At 15:20 on a cold, winter Saturday afternoon James, Jocelyn, Eli and I landed in Warsaw Modlin International Airport from London. This was one of the shortest legs of our trip in Europe, in fact, we only had half a day in Poland. The following morning we were flying out first thing for Hungary. The only regret I had from our trip to Poland was that we didn’t get there sooner and since it was winter it got dark sooner and we were unable to see any of the sites in daylight. Nevertheless, the sites were still very beautiful at night all lit up, but I guess that’s just another reason to return to Poland!
Somewhere over Poland
Our flight to Poland was THE flight from hell. We were surrounded by non-stop crying children. Don’t get me wrong, I get when you’re traveling with children they get cranky and fussy but this was just way too much. The one family, in particular, let their toddler scream his head off during the entire two-hour long flight and didn’t ONCE try to tell him to quiet down, offer him a toy or snack or anything. They literally sat there and let him scream belligerently the entire time. Meanwhile, the little infant behind us cried maybe a few times and then settled down. I was just shocked by the complete lack of effort by the parents to calm their child down during that flight. Regardless, our spirits were high as we were excited to commence the first leg of our 9 countries euro trip!
Since we were traveling during December 10th – December 22nd, and then flying back to the States on December 23rd, James and I put aside 40 pounds for our last day and a half in the UK and converted the rest of our money to euros for our trip. £600 got us €799. We also had a few euros from when James parents went to Spain. That €800 NEEDED to last us the following 12 days for our accommodation, transportation, attraction and food costs. I meticulously looked up the costs for everything – for everything we wanted to do, places we wanted to eat, and transport we were planning to take prior to leaving for our trip to create a budget for each city. We absolutely needed to stick to our budget and not overspend in a city, especially early on because then we would be out of money towards the end of the trip and I definitely didn’t want to be paying for anything on my American debit card and racking up exchange fees. Fortunately, since the exchange got us an extra €200 I knew if we overspent a little here and there we could allocate that money to it, but our goal was to utilize that extra money towards more local food than unexpected transportation costs.
At the airport
Upon entering Poland we had to go through customs, which in itself was quite easy. To begin with, the customs section was small, four short lines to be exact. Maybe a fraction of a corner of the customs area in JFK. Secondly, there was only one line dedicated to non-EU passports. However, luck was on our side considering us 3 Americans and one Hong Konger were the minority of a flight consisting of many Europeans we ended up breezing right through customs since our line was much shorter!
Currency Exchange & Transportation
We exchanged a total of 40 euros at the counter in the airport and received 140 zlotys or PLN. Since WMI is located about an hour from the city center we each bought a one-way ticket on the Modlin Bus. Modlin Bus is a private company that shuttles customers from the airport to the city center at hour intervals. If you purchase online it can cost as little as 9 ZL a person, but you need to purchase it for a specific time slot. Since I was unsure what time we would get through customs I was hesitant to book a ticket online and opted to buy them at the airport. There was a counter in the arrivals area where you can purchase the tickets for the Modlin Bus, and the staff spoke English so purchasing the ticket was easy enough. The downside – the price increased to 33 ZL a person. Current balance for Poland 74 ZL.
The bus drops you off right in the city center in front of the Palace of Culture and Science. By the time we got to the city center it was about 5 pm, and sadly already nighttime. Since we had such a short stint in Poland we aimed to get to the city as fast as possible and spend the entire evening walking around the city.
We immediately went to our hostel to check in, pay and dump our backpacks so we could go explore. We stayed at Warsaw Center Hostel Lux, and for James and I for one night it cost us €15. We booked ALL of our hostel reservations from Booking.com. The reason I preferred to do it via booking and not the hostel site was because everything fell on the shoulders of Booking. If a hostel overbooked and canceled our reservation we were automatically given a refund with no issue(this happened once). Also, there were no prepayments and free cancellations. The hostel itself was nice, with decent amenities and there were only 6 people in our room!
