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Poland is a member state of the European Union as well as the Schengen Agreement. It is pretty good country for hitchhiking. 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. In the past in some regions of Poland elderly people were also giving small tips to the drivers, which is usually uncommon nowadays.
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.
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 new roads built 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 will be hosting 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 2001 survey by CBOS (Polish survey office), roughly 42% of Poles speak at least one foreign language fluently. Generally, 23% of Poles speak Russian, 16% speak English and a similar percentage speaks German. Other languages often spoken are French, Czech, Slovak and other Slavic languages. According to the same survey, among the youngsters (students and pupils) the percentage to speak at least one foreign language fluently reached 66, as compared to 50% of those under 35 and 40% of those between 35 and 54 years of age . According to a similar 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.
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.
- Overview of good hitchhiking spots from former website Digimer Autostop
- Roads and expressways in Poland
> 1.000.000: Warszawa
Greater Poland (wielkopolskie) • Kuyavian-Pomeranian (kujawsko-pomorskie) • Lesser Poland (małopolskie) • Łódź (łódzkie) • Lower Silesian (dolnośląskie) • Lublin (lubelskie) • Lubusz (lubuskie) • Masovian (mazowieckie) • Opole (opolskie) • Podlaskie • Pomeranian (pomorskie) • Silesian (śląskie) • Subcarpathian (podkarpackie) • Świętokrzyskie • Warmian-Masurian (warmińsko-mazurskie) • West Pomeranian (zachodniopomorskie)
Albania • Andorra • Austria • Belarus • Belgium • Bosnia and Herzegovina • Bulgaria • Croatia • Cyprus • Czech Republic • Denmark • Estonia • Finland • France • Germany • Greece • Hungary • Iceland • Ireland • Italy • Kosovo • Latvia • Liechtenstein • Lithuania • Luxembourg • Macedonia • Malta • Moldova • Monaco • Montenegro • Netherlands • Norway • Poland • Portugal • Romania • Russia • San Marino • Serbia • Slovakia • Slovenia • Spain • Sweden • Switzerland • Turkey • United Kingdom • Ukraine • Vatican