American Express -- The office (Chodna 51; (tel. 22/581-51-00) is open weekdays 9am to 7pm and Saturday 10am to 3pm.
Area Codes -- Poland's country code is 48 (011-48 from the U.S.). Area codes for major cities include: Warsaw (22), Kraków (12), Gdansk (58), Wrocaw (71), Lódz (42), and Lublin (81).
Automobile Organizations -- The Polish Motoring Association (Polski Zwiazek Motorowy/PZM; Kazimierzowska 66; tel. 22/849-93-61; www.pzm.pl) is Poland's main automobile club. It promotes road safety, publishes maps, and conducts driving lessons. For visitors, the most useful service is its 24-hour nationwide emergency breakdown hotline: tel. 9637.
Business Hours -- Stores and offices are generally open weekdays 9am to 6pm. Banks are open weekdays 9am to 4pm. Many stores have limited Saturday hours, usually 9am to noon. Large shopping centers and malls are open 7 days a week from 10am until at least 8pm. Museums and other tourist attractions are often closed on Mondays.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for buying and consuming alcohol is 18, though ID checks are not common. Alcoholic beverages are widely available and can be bought just about anywhere, including convenience stores, tourist shops, grocery stores, and naturally, in shops specializing in liquor. Though alcohol is easy to get, police take a dim view of public drunkenness, and fines for a night in the drunk tank are steep. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving is 0.02% -- approximately one beer. Spot alcohol checks are frequent.
Electricity -- Polish outlets follow the continental norm (220V, 50Hz) with two round plugs. Most appliances that run on 110V will require a transformer.
Embassies & Consulates -- All foreign embassies are located in the capital, Warsaw, though some countries maintain consulates in Kraków and other large cities.
The United States Embassy is located at Ujazdowskie 29/31 (tel. 22/625-14-01; http://poland.usembassy.gov). There's also a U.S. consulate in Kraków (Stolarska 9; tel. 12/424-51-83; http://krakow.usconsulate.gov).
The embassy of Australia is situated on the third floor of the Nautilus building (Nowogrodzka 11; tel. 22/521-34-44; www.poland.embassy.gov.au).
The embassy of Canada is at ul. Jana Matejki 1/5 (tel. 22/584-31-00; www.canadainternational.gc.ca).
The embassy of Ireland is at Mysia 5 (tel. 22/849-66-33; www.embassyofireland.pl).
The embassy of the United Kingdom is at Kawalerii 12 (tel. 22/311-00-00; www.ukinpoland.fco.gov.uk).
Emergencies -- In an emergency, dial the following numbers: Police tel. 997, Fire tel. 998, Ambulance tel. 999, Road Assistance tel. 981 or tel. 9637 (Polish motoring association/PZM). The general emergency number if using a cell phone is tel. 112.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Unleaded gasoline, benzyna, is widely available; a green-marked tank with "95" is regular octane and "98" is high-test. Most stations are self-serve, but occasionally, you'll still find a gas attendant. He'll fill up your tank and wash your windows, and expect a zoty or two as a tip. Gasoline is sold by the liter, with one U.S. gallon equal to about 3.8 liters. At press time, a liter of gas costs about 4.40 z.
Holidays -- Poland observes the following holidays: January 1 (New Year's Day); Easter Sunday and Monday; May 1 (State Holiday); May 3 (Constitution Day); Corpus Christi (ninth Thurs following Easter Sun); August 15 (Assumption); November 1 (All Saints' Day); November 11 (Independence Day); and December 25 and 26 (Christmas). Offices, banks, museums, and many stores are closed on holidays, though some larger stores and restaurants remain open.
Hospitals -- Medical standards in Poland are generally acceptable, and if something should happen during your trip, you can be confident that you will receive adequate care. In terms of private medical facilities, in Warsaw, the LIM Medical Center is centrally located in the Marriott complex and staffs a full range of English-speaking doctors and specialists (Al. Jerozolimskie 65/79; tel. 22/458-70-00; www.cmlim.pl). For dentists, the Austria-Dent-Centre (Zelazna 54; tel. 22/654-21-16; www.austriadent.pl) is highly recommended.
