Traveling Luck for Poland

Poland is located in Central Europe, east of Germany.

Poland has borders with Belarus for 407km, Czech Republic for 658km, Germany for 456km, Lithuania for 91km, Russia for 206km, Slovakia for 444km and Ukraine for 526km.

Land in Poland is mostly flat plain; mountains along southern border.

Polish land covers an area of 312685 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than New Mexico

As for the Polish climate; temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers.

Pole(s) speak Polish 97.8%, other and unspecified 2.2% (2002 census).

Polish National Map

Polish Map

Regions of Poland

Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its government was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment, underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural underclass. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union's political role. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of Euro-Atlantic organizations.


Poland Country Profile

Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of economic liberalization throughout the 1990s and today stands out as a success story among transition economies. Even so, much remains to be done, especially in bringing down the unemployment rate - currently the highest in the EU. The privatization of small- and medium-sized state-owned companies and a liberal law on establishing new firms has encouraged the development of the private business sector, but legal and bureaucratic obstacles alongside persistent corruption are hampering its further development. Poland's agricultural sector remains handicapped by surplus labor, inefficient small farms, and lack of investment. Restructuring and privatization of "sensitive sectors" (e.g., coal, steel, railroads, and energy), while recently initiated, have stalled. Reforms in health care, education, the pension system, and state administration have resulted in larger-than-expected fiscal pressures. Further progress in public finance depends mainly on reducing losses in Polish state enterprises, restraining entitlements, and overhauling the tax code to incorporate the growing gray economy and farmers, most of whom pay no tax. The previous Socialist-led government introduced a package of social and administrative spending cuts to reduce public spending by about $17 billion through 2007, but full implementation of the plan was trumped by election-year politics in 2005. The right-wing Law and Justice party won parliamentary elections in September, and Lech KACZYNSKI won the presidential election in October 2005, running on a state-interventionist fiscal and monetary platform. Poland joined the EU in May 2004, and surging exports to the EU contributed to Poland's strong growth in 2004, though its competitiveness could be threatened by the zloty's appreciation. GDP per capita roughly equals that of the three Baltic states. Poland stands to benefit from nearly $23.2 billion in EU funds, available through 2006. Farmers have already begun to reap the rewards of membership via booming exports, higher food prices, and EU agricultural subsidies.

Polish natural resources include coal, sulfur, copper, natural gas, silver, lead, salt, amber, arable land

historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain

Polish religion is Roman Catholic 89.8% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, unspecified 8.3% (2002).

Natural hazards in Poland include flooding.

Travel Advice on Poland

Poland

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Health section (EHIC) and General section (EU Aviation Regulations).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • Poland shares with the rest of Europe a threat from international terrorism.  Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets.

  • There are risks of robbery on rail and bus journeys and driving can be hazardous.

  • Most visits to Poland are trouble-free.

  • Holders of Dual Polish and British nationality should note that we may only be able to offer them a limited consular service.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Violent crime is rare.  You should be aware of street crime and pick pockets.

Take particular care to safeguard your passport and credit/ATM cards.  You are advised not to lose sight of your credit cards during transactions.

A few tourists have been the target of a scam where people claiming to be plain-clothed policemen come to their aid, usually when another person has stopped them to ask for help or directions.  The "policemen" then ask to see the tourists' ID and credit cards and to be given their PIN numbers.  Under no circumstances should you give out your PIN numbers.

Where possible, avoid walking alone late at night in dark or poorly lit streets.  There have been isolated incidents of muggings in towns popular with tourists.  Busy streets, tourist sites, areas near main hotels, money exchange facilities, ATM machines and public transport are also popular with thieves.

There is a serious risk of robbery at main rail stations and on all train services, especially on overnight sleepers.  You are most at risk while boarding and leaving trains.

There have been problems in Warsaw, particularly at the airport involving overcharging by non-regulated taxi drivers.  You should use official taxis, which 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 light).  They will also show a rate card on the window of the vehicle.  Taxis with a crest but no company name are not officially registered taxis.

Theft of and from vehicles is common so do not leave documents or money in your vehicle.  There have been cases of vehicles with foreign number plates being stopped by gangs posing as policemen, particularly in rural and tourist areas such as the Polish lake district.  If you are flagged down, you should exercise caution, remain in your vehicle and ask to see identification.

Do not leave drinks or food unattended, or accept drinks from strangers.  There have been a small number of reports of drinks being spiked and visitors having their valuables stolen whilst intoxicated.

Road Safety

Poland is a major east-west transit route for heavy vehicles.  If you plan to hire a car, you should note that driving on Polish roads can be hazardous.  There are few dual carriageways and even main roads between major towns and cities can be narrow and are often poorly surfaced.  Streetlights, even in major cities, are weak.  Local driving standards are poor: speed limits, traffic lights and road signs are often ignored and drivers rarely indicate before manoeuvring.  Slow moving agricultural vehicles (and horse dawn vehicles) are common in rural areas, even on main roads.  If you can, avoid driving a right hand drive vehicle alone for long distances or driving long distances at night.  In winter, you should equip your car for severe driving conditions.  Between October and March, you must drive with your headlights on at all times.  Seat belts must be used in both front and back seats.  Using a mobile phone while driving (unless “hands free”) is banned.

