If you’re looking for a city with a taste of the unexpected, Warsaw won’t disappoint.
The Polish capital is a city of fascinating contrasts: Modernist architecture stands alongside Gothic splendour. You could be eating local potato pancakes and red borscht soup one night, and an Argentinian steak the next. Posh vodka bars line pretty cobbled market squares.
And it’s not just the 1.740 million residents that are full of the city’s eclectic charms. Warsaw is now being viewed as a great tourist destination in its own right. Poland regularly attracts over 1.2 million visitors a year and the capital is one of the country’s top cultural attractions.
If you’re visiting for business or pleasure, you’ll still need to get your hands on some zloty, the local currency. Follow this guide to making sure you get the best deal on your money and don’t get ripped off.
Warsaw is rich with history and the city wears its scars with pride. The old part of the town is packed with beautiful baroque architecture, not to mention the Krasinsky gardens are a leafy haven among the cobblestones.
For the musically inclined, Warsaw has plenty of festivals and live music venues. The city is the home of the Polish National Opera, but you’ll have no trouble catching a great jazz or indie band. The city is also known for its thriving electronic music scene.
And you can’t visit without seeing the famous Mermaid of Warsaw statue. Legend has it is that the creature is sworn to defend her home city from invaders with her sword and shield.
Before you head off to exchange your cash, get educated on what the mid market exchange rate means. It’s the real exchange rate that banks use to trade between themselves on the global financial market and it’s the same rate you’ll find on Google.
That mid market exchange rate (also called an interbank rate) constantly fluctuates. Factors like a country’s political instability, inflation over time and even local government debt all affect it. If you’re curious, you can always follow the news for a heads up when financial turmoil may be in the future. It changes minute to minute, so don’t be surprised if you check the rate one day, and it’s changed quite a bit a few days later.
To help you know what your money is actually worth before you hand it over, use a currency converter online to check. This way you’ll know exactly how many Polish Zloty to expect for your cash.
Beware of offers of ‘no commission’ or ‘free’. There’s no free currency exchange - no matter what they advertise. They almost always add their fees into a bad exchange rate.
ATMs are usually your best option for currency exchange in Warsaw. As long as you’re charged in the local Polish currency, you should hopefully be getting a good deal. Choosing to be charged in the local currency means your bank bank home gives you an exchange rate (and generally a quite fair one). Choosing the option to be charged or view the transaction in your home currency (called Dynamic Currency Conversion) means inadvertently giving the Polish bank permission to give you their own exchange rate - which is generally much poorer than the rate your bank at home would have given you.
Avoid airport and hotel exchange services. Though they may be convenient, sadly, they’re usually the worst places to exchange your money. Travellers are targets for vendors using unreasonable exchange rates to squeeze more cash from you. Buy currency at home before you travel, or seek out more affordable options outside the airport or resort.
Don’t waste money getting your foreign currency re-exchanged back. Vendors make sure that rates are in their favour, leaving you with less cash than you might think. A better option is to use your Polish currency soaking up some culture at the Center for Contemporary Art. Or spend a night crawling Warsaw’s vibrant bars – Level 27 is a club well-known for its dazzling views of the city and incredible cocktails.
Exchanging your currency for Polish Zloty needn’t be a painful process. There are plenty of options, whether buying in advance of travelling, or in Warsaw itself. Below are some of the most popular options.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the below will still make a charge for currency conversion. Take a look at our currency converter for today’s mid-market rate.
|Kantors with Alior Bank||Multiple locations throughout Warsaw. Check Alior’s online branch locator to find the closest one to you.|
|Bank Pekao||Multiple branches throughout the city.|
|International Currency Exchange||Locations at Warsaw Modlin & Warsaw airports.|
The cost of exchanging your money into Polish Zloty will depend on the currency provider that you choose. Using a credit card at an ATM will usually get you the best price. Withdrawing from an ATM also beats spending on a credit card, which can lead to an added fee for international purchases, depending on your provider.
And while exchanging currency at a vendor in Warsaw may seem like the easiest option, be wary. Make sure you ask exactly how much money they’ll give you before paying over.
A trip to Warsaw doesn’t have to cause a dent in your bank balance. While the capital is more expensive than the rest of Poland, you can easily find cheaper eats alongside fine dining establishments. Momencik is a vegan burrito restaurant selling meat-free Mexican food at excellent prices. Or try Barn Burger to satisfy carnivorous cravings without eating away at your budget. A bottle of local Polish lager will cost around £1.62 or $2.
Warsaw also has an excellent public transport system, including a Metro which runs through until the early hours. An all-day bus ticket is also great value, allowing unlimited travel to anywhere in the city for a fixed-rate price.
Whether you’re browsing the coffee shops in Castle Square or taking a guided vodka tour, you’ll want to get the best exchange rates for your trip. ATMs are plentiful in the centre of Warsaw and are still the easiest and cheapest way to get cash.
If you’re someone who plans things ahead and you happen to know someone in Warsaw with a bank account already, a better option is actually to use TransferWise. TransferWise offers you the actual mid-market rate you find on Google, and because the system uses two local bank transfers, it means that the expensive international bank fees are also cut out, too.
The most important thing is to enjoy your stay in Warsaw, whether it be short or long.
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