Tips for traveling to Poland with diabetes

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Traveling to Poland should be no problem for a diabetic, or for someone who is traveling with a diabetic friend or child.

The main things to remember about traveling in Poland with diabetes are:

colorful-building-facades-gdansk-poland

Colorful building façades in Gdańsk.

Anybody with Type 1 diabetes can visit Poland, and should – it’s a large country with a complex history, unique culture and varying regions, and important historical sites.

Here are some tips and experiences about traveling to and within Poland from a Type 1 diabetic who went there (see my blood sugar stats below).

Be prepared, not scared!

Behind the ARBEIT MACHT FREI gate at Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau is near Kraków and mustn’t be missed.

This is your personal guide for traveling to Poland as a diabetic, including:

"I'm Happy Again" graffiti in Kraków

How to speak Polish – for T1Ds

Polish is a tough language, but fortunately you are unlikely to have to say much in Polish as a diabetic, unless you want to. Medical personnel will almost certainly understand the English word “diabetes”, and it’ll be even better if you have a bracelet, anklet, necklace, or some other indicator that you are diabetic.

Diabetes office in Warsaw

But if you want to speak a little Polish anyway, these phrases can help you:

If you’re in a situation where English isn’t working and you can’t communicate that you’re diabetic, try showing an insulin pen or blood sugar meter. Diabetes isn’t that obscure; they’ll understand.

train-at-polish-station

Travel in Poland as a Type 1 diabetic

Poland is considered Eastern Europe, though is kind of in north-central Europe between Germany and Belarus.

Food in Poland often includes potatoes, which can be tough for blood sugar. Rice is somewhat common too, as is bread. There are also all the usual modern international restaurants, fast food places, and snack kiosks in stations and on the streets.

lions-spitting-fountain-warsaw-poland

Go to kiosks or convenience stores for low blood sugar snacks, and always be sure you have some with you. For long train or bus rides you may need to buy some lunch beforehand, though on trains there may be food you can buy. Always be prepared – if you’re not sure about food service, ask. If you still aren’t totally sure, bring your own as backup.

Always buy low BG snacks before getting on a train or bus, even if you know there are services. You never know if they’ll be sold out, or if the vending machine stops working, or something.

woman-figure-shop-gdansk-street

My route in Poland

 

I spent 11 days in Poland with my travel partner Masayo. After entering the country from Lithuania by bus, we started in Warsaw, the capital. Then we visited Gdańsk and nearby Malbork in the north on the Baltic coast, then Kraków in the south. In Kraków we visited the Nazi camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau before continuing on to the Czech Republic.

Diabetes experiences in Poland

My average blood sugar in Poland was better than it had been in Lithuania, but not by much. I was still consistently taking too little Humalog for my meals, which were almost all higher in carbs than I thought. When your BG is high in general, it can be harder to get back down.

But as a traveling diabetic, you should always continue to fight and make smart choices. As long as you’re striving to improve, you’re doing the right thing. Your numbers will eventually get better if you keep trying.

big-head-sculpture-krakow-town-square

My diabetes stats from Poland

potato-and-soup-lunch-warsaw-train-station

Polish food

You’ll most likely experience a good, wide range of food in Poland, from cafe pastries to Polish dinners to convenience store sandwiches to international foods. Here’s a sampling of the food I had in Poland; yours may resemble this.

Humalog shot in a Gdańsk cafe

Sandwich dinner on the train to Kraków

Sammich and chips on a Polish train (bought beforehand).

Pizza in Kraków.

Pizza in Kraków.

Choosing insulin doses for food in Poland

You won’t be sure about the carb contents of a lot of the food you eat in Poland. But don’t let it hold you back: just take your best guess and check blood sugar later. Work with your diabetes, but don’t let it dictate everything about your trip!

rainbow-sculpture-warsaw-intersection-poland

Warsaw is determined to become beautiful again, even if they have to fake it at first.

Insulin injection for Bulgarian food in Warsaw, through the pants.

Insulin injection for Bulgarian food in Warsaw, through the pants.

Taking insulin in public in Poland

I don’t recommend it, but in public I usually took my bolus injections for meals right at the table in restaurants, through my Bluff Works pants into my legs. Try to keep it discreet if you do it this way, since some people may not want to see it. Just go to the bathroom and inject in private if you’d rather do it that way, too. Be sure that the food has arrived or definitely will soon.

solidarnosc-monument-guy-on-phone-gdansk

Near the Gdańsk shipyards.

Rooms and accommodation in Poland

I recommend booking.com to pre-book rooms. They have hostel beds, guesthouses, and even expensive hotels that you can sort by price, amenities, etc. I booked all of our rooms in Poland through the website and always had a place to go.

If you like to travel cheaply but not the cheapest possible, your lodging experiences in Poland will probably resemble mine:

#bgnow 86 in the morning in Gdańsk

Vis A Vis Zamky Guesthouse in Malbork.

Vis A Vis Zamky Guesthouse in Malbork.

Breakfast shot in Tulip Hostel.

Breakfast shot in Tulip Hostel.

dragon-head-fountain-pink-building-gdansk

Have you been to Poland?

I’d love to hear from others – diabetic or not – who have been to Poland. And if you are planning to go (or would like to go) and have a question about going there with diabetes, please let me know.

Enjoy your trip and don’t be shy or scared to do interesting, new, fun things.

You can go anywhere with diabetes!

Read more about my travels in Poland

Come along on the adventure! Follow detailed travelogues about the wondrous sights, fascinating people, and varied diabetes experiences I encountered as a traveling T1D in Poland:

Day 24: Goodbye Baltics, Hello Warsaw
Day 25: Frustration And Chaos In Warsaw
Day 26: Warsaw Blows Its Second Chance
Day 27: I Give Up – It's Time To Leave Warsaw
Day 28: Gdańsk Is As Welcoming As Warsaw Isn't
Day 29: Solidarity In The Shipyards Of Gdańsk
Day 30: Inside The Deserted Polish Castle Of Malbork
Day 31: Splitting Poland In Half With A Train
Day 32: The Random Greatness Of Kraków
Day 33: A Cold, Drizzly Visit To Auschwitz
Day 34: Into The Jewish Quarter Of Kraków
Day 35: Unpronounceable Trip: Kraków To Kroměříž

Share your travel stories, give advice, or ask a question in the comments section.

Next page: Tips for traveling to Slovakia with diabetes

“Read these tips for traveling to Slovakia with diabetes, including handling insulin doses, injections, blood sugars, and other diabetic issues.”

About the author

Jeremy has traveled to over 40 countries, taken several road trips across the United States (and Canada), and lived on and off in Japan for several years. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982 but doesn't let a little thing like that stop him from exploring the world.

Jeremy writes about his travels with diabetes on 70-130.com as a way of logging his excursions and of inspiring others who might be feeling hesitant to take their own big bite out of life.

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