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Poland

Visas for PolandPoland is a party to the Schengen Agreement, and therefore nationals of the European Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and those nationals of a designated country list drawn up by the Polish government, including US, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian nationals, are afforded visa-free entry into Poland for holiday or business purposes for up to 90 days.
 
Travellers who do not fall into the above categories are required to apply for a Schengen visa to visit Poland. All travellers entering Poland should have a passport valid for at least three months past the date of entry.
 

Schengen visas for Poland

 
Those who apply for a Schengen visa will need to gather the required documents, complete the visa application form, and submit these to the Polish consulate or embassy in their home country before they travel. 
 
All documents must be in English or Polish.

Documents required for Schengen visa application:
  • Passport with at least two blank pages, valid for three months from the last date of travel
  • Recent colour, passport-sized photo
  • Round-trip air ticket or itinerary to/from Poland
  • Proof of travel, health or accident insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds during travel (amount required varies)
  • Proof of accommodation (hotel reservations, letters from friends, details of a tour, etc.)
 
If applying for a Schengen visa to travel to Poland for business purposes, it may be necessary to include a letter of invitation from the Polish business party and a letter from your local employer stating the purpose of your visit to Poland. If attending a conference, proof of registration and accommodation may be required.
 
In some cases, applicants may be asked to provide additional documents, at the discretion of the Polish embassy or consulate. It's common to be asked for proof of employment and proof of residence in your home country, as an indicator that you will return home after your trip.
 

Residence visas for Poland


Those wishing to stay in Poland for longer than 90 days for work or study, or for family reasons, are required to apply for a residence or temporary residence permit.
 
Applications for residence permits for Poland should be made to the voivodship (local municipality) where the expat intends to live in Poland.
 
Residence permits are granted for a maximum of two years, and can be subsequently renewed for a further two-year period.
 
Expats entering Poland may be required to show proof of sufficient resources to support themselves financially while living in Poland as well as sufficient health insurance for the duration of their stay.
 
Once an expat has successfully submitted their residence permit application, they will receive a residence card, which serves as confirmation of their identity during their stay in Poland.
 
*Visa requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
 

Moving to Poland

Expats moving to Poland can look forward to an extremely safe country with picture-pretty cities and quaint villages. Situated in central Europe with a long stretch of coast on the Baltic Sea, Poland is strategically positioned for trade and its growing economy is evidence of that. 

Poland has never been the most popular expat destination, and when the country officially joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, emigration statistics sky-rocketed, leading to a population decrease as hundreds of thousands of Poles left their homeland for greener pastures. But more and more expats are starting to realise the merits of living in Poland and that there are many more pros than cons to expat life here.

A history entrenched in foreign occupation, repeated post-war partition and high unemployment rates left a sizeable grey cloud on Poland's horizon, but the 'Shock Therapy' programme initiated in the early 1990s, as well as a period of reforms, led to a market economy that has only truly become successful in recent years.

There is an increase in work opportunities for enterprising foreigners, and new arrivals usually find work in industries such as IT, finance, human relations, manufacturing and English-language teaching. Despite these opportunities, those looking to relocate will still face a number of challenges. Poland is well known for its tedious bureaucracy and, as a result, large infrastructural changes are slow to take effect.

Salaries are among the lowest on the continent, but fortunately the cost of living in Poland is also exceedingly low. Although public healthcare provision is adequate, the government spends the lowest percentage of its GDP on healthcare, and expats should explore their private health insurance options in order to have access to private healthcare facilities.

Although Poland’s public education system has undergone many positive changes in recent years and tuition is free to all resident children, including expats. As Polish is the language of instruction in public schools, the majority of expats opt to send their children to international schools in Poland. 

Expats living in Poland need to prepare themselves for a relatively conservative environment, as strong family values and a powerful Catholic undercurrent still dominate the social milieu. Another potential difficulty is that, with the exception of Poland's vibrant youth, very little of the Polish population speaks English. This can complicate just about everything, from assimilation into the working environment to solidifying meaningful social connections.

On the upside, Poland's largest cosmopolitan centres, Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, Wrocław and Poznań are gradually making their way onto the international stage, with a growing café culture, a thriving nightlife and an increasingly cutting-edge cuisine scene. There's a reason the Poles are known for their ability to have a good party, and a long legacy of vodka is only one part of the whole.

