Cash Money in Poland

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Poland’s paper currency. The 200 PLN note is quite rare, while 100 PLN ($30.25) is what you’ll commonly receive from an ATM or kantor.

Although Poland is a European Union member state, it hasn’t transitioned to the Euro. It’s currency is the Złoty or PLN (“złoto” means “gold”). The exchange rate has fluctuated a lot over the past several decades as Poland has emerged from being a communist satellite state with a command economy, to a free-market oriented democracy. To date in 2014 the exchange rate has fluctuated from 3.03 to 3.31 złotys per $1 (USD).

Cash is the primary method of payment I use in Poland. By withdrawing a set amount of cash every couple of weeks, I have an easier time of budgeting and tracking my expenses over time. I’m also wary of surcharges for using credit and debit cards and out of an abundance of caution, prefer not to carry cards around, unless I’m traveling out of the country.

Kantors

The most common way for travelers in Poland to obtain PLN is to exchange their country’s currency at money changers called a “kantor”. The kantor will have a table like the one pictured below that will list the exchange rates for various currencies in relation to the PLN. It’s important to note that the “Kupno” (“Buy”) rate is what you will receive in Złotys, while the “Sprzedaż” (“Sell”) rate is the amount in Złotys it will cost to buy one unit of your chosen currency. Looking at the picture below, the kantor would “buy” 1 USD from you for 3.48 PLN, while he would “sell” you 1 USD for 3.61 PLN.

This is one of the ways that kantors make money, by charging travelers a higher rate for buying a currency other than the Złoty (this is standard practice with money changers around the world). To further illustrate the example, at these rates $100 could be exchanged for 348 Polish Złoty.

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Travelers need to be abundantly cautious with kantors and their equivalents around the world. Though most travelers are savvy enough not to get gouged when exchanging currency by first using tools like Google’s currency converter to check rates, a certain number of money changers will offer ridiculously bad rates that some people will fall for.

Several years ago I was even fooled at one of these kantors (on the Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw near the Royal Castle) and received only 220 złotys in exchange for $100, roughly a 30% commission! The worst rates will always be around tourist areas and airports. If you check the rates online in advance, you’ll be prepared to exchange currency. In Poland today the official exchange rate is 1 USD for 3.31 PLN. At a kantor a good rate would be 1 USD for 3.26 PLN, representing about a 1.5% commission.

ATMs

My preferred method of getting cash is withdrawing PLN from my USD based checking or savings account at my credit union in California. I am not charged any ATM fees (as long as my savings balance stays above $2,000) and the exchange rates are very close to the official rates. Last week I withdrew cash at a rate of 3.30 złoty per dollar, while the official rate was roughly 3.306.

As a rule I don’t use ATMs on the street as a matter of safety (though Poland is a safe country, it’s an extra precaution). Many banks will have ATMs indoors that can be accessed after hours by swiping your ATM card. I also prefer to go to banks that are known to me, namely Citi Bank in Warsaw.

In Poland an ATM is called a “bankomat”.

Banks and Credit Cards

I’ve read that banks are the best place for exchanging currency and that it is best to pay with a credit card. I haven’t checked this personally, but it is worth exploring if you are a traveler. I think that the banks exchange rate is probably the same as the rate you receive when withdrawing from their ATM (assuming you aren’t charged fees).

The one time I’ve used a credit card in Poland this year (when purchasing a TV at the Saturn electronics store in Warsaw) I was asked whether I wanted the charge to be in USD or PLN. I chose USD and ended up being charged a non-refundable $20 fee on top of the purchase price. In the future I would opt to be charged in PLN, but it’s a lesson to do your research beforehand.

It’s inevitable that you’ll be scammed out of some money while traveling, whether it’s overpriced food, lodging, alcohol or exchange rates. You can chalk these up as learning experiences that show you how a minority of any country’s population makes a living from skimming off of the naivete or ignorance of travelers. The key is to avoid situations that separate you from a big chunk of your money.

When traveling to foreign countries, be sure to inform your bank that you will be traveling (including the specific countries and dates of travel) so that your credit and debit cards won’t be frozen when you try to use them abroad. You should do this at least a week before departing so that it enters their system.

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Polish coins. Getting change for purchases is an ongoing issue in Poland. Having exact change or at least a low denomination is much more preferable than paying with a 100 PLN note for an 12 PLN cup of coffee. It may happen that they won’t have spare change to give you and you’ll have to pay by credit card or break your large bills elsewhere.

