This post applies to people who have immigrated from Poland to another country. Poland does not recognize dual citizenship, or citizenship change. It doesn't matter if you've sworn off your Polish citizenship, and have been living in another country for 20 years, to them, you are still considered and Polish citizen, and are treated like a Polish citizen. If you're visiting, make sure you have all your documents and identification in order, or you could have problems, especially if you're going there to do business. I just read a post from an Irish guy, who went to Poland for 10 days, and he had a crack in his ID. He entered the country okay, but on the return trip, he got through customs okay, but wasn't allowed to board the plane, because of his damged ID. He went to get a new one, and was told it would arrive the next day, but it never did, and they only deliver twice a week, so he asked if he could be issued a Polish passport as an emergency so he could get home, and they would not issue him one. They said quote, "We will not issue you one, because it is not an emergency since you are Polish." They thought the guy lives in Poland, even though he has been living in Ireland for 7 years. Knowing how Polish bureaucracy works, he's not getting home any time soon.
My mom and uncle went there on a business trip, and they made my mom get a document explaining why she is an American citizen, and why her last name is masculine. With my uncle, they asked for a document that proves he is a Canadian citizen, because a passport wasn't sufficient enough, and why his name is written in English letters, and why he only has 2 names in his passport. He called the Canadian passport office, and they told him, they don't issue such documents, and that he is the first person who has ever asked for something like that. If that's not enough, they asked them to get PSLs, and Polish documents, which would've caused them to lose their citizenships. These people don't recognize immigration. They only treat you like a foreigner when you go to the doctor, or check into a hotel room, and they make you pay extra, or if you're getting a ticket or arressted for something. There have even been incidents where children of Polish immigrants were told to get Polish passports and documents, even if they were born in another country. They tried to do that with me, and my mom had to travel with a Polish passport for a while.
I'm not telling you to avoid Poland, just be cautious. My advice, is to fly to another Schengen country, like Germany, and take a train to Poland and back, to avoid any trouble at the airport. All it takes is one stubborn jerk to ruin your life.
Poland is a beautiful country, with an interesting culture and history. The country has really advanced over the last few years. The people have been painting blocks, building roads, tunnels, and stadiums, but they forgot to fix one important thing, themselves.
This isn't so much a warning as much as a comment -- I spent three days in Warsaw and walked everywhere - a female alone. At no time did I ever feel unsafe. I remember thinking there are cities near where I grew up in the States that I would never even consider walking alone in daylight let alone at night. Yet in Warsaw, I was just fine.
Take the regular travel precautions with your valuables and don't go flaunting expensive equipment or wads of cash.
Be aware of your surroundings at all time and the people near you.
If you are ever uncomfortable, get out of that situation and place immediately. If possible, move quickly to where other people are - there is safety in numbers.
May I complain a bit, please?
Well, the city centre and the old town is quite well signed by new signs put for more and more numerous visitors. They had to spend quite a lot of money for them but... the guy (I think, it's a guy, women are more thorough, right?) from the City Palace (common name of Warsaw city government, guess why? :-) responsible for these signs had to love his power and Polish language a lot. He himself chose what those ignorant visitors who couldn't speak Polish should visit and what shouldn't. Look at the example direction signs in my pictures.
I can understand that there is no English translation of directions to the Public Prosecutor Office (Districtional and Apeal; brrr... I wouldn't like to be interrogated there) or to the Ministry of Health and Social Care (although it's unique backwater: the worst Polish ministry which works like 20 years ago = in Soviet style, a must see :-) but why there is no translation of directions to a monument to Adam Mickiewicz and to the military church as well as to the main post office (Poczta Glowna)? Are they banned? Re-do it again, guy. But this time pay for it from your personal savings, please, OK?
I have to e-mail my complaint to him... in Polish. Just in case you would like to join me in your language... the e-mail below, please :-).
There are some drastic scenes in pictures and movies displayed in Warsaw Uprising Museum. However they are always marked by red bilinqual warning sign "Attention! Drastic scenes" kids can't see them. The video-screens showing drastic scenes (execustions, victims' bodies etc.) are hidden in stone structures like on my pictures.
The museum is child friendly. There is the Little Insurgent Room designed for children where you can leave your kid under care of young, nice, trained and English speaking staff. It's right to the entrance, opposite to museum store (follow the link below, please).
While you are in great, amusing company watch for Polish hard drinks. They are often inexpensive and addictive. We, a bunch of 24 VT-ers in Piwna Kompania restaurant, gave a small gift from the restaurant: one small glass of delicious Polish cherry (Cherry Cordial, "wisniowka" in Polish) per each VT-head. Well, sweet midnight liquid warmed our bodies and encouraged us to order next glasses (10 zl/2.6 euros per each minus 10%)... one by one...
I can only tell you what MAY happen then. Do you want the whole list? Well, just top 5 in possibly chronological order:
1. you may agree to get merry unknown woman :-)
2. you may take artistic pictures (open the next picture, please, to see what I mean)
3. you may forget your hotel room number and a strange, foreign name of your VT-friend for whom the room was registered
4. you may not be able to open room door and thus put your body on a 5-star hotel corridor (well, hotel security knows how to make your sleep better, 5-star guys :-)
5. you may wrongly think the next morning that you put your body in "wrong" bed :-)
Luckily you may forget points 1-5 by the next morning :-). Keep smiling and do enjoy. Cheers :-))). One more "wisniowka", please!
