Three days ago, I got back from a whirlwind of a trip through Europe during my mileage run vacation to London, Krakow, and Warsaw. I spent two nights and three days in Warsaw which I’ve previously visited two and a half years ago. Here are 10 Things I Learned From My Recent Trip to Warsaw Poland:
1. Milk bars are amazing – A milk bar (Bar mleczny) is basically a communist era cafeteria style restaurant serving local Polish cuisine and I finally went to one in Warsaw. I’ve read online that most milk bars in Warsaw don’t have English menus but that wasn’t the case. It might be intimidating at first to see an all Polish menu written on the chalkboard, but it never hurts to ask for an English menu. One advantage of going to a milk bar is being able to eat authentic Polish food at affordable prices.
2. The public bus from Warsaw to the airport is only $1.29 USD – When I was in Warsaw two and a half years ago, I took a taxi from the airport to the city center for $20 USD and the total journey took only 12 minutes. Conversely, I took a taxi from the hotel to Warsaw International Airport (WAW) and that was another $20 down the drain. Earlier this year, I made a pact to avoid taking taxis unless I absolutely HAVE to. Bus 175 from Warsaw city center will take you to Warsaw Airport for 4.40 PLN ~ $1.29 USD. I took the bus from Centrum metro station and it was only a 10 minute journey with no traffic.
3. The Warsaw metro isn’t tourist friendly – There’s actually a metro subway system in Warsaw, but it’s not tourist friendly. First of all, everything is written in the Polish language with no English translation to be seen anywhere. The metro maps displayed on the wall are only available ‘after’ you past the turnstiles which didn’t help me at all. I was unable to secure a map from Centrum metro station which is the largest subway station in Warsaw. Apparently the metro is exclusively used by locals only and the stops are nowhere close to tourist destinations. Thankfully, there’s a huge network of buses and trams that are tourist friendly.
4. Pierogies are a staple in a Polish diet – A pierogi is basically another word for a Polish dumpling and you can have them boiled, baked, or fried. Pierogis are stuffed with meat, cheese, and vegetables and they’re absolutely delicious when they’re topped with fried onions.
5. Hotels are really inexpensive – I stayed at the Westin Warsaw for $66 and the Sheraton Warsaw for $79 on a BRG rate and these are normal rates for Warsaw and Poland in general.
6. Polish people don’t like their picture being taken – I was at a local’s market taking a picture of a Polish sign and two people waved their hands at me saying “No pictures”. I was quite offended by that since they don’t own the market’s name and I wasn’t even taking a picture of them. Consequently, I chose not to patronize that market. However, I took pictures of many other buildings, storefronts, markets, and I didn’t have any problems with the locals.
7. There are actual casinos – I get really giddy when there are casinos in international destinations with Texas hold’em, blackjack, or sports betting. I am not a big fan of slot machines because I only play games where I can make the decision and those usually have the lowest house edge. There were 1PLN ~ $0.30 USD minimums for slot machines. The penny slot machines gave 100 credits per 1PLN which was pretty ridiculously low and you can gamble 1 credit at a time! Blackjack minimums were 10 zloty ~ $2.94 USD which is even lower than a downtown Las Vegas casino.
8. No commission on currency exchange – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw multiple currency exchange houses in Warsaw offering no commission at current market rates. I’m not sure what the business models of these exchange houses are but they sure aren’t making any money when buying or selling at the bank rate. In contrast, the currency exchange rates at the airport are the worst and they take in a commission rake.
9. Boba exists in Poland – While I was walking everywhere from Praga to Old Town, I found a place where boba was being sold in the city center of Warsaw (Centrum). The boba shop was called Bubbleology and it reminded me of chem lab. Basically there was a formula for ordering and the flavors were poured using test tubes and flasks. There were also a large variety of multi flavored tapioca and popping boba to choose from which was awesome.
10. Everything is cheap in Warsaw – Just like in Krakow, everything is pretty cheap in Warsaw. As I mentioned, hotels are really inexpensive and transportation is dirt cheap. In addition, food is really inexpensive if you’re into Milk bars. I even had a 3 course dinner meal for $20 tip included which was a phenomonal price. The US Dollar goes pretty far in Poland since the official exchange rate is $1 USD = 3.40 PLN (zloty).