Expats moving to Poland with an optimistic attitude can certainly succeed and enjoy a fun life here, and its central location means travel to the rest of Europe is a doddle.


Fast facts

Population: Around 38 million

Capital city: Warsaw

Neighbouring countries:  Poland is bordered by seven other countries – Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east and Lithuania and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast to the northeast. 

Geography: Situated in central Europe, Poland is a relatively low-lying country with access to the Baltic Sea along its northern border. It is mostly flat and interspersed with forests, low hills and lakes, with no natural borders, except for mountains on its southern borders. 

Political system: Parliamentary republic

Main languages: Polish (official)

Major religions: Catholicism is the dominant religion with over 80 percent of the population practising the religion.

Money: The Polish Złoty (PLN), divided into 100 groszy (singular: grosz). ATMs are widely available in the country's urban areas and credit cards are accepted at the majority of establishments. 

Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)

Electricity: 230 V, 50 Hz. 'Type-E' rounded two-pin plugs, with a rounded female contact are used.

Internet domain: .pl

International dialling code: +48

Emergency numbers: 112, the general European emergency number, is most commonly used in Poland. Individual emergency services can be contacted on the following numbers:  997 (police), 998 (fire), and 999 (ambulance).

Transport and Driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Poland. Public transport infrastructure is very good and it is possible to reach most locations by bus or train. Low-cost flights also connect Polish cities to the rest of Europe.  A car is only really necessary to reach more remote areas of the countryside.

Weather in Poland

Expats living in Poland will need to learn to cope with cold weather as the country is known for its bitterly cold winters with temperatures often plunging as low as 16°F (-9°C). Although the length of winter varies from year to year, with the season typically beginning in November and ending in March, it can be extended when eastern winds blow in from the Russian front. Snowfall is also common in winter, with snow sometimes falling even as late as April.

Spring usually lasts two months (April to May) and is characterised by rain and cold nights, with daily temperatures ranging between 41°F (5°C) and 59°F (15°C)

Although precipitation falls year round, it is heaviest in summer. The summer season (June to August) in Poland is moderate and average temperatures tend to hover between 68°F (20°C) and 77°F (25°C). Excessive heat is rare, but droughts can occur from time to time.

Autumn in Poland begins pleasantly and is marked by warm days, while the temperature begins dropping dramatically in the second half of the season.

 
 

Embassy Contacts for Poland


Polish embassies abroad

  • Polish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 430 2632

  • Polish Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 12 830 855

  • Polish Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 499 1700

  • Polish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 207 291 3520

  • Polish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 0468

  • Polish Consulate General, Sydney, Australia: +61 293 63 9816

  • Polish Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 499 7844


Foreign embassies in Poland

  • Australian Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 521 3444

  • United States Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 504 2000

  • British Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 311 0000

  • Canadian Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 584 3100

  • South African Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 622 1031

  • Irish Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 564 2200

  • New Zealand Embassy, Warsaw: +48 22 521 0500

Public Holidays in Poland

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Epiphany

6 January

6 January

Easter Sunday

12 April

4 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Constitution Day

3 May

3 May

Whit Sunday

31 June

23 May

Corpus Christi

11 June

3 June

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

15 August

15 August

All Saints' Day

1 November

1 November

National Independence Day

11 November

11 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Poland

Living in Poland can be a great adventure, but the country does have its challenges for both foreigners and locals. Choosing to live in Poland, especially for those who don't have Polish roots or connections and know little about the country, will likely involve a steep learning curve, but might very well be worth it.


Accommodation in Poland

+ PRO: Accommodation is affordable and generally easy to find

Accommodation, even in the capital of Warsaw, is affordable compared to other European countries. Polish cities also tend to have a variety of accommodation, from small apartments to free-standing houses, and expats won't have to search long to find something that suits their taste, budget and commute.

+ PRO: English-speaking realtors available

Expats can generally find an English-speaking real-estate agent to help in their search, though this might be slightly more expensive.

- CON: Small apartments and limited space

People in Poland generally live in apartments, and expats may be surprised how small apartments can accommodate whole families. Consequently, many places are a lot smaller than one may be used to.


Cost of living in Poland

+ PRO: Relatively inexpensive compared to other European countries 

The cost of goods, eating out, public transport and rent in Poland compare favourably with other European countries. Drinks at a bar or pub are also much cheaper than in Western Europe.