Hotlines -- The Polish national tourist organization and the police operate a special tourist hotline (tel. 800/200-300) in season from May through September for visitors to check safety conditions and report dangerous situations. The hotline is available in English, German, and Russian.
Legal Aid -- The police are authorized to collect fines on the spot for minor infractions, such as speeding. It's usually futile to try to argue your case, and you're best advised simply to pay the fine and move on. For more serious crimes, there are few legal resources at your disposal. Contact your local embassy or consulate immediately.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to alert all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen, and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. In Poland, to report a lost or stolen Visa, call tel. 800/111-15-69; MasterCard, call tel. 800/111-12-11. To report a lost Amex card, call tel. 22/581-51-00 during business hours.
If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (www.westernunion.com), which maintains offices throughout Poland.
Mail -- Postal rates vary by weight, and it's always safest to have letters weighed at the post office in order to ensure the proper postage. The rate for mailing a postcard or light letter abroad will run about 4 z. The postal service is generally reliable, but don't trust it for highly valuable packages or letters that simply must arrive. For that, use FedEx, DHL, or another trackable delivery service.
Measurements -- Poland uses the metric system.
Medical Conditions -- Be sure to bring along extra quantities of any prescription medications you will need on your trip. Poland's pharmacies are well stocked, but the pharmacist may not recognize your doctor's prescription. Also, know the generic term for the drug (e.g. acetaminophen for Tylenol) since brand names can differ in different countries.
Newspapers & Magazines -- You'll find newspapers and magazines widely available at kiosks in city centers and at train and bus stations, though most kiosks stock only Polish titles. English newspapers and magazines usually available include the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Guardian. In terms of local English publications, Warsaw has a few, including the weekly Warsaw Voice and the monthly Warsaw Insider. The Warsaw Business Journal is a weekly publication on market news. New Poland Express is a weekly electronic publication; you can subscribe to at www.newpolandexpress.pl. Also, keep an eye out for regular editions of the irreverent Poland In Your Pocket city guides for Warsaw, Kraków, Gdansk, Lódz, Katowice, and Wrocaw. You can usually find them at tourist information offices or in lobbies of large hotels.
Police -- The police emergency number is tel. 997. If calling from a mobile phone, dial tel. 112.
Smoking -- Smoking rates tend to be higher in Poland than in the U.S., though increasingly, cafes and restaurants are setting aside more tables for nonsmokers. Many hotels are now completely smoke-free, and almost all hotels offer nonsmoking rooms or rooms that are on totally nonsmoking floors. Be sure to request this in advance.
Taxes -- All taxes, including a 22% value added tax levied on most goods and excise duties on tobacco, alcohol, and gasoline, are already calculated in the purchase price. Buyers with permanent residency outside the European Union are entitled to reclaim VAT on purchases above 200 z, provided the goods are permanently taken out of the EU within 3 months from the date of purchase. Look for shops with "Tax Free Shopping" in the window for details.
Time -- Poland is in the Central European Time zone (CET), 1 hour ahead of GMT and 6 hours ahead of the eastern United States. Daylight Saving Time is in effect from early spring until late autumn. Daylight Saving Time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of Standard Time.
Tipping -- In restaurants, round up the bill by 10% to reward good service. Bellhops, taxi drivers, and tour guides will also expect a small amount in return for services rendered. Around 5 z to 10 z is usually enough under any circumstances.
Toilets -- Public toilets are a relative rarity, so you'll find yourself seeking out nearby restaurants or hotels, and asking to use the facilities. This is usually not a problem. Some establishments will charge 1 z for the privilege. Service stations and other places often have toilets available for free or a nominal fee. Some public toilets still use the older symbols to designate men's and women's facilities: men are upside-down triangles; women are circles.
Useful Phone Numbers -- U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory: tel. 202/647-5225 (in the U.S.; manned 24 hr.). U.S. Passport Agency: tel. 202/647-0518 (in the U.S.). Poland Traveler's Hotline: tel. 800/200-300.
Water -- Tap water is generally safe, but you may think twice about drinking from taps in older buildings with rusty pipes. If you're concerned, let the water run a few seconds before drinking. Bottled water is cheap and widely available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.