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September 15, 2009 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know the way to Łódź? I'll be traveling there around the end of October, and would love advice on the best way to get there and cool things to see once I do.

I'm going to visit a friend while they are in Poland. He's staying at his Mom's apartment in Łódź, and won't have a car, so we will be using that as a base of operations. I have never been to Europe before, so this is pretty exciting for me, but I also want to avoid making any n00b mistakes.

I've seen that RyanAir has started flying directly into Łódź from selected airports in Britain. Would it make more financial/logistical sense to book a round-trip to, let's say, Dublin - then book a round-trip from there to Łódź? Last I checked, it will save me about $150-$200 (I'm pretty poor, so this makes a difference), but if this is going to be a huge pain in the butt, would it make more sense to fly into Warsaw and take the train? Any other ways to get there?

Also, since we'll be at his Mom's Communist Era concrete fortress apartment with all of about 3 rooms, any recommendations for lodging would be appreciated - especially bed-and-breakfast/cheap alternatives to hotels.

Any advice is appreciated - although comments along the lines of "Łódź sux" is just going to bum me out without actually making me change my travel plans. Thanks world travelers!
posted by The Light Fantastic to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My personal preference: fly to Warsaw and take the train. That way you'll get to see the lovely Polish countryside. That will probably take around 3 hours, though.

I've never been to Łódź but love visiting Poland. You're sure to have a great time. And get your friend's mom to make you bigos! Yum!
posted by orrnyereg at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2009

Looks like the train takes only about one and half hours.
posted by mammary16 at 3:59 PM on September 15, 2009

Response by poster: I looked at the Bahn train site, and it doesn't say anything about just buying a ticket from Warsaw to Łódź - can I just do that at the train station (or on the train itself?) I really like trains, so this might be a good option, but don't want to drop $$$ on a Eurail pass.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: You'll need a ticket and a reservation (which will actually give you your seat number). I don't know why you have to have both; you just do. You can buy them at the train station, either in the big hall on the ground floor or at one of the ticket windows on the lower level. It's possible to make your purchase on the train but there might be an extra fee. Also, you might have to stand the whole way if all the reservations are taken.

I just did a quick search at the Polish Rail site (Polish-only, unfortunately). A second-class, one-way ticket from Warsaw to Łódź is 32 zloty, or about $11.30. A first-class ticket is 46 zlotys, or $16.25. So definitely don't bother with a Eurail pass, unless you plan to travel elsewhere in Europe.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:18 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: VS's wife here. I'm in Lodz right now, and I don't think it sucks!

Re: flights. Obviously, the most convenient is a RT to Warsaw, but it's usually pretty expensive, relatively speaking. Best bet is to find the cheapest RT ticket to either Dublin or London, and then take a flight to Lublinek on Ryan Air (the Ryan Air flights are super cheap). Lublinek is right next to Lodz; the downsides are as follows: not many flights scheduled, and when the weather is bad, they may get cancelled. Plus, if you fly from London, it's not from Heathrow, but from Stansted (and you take a train from Heathrow to Stansted). The other option is a RT to Berlin (we did just that, and found a super cheap ticket by bidding on priceline), and then take the express train from Berlin to Warsaw, but don't go all the way to Warsaw, instead get off at the small town of Kutno about an hour away from Lodz... the downside is that you'll have to be picked up by car, as it is tiring and not convenient to switch to yet another train from Kutno to Lodz. Trains from Warsaw to Lodz are scheduled very frequently, tickets are cheap, and it takes only about 90 minutes travel time.

Where to stay: B&B is a new phenom, and not well developed at all, that is if you can find any at all - I'd avoid it. Hotels: either bad, or good but quite expensive... not an ideal option IMHO. Tell you what - staying in the apartment is the best option and not just because of practical considerations... it is the quintessential experience of Poland - gotta do it for the flavor of authenticity. We're doing it right now, and it's a blast.

Things to do: I'm sure your friend will have all sorts of suggestions, but be sure to go to Manufaktura, it's essentially a giant complex of shops and entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, clubs etc. all located in a turn of the century renovated textile factory... it's huge, and a lot of fun. Be sure to visit the modern art museum located there as well. Other stuff: walk along Piotrkowska Street from Plac Wolnosci to Central - it's the original cool place in Lodz, with tons of cafes, clubs, restaurants, clubs etc. Clubs to do: Lodz Kaliska, located on Piotrkowska, and right across Kaliska there's a super cool cafe called Foto 102. Another club that's highly recommended is called Drzazga. Many cafes have Wifi access (you'll see it advertised as "Wifi Hotspot" on cafe windows.).

Above all, make sure to look at the architecture - both the new and the old. The old pre-war buildings, in splendid ruin - take 'em in, before they're renovated (which is happening at a rapid pace). Old Communist era buildings are also a lot of fun. Take a camera!

