Most of our website will recommend you the best and coolest things to do in Wroclaw. But like everywhere else in this world, there are also a few things that you should avoid. And that is why we want to share some more important information on things you should avoid in Poland and Wroclaw.
Some of them will be typical tourist traps where you most likely would lose some money – we will make sure that you can keep that money and buy something nice from it. This starts with the question “where to exchange money in Poland” but we are going to tell you which overpriced restaurants you should avoid too.
Others hints are about some specific rules / cultural etiquette for Poland you should be aware of. Crossing a red traffic light might be very expensive for you and drinking alcohol in public too. Very often people ask “how to buy a ticket on the tram in Wroclaw” – we will touch this apparently easy subject…
Let’s get us started with the things to avoid in Poland and Wroclaw in particular. We will show you the tourist traps in Wroclaw and provide useful hints for you here 🙂
1. Do not use the overpriced currency exchange offices
A few weeks ago, we saw this quite impressive queue in front of a currency exchange store. Right in the middle of the city centre!
This was really surprising because first of all, most of those places offer quite disadvantageous rates. Second of all, why would you need cash? Let us answer you two simple questions here:
Do I need cash in Wroclaw or Poland?
Mostly no! In 98% of all Cafés, Restaurants, Shops, Tours, and where you will be spending money on, credit cards will be accepted. We took 100 PLN from the ATM some months back (!) and still have more than 80 PLN of that.
The only few occasions where you might need cash are when you buy some magnets from the street stalls, if you want to leave a tip for a waiter or in case you intend to make a street musician a little bit more lucky.
In the main market hall, we even paid for two onions with credit card – no problem at all.
Just remember one more thing. Some places will ask you if you prefer to pay in EUR, GBP, USD or whatever local currency you have. Always decline and insist on paying in Polish Zloty (PLN)! In case you pick your local currency, the amount you get charged will be guaranteed. But this security comes at around 7,5% higher charges compared to the payment in PLN. So besides of the guaranteed exchange rate to your local currency you also have a guaranteed rip-off.
Where to exchange money in Wroclaw or Poland?
If you need cash and want to be on the safe side, here is what you should do. Just take a good travel credit card with you and go to the ATM. There you will get the current valid interbank rate – you will not need to worry about being ripped off at one of the exchange offices.
We are using the free N26 MasterCard because with that, no markup is being charged when you pay with it in PLN. If you take out cash the cost is less than the usual 2% from most other banks. As it is an online bank, you can sign up in less than 10 minutes including the ID validation. There is no need to go anywhere else than just staying on your couch. We just use it as separate account.
Sounds easy and straight forward, but regarding ATMs there is just one more catch – you will find out more in the next hint. There is a specific type of ATM you should avoid in Poland…
Where to go if I really need to exchange cash that I have?
Well, we really do not use any money exchange office at all. But according to a comment we received after publishing, the one in the picture above seems to be the most reliable one. That might explain the people lining up… As you can check the exchange rates online here, just compare them before you go.
2. Stay away from the Euronet ATM
Unfortunately as tourist you will be sort of discriminated in Poland. But no worries, not by the Polish people… We need to point our finger to Euronet ATMs!
While owning a credit card that was issued in Poland, you can take out your money on the Euronet ATMs without any additional charges. Unfortunately it looks different for foreigners. When your credit card is registered in a country outside of Poland, you will need to pay transaction charges. Somehow this seems to be legal and the fees are quite high (up to 20 PLN).
We recommend to use the ATMs from regular banks, for example directly at the Market Square you can find ATMs from the Santander Bank. There you will not need to pay any charges to the ATM operator and only your regular bank charges apply. Again, for travelling in Poland we recommend the free N26 MasterCard.
3. Use Ridesharing over Taxi
Taxis do not have the best reputation in all countries and cities all over the planet. I guess we all had situations with drivers that were not really pleasant and we felt ripped off. This is not different in Wroclaw and Poland. Most of the drivers are honest and helpful but still the fares are quite high compared to ridesharing apps.
We as locals use Taxis only if there is no alternative, for example early in the morning or in emergencies. In Wroclaw three ridesharing applications are available. They all are very trustworthy and make sure you will not get scammed. The fare of your ride will be calculated upfront and is fixed. If there are any complaints, they react rapidly and credit you – this is our experience.
Find out more about the Ridesharing-Apps available in Wroclaw in our detailled post on how to get around in Wroclaw. There you also find some discount codes and more useful hints on carsharing and other options available.
4. Know where alcohol outdoors is legal
Be aware that drinking alcohol in public is not prohibited. Yes, you might see some older people in the parks drinking their beer and vodka pretty public…. But the police knows that they can not get a lot from them.
