“How you got me blind is still a mystery, I can’t get you out of my head” – Backstreet Boys.
In my series called living in Poland (Mieszka W Polsce), I share my personal tips on how to adapt to Polish life as a foreigner, tourist and non resident (but never as an expat, Ex-Pat or expatriate, as I’ll always be Northern Irish!). I’ll try to cover as many aspects as I can for foreigners to help out and I have a backlog to get through – things such as getting a visa, a tax number, a job, a flat, a resident’s card, football tickets, train tickets etc. – I aim to help you all adapt to life in Poland! This article tells you how to find a flat in the capital city, Warszawa, one of my favourite cities in the world. As well as living in Warsaw, I have also lived in Gdańsk and I also shared my tips on how to find a flat in Gdańsk. This is my guide on how to find a flat in Warsaw.
Gdańsk to Warsaw
After spending 6 months in Gdańsk coping with depression and liars, I moved to Warszawa, capital city of Poland. My first trip here had been in 2005 aged 24, so I was very excited to be finally moving here. I knew the city well and it was very easy to settle in, especially since I had so many honest and real friends in Warszawa, compared to the liars of days gone by. I was happy to be finding a base in the Polish capital.
“Back on the streets again, back on the top again” – Van Morrison.
First things first: Learn some Polish
The most important thing for me in finding a flat here in Warszawa was to learn some Polish. For the first time since moving to Australia in 2009, I was alone finding the flat (in China, I had my ex-girlfriend’s help) and I spoke only a few words of Polish.
So it was Poland’s turn. I decided to go to a Polish language school, after two of my local friends made promises and pledges to help me learn Polish and then lied about it and recinded. I couldn’t rely on those types of people so I studied myself and had to sail the ship alone, one of the best decisions I made in life. I have now studied Polish for almost two years in Gdańsk first of all and then in Warszawa. It doesn’t mean my Polish is good – I’m basically STILL a beginner! A1 level!
So I recommend enrolling in a course at Learn Polish in Gdańsk or Klub Dialogu in Warsaw. My teacher in Gdańsk was Pani Alina and sometimes Pani Alicja. I loved my time learning there and wholeheartedly recommend her. In Warsaw I have had 4 different teachers at Klub Dialogu including Pani Wioleta and Pani Alina. You can read some of my other articles on learning Polish here:
Top 7 Polish Language Schools for Foreigners
My time studying Polish in Gdańsk
My time studying Polish in Warszawa
Learning Polish in Warszawa. #stolica #capitalcity #warsaw #art #warsawlife #połnocnyirlandzykwpolsce #zima #dontstopliving #northernirishboy #backpacking #northernirishmaninpoland #tourist #warszawa #learningpolish #klubdialogu #fallinlovewithwarsaw #nastylied #honestman #whackpacking #backpacker #wacaday
Looking Online for a Flat
So now you have decided to live in Warsaw – it is a huge city so here is how to go about finding a place to live.
What Part of Warsaw to Live in?
Warsaw is huge and so you might want to choose a particular part of the city to live in. Eliminate certain neighbourhoods based on your preferences. The Polish word for neighbourhood (or district or estate), I found to be Dzielnica. For me, I knew the city quite well already so I wasn’t too fussed as long as I was within 30 minutes of the central area, known as Śródmieście. So in my mind, Rembertow, Wawer, Bielany, Wola, Praga, Ochota etc. were all OK. But I ruled out the outer suburbs such as Białołęka, Ursus and Ursynów.
“In my beautiful neighbourhood” – Space.
Here’s a map of Warsaw’s districts, which generalises a bit:
By Population here is a table of the districts of Warsaw, again quite a general table and by no means accurate:
|Mokotów||220,682||35.4 km2 (13.7 sq mi)|
|Praga Południe||178,665||22.4 km2 (8.6 sq mi)|
|Ursynów||145,938||48.6 km2 (18.8 sq mi)|
|Wola||137,519||19.26 km2 (7.44 sq mi)|
|Bielany||132,683||32.3 km2 (12.5 sq mi)|
|Targówek||123,278||24.37 km2 (9.41 sq mi)|
|Śródmieście||122,646||15.57 km2 (6.01 sq mi)|
|Bemowo||115,873||24.95 km2 (9.63 sq mi)|
|Białołęka||96,588||73.04 km2 (28.20 sq mi)|
|Ochota||84,990||09.7 km2 (3.7 sq mi)|
|Wawer||69,896||79.71 km2 (30.78 sq mi)|
|Praga Północ||69,510||11.4 km2 (4.4 sq mi)|
|Ursus||53,755||09.35 km2 (3.61 sq mi)|
|Żoliborz||48,342||08.5 km2 (3.3 sq mi)|
|Włochy||38,075||28.63 km2 (11.05 sq mi)|
|Wilanów||23,960||36.73 km2 (14.18 sq mi)|
|Rembertów||23,280||19.30 km2 (7.45 sq mi)|
|Wesoła||22,811||22.6 km2 (8.7 sq mi)|
|Total||1,708,491||521.81 km2 (201.47 sq mi)|
Of all the neighbourhoods I toured in the end visiting numerous flats, my first love was Praga. Praga is the cool part of Warsaw. It also happens to be more rough, raw, vibrant and less commercial. The first flat I had in Praga was at least 20 minutes from a dreaded Ratsbux or DickMonalds. As quite an anti-global commercialist destroying cultures, Praga seemed just right for me. So good luck deciding which neighbourhood you want to live in. Once you have that narrowed down, you can start your search.
Online and Offline Searches
In today’s modern world there are realistically only two ways to look for a flat: online or not online. I did both to cover all bases.
Looking Offline for a Flat in Warsaw
I found many ways to look for a Flat offline. These included:
1.Bus Stop Stickers
You will be surprised at how many bus stops have stickers and notices from people renting flats or rooms. Rip the numbers and details off or photocopy and give them a call. You never know your luck.
2.Flat Notice Boards
When you visit your friends, or even just walk down the street, you will see many random notice boards and even sheets of paper hanging from flat door entrances. Pick these up and check them – again – you never know your luck.
3.Hostel Notice Boards
I stayed in the Oki Doki hostel in Warsaw for AGES and checked the notice boards as often as I could. My special thanks to the manager there Magdalena Chrząstowska, who really helped me at a time when I was down down down – in fact it was through Magdalena that I eventually found somewhere.
4.Ask in Bars and Cafes
As a tourist who frequents bars and cafes, I was always telling the staff and customers in those bars that I was looking for a flat. I probably asked around 30 people in the bars of Warsaw.
5. Ask your friends
I had a lot of local friends when I first moved to Warsaw, which made it easier than when in Gdańsk. In Gdańsk, my local friends Magi Kokosz and the infamous Aleksandra Mueller chose to lie to me and not help me. But in Warsaw, my friends helped straight away, especially Rafal, Magda and Kamil. Kamil also let me stay at his for a night while I was awaiting my move. I don’t like to be a burden on my friends though, so I asked them for help but didn’t scroung for beds or ask them to view with me or help with phone calls.