Background Note: Poland
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an ancient nation that was conceived near the middle of the 10th
century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the
following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal
disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements between
1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland
amongst themselves. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only
to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II.
It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its
government was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil
in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity"
that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept
parliamentary elections and the presidency. A "shock therapy"
program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform
its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but
Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment,
underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural
underclass. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary
elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower
house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade
Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union's political
role. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country
largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of
economy grew rapidly in the mid-1990s, slowed considerably in
2001 and 2002, and returned again to healthy growth rates in 2003.
Poland’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annualized rate
of 5.2% in the first quarter of 2006. Faster growth has begun
to reduce persistently high unemployment, from nearly 20% in the
middle of 2004 to 16.5% in May 2006. Tight monetary policy and
dramatic productivity growth have helped to hold down inflation,
which was 2.1% in 2005. Likewise, Poland's current account deficit,
which grew rapidly in the late 1990s, has since moderated to 1.4%
of GDP in 2005. The 2005 budget deficit was 27.5 billion zloty,
or 2.8% of GDP in 2005, and the government pledged to restrain
the 2006 and 2007 budgets at 30 billion zloty. Throughout the
1990s, the United States and other Western countries supported
the growth of a free enterprise economy by reducing Poland's foreign
debt burden, providing economic aid, and lowering trade barriers.
Poland graduated from U.S Agency for International Development
(USAID) assistance in 2000 and paid the balance of its U.S.-held
Paris Club debt in 2005. Poland officially joined the European
Union (EU) on May 1, 2004.
with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation;
mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers
assessment: modernization of the telecommunications network
has accelerated with market based competition finalized in 2003;
fixed-line service, dominated by the former state-owned company,
is dwarfed by the growth in wireless telephony
domestic: mobile-cellular service available since 1993
and provided by three nation-wide networks with a fourth provider
beginning operations in late 2006; cellular coverage is generally
good with some gaps in the east; fixed-line service is growing
slowly and still lags in rural areas
international: country code - 48; international direct
dialing with automated exchanges; satellite earth station - 1
with access to Intelsat, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, and Intersputnik
a stable, free-market democracy. Tourist
facilities are not highly developed in all areas, and some services
taken for granted in other European countries may not be available
in some parts of Poland, especially in rural areas. On May
1, 2004, Poland became a member of the European Union (EU).
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Poland
for additional information.
REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required. Be
sure to check your passport's validity -- Poland will not admit
you if your passport is expired. (Remember that U.S. passports
for persons under 16 are valid for five, not ten, years).
On December 21, 2007, Poland joined the Schengen Zone. U.S.
citizens do not need visas for stays of up to 90 days for tourist,
business, or transit purposes. That period begins when you enter
any of the Schengen countries: Austria, Belgium, The Czech
Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta,
the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia,
Spain, and Sweden.
Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors
obtain a stamp in their passports upon initial entry to a Schengen
country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out
this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that
his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to
request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local
law, travelers without a stamp in their passports may be questioned
and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries
at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit,
and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable
to do so.
officials may ask travelers for proof of sufficient financial
resources to cover their proposed stay in Poland. The general
rule-of-thumb is 100 zlotys per day. Additionally, citizens
of non-EU countries, including the United States, should carry
proof of adequate medical insurance in case of an accident or
hospitalization while in Poland. Polish immigration officials
may ask for documentation of such insurance or proof of sufficient
financial resources (at least 400 zlotys per day) to cover such
costs. Those who lack insurance or access to adequate financial
resources may be denied admission to Poland. Medicare does
not cover health costs incurred while abroad.
