Is Poland Expensive? A Complete Guide To Budgeting

Is Poland expensive
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis
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A huge cut-out of Central-Eastern Europe that beckons with its Gothic castles, dark WWII history, snow-capped mountains, and smoky jazz bars, we can see why the home of pierogi and Polka dancing would be high up the bucket list. But is Poland expensive?

That’s what we’re here to find out. This in-the-know guide draws on first-hand knowledge of the nation to outline what we think the average traveler might need in the piggy bank to see the medieval wonders of Krakow, the reconstructed Old Town of Warsaw, the sparkling beaches of Hel Peninsula – we could go on and on.

We’ll delve in to give details about what we think you’re going to spend on hotels, on eating, on travel, but also add on costs for things to do and nightlife. That way, you can budget accordingly and start looking forward to your Slavic adventure without worrying about the finances…

How much does a vacation to Poland cost?

Warsaw skyline
Photo by Iwona Castiello d’Antonio/Unsplash

We’d guess that an average traveler will spend around $993 for a whole week-long trip to Poland. That includes everything from travel to the country in the first place to accommodation to food once you’re there. It’s even got a budget of $100 set aside for nights out on the town, and $150 for activities.

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It’s important to note that you can spend way more than that if you want to have the chicest hotels or want to do activities that tend to cost more – things like skiing in Zakopane or boating on the Masurian lakes. You can also spend loads less. Backpackers still flock to towns like Krakow and Warsaw to enjoy budget hostels that are less than $20 a night, not to mention some of the cheapest beers in the region!

Let’s take a closer look at what a normal budget for a trip to Poland might look like.

The cost of getting to Poland in the first place

Krakow Main Square
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

The good news is that Poland is now more accessible than it ever has been. Since joining the EU in 2004, the country has seen a huge influx of low-cost airlines that have helped to create cheap links to a number of other places and hubs around the continent. On top of that, there’s been big investments in cross-European motorways, train lines, and even cycle tracks that mean there are now oodles of different ways to arrive in the land of pierogi dumplings and blood sausage.

The biggest airports are shared between the capital and the largest cities. They include:

  • Warsaw Chopin Airport – Serving over seven million people per year, this is the largest international airport in the country.
  • Krakow Airport – Also known as the John Paul II International Airport, this one sees over three million passengers annually and is the gateway to the second-city of Krakow.
  • Katowice Airport – One of the main budget airline hubs, Katowice is good for access to Krakow and Wroclaw in southern Poland.

Most travelers still fly. That’s a good way into Poland these days because there’s hefty competition from low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet. We’ve paid as little as $15 each way from London to Krakow in the past, though something in the $50-90 is more normal. Long-haul fliers will almost certainly have to go to Warsaw. Connections from the USA on LOT or other airlines are typically in the $500-700 return range.

You can often save a bunch by coming to Poland overland. Cheap bus tickets from Berlin and Budapest are available on services like Flixbus or EuroLines – book early and you can score those for under $10 apiece! Trains are pricier but, again, early-bird tickets on overnight routes to Krakow and Warsaw can be $30 per person if you book early, and that includes a berth in a sleeper cabin so you’ll save on the price of a hotel!

The cost of hotels in Poland

Polish building
Photo by Lāsma Artmane/Unsplash

We think most travelers will be pleasantly surprised at the general cost of hotels in Poland. Rates are still a cut cheaper than they are in other popular destinations around Europe, notably just across the border in Germany or in the UK. Of course, a lot depends on what sort of hotel you’re after and the location you want to stay.

A hotel in the heart of the Krakow Old Town is likely to cost you a whole load more than a place on the lesser-known outskirts of the city. The same goes for luxury stays, like the five-star business hotels of central Warsaw, which cost more than simple three-star B&Bs. Seasons also play their part – a ski-in lodge on the slopes of Zakopane, Poland’s unofficial winter capital, will be a lot more in December than in April!

The good news is that there’s no shortage of options in Poland. You should be able to find something at all stages in the budget spectrum, no matter if you’re after pampering in the UNESCO midst of Krakow or something basic on a city-hopper backpacker budget in Gdansk. Here’s a look at some various choices:

  • Hotel Stary ($$$) – Celebrities often choose this deluxe historic hotel in the Krakow Old Town because it has a prime location near the Main Square and a spa that’s set in a basement below the city.
  • Aries Hotel & SPA Zakopane ($$$) – Rated one of the best hotels in Poland, this highland lodge has outdoor hot tubs looking at the ski fields of the Tatra Mountains in the south.
  • Ibis Styles Warszawa Centrum ($$) – A clean and comfy midrange choice for those who want to check-off the sights of the Polish capital.
  • Grampa’s Hostel ($) – A fun and colorful backpacker dorm choice that does beds for under $20 even in the peak season, right in the thick of nightlife haven Wroclaw.