Just imagine as police officer you have the choice between a person where you know there will be no “educational effect” and no money available to pay the fine and a tourist like you. Right, it is clear that they will have a talk with you about the law in Poland…
So better do not drink in public, unless you can and want to afford it. No worries, there is a place in Wroclaw where you can drink legally outdoors. It is the Słodowa Island.
5. Have a few words of Polish available
Come on, it is not very difficult to spend just 15 minutes to learn the most basic Polish words in case you don’t know them yet. We believe in every country that you visit it should be just a matter of respect to have them ready.
Of course there is no need to be perfect but everyone will love you for just trying – especially in Poland, believe us. Here are the most basic words that you will need:
Dzień dobry – Good Morning / Good Afternoon
Cześć – Hi (and bye as well)
Proszę – please
Dziękuję – thank you
Przepraszam – sorry
Tak – yes
Nie – no
Jak się masz? – how are you?
Nie rozumiem – I do not understand
Do widzenia – good bye
Poproszę piwo – A beer, please!
A recommendation for your trip
We always like to carry a small dictionary with us or at least have the most important phrases ready. Check out the „Polish for Dummies“ book, it could be a good investment 😉
Although we normally buy those books for other languages, this seems to provide a great introduction in to the most important things for a little trip.
How to pronounce Polish?
You are right, the pronunciation is always a bit tricky in Slavic languages, and that is why we have included our favourite YouTube-Video to learn the most important things. If you are interested to go beyond basics and learn even more, the Babbel online language learning app has Polish available for you. We also picked a short video for you to listen to the most useful phrases (below on the left).
Another important item if you want to impress some Polish people: Learn how to pronounce Wroclaw. It is not as easy as it seems and we have heard hundreds of versions already for sure. It sounds like Vrrrrrotz-wav. But probably also here is could be easier to listen and repeat… We like the video on the right where you can hear the correct pronunciation but also see a little bit of the city.
6. For a longer stay, get a local sim card
Not sure from which country you are visiting Poland, but most likely the following statement will be true: Mobile data is really cheap in Poland!
Just as example, if you want to buy a free SIM card just with a little bit of data. From Orange you can get 25 GB of mobile data for as little as 50 PLN which is valid for three months. They also have eSIM-Cards available, so in case your phone supports that, it will be even easier.
Just be aware that you will need a passport or valid ID document when you purchase the SIM card. Alternatively if you have a European Union mobile phone contract, roaming is included, so your regular data plans will apply. However in lots of countries, you easily spend 20 times as much to get the same amounts of data – just to be aware.
7. Avoid overpriced restaurants at Rynek
Like in every medium to large sized city, there are very popular areas among tourists – in Wroclaw certainly everything around the main market square (Rynek). Be aware that quite a fair amount of the restaurants in that area make most of their business with tourists. That means potentially lower quality at higher cost…
Of course this is not a general statement as there are some places with excellent quality that we highly recommend and go ourselves. We just strongly advise you to be aware of the restaurants where we as locals go and the ones that do not count on customers returning but foreign people walking in.
Here is the list of restaurants directly around the market square that we recommend:
In addition we highly recommend Bez Lukru which is just a few meters away from the Market Square for amazing plant based food in Wroclaw. And needless to say, check out our section on the best food in Wroclaw where you can find street food snacks but also fine dining and vegetarian options.
8. Understand the history of the city
Take a few moments to read about the history of Wroclaw. The city has changed “owners” quite often and belonged to the Duchy of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Poland, the Duchy of Silesia, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, Weimar Germany, Nazi Germany and finally Poland again.
From that you can see that Wroclaw is a highly international city and highly interesting from a historical perspective as you can see the influence from all those times. The first name of Wroclaw used to be “Vratislavia” and the city mainly consisted out of the today’s cathedral island.
Since then a lot of things happened in the city, you can find much more information on Wikipedia if you want to read the full story. But to give you the key events of the last generations…
Nazi Germany and the Siege of Breslau
During the final attempts of Nazi Germany to defend the city, Hitler declared the city to be a fortress. The Germans defended the city pretty much knowing that there would be no point anymore. Only one week after Hitler killed himself they finally surrendered. During this 3 months lasting “Siege of Breslau” incredible amounts of people died and suffered on all sides.
After the war
Finally the whole population of Breslau (the German name of Wroclaw) was exchanged. As Poland lost territories on the East, majorities of the population from Lviv were relocated to Wroclaw. We are not aware of any other full exchange of population in a city like it happened in Wroclaw.
Then the Soviet Union came which also did not make it much better… But you should keep in mind, that so much suffering happened and some people still can feel this as they are personally connected. We are the 3rd generation after the war and know most of the stories just from our (grand)parents.
