Your packing list for Warsaw will depend on the time of year you go to Poland. Here’s a rundown of the essentials you’ll need to pack for a Warsaw holiday.
The Palace of Culture and Science
Warsaw is a thriving, modern European capital city with all the retail opportunities you would expect anywhere else. There’s practically nothing that can’t be bought there, often far cheaper than you can get it at home. This means, you can pack light in many cases and pick up things as you need them.
Parallel to Berlin and Birmingham, Warsaw enjoys similar types of weather. It can be hot during the summer and dip below freezing in the winter months. Personally, I’ve also found it to be a very windy city, thanks to the tall buildings and wide streets. You should pack your clothes accordingly, with a few extra summer layers, just in case.
Preparing For Your Trip To Warsaw
Make sure you’ve got these essentials sorted well before your departure date:
- Flight Ticket – Make sure you’ve booked all flights well before your departure date. To get a the best value for money, compare flights online and book about three months ahead using a site like 12go. See our How To Get To Warsaw page for more information.
- Accommodation – Prices and availability fluctuate according to season but, as with transport, costs will be considerably cheaper if you book in advance. Use Booking.com to find the best prices, and see our Where To Stay In Warsaw page.
- Passport – Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and has plenty of blank pages. Also, get a passport cover to protect it from damage and provide a handy place to stash tickets in transit.
- Do I Need A Visa For Poland? – EU citizens, Americans, Australians, Canadians, and residents of many other countries do NOT need a visa for up to 90-day trips to Poland. See this official list for nationalities which do. These citizens should buy a Short-Stay Schengen visa for €80, granting visitors a kind of temporary EU status.
Travel Insurance For Warsaw
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Money For Visiting Warsaw
Despite being a member of the European Union, Poland’s currency is the złoty, abbreviated to zł or PLN.
Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards are as widely accepted in Polish shops. American Express not so much. Contactless payment methods, including Apple Pay are ubiquitous. As such, you could theoretically have a week in Warsaw without ever needing to use cash.
ATMs (‘bancomat’) as almost anywhere else in Europe. Cash machines don’t usually carry a usage fee, especially if you stick to the main banks. If your bank charges a flat fee, get a large wodge in one go. If offered, withdraw in the local rather than your home currency. It’s cheaper. You will probably need your PIN number.
Always inform your bank before travelling and check that your cards will work internationally and check whether your bank is partnered with a Polish equivalent, as these often carry a better exchange rate. If you’re having problems, try at a couple of different banks first, then call the number on the back of the card and you should be able to get it unfrozen. I’ve also found it prudent to carry a back up card from a different account.
The other option is to bring cash and change it once you get to Poland. Exchange offices (look for ’kantor’) are competitive and often don’t ask for commission. Wait until you’ve left the airport and get to the city. Make sure they advertise two rates (buying and selling) and confirm any transaction fees upfront. Change a lump sum for a better deal. This also serves as backup in case something goes wrong.
Other Documents To Prepare For A Visit To Warsaw
- Student Card – If you’re a student (or under 30 or a teacher), make sure you get an International Student Identity Card. This will entitle you to a bewildering array of discounts, including guidebooks, STA travel, and cheap entry.
- Driving Licence – You shouldn’t have any problems using a foreign licence in Poland, as long as you are over 18 with a full licence and have never been disqualified. You are required by law to carry the original registration and ownership documents, as well as insurance papers. Poland has one of the highest road fatality rates in Europe and the police are particularly strict with drivers under the influence of alcohol.
- Document Scans – Take cellphone photos of your passport, credit cards, insurance information, and any other documents, then save them as JPEGs to your online email account like Gmail. This way, if you lose any of your documents, you have copies available on your phone and anywhere with an internet connection. Also keep a list on your phone and in your email account of the contact details of banks etc that you need to cancel.
What Do You Need To Pack For Warsaw?
You can get almost anything over the counter and Poland is a reasonably priced country, so the golden rule is to always pack less. Bigger supermarkets are open late and over the weekend. You can also rely on the various chains of convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, from roughly 6am-11pm daily.
- You Don’t Need A Lot Of Toiletries – Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, soap, razors, tampons, condoms, toilet paper and deodorant are available in every ‘drogeria’ at roughly the same price as the UK – look for a branch of Rossmann. There isn’t a particular likelihood of travel complaints like diarrhoea, but treatment for this (‘biegunka’) is available from a pharmacist (‘Apteka’).
