Our experience of cycle touring in Poland is confined to the regions of Wielkopolska and Pomerania. Therefore we can only go on our experiences in those regions however I suspect things are generally the same for most of the country. Poland has a lot to offer for the cycletourist as the roads in the countryside are generally quiet and the surfaces are generally in good condition, although in some villages there are some cobbled streets. There is a wealth of unspoilt country side with tremendous opportunities to see European wildlife not seen in most parts of Europe i.e. Wild Boar, Sea Eagles, Beavers, European Bison to name but a few.
Poland does have some National Cycle Routes which are reasonably well marked they generally use quiet roads but do take you on to the main roads occasionally. On the bigger main roads there is a small section of the road the other side of the broken white line which is for slower traffic such as tractors and trabbies, this makes an excellent cycle lane. Very useful as the Polish drivers are not ones for slowing down and respecting cyclists!
Poland has only a few National cycle routes and they are generally well marked and use these sign conventions:
Some local authorities have there own marked cycle routes, but they don't use a uniform sign. They can be as simple as these stencil painted symbols and colour codes.
Polish campsites are classified into 3 categories and the category rating generally depends on the level of facilities offered. There are just over 500 campsites in Poland of which 276 are category 1 & 2. Category 1 sites are the best and category 3 sites may just be a grass bivouac sites with little in the way of facilities! Facilities on Polish campsites are generally on a par with our UK mediocre sites (Don't expect quite the luxurious sites that you might find in Denmark and Sweden say), in the less popular areas wash rooms may be a bit on the ancient side but generally clean. One plus for Polish camping is that generally everything is inclusive, hot water and showers being free. Sites are generally only open from May - September, although there are a few that are open all year round.
Another alternative to the main campsites are the ECEAT- Poland(European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism in Poland) ecotourist farms, these are small farms where farming is on a small scale and done in an environmental way. They offer B&B accommodation and small campgrounds. If you go to www.poland.eceat.org there is information and details of all the farms and a link to the EcoTraveller Catalog which lists them all. These are great sites, we stayed on one just north of Poznan, we were lucky in that the owner spoke good English and it was a good way to find out about the Polish people and their culture, we enjoyed it so much we stayed for a week!
Maciek Ostaszewski who lives in Poland, send me the following comment on Campsites:
'Besides campsites you can ask local people (especially villagers) if you can place a tent in their garden or near their house. I think most people will allow you to do this, some may even offer you a better place to sleep than a tent!. It is acceptable to offer some money, but not everyone will accept it.'
Polski Campingi / Polish Camp-sites
Cost @ 5.60Zlt ISBN 83-903085-8-4
This booklet published by the PFCC ( Polska Federacje Campingu i Caravanigu) lists all the Cat. 1 & 2 sites and gives details of each sites address, opening times and the facilities offered, (in symbol form with an English translation). From our experience take the ratings with a pinch of salt and don't rely to heavily on the information being totally accurate and up to date! This booklet can be obtained from some of the larger sites and from most tourist offices in the bigger towns.
Polska Mapa Campingów 1:750,000
Cost @7.20Zlt ISBN 83-7000-272-2
This map shows all the Cat. 1 & 2 sites and has details of all the facilities offered on the back in symbol form with an English translation. Again from our experience take the ratings with a pinch of salt and don't rely to heavily on the information being totally accurate and up to date!
These are not easy to get hold of in local areas, unless you are near a National Park area, where they are available in the Tourist Offices and some shops. Otherwise you will only find them available in the really large cities. HP produce an Atlas of Poland 1:300,000 it has enough detail to navigate on the minor roads, but doesn't show any of the tracks. You will need to go to a big city to buy the Mapa Topografica Polski 1:100,000. These maps cover the whole of Poland and hold allot of detail. The Tourist Offices usually have a good selection at 6.90Zlt each.
The Mapa topograficzna Polski 1:100,000 maps.
These maps cover the whole of Poland and are well drawn with a wealth of detailed including tourist information with a legend in English. There only draw back is the small area covered, you will need quite a few to cover a long tour.
To obtain maps before you go touring try contacting 'The Map shop', they hold a good selection in stock and are very helpful.
The Rough Guide to Poland - Published by Rough Guides ISBN 1-85828-168-7 A very useful guide to all things in Poland, although like all guide books it just depends where the writers have been. There was very little information on regions of Wielkapolkas and Pomerania and interesting places such as the Dravinski National Park not mentioned at all.
Shopping in Poland is more on a par with the Denmark in that most shops open weekdays 10.00-5.30pm and most non food shops close early on Saturdays at 12.00 or 1.00pm. How ever most food shops now seem to open later and there is usually at least one shop in the towns that is open from 7.30-23.00 everyday including Sundays.
It is perfectly feasible to take your bikes on the Polish trains, we have used it several times there are some slight problems see our page 'Trains in Poland' to find out.
Unfortunately there are no ferries to Germany any more so your only options now is to fly to Poland and there are flights to Poland from the UK using various operators.
British Airways - Flights to Warsaw and Poznan.
Czech Airlines - Flights to Warsaw and Krakow.
Jet2.com - Flights to Krakow.
Lot - Polish airlines, flights to Warsaw.
Ryan air - Flights to Katowice, Lodz, Bydgoszcz, Rzeszow, Szczecin, Kracow, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw & Warsaw
Wizz Air - Fly direct to Katowice/Cracow, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw & Warsaw from Doncaster Sheffield.
- Many of the campsites are often near water so there are plenty of mosquitos, bring mosquitos repellent.
- Camping Gas 90g disposable canisters are nigh on impossible to find on campsites and in the small towns, you will need to go to the bigger cities. There is chain of outdoor shops called "Campus", they usually stock them (www.campus.com.pl). So bring plenty cartridges or use paraffin or petrol stoves.
- Generally most of the roads in Poland are not too bad, however some of the minor roads are still cobbled and hard work and slow going. Some of the roads are just tarmac over the cobbles and can still be quite bumpy. Polish road mending can be a bit hap hazard and in some cases there is so much tar on the road that in really hot weather it can be quite sticky and you can really feel the drag.
- Driving for the Polish is a relatively recent activity due to the previous lack of private cars, therefore take extreme care on busy narrow roads as their new found freedom seems to prevent them from slowing down and being considerate to cyclists.
- There are cycle shops in most of the larger towns and cities, however the choice of spares is limited and you would have great difficulty in obtaining tryes for 700c wheels, so carry a spare.
- Poland Home Page - This is the official government Polish site as has some useful links under Tourism section. (in English)
- Exotic Poland - Website containing some excellent information on cycling in Eastern Poland, with a route description and gallery of photos for a route that follows the Eastern border of Poland and a good practical hints on cycling in Poland page. there is also a good phrase book section which is very useful and worth printing off before you go. (in English)
- Travel for You - This is a Polish travel organisation and has information on tourist locations, hotels and accomodation. (in English)
- GoPoland! Web Travel Guide to Poland - This is one of the best sites for information on all aspects of Poland. (in English)
- Polskie Koleje Panstwowe - The web site of the Polish State Railways. (see our page on 'Trains in Poland' for more detail)
- The Map shop, 15 High Street, Upton-upon-Severn, Worcs. WR8 0HJ England
Tel: 01684-593146 Fax:01684-594559