Asylum Seekers in Poland, Read This Before Paying for Accomodation
I promised myself not to post any rant on Medium regarding the war in Ukraine, which is only 2 hours away from here…
On the other hand, this has nothing to do with the war, but rather with:
- A few words of praise for the Polish people’s enormous hospitality in receiving Europe’s largest refugee wave since World War II.
- A rant against a very small percentage of people, who happen to be entrepreneurs in the same industry as me, who are shamelessly exploiting the situation and ripping off refugees.
- A very useful piece of advice for refugees and asylum seekers in Poland on how to find more affordable accommodationin if they need it.
How Many Refugees Has Poland Taken
By the 10th of March 2022, the number of asylum seekers in Poland had surpassed 1.5 million.
As Stefan Tompson, a Polish writer, explained:
Poland, a country of 38 million people, has just taken in a million refugees from Ukraine in just 10 days. To put it into perspective:
That’s like the State of California and it’s 39 million inhabitants taking in every single resident of Austin, Texas, in under a fortnight.
Or that’s like every single inhabitant of Birmingham being moved relocated to Spain with its 46 million inhabitants.
How Poles Are Helping Refugees.
People in Poland are assisting in any way they can. They opened their houses and their businesses to host refugees.
- A Catholic monastery near Warsaw was quickly turned into a refugee center.
- Developers turned crumbling houses into sparkling refugee lodging in only five days.
- Polish volunteers are in the airports and railway stations around the clock, assisting incoming Ukrainians.
These are only a few examples. Every day, in every corner, Poles are doing what they can to help their neighbors, letting aside a complicated history between both nations, as Mr. Tompson pointed:
The generosity of the Poles is that much greater when you take into account the unaccounted history of the brutal genocide of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia in 1943, by OUN-B and UPA. But you see, the Poles’ hearts are that much purer precisely because they do not point to the unmarked graves of their murdered forefathers in Ukraine’s fields. We know that brutal history. We remember our forefathers. But now, the Ukrainians need our help, and we will help them.
The Kettle of Vultures
At the same time, a small, very small share of the people is acting like a flock of carrion birds, profiting from desperation.
Like this person, who just set up some tents in his backyard (it’s -3 degrees outside!) and is renting them out for the absurd sum of 180zl.
For one night in a camping tent.
There are other sordid examples, like a famous international hostel chain that increased the prices of their Warsaw branch by 400%.
They rented a bed for 40 zlotys per night prior to the conflict (around 9 US dollars). Each bed now costs 200zl.
Hotel rooms in pricey destinations such as Zurich (Switzerland) or Oslo (Norway) are less expensive than this hostel in Warsaw right now.
Even in Monte Carlo, in the tiny and hyper-rich principality of Monaco, you can find hotel rooms, with all the privacy and comfort they offer, for prices comparable to a crowded dormitory in Warsaw:
Consider that the average salary for a receptionist in Monaco is US$4442, while in Warsaw it is the equivalent of US$823, and you will see how some of my fellow hospitality entrepreneurs in Warsaw are taking advantage of this situation.
All this gets even more shocking when we consider that, until months ago, Warsaw was one of the cheapest capitals inside the European Union.
But…We Live in a Free Market!
One could argue that we live in a free, capitalist economy, and companies have the liberty to increase their prices.
Yes, they are, and I know this very well.
Prior to starting my own company, I worked inside airline headquarters in the department in charge of raising (or lowering) their prices: revenue management (here I share some secrets on how to buy cheaper tickets that I learned during my career).
Even at my hostel, I raise prices for dates close to major events such as a Justin Bieber concert or New Year’s Eve. This is acceptable; the additional profit from these special events should cover the losses from the low season.
But it is one thing to profit from people traveling to our city to watch a Canadian pop singer. They are already paying a small fortune for a ticket anyway.
Another thing is to profit from desperate people who have fled their homes and countries with nothing but their clothes.
This kind of behavior nauseates me. Not just as a business owner in the hospitality industry.
But as a human.
Asylum Seekers in Poland: How to Find Cheaper Accommodation
PS: Besides the advice below, it is also a good idea for any refugee in Poland to seek volunteers in the train stations and airports. Often they know where is offered free accommodation.
Public transportation is one of the things that most large cities in Poland have developed exceptionally well.
The transportation networks not only reach the majority of the city’s districts and corners, but they also have a strong presence in the metropolitan area.
In Poland, metropolitan areas are especially important. Warsaw, for example, has a population of only 1.7 million people, but when the metropolitan region is included, this figure nearly doubles.
When looking for a place to stay, refugees and anyone else should keep one thing in mind.
You don’t need to live in Warsaw, because the city itself is expensive and has a limited accommodation base.
Furthermore, using metropolitan trains, you can get to the city from the suburbs in a matter of minutes.
Here are some time estimates from cities in the metropolitan region to Warsaw Central Station (and the city center):
- Piastów: 22 minutes, using the train R1. You can check the available hostels and hotels of Piastów here.
- Pruszków: 29 minutes using the train R1. You can check the available hostels and hotels in Pruszków here.
- Legionowo: 29 minutes by using the train RL. You can check the available hostels and hotels in Legionowo here.
- Piaseczno: 39 minutes, with the train R8. You can check the available hostels and hotels in Piaseczno here.
You pay on these suburban trains 3.50 zloty per trip, which is far less than the difference in the accommodation cost in these cities and in Warsaw.
Yesterday, for example, a woman with her small daughter asked me if I had a room. I didn’t, and she got desperate for a place to sleep. The cheapest room in Warsaw was over 500zl ($115). I looked for a place in Piastów and found a comfortable room for her for 130zl (less than 30 dollars), in a little hotel called Fredry 8.
She was happy, I was happy to help, and a fellow local entrepreneur (who is not behaving in a predatory mode like hotel chains skyrocketing their prices 500%) also was happy.
During these trying times, this was a small but happy victory.
If you enjoyed this article about asylum seekers in Poland, check this one about what to do in case of war and the highlights of the manual about what to do in case of war (issued by the Polish emergency services).
Book recommended: Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads & Expats: The Ultimat
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