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Solo trip to Poland

Hi All! I'm interested in solo travel and have decided that Poland should be my first international trip that is not work-related, or an extension of work. I've been to several European countries, but not to Poland. Always been interested in Polish culture due to my ancestry and supposedly some relatives there are interested in meeting some US relatives, so I'm hoping to make that connection and actually meet some family members.

I'm just starting to plan, but have some pretty high level questions to get me started, and I have read quite a bit on these forums thus far.

  • I don't really like large cities, so planning on Krakow and Gdansk (skipping Warsaw), with possibly a day trip to a few places (perhaps Zakopane, unless my family travels lead me elsewhere - the towns they are from are Jabłonka, Brzozów, Podkarpackie).
  • Most of my trips have been a lot of driving and trying to see all the important sites, and haven't left much time to just chill and experience the local culture, so I'm looking to do that as much as possible... while not getting bored, if that makes sense. I'm also a huge foodie and beer-lover. Seems like Krakow may be good for that. Or should I consider Wroclaw instead? Planning to stay in a private Airbnb and have found some really nice places.
  • I'm nervous about train/bus schedules due to language barriers, although I am learning a bit of Polish. Wondering if I should rent a car instead? A lot of the Airbnb's I'm looking at include free parking and I'd look to stay in a central area with easy stroll to restaurant areas, etc.
  • Of course being a solo female traveler, I'm not nervous, but definitely concerned with safety and have read of a few muggings, scams. The muggings seem to MOSTLY involve the late-night party crowd, but otherwise it appears that using common sense can go far.
  • I'm thinking about early October. I'm a big fan of Autumn and hoping this would be a nice time, though I could move it back to September if that would be better.

Any feedback for me? Thanks in advance!

Posted by
6150 posts

I don't think you need to worry about safety, you won't have any issues (Poland is safe unless you engage in totally risky or ill-advised behaviors, just like anywhere else). Try not to go later than very early October just because the weather can be unpredictable then. If you're mainly seeing (smaller) cities, then the train and buses will do the trick. If you want to drive around some more rural/even smaller areas like Zalipie or Kazimierz Dolny (beautiful place), then don't hesitate to rent a car. Obviously if you drive manual, it will be a lot easier. In the cities, a car is a pain and parking can be an issue (in Warsaw people park on the curb which I've seen in Italy as well). Definitely include Wroclaw. Poland is a huge beer producer, but frankly their vodka (and plum brandy) is a lot better. Try out some vodka tastings in Krakow. You can expect most (if not nearly all) young people and people in the tourism industry to speak English. They all learn it in school these days. Honestly, there is no reason at all to be nervous about this trip. I'm from Warsaw and Poland's come a loooooong way in terms of being more tourist friendly. They get a lot of British and German visitors and neither speak Polish. Only the older folks (outside the tourist sector) won't speak much English because they grew up having to learn Russian and French or German in college.

Posted by
204 posts

Hi there,

I am a 39-year-old woman and traveled solo to Poland last summer and LOVED it. You will have a great time. I spent my time in Warsaw, Gdansk, and Krakow, so I can't speak for the whole country, but I think, safety-wise, you will be totally fine. Just observe the same kind of common sense precautions you would at home.

I took trains everywhere and found them a breeze. I don't speak any Polish, so you'll be a step ahead of me. But train schedules are easy to figure out, and Google translate is great for on the spot translations. I did tear out the Polish vocab page from my RS guidebook and kept it in my bag, so I would have it handy, and if necessary, just show a person what I meant to say. No trouble at all. I know that Poles have an "unsmiling" reputation, but I think North Americans just assume that means unfriendly. I found Poles friendly and helpful, and many of the younger, English-speaking ones were eager to chat. One server in Gdansk asked me what I was reading and looked floored, and very pleased, when I told him it was a history of Poland.

I am hoping to travel to Wroclaw this summer, and hear it's wonderful, but I wouldn't skip Krakow. I had also planned to skip Warsaw, but for a mix of reasons ended up flying in there and staying 2.5 days. I liked it much more than I had anticipated and hope to go back soon. It's also Poland's foodie capital. It's a little out of the way for the itinerary you've suggested, but if it turns out that your best flight option is into Warsaw, take a day or two to look around. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

I also came across this travel blog just a couple of weeks ago. It's written by a Polish woman living in Warsaw and contains a lot of helpful and interesting information. https://www.mywanderlust.pl

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to PM if you have any other questions.

Caroline

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks so much for your reply, Agnes! I forgot to mention that vodka is my second drink of choice, after beer. :)

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks for the info, Caroline! Maybe it would work out great to fly into Warsaw and do one night there to experience it. I look forward to checking out the link you provided.