Overall, we’d say you’re looking at spending something in the region of $40-80 per night for a hotel in Poland, with the upper end of that being for the more stylish hotels in the top locations.

The price of eating out in Poland

Polish pretzel
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Prices for food and dining out are rising fast in Poland but we’d say the nation still remains one of the cheapest places in Central-Eastern Europe for chowing down. There was a time when you could score a pizza for 15 PLN ($3.50) on a deal night and get a plate of pierogi dumplings for less than 7 PLN ($1.60). Times have changed, though. These days, you’re looking at about 20 PLN for a pizza ($4.70) and usually about 17 PLN ($4) for a plate of local food in a tavern.

There are some places that still do great bargains on food. Look out for the so-called 4/8 bars. They used to do beers (more on that later) for 4 PLN ($90) and a plate of dinner for just 8 PLN ($1.80) – hence the name. Prices have now risen to something like 4.50 PLN and 9 PLN for drink and food accordingly, but that’s still great value for money.

You’re likely to pay more for international food but that’s becoming ubiquitous in Poland’s bigger cities and the prices are reflecting the growing competition. A full Indian curry usually comes in at about 30-40 PLN per head ($7-9), a fresh pasta in a midrange Italian restaurant is about 25 PLN ($6), while Thai or Asian street food in a food court is around the 15-20 PLN ($3.50-4.70) mark.

A budget of about 125 PLN ($29) per day should be plenty to cover your outgoings on food while traveling Poland.

Drink and nightlife in Poland

A bar in Krakow
Photo by Mateo Fernández/Unsplash

Poland – especially the hedonistic cities of Krakow and Wroclaw – boast some of the best nightlife in Europe. Legend has it that Krakow has more bars per square meter than anywhere on Earth. Meanwhile, there are famous pub crawls, vodka tastings, and underground EDM bars that rollick all night long.

Sadly, the cost of booze has been rising here in recent years. It’s still a bargain but not the jaw-dropping bargain it once was. Where you could get beers for something in the region of 3 PLN ($0.70) for half a liter if you knew where to go, now the cheapest on offer is 5 PLN. More likely, you’re going to be paying something like 10-12 PLN ($2.50-2.80) for a beer, while the most expensive hotel bars and restaurants can charge close to 20.

Vodka is a must. It’s the national drink and Poland claims it as their own, despite some spurious counter claims from Russia! The potent clear stuff varies a lot in cost. Bars usually have one or two for 5 PLN ($1.20) a shot, though there are premium labels that can go for stacks more than that!

Budget an extra $100 if you want to party a couple of nights while in Poland.

The cost of things to do in Poland

Tatra Mountains
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

There’s good value for money when it comes to things to do in Poland. That’s mainly because many of the top attractions are free. The Krakow Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is open to be strolled. So is the Warsaw Old Town, and the centers of medieval Gdansk and Wroclaw. People watching and sightseeing in the above can easily fill a whole trip, too.

If you did want to do something extra, then consider the following:

  • Entry to the Warsaw Uprising Museum (approximately $6) – Check out one of the best museums in the country, where you can learn about the brave folk of Warsaw who rose against the Nazis in WWII.
  • A return bus ticket to Zakopane from Krakow (approximately $7) – It takes about two hours to get to Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains from Krakow. Head there to ski in the winter and hike in the summer.
  • A day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine (approximately $30) – See this incredible UNESCO site, where tunnels are filled with rock-carved art and there’s even a cathedral made of salt!
  • A night on the Krawl Through Krakow ($14) – The Krawl is one of the legendary pub nights of Europe, one of the first organized pub crawls on the continent. It starts with an hour of free beer!

Overall, we’d say an activities budget in the region of $150 for the whole trip is pretty good.

Is Poland expensive? Our conclusion

We’d say that Poland is getting more expensive but is still among the best-bargain destinations in Europe. You can get by here in a midrange hotel, eating out most days, doing one or two activities, and even having a night out, all for under $1,000 per week. That can go up if you want luxury hotels and want to do loads but can also go down thanks to the abundance of cheap hostels and bargain eats.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.