Border Crossing

Do I need a visa?

To get an accurate answer to this question, call your local Polish consulate. While many people can enter Poland without an official stamp of authority, others cannot. And even then, things change. For those who can come to Poland sans visa, you can visit for three months without trouble or cost or additional requirements like proof of sufficient funds or a return ticket as evidence that you’re really leaving Poland. You simply have to possess a passport valid for half a year after you leave Poland. To work that one out, decide how long you want to stay, add 6 months to that time, and then check the date of issue on your passport.

passport stampIf you can enter Poland without a visa, get them to stamp your passport when you arrive (standard practice at the airport, but not at the border). You’ll not only have a cool stamp to show your friends but can also easily prove how long you’ve been here. If you overstay your welcome, they won’t fine you but will require that you get a visa before they let you out of Poland. If you want to do things right, you have to apply for a visa before your 90 days are up. Besides the requisite paperwork to be filled out in Polish, you’ll need 2 photos, a passport with at least 9 months to go on it and a good reason for staying. The cost varies from negligible to not so, depending on the type of visa you’d like; you can discover the damage when you apply at the Urzad Wojewodzki, Wydzial Spraw Obywatelskich, Oddzial d/s Cudzoziemcow (625 59 04) located on ul. Krucza 5/11.

 What can I bring in?

Legally and duty-free, you can bring in all sorts of goodies. If you are over 18, you can bring in alcohol (0.5 L of the hard stuff, 2 L of wine, or 5 L of beer) and smokes (250 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 g of tobacco). Otherwise, you can bring in prescription meds, gifts, and personal items. The last includes the normal electronic equipment one might have if travelling for pleasure or business (cell phone, still and video cameras, laptop, accompanying peripherals, etc.). It also includes jewelry, walkmans, or binoculars. The only catch is that you’ve got to take all that stuff with you when you go.

You can also bring in money, as much as you’d like, which you need to declare upon entry. Never fear: no one will check if the amount is correct; this is just another empty ritual to appease the governmental bureaugods.

As for living creatures, you can bring your healthy (vet-certified, in Polish) pet with you as long as it is not a parrot. If you bring a dog, it must be vaccinated against rabies 30 days prior to your trip.

You cannot bring in any materials which threaten the natural environment, or pornography, or illegal drugs (which all add up to the same thing in some eyes).

You might get charged import fees on souvenirs that cost over 100 USD at a going rate of 10%. If you bring in items that cost over 300 USD, then you’ve got to pay according to a sliding scale. Just how much it slides can be discovered with the Customs Hotline at (48 22) 694 31 94.

 What can I take home?

The big no-no is art created before 9 May 1945. If your newest purchase was created after VE Day, then you can prove it with a receipt from the store or a certifying document from a National Museum (almost every major city has got one; you need the Department of Art Certification).souvenirsIf your souvenir is of a different sort — a hunting trophy perhaps — get the appropriate documents from the tour organizer. Otherwise, you can take out items costing less than 100 USD without trouble, and those costing more with a permit from the customs office (which means a fee).

As for less durable souvenirs, you can leave Poland with the same amounts of alcohol and tobacco as listed above, provided you’re of age.

Finally, you are not supposed to take any Polish currency beyond the borders, nor more foreign currency than you brought in. But again, these things are rarely checked and everyone knows what nice reminders foreign coins can be of a wonderful visit.

 What about driving?

If you decide to drive into Poland, you need a bit more authentication than when flying in: a valid passport, in some cases a visa (check with your local Polish consulate before venturing out), a valid driver’s license, and the so-called green card denoting insurance if the car is not registered in Poland. If you are driving someone else’s car, avoid accusations of theft by bringing along a notarized letter permitting you to use the borrowed car. As for the driver’s license, it wouldn’t hurt you to get an international license if you are not European. Foreign licenses are valid in Poland, but the European road rules are sufficiently different that you might want to save yourself the confusion (especially since Polish drivers will provide plenty on their own).

In theory, you can cross the border at any timeat the spots listed to the right. In practice, the lines are long and slow during the summer, the weekends, and along the eastern border. Long can mean up to 10 kilometers and slow can mean waiting more than 2 days. Keep this in mind.

Also, all borders are not equal: some can be crossed on foot, some on train, and others by car. Find out in advance before you choose the wrong route.