Accommodation & Hotels
Poland is catching up with Western Europe when it comes to availability and standards of lodging. After Euro 2012 championships, the situation in Euro host cities in particular is now comparable to most other cities in Northern and Western Europe. Many smaller towns and locations less frequented by tourists still offer very little choice of accommodation and the existing providers make use of it rather by offering low standards than charging extortionate prices. In large cities, both in hotels and hostels, you can expect staff to have reasonable command of English, and often other foreign languages. In less frequented locations, the language barrier may be a problem.
Lodging prices are no longer the bargain they used to be several years ago; now they're comparable to standard European prices. For the bargain hunter, standard tactics apply: if hotel prices are too much, look on the Internet for private rooms, pensions, or apartments for rent, which can sometimes be found for a very reasonable price. Best deals are usually offered off-season.
Only one major hotel chain has a decent coverage of the entirety of the country, and this is Accor, who have taken over the former state-owned provider Orbis (and still operate several hotels by that name as of 2013). A selection of hotels ranging from the affordable ibisthrough business-oriented Novotel and Mercure and prestigious Sofitels can be found throughout the country. Do note that while almost all ibis-hotels have been purpose-built in the 2000s, Novotels and Mercures are often converted old Orbis hotels and may not be the best hotels those brands have to offer in Europe. Please note than even Accor has gaps in coverage in less tourist-frequented areas.
The most popular global hotel chains (Intercontinental, Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Carlson) have some presence in Poland, but none can really boast full coverage of even the most important cities. There is a number of Best Western-affiliated hotels, but they do not cover the entire country as well. Of particular note of the motorized travellers on a budget is the presence of another French chain, Campanile.
Hostels affiliated with the national hosteling association are often horrid options for backpackers because of imposed curfews. Additionally, Hosteling International (HI) affiliated hostels are frequently used by large school groups, which means young children may very well be screaming their heads off and running around the halls. Some private hostels are clean and welcoming, but others can be worse than HI hostels.
Rural tourism has become extremely popular in Poland in the last few decades. Due to social and economic changes in the Polish countryside, many farms have changed their focus from intensive food production to tourism. Under the notion of "agritourism farm" (gospodarstwo agroturystyczne or simply agroturystyka) you may find a real farm in which hosts are real farmers working on their fields and additionally hosting tourists, letting them peek into their everyday country life. Usually, however, you will encounter countryside pensions for whom tourism is the basic source of income.