COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Poland is a stable parliamentary and free-market democracy, and a member of the European Union and NATO. Read the Department of State Facts Sheet on Poland for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you plan to live in or visit Poland, please take the time to inform our Embassy and/or Consulate about your trip. If you enroll in STEP, we can keep you up-to-date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Warsaw
Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31, 00-540 Warszawa
Telephone: (48) (22) 504-2784
Emergency after-hours telephone: (48) (22) 504-2000
Fax: (48) (22) 504-2122
U.S. Consulate General Kraków
Ulica Stolarska 9, 31-043 Kraków
Telephone: (48) (12) 424-5100
Emergency after-hours telephone: (48) 601-483-348
Fax: (48) (12) 424-5103
Consular Agency Pozna
Ulica Paderewskiego 8, 61-770 Pozna
Telephone: (48) (61) 851-8516
Fax: (48) (61) 851-8966
Please check the individual web page for the embassy or consulate you will visit to verify the public hours and security regulations. You are not allowed to bring electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops into our facilities. You need an appointment for most services; you can find instructions for making appointments on our website.
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ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You may enter Poland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa according to the Schengen Agreement, to which Poland is a party and which allows for free travel between Schengen countries. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. You must have sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.
Although European Union regulations require that non-European Union visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry into a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers to carry out this function. If you wish to ensure that your entry is properly documented, you may need to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
You will need a visa for longer stays or to work or study in Poland. In such cases, you should apply for a visa at least 3-4 months in advance of traveling to Poland. Visit the website of the Polish Embassy in Washington for the most current information on applying for a Polish visa.
When visiting Poland please refer to the Embassy of Poland website for information on medical and financial requirements needed for entry. If you don't have adequate financial resources, you may be denied entry to Poland. You should carry proof of sufficient medical insurance in case of an accident or hospitalization while in Poland. Medicare does not cover health costs incurred while abroad. For more information, please see the Medical Information for Americans Abroad website.
Poland requires Polish citizens (including dual U.S. citizens or those with claims to Polish citizenship) to enter and depart Poland using a Polish passport. If you are a U.S. citizen and also a Polish citizen, or if you are unsure if you hold Polish citizenship, you should contact the nearest Polish consular office for further information.
For further information on entry requirements and current visa information, please contact the consular section of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, 2224 Wyoming Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 234-3800, or the Polish consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Poland.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international parental child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Poland has no known indigenous terrorist groups, and there have been no attacks by transnational terrorist groups in the country. However, like other countries in the Schengen zone, Poland’s open borders with its neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups to enter/exit the country undetected. The latest U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution should be reviewed as a guide on international and transnational terrorism operations against U.S. targets.
Demonstrations are a regular fixture of the Polish political scene but are, for the most part, orderly and peaceful. Demonstrations regularly occur in Warsaw and are concentrated around Polish government offices, many of which are in close proximity to the U.S. Embassy. During the winter, these activities taper off, but spring and summer witness a large number of such events. Demonstrators are typically vocal but law-abiding, and events involving 15 or more people require permits in advance from the government. The average size of a demonstration in Warsaw last year was several hundred people and occurred, on average, twice monthly. You should be vigilant in protecting your security, bearing in mind that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful may turn violent. Avoid street demonstrations whenever possible.
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CRIME: While Poland generally has a low rate of violent crime, the incidence of street crime, which sometimes involves violence, is moderate. Major cities have higher rates of crime against residents and foreign visitors than other areas.
Organized groups of thieves and pick-pockets operate at major tourist destinations, in train stations, and on trains, trams, and buses in major cities. Thieves often target overnight trains. Most pick-pocketing on trains occurs while boarding or disembarking. In a common scenario, a group of well-dressed young men surround you in the narrow aisle of the train, jostling and pick-pocketing you as they supposedly attempt to get around you. You should especially guard your passport, money, credit cards, and cell phone. The number of car thefts and carjacking has significantly declined, but theft from vehicles and attempted highway robberies remain a concern. Be wary of people indicating you should pull over or signaling that something is wrong with your car. If you pull over, you may find yourself suddenly surrounded by thieves from another vehicle. If you encounter someone indicating that there is trouble with your car, continue driving until you reach a safe spot (a crowded gas station, supermarket, or even police station) to inspect your vehicle. There have been incidents of thieves opening or breaking passenger-side doors and windows in slow or stopped traffic to take purses or briefcases from the passenger seat. Remember to keep windows closed and doors locked, and use parking garages and anti-theft devices. You should not leave valuables in plain sight inside vehicles, as this increases the opportunity for theft.
U.S. citizens of Asian and African descent have reported being targets of verbal harassment and physical attacks while traveling in Poland.
Under Polish law, if asked by Polish police, you must verify your identity by presenting a travel document, a residence permit card, or an identity card issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If you are a tourist, this means that you are expected to carry your passport with you. Please ensure the security of your passport while traveling to prevent incidents of pick-pocketing or theft. Keep a copy of your passport biodata page (and any pages with valid visas) in a safe place separate from the passport itself; this can help you when applying for a new passport if yours is lost or stolen.
You should change money only at banks or legitimate money kiosks. A legitimate offer to change money by an unknown person on the street is extremely rare and would almost certainly be a scam. Automated teller machines (ATMs) are widely available throughout major cities in Poland. Most Polish ATMs offer instructions in multiple languages and allow access to U.S. bank accounts.
