In a trip report continuation of my cheap ‘January in Europe’ travels through Copenhagen, Malmo, Prague, Wroclaw, Krakow and Stockholm last week, I made a Saturday afternoon 4.5 hour bus ride from Prague to Wroclaw on Polskibus.
Bus Travel is often cheaper and faster than trains in Central Europe
Bus travel is the most efficient point-to-point travel mode across much of Central Europe. Bus travel is often more comfortable, cheaper and hours quicker than trains for many of the trips I have taken in the past two years in Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic.
Polskibus transported me from Prague to Wroclaw, Poland in 4.5 hours for 60 PLN = $15. Polskibus is like the WOW Air of bus service in the region. Prices are cheap, but there are few amenities on the bus, compared to other bus lines I have used for travel in Czech Republic and Poland like Student Agency and Ecolines. All the bus trips I have made in the region were double decker buses.
Polskibus was the lowest ticket price for my trip with the best schedule allowing me to spend half-day in Prague and leave at 16:00 in the afternoon for the 4.5 hour ride. This was my first time riding Polskibus. The seat was comfortable, the bus uncrowded and I actually secured the upper deck front row two seats on one side for myself. The bus departed Prague on time and arrived in Wroclaw within a couple of minutes of schedule at 20:30 on a Saturday night.
Student Agency and Ecolines bus trips I have made offered seat back on demand video with a selection of movies, music and games. They also had a bus attendant for ordering food and drink on board. Polskibus was a one person operation with the driver handling check-in and the drive and no onboard services.
BusRadar.com is a website I find useful for comparing ticket prices, time schedules and bus amenities for bus travel across Europe.
Radisson Blu Wroclaw on 2-for-1 elite weekend rate
My school teacher wife had a student with a Polish mother last year. She recommended Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw and Gdansk as cities to visit in Poland. I will be visiting Warsaw and Gdansk in March 2017, so this seemed like a good opportunity to visit Wroclaw on my way to Krakow from Prague.
Radisson Blu Wroclaw was available on a Club Carlson 2-for-1 weekend rate for 165 PLN/$41 USD per night. Unfortunately, the Gold elite 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 weekend rates were discontinued by Club Carlson last week, after many years of availability.
Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 Gold elite booking links gone (Jan 30, 2017).
The hotel room was a bargain deal and large with all amenities. After a 4.5 hour bus ride, I was ready to venture out and see Wroclaw at 9pm on a Saturday night with the air temperature at -4C/24 F degrees outside. The hotel receptionist told me Old Town Square was 10 minutes walk straight down the road from the hotel.
My first impression of Wroclaw is Christmas season apparently lasts all winter in Poland. The first square I came across had a large lighted tree with huge lighted boxes of presents.
As I got closer to Old Town, my excitement increased as more and more groups of young people were walking into the city center. I reached Wroclaw Old Town Square to see hundreds of people hanging about in what looked like a fairly festive party atmosphere.
First thing I needed to do was withdraw some Polish currency from an ATM.
With or Without Currency Conversion?
One of the most common rookie traveler mistakes on international trips is to be persuaded to accept a fixed exchange rate with a guaranteed currency conversion rate displayed on the ATM monitor. It saves money to be aware of the bank market rate for currency conversion. Xe.com is a useful tool for latest currency exchange rates.
I knew the bank exchange rate for $1.00 USD = 4.05 PLN Polish Zloty (PLN) on that date. I wanted to withdraw roughly $150 in PLN notes for three days in Poland. I pressed my way through two screens to get the currency number down to 600 PLN.
The ATM gave two choices:
- Without Conversion – The exchange rate will be determined later and is not guaranteed.
- With conversion – Fixed exchange rate guaranteed 3.5831 PLN/USD.
I selected without conversion and that made a substantial difference in the amount I paid for 600 PLN according to my bank statement.
Without Conversion Exchange Rate = 4.0491 PLN = $1 USD.
- $148.18 = 600 PLN.
With Conversion Exchange Rate = 3.5831 PLN/USD would have cost $167.46 USD for 600 PLN.
Selecting With Conversion would have increased my cost to buy 600 PLN from $148.18 USD to $167.46 USD. An additional $19.28 is paying 13% more for choosing the wrong ATM button.
Wroclaw Pub Hunt with a Polish cutie distraction
On the main square I noticed BierHalle, a small chain of Poland pubs, and one of the places we enjoy visiting in Krakow for 1L glasses of beer at 23 PLN ($5.75 USD). I like their food menu.
