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Moving to Warsaw

Located on the banks of the Vistula River and characterised by magnificent old-world architecture and quaint town squares, postcard-pretty Warsaw is not only the capital but also the cultural and economic heart of Poland.

With the fitting motto of “Contemnit procellas” (it defies the storms), Warsaw has endured a turbulent history of invasions and occupations over the centuries, with the most devastating being the virtual levelling of the city by the Nazis during World War II. 

Since the fall of communism in 1989, Warsaw has enjoyed periods of rapid development and transformation, with many modern skyscrapers overtaking the city’s skyline. Nevertheless, the city still displays its historic charm, with many of the ancient buildings that were destroyed during World War II having been restored to their former splendour.

Warsaw is becoming more popular as an expat destination, and there are work opportunities for qualified foreigners, particularly in the IT, manufacturing and finance sectors. There is also a demand for English language teachers. Wages aren’t high, but the low cost of living more than makes up for this. 

Expats can enjoy an active lifestyle, thanks to the city’s many parks and green spaces. With 20,000 acres of parks and woodland, more of the city is covered in greenery than any other European city. Łazienki is the city’s largest park, and with its Baroque palaces, lakes and manicured gardens it’s a hugely popular destination for walkers, cyclists and families. 

Warsaw offers an efficient public transport network and a good quality healthcare and education system. Although the state schools are free, most expats living here choose to send their children to one of the many international schools

While a move to Warsaw may not be as lucrative as a posting in another European city, those who take the plunge will discover that the Polish capital is an incredibly vibrant and welcoming city where they can enjoy a richly rewarding cultural experience.

Weather in Warsaw

Poland's capital has a humid continental climate, with bitterly cold, snowy winters and mild to hot summers. On average, summer (June to August) temperatures range between 47°F (9°C) and 73°F (22°C), while winter (December to February) temperatures range between 25°F (-4°C) and 42°F (6°C). 

July is the wettest month, although rain does fall sporadically throughout the year; generally rainfall is heaviest in summer, with winter receiving the least rain. Spring (March, April, May) and autumn (September, October, November) are both lovely seasons with pleasant, mild temperatures and plenty of sun, although autumn can be misty.

The city experiences its most pleasant conditions during the months of July and August, but these warmer months also attract a lot of tourist crowds. 

 

Accommodation in Warsaw

While there are many options when it comes to accommodation in Warsaw, the task of finding a home can be complicated by the high demand and stiff competition for housing in the city.


Types of accommodation in Warsaw

Expats looking for accommodation in Warsaw will find various options suited to any budget and lifestyle. These range from Soviet-style apartment buildings to modern penthouse apartments, mostly in the city centre. Freestanding homes with gardens or duplexes and semi-detached houses can be found in the more suburban outlying areas.

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Warsaw, although unfurnished options are more common. Appliances such as a stove, fridge and dishwasher are often supplied.


Finding accommodation in Warsaw

Expats looking for housing in Warsaw can find property listings online; however, those unable to speak Polish should consider working through a reputable real-estate agent. Once a lease is secured, agents usually require a fee equivalent to at least a month’s rent for their services.

When choosing an area or suburb in Warsaw, expats should consider their proximity to their place of work and their children’s school, as well as access to public transport. The further away from the city centre, the cheaper the accommodation, but the less access these areas have to services such as public transport, schools and hospitals. Rentals closest to public transport, such as Warsaw’s metro line, often cost more.


Renting accommodation in Warsaw

Expats need to act fast after they find a suitable property as the rental market is quite competitive.

Making an application

Prospective tenants usually need to provide proof of employment, ID and bank statements to secure a lease in Poland. The landlord and rental agencies will then review applications before choosing a tenant they think is the best fit.

After the application is accepted, a handover day is arranged where the tenant usually signs a 12-month lease. This also gives them an opportunity to inspect the property and do an inventory.

Leases and deposits

A deposit of one to three months’ rent is often required by landlords, while some may even require six months' rental upfront. Rental agreements are usually flexible and decided upon between the tenant and landlord.

Once a tenancy application is approved and signed by both parties, the next step is to carry out an inspection of the property and do an inventory.

Tenants are required to give a few months' notice if they wish to terminate a lease early. 

Utilities

Utilities such as gas, water and electricity are not usually included in the rental cost and are paid for by tenants. Additional expenses could also include general maintenance costs for the building such as cleaning and gardening. Expats should keep this in mind when budgeting for accommodation. 

Areas and Suburbs in Warsaw

The best places to live in Warsaw

Warsaw has witnessed rapid development in recent decades but has still managed to maintain a unique charm in its eclectic architecture that sees ancient buildings occupying space between shiny, modern skyscrapers.

The Old Town is the historic core, which forms the city centre, and from there Warsaw is spread out on either side of the Vistula River into 18 districts. Each of these districts has its own unique appeal and expats are sure to find an area or suburb of Warsaw that suits their needs and budget.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding on a neighbourhood of Warsaw to call home. The distance to one’s work and access to public transport are the two most important considerations. Other factors include one’s budget, lifestyle, and proximity to good schools if moving with children.