- CON: Pricey clothing and petrol

Many Poles complain that items such as new clothes are more expensive than they are in Western Europe. Petrol is also expensive which, along with parking fees and other related costs, should make expats think twice before purchasing a vehicle.


Lifestyle and culture in Poland

+ PRO: Vibrant nightlife and entertainment in Polish cities

In Polish cities, there's a range of cultural events including art exhibitions, concerts, talks, food events and film and music festivals. Museums and galleries are also plentiful.

There are also many outdoor activities that are easily accessed during the summer months, such as windsurfing, kayaking, hiking in the mountains, camping, going to the seaside and bike riding.

- CON: Bureaucracy

Communist-style bureaucracy and inefficient customer service prevail in some areas and government departments. As such, expats should expect plenty of red tape when trying to organise their residency or work permits.

- CON: Long working hours and high pressure in the workplace

Poles work hard and spend long hours at the office. Whether this will be expected depends on the culture of one's company and the nature of one's role. There is a lot of competition for steady, well-salaried employment and this can lead, on occasion, to strained and suspicious relations in the workplace.

- CON: Long winters

No matter how much a person may love the cold and snow, the short winter days and large amount of time spent indoors can cause anxiety. In a bad year, the winter can last six months, and Poles often cite this as a reason for emigrating.

- CON: The language barrier

Though it’s not difficult to find English speakers, they may be rarer outside of major cities. Older Poles are also less likely to speak English, so learning some Polish may be necessary. Unfortunately, many English-speaking expats find Polish to be a difficult language to learn. However, Poles tend to be highly appreciative of efforts to learn their language, so learning the basics will go along way in earning local respect. 

+ PRO: Poles are multilingual

Most younger Poles are multilingual and many Poles will know English.


Healthcare in Poland

+ PRO: High standard of inexpensive private healthcare

Top-notch private healthcare is available in Poland from hospitals with superb medical staff and world-class equipment. Compared to other countries, private healthcare is relatively cheap, and expats who work for an international company or a well-regarded Polish company usually have a private healthcare package included in their employment. 

- CON: Doctors often have poor bedside manner

Polish doctors are not known for their bedside manner and may come across as unsympathetic. Progressive ideas about patient self-advocacy and ideas such as birth plans and keeping the patient informed are not common in Poland. Expats should expect to be treated with brusqueness or impatience, even in the private system.


Transport in Poland

+ PRO: Developed and affordable public transport system

Most Polish cities have well-developed and comprehensive public transport systems. Some of them, including Warsaw, also have a city bicycle system which expats can pick up and drop off in various places.

Transport around the country is also affordable and comprehensive and even small villages usually have a functioning bus line, even if it only runs a few times a day. There is also a well-developed rail network and quick, reliable trains run between all major cities, as well as between Warsaw and other European capitals.

- CON: Underdeveloped road infrastructure and expensive petrol

Although there are some highways, many main routes such as the road from Warsaw to Gdańsk often consist largely of a single lane in each direction, meaning traffic congestion can be an issue.

Compared to the United States or even other Western European countries, it can be expensive to maintain a car in Poland, and petrol is pricey. 

Working in Poland

Expats who are considering working in Poland may find that salaries won't offer them the same purchasing power that they might find working in Western Europe. 

In Poland, most jobs require a five-day work week and working hours are generally from 8am to 4pm, although international companies often uphold a 9am to 5pm day. Although the unemployment rate in Poland is less of an issue than a few years ago, the country has traditionally prioritised the employment of local labour.


Job market in Poland

Poland's primary industries include automotive manufacturing, food processing, banking and construction. However, expats working in Poland will most likely find opportunities in areas that have seen recent growth, including IT, finance, human relations, business services and management.

As most of the population speaks Polish, there's also a significant shortage of native English speakers. As a result, there are many English teaching jobs in Poland, and in many cases, these positions pay more than a position in a large company with upward mobility.

What's more, foreign investment is filtering into Poland and this influx of capital comes with future plans for corporates and multinationals to set up operations in the country. The country itself is also looking to privatise more infrastructure, such as the energy sector, shipbuilding and even the postal market.

That being said, working in Poland as an expat still isn't straightforward. Inefficient local bureaucracy frustrates job creation and can prevent competition. And, as a result of a history of repeated foreign violation, Polish sentiment toward expat businesspeople can be cautious. In order to succeed, it's vital for expats to build relationships based on trust and respect. The Polish-English language barrier can also be a source of much misunderstanding.


