In Poland, the European unified emergency number 112 is being used. It currently works for all mobile phone calls and the majority of landline calls. In addition, three “ancient” emergency numbers are still in operation. They are as follows:
- Ambulance: 999 (Pogotowie, dziewięć-dziewięć-dziewięć)
- Firefighters: 998 (Straż Pożarna, dziewięć-dziewięć-osiem)
- Police: 997 (Policja, dziewięć-dziewięć-siedem)
- Municipal Guards: 986 (Straż Miejska, dziewięć-osiem-sześć) It is a kind of auxiliary police force that is only present in major cities. They are not armed, and their primary job is to deal with parking violations and small instances of unsocial conduct.
In general, Poland is a safe nation. In reality, cities like Warsaw and Kraków are much less likely to be crime-ridden than Paris or Rome. Overall, simply apply common sense and pay attention to what you’re doing.
In cities, observe normal city travel rules: don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your vehicle; don’t flaunt money or costly items in public; know where you’re going; and be wary of people asking for money or attempting to sell you anything.
Pickpockets exist; keep an eye on your possessions in crowds, at stations, on packed trains/buses, and in clubs.
In any situation, do not be afraid to ask the Police (Policja) or the Municipal Guards (Stra Miejska) for assistance or guidance.
Bag thefts occur between major stops on sleeper trains. Request ID from anybody attempting to take your ticket or passport, and secure bags to baggage racks. Keep your belongings close to you and use common sense.
Violent conduct is uncommon, and when it does occur, it is almost always caused by alcohol. While bars and clubs are usually quite secure, the streets outside them may be the site of brawls, particularly late at night. Avoid conflicts as much as possible. Women and girls are less likely to be approached or harassed in general because the Polish code of conduct strongly forbids any kind of aggression (physical or verbal) towards women. Similarly, in the event of a dispute amongst mixed-gender passengers, Polish males are more inclined to interfere on the side of the woman, regardless of the circumstances.
Except for some national minorities such as Ukrainians, Belorussians, Germans, and ethnic minorities such as Silesians, Cashubians, Lemkos, and Jews who have been a part of Poland for years, and a small wave of migrants from Africa and East Asia, including Vietnam, who have settled in the larger cities in recent years, Poland is a fairly homogeneous society today.
Many Polish communities seldom have any foreign tourists, thus most African or Asian individuals would receive inquisitive glances there – not out of prejudice, but simply out of curiosity. Of course, certain individuals, such as the very tiny number of Neo-Nazis or football hooligans, nationalists or chauvinists, do not tolerate outsiders. Except for the extreme beliefs of individuals who may be found nearly everywhere, Poles are a courteous and accepting country. As a visitor, you will most likely be treated courteously (see “polska gocinno” – Polish hospitality). According to a popular Polish proverb, “go w dom, Bóg w dom” – “guest at home, Bóg w dom” – “God at home.”
LGBT issues continue to be highly contentious, taboo (albeit less so), and frequently used by conservative politicians. Polish culture also has a long history of chivalry and strict gender norms. However, in bigger cosmopolitan cities, homosexuals and lesbians should have little trouble blending in, but trans tourists will draw a lot of attention.
The aggressive driving style of Poles is famous, although the reputation is often overblown. While drivers may seem to be too impatient, speed traps have helped to calm the situation since the days when roads were open and vehicles were few. Another issue impeding speeding is the frequently poor condition of side roads, as well as congestion – Poles possess more vehicles per capita than other Western European countries. Always leave additional time for potentially hazardous driving conditions.
Road warriors use CB radio to communicate warnings about traffic conditions and speed traps. A single front light flashing from a vehicle approaching from the other direction is another frequent signal that a speed trap is on the way.
When there are no traffic signals or special signs at a junction, the vehicle on the right always has the right of way. Cars may be parked on sidewalks if traffic signs do not prohibit them. As a result, you should always provide at least 1.5 meters of space for pedestrians and ensure that the vehicle is at least 10 meters away from any pedestrian, railway, or road crossing. If you do not obey the regulations, your vehicle may be towed.
Children under the age of 12 who are shorter than 150 cm (4’11”) must use a kid car seat. Headlights must be used at all times, day and night, all year. Except for hands-free versions, mobile phone usage while driving is banned. Alcohol drinking is often a role in car accidents. Polish laws allow for practically no tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol (defined as having more than 0.2 g of alcohol in one’s blood), and the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are very harsh. It should be noted that if you are intoxicated and do not drive, your driver’s license may be revoked (e.g., if you cycle drunk).