Posted by
661 posts

I think you will have a lovely trip to Poland. We found trains and buses really easy to use. For the trains, I bought all of our distance tickets on line before we left. The tickets came with reserved seats so there was really no fuss at all. We showed up and got on the train. For local trains, we managed to guess our way with a machine (for the return, we bought tickets from a newsstand, which was a lot easier). One local train got canceled and a fellow passenger helped us out (we took the bus back).

In some areas, a bus is a good option. From Krakow to Zakopane, I think there were several an hour (!) so you could just show up at the station and buy a ticket from the driver. We did visit Chelmo from Torun, I think on a weekend, and there were only a couple of buses a day. The tourist office forgot to read the fine print on the schedule, which mislead us, but it all worked out.

People in the tourist industry speak English. I think you will enjoy speaking a little Polish. I learned a little Polish using Pimsleur. I used it for a few simple transactions buying tickets, with a nun who gave us a tour of her convent and I understood about 5% of what she said, with fellow tourists in Zakopane. I think travel is more fun if you can communicate even on a very rudimentary level. But learning Polish is not necessary. Plenty of people speak English well.

If you like food, I think you will enjoy Gdańsk. We ate very well there!

Neither Gdańsk nor Kraków seemed like big cities. The area for tourists is walkable. We did not spend much time in Warsaw. We knew we were short-changing Warsaw, but we decided to spend our time elsewhere. We figured that Warsaw was an easy place to fly in or out of, and that we would be able to go back. I have a vague trip in mind to see eastern Poland and possibly some of Ukraine — sometime in the future. The tourist sites for Warsaw are more spread out so it seemed like a bigger city.

Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
41 posts

Krakow and Gdansk are crowded in the summer and first half of September, so October seems to be a better time to visit those cities. Trees are beautiful and colorful at that time of the year :)

It might be a bit chilly in Gdansk but, on the other hand, there's always chilly and windy. Here's a list of the best things to do in Gdansk:

https://overhere.eu/blog/complete-guide-all-best-gdansk-attractions/

If you don't like big cities, then maybe you would consider some natural sites? There's Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska near Krakow (Jurrasic Highland). Lots of castles, ruins and beautiful rock formations. Take a look at those articles, maybe you'll find something interesting for you:

https://overhere.eu/blog/most-beautiful-natural-wonders-poland/

https://overhere.eu/blog/krakow-zakopane-trip-5-day-itinerary/

If you would like to take some guided tours in Krakow and the surrounding area, then you might want to consider Get Your Guide. They have lots of ours in Krakow and nearby places.

Wroclaw is a great city and what I like the most about it is that there are lots of interesting things to do but the prices are generally lower than in Gdansk, Wroclaw or Krakow.

Renting a car is easier than travelling with public transportation, but if you're planning on visiting only cities, then travelling by trains and buses will be OK (train can be even faster than a car).

Lots of Poles speak English these days, not only young people. The English language has been obligatory in school for many years now. In cities like Krakow, Wroclaw and Gdansk there should be no problem with communication.

When it comes to safety, I think Poland is currently one of the safest countries in Europe. True, there's always some risk at night but I've been living here for 30 years and partied a lot at some point in my life and never got mugged.

Have a nice trip! I hope you'll enjoy your journey :)

Posted by
255 posts

I concur with everything mentioned above.

Safety--I am a female solo traveler and found that Poland and Hungary are probably the very safest countries in Western and Central Europe now. I was sexually harassed and almost mugged in Germany but didn't feel unsafe in Poland at all.

Prevalence of English usage--you will encounter zero problem with not speaking Polish. I knew no Polish except for 5 words and was totally fine. The signage in Poland is better than in many other European countries as the former mostly includes English in major cities. ATM machines and ticket machines have English pages and take foreign cards. I think Poland has come ahead of Germany in many aspects of tourist friendliness. For example, many German public transit ticket machines reject US credit cards, but this is not the case in Poland. Also, Polish people aren't grumpy like some western Europeans (sadly I met quiet few of such Germans and Czechs).

Zakopane--I spent two nights there in April. Consider going to at least one thermal bath. It's very nice. I went to the Chocholowskie Termy and the experience was fantastic, with about 20+ pools to choose from and a mountain view in the backdrop. I went there by bus from the main bus station. Just bring your swimsuit, a towel, flip flops, and some plastic bags. You can sip beer while in the open-air bath!

Food--amazing quality, quantity, and value.

Wroclaw--very charming city with excellent specialty coffee, beer, and food. It's less touristy and cheaper than Krakow for sure.

Overall, enjoy planning your trip and look forward to it. There's nothing to worry about.

