According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Poland has been assessed as Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.
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 American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) 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 MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Please review OSAC’s Poland-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
Polish National Police statistics underscore that Poland continues to be one of the safest countries in Europe. In 2016 (the latest statistics available), police reported 776,909 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 or Warsaw’s Old Town). At train stations, where many people are vulnerable by carrying cumbersome luggage and other articles, groups of thieves can jostle and distract their victim while a wallet 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. The Embassy has received reports of wildly excessive credit card bills received from nightclubs near popular city center areas. Visitors should pay careful attention to drink prices and pay in cash. There have also been reports of nightclub security being overly aggressive and, in few instances, physically assaulting patrons. RSO recommends avoiding any confrontation at these locations. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”
Burglars tend to rob homes by entering through an unlocked front door or by some ruse. Police continue to report that most residential crimes occur because tenants and homeowners failed to use alarm systems or to lock doors, gates, and/or garages, allowing thieves to take advantage of the vulnerability. A common tactic favored by thieves is to pose as employees of municipal utility services and attempt to 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.
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.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
Road Safety and Road Conditions
In the first six months of 2017, Polish authorities registered approximately 14,000 traffic accidents to include 1,177 fatalities and 17,195 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.
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 and or tire chains.
Alcohol consumption is 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.
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. 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.
For traffic offenses or accidents, police may make an immediate determination of guilt and levy a fine, sometimes substantial. If the individual has a registered address in Poland they will be given a fine payable within seven days. 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. 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.
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.
For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation is safe, efficient, and reliable.
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. Uber and other internet-based peer to peer taxi services are increasingly common. For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.”
Poland has a highly-developed rail system, and the number of rail accidents is quite low.
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 LOW-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 from a few individuals to thousands. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful may turn violent. Avoid areas where you see heavy police presence or crowds assembling, exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings, and stay away from demonstrations.
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 disruptions from these demonstrations.
Demonstrations in Krakow are much more infrequent and typically much smaller. The U.S. Consulate General in 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. As of December 2017, Poland has not complied with EU regulations regarding particulate levels.
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 the illegal activity, and innocent bystanders are rarely, if ever, victimized. Poland is primarily used as a drug trans-shipment country for Europe. Domestically, amphetamines, marijuana, and synthetic drugs are reportedly the primary drugs of choice by users.
Authorities in Poland and neighboring countries report and increased illicit production of synthetic drugs, including methamphetamine. However, it is unclear whether methamphetamine is produced for local consumption or for distribution to countries such as the 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. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”
Police officers are universally professional and cooperative.
Crime Victim Assistance
General Emergency: 112
For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.
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.
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. Major cities will generally have English speakers available through the general emergency number.
The standard of care in major cities may lag behind healthcare in the U.S.; in small villages it may be limited. Many healthcare workers do not speak English. Prescription medication is reliable, but sometimes non-available.
Dial 112 or 999 for a medical emergency.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Global Assistance (formerly Europe Assist)
Toll free: 1-877-710-4082
American Air Ambulance provides worldwide air ambulance services for people needing medical attention.
Tel: 800-863-0312 or 941-536-2002
International SOS provides air ambulance service in Poland.
Tel: +49 6102 3588 100
Global Air Rescue provides worldwide service.
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 Country Council in Warsaw is active, meeting quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.
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
Embassy Operator: +48-22-504-2000
Marine Post One: +48-22-504-2639
Consulate Krakow: http://krakow.usconsulate.gov/
U.S. citizens traveling to Poland should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.
Poland Country Information Sheet