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GoPoland!: Practical Stuff: Calling In & Out

 The Phone's For You
Card Phones and Phone Cards
telephone Using the phone in Poland is no longer the adventure it used to be, but can still take more effort than you expect. For instance, don't be surprised if you lose your connection while talking; just hang up and dial again. And again, and again (always slowly) if you don't get through the second or fifth time. If you don't rent a cellular phone (Centertel will do it for a small percentage of the national debt: 656 14 44 in Warsaw), then you can take advantage of the card phones now ubiquitous in major Polish cities. In order to make a call from a card phone, you need - of course - a phone card. These can be purchased from a 'Ruch' kiosk (look for the green sign) or a street vendor in 3 versions:
phone card 25, 50 or 100 units for about PLN 5, 10, and 20 respectively.

Once you've got your card, break off the one perforated corner before you try to stick it into the card phone. Otherwise, you'll think it doesn't work, or someone sold you a bogus card. They didn't.

The 25 units (1 unit = 3 min) will suffice for a few local phone calls; the 50 units will buy you a minute of overseas time. If you need more time, try either a callback service (BCH: 48 639 88 01 or Telegroup: 48 624 08 75) or an international phone company that can charge your credit card or the person you are calling (see numbers to the right).

 Long Distance Dialing
If calling long distance within Poland, dial a '0' and wait. Eventually, you'll hear a faint tone; that's your signal to then dial the city code and phone number. If dialing outside of Poland, do the same thing, but dial '0' again when you get the second tone followed by the country code, and then the rest of the number. Poland can be reached from the States by dialing 011, then 48 + city code and phone number.

 Cellular Phones
Now even more common than 2 years ago, cell phones have decidedly penetrated the Polish market. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they're cheap. You can rent one from the one analog provider Centertel (48 656 14 44) for a hefty deposit and daily fees. Even if you do not rent one, calling one is expensive. Due to a short-sighted competitive strategy between the traditional phone lines and the cellular systems, calling from a nonmobile phone to a mobile one will quickly eat up your phone card units so use a cell phone to call a cell phone if you can (numbers that start with 601 or 602 or the like).

 Try the old-fashioned approach: send a letter
If you want to send a postcard, letter, or package home, try the main post office in the major cities. They're open 24 hours, and are best visited in the middle of the day, or the middle of the night. Otherwise, you'll stand in line long enough to convince you it isn't worth it. If people are simply milling about with no line in sight, then take a number which will tell you how many people are ahead of you; it might be enough to allow for a leisurely dinner down the block.

Postcards and letters cost about PLN 1-2 depending on the destination. Packages will run you from PLN 30-200 depending on whether you send it over land or by air. On a good day, expect air mail to take at least 2 weeks and land mail to take 4 times that.

mail boxOnce you've got your postage, mail your letters and postcards in any red box that looks like this.

Since the Polish postal system still leaves much to be desired, you might want to patronize one of the express delivery services. The big guys are in Warsaw (DHL 622 12 12, UPS 650 45 45, and Fed Ex 868 00 18) but you can also try out a local establishment (Polsped 620 48 01).

Who do you call?
Time:
tel. 926
Overseas Operator:
tel. 901
Domestic Operator:
tel. 900
Directory Asst.:
tel. 913

Dial -00 800- and the following number to reach:
AT&T:
tel. 111 11 11
Sprint:
tel. 111 31 15
MCI:
tel. 111 21 22
Canada Direct:
tel. 111 41 18

Is it in English?
Pick up at the airport or at major hotels the 'Visitor's Guide to Warsaw' or the 'Polish Pages for Visitors' for all sorts of useful numbers within and outside of Warsaw.
This number has been changed
Poland is currently expanding its phone number system by adding another digit. If you make a call and get a recording in Polish, wait. The information will be repeated in English. Unfortunately, this is true only for the newly-created numbers. If someone has moved from one number to another (a common event these days), you won't discover that through a friendly voice recording.

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