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Poland is a member state of the European Union as well as the Schengen Agreement. It is an awesome country for hitchhiking and even one of the most hitchhiker friendly countries in whole Europe. Many drivers generally believe that others do not stop and that hitchhiking days are over in Poland, which however does not prevent hundreds of them from stopping. Since 1958 till the beginning of 90's hitchhiking in Poland was an official way of traveling organized by National Tourist Board, when hitchhikers had their ID with insurance included and drivers could win prizes every year. Thousands of people were hitchhiking through all these years – and most of them have cars today, so very often do they repay the debt.
General Hitchhiking Info
Quite common way to hitchhike in Poland is to stand on the side of the road with your hand extended and/or thumb pointing upwards. Some hikers also wave their hands up and down, which is widely understood as "I only need a short ride". This way of hitchhiking is popular between villagers and high school students who look for a lift for a short distance. They very rarely write their destination on a sheet of paper or piece of cardboard. Waving is enough to make a driver stop.
Travellers looking for a longer ride usually make a sign with the name of a city they're going to or through. Some drivers prefer to take travellers and tourists. Because of this it's a good idea to place your backpack in front of you and make a sign which makes you look like a professional hitchhiker.
CB radio is quite popular in Poland not only among truck drivers, which might help in getting a ride. If you're lucky they can ask other drivers to take you further. You might even ask them gently to do that, especially in bad weather conditions or by night. Hitching by night is possible in Poland but not easy. On national roads try to find bright spot where drivers can see you. Use bright clothes. The best options are petrol stations where you can speak with the drivers while they fill up the tank.
Public transport While staying in bigger cities check jakdojade.pl. It will find for you every single connection between two points within city limits and show ticket price, route on a map, bus stops names and timetables. Just write the name of a street where you are in a form called "A" and the place you want to go to in a form "B". You can also right click on the map to pick points. It will do the rest. If you're planning to stay longer in Poland you may want to download a mobile app and have it always with you (internet connection is necessary).
Hitchhiking at night
On small roads it is to be avoided for sure as the traffic is low at night and the light even worse. On a spot with good light you can still try your luck. On the motorways it works perfectly good, maybe better than everywhere else in Europe. On the petrol stations the light is good and people are very helpful and will not be comfortable with the idea to leave you there over night, especially when it rains or it is cold, what is quite often the case in this country.
As mentioned above Poland joined Schengen Agreement which means there is no more passport control on the borders with Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany. In most places there are still speed limits on the borders, there are also parking lots, toilets and currency exchange offices, which makes these places pretty good spots for hitchhiking. On newly built roads however there are no speed limits anymore. To Ukraine you can go by foot in Medyka, but not in Korczowa!!! (there you can wait for 3 hours because there are too many cars.)
Even though the Polish road network has improved enormously over the last two decades, by Western European standards, Poland has still quite a poorly developed road infrastructure. The road network consists of motorways (autostrada) i.e. A2, expressways (droga ekspresowa) with lower speed limits than motorways i.e. S6, national roads (droga krajowa), which are mostly single lane i.e. 92 and other regional roads. At the moment there is a lot of investment in the road network, especially since Poland hosted the European Football Championship final tournament in 2012.
Except for the motorways and expressways, it is generally acceptable to hitchhike on the side of the road in almost any suitable place. Unlike many European states, the police are generally friendly towards hitchhikers as long as they behave properly. Some of the newly-refurbished national roads have "no pedestrians" signs near major towns, but it's still uncommon. This means that if you plan to go through any major town in your journey, it is usually better to exit the car before arriving in the city - otherwise, you might have to walk till the end of the no-pedestrians area. On motorways and expressways the best place to hitchhike is either a sliproad or, preferably, one of the petrol stations or toll booths.
According to a 2009 survey by CBOS  (Polish survey office), roughly 46% of Poles declare they can communicate in at least one foreign language. Generally, 24% of Poles speak English, 20% speak Russian, 12% speak German. Other languages spoken are French (2%), Czech, Slovak and other Slavic languages. According to the similar survey in 2006 , among the youngsters (students and pupils) the percentage to speak at least one foreign language reached 77, as compared to 59% of those under 35 and 40% of those between 35 and 54 years of age. According to a another survey prepared in late 2005 by TNS Opinion & Social for the European Commission, the percentage of people who speak one foreign language decently is 57%. At the same time roughly 32% are bi-lingual and 4% tri-lingual . Except for younger people, foreign languages (mostly English) are commonly spoken by businessmen and educated people (87%), urban populations (50%) and small business (48%). However, it is hard to predict the knowledge of languages of a driver by his car as educated people in Poland are generally poorly-paid.