The press has reported that criminal organizations have illegally obtained users’ ATM card numbers and PIN codes by electronically “skimming” the information from victims’ cards at public ATMs. Try to use machines at more secure or heavily traveled and monitored locations, such as commercial banks, large hotels, shopping malls, and airports. You should notify your bank of all international travel before you leave the United States, and monitor your personal bank account after traveling.
Polish bars and dance clubs are generally safe for the vast majority of visitors. However, as in many cities, people may approach you with offers of illicit drugs, which are against the law in Poland. Be mindful that security personnel at nightclubs could respond more forcefully than at similar venues in the United States. Whereas casinos and gaming establishments are government-regulated, some are affiliated with, or have attracted the interest of, organized crime.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only is it illegal to bring such items into the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking Polish or EU law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Poland is 112.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Poland, you are subject to its laws, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. It is illegal in Poland to take pictures of military buildings and other national security or restricted objects. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. Criminal penalties in Poland vary from the United States. There are some things that might be legal in Poland, but illegal in the United States, for which you can be prosecuted under U.S. law, such as buying pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in Poland is a crime prosecutable in Poland and in the United States. If you break local laws in Poland, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you visit.
Penalties are severe for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Poland, and you can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines if convicted.
If you are arrested in Poland, the authorities are required to notify the nearest U.S.embassy or consulate of your arrest, but this does not always happen quickly. If you are concerned that the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request the policeor prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest. This pertains in particular to dual U.S.-Polish nationals, since Poland does not recognize (although it does not prohibit) dual nationality. A person holding Polish and U.S. citizenship is deemed by Poland to be a Polish citizen.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: If you import more than 10,000 Euros cash equivalent (currency, traveler's checks, and other cash instruments) as part of the arrival process, you must complete a form to declare it. You should have this form stamped by Polish customs and retain it for presentation on departure. Undeclared cash may be confiscated upon departure and you may also be prosecuted for carrying undeclared cash. Most banks now cash traveler's checks, ATMs are readily available, and credit cards are widely accepted. Polish customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the export of items, such as works of art. Works created more than 50 years ago or considered to be of high cultural or material value may be legally exported only with permission from the Provincial Conservator of Relics, even if you imported it only temporarily (e.g., for an exhibit or performance). You should declare the item to customs upon entry and carry proof of ownership in order to avoid problems on departure. Contact the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of the Polish consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Poland, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from that in the United States. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services. Although the government generally enforces these provisions, the social acceptance of persons with disabilities is not as prevalent as in the United States.
The law requires buildings to be accessible for persons with disabilities. Other laws require retrofitting of existing buildings to provide accessibility. In Warsaw and other major cities, public buildings and transportation generally are accessible. Outside of major metropolitan areas, accessibility is less available.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate medical care is available in Poland, but hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to American standards. Physicians are generally well trained, but specific emergency services may be lacking in certain regions, especially in Poland's small towns and rural areas. Younger doctors generally speak English, but nursing staff usually do not. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Medications are generally available, although they may not be specific U.S. brand-name drugs.
You can find information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: Do not assume that your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. If your policy doesn’t cover you outside of the United States, you should take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Poland, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Poland is provided for general reference only, and may not be completely accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
You must have an International Driving Permit (IDP), obtained prior to departure from the United States, as well as a U.S. driver's license, in order to drive in Poland. A U.S. driver's license alone is not enough, and U.S. citizens cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile associations — the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) — have been authorized by the U.S. Department of State to distribute IDPs. Polish roadside services, while not always at American levels, are rapidly improving. The Polish Automobile Association (Polski Zwi%u0105zek Motorowy Auto-Tour, equivalent to AAA) has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide 24/7. You can reach them by calling (22) 532-8427, or (22) 532-8433. The police emergency number is 997, fire service is 998, ambulance service is 999, and the general emergency number is 112. Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under the age of 12 are prohibited from riding in the front seat. Children younger than 12 years old and who are shorter than 4’11” must ride in a child car seat. You must use headlights year round, at all times, day and night. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited except for hands-free models. Making a right turn on a red light is not allowed. Turning right on red with a green arrow is the equivalent of turning right on red in the U.S. Unlike in the United States, the green arrow in that case does NOT give you the right of way.
You should note that road fatalities are high in Poland, placing it among the more dangerous places to drive in Europe. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on Polish roads and driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are sometimes narrow, poorly lit, frequently under repair (especially in the summer months), and are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Infrastructure has a program called “Black Spot” (Czarny Punkt), which places signs at locations with a particularly high number of accidents and/or casualties. The signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the road area around the “black spot” is marked with red diagonal lines.
Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish law provides virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties for doing so (defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or higher) include a fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties for drivers involved in accidents are severe, and can include imprisonment from six months to eight years or, in the case of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, up to twelve years.
Within cities, taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or may be ordered in advance by telephone. Some drivers speak English and accept credit cards. When hailing taxis on the street, you should avoid those that do not have a company name and/or telephone number displayed since these may not have meters and many of them charge significantly more. Do not accept assistance from self-professed “taxi drivers” who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors at Warsaw Airport, but rather use only those that display telephone numbers and a company name and are at designated taxi stands.
Unpredictable weather throughout the year can cause problems on the roads. For instance, Poland experienced numerous floods in 2010, during which many bridges were closed and road travel was significantly disrupted. Please monitor local conditions when traveling.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Poland’s National Tourist Office and Poland's Ministry of Infrastructure,which is responsible for road safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Poland's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Poland's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Poland dated April 26, 2012.