Finding a job in Poland

Citizens of the European Union (EU), as well as the European Economic Area (EEA), do not need a work permit to be legally employed in Poland. All other nationalities are required to have the proper documentation.

If not headhunted for a specific position in Poland, expats can make use of online job portals, social networking sites such as LinkedIn and, failing those, they could check out newspapers such as Gazeta Wyborcza, in its Praca (Work) section, and the Wednesday insert in Rzeczpospolita.

Otherwise, there are some Polish English-speaking recruitment agencies that could also prove helpful to expats.


Work culture in Poland

The work culture in Poland centres around direct communication. There is a strong respect for those in senior positions or with higher academic qualifications. Trust is paramount to success in the Polish workplace, so businesspeople should spend a considerable amount of time getting to know business associates in a social setting.

Most companies in Poland, regardless of industry, maintain a formal tone, where punctuality and appearances are highly valued. Expats should invest time getting to know Polish business associates in order to build trust and forge solid relationships.

Doing Business in Poland

Poland’s strategic position in the heart of Europe and its strong and growing economy have made it an attractive destination for foreign businesses. 

The Polish labour force is generally well-educated and has a strong work ethic, and Polish business culture is largely similar to what expats might experience in other European countries. The commercial centre in Poland is its capital and largest city, Warsaw. Although Poland’s main exports and economy remain largely focused on manufacturing and agriculture, the country’s services sector has grown significantly in recent years.

Poland has a stable business environment which proves attractive to foreign businesspeople, a fact reflected in its ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, in which Poland was ranked 40th out of 190 countries surveyed. Poland came first in ease of trading across borders and also scored particularly well in resolving insolvency (25th), getting credit (37th) and dealing with construction permits (39th). The areas in which Poland didn't score as highly include registering a property (92nd) starting a new business (128th).  


Fast facts

Business hours

Working hours are generally between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday and many Poles do not usually take a formal lunch break during the working day. If business lunches are held, they take place from around 4pm and may continue into the evening. Most Poles take their summer vacations in July and August, so it is worth bearing this in mind if planning meetings or business trips to Poland during this time.

Business language

Polish is the official language of business in Poland, although English may be understood and is often spoken among business circles in larger cities.

Dress

Business dress in Poland is formal and conservative. Businesswomen tend to wear suits with skirts or trousers, while businessmen generally wear dark suits and ties.

Greetings

Business associates greet each other with a firm handshake and direct eye contact. Introductions should include a person’s full name and title.

Gifts

Gift-giving is an established practice in Polish business. Gifts are usually given at the beginning of a relationship and at the completion of a project.

Gender equality

Women have equal business opportunities to men, although most high-ranking positions are still held by men.


Business culture in Poland

Business culture in Poland is formal. While Poles tend to be reserved, their communication style is direct and eye contact should be maintained at all times as it is seen as a sign of respect and trust. People are expected to say what they think and address matters directly.

Communication

Polish is the official language of business in Poland, although expats are likely to encounter many business professionals who are able to communicate in English, particularly in large cities.

Business structures

Business structures in Poland tend to be hierarchical and the style of management may seem authoritative as decisions are made at the top and authority is highly respected. In line with this, education and personal titles are revered and expats should not move to a first-name basis with their Polish associates until invited to do so.

Work ethic

Rules and regulations are respected and should be adhered to, while trust and honesty are also valued. Poles have a good work ethic, and it’s not unusual to work through the day without a lunch break, something that many expats may take a while to get used to.

Generational differences

Expats doing business in Poland may notice generational differences between older and younger Polish associates. While the younger generation may follow a more open and relaxed Western business style, the older generation may still be influenced by business practices which were prevalent during the old Soviet-style regime. 

Importance of family

Family and religion both play a central role in Polish society and culture, and this extends to the business environment. As such, most Poles prioritise their obligations to their family above others. 

Networking

Personal relationships are important and anyone doing business in Poland should aim to build close and trusting relationships with their Polish associates, as this is a stepping stone to building strong business relationships. As such, business meetings typically begin with some small talk so that trust can be built before any specific business negotiations commence. Topics of discussion usually include sports and family life, but issues such as money and Poland’s history and relations with its European neighbours should be avoided.


Dos and don'ts of doing business in Poland

  • Do arrive on time and prepare fully for a meeting, as this exhibits professionalism which will be respected by Polish associates.

