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If you are flying into Poland from abroad, it's mostly likely that you will fly into Warsaw. The city's Okęcie Airport, also known as Fryderyka Chopina International Airport, is the largest airport in Poland, with about 70% of all the air traffic into and out of the country. About 80 daily international fights—as well as many charter flights—connect Warsaw with the rest of the world. You can fly nonstop from Warsaw to Chicago, Newark, New York–JFK, and Toronto. In addition, most European airlines connect Warsaw with the U.S. The new Etiuda Terminal serves most of the "low-cost" airlines that operate flights within Europe. The flying time from New York to Warsaw is approximately 9 hours, from London approximately 2½ hours. A much smaller airport in Łódź is served by Ryanair; most other flights here are domestic.
Warsaw's Okęcie Airport, also known as Fryderyka Chopina International Airport, is 7 km (4½ miles) south of the city center and has the most international flights into and out of Poland.
The direct route to downtown, where almost all the hotels are, is along Żwirki i Wigury and Raszyńska streets. The "airport–city" bus leaves from Platform 4 outside Terminal 1 every 20 minutes and stops at all the major hotels as well as the Central Station. Tickets cost zł 6, and the trip takes about 25 minutes. Alternatively, Bus 175 leaves Okęcie about every 10 minutes (at night, Bus 611 is much less frequent). It also runs past most major downtown hotels and is reliable and cheap, but beware of pickpockets. Purchase tickets for zł 2.40 at an airport RUCH kiosk. If your immediate destination is not Warsaw, Polski Express has direct service from Okęcie to major Polish cities. Avoid at all costs the taxi hawkers and unmarked vehicles (which have no number at the top) outside the arrivals hall: not only are these cabs expensive but they can also be dangerous. Your best bet is to call a radio taxi from one of the radio taxi kiosks in the arrivals area, or call your hotel in advance and have them pick you up. A cab ride into the city should cost about zł 25 (most hotel taxis have higher, fixed rates, of approximately zł 50).
Łódź Lublinek Airport is located southwest of the city center, about a 10-minute drive. It can be reached by public transportation (Bus L from the Main Railway Station; also bus number 55 via Piotrkowska Street and number 65 from Łódź Kaliska, the city's second railway station). A cab ride from the airport to the city center should cost about zł 20 to zł 25.
Warsaw's main bus station, Dworzec PKS Zachodni, 10 minutes from Central Station on Bus 127 or 130, serves most long-distance routes, both domestic and international. Domestic buses headed east leave from Dworzec PKS Stadion on the east bank of the Vistula. The private long-distance bus service Polski Express, which goes to most major destinations within Poland, arrives and departs from Jana Pawła II Station, between Central Station and the Holiday Inn. Polski Express also has a stop at the airport.
The Łódź central bus station (Dworzec Centralny PKS) is connected to the Łódź Fabryczna train station; it's also within a 15-minute walk of Piotrkowska Street. Both regular buses and Polski Express buses stop there. The north bus terminal (Dworzec Północny) is approximately 1 km from the city center (tram number 5 will take you to the town center) and is served by regular buses only.
Within the city, a car is more of a problem than a convenience. Particularly in Warsaw, traffic jams are frequent and parking problematic, with a significant threat of theft—of contents, parts, or the entire car—if you leave a Western model unattended. If you do bring your car, park it overnight in a guarded parking garage.
A car can be a useful independent means of transportation if you are planning to travel around Mazovia to explore the countryside and off-the-beaten-track sights. For example, you may wish to follow the route from Warsaw to Łódź via Żelazowa Wola, Arkadia, Niebórow, Łowicz, and Tum.
Major international car-rental agencies have offices in both Warsaw's and Łódź's city center and at the airports as well.
In Warsaw, it is always best to use the services of radio taxi because these are the most reliable and because the operators usually speak English. This is also true in Łódź. The standard charge is about zł 5 to zł 7 for the first kilometer (½ mile) and zł 1.30 to zł 2 for each kilometer thereafter (about 50% more at night and during holidays). You do not need to tip taxi drivers, although you can round up the fare to the nearest złoty. Avoid unmarked Mercedes cabs as well as taxis that do not have a number and a name of a company you know on the top. Those "independent" taxis are likely to charge far more than the going rate.
