This is a preview to the chapter Poland Today from the book Buying Property in Poland by Tim Hill.
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What is most striking is the reliability of services that operate in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius in the summer and as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius in the winter, extremes that would bring many other countries to a grinding halt.
This chapter covers the current state of the country’s main services while Part Two: Why Poland? looks in detail at the economy, property market and other factors that will influence a buyer’s decision to purchase.
Telephone and Internet Services
The old analogue system was not widespread in Poland, which meant that when modernisation came service providers could move straight to a digital service although distributing this was a mammoth and slow task1. Today the digital telephone system is available almost everywhere.
Poles have been fast to take to the internet. In 2000 just under 10% of the population were users but numbers have more than tripled since then. Access is widespread with broadband connections in all towns and cities and even many small villages. The more remote locations have dial-up access via the digital telephone system while most towns and cities use a cable service.
Due to the large number of new estates that have been built over the last few years and the density of previous estates high speed cabling to the majority of the population has been fast and cost relatively little. Compare this to countries like the United Kingdom where service providers struggle to convert outdated Victorian and Georgian terraced streets never designed for such technology. As such, access has been quick to roll out and often of better quality than in many Western countries.
Long waiting times for land lines and a young population were ingredients that led to the widespread use of mobile phones. They are everywhere and coverage is exceptional with service in 95% of the country. Even while hiking in the southern mountains it is quite possible to clamber around the edge of a rock face and find someone chatting away on a cell phone.
The telephone, internet and mobile phone services are all privatised with a free market operating and a fair number of providers to choose from.
Radio and Television
Polish radio is every bit as advanced and comparable to any country in Western Europe offering a large choice in cities but limited Euro pop stations in rural areas. They host chat shows, phone-ins and even English lessons. Most mainstream channels play about two English language songs to every one Polish, which is a fair balance of what is popular in the country.
Dozens and dozens of television stations operate both by cable services in the cities and satellite in the countryside. Receiving BBC channels, CNN, CNBC and other English language stations is not an issue regardless of location.
However the Polish channels are also worth watching as they air a great many English and American films in a curious way. Polish dubbing is not literal. Instead of giving the likes of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt a new voice they keep the original soundtrack and a Polish voice, without emotion, is added over the top. At first it is confusing but the Polish learn to tune out the English voice while still getting a real idea of what the actor sounds like and the emotion in each sentence. Many English speakers can also do the same in reverse by tuning out the Polish voice that is laid over the top.
Among those who have spent any time in Poland the roads are both famous and infamous. In 1990 there were almost no motorways and only a handful of dual carriageways. The situation is improving slowly and now there is a toll motorway between Kraków and Wrocław (running along the south of the country) and a toll motorway starting just west of Poznań and running east to Łódź.
There are more motorways planned including:
- Extending the A4 motorway west to the German border and east past Rzeszów to the Ukrainian border.
- Extending the A2 motorway west to the German border and east from Łódź to Warsaw and the Belarusian border.
- Extending the A1 motorway from Gdańsk on the North coast leading south past Łódż to Katowice near Kraków and then on to the Czech border.
At the moment however most traffic is still carried on trunk roads. These are about four cars wide in most places and often with long, straight stretches to make overtaking possible.
For the uninitiated it is worth taking it easy at first, as Polish drivers tend to travel fast and overtake even with another vehicle coming in the opposite direction. This is on the assumption that the driver coming the other way will see them and make space — an assumption that works most of the time…
The state of the trunk roads varies dramatically with the Warsaw-Kraków route being in excellent condition while the road from the German border towards Poznan can have deep ruts and regular potholes.
In smaller rural areas there are still a large number of routes which have not yet been asphalted. In all the government reports about 120,000 kilometres of official road is still gravel.
The Polish are excellent at keeping routes open in the winter, even in heavy snow, and large numbers of ploughs and gritters work around the clock. Even the smallest roads tend to be cleared at least once a day.
For detail on the future investment plans see Part Two: Why Poland?
Local buses still vary dramatically in their quality with a new fleet slowly replacing those from the 1970s and 80s. The main carrier is PKS but the free market is in operation and smaller modern minibuses connect towns everywhere.
The coverage in rural areas is impressive, almost everywhere that there is an asphalt road (and even places where there aren’t) you will find a bus stop with at least one service a day. Even more impressive is the punctuality. It may be blizzarding snow or baking hot, the buses keep running.
Connections between cities are dominated by the national carrier Polski Express with its modern air-conditioned fleet. There are also numerous privately operated minibuses offering fast and frequent services across the country but some can be cramped and many are driven aggressively making a seven-hour journey from Warsaw to Zakopane a trip to be remembered.
In comparison to buses the train network is undergoing a much slower modernisation and travel is more expensive although reliable. Considering the state of the roads trains can be a better option over long distances or to reach other European cities such as Berlin, Prague or Kiev. You may not save much in the way of time but it is certainly less stressful than driving.
and all the others, when you
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What else is in the chapter 'Poland Today'?
Utilities (Gas, Electricity, Water and Sewage)
Mains electricity is available in almost every location, no matter how isolated. There are two forms: 230V (domestic) and 320V (industrial). ...
Poland is a country of extremes where you can truly feel the seasons. The long hot summers with temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees are ideal for sunbathing, swimming in ...
Throughout the seasons the cities remain abuzz with activity and most boast a full calendar of cultural events with theatre and film festivals, classical music, art exhibitions and much more. ...
The Polish Lifestyle, Mentality and Culture
Whether you are going to buy and live in the country, buy as an investment or buy to rent, knowing something about how the Poles live their lives and the ...
Polish politicians have not won the love of the electorate. Too many gained high positions and then went on to spend their time living lavish lifestyles and passing legislation if ...
In surveys almost all Poles claim to be Catholic but how much is actually practised is far more questionable. There is no doubt that among the older generation it is ...
The rise of wealth has set the Polish on an outright shopping spree and retail outlets are filled as fast as they can be built. Money is a new luxury ...
The Poles are in love with their cars and they come close to the top of any priority shopping list. For 50 years only the lucky few were able to ...
The Polish are very much in touch with the great outdoors especially because there is so much of it and, because the population is spread across the country, it is ...
Skiing and Mountain Climbing
With the south of the country bristling with mountain peaks there is a strong tradition of skiing in the winter and climbing in the summer. Direct train links from Warsaw ...
In the summer heat the Polish retreat to the lakes by the thousands in the evenings, at weekends and even for holidays. Many of these have man-made beaches, supervised swimming ...
The favourite stereotype of many is to imagine Poles knocking back vodka shots in seedy bars but the reality is somewhat different. Vodka is still popular but usually drunk as ...
If someone you are dealing with tells you they are going to a wedding the following Saturday this could well be a good sign that he or she will not ...
Poles are brought up to view ‘a guest in the house as God in the house’ so you will usually find them extremely friendly and hospitable. They will go out ...
Drive down a trunk road in autumn and you will see cars of all types parked up by the side of the road close to forests. Take a walk through ...
The Polish have always had a strong domestic film industry, which grew in popularity during socialist times. This was no accident with producers and directors creating seemingly innocent story lines ...
When times were not as good as they are today a favour system developed. A farmer would borrow a neighbour’s tractor in return for the loan of some scaffolding to ...
Children are seen as very important and parents should do everything in their power to help them. The result is that very few teenagers have part-time jobs and many would ...
How Are You?
In answer to this question Americans will tell you “doing great”, the English “fine” and the Polish “life is hard”. This does not happen on the first meeting but once ...