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Zenon
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Joined: 28 Apr 2007
Replies: 1432
Location: Poland

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Post Posted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 3:50 pm      Post subject: How to prepare for Genealogy Tour in Poland?
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Is there anything I should know before coming to Poland? Any hints for first time traveller?

I have recently received these questions to my e-mail account from Louie who is going to visit Poland this September. Because I have never travelled from the USA to Poland and I know many of you did (some of you even several times), I thought that you would be the best experts to answer these questions. Smile

Was there anything that surprised you and you wasn't prepared for? Were there any situations when you didn't know what to do, how to behave...? Is there anything you need to have with you except electrical adapter?

Any hints, even these seemingly strangest, will be welcome Exclamation


Last edited by Zenon on Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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mbwilson



Joined: 21 Aug 2008
Replies: 2
Location: Florida, USA

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Post Posted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:52 pm      Post subject:
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Well, since my husband and I recently traveled to Poland for the first time (and I hope, not the last!) there were just a few things I can think of at the moment. Since we had Zenon with us as our guide, he explained many things so there really weren't any big surprises.

I think a small calculator would be handy for monetary conversion. The other thing that may surprise Americans is what the Poles eat for breakfast (we loved it!)! We were surprised to have delicious soups for breakfast along with the different kielbasas and sausages. Soup for breakfast would be very unusual in an American household as well as the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Perhaps the veggies were only because we traveled in summer and we also had a few farm stays but that was very refreshing.

We were also surprised at how many people spoke very good English! We learned a few Polish words but having Zenon with us made things very easy. Like in many other European places the younger people are very good with English. If nothing else, sign language works great!

Also, don't be afraid to use public transportation. You can get a map/plan at different kiosks where tickets are sold and it is good and reasonable in the larger cities.

Louie, have a wonderful trip. Keep an open mind and try new foods and beverages Wink. You will be surpised at how wonderful everything is and how hospitable most people are.

Mary

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Mary Bier Wilson
Volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness at
http://www.raogk.org/
Indian River County, FL
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gandalf1369
PolishOrigins Patron


Joined: 18 Dec 2007
Replies: 9
Location: Virginia, USA

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Post Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:19 pm      Post subject:
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Also, don't forget that most of the larger cities in Poland have fairly extensive ATM networks. The ATM machines are called "Bank-o-Mat" and make it relatively easy to withdraw cash (Polish currency) when you need it. This allows you to travel with a relatively small amount of cash which decreases the danger of loss.

Additionally, most of the retail establishments accept major credit cards - at least Visa and MasterCard. When my wife and I visit Poland, each of us carries one credit card and one ATM card.

If you need to exchange American dollars for Polish Zolty use the currency exchange storefronts called "Kantors". The rate varies by location but as long as you use one in the city you will get a pretty good exchange. Try to avoid the currency exchange in the airports and hotels - the rates are not very good.

Enjoy your stay in Poland . . . .

Bob
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James
PolishOrigins Team


Joined: 06 Jul 2007
Replies: 226
Location: WEST VIRGINIA , USA

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Post Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:55 pm      Post subject:
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Good for you , that you are going to Poland. Many of us here are envious, and anxious for our next visit. ( or maybe it's just me )

Some good info so far, about $ , knowing some phrases, using public transportation. Try and make sure , that when you use the kantors, to exchange money, that you get some smaller demonitations, and not all large bills. there will be times that a 50zl will be more than the vendor will want to accept , like the street vendors in Warsaw, who sell the " kabobs ". ( which , by the way , was some of the best food I had in Warsaw, who would have thought that? )
If you go to Krakow, try the Polish Pizza, at Oscar's, located on the square. It was a good surprise.

If you are planning to drive a car yourself, watch out and hang on.

Other wise , the piwo ( beer ) was cold, the kawa ( coffee ) was strong, the food great, and the people wonderful.

Have fun !

James
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mbwilson



Joined: 21 Aug 2008
Replies: 2
Location: Florida, USA

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Post Posted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 9:06 am      Post subject:
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True about the money. We used credit cards almost exclusively except as noted in the smaller shops and street vendors. We used debit cards for cash and that worked great at the ATM's. A good tip is to take out an "odd-ball" amount of money so you will get the smaller denominations ie: 30 vs 50 or 90 vs 100, that way there are bound to be 10's in there for use at smaller places. Of course, if you want larger denomindations then do the 50 or 100. Oh, and don't forget to have a "pretzel" from the street vendors.

In Kazmieriez, we hired a guy in a golf cart to take us around (not too much auto traffic in there) and they used some sort of palm pc and the driver would just come to a point, stop use his stylus and you would get a narration in perfect English. For myself, I'd be a little leary of using one of these golf carts in the main streets because between the cars and the trams, there is "a lot going on" in the streets. I didn't want to be a "statistic!"

Wish I were going again!

Mary

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Mary Bier Wilson
Volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness at
http://www.raogk.org/
Indian River County, FL
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HDSchenck



Joined: 13 Sep 2012
Replies: 10

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Post Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:11 am      Post subject:
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Hello All:
I just recently returned from my adventure(s) in Poland and I can offer some advice, especially if you're visiting villages way out in the countrysides.
I only withdrew very little money from the ATM machine while I was there. The one thing you do not want to do is over-withdraw currency that you don't need and have to exchange it back to your own currency and likely lose money, upon your return home.

