In past years Poland was a cheap place to visit and accommodation could be found for costs that were dramatically less than their Western European counterparts. Unfortunately, those days are gone. The cost of hotels today is on par with what you might find in the rest of Europe. You can find many international chains in Poland now as well. In the major cities you'll find the Sheraton and the Hilton, among others.
While the cost of accommodation has gone up, the quality remains somewhat variable. In particular, it can be difficult to find a hotel or hostel of excellent quality. If interested in staying in a backpacker-style hostel, there is a national hosteling association in Poland that standardizes its member organizations, but you can often find a better quality hostel at a better price if you choose one that is privately run and unaffiliated with the national association. Mid-range hotels are abundant, and prices are on par with the rest of Europe if not slightly cheaper. Business-oriented hotels tend to be slightly nicer and good deals can be found on the weekends.
Searching Out a Deal
Because the cost of accommodation has gone up in Poland, travelers are often left to their own devices to find reasonably priced, or cheap accommodation. It's best to use similar strategies to what you might do elsewhere in Europe. Research online to make sure you're paying a fair price and getting a good deal for the accommodation type you desire. Read many reviews, which can be invaluable in choosing a good place to stay. Also consider traveling in the off season, when prices are less and crowds are much thinner. It can be possible to book a package deal, which combines a hotel and airline ticket. This often requires you stay in an international chain hotel though, which is generally more expensive than locally owned places or national chains.
The biggest tip for traveling in Poland is to understand your budget. You can't travel to this country while expecting unreasonably cheap prices. Come prepared to pay western European prices for descent accommodation, and you will generally get what you pay for. Otherwise, you'll end your trip disappointed, and you won't have enjoyed the experience nearly as much.
A Range of Choices
Poland has the typical accommodation types that you might find elsewhere in Europe. There are many budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation options. Local chains that cater to business travelers are actually a great option if you're looking for a descent hotel at a reasonable price. These hotels are often in great locations as well, with some good amenities.
High end hotels are found in every major city at prices comparable, if not slightly cheaper than their western European counterparts.
If interested in hostels, there is a hostelling association in Poland, but unfortunately many of the affiliated hostels are of frustrating quality and impose very strict curfews. These hostels also cater to school groups, which means the halls are often flooded with young, loud, students that can greatly detract from your experience.
Alternatively, you might consider a private hostel. These can be hit or miss, so do read many reviews before making your final selection.
Krakow continues to grow in popularity with tourists, as do the hotel prices. There are some good options out there, but you often have to pay a little more for them. Many of the city's best hotels and hostels are located in the Old Town and Kazimierz, both of which are convenient areas. Most smaller places in these areas include breakfast in the price. It is best to avoid any options that are in the Nowa Huta district. These buildings were previously shelters for industry workers and the quality is generally very low and not renovated. They are also located far away from most of the city's attractions. If camping interest you, there are a few campsites around Krakow but most are only open in the summer months.
You'll find plenty of mid-range and higher-end hotels sprinkled throughout the city. There are many of the major western chains including the Sheraton and the Hilton. You can expect to pay western prices for these options.
Another interesting option in Krakow is to rent a room in a private residence. You can book a room through one of the two agencies that are across from the main railway station. There are also locals who will approach you on the street with rooms they have available. Use good since if you choose to accept help from a stranger because the situation may sometimes be unsafe.
There are actually some good budget options in Warsaw. Don't immediately assume that hostels will be the cheapest: you will be surprised to find some great options at three or four star hotels. If you book in advance then you can save a lot of money and the prices will rival those at the backpacker hostels, but the comfort will be far superior. Business hotels are a great option as well. Many are in good locations and the prices are very reasonable, particularly if you're traveling on the weekend. They are kept very clean and modern and there is often a decent restaurant on site as well. If you look beyond the budget and tourist options you'll likely be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
You'll find many of the city's best accommodation options in the Arodmiescie, Wola, and Mokotow neighborhoods. You can also find some campgrounds that are convenient in the Wlochy, Wawer, Wola, Ochota and Mokotow areas.
There are also plenty of international chains to choose from if that is what you're looking for. They are typically more expensive than the local options, but they offer a reliable quality and are in good neighborhoods.