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Poland offers travelers a myriad of options, whether that’s sifting through Teutonic knight lore at Malbork Castle, filling up on pierogi and ice cream while listening to a Chopin concert in Warsaw, or reflecting on the unspeakable horrors that occurred at Auschwitz.
For those looking to stay connected during their explorations, buying a SIM card is quick, painless, and inexpensive. You’ll be back on the tourist trail in no time, with downloads flowing as quickly as the ever-present Vistula river.
Here’s what you need to know.
Note: Poland is part of the European Union, which introduced new roaming regulations in June 2017. These “roam like at home” rules effectively ended roaming charges across much of Europe, meaning you’ll usually pay no more for calls, texts, and data in other EU countries than you would in the country of purchase.
There are some exceptions and limits, however, so be sure to double-check the details at time of purchase if you’re planning to use your SIM elsewhere in the region.
Poland offers several choices when it comes to buying a SIM card, with four main cell networks to choose from: Orange, Play, Plus, and T-Mobile.
There are other options as well, but for the short-term traveler, these four will suffice. Each of the companies have about a quarter of the market, and their ongoing price wars lead to good deals for locals and visitors alike.
T-Mobile and Orange offer the best coverage across the country, with 4G/LTE available and common in the larger cities.
I chose Orange for two simple reasons: it was the network recommended by the attendant at my local kiosk, and it had the best coverage and speeds throughout the country.
There are many ways to buy SIM cards and packages: in supermarkets, street kiosks, gas (petrol) stations, and official company stores. I purchased a SIM card from a street kiosk next to the Old Town in Warsaw, and the process was fast and simple, taking under 15 minutes.
Registering with your passport or national ID card is now mandatory when buying a SIM card in Poland, due to an anti-terrorism act that went into effect around July 2016. Because of this, it’s highly recommended to confirm during your purchase that the attendant has not just given you your SIM card package, but has activated the card as well.
This shouldn’t be a problem, and any helpful attendant will be more than willing to set everything up for you during purchase, including inserting the SIM card, registering it, and confirming it’s all working properly via text messages from the cell company, and a quick Internet speed test.
Verifying everything before leaving the store or kiosk is much easier than trying to deal with non-activation later. A smile and humble attitude works wonders on reluctant attendants!
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Orange has several data options available, and I paid approximately $17USD for a SIM and 15GB prepaid package, valid for a month.
Orange data packages include:
1 GB / 5 days / 10 zloty
10 GB / 31 days / 30 zloty
15 GB / 93 days / 50 zloty
50 GB / 155 days / 100 zloty
100 GB / 155 days / 200 zloty
1 US Dollar equaled 3.64 Polish Zloty at time of purchase.
Since the data allowance is technically a ‘bonus’ for topping up, the amount you top up with remains available for making calls and texts.
With Orange, you can check your zloty balance by dialing *124*#, and remaining data allowance by dialing *101*01#.
You can easily buy top-up vouchers in the same places you bought the SIM card – street kiosks, stores, petrol stations, or online.
To top-up your Orange SIM, dial *125*[top-up code]#
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Coverage and Data Speeds
Orange coverage was good throughout Poland. Speeds were extremely good in all tourist cities, slowing down (but still acceptable) in the countryside.
I did have a couple of issues, however. First, while taking the train from Warsaw to Gdansk, coverage dropped multiple times — not ideal for work, or if a constant connection is necessary.
Second, as with any cell company or city, the coverage dropped dramatically whenever I was inside the concrete buildings common in Warsaw or Krakow.