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 Mateusz Morawiecki since 2017.
Last updated: 14 February 2019
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.
Around 500,000 British nationals visited Poland in 2016. Most visits are trouble-free.
If you’re living in or moving to Poland, visit our Living in Poland guide in addition to this travel advice.
If you need to contact the emergency services in Poland call 112.
Terrorist attacks in Poland 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.
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.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Poland and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry.
If you’re living in Poland, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
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 2016 there were 2,992 road deaths in Poland (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 7.9 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
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.
When driving anywhere in Poland you must have your headlights on, at least dipped beam, even in the hours of daylight.
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).
Attacks in Poland 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.
Most Poles are fairly traditional in their outlook on social issues, but people in urban areas are generally more open-minded regarding LGBT issues. There is an active gay scene in Warsaw with a number of gay clubs and bars. Homosexuality and cohabitation by same sex partners is legal and there is parity in the age of consent (16), but civil partnerships are not formally recognised and there is no civil marriage. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
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 do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
However, if the UK leaves the European Union with no deal, the passport validity rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. Some passports with up to 15 months validity remaining may not be valid for travel. Before booking travel, you should check that your passport will meet these new rules and find out whether you need to renew it.
If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rules for travelling or working in Europe will change after 29 March 2019.
The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you are a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.
If you’re intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.
Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.
On arrival in the Schengen Area, you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.
The 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work in the Schengen area. Most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You should check with the Polish Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from 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.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is likely to change. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Poland is available on the NHS website.
You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs will remain valid until 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The EHIC 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 UK government has or is seeking agreements with countries on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March 2019. The NHS website and this travel advice will be updated with further information on travelling to Poland as the circumstances change.
Whether you’re travelling before or after 29 March, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Poland, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Poland guide.
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.
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 some communication difficulties.
Tick-borne encephalitis is common, especially in forested areas during the summer.
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.