Visitors to Poland have a number of options when it comes to crossing the border, however arriving by plane is by far the most popular route into the country. North American travelers are most likely to board the Polish flag carrier, LOT (hailed ‘Best Airline in Central and Eastern Europe’ by the British magazine Business Traveller) in either New York or Chicago in the USA, or Toronto in Canada, to arrive in Warsaw, with other airlines serving layover connections across Europe also available, providing multiple options of landing in one of the many international airports in Poland.
Over the recent years Poland has been steadily modernizing the existing facilities or building new ones, all for the benefit of the rising number of passengers either coming to Poland to visit or await their connecting flights for onward travel. Some of the most popular airports, in addition to the central one in Warsaw, include the Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport, the Krakow John Paul II Airport, the Katowice Airport, or the newly opened Lublin Airport.
Warsaw Chopin Airport (known in Poland as Lotnisko Chopina or Lotnisko Okęcie) seems to be the hub, however, ranking 42nd on the list of the busiest airports in Europe, serving some 10 million passenger annually. The new terminal is a modern facility, meeting all of the international civil aviation standards, with the old terminal currently under reconstruction – on completion of the works in 2014 the combined terminals will be capable of serving up to 26 million passengers per year.
Arrival and departure are standardized procedures at all airports in Poland, and meet the commonly adopted international requirements. On arrival in Warsaw you will be either offered ground transportation from the aircraft to the main concourse, or your plane will arrive at a jet bridge from which you will proceed to the passport control counters (stanowiska odprawy paszportowej). US and Canadian residents do not need a visa to get into Poland, however a valid passport will be required to confirm your identity. Once through the passport control you will continue to claim your baggage (odbiór bagażu), and if you have nothing to declare (nic do oclenia), you will leave the area through the green gate to the main arrival hall.
If you wish to get to the city centre of Warsaw you have several options available: bus (autobus), cab (taksówka), train (pociąg), or shuttle services offered by select hotels. If you need some local cash, change a small amount at the airport exchange counter (kantor wymiany walut) as the rates offered are usually poorer than those in the city. Tickets (bilety) for the bus can be bought at any newsagent’s (kiosk) in the arrival hall or directly from the driver (the same applies to the train), and taxis will probably have set rates for getting you into the city center (centrum miasta) – ask for a ride to your selected address by saying this, for example: Do hotelu Marriott poproszę (Please take me to the Marriott Hotel).
After you have enjoyed your stay in Poland you will head for your departure airport where you can expect the usual check-in counters (stanowiska odprawy biletowo-bagażowej) or the self-service check-in kiosks (automaty do odprawy samodzielnej). Once you have dealt with these formalities, you will proceed to the security check (kontrola bezpieczeństwa), and after that you can enjoy your airport shopping at one of the many duty-free stores (sklepy wolnocłowe) where you can get some interesting souvenirs (pamiątki) or at least buy some discounted liquor (alcohol), sweets (słodycze) or cigarettes (papierosy).
Should you get lost (or lost for words) for any reason, rest assured that all airports in Poland have bilingual displays (and the other language is always English), with the staff happy to assist you in English whenever you need such help.
Przyjemnego lotu! (Have a good flight!)