Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Warsaw does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED WARSAW AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Poland-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Polish National Police statistics underscore that Poland continues to be one of the safest countries in Europe. In 2015 (the latest statistics currently available), police reported 833,281 criminal offenses:
Pickpocketing is common and is one of the most frequently reported crimes. Most pickpocketing incidents occur on public transportation (train/bus stations) or in areas where there are large crowds (Krakow’s Market Square, Warsaw’s Old Town). At train stations, groups of thieves can jostle and distract their victim while a wallet/billfold is deftly stolen. Crowded public buses and trams also attract pickpockets. American citizens most often report stolen passports when dealing with the U.S. Embassy, and they report that their items were stolen from luggage, backpacks, or purses. Theft continues to be the crime that impacts official American citizens the most.
Assaults occur on very rare occasion. The majority of assaults occurs among patrons of late night establishments and often involves alcohol consumption. These crimes generally take place between 2400-0600 hours.
Burglars tend to rob homes by entering through an unlocked front door or by ruse. Police report that most residential crimes occur because tenants and homeowners fail to use alarm systems or to lock doors, gates, and/or garages. A common tactic favored by thieves is to pose as employees of municipal services (a utility company) and gain access to a residence under the guise of checking meters or repairing reported problems. In reported cases, residents failed to verify the employment status of the supposed employees.
There have been reports of nightclub security being overly aggressive and, in few instances, physically assaulting patrons. RSO recommends avoiding any confrontation at these locations. The Embassy has received reports of wildly excessive credit card bills received from nightclub establishments near popular city center tourist areas. Visitors frequenting clubs should pay careful attention to drink prices and pay in cash.
Poland is the easternmost border of the Schengen Zone and is the entry point into Schengen Europe for some illicit activities. Organized crime has declined since its heyday in the late 1990s but is still active. Various elements operate across borders, particularly with regard to drug/cigarette trafficking, vehicle theft, and alien smuggling/human trafficking.
Soccer matches are often marred by confrontations between opposing fans. Such confrontations may become violent.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
In 2016, Polish authorities registered 33,637 traffic accidents to include 3,017 fatalities and 40,672 injuries. Road fatalities are high, placing Poland among one of the more dangerous places to drive in Europe. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on the road; driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are sometimes narrow, poorly illuminated, frequently under repair (especially in the summer), and are often also used by pedestrians and cyclists.
Alcohol consumption is also frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish law provides virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties 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/drugs, up to 12 years.
Unpredictable weather can cause problems on the roads. Flooding has closed bridges and significantly disrupted road travel. Driving in the mountainous regions in the winter can be extremely dangerous, as the roads tend to be narrow and twisty with narrow shoulders. Drivers should consider snow tires/chains if planning to drive through the mountains in the winter. U.S. citizens should monitor local weather conditions when traveling.
You must have both an International Driving Permit (IDP) obtained prior to arrival and a U.S. driver's license in order to drive in Poland. U.S. citizens cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile associations — the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club (NCA) — are authorized to distribute IDPs. If you plan to stay for more than six months, you must obtain a Polish driver’s license.
Seat belts are compulsory, and children under 12 must ride in the back. Children younger than 12 and who are less than 4’11,” must ride in a child car seat. You must always use headlights. 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. The green arrow does NOT give you the right-of-way. Police will ticket for traffic violations, and fines can be substantial. If you are a non-resident, you are expected to pay fines immediately to the police officer issuing the ticket. You must be prepared to pay in local currency, though in some cases credit cards are accepted. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Polish roadside services are rapidly improving. The Polish Automobile Association (Polski Związek Motorowy Auto-Tour, analogous to AAA) has multilingual operators and provides assistance countrywide 24/7. You can reach them by calling (22) 532-8427 or (22) 532-8433.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation is safe, efficient, and reliable. Poland has a highly-developed rail system, and the number of rail accidents is quite low.
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. Use "radio taxis" or those whose company phone number and name are printed on the light bar. Check to see that the taxi has a functioning meter and that the driver uses the meter when starting your trip. Do not accept assistance from self-professed taxi drivers who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors at Warsaw Airport; use only those that display telephone numbers and a company name and are at designated taxi stands. Internet-based peer-to-peer taxi services are increasingly common.
