrona, from where there is a regular train and road connection to Copenhagen. It’s not the cheapest way to travel, but is gives a chance for a lovely voyage, and it is perfect if you carry a lot of baggage.
Please notice that the city centre and the neighbouring areas in Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia have parking meters and you need to buy a ticket Monday-Friday 08:00-18:00 (in Sopot you need to pay most of the time).
Automatic speed cameras have been installed all over town, and the Police often lie in wait at popular high-speed spots. In spite of this the average speed is well beyond the speed limit of 50 km per hour.
There is no obligation to give tips anywhere in Poland (except a few restaurants, but it should be clear from the menu if they add a service charge). You may round up in the cab, but there is no reason whatsoever to add a percentage.
If you are seated at a table at a restaurant the waiter will expect a tip, but many people don't give anything, and it is not mandatory. The wage is low though, and tips are important to the waiter, so it would be fair to leave a little extra. Personally I leave an additional 5-10%, if I am satisfied with the service. A few restaurants may add a service charge when receiving larger groups, but if they haven't informed you beforehand I would personally consider this a reason not to give anything extra at all.
The maids at the hotel will be happy if you leave some small change when you leave, and a pageboy will expect 2-5 zloty to carry your suitcase to your room.
If you like to tip, then it will be appreciated anywhere. No one will probably feel insulted if you appreciate their work, but it is not expected.
220 volt. The wall sockets fit standard continental European plugs.
Senior travellers to Poland will remember how they once exchanged their $ or D-mark into Polish monopoly-money with the cab driver, waiter or at a gate. This is now just a past memory.
Cash may best be exchanged in small, specialized shops (Kantor). It is wise to check the exchange rate in different places. In the airport, at the railway station and places where a lot of tourists gather together the difference between buy and sales rates may be up to 10%, whereas in most kantors it should only be a few percent. You will normally NOT pay a fee when exchanging money.
Almost all shops, hotels and restaurants in Warsaw accept international credit/debit cards (In some cases you may have to spend a minimum of 6 or 10 zloty if you want to pay by card), and wherever you find yourself there will be a cash dispenser where you can insert your card and receive Polish zloty.
Local food shops are open from 6-7 a.m. till late evening. Most ordinary shops open at 9, 10 or 11 a.m. and close around 6.00 p.m. 18.00. Many shopping centres keep open till 9.00 or 10.00 p.m. Many shops close on Sundays, but shopping centres are only closed on 13 special yearly holidays, where it is mandatory to close.
Most cafes are open from early morning, most restaurants open at 11:00 or 12:00, but some of them close quite early.
You are not allowed to smoke in airports, at railway stations, offices, hospitals and most indoor areas unless they are equipped with a smoking cabin.
Many restaurants have smoking departments, and you are allowed to smoke in your hotel room, unless it is explicitly forbidden.
Beer and wine in supermarkets can be expensive compared to western European prices, but in general it is cheap to drink in bars and restaurants.
Remember that any kind of alcohol must be consumed at home or at bars/ restaurants. It is FORBIDDEN to drink in public on the street or in parks.
The water from the local water supply is generally considered to be unfit for human consumption due to a nasty smell, bad taste and harmful substances. The last few years and a lot of money from the European Union is changing the picture though, and today the water from the tap should be drinkable in most parts of Gdansk, but few of the people I know drink it, unless it has been boiled. You may buy plastic bottles with water anywhere, and it will probably stay like this for a long time to come.
Point at the station you want to leave from and at your destination to get detailed information.