Below are some of the most popular districts of Warsaw for expats.


Expat-friendly suburbs of Warsaw

WarsawMokotów

Located on the west bank of the Vistula River, Mokotów is one of the most desirable suburbs for expats in Warsaw. It's conveniently located close to the city centre and has excellent public transport links. Residents will also have access to great entertainment, restaurants, parks and libraries, so it’s a good neighbourhood for families. Housing in Mokotów is diverse, ranging from large pre-war villas to Soviet-era and modern apartment blocks.

Śródmieście

Home to many museums, galleries and the parliamentary buildings, Śródmieście is seen as the cultural and political heart of Warsaw. It’s a lively area where residents can enjoy an active nightlife thanks to the restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs in the area. But with all the buzz comes noise, and expats might grow tired of the constant traffic and activity. Housing in the area, which consists mostly of apartments, can also be expensive. 

Wilanów

This is one of the most exclusive suburbs of Warsaw and arguably the most popular area for expats, especially from the diplomatic community. It’s very family friendly, with many parks and public gardens. Nevertheless, housing is among the most expensive in Warsaw and expats will have to contend with a long commute to the city centre.

ZolliborzŻoliborz

Żoliborz is a charming neighbourhood that’s popular with both locals and expats. It’s one of Warsaw’s greenest areas, and boasts a variety of restaurants and cafés, and a great weekend food market. Plac Wilsona, one of Warsaw’s most important transport hubs, and perhaps its most beautiful metro station, is located in Żoliborz, so expats will be able to commute easily to and from the area. Accommodation in Żoliborz consists mostly of pre-war houses.

Ursynów

Ursynów is an up-and-coming residential area of Warsaw. Home to the International American School of Warsaw, and with excellent transport links to the city centre, it’s a popular area for young professionals and families. Those who prefer an active lifestyle will also enjoy living in Ursynów as there are many fitness clubs, parks and football fields in the area.

Education and Schools in Warsaw

Expat children are allowed to attend Polish public schools for free. However, owing to the fact that the language of instruction is Polish, and the general expat preference for their children to continue their home country’s curriculum, most expats choose to send their children to international schools in Warsaw.


Public schools in Warsaw

Although the public education system in Poland has undergone many positive reforms in recent years, public schools in Warsaw are not a popular option for expats.

Tuition is free for all children attending public schools in Warsaw, including foreign children. However, this does not include the additional costs of textbooks, school uniforms, lunches or general stationery and school supplies, which parents will have to pay for. 

A child’s attendance at a public school is determined by where they live and schools are required to accept all children residing in their catchment area. 


Private and international schools in Warsaw

Private primary and secondary education is relatively new in Poland, having only been introduced after the end of communism in the late 1980s. Private or non-state schools are partly funded by the government and partly by fees and donations from parents and other organisations, such as religious orders. As a result, many private schools in Warsaw are run by religious or social organisations.

The language of instruction at private schools in Warsaw is generally Polish or a minority language. They are independent of the government and are not restricted to following the national curriculum.

There are also a number of international schools in Warsaw, and the majority of these schools offer not only an excellent education but also world-class facilities. International schools in Warsaw offer various curricula, including the American, British, German, French and Japanese curricula, with many of these schools also offering the International Baccalaureate programme.

Places at private and international schools in Warsaw may be limited and expat parents should plan well in advance when making arrangements for their child’s education in Poland. Consideration should also be given to the cost of education at international schools, which are often prohibitively expensive. 


Special needs education in Warsaw

Expat parents of children with disabilities can rest assured that in Warsaw, children who have special educational needs or those children whose opportunities for education, development and learning are limited to such an extent that they can't meet the educational requirements at mainstream schools, will receive special assistance, both throughout the entire educational process or during a certain period of education (a child showing signs of emotional problems resulting from trauma, for instance).

Special educational needs may refer to long-term illnesses; adaptive problems; specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia; speech impairment; trauma-induced emotional and behavioural difficulties; or learning difficulties. Special-needs institutions provide care for differently-abled pupils by allowing for the implementation of individualised educational processes, forms, curriculum and revalidation.


Tutoring in Warsaw

Education is highly valued in Poland, and Polish parents use tutoring as a tool to assist students in their learning. It is also invaluable for expat children adapting to a new environment, language and curriculum. Even for children in international schools, tutoring is useful for gaining confidence, or for assistance in particular subjects such as maths, science or Polish. Good companies in Warsaw include Apprentus and TeacherOn.

International Schools in Warsaw

There is a good selection of international schools in Warsaw for expats to choose from. The majority of these schools offer the British or American curriculum, with many also offering the International Baccalaureate. For the most part, these schools offer excellent facilities and extra-curricular activities, as well as an exceptional standard of education.

