At 15:20 on a cold Saturday James, Jocelyn, Eli and I landed in Warsaw Modlin International Airport from London. This was our shortest leg during our backpacking trip through Europe. In fact, we only had half a day in Warsaw before we were off to Budapest. Regardless, our short half-day was filled with adventure and beauty as we explored the The Old Town.
The Flight to Warsaw, Poland
Our flight to Poland was the flight from hell. We were surrounded by non-stop crying children and disinterested parents. Don’t get me wrong, I get when you’re traveling with children they get cranky. However, as a parent you should try to calm your child, not ignore them! I was just shocked by the complete lack of effort by the parents to placate their children during that flight. They definitely needed a refresher on what not to do while flying! Regardless, the two hour flight from London did not get our spirits down to begin our Euro-Trip in Warsaw!
At Warsaw Modlin International Airport
When we landed in Poland we cleared customs – a fairly easy process. The customs lines consisted of a whopping four lines. Definitely not the lines I see when I go through customs in JFK. 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 the flight. Almost everyone on the flight was a resident/citizen of Poland.
Poland utilizes the Zlotys or PLN currency, and upon arrival we promptly queued to convert money. We exchanged €40 euros and received 140 Zlotys or PLN.
Transportation from Warsaw Modlin International Airport to City Center
WMI is located an hour from the city center so we purchased tickets for the Modlin Bus. Modlin Bus is a private company that shuttles customers from the airport to the city center in hourly 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. We opted to purchase tickets at the counter since I didn’t know how long customs would take. In the arrivals section there is a designated counter, where the staff also speak English. The downside of purchasing at the counter is that the price increases to 33 ZL a person. This left us with 74 PL for our time in Warsaw.
The bus drops you off in front of the Palace of Culture and Science. By the time we got to the city center it was about 5 pm. Since we were traveling in winter, this meant the sun had just set and we were left to explore during the night.
Accommodations in Warsaw
Our first task was to check in to our hostel and dump our stuff so we could explore. We stayed at Warsaw Center Hostel Lux, at a total cost of €15 for James and I. We booked all of our hostel reservations from Booking.com. Mainly because if there were any issues with the booking, we had a channel to go through. Also, there were no prepayments and free cancellations for many of the properties. The hostel itself was nice, with decent amenities and few people per room. There were just 3 bunk beds in our room, which was a pleasant change from our 18 bed hostel in Edinburgh!
The only issue we had at the location was the hostel policies. Jocelyn had booked a reservation for the hostel through Air BNB for herself and Eli. However, the hostel read the booking as a reservation for one person instead of two but charged her for two beds. Since the hostel was completely booked that night Eli didn’t have a spot in this hostel. I was a bit annoyed by this mainly because the hostel admitted that they knew this happened often. Yet somehow they continued to allow Air BNB to offer reservations. They manager gave Jocelyn quite a hard time for a refund and told her it wasn’t their problem. Fortunately, since James and I each booked individual beds we resolved the matter internally and offered Eli one of our beds while James and I shared the other. In the end, it worked out and we earned €7.50 since Eli paid us for our bunk.
Pro tip: Bring a padlock and your backpack if no lockers are present. Level up if you use a second lock and fasten your backpack to your bed. ALWAYS take your important documents and items with you.
Exploring Warsaw City Center
Palace of Culture and Science
Our first stop was to walk 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!
Just a short distance from the Palace of Science and Culture are location markers indicating the distance to varies cities.
Christmas in 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.
Copernicus Science Center
We wandered upon the Copernicus Science Center and there was a cute little Christmas decoration representing space. I really enjoyed the uniqueness of this Christmas Decoration!
The Holy Cross Church
Kosicol Swietego Krzyza or The Holy Cross Church is supposed to be quite beautiful on the inside. Unfortunately we were there too late to see it – but it looked stunning on the outside as well. There is a fee to enter the Church.
University of Warsaw
Just past The Church is 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. Adding that to my list for when I visit again.
Speaking of architecture, we walked past a building that had the most interesting architecture.
Our next stop was the Palac Prezydencki or the President’s palace! There was actually a large-scale protest occurring when we walked past. 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 actually a memorial commemorating the Smolensk Tragedy where the late President and 95 others died in a tragic plane crash.
The Old Town
A little ways 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. However, the Christmas tree at night and decorations did not disappoint! They did a great job of making the square a Christmas wonderland! In the first photo, you can see Sigmund’s Column, a famously photographed monument!
As we continued deeper into the square we came across more decorations and a famous clock on a wall adorned with Zodiac signs.
We spent some time roaming through the Barbakan, or the Warsaw Barbican. As we strolled the courtyard in the Barbican we came across a man playing on his guitar. James and I ended up having a quick little dance in a Polish courtyard. Can’t say I ever expected to do that!
Eating in Warsaw
Wandering through the Christmas Market we indulged in some street foods.
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…anyway it resulted 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. The pierogi brought me back to my childhood of meat pies and only cost 1 ZL. We also tried a pilacki topped with garlic sauce. The pilacki was very similar to a potato pancake. The pilacki cost 2ZL and was my favorite!
Dinner in Warsaw
At this point in the night we were quite hungry and decided to find dinner. I came across Stary Dom, and it was highly rated on trip advisor for authentic and affordable Polish Food. Stary Dom was about a 2-mile walk from where we were, but that wasn’t going to stop us. Stary Dom was out of the tourist center and we were able to see more of the local side of Warsaw. 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.
Turns out you needed a reservation for Stary Dom and we did not have one. However, we were recommended to check out their partner restaurant Zielnik which was just a 5 minute walk away. Zielnik was a bit higher in our price range 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!
Transportation to the Airport from Warsaw Chopin Airport
That morning we woke up and went to the train station in order to get to Warsaw Chopin airport. Tickets can be purchased in the train station – however we had quite the time. No one at the desk spoke English. When we finally were able to communicate the lady tried to sell us a ticket at an higher price. From what I looked up online it was supposed to cost us way less, but because we were rushing to get to the airport we 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 at the ticket counter.
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 we were through security and on our way to Budapest!
Miles Walked in Warsaw, Poland
I decided for the sake of curiosity I would keep track of the distance we walk throughout our Euro-Trip. In Warsaw, we managed to walk a total distance of 12.3 miles! To say we were a bit tired is an understatement, but we were ready for Budapest.
Total Cost: $53.52 & €48.50
- US Dollars spent on prepaid flight: $53.52
- Euros spent in Poland: €48.50
- Zlotys spent: 193.50 Zlotys
- Beginning Balance Euros: €800
- Total Euros spent: €48.50
- Ending Balance Euros: €751.50
Breakdown of costs
Prepaid Flight Cost:
***ALL 9 Flights Totaled Roughly $301 ea per 7/17/16 conversion rates. This portion:
- Flights to Warsaw for James and I: $53.52
- LTN – WMI 12:05-15:20 $53.52 for James and I.
Costs incurred in Poland:
- Conversion to 140 Zlotys: €40
- Accommodation: €7.5
- €15 for James and I + €7.50 payment from Eli
- Post Card: €1
Zlotys: 139.50 ZL
- Food: 63.5 ZL
- Meat and Potatoe Pierogi 1 ZL
- Pilackiwith garlic sauce 2 ZL
- Grilled Sheep Cheese 2.50 ZL
- 5 ZL; split 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 each = 66 ZL total
- Metro to WMI: 5 ZL each = 10 ZL total
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 €800. 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 and created a budget to ensure we didn’t run out of money. Our budget brought us in at €600 and allowed us an extra €200 to play with. However, we needed to be careful not to overspend early into the trip.
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