Be aware that people still have emotions about it
There are still people out there, who had to leave everything behind and escape from their home. On the other hand, there are Polish people who were afraid that the Germans could come back and try to claim their houses etc. – and they also did not choose to live in Wroclaw but were forced to leave everything behind.
Keep that in mind when you talk about the former German city of Breslau which is the vibrant polish Wroclaw today.
9. Know how to buy a ticket for the bus/tram
Well, normally you would think it is pretty straight forward to buy a ticket on the tram or bus… But we often see confusion when people are not used to the “special process” of buying a tram ticket in Wroclaw. That is why this one minute section is well spent reading time 😉
First of all, you can only pay contactless on the bus/tram itself. Have a credit card ready that works contactless, again we recommend the free N26 card here. If you prefer to pay with cash, you will need to find a little kiosk with a sign “MPK Bilety” or ticket machine which is available at quite some stops, but not all of them.
The second point is to know that you will not get a paper ticket or receipt on the bus/tram if you pay contactless there. In case of a control, you will just show the credit card that you used to pay.
More information on the cheapest ticket (mostly the 15 minute option will be sufficient) is available in our article on how to get around in Wroclaw.
10. Book Sightseeing Tours online
Imagine the following situation. You want to participate in one of the tours offered in Wroclaw, for example the sightseeing tours in electric cars. If you have not heard about them, they are taking you around from one sightseeing point to another and tell you all about the city.
The first option is to approach them directly at Plac Solny where most of them are waiting. They see you are interested and you will get the standard fare of probably 80 PLN. Why should they offer you a discount if they see you are interested?
Check the tour offers online to get a better deal
The second option is to check those tours online and book directly. You will not only get a pickup from your hotel, but also the cheap last minute rates. Of course those companies still prefer to operate a tour at a lower fare than having no tour at all…. And that is the reason very often you can find those tours online for 30-40 PLN which is less than half. Here you can find the latest fares and dates available.
Of course that depends on the demand and during very popular times in Wroclaw (e.g. summer holidays or christmas market) this might not be available – however it is worth to check it out.
This statement of course is also valid for other tours, like going to the Silesian Peace Churches, to Książ Castle, the Auschwitz concentration camp and other places – check out more details for those tours here.
11. Support local artists and brands
For us almost needless to say, but we kindly want to encourage you to support the local community.
Probably at Starbucks you would get the same coffee that you are used to from everywhere, but when it comes to coffee you definitely would miss out soooo much in Wroclaw.
Check our post on the best coffee in Wroclaw to find out more about the vibrant coffee scene in Wroclaw.
How to support the local community
There are great street musicians in the city who really put a lot of love into their music, for example the piano player in summer or the cool dude who plays techno on some self made drums (baskets and kitchen utensils). You can find most of them around the market square of course, or also in the underground crossing close to the shopping gallery “Galeria Dominikańska”.
You are looking for some cool souvenirs? We recommend to check out the “Stare Jatki” area which used to be old butcher’s stalls. Today those former stalls are hosting little art galleries.
Looking for posters or postcards? Check out the Polish Poster Gallery or the nowe horyzonty cinema – find our more in our article about the most alternative things to do in Wroclaw. And if you are lucky, our friend Nastia is on tour selling her great artistic works – check out her FB page from LOOK IN A. And if you want to buy some awesome handmade jewellery from Wroclaw check out Kasia’s shop. If you like our pictures, you find our external shop in the navigation on the top where you can get some cool prints.
A cool Wroclaw calendar!
How do you feel about a really cool photography calendar of Wroclaw? We invested a lot of time to make it possible and crafted one – the perfect gift!
We have two versions, one about the main sightseeing attractions and another one which is connected to the Oder River 🙂
12. Avoid the pretty girls at the market square
If you happen to walk around the market square in the evening, alone as male, or in group of males, something magic will happen. Most likely you will be approached by a very nice lady who will be inviting you for a special offer and one free drink. Don’t go, and here is why:
Of course those ladies are paid to lure you into a shady club… But there are plenty of stories how foreigners last consciousness and woke up somewhere outside with credit card bills over 5000 EUR and more.
In Wroclaw, there were even deaths related to strip clubs as some of the people leaving after their experience were not able to walk home anymore and drowned in the Odra river – Wroclaw still is the city of bridges and water. Therefore take our advise: It is not worth it!
We hope that our post on the 12 things you should avoid in Wroclaw helped you to prepare your trip to Poland. Again, in Poland there are not many tourist traps, but it will be good to be aware of these basic things for you to enjoy the trip.
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