Conclusion

When I planned a short trip to Lviv, Ukraine in 2012, I was interested in converting some dollars to Hryvnya, the local currency. It turned out that the rate in downtown Warsaw was terrible, while the pit stop that the bus made at the border next to a row of small, money exchange huts, yielded almost the exact, official exchange rate. Your own experience will teach you where to get the best bang for your buck (or Pound, or Euro, or Yen, …)

When traveling, bring a decent amount of cash with you, even if you plan on making most purchases with a credit card. You never know if your cards will be frozen or fail to work through a technical error. Even if you can’t get the local currency for some reason, having some $20 or $100 bills might prove more valuable than anything you could say in the local language.

Shopping at Tesco in Warsaw

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My last post included an extensive list of grocery prices in Warsaw from the Carrefour supermarket chain, one of the largest in Poland. As a point of comparison I made a trip to Tesco last week, a British chain that has established its warehouse-style stores in Poland, which consist of not only groceries, but clothing and household appliances, comparable to Target in the U.S., but with a better selection of food, including fresh produce.

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Apple sauce (720g): 4.59zł [$1.39]
Bananas (1kg): 4.49zł [$1.36]
Beer, Budweiser (Czech not US, 500ml bottle): 3.89zł [$1.18]
Beer, Ciechan Hefeweizen (500 ml bottle): 4.69zł [$1.42]
Beer, Ciechan Wyborne (500ml bottle): 3.49 zł [$1.06]
Beer, Żywiec (4x500ml cans): 10.99zł [$3.33]
Beets (5kg): 0.99zł (sale price, regularly 3.99zł) [$0.30]
Bell Pepper, red (1kg): 4.99zł [$1.51]
Broccoli (1kg): 2.49zł [$0.76]
Carp (live fish, 1kg): 12.99zł [$3.94]
Carrots (1kg): 1.19zł [$0.36]
Chicken breasts (1kg): 15.49zł [$4.70]
Chicken hearts (1kg): 6.49zł [$1.97]
Cod (1kg): 27.99zł [$8.49]
Coffee, instant, Jacobs/Maxwell (200g): 14.99zł [$4.55]
Condoms, Durex Performax Intense (10-pack): 39.99zł [$12.13]
Condoms, Durex Real Feel (10-pack): 32.99zł
Cookies, Delicje (147g): 2.99 zł
Duck, Peking leg (500g): 10zł
Eggs (20-count_: 8.55zł
Halibut (1kg): 23.99zł
Honey (1kg): 24.99zł
Juice: 3.99zł
Kasza (buckwheat, 4x100g packets): 1.49zł
Kidney beans (425ml can): 3.89zł
Kidney beans (500g bag): 3.99zł
Laundry detergent, Vizir (5.6kg): 41.99zł (sale price, regularly 79.99zł)
Milk (2%, 1 liter): 2.59zł
Milk (3.2%, 1 liter): 2.69zł
Onions, red (1kg): 3.99zł
Onions, white (1kg): 1.99zł
Oranges (1kg): 4.99zł
Orange Juice, Tymbark (1 liter): 3.99zł
Pierogi with meat (potato dumplings, 500g): 6.99zł
Pierogi with cheese and blueberries (400g): 4.49zł
Pizza with ham (1kg): 7.89zł
Potatoes (1kg): 3.49zł
Salmon filet (1kg): 45.99zł
Soy milk (1 liter): 8.29zł
Tomatoes (1kg): 4.99zł
Toothpaste, Colgate (2x75ml tubes): 9zł
Turkey steaks (400g): 10.99zł
Vodka, Luksusowa (Potato vodka, 700ml): 29.99zł
Vodka, Smirnoff (700ml): 32.99zł
Vodka, Żoładkowa (herb infused, my favorite, 700ml): 29.99zł
Whiskey, Jack Daniels (700ml): 74.99zł
Whisky, Ballantines (1 liter): 74.99zł
Whisky, Ballantines (12-year, 700ml): 99.99zł
Whisky, Chivas Regal (12-year, 700ml): 129zł
Whisky, Chivas Regal (18-year, 700ml): 235zł
Whisky, Glenfiddich (12-year, 700ml): 134zł
Whisky, Glenfiddich (15-year, 700ml): 174.99zł
Whisky, Glenlivet (12-year, 700ml): 149zł
Whisky, Glenlivet (15-year, 700ml): 179zł
Whisky, Johnny Walker Red (700ml): 48.99zł
Yogurt, drink (400ml): 2.59zł
Yogurt, Greek (400g): 1.79zł

