Old town, Warsaw, Poland
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Old town, Warsaw, Poland

© www.123rf.com / Artur Bogacki

Poland Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq miles).

Population

38,593,161 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

123.3 per sq km.

Capital

Warsaw.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Andrzej Duda since 2015.

Head of government

Prime Minister Donald Tusk since 2023.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz; European plugs with two round pins are standard.

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?

Travel Advice

Ukraine-Poland border

Russian military strikes have taken place in Ukraine within 20km of the Polish border. Access to the border is restricted. See Safety and security.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Poland set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact Polish Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Poland.  

Passport validity requirements

Poland follows Schengen area rules. Your passport must have:

  • a ‘date of issue’ less than 10 years before the date you arrive – if you renewed your passport before 1 October 2018, it may have a date of issue that is more than 10 years ago
  • an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave the Schengen area

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Dual nationals

If you are a British-Polish dual national, you must enter and exit Poland using a Polish passport or Polish national identity card. There are regular cases of Polish border guards allowing dual nationals to enter on their British passport, but refusing exit on the British passport.

Children born to Polish or British-Polish dual national parents in the UK are automatically granted Polish citizenship, regardless of the child’s place of birth. The requirement to exit Poland using Polish documentation will apply.

Find out how to apply for a Polish passport before travelling to Poland (in Polish). Check with the Polish Embassy in the UK if in doubt about your circumstances.

Visa requirements

You can travel without a visa to the Schengen area, which includes Poland, for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

The requirements for working in Poland are different.

If you’re travelling to other Schengen countries as well, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries in the 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

Make sure you get your passport stamped on entry and exit. 

If you’re a visitor, border guards will look at your entry and exit stamps to check you have not overstayed the 90-day visa-free limit for the Schengen area.

If your passport is missing a stamp, show evidence of when and where you entered or left the Schengen area (for example, boarding passes or tickets) and ask the border guards to add the date and location in your passport.

At Polish border control, you may also need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • prove that you have enough money for your stay

Staying longer than 90 days in a 180-day period

To stay longer, you must meet the Polish government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Polish Embassy in the UK.

If you are in Poland with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

See more details about the rules if you live in Poland and read the Polish Border Guards guidance.

Land border crossings 

Entering Poland from Ukraine

The main border crossing points to enter Poland from Ukraine are listed on the Ukrainian government website. Prepare for potential long delays at border crossings.

Access to within 15m of the Poland-Ukraine border is restricted. Observe this restriction at all times unless you’re at a designated border crossing point. Follow the instructions of Polish authorities if you are in this area.

If you have arrived in Poland from Ukraine and are in need of assistance, call +48 22 311 0000 or +44 1908 516 666 and select the option for ‘consular services for British nationals’. You can also send an enquiry using the web contact form.

Entering Poland from Belarus

FCDO advises against all travel to Belarus. The Kuzniсa-Bruzgi road border crossing is currently closed. In February 2023, traffic was suspended at the Bobrowniki border crossing until further notice. More border checkpoints may close or impose restrictions at short notice and other disruption is possible.

Access to parts of the Polish border with Belarus is restricted. On 13 June, new regulations came into force for 90 days prohibiting access to the border in specific areas controlled by the Polish Border Guard posts at Narewka, Białowieża, Dubicze Cerkiewne and Czeremcha. In some areas, access is restricted to within 200m of the border and in others to within 2km. See precise details of the restricted areas (PDF) (in Polish).

You should check the Polish Border Guards guidance (in Polish), observe these regulations at all times and follow the instructions of the Polish authorities if you are in these areas.

Other Polish borders

Border checkpoints may close or impose restrictions at short notice and other disruption is possible. Check the Polish Border Guards guidance (in Polish) and follow the instructions of the Polish authorities if you are in these areas.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Poland guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into and out of Poland. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.   

Taking food and drink into Poland

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions such as powdered baby milk, baby food and special foods or pet feed required for medical reasons. 

Taking money into Poland

Declare cash or travellers cheques if the value is 10,000 euros or more. You will get a certified declaration to show you brought it in with you. If you do not, your money could be seized when you leave.

Terrorism 

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.     

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Poland

Terrorist attacks in Poland cannot be ruled out.

Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places visited by foreign nationals. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

Russian invasion of Ukraine

Some Russian military strikes in Ukraine have hit within 20km of the Polish border.   

In 2022, there was an explosion in Przewodów near the Ukrainian border killing 2 Polish nationals. For the latest information, see Ukraine travel advice.  

Access to the land borders with Ukraine and Belarus are restricted. See Entry requirements.

