Money And Other Tips For Travel In Poland

Seven Things To Know Before Traveling To Poland

July 22, 2014, Warsaw, Poland: Poland is a land of exceptional history, culture, and people.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Vicki and I are in Poland, our first time here. We like the Poles. They seem to work to understand us and to accommodate special needs. They tend to be courteous. We've only been here a short time, and I could be wrong, but I sense that Poles are exceptional people.

In our travels through Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, and Przemsyl) we've had some surprises.

We discovered that first-class and second-class train coaches seem to offer the same accommodation. On our train from Krakow to the Ukraine border not a single traveler rode in first class, which costs twice as much as second class. Why pay double for the same thing? Bizarre. I must be missing something here. On a later trip we saw a first-class car that offered slightly more room, but I found it hard to justify the huge increase in fare.

Poland faces a declining population—not a fall in the birth rate but an absolute decline in the number of those who live here. Twenty years ago 38.5 million people lived in Poland; today only 38 million people. Reason? Emigration. Millions of Poles have left to work elsewhere. And few immigrate to Poland.

Poles have few children, also contributing to the population decline. A Polish school teacher we met told us she was fired because the state closed her school. In my experience public school teachers around the world have guaranteed jobs. They get transferred rather than fired. Poland must be an exception where fewer and fewer children leads to school closures.


Travel In Przemyśl, Poland

Plan B In Poland

July 21, 2014 Przemysl, Poland Przemyśl, Poland, is a top travel choice for culture, history, and a tourist-free look at life in Poland.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Vicki and I arrived in town and checked into our boutique B&B. Before we could even start to unpack, the owner whisked us into his music room. 

"Concert tonight." Someone placed a glass of wine in our hands, closed the door, and left. The concert began, a music salon straight out of 200 years ago. 

Welcome to Warsaw, Poland. 

Only six of us attended the concert, and two were shills, I suspect, perhaps music teachers for the girls who played oboe and violin.

The girls, in black concert dresses, each played a couple of pieces, in turn. Then they both came up to play the featured work, you guessed it, a duet for oboe and violin (Bach). The duet brought the house down, although this was a very small house, as I've explained. 

Poles love music, it seems. Polish history provides a fair share of solid heroes, from Copernicus to Pope John Paul II and many in between. Yet the national hero, at least in Warsaw, is Chopin. And everywhere in Poland, musicians rule. We heard an impressive soprano in Krakow singing in a plaza. Vicki and I stopped for a beer in a pub, and the owner sat down at the piano and played show tunes. Construction workers doing repairs in our hotel listened to Mozart on the radio. 

Poles have room for other artists, too. Vicki and I wandered into a museum in Warsaw's medieval town square and learned it was dedicated to a poet. All over the country Poles somehow find money to restore and upgrade art museums and their collections and build monuments to painters, writers, and statesmen. 


Panama City and Istanbul compared

Istanbul Versus Panama City

July 20, 2014, Panama City, Panama: Panama City and Istanbul are attracting foreigners from all around the world.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Comparing Istanbul with Paris comes easy. Less obvious for most, probably, would be a comparison between Istanbul and Panama City. However, the Panamanian capital is my current general frame of reference and the city I can't help but compare others against in my travels. So, while in Istanbul these past couple of weeks, Panama City kept coming to mind.

Paris, like Istanbul, is one of the world's great centers of culture and learning, of architecture and art, of history and epicurean delights. Panama City is none of those things. It is, though, like Istanbul, a center of trade and transit. Istanbul has the Bosphorus; Panama City has the canal. Both are big-deal shipping lanes. The Panama Canal passages maybe 14,000 ships a year; the Bosophorus about 50,000. Ships travel back and forth between the Marmara and the Black seas free of charge these days, while Panama Canal revenues make for a big and critical piece of this country's annual budget.