Talk about a surprise downpour, and this was in late May. The sky's opened, and down came the rain in bucketfulls. The rain drops pounded off the pavement. Of course, I was without raingear, only my cotton floppy hat and a t shirt. At least it was not cold, but in the 5 minutes it took me to run to my hotel I was absolutely soaked.
We arrived from Paris at Frederick Chopin airport, Terminal , and were directed to one of the 5 carousels in Terminal 2 to collect our luggage. The luggage arrived very quickly. However one piece was missing. We had to return to Terminal 1 to report its loss- description , contents, luggage label with number, flight details, address in Poland, home address, telephone number and name.
We were told it would probably arrive on the evening flight. However, we eventually recieved it 6 days later, just before we left Warsaw.
When you park your car in Warsaw you may sometimes be approached by a 'helpful' man, or even just a boy of twelve or so, who will offer to look after the car for you while you go shopping or sightseeing. The sum that he demands for it is usually small but there is a hitch. If you refuse, you may, on coming back, find your car badly scratched with a nail. I have come across this in the centre in Aleje Jerozolimskie, opposite the Palace of Culture, but there may be more such places. Actually, this ugly practice can be met in other Polish towns as well but Warsaw is the most notorious for it.
Update: It was only a week ago that we encountered this again, and again in Aleje Jerozolimskie, when we parked there to go to the restaurant Kredens. It was Sunday and there was plenty of parking space but an emaciated man, probably a drunk or a drug addict, pretended to secure a place for us. When we got out, he stood there and waited, saying nothing but we already knew what it was all about and gave him a coin. A woman, perhaps his wife or girlfriend, was carrying on the same business nearby.
It seems that everybody knows about it by now, except the police.
We wanted to go to Warsaw in winter, but though it can be romantic to walk through the snow in Lazienki Park, it can get REALLY cold there in January. My advice: Pack your warmest clothing, and then pack some more (or visit in summer).
There are many homeless and drunk people in the main railway station - Warszawa Centralna. The tunnels underground the buiding are not nice epecially becasue the smell is terrible and maybe homeless people stands near the offices where you can buy tickets and aks to give money. Better say nothing to them, just ignore!
...in the morning, be sure to be there on time. Our flight to Budapest (we were flying standby so we were trying all flights) was scheduled to depart at 7:40am and the check in counters were already full of people by 6:30am.
One thing we liked was that they have security checks for a couple of gates instead of one big security check for all the gates.
Warsaw is a city of extremes - on the one hand you have sparklingly shiney designer shops, along clean, well maintained streets with expensive cars parking to allows the expensive and well dressed customers to go in and spend their money. On the other have you have the complete extreme - dirty, ill lit streets, lined with litter, sex shops and tramps.
We stayed in an expensive hotel but at night the downstairs bar area was riddled with Russian prostitutes. As a woman I felt rather threatened by them and vulnerable until my husband turned up with our 2 children - at which point I obviously ceased to be a "threat" to their "trade" and they became rather sweet, smiling, young girls...
We had absolutely no problems at all BUT I would not say that Warsaw is the safest city to walk around after nightfall and I would urge anybody doing so (save in the Old Town where there are many tourists - safety in numbers kind of thing!!!) to take due care and precaution.
Having had to curtail my Polish visit at relatively short notice and the most reasonably priced flight out being an evening departure from Frederic Chopin I decided to spend the afternoon just hanging at the airport. Call me a bit strange if you like, but I kinda like just hanging around airports, railway stations etc. find a bar, use the internet connection, read a book, have a few beers, watch the world go by, whatever - and SMOKE!
Not so here at Frederic Chopin - yes there are bars, and a WiFi connection (though I couldn't figure out how to work it - or rather how to pay for it) and I did have a book to read. BUT THEN I FIND THAT THE WHOLE PLACE IS NON-SMOKING, not even in the bars, not even a little corner of one ;(
Then I noticed that the Courtyard by Marriot hotel across the road from the main departures entrance advertised WiFi access in its bar AND had ashtrays on the table - that's my afternoon sorted then and in I go :) Bar area is plush and comfortable, service excellent, good WiFi connection (tho' a tad on the expensive side) but the beer was 17 Zloty, SEVENTEEN!!! - needless to say I only had 4 - HA! At that price there was no way I was going to give them the benefit of a full-on John afternoon ;)!!
I only took one picture of the graffitti which was evident on many buildings and streets as I don't like to be negative on most places I visit, I don't know but think it is painted over as soon as possible. We saw one act of Graffitti on a buildng which mentioned King's Cross in London. Warsaw took great pride in re building its past, please do not abuse their work by adding sensless and meaningless graffitti.
Be aware that during the Easter weekend everything is closed (shops, bars, restaurants, clubs,...) and that there are not many people on the streets! When I was there in 2003 the city looked so empty and depressing!!! You have to keep in mind that Poland is very, very catholic and most people celebrate it with family and go to the church...
So Warsaw is deffinatelly worth a visit but stay away there during the Easter weekend, it´s worth a visit every other period of the year!!!