  • Don't address Polish associates by their first name until invited to do so. Titles are highly respected in Polish society and should be used when making introductions.

  • Do have business cards printed in both English and Polish. Have titles and qualifications printed on the card, as these are highly respected. 

  • Do try to build personal relationships and trust with Polish associates before trying to forge a business relationship. Especially as Poles tend to only do business with people who they share a trusting relationship with. 

  • Don't refer to Poland as part of Eastern Europe, as some Poles may take offence to this. The country should rather be referred to as being part of Central Europe.

Visas for Poland

Getting a visa for Poland is relatively straightforward, especially as the country is party to the Schengen Agreement. Nationals of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), as well as nationals of designated countries including the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, are afforded visa-free entry into Poland for holiday or business purposes for up to 90 days.

Travellers who do not fall into the above categories are required to apply for a Schengen visa to visit Poland. All travellers entering Poland should have a passport valid for at least three months past the date of entry.


Schengen visas for Poland

Those who apply for a Schengen visa will need to gather the required documents, complete the visa application form, and submit these to the Polish consulate or embassy in their home country before they travel. Travellers may have to appear in person and all documents must be in English or Polish.

If applying for a Schengen visa to travel to Poland for business purposes, it may be necessary for expats to include a letter of invitation from the Polish business party and a letter from their local employer stating the purpose of their visit. If attending a conference, proof of registration and accommodation may be required.
 
In some cases, applicants may be asked to provide additional documents at the discretion of the Polish embassy or consulate. It's common for a person to be asked for proof of employment and proof of residence in their home country as an indicator that they will return home after their trip.


Residence permits for Poland

Those wishing to stay in Poland for longer than 90 days for work or study, or for family reasons, are required to apply for a residence or temporary residence permit.

Applications for residence permits for Poland should be made to the appropriate regional office where the expat intends to live in Poland.

Residence permits are granted for a maximum of two years and can be subsequently renewed for a further two-year period.

Expats entering Poland may be required to show proof of sufficient resources to support themselves financially while living in Poland as well as sufficient health insurance for the duration of their stay.

Once an expat has successfully submitted their residence permit application, they will receive a residence card, which serves as confirmation of their identity during their stay in Poland.

*Visa requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Poland

The requirements regarding work permits for Poland vary depending on an expat's nationality. 

European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens do not need a work permit to be legally employed in Poland, while non-EU citizens are required to hold a work permit to do so.

Since Poland officially became part of the EU in 2004, efforts have been made to standardise the work permit process. Rules and regulations are becoming more closely aligned with the directives used by other continental European countries.


Types of work permits for Poland

There are a few types of work visas for Poland, but most new arrivals wanting to work in Poland will apply for a Type A visa, which allows expats to work in Poland if they are employed by a Polish company. Expats who sit on management boards typically apply for a Type B visa, which allows them to live in Poland for six months or more during the course of a year. Otherwise, the Type C work permit allows expats to work in Poland for a company that is not Polish.


Applying for a work permit for Poland

Most employers apply for their employees' work permits on their behalf, as it is necessary for an employer to first establish an expat's 'permission to work' from a provincial government office, known locally as a voivode office. This application must also be made at the office in the district where the expat is to take up employment. 

For this reason, most of the burden of organising the work permit falls on the shoulders of the hiring company. The company must present a good deal of documentation, detailing its legal status, its income and losses, information relating to the company's number of employees, and most importantly, proof that there are no other qualified Polish workers who could adequately fulfil the position in question.

Although this removes a lot of pressure from expats, it also means that companies often choose not to hire foreigners, as the process of filing paperwork can be resource consuming. 

Work permits are issued for a maximum of three years, at which point they can be renewed accordingly.

One restriction that many expats are unaware of is the fact that work permits for Poland are job- and employer-specific. Consequently, if an expat wishes to change employers while living in Poland, it's necessary to reapply for a work permit.

Once 'permission to work' is granted by the voivode office, expats can apply for a formal visa at the Polish Consulate in their home country, or apply for a residency card within Poland.

*Regulations for work permits are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Poland

The cost of living in Poland is among the cheapest in the European Union (EU), alongside Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. In the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Warsaw, Poland's most expensive city, ranked 169th out of 209 cities.


Accommodation costs in Poland

The cost of accommodation in Poland varies, but apartments closest to the main square in any Polish city – big or small – will usually be the most expensive. Expats who are willing to live a bit further out and manage a small commute will find better deals for apartments with larger living spaces.


