The climate in Warsaw (humid continental) is similar to what you would experience in the Northeastern United States or eastern Canada. Winters are cold and summers are warm, while spring and autumn are mild. Expect to see snow from late November to the end of March. There is not usually a huge difference between night and day temperature. Rain is not uncommon. Come prepared.
For more on packing for a long-term stay abroad, see SRAS's Packing List (written mostly with Russia in mind, but still helpful for Poland).
Milk Bars are Polish cafeterias known for being cheap sources of traditional Polish food. For more one these culturally rich establishments, click here. Examples in central Warsaw include Bar Prasowy (Marszałkowska 10/16), Mleczarnia Jerozolimska (ul. Emilii Plater 47), and Bar Bambino (Krucza 21).
Polish food can be found at Zapiecek which has various locations, but the one on Nowy Świat 64, one of the city’s main drags, is recommendable. Pierogarnia (ul. Bednarska 28/30) is a good and reasonably-priced pierogi (like stuffed bread or pie) place near the Old Town. Czerwony Wieprz ("The Red Hog;" ul. Żelazna 68) is a sort of kitschy, retro restaurant in a Polish-Communist setting.
Fast food can be found across Warsaw. Those into foodtruck culture should definitely check out MyFoodTruck.pl, which tracks Warsaw's various trucks. Zapiexy (Widok 19) is one of the most popular joints for Zapiekanki. Zapiexy, the name of the joint, is Warsaw slang for Zapiekanka, which are basically mini Polish pizzas on oval shaped bread and typically topped with cheese and mushrooms, although you can get nearly any toppings you want. If you are missing out on fried food (particularly fries) and McDonalds or KFC isn’t your thing, the Fabryka Frytek (“The Fry Factory;” Złota 3 or Waryńskiego 9) is the place to go. They specialize in Belgian-style fries and have multiple locations in Warsaw.
Coffee is big in Warsaw. Kawiarnia Kafka (ul. Oboźna 3) is a hip student café near the campus of the University of Warsaw. You’ll find yourself surrounded by bookshelves lined with books (many in English) and students. E. Wedel (Emilii Plater 49) is Poland’s most famous chocolate manufacturer and they have coffee shops with delicious European-style hot chocolate (basically melted chocolate in a cup) – the original store (opened in 1851 by E. Wedel himself) is in Warsaw at 8 Szpitalna. F30 (Francuska 30) is a popular café in Praga (east of the river) on Francuska street (thus "F30") where you can drink coffee outside under a canopy of umbrellas in the warmer months. Other major coffee chains scattered about Warsaw are Green Café Nero, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Tchibo, and Grycan (known for their icecream).
For the Homesick, you might try La Fiesta Bar (Foksal 21), which specializes in Mexican or the Pink Flamingo (ul. Lirowa 42 Park Szczęśliwicki), a 50s-style diner tucked away in a park and a longtime staple for Warsaw's expats.
Music can be found at Warszawa Powisle (Leona Kruczkowskiego 3B), a café/bar located in the old ticket office of the Warsaw Powisle train station. There is almost always live music playing there and is definitely recommended. Café Kulturalna (Plac Defilad 1) is located inside the Palace of Culture and Science and certainly worth a trip. There is always good music playing there, often live.
Vegetarian food can be found around around Warsaw and even in traditional Polish cooking (look for cabbage or potato-based foods. Make sure to check out Krowarzywa (Marszałkowska 27/35A or ul. Hoża 42), which sells vegan burgers that are delicious. There is always a line but it’s worth it. W gruncie rzeczy (ul. Hoża 62) have cheap and very tasty soups and vegan cakes.
Giant supermarket chains - Tesco (Młynarska 8/12), Carrefour (Aleje Jerozolimskie 57), Piotr und Paweł (Stawki 2A) (these grocery stores are akin to Walmart, with a range of goods in addition to groceries).
Vegetarian Foods – can be found at all of the above supermarket chains, particularly at the larger ones.
Antiques and Souvenirs – Look for Cepelia, a reasonably priced chain of stores specializing in Polish folk art, ceramic, and other souvenirs. There is one across from the Palace of Science and Culture at Marszałkowska 99/101 and at plac Konstytucji 5.
Reading, Electronics, and more can be found at Empik stores, including books in English.
Shopping Malls are common in Warsaw and can serve most of your clothing and electronics needs. Some of the biggest and most central in Warsaw include Złote Tarasy, which is across from the main train station and the Palace of Culture, Galeria Mokotów (ul. Wołoska 12), Arkadia (al. Jana Pawła II 82).
Mobile Phones: Cheap prepaid plans are available at major phone providers in Poland: Orange, Play, T-Mobile. All three have branded shops where you can buy inexpensive cell phones. Play is currently the market leader in terms of offering discount prices.
Free WiFi is everywhere in Warsaw. The train stations and shopping malls as well as most coffee shops/cafes offer it. The whole of downtown Warsaw is also basically a giant free hotspot. Check out this map.
Post: The main post office in Warsaw is at ul. Świętokrzyska 31/33. It is open 24/7. You can find other a post office near you by typing in your address here.
Finding housing: A couple of website to help with finding longer-term housing in Warsaw include this Facebook group and this one, which is technically for ERASMUS students but other international students use it too.
Haircuts: A list of affordable hairdressers in Warsaw can be found at Fryzjer.me. Most hairdressers and barbers won’t be able to speak much English though, so bring a picture of what you want your hair to look like.