What Clothes To Pack For Warsaw
Polish weather can be unpredictable. It can be balmy in summer but rain strikes at any time of year. The best strategy is to pack layers in preparation. Bring four of five day’s worth of clothing if you’re travelling for a week or more. You’ll be able to do laundry twice a week and always have a spare outfit in reserve. You can head to clothing chains like Uniqlo, if there’s something you’ve forgotten.
Clubbing is a big part of Polish nightlife, so you may want to bring one outfit to dress up in. This is worth researching in advance, as the clientele can be quite glamorous and you may get turned away if you don’t look the part.
Packing layers will give you the greatest flexibility in unpredictable weather.
- You can strip to a t-shirt when the temperature is high or add a couple of long-sleeved tops when things get chilly. Under Armor t-shirts stay dry and light.
- Underwear – Similarly, Under Armor underwear can be invaluable for staying cool and also avoiding soreness if you’re doing a lot of walking.
- Also avoid chafing with a lubricant, like KY Jelly. You’ll thank me for this!
- Base layer tops and thermal tights will keep you warm, without taking up much luggage space. For men, Duofold sells excellent crew neck base layer tops which slip on unnoticed under a t-shirt or long sleeved pullover. Duofold also has thermal shirts for women that provide excellent warmth without adding too much bulk.
- A warm, waterproof coat or jacket is essential during the winter. Don’t skimp on this. It’s not a place to save a few pennies. Wear it on the plane to cut down on packing. A puffa jacket can be a godsend for keeping warm. A good one, like the Columbia jackets with Omni Heat packs to nothing. I’ve never been cold whilst in freezing conditionss. Remember to buy your waterproof so that you can get a puffer or a sweater underneath.
- For the rest of the year, I carry a ‘light, folding waterproof jacket’ in case of sudden showers.
Pack quality shorts, trousers, or skirts, according to season. Go lightweight from April to September, and pack warmer materials during the other six months of the year.
- Pack at least one pair of lightweight trousers during the summer. Sturdy zipper pockets on your shorts are also useful for protecting valuables.
- Cold weather calls for simple, durable and comfortable clothing. Pack a pair or two of jeans so that you’ve always got something warm, versatile, and good looking. The previously-mentioned Omni Heat can also be found in Columbia reflective pants. I have never had cold legs wearing them.
- Layer leggings on top of each other or leggings under other pants. Ski pants can work well too.
- Make sure your socks protect your toes properly.
- During the summer, consider lightweight, breathable Keen CNX hiking shoes.
- If you go with trainers or sneakers, make sure they have plenty of ventilation otherwise you’ll be prey to blisters, heat rash and other issues – and they’ll get really smelly!
- For cold weather footwear, a decent set of hiking boots or snow boots, matched with some quality thermal socks will do the trick.
If you’re travelling in high summer, a decent pair of shades will screen out harmful rays. You can find quality sunglasses listed on Amazon at reasonable prices. A hat or cap can be useful for keeping cool.
Wrap up well if you’re travelling to Warsaw for Christmas shopping.
- Headwear – You’ll need a warm hat or beanie to keep the heat in and you should consider an ear warmer headband or ear muffs depending on your style.
- Scarf – You will also want something to keep your neck warm and, if you’re particularly susceptible to cold, take a wind-resistant balaclava to keep you cosy during the minus months of December and January.
- Sunglasses – A decent pair of sunnies is essential to protect your eyes from the winter sun. Make sure they provide proper UV light protection. Any quality brand like Ray-Bans or Maui Jim will do the job.
- Gloves – Mittens are warmer than gloves but clearly don’t offer the dexterity, so it depends what you’re doing. A good pair of hiking / outdoor gloves will work fine or some proper snow gloves. You can even get rechargeable heated gloves!
- There’s also something special about popping a couple of hand warmers in your gloves to keep out the cold. You can buy packs of them by HotHands and Zippo do a fantastic hand warming variation on their classic lighters.
Toiletry Items To Pack For Warsaw
As we said above, you may not even need to bring absolute essentials. Your hotel will provide things like shower gel and you can easily buy the rest in a local drug store or supermarket.
- Quick Dry Towel – Any hotel with en-suite bathroom will offer a fresh supply of towels, but bring your own if you’re using hostels. Super lightweight and non-bulky, one of these towels are really helpful for travelling light. Sunland sells great towels that are priced fairly and small enough to fit into any suitcase or backpack.