Food costs in Poland

Eating out and buying groceries is generally cheaper than in most other Western European cities and prices for Polish products are very reasonable, but imported items will be significantly more expensive. 


Cost of transport in Poland

Public transportation is relatively inexpensive and students, pupils and senior citizens are eligible for discounts on long-term ticketing.

Poland's central location and the prevalence of low-cost air travel make it easy and affordable to explore the rest of Europe while living in Poland. Airports can be found in all of the major Polish cities. 


Cost of education in Poland

Public education in Poland is free but it is not a viable option for many expats as the language of instruction is Polish.

Most often, expat parents send their child to an international school where the students can continue to follow the same curriculum that they were studying in their home country. Most international schools are found in Warsaw or Krakow. International school fees can prove to be a huge expense as fees are high, as are additional expenses such as the cost of school trips, uniforms and textbooks. 


Cost of living in Poland chart 

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices for Warsaw in November 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

PLN 2,960

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

PLN 5,480

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

PLN 2,220

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

PLN 4,050

Shopping

Dozen eggs

PLN 8.70

Milk (1 litre)

PLN 2.90

Rice (1 kg)

PLN 4.20

Loaf of white bread

PLN 3.40

Chicken breasts (1kg)

PLN 17.85

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

PLN 17.95

Eating out

Big Mac meal

PLN 22

Coca-Cola (500ml)

PLN 4.60

Cappuccino 

PLN 10.80

Bottle of beer (local)

PLN 10

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

PLN 140

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

PLN 0.27

Internet (Uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

PLN 55

Basic utilities (Average per month for a standard household)

PLN 698

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

PLN 2.50

Bus fare in the city centre 

PLN 4.40

Gasoline (per litre)

PLN 4.90

Culture Shock in Poland

From a cultural point of view, Poland's customs and norms won't be completely alien to Western expats. However, there are a few Polish cultural practices that may surprise foreigners and may even cause some light culture shock.


Meeting and greeting in Poland

Greetings and farewells in Poland are marked with a kiss on each cheek for those who are on close terms, and the usual handshake between men and business acquaintances. Women shouldn’t be surprised if older men kiss their hands.

Poles do not say goodbye in doorways (including a handshake through a doorway) as it is thought to bring bad luck.

If learning Polish, it is a good idea to master and utilise the polite forms of address as soon as possible. For native English speakers this often feels uncomfortably formal, but for Poles it is second nature and while they are generally forgiving of mistakes, it is an easy way of showing respect.

Polish people are not in the habit of smiling gratuitously at strangers; if smiling at a stranger, expect to be met with suspicion.


Gift-giving etiquette in Poland

If invited to somebody's house for a meal, it is polite to bring a gift – flowers or alcohol are the most common choices, but sweets are another option. Give flowers in odd numbers and avoid blooms that have cultural significance, such as yellow chrysanthemums, which are used at funerals.


Dress in Poland

Business and work attire in Poland tends to be quite formal. Women generally wear shirts and suits, while men wear collared shirts and suit trousers. If doing business it's best to err on the side of formality. If teaching, the rules are a bit more relaxed, but in general very casual work attire is not considered to be professional. 

In most Polish houses, the householders don't wear outdoor shoes inside and it’s best to follow suit. Also, there is almost always a coat rack inside the door, where visitors will be expected to leave outerwear in winter.


Language barrier in Poland

The language barrier is one of the biggest issues for foreigners in Poland. Polish grammar and pronunciation make it difficult for speakers of Western European languages to learn, though it may be easier for someone who already knows another Slavic language.

That said, if staying in Poland long term, it is worth learning as much Polish as possible for the sake of convenience, as many services don't operate in English. Many young people know English and other languages, but expats will be more independent if they learn to conduct basic exchanges in Polish.

On the positive side, Poles tend to be patient and appreciative of a foreigner's efforts to learn Polish.


Religion in Poland

Poland is a Catholic country, with a fair sprinkling of Eastern Orthodox, especially in the eastern part of the country. If visiting churches, one will be expected to behave in a quiet and respectful manner – keep hands out of pockets and voices hushed, and men should remove their hats (this doesn't apply to women). 

Also, be aware of church and other public holidays in Poland, over which almost everything will be closed. Christmas gift-giving and the main Christmas dinner take place on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day, as is the case in many other countries.