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Gravesite candles, popular among Poland’s Roman Catholic population, especially on All-Saints Day, November 1, when the graves of relatives are traditionally visited

I noticed that Tesco’s prices were generally lower than Carrefour, with some exceptions, though outside of deeply discounted sale items, the price difference isn’t dramatic enough to merit a weekly visit. If Tesco were located within walking distance, it would be my preferred place to shop, but to get there I have to take the metro which is close to half an hour each way and $3 for the roundtrip ticket. Tesco’s advantage appears to be the availability of bulk items (which makes prices more competitive) and the other household items that they have for sale. I may plan to make a monthly trip to Tesco to stock up on staples like rice, beans and beverages as well as occasional restocking of laundry detergent and toiletries.

Where you decide to shop will ultimately be a matter of convenience combined with price. Saving $5-10 per week may be important enough to go further out of your way to shop. Given Poland’s relatively low grocery prices compared to California, I prefer the convenience of Carrefour. There aren’t any large, warehouse chains like Costco in Poland, at least that I’m aware of. Should they appear it would be worth considering. The bottom line though, is that I recommend doing most of your shopping in large supermarket chains, over local shops. These may be fine for produce or occasional sale items, but you’ll get far better band for your buck out of stores with wider reach, and thus greater buying power and competitive prices.

Grocery Shopping in Warsaw

For anyone considering moving to Poland or even visiting, knowing how much groceries cost is worthwhile information to have. I spent some time today looking through receipts and also browsing the aisles of the Carrefour supermarket in the basement level of the Złote Tarasy shopping mall in downtown Warsaw.

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Carrefour is one of the largest grocery store chains in Poland. The largest is probably the British chain, Tesco. Given Tesco’s size I think prices are probably even more competitive there, but I don’t have one within walking distance. There are also smaller markets such as Biedronka (Ladybug), Lux and Żabka (Frog, Poland’s equivalent of 7-11). There are also a plethora of mom and pop grocery stores and even street vendors who sell produce brought in from the countryside out of their cars or on the sidewalk. With the exception of produce sellers on the street, prices for most items are likely to be higher in the smaller stores, though they are convenient. For the budget-conscious man, most groceries should be made in a store like Tesco or Carrefour (or their equivalent in other parts of Poland such as Piotr i Paweł [Peter and Paul]).

The list below includes a wide cross-section of items, even including some household items that you may need to purchase. Prices are subject to change depending on the season and availability of items, but these are accurate as of this month (I checked most of them today).

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I can’t think of anything of the top of my head that’s unavailable in Poland that I could buy back in California. There are surely some items, but it mostly comes down to price. There are more and more specialty food shops, including organic food stores where you can buy all sorts of things.

If there is any other type of food or other item you’d buy in a supermarket that you’d like me to check the price for, let me know in the comments. Future posts will included prices for coffee shops and restaurants, from fast food to fine dining.

I included the dollar price for the first dozen or so items, for the others you can run the numbers. $1 is roughly 3 złoty. Divide any of these prices by 3 and it’ll be close to the actual dollar amount. The złoty has fluctuated between 3.10 and 3.25 to the dollar in the last month.

3.25zł = 1 dollar
1 liter = 0.26 gallons
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
500 grams = 1.1 pounds

