Poland is a moderately developed European nation and a new democracy rapidly implementing a free market transformation. While improving rapidly, tourist facilities are not highly developed in all areas, and some of the services taken for granted in other European countries can be difficult to find in some parts of the country.
A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not require visas for stays up to 90 days for tourist, business, or transit purposes. Americans should ensure that their passports are date-stamped upon entry. Persons planning to stay in Poland for longer than 90 days or who will be employed in Poland must obtain a visa in advance. Starting in early 1999, a recent change in the law requires every traveler to be able to show a means of support, if asked. For persons above 16 years of age, this has been defined as 100 Polish zloty per day or the equivalent in foreign currency or other negotiable instruments. For further information on entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Consular Section, at 2224 Wyoming Ave N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel: (202) 232-4517 or 232-4528 or the Polish consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The Polish Embassy can also be contacted via its web site at http://www.polishworld.com/polemb/.
Crime rates in Poland vary. While overall crime rates are considerably lower than those for many American cities, particular problem areas exist, and tourists have been targeted in some locales in major cities. The tri-cities area of Gdynia, Sopot, and Gdansk has seen an increase in muggings. Organized groups of thieves and pickpockets operate in train stations, at major tourist destinations, and on trains, trams, and buses in major cities. A number of thefts have occurred on overnight trains, including thefts from passengers in closed compartments. Most pickpocketing on trains occurs when boarding. A common practice is for groups of young men to surround a passenger in the narrow aisle of a train and jostle the victim as they supposedly attempt to get around. (Pickpocketing often occurs in first class cars.) The passenger later discovers that a wallet or other valuable item has been taken from a pocket or a backpack. Car thefts, carjackings, and theft from cars do occur. Drivers should be wary of persons indicating they should pull over or that something is wrong with their car. Often, a second car or person is following, and when the driver of the targeted car gets out to see if there is a problem, the person who has been following gets in and drives off with the car. There have been a few reported occurrences of racially motivated assaults against American students of ethnic minority origin studying in Katowice and Lublin. Local police have responded with measures to improve security in the neighborhoods where the incidents occurred.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov
Adequate medical care is available in Poland, but it generally does not meet Western standards. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States may cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Roadside services, while not at Western levels, are rapidly improving: full-service gas stations, rare 10 years ago, are now commonplace. The information below concerning Poland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Driving, especially after dark, is very hazardous. Roads are generally narrow, badly lit, and in poor repair. Roads are often used by pedestrians and animals as well as by vehicles. Heavy alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Upon entry into Poland, visitors must request a form to declare currency, travelers checks, and other cash instruments in amounts in excess of 5,000 euros (please check exchange rate for approximate dollar amount). The declaration form should be stamped by Polish customs and retained by the traveler for presentation on departure. Undeclared cash may be confiscated upon departure, and visitors carrying undeclared cash may be subject to criminal penalties. Most major banks now cash traveler's checks. ATM machines are readily available in all major cities and credit cards are becoming increasingly accepted.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate, where they can obtain updated information on travel and security in Poland. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is located at Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31. The consular entrance is located around the corner at Ulica Piekna 12, tel. (48)(22) 628-3041, fax (48)(22) 625-0289, after-hours tel., (48)(22) 625-0055. The U.S. Consulate in Krakow is located at Ulica Stolarska 9, tel (48)(12) 429-6655, fax (48)(12) 421-8292, after-hours cellular phone, 0601-483-348. A Consular Agency providing limited consular services in Poznan is located at Ulica Paderewskiego 7, tel. (48)(61) 851-8516, fax (48)(61) 851-8966
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Poland's Civil Aviation Authority as Category One -- in compliance with the international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Polish air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at tel. 1 (800) 322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.
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