Poland

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 12 February 2015.   This advice has been thoroughly reviewed and updated. It contains new information, including on winter weather travel hazards (See Local travel). The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Poland.

Poland overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Poland. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media and other local sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Poland is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with many other European countries, which allows you to enter Poland without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for more information.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Poland for the most up-to-date information.

Foreigners in Poland are required to register their place of residence within 48 hours of arrival. Registration is usually completed as a part of hotel check-in procedure. If you are staying in private accommodation, you must register with the local registration office. Proof of registration is required when applying for a visa extension.

People travelling directly to or from a country outside the European Union (EU) carrying 10,000 euros or more in cash (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash for people travelling to or from another EU country.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Civil unrest/political tension

You should avoid all protests and demonstrations, pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. In the event of demonstrations, you should follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

Major cities have higher rates of crime than other areas, though violent crime is rare in Poland. However, there have been incidents of street crime such as mugging, carjacking and theft from vehicles in large Polish cities, including in Warsaw. Do not leave valuables in motor vehicles. Criminal gangs have been known to target vehicles with foreign number plates by simulating a car crash or a flat tyre. There have been some cases of vehicles being stopped by thieves posing as police, particularly in tourist areas such as the lake district of Poland. If you are flagged down for no apparent reason, be cautious, remain in your vehicle and ask to see identification.

Petty crime such as pick-pocketing is generally carried out by small groups of criminals in tourist areas of large cities. These groups often operate near hotels, markets, ATMs, money changing facilities and on public transport, including on trams and trains.

Thieves, working alone or in small groups, operate at central railway stations, particularly in the Baltic towns of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot and in Warsaw and Krakow. Travellers on long distance, overnight trains and buses and on public transport between the airport and central Warsaw have on occasion been targeted by thieves.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the General advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Driving is hazardous due to local driving practices, poor road conditions outside major cities, insufficient street lighting and increasing traffic volume, particularly large trucks. Although there is virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol – the blood alcohol limit while driving is 0.02 – drink-driving remains a major cause of road accidents. Severe weather in winter can make driving hazardous and some roads may be closed. Winter tyres should be fitted to cars during the winter months and chains should be carried if travelling in mountainous or rural regions in winter. Many sections of highway are not dual-carriageway or are under construction, and overtaking lanes are scarce. When driving, headlights must be on at all times and children under the age of 10 years old are prohibited from riding in the front seat of vehicles. Traffic fatalities are a major cause of death in Poland, with over double the rate of road deaths per annum than the European average. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Overcharging by non-regulated taxi drivers occurs. You should use official taxis that have the name and telephone number of the taxi company on the side of the door and on the top of the taxi (beside the occupied/unoccupied sign). Taxis with a crest but no company name are not officially registered taxis. You should seek assistance from staff at hotels, hostels, restaurants or places of entertainment to book an official taxi.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Poland.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Poland, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Penalties for drug offences in Poland are severe and include mandatory prison sentences. See our Drugs page.

There is virtually zero tolerance for drink driving in Poland. The blood alcohol level limit is 0.02. Offenders can be imprisoned for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents while over the alcohol limit are severe and can include up to eight years imprisonment.

Poland exercises a strict approach to drinking alcohol in public and public drunkenness. Offenders may be taken to a sobering-up room and made to pay for the cost of their stay. It is illegal to consume alcohol in public places, including parks and public picnic areas, with the exception of designated restaurant areas.

It is illegal to photograph some buildings in Poland. These buildings generally display signs stating that taking photos is forbidden. If in doubt, check with local authorities.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Poland does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Polish dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Australian/Polish dual nationals must enter and exit Poland using their Polish passport.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Most doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing services, including for emergency care.

The standard of public medical facilities in Poland's large cities is reasonable. In rural and border regions, however, facilities can be limited. Private medical facilities are equipped with modern equipment. Immediate payment is required for medical treatment in Poland.

Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are very common in country areas and are active from spring to autumn.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police on 997. The national emergency number is 112. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Warsaw

3rd Floor, Nautilus Building
ul. Nowogrodzka 11
00-513 Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: (48 22) 521 3444
Facsimile: (48 22) 627 3500
Website: www.poland.embassy.gov.au
E-mail: ambasada.australia@dfat.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Poland, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

If you are unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Snow and ice are a hazard in winter. Snow clearing in cities is carried out efficiently, but highways and roads in rural areas can be blocked for periods of time. Train travel can also be disrupted by heavy snow. Poland can be affected by severe flooding, particularly during Spring. If flooding occurs, Australians in the region should monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Additional Resources

For other useful information to assist travelling in this country, see:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.