Polandian Price Watch

EDIT: Many thanks to “wildphelps” for sending in data from the wild west of Poland, Gorzów Wielkopolski to be precise. We have included this in an updated table now shown below. Figures are from Tesco, not Carrefour but should be broadly comparable.

We’ve had some requests to bring deep and meaningful economic news / analysis that will allow people to understand living costs in this beautiful country. We decided to ignore those requests and check some prices in Carrefour Express instead. In some cases, not mentioning Krakow, we didn’t even do that very well!

polandian-price-watch2

(click for larger image)

Now for the analysis part.

Let’s deal with the apartment rental first (at the bottom of the chart). Trying to compare prices for real estate in Poland is an exercise that will guarantee you a prolonged stay in the loony bin. There are so many variables and so little transparency that it is largely meaningless beyond saying it is probably more expensive in Warsaw and the big cities than it is in Pcim Dolny. Then again, there could very easily (genuinely) be a residential developer in Pcim Dolny who doesn’t understand basic economics and is pricing his/her luxury apartments well above market price, so who knows and who cares. The only factor common to all our test locations – Warsaw, Toruń & Krakow – is that they have an old town square so we looked at the cost of renting a place ON that square, the epicentre of cuteness. Understandably, Krakow comes out as the most expensive because it has by far the best square out of the three. Warsaw beats Toruń but not by much. Toruń also has a nice square, quite big and with a building in the middle like Krakow, which is more than can be said of Warsaw for obvious reasons. Of course nobody in their right mind would want to live in any of these old town square locations because the apartments are all small and old with smelly lobbies and no lifts. There’s nowhere to park, too many tourists and drunk stag party morons not to mention no shops, limited green areas and poor public transport. So I think we can safely say that this part of our exercise is largely pointless! [EDIT: apparently Toruń old town square does have shops and does not have stag party morons]

Moving on to the groceries now. We chose Carrefour Express because it is a mid-range shop we could all get to reasonably easily and being the same brand it must be reasonable to assume they share the same distribution channels and the purchasing power of the Carrefour system. As such, any differences in price are more likely to be deliberate adjustments for location rather than just the whim of the duty manager. In each city you can find cheaper shops and also more expensive ones.

Our assumptions about Carrefour policy carrying through all units tested might be borne out by the way Carrefour branded products are the same in every town. In our case this was the eggs and the batteries. There is also consistency on other ‘powerful’ and well advertised brands, the Danone yoghurt and Nestle flakes. Everything else shows differences.

If you bought one of everything on the list where we have comparable data for all three towns, the shopping basket would cost (in PLN):

  • Warsaw – 55.39
  • Krakow – 51.83
  • Toruń – 47.46

Taking Warsaw as 100%, that makes Krakow 93.21% and Toruń 85.68%.

groceries1

If you compare just two cities we can include more items and get a slightly different picture. Comparing Warsaw and Krakow the gap increases to nearly 10% with Krakow being 90.97% to Warsaw’s 100% (thanks to cheaper cheese in Krakow). If we compare Warsaw to Toruń we get a smaller gap (thanks to high Persil prices in Toruń), with Toruń coming in at 89.14%. Comparing Krakow to Toruń, with Krakow as 100%, Toruń is 91.92%.

There are some surprising differences, especially between Toruń and Warsaw. If you moved from Toruń to Warsaw and remained loyal to Carrefour Express you’d be paying;

  • 57.31% more for your bananas
  • 35.53% more for your kiełbasa
  • 16.74% more for every tin of beer
  • 15.38% more for a pack of sugar and
  • 13.72% more for your toothpaste

As a generalsation then, based on only this evidence, we can say that Warsaw is the most expensive city. Not really a surprise. We can also suggest that Krakow is 7-10% and Toruń is 10-15% cheaper than Warsaw. It would be interesting to get data from other cities and countries so if you have a Carrefour close to you, get down there and send us the data!!!

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23 thoughts on “Polandian Price Watch

  1. Very informative! I have to be honest, I am really surprised at the price of apartment rentals. If my math is right, the average looks like 500 euros per month for a 50 m2 flat. It seems higher than I expected for Poland.

