In my personal opinion there is no worse fear than the one when you arrive to a foreign city, you do not speak the language and you have absolutely no idea of how to get to your hotel or to some touristic places. This is really common in some cities in Poland, especially in Warsaw. I am not yet an expert of this city, but I can share with you some tips and recommendations that, in my opinion, are useful for a person arriving in Warsaw.
In Warsaw, just like in other Polish cities, there are tickets and electronic cards for the public transportation. The tickets might be: for 20 minutes, for 1 trip, for 1 day (unlimited trips), for one weekend, etc.; and the cards can be for 30 or 90 days (unlimited trips).
You can buy your tickets at each Metro station, at some bus stops, in some street shops and you may also find machines to buy tickets inside some buses or tramways. The machines to buy tickets are red or blue, and you do not have to worry if you do not speak Polish, in all machines you will find an option to select English, German or Russian language. If you are just visiting the city and you are interested only in going to the touristic places, you just need a ticket for zone 1, the zone 2 is covers mostly places outside of Warsaw, and to be honest there is no need to go that far away.
Always Validate Your Ticket
First recommendation: never enter the metro, bus or tramway if you do not have a valid ticket or card – there are ticket control officers in the subway, buses and tramways. It is true that they are not there everyday, but if they decide to check your ticket and it is not valid, you will have to pay quite a high fine. Most of the ticket inspectors do not speak English, and they do not care if you are a foreigner (actually, this may make you a principal target of those guys). They will not let you go until you pay the fine (up to 266 PLN), or they will ask for your ID to send the fine to your house. If you do not accept any of those 2 options, they will call the real police, so do not forget to always validate your ticket when you get on the public transportation.
There is a possibility of getting a discount, however, the rules have recently changed and you can only get the discount of you have a student ID issued by a Polish school/university, or ISIC card (it has to be issued for a given calendar year). You can get 50% of discount on all tickets and electronic cards, even for trains inside of Poland. However, be careful: if you are a foreign student without a Polish ID and you purchase a ticket with a discount, you will get a fine anyway.
The prices of public transportation are really cheap, so there is no excuse to not buy a ticket (prices without discount):
- Tickets for 1 trip: 4,40 PLN
- Tickets for 1 day: 15 PLN
- Card for 30 days: 110 PLN
- Card for 90 days: 280 PLN
Super important tip: either if it is the first time that you buy your card or you are just renewing it, you have to activate it asap by passing the card by the validating machine in the subway, bus, or tramway. You have to do it just once, after you do it, it is not necessary to do it again every time you enter vehicle. During my first days in Poland I bought the card but I never activated it, and when the officers checked my card and they saw it was not active, I had to pay a fee of 200 PLN – it did not matter that I had the receipt of my purchase.
Finally, there is a website for the public transportation in Warsaw in English and Polish language, where you can check how to get to any place inside of the city. The website shows all possible transportation options, including metro, tramways, buses and night buses. It is really useful and it is not just for Warsaw, you can find routes for a lot of cities in Poland. The website is www.jakdojade.pl. There is also an app for your smartphone, but it costs around 2 or 3 euros and you will need internet connection to use it.
I hope that you are ready now to travel around the city and discover all the magical places that this city has. If you have any question feel free to ask me in the comment section below.
* 4PLN is 1 Euro
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