As spaces may be limited, parents should plan well ahead of their arrival in Warsaw and apply at the school of their choice as soon as possible. Fees at international schools in Warsaw may also be high, so expats should also factor this carefully into their budget.

Below is a list of the most prominent international schools in Warsaw.


International schools in Warsaw

American School of Warsaw

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.aswarsaw.org

The British School Warsaw

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2.5 to 18
Website: www.nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/warsaw

International American School Warsaw

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Polish, American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ias.edu.pl

International European School, Warsaw

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Polish, National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ies-warsaw.pl

Lycée Français René Goscinny de Varsovie

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.lfv.pl

Themes British School Warsaw

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2.5 to 18
Website: thamesbritishschool.pl

Lifestyle in Warsaw

Warsaw is a friendly and charming city, and as the cultural and financial heart of Poland, it has plenty for expats to see and do. The city’s museums offer culture buffs plenty to talk about, while active expats will enjoy the many green spaces and sports fields, and those wanting to hit the town after work won’t be short on options.


Eating out in Warsaw

The restaurant scene in Warsaw has transformed since the fall of communism, and expats can now enjoy a variety of cuisine, from Michelin-star restaurants to casual cafés. Poznańska Street is one of the liveliest streets of the central Śródmieście district; it has some excellent restaurants and is popular with both locals and expats. The milk bars (bary mleczne) dotted around the city centre offer a variety of cheap but tasty eats. A relic of the Communist era, they are the best option if looking for a taste of real Polish food.


Shopping in Warsaw

From modern shopping malls to vintage boutiques and traditional markets, Warsaw has something for every shopper. Mokotowska Street, in the city centre, offers an interesting collection of local boutiques and jewellery stores. For those looking for high-end luxuries, the Vitkac centre in the heart of the city offers the biggest names in global fashions, while the Arkadia mall, north of the city, offers five stories of retail space where expats are sure to find anything from clothing to electronics, books and homeware. Warsaw also has an eclectic mix of markets, where expats can find anything from antiques to organic food products.


Nightlife and entertainment in Warsaw

Warsaw is known for its vibrant nightlife and expats will find everything from chic restaurants, to rooftop bars and cool clubs. Popular spots for a night out include Plac Zbawiciela, as well as Parkingowa, Nowogrodzka and Mazowiecka Streets.

Art and culture lovers will also enjoy the many museums and cultural centres in the city, and fans of classical music can look forward to regular performances at the Polish National Opera, the National Theatre Warsaw and the Chamber Opera.

Getting Around in Warsaw

Thanks to a well-established transport system, expats will find that getting around in Warsaw is relatively stress free. While many choose to have their own car, the city offers a good public transport system that makes it easy and convenient to move around Warsaw.


Public transport in Warsaw

Public transport in Warsaw is operated by ZTM and consists of buses, trams and a metro system, which all work on an integrated ticketing system. Tickets are time-specific and commuters can buy a ticket valid for a certain period of time and then travel as much as they need within that time frame. The ticket validity can range from 10 minutes up to one- or three-day passes. There are also weekend passes available.

Tickets can be purchased at ZTM points, at newspaper kiosks and at ticket machines located in metro stations. Children under the age of seven and people over the age of 70 are entitled to travel free of charge on public transport, while students are also entitled to discounted rates.

Metro

Warsaw’s metro system consists of two lines. The north-south line (M1) runs through the city centre from Ursynów to Młociny. The second line (M2) runs east-west from Rondo Daszyńskiego in the west to Dworzec Wileński in Praga, on the right bank of the Vistula River. Both lines intersect at Świętokrzyska Station. The metro runs till midnight on weekdays and until 3am on weekends.

Buses

There is an extensive and well-run bus system in Warsaw, with buses covering a larger area than the metro. Buses operate from around 5am till midnight, after which a night bus system is in operation, running from the city centre to major suburbs.

Trams

One of Warsaw’s oldest forms of public transport, the tram system is a convenient means of getting around the city, and is especially ideal for sightseeing. The tram system consists of about 25 lines, most of which run until midnight.


Taxis in Warsaw

Taxis are readily available in Warsaw and are relatively inexpensive when compared to other European cities. All official taxis are metered and expats should be sure to check that the meter is set correctly before embarking on a journey.

Legitimate taxis always have their company logo and telephone number displayed on the vehicle – there have been reports of illegitimate taxi operators trying to take advantage of unsuspecting foreigners, so expats should be aware of this before getting into any taxi.

While it’s possible to flag a taxi on the street, it’s safer to order one ahead of time via the telephone. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Taxify also operate in the city and are becoming a popular means of getting around Warsaw.


Cycling in Warsaw

The city operates a public bicycle scheme from March to November each year. Bike stations are located throughout the city centre and near metro stations. The first 20 minutes are free, after which an hourly fee is charged. Bikes don’t have to be returned to the original location but can be returned to any station in the city.