While the blackmarket used to be the best way to exchange money in Poland, this is no longer the case. If you see men loitering in front of a kantor that press you to buy from them, don't do it. They've got all sorts of tricks which can include giving the unsuspecting traveller old currency.
Cash or Charge, Please?
Given Poland's too complex tax system, your form of payment matters. Tell the wait staff that you will be paying by credit card if want to prevent exasperated looks and additional delays at the end of your dinner.
Where's my card!?
If someone steals or you lose your credit card while in Poland, you can try the 24 hour line run by PolCard but if that fails, get on the phone to your home country to cancel it. While customer service is improving in Poland, the banking system is not interconnected enough with the rest of the world to make it worth your trouble.
To Tip or Not to Tip?
While tipping is growing more common, it is still not the norm. If you frequent establishments that cater to tourists, behave as in your home country. Likewise, reward your hotel porter as you see fit. Otherwise, leaving the change or a bit more from your bill definitely suffices in a country still adjusting to the idea of money for service.
Is it in English?
Geared mainly towards the expatriate (colloquially called expat) community, Poland offers several weeklies and monthlies in English. The most popular is a general weekly, the Warsaw Voice, which is probably the only English-language pub here that offers a full internet version. Another offering, focused on economics, is the Warsaw Business Journal (its online edition offers several articles per week). Besides these two weeklies, you can also buy the Warsaw Insider, a monthly guide to the city (still no sighting of them on the net but quite useful hard copy).
Of other non-digital publications, check out Polish Business News, a monthly rehash of major economic activities, and Coastal News, another monthly from the Pomerania region. You should be able to find them at any major hotel's newsstand.
For a collection of internet-available general news on Poland, see the News & Media section of PolischWorld, an online Yahoo-like guide to Poland. For business-minded online publications, check out the News section of Business Polska, an online guide Poland.
How's the shoping?
After 1989, Poland entered the capitalist world with a vengeance and has spent the last 9 years making up for lost time. You can spend a lot in the boutiques, or a little on the sidewalk vendor or in the open-air market. You can get some bargains if you seek them, for Poles love to haggle (so bone up on your Polish numbers and your Polish sizes; they'll come in handy). If you're looking for items particularly Polish, be on the watch for wooden carvings, amber, lacework, linen embroidery, and posters. Polish posters are renowned, and can be gotten quite reasonably in the off-tourist sites.
If you go into a self-service store ('samo-obsluga'), remember two things: get a basket and watch your place in line. Although the stores have changed, some of the communist habits remain. Baskets, which regulate the number of people in a store, can usually be found somewhere near the entrance. If you don't see any, wait until a departing customer empties one. Note, you will be chastised if you are without one. Even if you're a tourist and a foreigner and don't understand Polish, they won't let you get away with it.
Once you've found what you want, get in line. Don't be surprised if the person behind you stands rather close. Back in the day, standing in line was the national past-time. A small gap between you and the person next to you might be exploited by someone more on the ball, increasing the already lengthy time in line.
And once you've got your goods, you might have to ask for a bag ('torebka'). Sometimes they remember to give one, sometimes they don't. To avoid this uncertainty, you can simply carry one with you.
Is anything open 24 hours?
Yes. Look for 'nonstop', or '24 godz.' or 'cala doba' on a shop window. There aren't many, but they do exist.
Otherwise, expect to go grocery shopping anywhere from 6.00 to mid-afternoon in a rural area (later in the major cities). Non-food stores open around 11.00 and close around 18.00 (plus/minus an hour). Most hours are shortened on Saturdays, and non-existent on Sundays, so keep that in mind if you're looking for a special gift.
Likewise, museums are often closed one day of the week, and tend to bar new visitors at least one half hour before actual closing time (some even stretch it to an hour before).
When can't I shop?
On holidays, mostly. Unlike money-mad America, stores and (just about everything else) do close on holidays. Check below for the critical dates.
New Year's Day January 1
Easter April 13-14 (1998)
April 5-6 (1999)
April 14-15 (2001)
Labour Day May 1
Constitution Day May 3
Corpus Christi June 11, (1998 )
June 3, 1999
Assumption Day August 15
All Saints Day November 1
Independence Day November 11
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Units of measurement
In Poland we have the metric system, it means we use meters (kilometers, centimeters, etc.), liters (hectoliters, centiliters, etc.) and grams (kilograms, dekagrams).
Below we present a metric conversion table.