Public transportation is very well developed, trams and busses are relatively cheap, and cover the city well. Cabs: always phone for a cab, never grab one off the street or at the taxi stand (otherwise you'll get ripped off), cabs are pretty cheap too.

If you have any questions etc., you can memail me, though I'm traveling, so it may take me a few days to respond. Good luck!
posted by VikingSword at 11:41 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: A small tip: the search engine of the Polish railway company for train connections is available in english. The train trip from Warsaw to Łódź takes between 1h30 and 2h. I also live in Poland (in Wrocław). Feel free to PM me if you're looking for more info.
posted by rom1 at 12:04 AM on September 16, 2009

Best answer: Another living-in-Poland mefite here!

Flying to Warsaw from the US (usually with a change somewhere in Europe, especially if you're coming from the west coast - my family is from Los Angeles-ish) is often a wash time/money-wise compared to the getting-across-London hustle.

My mom just flew to Bydgoszcz a few weeks ago, which is as equally unpronouncable as Łódź, via London, like this:

1. LAX-London Heathrow on Air New Zealand. It was the cheapest nonstop option and is really nice overall - way better for passenger comfort-per-dollar than American-registered carriers. Free booze, on-demand TVs, etc.
2. National Express (Britain's Greyhound, but nicer) bus direct from Heathrow to Stansted (nonstop, without going through central London at all, so depending on the time of day and traffic around the M25, a better option than a tube-train connection through central London) it's about a 1h30m-2h ride. It was pricey though, about $60 for an open round-trip ticket.
3. Ryanair from Stansted to Bydgoszcz.

The times worked out OK on her way out, but on her way home, it wouldn't have worked. We were traveling around Poland anyway, though, so she flew Krakow-Stansted, then did the rest of the trip in reverse. We saved about $100 on plane tickets compared to her flying right to Warsaw directly and then taking the train to Bydgoszcz, but that was off-set by Ryanair fees and the bus. Overall savings shrank to about $50 after that.

So I'd say the extra $50-$100 is TOTALLY worth the expense of flying your home airport-somewhere else-Warsaw on ONE ticket, with ONE simple plane change to deal with; your luggage is also checked through and as you're flying on one ticket, it's far easier to receive compensation or rebooking if there are problems - and in winter with bad weather often delaying flights, this can be a huge weight off your shoulders. I barely made it to my Air NZ flight home to LA a few years back after a delay in Riga, Latvia made me late getting to Stansted, so I missed the best bus option back to Heathrow, and I almost missed the check-in cut-off at Heathrow. Stressful.

A random search for an SFO-WAW ticket for a two-week-ish stay in October came up at about $975 on LOT, Poland's national airline, via Chicago on the way out and New York on the way back. Flying via London maybe cheaper, or not. Depends a lot on dates. If you can, try to change planes as far south as possible in the winter - flying California-Madrid/Rome/etc.-Warsaw is another little insurance policy against bad weather. The EU (and EU-registered airlines, even the low-cost ones like Ryanair) has much stronger compensation available for delayed passengers; details here.

If you fly to Warsaw, there's a very convenient bus (#175) from right outside the airport terminals to the giant train station, and an ticket office with English speakers is inside on the main concourse level, opposite the main ticket windows (look for lots of orange "IC Intercity" branding). You take a number and have a little sit-down for five minutes or so, they call your number, you ask for a ticket on the next train to Łódź. That said, I've used the DB online-purchase-thing before, and even if it won't quote you a price, it will often let you buy a ticket anyway. You can also e-mail DB and ask for advice.

So there's no need, really, to buy your Warsaw-Łódź ticket far in advance or before you get to Europe unless you're traveling on Christmas eve or something; most Polish trains don't have reserved seats anyway. Second class is comfortable enough (most seating is in compartments) and cheap as heck - one-way on literally the next train from Warsaw to Łódź is only 23 złotych, which is about $8.50 today. Even on the fastest trains in first class, you wouldn't pay more than 50 złotych, about $18.

A few other tips:

- Find out what's in season here before you arrive: the produce is AMAZING.
- In 2016, it's Poland's turn to host the European Capital of Culture, and pretty much every big city in the country is campaigning to be the host, including Łódź, Warsaw, Gdańsk, Lublin, Poznań, Toruń (home of Copernicus!), and Szczecin. They've all got awesome cultural stuff going on before the selection process starts later this year. Here's the Wikipedia link to the candidate pages.
- All the random boat imagery you might see connected to the city comes from the fact that "boat" in Polish is "łódź"!
posted by mdonley at 6:56 AM on September 17, 2009

Response by poster: You guys all rock!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:16 PM on September 17, 2009

Response by poster: I bought the plane tickets today - and have decided to fly into Warsaw and take the train. Thanks to everyone!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:22 PM on September 22, 2009

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