Poland travel guide
Underrated but increasingly popular, Poland offers a huge amount for travellers of all stripes – from the stunning old towns of Krakow, Zamość, Gdańsk and Wroclaw to the wilderness of the Białowieża National Park with its ubiquitous buffalos and epic vistas.
Home to Europe’s most infamous ghetto, Warsaw was almost totally destroyed during WWII, but the Polish capital is modernising fast. Today the city blends Soviet architecture and contemporary styles, with a painstakingly recreated old town and an upbeat, progressive population.
Perhaps the country’s biggest draw, though, is Krakow. The country’s former royal capital is a wonderfully preserved architectural marvel that has somehow managed to survive Poland’s many wars. Even the Nazis thought it was too beautiful to bomb. Jam-packed with churches, monasteries and abbeys in Gothic and Renaissance styles, the city became the first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 (an honour it shared with Quito, Ecuador).
Beyond Krakow are numerous signs of Poland’s proud cultural heritage: Łódź and its famous film school, from which Roman Polański and Krzysztof Kieślowski graduated; Toruń, the hometown of astronomer Nicholas Copernicus; and Warsaw, which lays claim to Marie Curie and Frederick Chopin. The country’s biggest port and northern boomtown, Gdańsk, is best known as the birthplace of Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity movement, which led the country into democracy in 1989.
Poland’s scenic beauty is as varied as it is extraordinary. The Baltic coast is pretty, while Słowiński National Park is all ethereal forests, bogs and sand dunes. The Great Masurian Lakes in the northeast are popular for kayakers, with hundreds of pristine lakes broken up by dense forest. The Krakow-Wielun Upland with its limestone caves and medieval castles is another highlight, while the Carpathian Mountains in the far south are unremittingly beautiful.
And the food? Polish cuisine is hearty and filling, rich in meat and game. Thick soups such as Zurek are delicious, as are pierogi, or Polish dumplings. And as for the Polish vodka, one of the finest types in the world, what better way to wash all that rich food down?
312,685 sq km (120,728 sq miles).
38,593,161 (UN estimate 2016).
123.3 per sq km.
President Andrzej Duda since 2015.
Prime Minister Beata Maria Szydło since 2015.
230 volts AC, 50Hz; European plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
Around 500,000 British nationals visited Poland in 2016. Most visits are trouble-free.
If you need to contact the emergency services in Poland call 112.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Poland, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Driving in Poland can be hazardous.
If you hold dual Polish and British nationality, the British Embassy may only be able to offer limited consular assistance.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Most visitors to Poland experience no difficulties. Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur and in some cases attacks have been racially motivated. You should also be alert to the possibility of street crime and petty theft, and that foreigners may appear to be lucrative targets. Keep valuables and cash out of sight, especially in crowded areas and tourist spots where pickpockets and bag snatchers operate.
There is a higher risk of robbery at main rail stations and on all train services, especially overnight sleeper trains. You are most at risk while boarding and leaving trains.
Unregulated taxi drivers operate at the Warsaw airports and elsewhere. They commonly overcharge. Only 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. 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.
Don’t leave drinks or food unattended and beware of accepting drinks from casual acquaintances. There have been a small number of reports of drinks being spiked and visitors having their valuables stolen.
Check your bill carefully when buying drinks in bars and nightclubs. There have been some reports of overcharging and of large amounts of money being charged to debit or credit cards.
Public transport tickets must be validated at the start of a journey. You will be fined on the spot if you’re travelling with an invalid ticket, usually 266 Polish zloty (around £54). You can buy tickets at most newspaper stands and kiosks with a sign reading ‘Bilety’ or ticket machines distributed in cities.
If you think you may qualify for a discounted fare (eg student or older person) always double-check the rules as some cheaper fares may only be available to Polish nationals. You’ll be fined if you travel with a reduced fare ticket that you’re not entitled to.
If you drive and have been drinking (even a single unit of alcohol) you can be charged. If you break Polish driving laws you should be prepared to pay an on the spot fine of between 100 and 500 PLN (around £20-100) 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.
Pedestrians and cyclists must wear a reflective item between dusk and dawn when outside a built-up area, regardless of the weather. Anyone hit by a car or a bike when not wearing a reflective item is liable to be held responsible for the accident. Police may impose a 100PLN (around £20) fine on those not wearing reflective items.
A system of toll collection is in place on selected sections of motorways, expressways and national roads. Detailed information on the system is available on the toll operator website.
Poland ranks high among European Union countries for road fatalities. In 2015 there were 2,938 road deaths in Poland (source: Department for Transport).
This equates to 7.7 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in the same year.
Poland is a major east-west transit route for heavy vehicles. The road network is being constantly upgraded, and roadworks are frequent, particularly in summer. Even some main roads between major towns and cities can be narrow and poorly surfaced, making driving after dark particularly challenging.
Be aware when motorists are turning right on a green filter arrow, pedestrians on any pedestrian crossing will also have a green light, and have priority.
According to EU law, driving licences issued by any EU member state are mutually recognised in other EU member states. If you are moving abroad, you cannot register your new address on your British driving licence. See the DVLA website for more information.
It is a legal requirement to carry a driving licence, ID, original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers at all times. You will need to present these documents if you are stopped by the police and when crossing non-Schengen borders. This also applies to rental vehicles. If you do not have these papers the police may impound your vehicle and charge you for this. All vehicles driven on public roads in Poland must meet local technical requirements.
Seat belts must be used in both front and back seats.
Using a mobile phone while driving (unless ‘hands free’) is banned.
If you are a dual Polish-British national 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).
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Poland, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public places, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Polish police take a strict approach to public drunkenness. You are not allowed to consume alcohol in public places and fines may be imposed. If you are found to be drunk in a public place you may be taken 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 require an overnight stay. You will have to pay for the cost of the stay.
The drink-drive limit in Poland is 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – which is lower than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (80milligrammes) and Scotland (50milligrammes). Driving a car under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited and is punishable by up to 2 years in prison. Likewise cycling on public roads under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in prosecution.
Jay-walking is an offence. You should cross only at recognised crossing points. If caught by the police you will be fined.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Poland.
If you’re a British citizen visiting Poland, you don’t need a visa. If you hold a different type of British nationality you should check entry requirements with the Polish Embassy in London.
For stays of longer than three months, see the Polish Embassy website.
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.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
In general, medical facilities in Poland are comparable 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 you may face communication difficulties.
If you’re visiting Poland you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Polish nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
Tick-borne encephalitis is common, especially in forested areas during the summer.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
The currency in Poland is the Zloty – available from UK foreign currency exchange providers.
It’s not possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes in Poland.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.