Charitable Giving: You can give used items to Caritas, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church in Poland. They are headquartered at Krakowskie Przedmieście 62 in Warsaw but have big bins labelled “Caritas” throughout the city, especially in residential areas. Your items will be distributed to those in need.
For important information on budgets and finances, please read this page.
ATMs are widely available in Warsaw. Just make sure you call your bank to let them know you are travelling (they will likely block you card if you use it in a different country without telling them).
Sending Money from Home: Many banks now offer Western Union and MoneyGram wire-transfer services. However, if you can wait a couple of days, having someone deposit money into your account at home (which can be done by just mailing a check with instructions and your account number to the bank) and then withdrawing the money from a trusted ATM is cheaper.
The water in Warsaw is safe to drink. Bottled water is cheap and widely available.
Doctors and Dentists: Healthcare International Family Practice (Tel: 48228580101) offers doctors and nurses that speak English. Any procedure that cannot be billed directly to the insurance that SRAS students are issued can be reimbursed. They are located at Ul. Choragwi Pancernej 50 in Warsaw.
Pharmacies: The best list of larger, 24-hour pharmacies is provided by the US Embassy in Warsaw. You can also go to your local “apteka” and there will most likely be a pharmacist there who can speak to you in English.
Fitness: For outside running, try the Wisla River front or one of Warsaw’s various parks (Park Łazienkowski and Ogród Saski are particularly recommended). If you are looking for an actual gym where you can lift weights, try Jatomi Fitness, particularly the one on ul. Widok 26. Jatomi is one of the most affordable gyms in town and is across the street from the Palace of Science and Culture.
Concerts, etc.: For most events, you can find information online at kulturalna.warszawa.pl and even buy tickets online. The Empik bookstore in Złote Tarasy (the mall by the main train station) also sells tickets for events, shows, concerts etc in Warsaw. Just go by and see what’s going on.
Movies in English: most blockbuster films will be shown in English with Polish subtitles. Basically every mall has a Cinema but a nice list of other theaters can be found here.
Metro: There are now 2 metro lines in Warsaw. One that runs north-south and another shorter east-west line (that goes under the river). It runs from 5am until 1am Sunday-Thursday and from 5am until 3am on Friday and Saturday. You can find out more information about Warsaw’s public transportation system here.
Bikes: There is a good city bike system in Warsaw that is available from about March until November. You can register online and the first hour every day is free.
Buses: Day buses run from 5am until 11pm with special night lines servicing the rest of the remaining hours of the day. Jaktojade.pl has an excellent navigation function for figuring out bus routes. It also has a downloadable app.
From the Airport: There are city buses that service the Chopin airport as well as a regular train service that can get you directly to Warszawa Centralna in under 20 minutes. You can buy a standard ZTM 20 minute ticket from the vending machine at the airport for 3.4 PLN and get to town very cheaply.
Catholic: Warsaw and Poland is overwhelmingly Catholic so if you are Catholic you’ll have no problem finding a mass at pretty much anytime of the day. You can search for a mass by time or address here. If you’re looking for an English mass, then it might be slightly harder, but there is one English-speaking church community at ul. Solidarności 80 see their Facebook page for details.
Jewish: The only surviving synagogue in Warsaw that still serves as a daily place of prayer and worship is the Nożyk Synagogue at ul Twarda 6.
Warsaw is in Central Poland with great connections to essentially everywhere in Poland, so you could pretty much do a day trip to anywhere…but here are a couple of easier ones.
Lublin – Shortly the capital of Poland after WW2 (one of the first cities to be captured by the Soviets), Lublin still has a small but beautiful Old Town with a castle. Majdanek, one of the largest Nazi concentration camps in Poland, is also inside the city limits and easily accessible by city bus. You can take the older PKP “intercity” train directly from Warsaw to Lublin or the modern comfortable Polskibus (for less, if you book ahead of time).
Torun – Also located on the Vistula river, Torun is the hometown of Nicolaus Copernicus. First built as a stronghold of the German Teutonic Knights, the castle long since been torn down but its ruins remain along with a significant part of the wall and the stunningly beautiful Old Town. Definitely worth a trip. Again both PKP trains and Polskibus offer direct connections.
Krakow – Krakow was the royal capital of Poland and arguably its cultural capital today. Wawel Castle is one of Poland’s largest and most impressive structures but the entire Old Town is gorgeous. For more on Krakow, see this great article from SRAS. If you’ll stay for two days in Krakow, day trips are also possible from Krakow to Auschwitz and Wieliczka (the former royal salt mine). Kazimierz (the city’s Jewish district) and Nowa Huta (a planned utopian Communist city) are also both neighborhoods worth checking out. You can get there with the standard, cheap commuter trains (there’s a new premium “pendolino” train connection), Polskibus, and the luxurious LuxExpress bus.
Malbork – Malbork or Marienburg was the capital of Teutonic Knights’ medieval Prussian state and the largest medieval brick structure in the world. It remains the largest brick structure in Europe today (despite being largely in ruins after WWII) and is also the largest castle in Europe (or the world for that matter). You can now get there directly from Warsaw with PKP’s premium “pendolino” train.
Gdańsk - Visit the Solidarity Centre, Gdańsk Shipyard and Westerplatte.
Sopot is probably the most famous beach in Poland.