For a long time Poland was one of the most overlooked and underrated countries in Europe, but in recent years this amazing place has quite rightly found itself on the radars of young travelers looking for a 10/10 destination that won’t break the bank. As well as being a super affordable place to visit, Poland is absolutely packed with culture, history and fun things to do, making it a must-visit country for student travelers.
How to enjoy Poland on a Budget
Compared to its European neighbors – particularly ones to the west, like Germany and France – Poland is far less of a burden on the purse strings, and you can opt for budget options, whether traveling in-destination or finding a place to rest your head for the night.
Poland’s excellent and vast rail network makes getting around the country a breeze, with every major town, city and region connected. Combined with the (very) reasonably priced tickets, traveling by train is the perfect choice for students on a budget. For example, the direct train from Warsaw to Krakow (and vice versa) takes just three hours and will set you back a mere 45 PLN (about $11).
Food & drink
Generally speaking, food and drink throughout Poland is super affordable, but to get the most bang for your buck ignore the touristy spots and eat and drink where the locals do. Not only will you save money, but you’ll enjoy an authentic experience while doing it. Look out for the ‘Milk Bars’ (aka bar mleczny) – these are basic cafeterias that mainly operate in daytime hours and serve generous home cooked Polish meals, like tomato soup, golabki (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat) and placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes served with mushroom source).
Poland is brimming with vibrant and awesomely cheap accommodation, mainly in the form of hostels. You’ll have the most choice in the main cities, like Warsaw and Krawkow, but hostels are dotted throughout the whole country, so there will always be something on offer. If you’re on a super tight budget and don’t mind sharing a room, you can get a bed for as little as 25 PLN ($6) a night in a dorm.
What to see and do in Poland
There are HEAPS of amazing things to see and do in Poland for students and young travelers. History majors (and all round culture vultures) will be in their element in the stunningly beautiful cities of Krakow and Warsaw, while those looking for adventures are well catered for too.
Although there are specific points of interest in Krakow, some of which require an entry fee, the best thing you can do as a literal first step is simply explore the Old Town on foot, which doesn’t cost a cent. Wander around Rynek Glowny, the 800-year-old public square that forms the beating heart of the city; find a bargain at the Cloth Hall, a beautiful colonnaded marketplace that also has a Polish art museum; and grab a selfie in front of the iconic, two-towered St Mary’s Basilica.
Other highlights that require a small, completely-worth-it fee to explore include the Wawel Royal Castle complex and the Rynek Underground Museum.
Much like with Krakow, the first – and free – port of call in Warsaw is to head out on foot to get a real feel for the place. You could start in Castle Square in the center of the Old Town, make your way past the Royal Castle and then towards the Old Town Market Place. From there, head to the Warsaw Barbican and then to the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising Fighters. Then head over to Krasinski Palace, then St Anne’s Church, before finishing at the Presidential Palace. Smacznego!
Poland is famed for being an incredibly flat country, which means many overlook it as a hiking destination, but you can actually find some epic scenery in the south, where the Tatra Mountains rise up to form the border between Poland and Slovakia. This whole area is crisscrossed with frankly world class trails, and all are free to explore, making this activity perfect for student travelers in Poland on a budget.