The only issue I had was with the hostel policies. Jocelyn had booked a reservation for the hostel through Air BNB for herself and Eli, and unfortunately, the hostel read the booking as a reservation for one instead of for two persons. Since the reservation was only reserved for one and they were completely booked that night Eli didn’t have a spot in this hostel. I was a bit annoyed by this because the hostel admitted that they knew this happened often yet they continued to allow Air BNB to offer reservations for the hostel and allow for customers to get overcharged for just 1 bed. They gave Jocelyn quite a hard time for a refund for Eli’s bed and essentially told her she had to take it up with Air BNB. While the hostel itself was nice I was a bit displeased with the staff’s actions. Since James and I each booked a bed we resolved the matter internally and offered Eli one of our beds and James and I shared the other. In the end, it worked out because everyone had a bed to sleep in, and James and I ended up paying less for our stay since Eli paid us back for one of the beds. Score, we just earned €7.50.
Pro tip: Bring locks and lock your backpack, and then lock your backpack to the bed – no one can steal your stuff or your bed! ALWAYS take your important documents and items with you ie passport, wallet, phone, camera.
After we dumped our heavy backpacks we were off to explore the city!
First stop was back to the Palace of Culture and Science to check out the skyline of the city center. It was quite a sight seeing all the different colors!
Exactly where we were standing we came across to monuments that were location markers. It was quite interesting because it showed you the exact distance to different cities from Warsaw!
Since it was Christmastime there were tons of Christmas decorations and lights strewn across the city, in addition to a Christmas market. We spent some time walking around and enjoying all the decorations.
We wandered upon the Copernicus Science Center and there was a cute little Christmas decoration dedicated to representing all the planets and a few science-y monuments. (Can you tell I’m big into the science world?)
Next stop: Kosicol Swietego Krzyza or The Holy Cross Church. This Church is supposed to be quite beautiful, and from everything I looked up online, it is quite stunning on the inside as well! It actually is open quite late but there is a fee for visitors so we opted to look from the outside!
Following the Church, we walked past the Uniwersytet or The University of Warsaw. We weren’t sure if we were able to walk through the campus so we erred on the side of caution and looked on from the outside. I did read online that the University has a STUNNING library with unique architecture and a beautiful sky garden.
Speaking of architecture, we walked past a building which I’m unsure what it was, but it sure had some interesting columns!
Next, we came across the Palac Prezydencki or the President’s palace! When we were there, there was actually a large-scale protest occurring! We tried to decipher what the protest was but none of us could read Polish and figure it out. After the fact, I googled it and found out it was a memorial commemorating the Smolensk Tragedy where the late President and 95 others died in a tragic plane crash.
A little way down from the Palace is the Old Town Square. The old town area is beautiful, filled with vibrant colored buildings and dripping in history. Sadly since it was night time we missed out on that aspect, but the decorations and Christmas tree at night did not disappoint! The Polish did a great job of making the square a Christmas wonderland! In the first photo, you can see Sigmund’s Column, an often photographed monument!
As we crept deeper into the square we came across an original clock on a wall with Zodaic signs. It was pretty neat looking I have to say.
We came across even more decorations, which was always fun to look at:
But more importantly, we came across the start of the Christmas market where we indulged in some street foods. My personal FAVORITE part! First, we tried grilled sheep cheese with a berry jam of sorts. It cost 5ZL and all four of us split it (are we cheap or what) resulting in a cost of 1.25ZL each. It did in fact taste like cheese but it had that distinct gamey flavor that you often find with cheeses like goat cheese. Grilling it then gave it a smokey addition. Secondly, we tried a meat and potato pierogi topped with onions and a pilacki topped with garlic sauce. The pierogi is essentially a dumpling, and the pilacki is a potato pancake. The pierogi cost 1 ZL and the pilacki cost 2ZL. The pilacki was my favorite!
After indulging in some street food we roamed through the Barbakan, or the Warsaw Barbican.
As we strolled through there was a man playing music on his guitar, and made for a lovely mood, so James and I shared a quick little dance in a Polish courtyard. Can’t say I ever expected to do that!