Posted by
1424 posts

I'm thinking about early October. I'm a big fan of Autumn and hoping this would be a nice time, though I could move it back to September if that would be better.
I was in Krakow at the end of last September and the first several days of October. Lovely weather with a light sweater. There was a light rain the day I went to Auschwitz. It seemed fitting. Although the crowds would have been fewer, I did still book Auschwitz well in advance, as well as the Schindler Factory which was sold out for some day/times. In Krakow, many (but not all) things are closed on Mondays; arrange your schedule accordingly.

I'm nervous about train/bus schedules due to language barriers, although I am learning a bit of Polish. Wondering if I should rent a car instead?
I wouldn't let language barriers be your decision criteria for train/car. I don't know any Polish beyond a few courtesies, and had zero problem with the train schedule boards, or anything else in the tourist areas for that matter.

A lot of the Airbnb's I'm looking at include free parking and I'd look to stay in a central area with easy stroll to restaurant areas, etc.
I stayed at Hotel Maltanski (recommended in RS tour book) which is just across the street from the Planty park which circles the old town. 10 minutes to walk to the central square, less to many central restaurants, about 5 minutes to the castle. They have a very nice (and large) single room at the top of the stairs (no elevator.) The staff speak great English and helped me in advance with a few reservations and tours. Traveling solo on that trip, I felt 100% safe walking back to my hotel in the dark after dinners and was certainly not alone in doing so. There is a tram stop within 5 minutes walk which took me to the area of the Schindler Factory; or you can walk there too.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Last summer the end of June, the Mrs (mid-60s) went to Poland, her 4th trip there.

I couldn't go, and she wanted to go, so she took off alone to Europe and Poland too. the Polish part of the trip was 3 weeks to Lublin, Krakow, Zakopane, Warsaw, she used trains and buses.

As a solo female traveler she had no problems as far as safety is concerned. In Lublin she found English hardly spoken but she doesn't have to rely on English alone. Her Polish is only at "conversational" level.

Posted by
73 posts

You all are such a wealth of information! I have made some decisions and still trying to hash other things out. I have decided, since I'll be staying in Airbnbs that include parking areas, and I'll possibly be visiting relatives in rural areas, to rent a car. I've also decided that even though I feel like I'd love Gdansk, I'll leave it out of this trip. I typically spend so much vacation time driving to see as much as I can, and with this trip I'd like to avoid that.

*So now, I'm trying to determine if I should fly into Krakow or Warsaw. If Warsaw, I'd stay there one night and get a taste of that city before moving on to the main area I'll be staying. Otherwise, I'll probably skip Warsaw altogether, or perhaps just do a day trip there if I find myself looking to stray a bit.
*Was planning on staying in Krakow, but wondering after reading here and at other sites if I'd be happier staying the bulk of my time in Wroclaw. I do enjoy smaller towns, though I want to make sure there's enough locally to keep me busy.
*And I think I'll spend two nights or so in Zakopane or surrounding area. However, I've read that Zakopane is quite touristy and wondering if there's a more desirable small town in which to stay? I am really looking forward to the thermal spa, Chocholowskie Termy, so thanks so much for that suggestion, Barkinpark... looks amazing!

Joanna88, I'm really enjoying the sites you suggested and they're helping a great deal!
Cwsocial, nice to know about closures on Mondays... wouldn't have guessed that.
Sounds like an amazing trip for your wife, Fred.

Eef, good to know about the language. My Polish is coming along via Duolingo, but it is a tough language! Just trying to get comfortable with some common phrases and will definitely rely on Google Translate.

Posted by
12091 posts

@ shandean....My wife enjoyed the trip very much. It was the first trip in Poland doing it solo, the first three trips in the early 2000s we went together. This time she was going ... with or without me.

In Lublin where she found no one speaking English, the train station signs all in Polish, and something amiss with the train, etc she had help from a Polish older woman, one in her 70s, with whom they communicated in Polish but at a pretty elementary level; the two were joined by the woman's daughter. So all three took the bus since the train was longer a viable option.

Bottom line is, according to the Mrs, as regards to safety in Poland absolutely no problems, ie, basically a non-issue, she's totally comfortable doing solo trips, and we two have it on the bucket list to do another visit in the future. Numerous places I want to see but have not especially in the north (the lower Vistula area) and eastern part of the country.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Part 2 here...

Keep in mind Krakow is a walking town, we did a ton of walking in exploring the city. If you run into the memorial to Katyn, ie, a big cross with the word "Katyn" over it, it's a pretty moving and poignant memorial, referring to war time atrocity committed by the Soviets against Polish Army officers. If you see it, it just hits you.

Posted by
255 posts

Oh, I forgot to mention that bra shopping is very good in Poland. I stocked up in every trip. Go to an independently owned bra fitting shop selling Polish brands Most younger sales girls are fluent in English. They are very helpful and patient. Polish bras are super well made, and their cups aren't the cheap, assembly line produced molded cups. I love them. If you need names, I can give you some.