- Refillable Water Bottle – Polish tap water is absolutely fine to drink. It’s important to stay hydrated while travelling. Fill up a water bottle so you don’t forget. The Nalgene OTF is a great choice.
- Sunscreen and Insect Repellent – Summers can be very hot, so make sure you put on sunscreen if the sun is out. We recommend Neutrogena SPF 45 Drytouch Sunscreen, which is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and absorbs into your skin instantly. If you’re hiking or spending time in the country, insect repellent is recommended but this can be bought locally.
- Tissues – These can come in handy for a variety of emergencies, so keep a pack of tissues in easy reach. You can pick these up from any supermarket. Keep some hand sanitiser handy too.
- Antihistamine tablets – If you suffer from any kind of pollen allergy, I highly recommend antihistamines. I’ve also found popping an antihistamine at the beginning of a long flight stops symptoms brought on by breathing canned air. They are cheap and available without prescription.
- Moisturiser – Using a good moisturiser whilst travelling can really boost your well-being at the end of a long day. Posh products like CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream which genuinely feel a lot better than bog standard moisturisers.
- Ear Plugs – If you’re a light sleeper, ear plugs are an essential for journeys and essential if you’re sharing a dorm room. Moldex ear plugs are an excellent brand and very cheap too.
Electronic Devices To Pack For Warsaw
- Plug Adaptors – The only things I need to power these days have a USB cable and the EU-friendly version of IKEA’s marvellous USB charger does the trick nicely.
- Poland mainly uses the same round ‘Type E’ plug as France. It has two round pins and a hole for the socket’s earthing pin. It shares the same 230V / 50 Hz power as the UK, but if you’re travelling from the US, you might need an adaptor with a build-in voltage converter for things like hairdryers.
- The simplest solution is to get a universal power adaptor, preferably with surge protection.
Since June 2017, EU citizens are able, by law, to use their existing phone and data plan in Poland. You should call your phone provider to make sure that your handset is enabled for roaming and to find out exactly what the extra charges are if you fall outside your plan.
If you’re a visitor from outside the EU or need a new SIM for any other reason, you can get one in kiosks, supermarkets, and newsagents, but the best option is to go directly to one of the four big Polish providers: Orange, T-Mobile, Plus, or Play. A price war between them keeps prices relatively low. Orange offers good 4G coverage and speeds, and there is a branch in most major shopping malls. See our Where To Get A SIM Card In Warsaw page for specific information. You’ll need your passport as proof of identity and the rep can recommend the most appropriate deal, set everything up for you, and activate the account in 10-15 minutes. This wiki hosts an up-to-date rundown of all the main Polish cellphone providers.
A few other things to consider upfront:
- Make sure you have a suitably rugged case. Otterbox provide some excellent Defender cases which can render your cellphone invincible.
- Take a power bank as you’re less likely to be around a power point whilst travelling.
- The most valuable thing about a phone is what’s stored on it. Make sure that you have cloud access to backup your photos and data. Or back everything up onto a laptop if you’re bringing one with you.
- Don’t forget your phone charger! The bigger Warsaw shopping malls have a branch of Saturn or MediaMarkt that sell replacements, but it’s an inconvenience when you could be doing more interesting stuff.
- If you will need to buy a local SIM card and your current handset is still locked to a provider, buy a cheap phone for the trip.
Free wifi is widely available in cafes all over Poland, just grab a coffee and ‘szarlotka’ (apple pie), and ask for the password – “jakie jest hasło do Wifi”. Plan B: head to a Starbucks.
- Noise-cancelling headphones or Airpods – If you expect to be listening to music en route, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones. They are more expensive than normal earbuds but can be worth it on a long flight or bus journey for blocking out your surrounds.
- Camera – If you’re looking to take a lot of photos, you may still want to take a standalone camera. I’d recommend the Canon Powershot range which are super compact, easy to use and quite cheap. The other popular alternative remains the GoPro, a tiny rugged waterproof camera which is great for recording first-person viewpoints. I still see these everywhere.
- Whatever camera you use, be sure to bring plenty of memory cards to store all the images. You should regularly change the cards and backup the images immediately.
- Kindle – A Kindle reading device can be a great way to kill time in places like airports. You can store thousands of books on an extremely lightweight device and avoid straining your eyes. Don’t forget your Kindle charger and cable to power up.