Almonds (240g): 22.99zł [$7.05]
Almond milk (1 liter): 14.99zł [$4.60]
Apples, Granny Smith (1kg): 4.99zł [$1.53]
Aronia berry juice (1 liter): 18zł [$5.52]
Aronia berry and apple juice, fresh: 3.79zł [$1.16]
Baguette, small: 2.09zł [$0.64]
Bake Rolls crackers: 2.59zł [$0.79]
Bananas (1kg): 2.99zł [$0.92]
Beef steak (1kg): 28zł [$8.59]
Beer, Ciechan honey (0.5 liter): 4.73zł [$1.45]
Beer, Ciechan strong (0.5 liter): 3.20zł [$0.98]
Beer, Erdinger dunkel (0.5 liter): 5.99zł [$1.84]
Beer, Paulaner dunkel (0.33 liter): 4.09zł [$1.25]
Bell pepper, red (1kg): 4.99zł [$1.53]
Blueberry jam (280g): 5.99zł
Bread roll (each): 0.29zł
Bread, white toast (750g): 5.19zł
Broccoli, frozen (450g): 6.09zł
Cabbage, red (1kg): 1.49zł
Carrots, fresh (1kg): 1.19zł
Carrots, frozen (450g): 3.49zł
Cashews (240g): 24.99zł
Cereal (300g): 6zł
Cheese, Gouda (1kg): 25zł
Cheese, Radamer (1kg): 30zł
Chicken, drumsticks (1kg): 9.99zł
Chocolate bar with hazelnuts: 8.20zł
Chocolate chip cookies: 4.39zł
Chocolate-covered hazelnuts (80 grams): 4.29zł
Cleaning spray, Ajax: 14.29zł
Cod (1kg): 15.99zł
Corn on the cob (each): 1.39zł
Couscous (250g): 2.99zł
Dr. Pepper (1 liter): 4.69zł
Eggs, 15-count: 6.49zł
Flax oil (1.5 liter): 54.99zł
Flour (1kg): 1.99zł
Grapes, white (500g): 5.99zł
Ham, deli sliced (1kg): 26.99zł
Honey: 27.99zł
Ice cream, Movenpick brand (900ml): 17.19zł
Laundry detergent, Vizir (2.8kg): 45.99zł
Lettuce (head): 2.19zł
Lightbulb, standard: 7.99zł
Milk, 2% (1 liter): 2.29zł
Oats, organic (450g): 2.99zł
Olive oil (500ml): 22zł
Orange juice (1 liter): 4.75zł
Oranges (1kg): 6.99zł
Pasta noodles (500g): 4zł
Pasta sauce (500ml): 5.39zł
Pecans (240g): 24.99zł
Potatoes (1kg): O.79zł
Rice (1kg): 2.99zł
Salmon, Norwegian (100g): 5.99zł
Sausage, white (1kg): 15.99zł
Spaghetti noodles (400g): 1.01zł
Spinach, frozen (400 grams): 5.49zł
Strawberries, frozen (450g): 6.67zł
Tilapia (1kg): 18.89z
Tomatoes (1kg): 7zł
Turkey, deli sliced (1kg): 28.99zł
Vodka, Pan Tadeusz, aronia flavor (500ml): 29.99zł
Vodka, Wyborowa (1 liter): 50.39zł
Water (6 liter bottle): 4.29zł
Watermelon (1kg): 2.99zł
Whiskey, Johnnie Walker Black (700ml): 99.99zł
Whiskey, Johnnie Walker Red (700ml): 52.35zł
Yogurt, drinkable: 2.69zł
Yogurt, Greek: 4.09zł

Patient Ambition Summer 2014 Newsletter

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Summer has flown by fast and we’re already into September. A lot has happened in my life, most notably my move from California to Warsaw, Poland last March.

In this, first edition of the Patient Ambtion newsletter I sum up some of my recent experiences and personal goals. For regular updates (no more than several times per month) on what I’m doing and recent posts, check out the newsletter, and click “subscribe” for more, free content.

7 Reasons I Don’t Have a Car in Warsaw

Since March I’ve been living in Poland’s capital city, Warsaw. Shortly after I moved out of California, my trusty, 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo, was given away to charity for a tax deduction. The car was a trooper that lasted me roughly 250,000 miles (the odometer broke at 189,000). It lasted me through 100s of commutes and several long road trips, including from Northern California to Louisiana and back.

Although in a sentimental sense I’ll miss that car and the memories it represented, part of the lifestyle change I’ve made means that I don’t need a car. And honestly I don’t miss having one. Here are the reasons why:

1. Downtown Living

Rondo Dmowskiego, the center of Warsaw

Rondo Dmowskiego, the center of Warsaw

I live in the geographical center of downtown. Some of the best restaurants (including excellent sushi bars) are on my street. I can walk to the biggest mall in Warsaw in 10-15 minutes. I can walk to Mokotowska Street, home to the highest concentration of clubs in the city in 15 minutes. I can walk to the historic Old Town in 25 minutes.

2. Trams

The "Tramwaj", a great way to avoid street traffic.

The “tramwaj”, a great way to avoid street traffic.