Polish citizens (including American citizens who are or can be
claimed as Polish 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 should contact
the nearest Polish consular office for further information.
information on entry requirements, please contact the consular
section of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland at 2224 Wyoming
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 234-3800, or the Polish
consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York. Visit the
Embassy of Poland web site at http://www.polandembassy.org/ for the
most current visa information.
about dual nationality
or the prevention of international
child abduction can be found on our web site. For further
information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information
AND SECURITY: Poland remains largely free of
terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the
Schengen area, Poland™s open borders with its Western European
neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting
the country with anonymity. Americans are reminded to remain
vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise
For the latest
security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly
monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs™
web site at http://travel.state.gov/,
where the current Travel Warnings
and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution
, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security
can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the
U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line
at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00
a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except
U.S. federal holidays).
of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their
own personal security while traveling overseas. For general
information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect
themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of Stateâ€™s
pamphlet A Safe Trip
While Poland generally has a low rate of violent crime, the incidence
of street crime, which sometimes involves violence, is moderate.
Major cities have higher rates of crime against residents and
foreign visitors than other areas.
groups of thieves and pickpockets operate at major tourist destinations,
in train stations, and on trains, trams, and buses in major cities.
Theft has occurred on overnight trains. Most pick-pocketing
on trains occurs during boarding; in the most common scenario,
a group of well-dressed young men will surround a passenger in
the narrow aisle of the train, jostling/pick-pocketing him or
her as they supposedly attempt to get around the passenger.
Keep an eye on cell phones; they are prized by thieves.
Beware of taxi drivers who approach you at the airport or who
do not display telephone numbers and a company name; these drivers
usually charge exorbitant rates. Order your taxi by telephone
and at the airport use only taxis in the designated taxi ranks.
and car-jackings are experiencing a significant decline; however,
theft from vehicles remains a constant concern. Drivers
should be wary of people indicating they should pull over or that
something is wrong with their cars. When such drivers pull
over to see if there is a problem, they may find themselves suddenly
surrounded by thieves from a second vehicle. If drivers
encounter someone indicating that there is trouble with their
car and the problem is not apparent, they should continue driving
until they find a safe spot (a crowded gas station, supermarket,
or even police station) to inspect their vehicles. There
also have been incidents 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. Those traveling
by car should remember to keep windows closed and doors locked.
Extremist youth gangs are a threat, particularly in urban areas.
Verbal harassment and physical attacks have been directed against
members of racial minorities or those who appear to be foreign,
particularly those of Asian or African descent.
In many countries
around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local
law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States
may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information
on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: 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. If you are the
victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to
local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example,
assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members
or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely
the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can
help you to understand the local criminal justice process and
to find an attorney if needed.
FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate medical
care is available in Poland, but hospital facilities and nursing
support are not comparable to American standards. Physicians
are generally well trained but specific emergency services may
be lacking in certain regions, especially in Poland's small towns
and rural areas. Younger doctors generally speak English,
though nursing staff often does not. Doctors and hospitals
often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Medications are generally available, although they may not be
specific U.S. brand-name drugs.
on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food
and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained
from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionâ€™s hotline
for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747)
or via the CDC™s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad
consult the World Health Organization™s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information
for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
INSURANCE: Polish immigration law requires travelers
either to carry adequate medical insurance in case of accident
or hospitalization while in Poland or to be able to document access
to sufficient financial resources (at least 400 zlotys per day)
to cover such medical emergencies. Failure to carry insurance
or the inability to provide documentation of sufficient financial
resources if requested may result in a traveler being denied admission
to Poland. Medicare does not cover Americans in Poland.
of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical
insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether
their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency
expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information
on medical insurance
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. The information below concerning
Poland is provided for general reference only, and may not be
totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving Permit (IDP), obtained prior to departure from the U.S.,
must accompany a U.S. driver's license. A U.S. driver's
license without an IDP is insufficient for use in Poland, and
Americans cannot obtain IDPs in Poland. Only two U.S. automobile
associations the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the
American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) have been authorized
by the U.S. Department of State to distribute IDPs. Polish
roadside services, while not at Western levels, are rapidly improving.
Polski Zwiazek Motorowy Auto-Tour has multilingual operators and
provides assistance countrywide; they can be reached by calling
9281 or 9637 preceded by the city code (outside of Warsaw 022-9281).