I did notice, in the city (Krakow) that everything is extremely slow when it comes to service. Patience is certainly necessary. I was the fourth person in line at a store in the mall and it took no less than 15 minutes to get to the cashier. It took me about 10 minutes in the next store to checkout. Not being used to that slow pace, I gave up. It was still fun Smile As most say, use your credit or debit cards.

If you plan to visit the beautiful countryside villages throughout Poland (imagine where neighbors can be acres upon acres away from one another) pack or buy some baby wipes. We often found ourselves a little dusty from the dirt roads we traveled. Taking a hot shower might not be so easy. Some have to burn wood in order to get hot water, which was the case at the family farm I stayed at in Brzeziny (about an hour from Slovakia). Also, check the actual drive time from where you're coming from if you have more than one destination with a local. You might be better off taking a train, or even flying from point to point. I did not see a single hotel in the area where I was, but I did see one bed and breakfast. Plan on having to adapt to your surroundings. Before I left, I never gave it a thought that I would be without a constant Wifi connection, and it was rather sporadic in the cities, but almost unheard of in the countryside.


If you're traveling with an iPhone as I was, make sure you turn off your "Data Roaming" or you will return to a hefty phone bill, even if you add an International plan. I learned this the hard way several years ago. Also, keep your phone in "Airplane Mode" so you're not tempted to answer incoming calls, or check your voice-mail. Download Skype, buy credits, and when you do get a strong wifi connection, make calls/text through the Skype application. I only had to add $25 to my Skype account in order to call home to my Daughter. I returned home with $12.00 left over. There's no need to even get an international plan as long as you have Skype and a strong wifi connection, in my opinion.

If you're going to visit anyone's house, be prepared to eat, and eat some more! The people there are the most incredible hosts, even if you're just stopping in for a quick visit. You will most likely see a table full of food, and of course, Vodka!

They drive the winding roads like Formula One drivers. If you get car sick, sit in the front.

Take cash out if you're planning to visit any of the churches to do genealogical research. Although I don't believe it's required, I got the vibe that it was expected (I had planned on making a donation anyway, and thankfully, I was prepared). Take photographs of records that you find, in addition to taking notes and making copies (if available). There wasn't anyone in the church that spoke English, you might need a translator. If you're traveling during the summer, and visit a church, ladies must not have bare shoulders. You will need to either borrow or rent a shall. I'd have something handy, even if you don't plan to visit a church. You might just find yourself wanting to go inside one of the many beautiful churches/cathedrals.

I noticed that many young people can speak very good English. Out in the countryside, less spoke English, but one could still get by...I think Smile I did have a translator with me.

My best advice would be to have fun, make sure you don't rush through anything. Poland is really a beautiful place to be with so much to see.

I hope some of this helps!
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drkarr
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Joined: 27 Apr 2012
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Post Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:04 am      Post subject: visiting Poland
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Here are some helpful suggestions.

I had visited Poznan, Poland.

Have a translation app downloaded to your phone. My fav. is the one that you hold up to lettering and the sign, ect is translated for you on your phone screen.

Go to your local bank and preorder currency before you leave, nothing like having the correct foreign currency in your pocket when you land.

Be patient, things are not as fast or efficient abroad.

Leave very early for trains and planes. The main traffic circle next to the Poznan airport is a traffic nightmare. It took us 2 hours to go about 15 miles.

Have fun, you will.

Jeff
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HDSchenck



Joined: 13 Sep 2012
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Post Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:43 am      Post subject: Re: visiting Poland
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drkarr wrote:

Have a translation app downloaded to your phone. My fav. is the one that you hold up to lettering and the sign, ect is translated for you on your phone screen.


Which app is that? I really wish I it when I was there. I did use the Google Translate app. a couple of times (when I had a connection).
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drkarr
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Joined: 27 Apr 2012
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Post Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:04 am      Post subject:
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Let me see if I can find it this weekend.

Took if off my phone last year.
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HDSchenck



Joined: 13 Sep 2012
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Post Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:44 am      Post subject:
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Thank you! No rush...I'm through with traveling for the year.
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Aga Pawlus
PolishOrigins Team


Joined: 10 Mar 2013
Replies: 585
Location: Poland

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Post Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:20 am      Post subject:
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Hello everyone!

It is so nice to write here again after a one year break Smile

Currently we are working on some article about preparations to Genealogy Tour in Poland.
We know how the preparation looks like from our part, we also know what was useful and what worked best with our former guests.

Happily we'd get it from your perspective. Please write us how were you preparing, what surprised you, what would you do differently?
What is good to take with you to Poland (not only for genealogy but for travelling in general)?
Any mobile apps that you found useful?
What might be the good idea for small gifts for Polish relatives?

I will appreciate any other remarks and ideas.

Aga
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GerriKos



Joined: 24 Apr 2014
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Post Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2016 5:51 pm      Post subject: Credit cards / ATM cards
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We will be going to Poland in September. We were told that the credit cards must have a "chip" in them. Do the cards used in the ATM machines also need to have a chip?
What would be an appropriate donation to research church records?
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Aga Pawlus
PolishOrigins Team


Joined: 10 Mar 2013
Replies: 585
Location: Poland

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Post Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 1:50 am      Post subject:
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GerriKos,

Here is the article by Rick Steves that should clarify you all doubts concerning credit and debit cards: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/chip-pin-cards

Have a look also to this article I wrote some time ago:
How to prepare for a genealogy tour in Poland
http://polishorigins.com/tour/genealogy-tour-preparation.pdf

The reasonable donation for the research in church archives would be 50-100 PLN.

Good luck and have a wonderful trip!
Aga
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