But after a week in Krakow in December, I know Bierhalle prices are 50% higher than average pub prices. Cost of living research on Numbeo.com indicated Wroclaw beer price averages 7 zloty for 0.5 draught beer, same as Krakow. My objective was find a pub with 0.5L beer for 8 zloty or less.
Wroclaw Town Hall
The attractive Wroclaw Town Hall is a photo I snapped on my iPhone before moving on to search for a side street pub likely to have lower beer prices than the Main Square.
“Where are you going tonight?” were the accented English words I heard as I turned to see a petite young Polish cutie standing beside me.
“I don’t know yet?” came out of my mouth.
“Then come with me. I know a good place we can go where you can drink all the beer you want. I will come with you.”
I looked at her face and thought, wow, you are really cute. And I am probably 35 years older than you, so you are definitely hitting on me for my money and not my looks.
The pink beanie she wore had ‘MEOW’ printed on the front across her forehead. In a crude guy way, I thought about the contrast between this young Polish cat woman soliciting me in Wroclaw for a ‘girlie bar’ and the feminist pink ‘pussyhats’ all around me the Saturday before when I marched in Monterey, California for Women’s March. Some jobs truly suck.
I kept repeating I was not interested as I walked out of the square. Little meow teenie beanie girl stayed with me. There was only one other single guy I noticed walking on the square and he did not look like a tourist. Little meow continued her pitch about some bar she wanted to escort me to where I would have a great time with beautiful girls. She could even get me inside without a cover charge. I could drink all the beer I wanted for 50 zloty.
This was not an unfamiliar city street encounter for me in Poland. In December in Krakow, I had experienced a similar encounter twice in Old Town when I was standing alone on a relatively crowded street, as Kelley shopped inside a store for jewelry. The pitch was the same in Krakow, ‘all the beer I could drink for 50 zloty ($12.50 USD) and lots of girls in the bar to meet’.
While $12.50 seems like it might be a good deal for all the beer I can drink, I actually would have a hard time sitting in one place drinking 5 beers to get ‘beer value’ from the experience.
Her persistence soon became annoying as I was about to move off the crowded square and did not want her or anyone else who might be watching following me onto a darker, less crowded street. I stopped walking, looked directly into her cute little eyes, and said “I am not going to a bar with you. Girls are not my thing.”
A half truth that has extracted me out of these situations before.
Kalambur Pub Wroclaw
Now feeling in desperate need for a beer, I came across a sign indicating to me I had found my first desirable pub in Wroclaw.
A large crocodile sculpture outside caught my eye, but the deciding factor was a ‘Bob Marley’ street sign on the building above the crocodile.
The place was packed, music loud and beer 10 zloty per pint. More than I wanted to pay, but good ambience, even though the air was thick with smokers.
I had one pint, then walked around checking out pub prices for a better deal. 10 zloty seemed to be the standard price for a pint at every pub I passed. Walking along a dark street, a group of young women in front of me stopped and opened a nondescript door. Music blasted out when the heavy metal door opened. I followed them inside to find myself in another packed pub XIII Igieł.
Inside rock music played over the sound system. All the seats were filled in a low lighted room filled with books on shelves. Couches and cozy seating arrangements occupied the front room around the bar. People were moving to the back of the room, so I explored the space, continuing on to find stairs and many more rooms, all packed, except for a few little hideaway spaces occupied by couples in cozy corners.
Nobody in the pub looked over 25 years old.
Groups of women outnumbered men in the place, a common occurrence in my experience for Poland’s pubs. Cigarette smoke was too heavy for me to breathe in the downstairs rooms. I made my way back to the bar and ordered a pint.
There were vacant seats at the bar, but a busy place to be seated with all the drink orders. After a few minutes a couch and table opened up, most recently occupied by an accented guy talking too loudly in English to three other young guys about sex tourism in Russia. Fortunately, the guys left within a few minutes and I plopped myself down in the vacated space with my beer and listened to rock tunes for the next hour.
Wroclaw seemed like a happening place and I was glad to be experiencing nightlife surrounded by young Poles on a Saturday party night with lots of young Polish college age cuties hanging out not paying any attention to me.
At midnight, Old Town Square seemed almost as crowded as 9pm. I stopped by a Turkish fast food kebab cafe and picked up a $3 dish to take back to Radisson Blu for late night dinner.
Wroclaw impressed me as being as lively as Krakow on a Saturday night.
However, Sunday was a different story and convinced me I was in a college town that is far more lively on Friday and Saturday than on quiet Sundays.
On Sunday I toured the city on my own and then again with an English Walking Tour guide group I came across.