Poland's rate of road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is two and a half times as high as in the UK.  Particular care should be taken on national holiday weekends, when there is usually a surge in road accidents.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Public Transport

Public transport tickets must be punched before travelling.  Tickets must be validated at the start of the journey, at the yellow machines at the entrance to the metro stations or on board buses and trams.  You will be fined on the spot if you are travelling with an invalid ticket, usually 120zl (about £20).  Tickets can be bought at most newspaper stands and kiosks with a sign reading “Bilety”.

Driving

According to EU law, driving licences issued by any EU member state are mutually recognised in other EU member states.  Article 94 of the Act on Road Transport (Polish law) states that a foreigner who has a valid driving licence issued by an EU Member State may drive in Poland.  If you are a resident of Poland and wish to change your driving licence for a Polish licence you may do so but there is no requirement to do so.

You must carry original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers at all times.  This is a legal requirement.  They will be asked for if you are stopped by the police and, in particular, when crossing borders.  This also applies to rental vehicles.  If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this. There is a zero tolerance for drink driving in Poland.  If you drive and have been drinking (even 1 unit of alcohol) you can be charged.  If you break Polish Driving Regulations you should be prepared to pay on the spot a fine in cash in Polish currency to the Police. Foreigners who are settled in Poland and have a permanent address may be fined with a credit ticket that can be paid later.

Polish police take a strict approach to public drunkenness and if found to be drunk in a public place you may be take to a drying out clinic where a doctor or nurse will medically assess you.  You will not be released until you have sobered up and this may necessitate an overnight stay.  You will be required to pay for the cost of the stay.

Jay walking is an offence and if caught by the police you will be fined. 

You should check Polish exchange control regulations before bringing in or taking out funds in excess of 10,000 Euros (or the Sterling equivalent of approximately £6,400).

The majority of Polish business, hotels and banks do not recognise Scottish bank notes and you will face difficulties in trying to change money.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British citizens visiting Poland do not require visas.  Other categories of British passport holder such BN(O)s and BOCs do require visas and should check the regulations with the Consulate General of the Polish Embassy:  Polish representation in the UK.  There are no restrictions on British nationals working in Poland.
Under Polish law, a Polish passport holder must be treated as a Polish national while in Poland, even if he or she holds another country’s passport.  The Polish authorities, therefore, require dual Polish/British nationals to enter and exit Poland on a Polish passport.  Check with the Polish Embassy in London if in doubt.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter or leave the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  They may want to see birth certificates, a letter of consent from the other parent and some evidence as to your responsibility for the child.  Polish authorities do not normally require such evidence, but if you have concerns please check with the Consulate General of the Polish Embassy:  Polish representation in the UK.
Please note that you require a visa to enter or transit Belarus.  This includes anyone travelling by train on the Warsaw-Moscow route.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.
If you are planning to visit forested areas, you are advised to seek medical advice before you travel about inoculations for tick borne encephalitis.
As a British national, you can gain access to emergency medical treatment in Poland.  The Form E111 is no longer valid.  You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK.  The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Polish nationals.  You will not be covered for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature.  For more information about how to obtain the EHIC please see Europe and the EHIC.
In general, medical facilities are of an equivalent standard to those in the UK.  Private medical facilities are comparatively inexpensive and of a good standard.  Polish doctors and nurses are well qualified, but English is not always widely spoken and UK patients may face communication difficulties.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  www.dh.gov.uk
Avian Flu
The Polish Government has previously confirmed the presence of Avian Influenza wildfowl in several locations in northern and north western Poland.  The Police authorities introduced precautionary measures in the affected areas.  No human infections or deaths have been reported.
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure that poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help.

EU Aviation Regulations
The revised EU-wide security measures that came into effect for all passengers departing from UK airports in November 2006 are also being implemented in Poland.  For more details about this please see DfT - Airline Security Update.

If you are a dual national of Poland and the United Kingdom and are arrested or detained in Poland, you will be deemed to be Polish by the Polish authorities.  You will have the same rights as any other Polish citizen in these circumstances (including the right to legal representation), however the British Embassy may only be able to offer you limited consular assistance.

If you intend to stay in Poland for an extended period of time, you are encouraged to register your presence with the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Warsaw.

If a passport is lost in Poland, replacement and emergency passport facilities are available at the Embassy in Warsaw (00 48 22 311 0000).  Passport facilities are not available at the Consulates outside of Warsaw, which are headed by Honorary Consuls.

European Union

Information on the EU can be found at:  Travelling and Living in the EU (pdf) and Britain in the EU.


OTHER

Poland Country Profile