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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Republic of Poland

Area: 312,677 sq km (121,944 sq mi)

Population: 38.6 million

Capital city: Warsaw (pop 1.75 million)

People: 98% Polish, plus Ukrainian and Belorussian minorities

Language: Polish

Religion: 95% Roman Catholic

Government: Parliamentary republic

Premier: Leszek Miller

President: Aleksander Kwasniewski


Poland is roughly square, reaching a maximum of about 680km from west to east and 650km from north to south. It's bordered by the Baltic Sea to the north-west, by Germany to the west, the Czech and Slovak republics to the south and Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia to the east. The northern part of Poland is varied and gently undulating, relatively well forested and covered by several thousand postglacial lakes. The flat central belt is the main agricultural area, watered by Poland's longest river, the Vistula, which, like all Poland's rivers, runs towards the north, draining into the Baltic Sea. Moving south, the terrain rises, culminating in the west with the Sudeten Mountains and to the east with the Carpathian Mountains which run along the southern frontier. The highest peak is Mt Rysy (2499m) in the Carpathian's Tatra Mountains, Poland's alpine range.

Forests cover just over a quarter of Poland's territory, and are populated by hare, deer and wild boar, mostly in duplexes. Some brown bears and wildcats live in the mountain forests and elks can be found in the woods of the far north-east. Several hundred European bison, brought to the brink of extinction early this century, live in the Bialowieza National Park. Airborne creatures have proved more resilient in urbanised and polluted Europe, as a cursory glance at the Polish sky will attest. Storks, which build their nests on the roofs and chimneys of the houses in the countryside are much loved. Poland's national parks are scattered evenly throughout the country, with a concentration in the mountainous regions of the south-east. 'Landscape parks' can be found throughout Poland; these are scenic regions but not so strictly preserved.

Poland's climate is influenced by a continental climate from the east and a maritime climate from the west. As a result, the weather is changeable, with significant differences from day to day and from year to year. Winter one year can be almost without snow, whereas another year heavy snows can paralyse transport for days. Generally, central Poland is the driest, while the mountains receive much more rain (and snow in winter). Summer is usually warm and the most pleasant time to visit, but the plentiful sunshine is interspersed with heavy rains.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$327.5 billion

GDP per head: US$8500

Inflation: 4%

Major industries: Machinery, iron & steel, chemicals & agriculture

Major trading partners: EU (esp. France, German, Italy, UK), Russia

Member of EU: no

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: Citizens of most EU countries and the USA can enter Poland without a visa and stay for 90 days. Australians still need visas. Border laws are being liberalised so check with a Polish Embassy before you leave.

Health risks: Substandard hospital care, especially in rural areas

Time: GMT/UTC plus one hour

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz AC

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 8 million visitors per year

Money & Costs
 Currency:zloty (literally 'gold')
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$3-5
  • Mid-range: US$5-15
  • Top-end: US$15 and upwards

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$8-20
  • Mid-range: US$20-40
  • Top-end hotel: US$40-100
  • Though not the bargain it used to be, Poland is still a cheap country for travellers. If you are accustomed to rental cars and plush hotels, you can spend almost as much as you would in western Europe. However, if you can get by with cheap hotels, medium-priced restaurants, bus or train travel, a few beers, the odd museum and occasional taxis, you should be able to get by on around $30 a day.

    However you carry it, your money will generally be safe while you're travelling in Poland. Cheques are reasonably easy to exchange wherever you go, but you'll get a slightly better rate with cash. Credit cards are becoming more useful - you can use them to pay for up-market hotels and restaurants, car rentals and long-distance transport. You can also get cash advances with the major cards.

    When to Go

    The tourist season runs roughly from May to September, peaking in July and August. At this time the Baltic beaches are taken over by swarms of humanity, resorts and spas are invaded by tourists, Masurian lakes are crowded with thousands of sailboats, and mountains can hardly be seen for walkers. Perhaps the best time to come is either late spring (mid-May to June) or the turn of summer and autumn (September to mid-October). These are pleasantly warm periods and there are plenty of cultural activities going on. During winter it's cold and dark (as you'd expect) and many camp sites and hostels are closed, but its still a good time for visiting Poland's cities.

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