Political situation and demonstrations

Public demonstrations are common. Marches and gatherings are mostly peaceful and well-policed, but take extra care in crowded places. Demonstrations, marches and gatherings can attract violence. Monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

Racially-motivated attacks   

Most visitors do not experience any difficulties. Serious crime against foreigners is rare, but crimes do occur and in some cases attacks have been racially motivated.

Protecting yourself and your belongings

Be alert to street crime and petty theft. Criminals view foreigners as easy targets. Keep valuables and cash out of sight, especially:

  • in crowded areas
  • in tourist spots
  • at main rail stations and on all train services and overnight sleeper trains

To reduce your personal risk:

  • avoid walking in isolated areas alone, especially at night
  • take care after withdrawing cash

Unofficial taxi drivers

Unofficial taxi drivers often overcharge. Passengers have been attacked, including sexual assaults, in unofficial taxis and cars booked using ride share apps. See further advice from the Polish police (in Polish).

Do not use unofficial taxis. Official taxis will:

  • have the name and telephone number of the taxi company on the door and top of the taxi
  • show a rate card on the window of the vehicle

Taxis with a crest but no company name are not official.

Drink spiking and alcohol

Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed in bars and clubs. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers or leaving your drink unattended.

Check your bill carefully when buying drinks in bars and nightclubs. Alcohol can reduce your vigilance, making you less in control. Visitors have been overcharged when paying for drinks at the end of the night by debit or credit card.      

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

Always carry ID. A printed copy of the photo page of your passport is acceptable.

Dual nationals

Dual Polish-British nationals will be treated as a Polish national if arrested or detained by the Polish authorities.

Alcohol laws

It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places. The police can arrest you and you could get a fine.

If you are drunk in a public place, the police can take you to a clinic to be medically assessed. You must stay there until you are sober, including overnight, and pay for your stay.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is legal, but Polish law does not recognise same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.

Small towns and rural areas can be less tolerant towards LGBT+ travellers. There are LGBT+friendly restaurants, clubs and bars in many towns and cities including Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk and Sopot.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Jaywalking

Police can fine you if you are jaywalking – ignoring pedestrian crossings or signals.

Photography

Avoid taking photographs of military or other security installations and any buildings or items of national infrastructure where there are signs prohibiting photography. This includes some border areas.

Transport risks

Reflective clothing

Walkers and cyclists must wear a reflective item at night in non built-up areas. The authorities may hold you responsible if you are involved in an accident and not wearing a reflective item. If police stop you without a reflective item, you could get a fine of 100 Polish zloty (around £20).

Public transport

Validate your public transport ticket at the start of the journey. You will get a fine if inspectors find you travelling on an invalid or unvalidated ticket.

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Poland, see information on driving abroad and check the rules of the road in the RAC’s Poland guide. The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Poland for up to 6 months. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well. 

When driving, always bring your:

  • driving licence
  • ID
  • car registration document
  • insurance documents

You will need to show these if you are stopped by the police or if you cross non-Schengen borders. If you do not have them, the police may take your vehicle and charge fees.

Check if you need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK.

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP. Most car rental companies will not allow you to take a hire car across the Poland-Ukraine border.

If you want to drive for longer than 6 months, see driving requirements for residents

Road conditions

Roadworks are frequent, particularly in summer, as the road network is repaired and upgraded. The major roads are heavily used by transport vehicles as Poland is a major east-west transit route.

Minor roads and even some main roads between major towns and cities can be narrow and poorly surfaced. Driving after dark on these roads is difficult.

Tolls

You must pay road tolls on some stretches of motorways, expressways and national roads. See the toll operator website for details.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Telephone 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Poland, including biting insects and ticks.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare in Poland

Public medical facilities in Poland are similar to those in the UK. Private medical facilities are less expensive than the UK.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Poland where some staff will speak English.

Health insurance cards

To get medically necessary state healthcare in Poland, you need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). 

The NHS’s getting healthcare abroad webpage has details about:

  • how to apply for a GHIC
  • how to get temporary cover if you lose your card or it does not arrive in time
  • who qualifies for a new EHIC instead of a GHIC
  • what treatment counts as medically necessary

A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. You may have costs your GHIC or EHIC does not cover, including:

  • changes to travel and accommodation bookings
  • additional standard costs for treatment
  • medical repatriation to the UK
  • treatment that is ruled non-urgent
  • private healthcare
  • private clinics

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Poland.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Poland

Ambulance: 999

Fire: 998

Police: 997

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are in Poland and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Warsaw.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Poland on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.