Air travel incidents are relatively rare, and Poland has a well-developed and highly professional civil aviation structure.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED WARSAW AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Poland has no indigenous terrorism and no known terrorist organizations have been identified operating in Poland. Any American presence presents a possible political or terrorist objective for international terrorist organizations. 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.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED WARSAW AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Demonstrations are a regular occurrence but are generally orderly and peaceful.
Demonstrations regularly occur in Warsaw and can range in size from a few individuals to tens of thousands. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful may turn violent. Avoid demonstrations whenever possible. Avoid areas where you see heavy police presence or crowds assembling and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings. The U.S. Embassy is located near the prime minister’s chancellery, Parliament, various government ministries, and other Embassies. While demonstrations rarely target U.S. policies, the U.S. Embassy lies along a major north-south traffic artery often used by demonstrators, so the Embassy can be affected by demonstrations.
Demonstrations in Krakow are much more infrequent and typically much smaller when they do occur. U.S. Consulate General Krakow is near the German and French Consulates. Occasionally, small demonstrations against the German Consulate have taken place but normally have little impact on Consulate operations.
Poland has one of the highest rates of air pollution in Europe and generates almost 90% of its electricity with coal; almost 70% of single family homes are heated with a coal-fired boiler or stove. In February 2015, the European Commission (EC) asked Poland to comply with EU regulations and reduce the level of particulate (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) or risk being taken to the EU Court of Justice. In December 2015, the EC referred Poland to the Court as noncompliant.
In 2013, Poland adopted the National Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, which was designed to improve security and resilience of Poland’s financial, energy, and communications infrastructure. No specific infrastructure concerns have been identified by Polish authorities.
U.S. government interaction with private sector representatives and Polish counterparts indicate economic espionage problems exist. Companies either do not know they have been targeted or have tried to address the problem internally without involving the authorities.
There is a negligible threat of drug violence or narco-terrorism. Most violence involving drug trafficking takes place among those involved in this illegal activity, and innocent bystanders are rarely, if ever, victimized. Poland is primarily used as a drug trans-shipment country for the rest of Europe. Domestically, amphetamines, marijuana, and synthetic drugs are reportedly the primary drugs of choice by users.
Authorities in Poland and neighboring countries are reporting increased illicit production of synthetic drugs (methamphetamine); however, it is unclear whether meth is produced for local consumption or for distribution elsewhere (Czech Republic).
There is no record of expatriates or U.S. Embassy personnel being targeted for kidnappings. There are reports of wealthy Poles or their family members being kidnapped for ransom, but those instances are rare.
Police officers are universally professional and cooperative. For traffic offenses or accidents, police may make an immediate determination of guilt and levy a fine. If the individual has a registered address in Poland they will be given a fine payable within seven days. For visitors, the police may require immediate payment. If you are unable to pay or if you refuse to pay, the police may hold your passport and request an “accelerated procedure” with the court. The passport will not be returned until the matter is settled.
Crime Victim Assistance
Victims of crime should file a report at the nearest police station. Few police officers will speak fluent English but will usually offer to obtain an interpreter. This may take a few minutes to a few hours. It helps to have a bi-lingual friend along for translation.
General Emergency: 112
Major cities in Poland will generally have English speakers available through the general emergency number.
In an emergency with a Polish-speaking person available, call the police, fire department, or ambulance service, depending on your emergency and what assistance is needed. If no Polish-speaking person is available, call the American Embassy/Consulate for assistance. You may contact the ACS Unit directly during normal working hours (0830-1700) at +48 22 504 2784. Outside of normal working hours, please call +48 22 504 2000.
The standard of care in major cities throughout Poland lags behind healthcare in the West; small villages may be more limited. Many healthcare workers do not speak English. Prescription medication is reliable but sometimes unavailable. Dial 112 or 999 for a medical emergency.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The following is a list of the major hospitals in Warsaw, Krakow, and Poznan. This is not a complete list of all health care providers.