The “tramwaj” is my second favorite form of transportation after walking. Trams crisscross the city and also travel across the bridges over the Vistula river to the Praga district. Since trams run on their own rails, they don’t get stuck in traffic. Tram tickets come in a 20-minute and 75 minute variety and cost 3.40 zł and 4.40 zł respectively ($1.07 and $1.39). There is a 50% discount for seniors and students with ID up to 30 years old.

Ticket checks occur randomly and involve plainclothes transportation officers entering a bus, tram or metro car and asking for everyone’s tickets. They use an electronic reader to check that your ticket has been validated and hasn’t yet expired. Although ticket checks occur infrequently, it’s not worth running the risk of riding without a ticket. If you ride frequently you’re bound to run into a check within a couple of months and will have to pay a fine of 200 zł or more ($62+). Don’t expect to play the “I don’t speak Polish” or “I don’t have money” card. They know English well enough and they’ll march you to an ATM to withdraw cash.

[Read more...]

Nick’s Life in Warsaw

I’ve been living in Warsaw for over 5 months since moving out of California. In this video I share some of my reflections on living in Poland’s capital. I’m also experimenting with recording through my iSight camera on my Macbook Air and using a Yeti microphone. My previous two videos were shot on a Canon camcorder with an external mic.

Daygame Nitro by Nick Krauser, Review

I first heard of Nick Krauser through his interview on London Real about two years ago. In the past few years Nick has proven himself to be one of the best day gamers in the world, providing video evidence of his approaches, open to close (all the way to the bedroom) and has slept with over 70 women in the past 3 years.

His catchphrase has become “Younger, Hotter, Tighter”, an abbreviation of what he considers the central principle of Game: “You must be fucking girls hotter and younger than you are.”

[Read more...]

Patient Ambition on YouTube, Nick in Warsaw

Today I published the first video on the PatientAmbition.com Youtube Channel. It’s a basic introduction where I say a few things about myself and the site.

If you have any suggestions for videos that you’d like to see in the future or feedback on the video quality, I’d be glad to hear it in the comments below or under the video on YouTube.

Thanks

Instantly Improve Your Look With a Professional Haircut

Post inspired by an article at Danger & Play: Losing Your Hair: Should You Care?____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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We’ve all heard about how men who want to be more attractive to women should work out, consume nutritious food and improve their posture, on top of learning game. These are excellent habits that take time to internalize and yield results over the course of weeks, months and years. There aren’t any shortcuts to success, but perhaps the fastest way to improve your appearance, confidence and appeal to the opposite sex is a professional haircut.

For those of you who’ve been used to getting haircuts from a relative, friend or buzzing it yourself, you may ask why should I pay for a haircut? The reason is the superior results. A hair stylist who knows their craft will have years of experience under their belt and will have seen 1000s of customers. They are damn good at what they do so they’ll use their trained eye to cut your hair in a way that best suits the shape of your head and face. You can of course give them guidelines, but deferring judgement to a pro in their area of expertise is not a bad rule to follow.

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Guys who have thinning hair or are balding may opt to buzz it all off. I would urge guys that still have a decent amount of hair to choose an option that’ll make better use of the asset you have. As Mike at Danger & Play advises in the article I linked above, “if you’re over 30, get a short hair cut. It seems counter-intuitive, but shorter hair looks better on an older player.” I’m 31 and have opted for a shorter style and think it’s great.

[Read more...]

Power House Gym in Warsaw

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One of the first things I did when I arrived in Warsaw for a long stay in 2012 was find a gym. I’d started weightlifting on a regular basis earlier in the year, so I wanted a place I could walk to and keep up the habit. After doing some research online I found Power House on Tamka street, less than a 15 minute walk from my apartment. I went to check it out and paid a one-time entry fee of 19 złotys ($6). I ended up liking it so I bought a 6-month pass for 624 złotys ($208).

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The centerpiece of the gym is the weight room. There are a variety of free weights and machines. There are two regular benches, as well as an incline and a decline bench. If there’s one criticism of the gym its that there is only one squat rack. It hasn’t been much of an issue for me though as I like to workout in the morning (before 10am) so the rack is usually free. If not I just wait until it opens up and do something else in the meantime. I spoke to one of the owners and he mentioned that he’d like to have more space, but given the costs of renting in the city center, this was the best option at the time.

[Read more...]