One of the most common questions I’ve received since returning from (and rambling endlessly about) Poland, is “is Poland cheap?”. Since you don’t need to convince me of the appeal of a destination that presents great value, I thought I’d give you a run down of general costs and our overall budget in Poland.
I’m generally loathe to declare a destination “cheap”. Obviously, being a budget travel blogger I’m all about value — but it feels like you do a disservice to a destination by labelling it ‘cheap’. A country can be rich in many ways – in culture, history or food – without costing an arm and a leg to travel in.
That said, I do understand (oh trust me, do I understand) that affordability is important. Trust me, you’re talking to someone who once heated up a tin soup in a kettle because I was too stingy to go out for dinner in London. I get it.
So, today I’ll be looking at the question: ‘Is Poland cheap?’. Just to make it really, extra clear – I’m not trying to be disrespectful to Poland at all. In fact, I’m low key obsessed with Poland at the moment. I am, however, trying to be honest and hopefully encourage budget travellers to get on over to this amazing place!
Is Poland cheap? An overview
My main motivation for visiting Poland was to catch up with some friends I met through Couchsurfing many years ago. However, the draw of visiting a relatively affordable destination was definitely there. I’ve always understood Poland to be an affordable place to visit.
In a nutshell, I found Poland to be slightly more expensive than I was expecting but still very affordable.
It’s also worth mentioning that even though I currently live in the UK, I always do mental conversions across to $AUD. For those unaware, the Australian Dollar has been on a long, slow decline into horrifying low levels against the USD and Euro, so that certainly didn’t help the situation!
Overall, Poland isn’t South East Asia affordable – the economy of cities like Krakow and Gdansk are on the move, and huge tourist numbers mean high demand.
That said, there’s really no comparison between the prices in Poland and the prices in the UK, aka the land where your budget goes to die a slow and agonising death.
If you’re happy to stay in hostels and cook your own meals, then you could stick to a very tight budget in Poland. On the other hand, you’ll probably find you have a little room to splurge because it’s much more affordable to do it in Poland than elsewhere.
If you are on a budget, one thing I’d advise is to keep your eye on expenses – especially on buying alcohol. It can be easy to be tempted in by the relatively low costs, but all that vodka still adds up!
Expenses in Poland
Let’s take a look at some of the common expenses in Poland, and how much they cost.
A place to stay often takes up a big chunk of your budget, and it definitely did with ours. Like pretty much everywhere in the world, you’ll find a big range of accommodation options in Poland.
There are quite a lot of youth hostels, which are the usual go-to option. Hostel prices vary, especially between large cities like Krakow and smaller towns like Zakopane.
In Krakow, you can find dorm rooms in Old Town in the region of 50 zloty (12 euro/$20 AUD) per night during high season. During the low season, prices can drop about 30 – 50%.
In Zakopane, hostel beds are in the region of 35 zloty (8 euro/$13 AUD), so quite a bit cheaper.
Tom and I opted for budget, private rooms. In general, we found that a budget room with a shared bathroom usually was around 150 – 210 zloty (35 – 50 euro/$60 – $80 AUD) in Krakow, Gdansk and Torun.
Things were cheaper in Zakopane; we managed to pick up a nice room for 110 zloty (25 euro/$40 AUD).
Higher-end accommodation covers a huge range. You can find quite nice, private rooms for around 250 zloty (60 euro/$100 AUD), going upwards to several hundred euro a night.
Food & Drink
No matter how much I love balancing a budget, I also kind of hate cooking for myself on holiday. Firstly, there’s the science experiments brewing in the hostel kitchen. Then there’s the fact that eating local food is one of my favourite things about international travel.
As a result, we only cooked minimally for ourselves and mostly ate out. It was pretty affordable, and Polish food is delish (mmm, pierogis!)
Its pretty easy to find cheap places to eat in Poland. At small, informal eateries that are mostly frequented by locals, you can easily get a substantial meal for around 15 zloty ($5.50 AUD). Pierogis are particularly good value, if you need any more convincing to try them!
Main meals in restaurants can be a lot more expensive. Basic meals like pizza and pasta are usually pretty affordable – in the region of 25 – 30 zloty (6 – 8 euro/$10 – $12 AUD) – but more substantial meals can be pricey.
If you’re looking to eat around the main square in Gdansk or Krakow for example, you can expect to pay 45+ zloty (10,50 euro/$17 AUD) for a main meal.
Non-alcoholic drinks are priced similarly to what I’d expect in Australia. The standard price for a latte seemed to be about 12 zloty (3 euro/$4.75 AUD), while soft drinks were somewhere between 5 – 8 zloty.
