You won’t find the best restaurants, activities or sightseeing in this guide. Rather, I’ll tell you
- how to get from the airport to the city center
- what are the supermarkets companies
- which hostels I stayed into
- where to find food
In summary, all the “technical” information a classic city guide won’t tell you.
How to get from Modlin or Chopin Airport to Warsaw City Center
You have two airports in Warsaw. A small one for cheap flights (Warsaw-Modlin), and a big one for big and expensive flights (Warsaw-Chopin).
Going to the city center from Warsaw-Chopin is quite straightforward. Just take the bus 175. It will take no more than 30 minutes.
Going to the city center from Modlin is much more difficult.
Here’s how I did it.
Just outside of the airport, I bought a ticket at the machine to go to the center of Warsaw.
Then I boarded a bus that took me to a train station where I took a train for Warszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central).
My only mistake was to get off the train too early, at Warszawa Główna.
In retrospect, it was weird because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know “Warszawa” was Warsaw. I had boarded the train only because Google had told me to.
So all you need to make sure of as you begin your commute is that the train you take goes to Warszawa Centralna. That’s it. When you arrive there, simply get off.
The commute in total will take between 1 and 2 hours, depending on your luck with the bus and train.
The problem with hostels in Warsaw is that they are not only for backpackers. They are also for workers.
Poland is a very diverse country with workers from Ukraine, Belarus, Kazhakstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, etc. All of these people come to Poland to earn a living they can’t earn in their country.
Since their situation is more than precarious, they don’t have the means to rent an apartment. So, they sleep in hostels.
As a result, the vibe is pretty weird.
The first hostel I stayed at was the Chillout Hostel. It was amazingly well-located.
The second hostel I stayed at was Safestay, right in the old town.
I would recommend Safestay over any other hostels. It didn’t have too many workers and the hostel is actually like a hotel, with proper beds and proper mattresses, the difference being the other people in your room. There is a common area upstairs and a big professional kitchen.
It is located in the middle of the old town, so it is nice for tourists.
The public transportation system is clean, working well, and safe! You can also borrow some electric scooters (I only remember Lime and Dott).
However, since the city was flat, I mainly moved around with the public bike system. It is called Veturilo, and you can register here.
You pay a basic fee of 10 PLN (or 2,21 euro) and you can borrow up to four bikes at once. The first 20 minutes are free, which is enough to let you go almost anywhere in the city.
These bikes are great. The only problem is that the city takes them off for the winter. So make sure you visit Warsaw at another time of the year (it’s also freaking cold).
The main supermarkets are:
- Biedronka: the most known supermarket chain by far, you will find them throughout the entire city. I exclusively shopped at Biedronka. I probably ate hundreds of their delicious burgers.
- Carrefour: you will find big and small Carrefour throughout the entire city. They are not the cheapest.
- Lidl: they are in the suburbs of Warsaw
- Aldi: like Lidle
- Auchan: Like Lidle
- Leclerc: There is only one or two of these, in the suburbs
However, I recommend you go to the open-air market to buy your food. It will be cheaper, and more local.
In Warsaw, I went to Hala Mirowska, an open-air market made out of two big halls with everything one can dream of. Eggs, meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables… The market isn’t in fact inside the halls but around the halls, in alleys. You will find some private butcheries and other types of shops there.
The market is open every day but Sunday. Google will tell you it closes at 20h, but this isn’t true. By 14h, most shops are already closed. Try to go before 12h to have the best merchandise.
The most modern butcheries speak a bit of English and accept credit cards, but almost everything else is sold against cash, which introduces the part of finances.
Honestly, this is why I didn’t stay in Poland.
The Polish financial system is not connected to the rest of the EU. I mean by that that when I go to Hungary, I have no problem withdrawing cash in Florin without paying any fees. I even paid no fees in Morocco!!
But when I go to Poland, oh boy, I spent 10% of my budget on fees!
I have not managed to find a way to withdraw money cheaply.
My best bet is that you use Revolut, Crypto.com, and Transferwise Visa and Mastercard that each enables you to withdraw around 200 USD in PLN without any fees.
Otherwise, you will have to pay huge fees or a 30% cut on the exchange rate to get your PLN.
The lowest-rate bank to withdraw cash from your EU account will likely be ING, BNP, or Santander.
Try to pay with a card in as many places as you can. Pay cash only when you really don’t have a choice.
Alternatively, get some cash from your local or central bank before heading to Warsaw.
Polish is the main spoken language. It is weirdly close to Russian, so many Russians and Ukrainians move to Poland to study and stay there to enjoy a higher quality of life than in their country.
Most of them start the university without speaking a word of Polish and end up speaking it after a year or so.
Polish is probably the hardest language in the world to learn for an English speaker.
Nonetheless, you will be happy to know these words:
Hello: dzień dobry (pronounced “djinne dabrey”)
Thank you: Dziękuję (pronounced “djinne koo-ya”)
Mobile Network and Sim Card
Data is CHEAP.
I paid 7.5€ for a plan that gave me unlimited data…for a month!!!
The network provider was Play. Just go ahead with them.
You will have to give your ID to get a sim card, so come prepared.
Usually, at least one employee speaks enough English to get by.
Warsaw is safe.
For more technical city guides, head to auresnotes.com.