  2. Hands down, Trojmiasto (tri-cities) is the most expensive place in Poland to live!

    An average 50m2 apartment rents for 700 euros.
    The highest mass transit (local train, bus, tram and taxi) prices in the nation.
    The highest cost of utilities in the nation.

    As for the groceries, I will research it and get back to you…but I can tell just by looking that our prices are higher.

  3. As a real-life example a colleague at work rents in Warsaw old town, not on the square but a stone’s throw away on Świętojanska opposite the cathedral. He has 52 sqm and pays 2,800 PLN / month (€630). He looked around quite a bit before choosing and this was a reasonably good deal.

    He’s now looking to move again because of the issues in my post so Ill have some more info on other prices soon.

    One issue to remember in Warsaw at least is the disgusting practice of agents charging both the landlord and the tenant. So, if an agent finds an apartment for you you have to pay something like 1-2 months rent for the privilege. In my mind these charges should always be paid by the landlord, after all he’s the one benefiting from it, but it is hard / impossible to find an agent who will understand this train of thought.

  4. Terry: As Scatts said in the article it’s extremely difficult to come up with an average figure for rents. Living right on the main square in any Polish city is more expensive than living elsewhere. In Krakow you’re looking at a monthly rent of about 2,000 PLN (450 Euros) for a reasonably sized flat (60–70 meters) in a nice area, but it can easily be 1,000 PLN or less if you’re willing to live further out.

  5. isabella, but you have the seaside, Gdansk old town is lovely, the Heineken Open’er festival…..

    Be great if you can get us some comparative prices, thanks!

  6. Continuing my comment above:

    Checked some prices at Carrefour Express in Sopot and it seems they are on a par with Krakow’s. (Incidentally, could not find kielbasa slaska but will torunska do? It’s 11.79zl kg. Piwo Tyskie, on sale 2.46zl)

    Regarding rental commissions: my Polish broker friend informs me that his agency charges 1 month’s rent – 50% from the owner, 50% from the renter. You should not pay more and you may even pay nothing if you’re a lawyer or familiar with real estate laws – see the enclosed link:
    http://miliondolaroww12miesiecy.blox.pl/2008/02/Kiedy-nie-trzeba-placic-posrednikowi.html

  7. I saw a site that outlined the average salary in Poland being between 3000 and 4000 PLN. If that figure is acurate, I think it’s safe to assume that, as island1 noted, there are cheaper places if you are willing to compromise on the location.

    The big heated discussion across the net (on ploish sites anyhow) is how much do you need to live comfortablly in Poland? I have read that you can live on 2000PLN but don’t expect to be comfortable. Any thoughts on this?

    As Scatts mentioned at the begining of the article, many emails about cost of living were ignored (I believe this becasue mine was one of them). Seeing as how this is turning in to a failrly healthy discussion obout the subject I was wondering what standard of living somebody could expect living in Bydgoszcz earning between 7000 and 8000
    PLN as a single income for 2 people? From what I can tell, they could stand to be fairly comfortable.

  8. Terry, most people buy property instead of renting. Apart from the free market there is also a number of
    – communal apartments which are much cheaper, but usually not good standard
    – and co-operative apartments for rent – but I think people who live there, live there sincecommunism. most have been bought off and privatised.

  9. Terry – how long is a piece of string?

    The problem is defining “living comfortably” because I’m certain we all have a different idea about that. Even if we could agree on an amount of money we would not agree about how to distribute it amongst all the possible demands for expenditure.

    Of course, one of the main factors is “what are you used to” because your idea of comfortable might well depend on what you have got used to.

    To start with, would you want to live here – http://www.domiporta.pl/details,191,108323850.asp – and spend 60% of your income on living space?

    Or would you live here – http://www.domiporta.pl/details,191,108197852.asp – and spend spend only 4.5% of your income?

    (To be honest, they both look pretty similar inside. See what I mean about Polish real estate!!!)

  10. Terry: Scatts is being uncharacteristically evasive. You can get by on 2000 PLN a month, but you’d be in a pretty small flat in Krakow and living like a student. On 8000 in Bydgoszcz you’d be earning a LOT more than the average Pole and leading a perfectly comfortable life as a couple. Of course, if you’re used to half a million a year and a Mayfair flat it’s going to look pretty poor.

