I have found myself sending this information over and over again through the better part of the last decade, so just to make it easier for me, here is the all the things you need to know when you travel to Gdańsk article. Enjoy.
The map of tourist attractions and interesting places (in my opinion :) is not updated too often (last time in 2015?), but it should serve as a good starting point.
Each place marked on the map has a short history or interesting things about it. I used self-explanatory markups. In case you are interested in something else that is not on the map, let me know.
As for the sightseeing, the Old Town does not have much public transport running through it (except circular line 100 every 20 minutes), so all the places have to be visited by foot.
- Use JakDojade - a smartphone app with tickets, timetables and route finding.
- Get 72-hour metropolitan tickets. Available in the app or in major train station ticket offices.
- Do not keep valuable things in your pockets.
- Have € and convert it to PLN in Poland; or make card payments in PLN.
The transport system is quite good in the whole metropolitan area. As it runs in a totally different manner than the one in Finland, here are some useful hints.
- The buses, trams, trains and trolley buses halt at *every* stop on their route. No need to press buttons or wave hands. There are some exceptions to that rule ("conditional stops"), but you will probably not use them on your way. Note: night bus lines have conditionals stops everywhere except the terminal stops and train stations.
- You enter the bus, tram, train or trolley bus with any door you like. No need to show the ticket to anyone upon entering. From time to time a ticket check may be done, but it is done by external people (they have to have their ids visible).
- You exit with any door you like. In some buses, trams or trains, when the vehicle stops, you have to press a button next to the door to open it.
- Timetables seen on the stops show time for that particular stop (pretty much as it is now in Turku). As a rule, the transportation is quite punctual. The timetables differ for days of the week. The first timetable shows the regular working day, the last - Sunday and holiday. If there are more, the second-last shows Saturday. Otherwise Saturday uses Sunday timetable.
- Night buses and trains run every day. The departures and arrivals of buses and city trains are correlated at the main railways stations in Gdańsk and Gdynia, giving you needed time for a transfer. Unless you use tourist tickets (24- or 72-hour tickets), the fare for the night buses is different, than in the day service. The fare for night trains is the same as for the day trains.
- When you enter the bus, tram or trolley bus, you have to immediately validate your ticket in a validating machine, unless the ticket is already validated. The machine prints date and time that starts the validity of a ticket. So with 24/72-hour ticket you validate it at the beginning of the first journey. When the validity time ends, you have to use another ticket and validate it on the first ride. If the validity ends while you are inside the vehicle, you have to exit on the next stop, or validate the next ticket immediately. The word "immediately" is a key, as often people do not do it right away and often get caught by ticket controlling teams. There is a validating machine near every door in the vehicle. If some does not work, you have to use another. Having a non-validated or invalid ticket counts as travelling without a ticket.
- Note that the above point does not mention city trains. If you use those, you have to validate the ticket before you enter the train. If you plan to use 24- or 72-hour tickets, it is recommended that you validate them first in a bus, tram or trolley bus, as the validating machines for trains used to not always print the exact time. But, if the ticket is validated, you do not have to validate it again.
- In Gdańsk, trams are the easiest way of travelling between districts. In Gdynia, the same applies to trolley buses. Sopot is so small, that you access it with a train and then walk to where you need. Whenever possible, use the city train, especially on working day. It goes about every 10 minutes on work days, every 15-20 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays. This advice does not apply if there is a tram nearby. Usually, it will show up sooner than the train. The city trains are usually yellow-blue with the logo "SKM" near every door.
- Main transfer hubs are located near the main railway stations - the main railway station in Gdańsk, the stations in Gdańsk Wrzeszcz and Gdańsk Oliwa, and the main station in Gdynia.
- If you got caught without a ticket, *always* demand a receipt for a fee, and never ever try to "work things out by giving 10 euros". Bribing is a criminal offence and is a subject of 2 years sentence. You need no problems ;) If you notice that the day and time printed by the validating machine differs from the real time, notify the driver. Carry the ticket with you when you travel.
- When travelling in the rush hours (6-8:30; 14:30-18) reserve additional 10 to 30 minutes for delays.
- Note that the region has something like 6 different ticketing systems. The so-called Metropolitan ticket (for 24 or 72 hours) is valid for all city trains, all buses, trams and trolley buses everywhere in the region. Please get one from the app if you plan on using public transport.
In general, all three towns are tourist friendly and safe. You can freely walk with the camera outside and take pictures, just like in every other country in Europe. There are some exceptions to this, listed below.
- The district of Dolne Miasto in Gdańsk (on the map near the street "Łąkowa", up to the place where "Brama Nizinna" is), although has some tourist attractions, is a place where you should be careful. A large, loud group of foreigners can - in a bad turn of events - fall into some sort of troubles being bothered by the locals, losing the money and valuable items in the best case. It is definitely not recommended to go there in the evening or at night. Just be cautious and hide all the valuable equipment in the backpack. This part of the city has been recently rebuilt and is now attracting people, so hopefully this disclaimer will be removed.
- The same "evening" warning applies to the Gdańsk districts of Stogi, Orunia and Nowy Port. There are no tourist attractions there, but just in case you wander around and find yourself there. In Gdynia places to avoid are Płyta Redłowska and Oksywie, but there is no point for tourists to go there ;) Sopot can get nasty during the weekends at night, when drunk people leave party clubs.