"Woloska" Hospital (Centralny Szpital Kliniczny MSWiA)
Ul. Woloska 137 Warsaw
Emergency Room - 22-508-1510
Switchboard - 22-508-2000
Medicover Hospital, Private Facility/English-speaking providers available
Rzeczypospolitej Av. 5
"Banacha" Hospital (Centralny Szpital Kliniczny Akademii Medycznej Nr. 1)
Ul. Stefana Banacha 1A Warsaw
Emergency Room - 022-599-1155
Switchboard - 022-599-1000
“Szaserów” Military Institute
Ul. Szaserów 128 Warsaw
ER: 261-817-522 or (48)-22-810-4480
Poison Control - Warsaw Acute Poison Control Center (Stoleczny Osrodek Ostrych Zatruc)
Embassy team often uses U.S.-based Poison Control for guidance, 202.625.3333.
Al. Solidarnosci 67 Warsaw
24 Hour Contact - 022-619-6654, -0897
Admissions Room - 022-619-1979 or 022-818-5061 ext. 1239
Trauma Center/ CUMRIK ( Centrum Urazowe Medycyny Ratunkowej i Katastrof) adults only
Kopernika street 50, 31-501 Krakow
ER: Tel: 12-3516 601
24 hour information center: +48 12 424 7000
5th Military Clinical Hospital (5-ty Wojskowy Szpital Kliniczny)
Wrocławska street 1-3, 30-901 Kraków
ER: 12-6308-138 or 6308-140
University Hospital (Szpital Universytecki)
Mikołaja Kopernika street 36, Kraków
24 call center: +48 12 424 70 00
Hospital of the Ministry of Interior (Szpital MSWiA)
ul. Dojazd 34
Emergency Ward - (61) 8464 641; (61) 8464 650; (61) 8464 500; (61) 852 2525
Medical University of Poznan Hospital no. 2
(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr. 2)
Telephone - (61) 869 1100
Contacts: Prof. Michal Drews (surgery) Tel: work: 869 1275 home: 867 1414 mobile: 0601 703092
Prof. Krzysztof Linke (gastrology, internal medicine) Tel: work: 8691 343 home: 822 7977 mobile: 0601726526
Samodzielny Publiczny Dzieciecy Szpital Kliniczny (SPDSK)
ul. Żwirki i Wigury 63A
Telephone ER: 22 317 92 13
Information::22 317 91 64
Institute - Children's Health Center Memorial Hospital
(Instytut Q Pomnik Centrum Zdorwia Dziecka)
Al. Dzieci Polskich 20, Warszawa-Miedzylesie
Admission Room - 022-815-2519, 022-855-7444
University Pediatric Hospital (Uniwersytecki Szpital Dzieciecy Polsko-Amerykanski Instytut Pediatrii, Collegium Medicum UJ)
ul. WIELICKA 265, 30-663 Krakow
Switchboard - (12) 658-2011
Medical University of Poznan Hospital no.5
(Szpital Kliniczny Uniwersytetu Medycznego nr 5
ul./street: Szpitalna 27/33
Telephone - (61) 849 1200
Contact: Prof. Andrzej Jankowski (pediatrician) Tel: work: (61) 847 5228 home: (61) 847 5381 Mobile: 0601 563434
Available Air Ambulance Services
Global Assistance (formerly Europe Assist)
Toll free: 1-877-710-4082
American Air Ambulance
Tel: 800-863-0312 or 941-536-2002
Tel: +49 6102 3588 100
Global Air Rescue
Tel: 866-299-6870, or 561-459-3150 (in the US)
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Poland.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Krakow Country Council currently meets several times a year and has approximately 50 members. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Warsaw
Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31
00-540 Warsaw Poland
Embassy hours of operation are 0830-1700, Mon-Fri.
Embassy Contact Numbers
Regional Security Officer: +48-22-504-2131
Embassy Operator: +48-22-504-2000
Consular Affairs: +48-22-504-2784
Marine Post One: +48-22-504-2639
U.S. Consulate Krakow: http://krakow.usconsulate.gov/
U.S. citizens traveling in Poland are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.
Poland Country Information Sheet