In Warsaw, a trip on a city bus costs zł 2.40. There are also timed tickets: zł 3.60 for up to 60 minutes, zł 4.50 for up to 90 minutes, and zł 6 for up to 120 minutes. A 1-day pass is zł 7.20, 3-day pass, zł 12, and a 7-day pass, zł 24. There are additional charges for large pieces of luggage. Purchase tickets from RUCH kiosks or directly from bus drivers (zł 0.60 surcharge), and validate one in the machine on the bus for each ride. Buses that halt at all stops along their route are numbered 100 and up. Express buses are numbered from E-1 and up. Buses numbered 500–599 stop at selected stops. You can check details on the bus stop's information board. Night buses (numbered 600 and up) operate between 11 pm and 5:30 am; the fare is three tickets. Buses can be very crowded, and you should beware of pickpockets.
Trams are the fastest means of public transport since they are not affected by traffic holdups but are also often crowded. Purchase tickets from RUCH kiosks or tram operators, and validate one ticket in the machine on the tram for each ride. Trams run on a north–south and east–west grid system along most of the main city routes, pulling up automatically at all stops. Each tram has a transit mapof the system.
Warsaw's underground opened in spring 1995. Although it has only one line, which connects the southern suburbs (Kabaty) and northern suburbs (Marymont) to the city center, it is clean and fast and costs the same as the tram or bus. Use the same tickets, validating them at the entrance to the station.
In Łódź, the public transportation network of trams and buses is well developed, and there is a system of timed tickets (zł 1.70 up to 10 minutes, zł 2.40 up to 30 minutes, zł 3.60 up to 60 minutes, zł 4.80 up to 120 minutes, and zł 9.60 for a 24-hour pass). If you buy your ticket on the tram or the bus, there is a zł 0.50 surcharge. You can also buy tickets from a ticket machine (though not yet at every stop and only in some trams/buses) or from most newspaper kiosks around town (probably the easiest option). As in Warsaw, remember to validate your ticket on entering a bus or a tram.
As the name implies, Warsaw's Warszawa Centralna (Central Station) is right in the heart of the city, between the Marriott and Holiday Inn hotels, and next to the Palace of Culture. Beware of pickpockets and muggers who prey on passengers as they board or leave trains. Most trains from Warszawa Centralna stop on their way out in Warszawa Wschodnia, Warszawa Zachodnia, or Warszawa Gdańska, or Warszawa Wileńska—depending on their direction.
In Łódź, the main station is Łódź Fabryczna, within a 15-minute walk from the central Piotrkowska Street. Łódź Kaliska is a suburban station west of the city center.
You can purchase train tickets at the train station or at travel agencies, including Orbis. You can also buy tickets on the train (there is a small surcharge), but be warned: old-fashioned regulations require you to notify the train attendant before you actually get on that train if you need to purchase a ticket on board—otherwise you may have to pay a penalty. Tickets can also be bought online, and the full train timetable (rozkład jazdy pociągów) is available on the Web site of Polskie Koleje Państwowe, the Polish national rail company.
Tours of either city or the country can be booked at major hotels or through the agencies directly. Tourist Information Offices can provide contact for organized tours and suggest self-guided tours (ask for free booklets and maps).
The Warsaw City Information & Promotion Center is open every day from 8 to 8 May through September, from 8 to 6 October through April. There are branches at the arrivals hall of Warsaw's airport and the Central Railway Station.
Warsaw Tourist & Cultural Information Center (Palace of Culture & Science, Plac Defilad 1, Śródmieście, Warsaw 022/656–68–54 www.e-warsaw.pl).
Warsaw Tourist & Cultural Information Center (Palace of Culture & Science, Plac Defilad 1, Śródmieście, Warsaw. 022/194–31.)
Warsaw Tourist Information (pl. Zamkowy 1, Stare Miasto, Warsaw 022/635–18–81).
Warsaw Tourist Information (pl. Zamkowy 1, Stare Miasto, Warsaw, 00-262. 022/635–18–81.)