This is the second article of a series about the cost of living in Poland. The first was focused on the costs of living in Warsaw.
After living on four different continents, I got this costume for praising things that are well priced in some countries. The coffee in Brazil, the wine in Chile, the gasoline in Qatar, or the mountain resorts in the Carpathian Mountains. All of them are gems that have prices far better than a foreigner would expect for their quality.
But there are dark sides in each of these countries, overpriced stuff, just like everywhere else. Electronic products in Brazil, ski passes in Chile, beer in Qatar, or… What is expensive in Poland?
Eastern Europe (or Central, as the Poles consider themselves) is not famous for being exactly expensive. That surprises many expatriates I saw on this long road of life abroad. Poland can be pricey. Especially when you behave like a little spoiled kid and prefer to not change some habits from your homeland.
Taking Showers Too Frequently
PS: by the time I write this article, 1 dollar is 3.74 zloty — the Polish currency.
The price of water in Poland is quite high compared to Brazil (our water prices are among the smallest in the world) but in line with the European countries. This is not the reason showers are madly expensive there.
The problem is that in some cities, like Warsaw or Łódź, the garbage collection tax is based on the amount of water used — I don’t know why, and I think nobody knows. This indexation can increase the monthly bills quickly.
Badly, awfully, dramatically quick.
The water price (considering also sewage, since most of the clean water we use later becomes sewage unless you throw it through the window as I did in the winter) in Warsaw is 9.85 zlotys per cubic meter. One cubic meter is 1000 liters.
Then comes the garbage tax. It is 12.73 zlotys per 1000 liters of water consumed.
We have a final price of 22.58 zlotys per 1000 liters of water.
Modern, efficient showers use on average 9 liters of water per minute. Therefore, a 10 minutes shower costs you (22.58/1000)*90 = 2.03 zlotys.
0.55 dollars. It may look small if you live in the USA, but have in mind that the average monthly salary in Poland is 3733 zlotys net. An average person who bathes daily would spend nearly 2% of his salary — not counting water heating.
This would be the same as an American spending 105 dollars monthly on shower bills.
To make things worse, this is the price of cold showers. If you want warm water — something enjoyable in the winters where the temperature often remains for months below zero — you need to sum the heating prices, and they are also not cheap.
Coke (and any sugary drink)
If you had been in Poland before 2021, you may think that I am exaggerating by including this item.
But in 2021, the Polish government (just like almost every government in the world) needed money to cover the bills of all the stimulus checks promised during the Covid-19 crisis.
So they created a new tax. A tax that could use the excuse of helping people’s health. A tax over sugary drinks.
This tax alone increased the price of some soft drinks by 40%.
A 2L Coke bottle costs now around 9 zlotys on the supermarket shelves. 2.5 dollars. This is 30% more than the price in Brazil, or 25% more than in the USA.
If the prices of water and soft drinks surprised you, the price tags of Lettuce should not.
At least 4 months per year — being optimistic — Poland is just too cold to plant it. Their delicate leaves suffer when the temperature goes below 15 degrees Celsius.
A friend of mine, when facing the outrageous prices of lettuce here, questioned: why they don’t just rise it indoors, using the hydroponic method?
It would be a good idea, if not because hydroponic crops need a lot of water, and they are expensive — see previous paragraphs. Plus, the room still would need to be warm during winter, so there are additional heating bills.
Importing lettuce is also not a simple job. It has a short expiration period.
All these problems and no straightforward solutions result in a price of — hold your breath — 5 zlotys. 1.35 dollars.
Per kilo? No. Per package of 140 grams. One kilo of lettuce would cost almost 10 dollars.
Fortunately, there are other vegetables that are more resistant to lower temperatures, so the Poles can keep their daily intake of fibers. Cabbage, for example.
Another item that is costly because of the heavy taxation. A package of Marlboro in Poland costs around 18 zlotys. Almost 5 dollars. This is more than twice the price of the same product in Brazil, 40% more than the price in Miami, and even more expensive than in Doha, the capital of one of the richest countries in the world.
I am addressing the price of legal cigarettes here. Poland has quite an issue with smuggled tobacco.
Curiously, neighboring Ukraine has one of the cheapest cigarette prices in Europe — if not the cheapest. It is nearly 60% cheaper than in Poland.
This creates an enormous flow of contraband in the Polish frontier. They had arrested even diplomats smuggling cigarettes.
A Square Meter of Land in Warsaw
This is a common situation in post-communist nations: an enormous discrepancy of land prices between the capital and other cities. This is visible not only in Poland but also in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and nearly every other country that was behind the iron country.
I am not talking about comparisons between the major city and tiny villages. Even when comparing Warsaw with prosperous centers like Wroclaw, the differences are heavy.
Warsaw is nowadays more expensive than Brussels or Berlin, even though Germany has a per capita income almost 4 times larger than Poland. While food and leisure are the affordable part of the cost of living in Warsaw, an average land price per square meter of almost 5000 dollars imposes a heavy burden on the habitation costs, making the capital an exception in the otherwise affordable cost of living in Poland.
What about your perception of cost of living in Poland?
How do these costs compare to your city? I am curious to read it, so let me know in the comment section. Cheers!
If you are planning to move abroad, check this article with a list of 5 books to read before moving to another country. And if your idea is to be an entrepreneur overseas, there is a list of essential books I wish I read before opening my company far from home.