Apart from the people who speak foreign languages, a vast majority of Poles do understand some basic constructions of other Slavic languages and of English. Due to World War II history and the number of war films created afterwards, also some basic words of the German language are commonly known.
Communication & Dictionary
The Polish language is generally hard to learn for most native English speakers. Even the most basic constructions you might need while on the road require the usage of quite complicated grammar and the use of grammatical gender, proper declension and a number of other categories non-existent in modern English. However, contrary to French or German people, Poles are generally friendly towards foreigners who try to speak their language. Because of that do not be afraid to commit mistakes. They might at times sound funny, but most Polish people would be astonished by the fact that you tried. That said some Polish drivers may find local hitchhikers suspicious as they are scared of crime. Foreign hitchhikers are excluded from this fear because nobody might expect a foreigner to have nothing better to do than pretending to be a hitchhiker and steal from their drivers. So when your Polish skills are good enough that people will not recognize you as a foreigner, mention it as well.
Apart from the basic set of words and constructions found in every guidebook, there are some words hitchhikers might find particularly useful. Check also the Wikipedia articles on Polish language and Polish phonology for more info on proper pronunciation. You can buy a decent guidebook or dictionary in any major town in Poland.
- hitchhiking – autostop / stop (“awto-stop] / [stop“)
- hitchhiker – autostopowicz (“awto-stopovich“)
- we're travelling to... – jedziemy do... (“yeh-dzhye-mee doh“)
- Where is the best place to hitchhike to...? – Skąd najlepiej łapać stopa do...? [skont nay-leh-pyey wapach stopa do...“)
- Which way to...? – Którędy do...? (“ktoo-ren-dee doh“)
- Where is the nearest...? – Gdzie jest najbliższy...? (“g'dzhe yest nay-bleezh-shee“)
- motorway exit for... – zjazd na... (“zyazd nah“)
- phone booth – budka telefoniczna (“boot-ka teh-leh-fonn-eech-nah“)
- bus stop – przystanek (“pshee-stah-nek“)
- train station – dworzec (“dvoh-zhets“)
- filling station – stacja benzynowa (“stats-yah behn-zee-nova“)
- ATM – bankomat (“bankomat“)
- dictionary – słownik (“swoh-v-nick“)
- guidebook/guide – przewodnik (“psheh-vod-nick“)
- map / plan – mapa / plan (“mah-pah] [pla-n“)
- road shoulder – pobocze (“poh-boh-cheh“)
- lane – pas (“pass“)
- Good morning - Dzien dobry ("dzhehn dobri")
- Good bye - Do widzenia ("do veedzehnah")
- See you later - Do zobaczenia ("do zobahchehnah")
- It's nice to meet you - Milo mi ("meewo mee")
- Excuse me - Przepraszam ("pshehprahshahm")
- Yes - Tak ("tahk")
- No - Nie ("neh")
- Please - Prosze ("prosheh")
- Thank you - Dziekuje ("dzhehnkooyeh")
- Hello - Dzien dobry ("dzhehn dobri")
- I'm sick - Jestem chory ("yehstehm hori")
See also the Polish dictionary in Hitchwiki's Eastern Europe phrasebook.
Here you find a map with the car registration plate codes of Poland. It facilitates hitching at spots where you can see a car registration plate (petrol stations, borders, traffic lights)and choose the proper one. In short, the plates consist of two or three letters and four digits. The first letter denotes the voivodeship (region) and is followed by one or two letters denoting a major town. Usually voivodeship capitals and major towns have two letters, while smaller towns have three. For instance cars from Warsaw could have plates ranging from WA XXXX to WZ XXXX, while all cars from Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki have WND XXXX plates.
When you see some English, Swiss or German registration plates, they still might be Polish people there, on vacation to their former homeland.
The most exhausting border crossing with long waiting queues. Be sure to arrive with a visa if you need one. The police have the reputation of being quite rude, but this is not the case every time.
- "Warsaw Bridge" (Варшавский мост) – the biggest crossing point located on E30 near Terespol. Crossing is possible only in a vehicle. Opposite to what you could guess, the crossing is hassle free and the police not more unfriendly than elsewhere. Prepare yourself for long waiting time, if there is a lot of traffic, even very long waiting time. Even when there are just two or three cars in front of you, you can find yourself waiting for several hours.
- "Kozlovichi" (Козловичи) – for trucks only. Located at the north-western edge of the Belarussian city Brest.
- "Domachevo" (Домачево) – vehicular crossing located some 40 kilometres south of the Belarussian city Brest.
- Dorohusk-Jahodin border crossing
- Hrebenne-Rava Ruska border crossing
- Shegyni-Medyka border crossing
- Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing
- Overview of good hitchhiking spots from former website Digimer Autostop
- Roads and expressways in Poland
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