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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Poland

Poland - Consular Information Sheet
August 11, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Poland is a moderately developed European nation and a 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.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: 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. Polish law requires every traveler to be able to show 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.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Polish law now requires Polish citizens (including those who are also American citizens) to enter and depart Poland using a Polish passport. Americans who are also Polish citizens or who are unsure if they hold Polish citizenship are advised to contact the nearest Polish consular office for information about citizenship requirements and travel documentation. While recognizing that some Americans are also citizens of other countries, the U.S. Government does not encourage its citizens to become or remain dual nationals due to an array of complications that may ensue from the obligations owed to the country of second nationality. For example, Polish law prohibits Polish citizens from serving in the armed forces of a foreign state, and violators are subject to arrest and prosecution. U.S.-Polish dual nationals who are members of the U.S. armed forces may be subject to these penalties. Additional information about the U.S. Government’s policy with respect to dual nationality may be found at the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/dualnationality.html.

CRIME INFORMATION: Crime rates in Poland vary. Warsaw, Krakow, and other major cities have higher rates of crime against residents and foreign visitors. The tri-cities area of Gdynia, Sopot, and Gdansk has a high incidence of muggings, sometimes in broad daylight. Organized groups of thieves and pickpockets operate at major tourist destinations, in train stations, and on trains, trams, and buses in major cities. Thefts have occurred on overnight trains, including thefts from passengers in second-class closed compartments. Most pickpocketing on trains occurs when boarding. A common practice is for groups of well-dressed young men to surround a passenger in the narrow aisle of the train and jostle/pickpocket him or her as they supposedly attempt to get around the passenger. (This often occurs in first-class cars).

Racially motivated verbal and, on occasion, physical harassment of Americans and others of non-Caucasian ethnicity can occur. Most of the incidents that have occurred were perpetrated by groups of young males generally identified as skinheads.

Car thefts, carjackings, and theft from cars are commonplace. 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 will get in and drive off with the car. Drivers should never get out of the car to check for damage without first turning off the ignition and taking the keys. There has been an increasing incidence of thieves opening or breaking passenger-side doors and windows in slow or stopped traffic to take purses or briefcases left on the seat beside the driver.

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.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND INSURANCE: Adequate medical care is available in Poland, but it generally does not meet Western standards. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 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 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: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Driving, especially after dark, is very hazardous. Roads are generally narrow, badly lit, and frequently under repair, especially in the summer months. 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.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 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 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. 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 the DOD at tel. (618) 256-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Polish customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import and export of items such as works of art, particularly those created before 1945. Works of art produced by living artists after 1945 may be exported with the permission from the Provincial Conservator of Relics. Some works of art produced after 1945 may still be subject to a ban on exportation if the artist is no longer living and the work is considered of high cultural value. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Poland in Washington, D.C. or one of Poland’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Poland’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or send e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Poland’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Poland are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Special Circumstances: 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 must 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.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or tel. (202) 736-7000.

Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations: Americans living in or visiting Poland are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Poland and obtain updated information on travel and security within 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.

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