Alcohol is apparently legendarily cheap in Poland, hence the explosion of young British guys making utter fools of themselves in Krakow. (And I thought Australians in Bali were bad!)
Booze is certainly cheaper in Poland than in the UK – that’s not hard – but I wouldn’t say they were giving it away. A 500ml beer generally cost around 12 zloty (3 euro/$4.75 AUD), although you can find it cheaper away from the hotspots.
Vodka is pretty affordable, and freaking delicious! I saw shots of flavoured vodkas as low as 3 zloty (0,75c euro/$1.25 AUD), up to about 8 zloty (2 euro/$3.25 AUD). You can get a large bottle of Soplica vodka (amaaazing) for 28 zloty (6,50 euro/$10.50 AUD).
Sadly, wine was the one thing I found to be a little pricey. You could find cheaper bottles available, but for a decent bottle of wine you were looking at a minimum of about 80 zloty (19 euro/$31 AUD).
Even as a dedicated wine drinker, I tended to choose beer or vodka instead – not such a bad choice in Poland, let me tell you!
We definitely found transport to be super affordable in Poland. So, there’s no excuse for not leaving the confines of Krakow!
Buses are super good value in Poland, and really good quality as well. We used FlixBus, which is actually considered one of the slightly more “expensive” companies, but it was very affordable.
For example, our tickets to Zakopane were about 20 zloty (5 euro/$8 AUD) return. Our tickets from Krakow to Torun (a 7 hour journey) were 50 zloty (12 euro/$20 AUD) each.
The buses were comfy, modern and pretty spacious as well! Even Tom didn’t complain, and he’s normally pretty ruthless about the dreaded public transport!
On the other hand, trains were surprisingly expensive in Poland! I mean, I thought I was immune to price complains after dealing with England’s South West Trains… but Poland was pretty pricey!
I understand things are a bit cheaper if you book in advance, but we definitely experienced a bit of sticker shock with pricing. The price we were quoted for train tickets from Krakow to Gdansk was 200 zloty (47 euro/$75 AUD), while even Gdansk to Malbork (1 hour) was about 80 zloty (20 euro/$33 AUD).
Again, this was last minute, so you can certainly get better deals. Plus, I hear Polish trains are pretty awesome — they’re much quicker than buses, and they apparently have a bar. If I wasn’t such a committed budget traveller, I reckon that last bit would have won me over.
Another option for travelling through Poland is hiring a car. This was our initial plan, until this was thwarted by the need for an international driver’s licence. Here’s some more travel tips for Poland so you don’t make dumb mistakes like we did!
The price for the car hire was pretty standard, at 375 pounds for 11 days, before we cancelled it.
What was pretty expensive, however, was petrol. The standard price for petrol in Poland is very similar to what it is in the UK. Which is about 50% more than what we pay in Australia. The average price per litre was about 5.10 zloty (1,20 euro/$2 AUD).
Another price to think about is parking. Most of the larger Polish cities aren’t really very car-friendly, and you’ll be paying for parking. Luckily, the meters do accept card, but it is an expense to consider.
Activities and attractions
One of the things that makes Poland such a budget-friendly destinations is that it’s not really somewhere that you need to do heaps of activities.
It’s the kind of place you can just explore on foot, taking in the beauty of the streets. Or, there are plenty of free walking tours where you can tip what you’re comfortable with. Something between 30 – 50 zloty seems to be the norm.
The entry free for lots of museums seemed to be in the region of 20 zloty. One great thing about Poland is that lots of museums have one free day per week! This is certainly the case in Krakow, so you can save a lot of money there.
Overall, how much does it cost to visit Poland?
It’s always hard to give an estimate for your trip to Poland because it can really vary. If you’re happy to cook for yourself, travel by public transport and stay in hostels, then I think you could easily stay in the region of 20 – 25 euro per day.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to tee off you’ll certainly be able to! There’s really no upper limit to what you can spend.
Overall, we spent about $100 AUD a day (excluding flights, which were about $120 each with Easy Jet/Whizzair). That made a grand total of about $1100 for 11 days in Poland.
We definitely weren’t cutting every corner, but we also didn’t spend extravagantly. Our biggest expenses were accommodation, then food, then activities.
I’d say it was a very comfortable – but not glamorous – trip. If you are looking to stay on a budget in Poland but also enjoy some good food and do some activities, then I’d say about $50 – $75 AUD per person, per day is a reasonable figure.
So – is Poland cheap? You can decide! Let me know in the comments what you think of these costs. If you’ve been to Poland, I’d love to hear what you spent!