The police emergency number is 997, fire service is 998, and ambulance
service is 999. Mobile phone users can dial 112 for emergency
assistance. Seat belts are compulsory in both the front
and back seats, and children under the age of 10 are prohibited
from riding in the front seat. Headlights must be used at
all times, day and night. The use of cellular phones while
driving is prohibited, except for â€śhands-freeâ€ť models.
been a substantial increase in the number of cars on Polish roads.
Driving, especially after dark, is hazardous. Roads are
generally narrow, poorly lighted, frequently under repair (especially
in the summer months), and are often also used by pedestrians
and cyclists. The Ministry of Infrastructure has a program
called â€śBlack Spotâ€ť (Czarny Punkt), which puts signs in places
with a particularly high number of accidents and/or casualties.
These signs have a black spot on a yellow background, and the
road area around the â€śblack spotâ€ť is marked with red diagonal
is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Polish
laws provide virtually zero tolerance for driving under the influence
of alcohol, and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol
(defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or higher) include a
fine and probation or imprisonment for up to two years. Penalties
for drivers involved in accidents can be severe. If an accident
results in injury or death, the penalty can be imprisonment from
six months to eight years.
taxis are available at major hotels and designated stands or may
be ordered in advance. Some drivers accept credit cards and/or
speak English. Travelers should be wary of hailing taxis
on the street, especially those that do not have a telephone number
displayed, because these may not have meters, and many of them
charge more. Do not accept assistance from â€śtaxi driversâ€ť
who approach you in the arrivals terminal or outside the doors
at Warsaw Airport. Travelers availing themselves of these
â€śservicesâ€ť often find themselves charged significantly more
than the usual fare. Use only taxis at designated airport
to our Road Safety
page for more information. Visit the web site of Poland's
National Tourist Office at http://www.poland.travel/en-us/ and
Poland's Ministry of Transport responsible for road safety at
SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Poland™s Civil Aviation Authority
as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Poland's air
carrier operations. For more information, travelers may
visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
CIRCUMSTANCES: Visitors importing more than 10,000
Euros should, as part of the arrivals process, complete a form
to declare currency, traveler's checks, and other cash instruments.
This 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 prosecuted. Most banks now cash traveler's checks,
ATMs are readily available, and credit cards increasingly accepted.
Polish customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning
the export of items such as works of art, particularly those created
before 1953. Works produced by living artists after 1953
may be exported with permission from the Provincial Conservator
of Relics. Some works of art produced after 1953 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.
If you are importing an item or work of art like those described
above, even if only temporary (i.e. for an exhibit or performance)
you should declare it to customs upon entry and carry proof of
ownership in order to avoid problems on departure. Contact
the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of the Polish consulates
in the United States for specific information regarding customs
requirements. Please see our Customs Information.
not recognize (although it does not prohibit) dual nationality.
A person holding Polish and U.S. citizenship is deemed by Poland
to be a Pole and subject to Polish law.
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
Polish laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Poland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long
jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct
with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a
foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
ISSUES: For information, see our Office of Children™s
Issues web pages on intercountry
adoption and international
parental child abduction.
/ EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling
in Poland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy
or Consulate through the State Department™s travel
registration web site and to obtain updated information on
travel and security within Poland. Americans without Internet
access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or
Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier
for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is located at Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31.
The Consular Section entrance is located around the corner at
Ulica Piekna 12. The Embassy's telephone number is (48)
(22) 504-2000. This number can be called 24 hours/day: for
emergencies after business hours. The Embassy's fax number is
(48) (22) 504-2688 and the fax number for the Consular Section
is (48) (22) 627-4734 (consular fax only checked during normal
business hours). The U.S. Consulate General in Krakow is
located at Ulica Stolarska 9. The Consulate General's telephone
number is (48) (12) 424-5100; fax (48) (12) 424-5103; after-hours
cellular phone (for emergencies only) 601-483-348. A Consular
Agency providing limited consular services in Poznan is located
at Ulica Paderewskiego 8. The Consular Agency's telephone
number is (48) (61) 851-8516; fax (48) (61) 851-8966. The
Embassy's web site is at http://poland.usembassy.gov/.
CIA World Factbook