- Watch out for pick-pocketing. This is common in crowded trains, trams and bus stops. If this happens to you, report it to the police - but do not expect to see stolen things again. Never keep anything valuable in a pocket. Keep backpack in front of you when entering crowds.
- Emergency number is 112, as in Finland.
- Avoid taxis, as they can be expensive. At the airport, do not respond to the drivers offering you a ride, go directly to the bus stop or a train station (both in front of the terminal). If you have to use taxi, use some recommended by the airport - the drivers have to wear special vests, clearly indicating they are a taxi driver. Ask in hotel for at least two recommendations to choose from. Taxi stops are quite common, usually there are some taxis waiting.
This brings us to the cultural issues, that are little differences between Finns and Poles.
- We eat three meals per day. Breakfast is usually eaten until 10. The dinner is mostly eaten around 15, with restaurants serving it ~14-~19. The supper is given around 20. During the day lunches become popular, but people often eat a second breakfast around 12 - sandwiches, cakes, doughnuts, etc. Some people (including myself) do not ;) There are cafes and bakeries around everywhere. Basically any bakery you pick, you will not be disappointed.
- The car traffic is far from Finnish. When you want to cross the street, you should expect the car to stop to let you go, but do not cross the street mindlessly. Even if walking on the green light, look around. The city speed limit is 50, but nobody follows it. The amount of cars is approximately 4 to 5 times more than in Finland. Take a tram ride during the afternoon rush hours ;)
- When you are in the public transport, it is a custom to give sitting place you occupy to elder people, pregnant women or people with walking disabilities. It is also common to help women with baby carriages when they try to climb the stairs, etc. Also, women go first through the door, when you open it. This is not considered impolite, rude, sexist or whatever. At least it has not yet been considered so.
- There are huge self-service shops (supermarkets or hypermarkets), but most of the shops is still serviced by the personnel. The quality of service differs from place to place. Always take a look at the prices, always take the receipt.
- The knowledge of English is quite common for younger people, although you should not expect it in shops, buses and kiosks. German is spoken by older people and (usually) in the city centre. In general, knowledge of foreign languages is improving.
- The prices are given in PLN (zloty) and are rest is paid up to 0,01 PLN (grosz).
- In the restaurants and other similar places where you are served by a waiter you are expected to leave 10% tip, although it is not required (especially if the food was bad or the service was poor). If you pay by card, you can leave some cash on the table when you leave, or hand it to the waiter with the card. Some places offer you to tip from the credit card.
- Payments with the credit card are in general accepted in shops, restaurants and cafes. Do not carry more than 200 PLN in one place ;)
- The network of ATMs (Ottos ;) is quite big, especially near the railway stations. It is however recommended that you bring money with you. It can be exchanged in exchange offices ("Kantor") without paying the commision. At all costs avoid the exchange points at the airport and around the main railway stations. Never agree to exchanging money on the street - it almost never happens, but just in case. In Gdańsk take a walk around the Market Hall, there are few "kantors" around. Observe the rates, as they differ. In general, the Old Town offers less favourable rates. If you exchange larger sums (500 euros, for example), you can get a little extra, if you ask. The exchange rates on the street are better in Poland than in Finland.
- However, if you pay by card and are offered a currency choice, always choose PLN (złoty). Those exchange rates are better in Finland than in Poland.
- Be not surprised when people ask you for your purpose of stay, or whether you like the town and what have you seen. Expect to find fellow Finns in shopping centres, especially around the main railway station, "Galeria Bałtycka" or "Riviera" shopping centres and "Fashion House" outlet.
- Polish language is quite difficult for Finns (and for everybody else, for that matter ;) - but the body language works fine (though it is not as expressive as in Italy, it certainly beats Finland :). The most important word is probably dziękuję meaning "Thank you".
- Smoking is disallowed in restaurants, cafes, shops and publicly available interiors in general. It is forbidden to smoke on rail station platforms and public transport stops. Smoking on the street is allowed. Public drinking of alcohol is forbidden, unless it is a "beer garden" of a restaurant or other place that sells drinks.
Now, for the food you might want to try. First of all, forget about low-fat, low-lactose and no-meat. Second, all is delicious.
- Meat. The traditional "kotlet schabowy", being a piece of pork meat, beats everything else. You can get it in some restaurants, while others are serving "kotlet z kurczaka", being a chicken breast meat. Also good.
- Pierogi, or dumplings. Can be with meat, cheese, fruits...
- Żurek. Traditional Polish soup, in good restaurants given in bread bowl (żurek w chlebie).
- Pancakes. One place marked on the map serves delicious pancakes.
- Zrazy. These can be found in upper-class restaurants, are another traditional meat.
- Pączki (singular: pączek). Traditional Polish doughnuts, best are served in Gdynia, in the city centre. It is worth going to Gdynia just for the purpose of eating them. The best of the best are with cherry and chocolate, but others are delicious as well. Note that there are two places in the same spot, look for the one named "Pączuś".
- Piwo, or beer. Most popular Polish brands are Tyskie, Żywiec and Lech. Look for beer from smaller breweries, it is usually much tastier. Polish beers in general have more alcohol than the Finnish ones.
- Żubrówka, famous "bison vodka". And other Polish vodkas as well: Wyborowa, Sobieski, Chopin.
- Miód pitny, or mead. Traditional Polish alcohol. Sold in "classical" pottery bottles.
- Bakery products, cakes. All delicious. Good Polish cakes are "sernik" (cheesecake), "makowiec" (made from poppy seeds) and "szarlotka" (apple pie).
Enjoy your stay!