  11. Scatts: Very true. I suppose if Kim Bassinger, Toni Braxton and Mic Fleetwood had to file for bankruptcy, then we all have the potential to do the same regardless of where we live or how much we earn. It’s all about the habit of habitat.

    And to answer your question: A piece of string is always double the length from one end to the middle ;-)

  12. PS –

    I updated the comment to include links to apartments in Bydgoszcz, to get you started on your “can we afford to live there” debate.

  13. I’m being evasive because we have no idea what Terry’s life consists of.

    2,000 PLN might well work but not if you have to pay for playschool, life insurance, loans, credit cards, alimony, the money you promised you’d always send your sister/mother/father, any kind of specialist training courses or education, running a car, anything much in the way of clothes/holidays/clubbing or other purchases. Can Terry live without smoked salmon? Does he really have to play tennis at least twice a week? How many books does he have to buy a month? Does he smoke / drink? Is he in the front of the queue when a round needs buying or does he skulk in the dark? How much does he give to charity and how important is it to him?

    Then there’s the question of how much you need to save “for a rainy day” or to pay that nasty PIT bill when it arrives. And so on, and so forth. Without knowing anything about Terry, his past and future life, I have no idea how to answer the question of whether he will be able to “live comfortably” in Bydgoszcz.

    Hell, even things like how warm you like your apartment to be and what system is installed can make a difference of a few hundred zlotys a month.

    There’s no question that there are plenty of people living on less than 7,500 each month in Bydgoszcz but can Terry live like they do? And let’s not forget the Polish “grey area” factor – they may only have 5,000 a month to live on but they can always find a few thousand tucked away under the mattress!

  14. Scatts: Thanks for the links, I have been trying to research rentals and properties but I haven’t had much luck. And, I see what you mean and I hear what you’re saying.

    If I had to pay off loans in Canadian Dollars while earning PLN, I may find it tight at times…and God knows that my ’89 Renault 4 doesn’t run like it used to!

    I’ve been living and working in Bosnia for 3 years now and I am paid in Canadian Dollars at the average Canadian rate of pay for my job description. The cost of living is very low here so I can typically afford the luxuries that many of the local population can not (ie: the good cable TV package so I can watch hockey, high speed internet, dumping an endless amount of cash in to a dying Renault 4, etc.).

    I think the big point for me, if I were to relocate to Poland, would be to clear up any foreign debt first.

  15. Well, you can live here with foreign debt but there’s an obvious relationship between the size of the repayments, the FX rate, and how many zlotys you have spare!

    Back briefly to “getting by on 2,000 / month”. As our life stands right now, that would pay for Zosia’s school and Marta’s training fees each month. That’s all. End of 2,000 PLN. Money well spent, but spent nevertheless. :-)

  16. isabella, being the same price level as Krakow sounds about right in fact.

    Your friend seems to have his charges about right, I might be tempted to pay that but any more is a rip-off and genuinely hard to avoid here in Warsaw.

  17. So it doesn’t sound like a place to go if you want to build up a nest egg to carry back home.

    Don’t get me wrong, that would not be my intention. My only concern was if we could sustain oursleves and not find ourselves in financial hardship.

    When I first did a PLN to Euro conversion, I shoke my head, scratched my eyes and said “No, that can’t be right” and then tried the conversion again. This is what has perked my interest. Obviously, Poland is poppulated and people are living well and seem happy with their quality of life. I was curious “how” they did it and now I feel that I have a much better understanding.

    Thanks Polandians!

  18. Terry how much would you pay for 1m2 appartment rental in Bosnia? I’m curious.

    Renting and real estate prices are pretty high. Poles who live near the German boarder now choose to rent on the German side and commute – because it’s cheaper there.

  19. My 2 bedroom, 75m2 ground floor apartment which is fully furnished with a large fenced yard runs me 200 euros a month. I pay my utilities (gas, electric, water, cable and internet) seperately.

    My gas in the winter runs me about 200 euros a month. It goes down to about 10 euros a month during the summer months.

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