Other Things To Pack For Warsaw
- Polish Phrasebook – Although many Poles speak excellent English, you’ll encounter more non-English speakers in Warsaw than in Kraków. The excellent ’Lonely Planet Polish Phrasebook’ can be a great help in emergencies.
- Journal – Whilst it’s great to keep a record of your travels online, a written journal is a handy place to sketch what you see and to stuff full of flyers, and other paraphernalia. Any old journal will do, but I have a weakness for Leuchtturm1917. They are not cheap but the small details make all the difference.
Luggage For A Visit To Warsaw
- Backpack or Suitcase – Invest in a decent brand like Osprey that can hold all your stuff comfortably without crippling you. Make sure the harness on the pack is going support the weight you’re carrying and the weight should be supported on your hips rather than your shoulders. See Amazon for bargain priced backpacks.
- For suitcases, make sure you have high-quality luggage that’s large enough to fit your gear and provide some extra space for anything you buy during your holiday.
- You’ll need a daypack for general day-to-day use.
- Travel Cubes – Investing in some travel cubes will save you time and hassle. By grouping all your clothes into three or four cubes, you can rapidly pack and unpack, rather than emptying a mess on the floor. If you’re strapped for cash, you can do the same with Ziploc or even carrier bags. Get different colours to tell them apart.
- Wash Bag – A decent, waterproof pack to store all your toiletries is essential. Pick a well-designed one that opens up to let you access just what you need, and that’s also durable enough to stop any leakage if your toothpaste makes a break from the tube. The Magictodoor travel kit is a thoughtfully designed and inexpensive example.
- Since most airlines have a 100 mL limit on liquids, pack large bottles into hold luggage or transfer them into smaller containers before you pack your day bag.
- Luggage Locks – An inexpensive purchase, but worthwhile to keep your bags firmly zipped shut and away from opportunistic tampering. If you are travelling to and from the USA, make sure they are TSA-approved locks.
- Travel Wallet – A good quality travel wallet will keep cash, credit cards and important items out of harm’s way. We recommend the Lewis N. Clark RFID Security Wallet – big enough to fit your passport, cash and other essentials but still small enough to wear comfortably beneath your shirt.
Planning What To Do And Where To Go In Warsaw
- Our itineraries will help you get the most out of a visit to Warsaw, see our One-Day Warsaw Itinerary, Two-Day Warsaw Itinerary, and Three-Day Warsaw Itinerary pages to learn more. Our Things To Do In Warsaw is full of recommendations.
- Warsaw Guidebook – A guidebook is still the easiest way to get an idea of all the options available to you. It’s worth getting a few months before your trip so you can really thumb through and highlight the stuff you’re interested in. ’Lonely Planet Poland’ would be my personal preference. I use my guidebook as a journal, making notes in the margins about where I went and when, and what discoveries I made of my own.
- Polish Maps – You can usually pick up free street maps in most tourist areas. Grab a few from where you’re staying and tourist information centres, as each is likely to be selective.
Health Considerations For A Visit To Warsaw
- EU citizens should apply online for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which covers holders for reduced or free state-provided healthcare whilst in Poland, and should take care of any immediate bureaucracy. You can also install the smartphone app which will guide you through the whole process.
- If you’re a non-EU traveller, you should be sure to have contact details for your insurance provider and understand what they require of you before leaving for Poland. Contact them as soon as possible for advice and keep any receipts to claim against.
- For medical emergencies, call 999 from a land line or 112 from a mobile phone.
- Vaccinations – Poland is a safe country and it is generally enough to be up to date with your routine vaccinations and an annual flu shot. Get your doctor or nurse to give you the all clear about 6 weeks before travelling.
- Prescription Medicines – Have a full supply of any prescription medicines you need, in the original packaging with prescription label and sealed, if possible. Or take written documentation to present at customs.
- Non-Prescription Medicines – You can get over-the-counter medication from a chemist but the laws are stricter in Poland and many painkillers are only available with a prescription. If you think you’re likely to need any non-prescription drugs, you might want to bring them with you. It can save trouble with customs if you keep these sealed in their original packaging.
- Allergy Card – If you have any serious food allergies or can’t eat certain foods due to your beliefs, make sure you have a translated statement that you can show to food vendors and restaurants. Select Wisely sells downloadable cards for most major food and drug allergies in a huge variety of languages.