It is not possible to say that Poland is a safer country for visitors or for doing business in than any of the other UE countries. Any violence or theft or a feeling of personal discomfort or danger can occur in many places and foreigners can sometimes wonder if they are safe or not. A few adverse incidents can give a country or a city a bad reputation. It seems that in today's world there are few places, havens of peace, where a traveler can feel completely safe and there is no real guarantee that in the most tranquil place in the world something dangerous or unpredictable may happen.
However we can say that in general this is not the case in Poland.
This is not a dangerous country. It is not unsafe for tourists any more so than other countries in Europe. It is not really a target for worldwide terrorism and this threat is not something that is envisaged by the Polish population or its authorities.
There are controls at the airports of course and these security checks were strengthened after September 11 and the authorities are vigilant but an actual terrorist problem does not exist here. But we are on our guard and have learnt from the tragic events in Spain and Britain and the shock to those populations when the bombs exploded in the London Underground and buses and in Madrid with the bombs in the Atocha railway station. However, we do have to remember when considering possible acts of terrorism against European countries that Poland is a member of NATO and Polish troops are present in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.
To conclude we can say that Poland is not as threatened as perhaps some of the other countries in the European Union. One of the main problems when looking at a large metropolis in Europe are the poorer districts of that particular city or districts with large immigrant populations. This is not the case in Poland as there are almost no immigrants, and those who come and live here do it for business reasons (e.g. to open an oriental restaurant).
All places of interest or where people congregate, tourists or business people, such as airports, railway stations or the more important museums and places of interest are well policed or have private security agents present. There is in fact a large police presence with many foot patrols or police cars. The patrols are very visible in their black and pistachio day glow uniforms (uniforms much like in Britain and other countries in the EU). This presence is proof that the Polish state takes the security of its citizens and visitors very seriously. The policy here is prevention with the result that very few incidents are reported which involve foreigners in Poland. Warsaw or any other city or town in Poland cannot be considered as dangerous as a stroll through the Bronx at night or walking round parts of Belfast manifesting your Catholic or Protestant beliefs.
Apart from those accidental or really unexpected incidents which can arrive any time, any where when we travel there are some basic rules that when remembered and applied can limit any damage and keep dangerous situations at a distance. A certain amount of common sense which is really the basic rule to be applied when traveling is of paramount importance. Obeying general rules and regulations, respecting another country's laws, avoiding places where it is obvious that `something` might happen. In fact nothing `bad` will happen if the visitor is a little `street wise`. This applies to all countries even those from where visitors to Poland come from and some of these regulations or advice can be applied to many places, not only Poland.
- Take special care of yourself and your belongings in crowded places such as railway stations, popular museums, popular tourist buses or trams. Watch your luggage and keep all valuables and documents in inner pockets. Be careful of special pick pocketing techniques called `the crowd`. You are pushed suddenly in a crowd of people (here a gang of pickpockets will be working in unison) and in that moment of disorientation your wallet is lifted.
- Do not call attention to yourself - paying the bill with your highly visible gold credit card or pulling ten złoty banknotes from a fat wallet in the railway station. Do not manifest your cosmically super-duper new camera to people who might be interested in acquiring it when it is obvious you do not really want to part with it.
- Be careful when paying for tickets in railway stations or museums. These are high risk pick pocketing moments.
- Do not keep all your money, credit cards or documents in one place. A good idea, recommended by most guidebooks, is a money belt kind of wallet attached to your clothing. Keep your documents and money zipped up.
- Avoid `strange looking` people. This is perhaps rather more difficult to do but in a situation where you do not feel comfortable say a loud, thank you, and move on. Make for a place where there are more people, more witnesses. Of course running from everyone who wants to talk to you doesn't make much sense either. Some people offer their assistance to obvious foreigners who look lost, for example. Getting to know a country is also getting to know the people, which in turn leads you to their history and culture.
- Avoid offensive groups of young people. Sometimes situations can get out of hand because of their uncontrolled boisterousness. They perhaps are having lots of fun, but at your expense. If you see a group of people coming towards you, if they are loud and probably drunk, avoid them by crossing to the other side of the street. It's not a cowardly solution, just wise.
- Do not become too intimate with strangers you meet in a bar or disco. Do not tell everybody which hotel you are staying in. Be modest when talking about money and your financial status. Save all this information for when you really know somebody.
- Think twice before inviting a stranger to your hotel room.
- When having fun in discos or bars with newly met people remember that your alcohol limit or capacity will be lower here in Poland, that you may not be used to the exotic cocktails and fiery vodkas you so readily and so enthusiastically drink. You're having a good time, trying to keep up with the tempo with the result that you drink too much and with what outcome? It's alright if you wake up with only a hangover but much worse if you find yourself sobered up, hugging a tree in the park, minus money, mobile, hotel room keys, etc, etc.
Moving around the city
- Do not go out at night alone.
- Do not take all your money and credit cards with you when going out. Leave some in the hotel safe.
- Do not roam around the remoter districts of the city, or the empty streets and courtyards of large blocks of flats. Every city has its sensitive areas, perhaps exaggerated, but you really don't want to put yourself in the position to find out. Try to avoid them if possible. We will have a special section in our website dealing with areas to avoid.
Traveling, luggage and valuables
- Try not to travel alone in a train compartment. If it is possible join a compartment where people are already present. If you have to sleep take care of your valuables, keep them close, and hidden.
- Keep an eye on your belongings when traveling.
- Lock your luggage. Be sure that no one can have access to your luggage.
- Before setting out on your trip make copies of your most important documents, passport, credit cards, tickets, etc. Keep them in a safe place either at home or with a friend.
- Note the address and telephone number of your Embassy. Be sure you know where to go or who to contact in case of an accident or any other problem.
- If you leave your hotel to visit the city give your valuables to the concierge to place in the hotel safe.
- Do not carry all your credit cards and money with you.
In case of an accident or theft
- Even if you adhere to these general common sense rules things still can go wrong but don't worry help is not far off. So do not hesitate. It is best to do it officially as well:
toll free numbers:
police call 997
fire brigade call 998
ambulance call 999
emergency line 112 - if called from a mobile phone it will put you touch with the nearest emergency centre.
- Theft and accidents should be reported to the police and the hotel management if the incident takes place in a hotel. Have proper insurance cover for all events and make sure the paper work for any loss or accident is correctly completed to be able to claim for damages, etc, when you return home. Prior to leaving on a trip make sure you understand how and what your insurance covers.
Please note! These are just a few of the simple, straightforward common sense rules which if followed will reduce the risk of problems arising for those adventurous among you who want to visit our country. Be aware, be that little bit more careful, be prepared and most of all, enjoy. When you finally return home it will be with fantastic memories of the places you visited, the food, the culture, and of course the people you met along the way. Nothing broadens the mind more than travel, so they say. And you will certainly want to come back again. So, see you in Poland, and there's so much to see, with The Visitor.
last update May 2009