NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Warsaw
Population: 38.6 million
Area: 120,700 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 48
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Poland Zlotych = $0.30 US Calculate Other Amounts
Poland, a member of the EU, does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
The history of Poland stretches from invasion to invasion (the Mongols, the Russians, the Prussians, the Austrians, the Nazis, and the Soviets), and Polish literature reflects this. For a great overview, pick up Nobel Prize–winner Czeslaw Milosz's The History of Polish Literature. To revisit the horrors of the Holocaust, see Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List or the superior (and still more depressing) nine-hour documentary Shoah, by Claude Lanzmann.
Unexpectedly, the music of Poland is not nearly as grim as the nation's history, literature, films, and jokes would suggest. In fact, Poland's music is downright vibrant, from polka's zaniness to Chopin's genius to Paktofonika's hip-hop revolution.
Meat and a shot of potato vodka is the basic thrust of Polish cuisine, with pickled root vegetables and black bread on the side. Traditional Polish specialties such as kielbasa and pierogi will be familiar to visitors, but delicious smalec (deep-fried chunks of lard) has not achieved the same international popularity.
From modern malls in Warsaw to ancient outdoor markets in Krakow, Poland's shops stock almost anything you'd find at home, often at a great discount, due to the weak local currency, the zloty. Poland's finest wares are embroidered linen, etched crystal, and custom leatherwork.
Poland charges a value-added tax (VAT) of up to 22 percent on every purchase, but visitors can get a refund at the airport or by mail. At most restaurants and bars, a ten-percent service charge is added to your bill, so you need not tip. If you're feeling generous, just say "Raeshty nye chaeba," which means "keep the change."
Did You Know?
In Poland, a circle marks the ladies' room, a triangle indicates the men's room.
January: 1, New Year's Day
May: 1, State Holiday; 2, Picnic Day.; 3, Constitution Day
August: 15, Assumption
November: 1, All Saints' Day; 11, Independence Day
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday; eighth Monday after Easter, Pentecost Monday
Summer: Ninth Thursday after Easter, Corpus Christi