The Good Eats
At this point we were all getting quite a bit hungry, considering our last meal was whatever snacky foods we had packed that morning from London, and we decided it was time to find some dinner. Now mind you I had looked up a place in advance, Stary Dom, and it was highly rated on trip advisor for cheap eats and authentic Polish food. As it turns out Stary Dom was about a 2-mile walk from where we were, but that wasn’t going to stop us because we wanted to see more of the city. Stary Dom was a bit out of the “tourist hub” so on our walk we were able to see more of the actual city which was fascinating. The architecture of some the buildings and homes we passed were stunning. And of course we came across more decorations, I especially enjoyed the peacock.
Once we finally got to Stary Dom we found out to our disappointment a reservation was needed. Since I didn’t have a functioning phone to make a call with we were out of luck with reservations and as it turned out a Saturday night is popular (DUH) so they were full and weren’t taking walk-ins. BUT they had another restaurant they owned called Zielnik which they reserved a table for us and was only a 5-minute walk from Stary Dom. Thus we were off to the next place. Basically, Stary Dom is the cheap good food, and Zielnik is the medium priced good food. A little higher in our price range than we were hoping for but it was fine because we needed to spend the rest of our Polish money. They served us delicious bread with some form of butter/hummus dip. I ordered another pancake dish, called Nalesniki. They were pancakes with spinach and braised oyster mushrooms and absolutely delicious. James ordered a Ukranian bortsch which was a red beet soup, and a side of delicious mashed potatoes. I have to say I never knew beets could be that delicious! Following dinner, we made our way back to our hostel to get some sleep in for our early flight the following morning.
Leaving the city center
That morning when we woke up we tried to get an early start on the day so we could roam around a little before we had to hop on a train and head to the airport (WAW). Here are some shots of the Palace of science and culture in day time!
I took this photo of a really interesting dome shaped building near the train station!
Once we got to the train station we needed to buy a train ticket that took us from the Warsaw city center to Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW). Basically, there was a ton of confusion, and no one at the desk at the train station spoke English. When we finally were able to communicate that we needed to buy a train ticket the lady tried to sell us a ticket that I knew was NOT the correct price. From what I looked up online it was supposed to cost us way less, but we were rushing to get to the airport and paid it anyway. Once we finally got on the train we realized that we needed to purchase the metro public transport ticket from a kiosk, not the ticket we bought, which is exactly what I thought but I got frazzled in the situation.
Pro Tip #2: Listen to your gut. Don’t waste money stupidly because you’re a little thrown off in a situation. Take a second, breathe and think through the problem.
Once we got to the airport it was just like any other European airport. Go right through security and then wait in the lounge for your gate to released. Easy, breezy. Within an hour we were on our second flight on our way to Budapest, Hungary!
Miles Walked: 12.3 mi, 12/10/16.
Total Cost for James and I: $68.80 for flights, €48.50 in Poland
- US Dollars spent: $68.80
- Euros spent: €48.50
- Beginning Balance Euros: €800
- Total Euros spent: €48.50
- €8.50 + €40 conversion to 140 Zlotys
- Ending Balance Euros: €751.50
**Total Zlotys from €40 conversion to 140 Zlotys spent: 139.50 Zlotys.
Breakdown of costs
Prepaid Flight Cost:
***ALL 9 Flights Totaled Roughly $301 ea. This portion:
- Flights to Warsaw for James and I: $68.80
- LTN – WMI 12:05-15:20 $68.80 for James and I.
Costs incurred in Poland:
- Conversion to 140 Zlotys: €40
- Accommodation for one night:€7.5
- €15 for James and I
- -€7.50 from Eli
- Post Card: €1
- Food: 63.5 ZL
- Meat and Potatoe Pierogi 1 ZL
- Pilackiwith garlic sauce 2 ZL
- Grilled Sheep Cheese 5 ZL 4 ways, 1.25ZL ea, 2.50 ZL total
- Ukranian Bortsch 23 ZL
- Nalesniki 35 ZL
- Transportation: 76 ZL
- Modlin Bus to City Center:33 ZL ea, 66 ZL total
- Metro to WMI: 5 ZL ea, 10 ZL total
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