Both Panama City and Istanbul are fast-growing, though, again, on different scales. Panama is home to some 3.5 million people, with maybe close to half those living in the capital. More than 75 million live in Turkey, with somewhere between 15 and 20 million of those (no one seems quite sure) in Istanbul. In other words, Istanbul alone has more than five times the population of the entire country of Panama...and, as one local we spoke with put it, "there are more people in Istanbul all the time." I'd say the same is true for Panama City.


Foreign Property Ownership In Ecuador

Could Correa Confiscate Private Property From Foreign Investors In Ecuador?

July 18, 2014, Panama City, Panama: How safe is foreign property ownership in Ecuador?

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Recently a reader wrote in to comment on an article we'd published on the potential re-election of President Correa in Ecuador. Our correspondent in that country David Morrill referenced a small survey of expats in Cuenca, and the reader was bothered that David would reference results from such a limited universe. The reader went on to attack Correa as being anti-American, saying that if he were re-elected Correa likely would seize all American-held properties in Ecuador.

Of course, the reader's position is nothing more than gross speculation based on bias against anyone who doesn't agree with U.S. policies (which is how Correa is viewed by many). The truth, meantime, is that land rights are as safe in Ecuador as they are in most any country that allows foreigners to own property.

Which is to say that not all countries allow noncitizens to own property and some put restrictions on foreign property ownership. In Thailand and the Philippines, for example, foreigners are allowed to own only condos or construction, not land. Vietnam restricts foreign property ownership completely. 

However, in countries that allow foreign ownership of real estate (again, Ecuador qualifies) the rights of the foreigner are typically the same as those of the citizen (although as a foreigner you might lose out in a boundary dispute should one arise).

Interesting to me in the case of the reader who got in touch recently was that he took for granted that his property back in the United States was safe from government confiscation. That's not necessarily so, and in fact I'd say it's less the case all the time. In the States, they don't steal your land (as the reader suggested Correa might do). They call it asset forfeiture, and U.S. law enforcement agencies do it all the time. 

U.S. agencies from local police departments to the DEA and FBI can seize property if they think it's played any role in criminal activity or has been purchased with proceeds from criminal activity. And you don't have to be proven guilty of any crime before your assets can be forcibly forfeited. While U.S. laws have been reformed to some degree to allow you to get your property back if you're ultimately found innocent, the government holds onto your property while you go through the legal process.


Travel And Touring In Istanbul, Turkey

Like Tourists In Istanbul

July 17, 2014, Istanbul, Turkey: Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities, a historic treasure-trove, and an eclectic, diverse lifestyle option.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Two weeks anywhere isn't enough time to do anything more than be a tourist. You can't penetrate the surface of a place or gain any real insight into what it'd be like living there in a couple of weeks' time, so better simply to embrace your traveler role.

These past two weeks in Istanbul, our traveling caravan was enthusiastic and committed in our touring. We hiked hills like those in Montmartre, hopped trollies like those in San Francisco, to see palaces, churches, and mosques like nothing else anywhere. Versailles and Notre Dame pale alongside Dolmabahçe Palace and Hagia Sophia. This latter once-basilica, once-mosque, now museum is one of mankind's greatest architectural achievements, a kind of couldn't-we-all-just-get-along witness to this city's complicated religious history.

We toured the cisterns and the archeology museum and wandered through and around the parks and gardens of the former Hippodrome. We saw dervishes whirl and created custom tea blends in the Spice Bazaar.

We took a cruise from the city center 20 miles up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Tip: Don't believe your guidebook if it tells you either that this extended cruise isn't worth the time or that, taking the river cruise all the way to Anadolu Kavağı, its final stopping point, it's likewise not worth the investment to climb the hill to see the medieval ruins at the top. Both things are untrue. The cruise made for one of our most pleasant days and gave us perhaps our most relevant view of the entire trip. Istanbul owes its place in history to its unique water setting, so you should see it from the water. And, yes, once you've made the voyage to this point by boat, the hike up to the ruins at Anadolu Kavağı is worth the further 20 minutes. Why come all this way not to take those final few steps?


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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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