Bureaucracy in Poland

For those applying for a residency visa or setting up a business in Poland, the paperwork can seem overwhelming. Many systems are not yet computerised, so expect to fill in plenty of forms and stand in long queues. 

For expats who have a Polish partner, are a non-EU citizen and are applying for a temporary residency, be aware that part of the application process will be a home visit at the declared address with no warning so that the state can ascertain the credibility of an applicant's relationship and listed address. This may include invasive tactics such as rummaging through a wardrobe or requesting to see where private papers are kept. Both partners will be interviewed separately at the beginning of the residency process, to ensure that their stories about their relationship match – this interview will take place in Polish, so it may be necessary to have a translator present.


Racial identity in Poland

Poland, at this point in its history, is a culturally homogeneous country where the vast majority of the population is white and Polish-speaking. Consequently, many Poles are not used to interacting with foreigners, and non-European-looking expats may find themselves the object of frequent stares and whispered commentary, especially from the older generation. There is no easy way to deal with this, apart from developing a very thick skin.


The urban/rural divide in Poland

Expats in Poland will most likely find themselves living in a larger city where it will be easier to find someone who speaks their language. It is worth noting that life in the countryside in Poland is much different to urban life – people are generally much poorer and may struggle when dealing with a foreigner. It is essential that expats planning to spend time in rural Poland learn some Polish and accept that interactions may be much more difficult than they are in Polish cities.


Money and salaries in Poland

If seeking work in Poland, do not be surprised to find that no salary is advertised. Interviewees will often be asked about their 'financial expectations' during interviews, with no indication given about what the prospective employer is ready to pay. It is a good idea to find out what the typical salary is for the job in question and to determine what an acceptable salary would be before going to the interview.

Accommodation in Poland

There are many different options to suit the budget and requirements of expats looking for accommodation in Poland. Despite the variety of options, housing demand often outweighs supply, so competition over accommodation can be fierce in desirable areas. 

Regulations for foreigners who want to buy property in Poland are complex, and most expats living in Poland rather choose to rent property.


Types of accommodation in Poland

The types of accommodation in Poland vary widely and include older as well as more contemporary styles. The quality of housing has improved in recent years, and there are many options for expats, from Soviet-style apartment buildings and freestanding homes with gardens to duplexes, semi-detached houses and spacious modern penthouse apartments.

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Poland, although unfurnished options are more common. Standard appliances such as a stove, refrigerator and dishwasher are often supplied, but air conditioning is rare in Polish apartments.


Finding accommodation in Poland

Expats looking for an apartment or a house in Poland can find property listings online or in daily Polish newspapers. However, for expats unable to speak Polish, this may prove tricky and they may want to acquire the services of a real-estate agent. Once a lease is secured, agents usually require a fee equivalent to at least a month’s rent for their services.

When choosing an area to live in Poland, expats should consider its proximity to their place of work and their children’s school, as well as access to public transport. The further away from the city centre, the cheaper the accommodation, but the less access these areas have to services such as public transport, schools and hospitals. Rentals closest to public transport, such as Warsaw’s metro line, often cost more.


Renting property in Poland

Expats need to act fast after they find a suitable property as the rental market is quite competitive.

Making an application

Prospective tenants usually need to provide proof of employment, ID and bank statements to secure a lease in Poland. The landlord and rental agencies will then review applications before choosing a tenant they think is the best fit.

After the application is accepted, a handover day is arranged where the tenant usually signs a 12-month lease. This also gives them an opportunity to inspect the property and do an inventory.

Leases and deposits

A deposit of one to three months’ rent is often required by landlords, while some may even require six months' rental upfront. Rental agreements are usually flexible and decided upon between the tenant and landlord.

Once a tenancy application is approved and signed by both parties, the next step is to carry out an inspection of the property and do an inventory.

Tenants are required to give a few months' notice if they wish to terminate a lease early. 

Utilities

Utilities such as gas, water and electricity are not usually included in the rental cost and are paid for by tenants. Additional expenses could also include general maintenance costs for the building such as cleaning and gardening. Expats should keep this in mind when budgeting for accommodation. 

Healthcare in Poland

Expats will find both public and private healthcare options in Poland. Most Polish citizens use a combination of the two, and expats will want to make sure they have some degree of private insurance, as costs associated with these services can become expensive if paying out of pocket.

Facilities and treatment are generally better in the larger cities, and emergency services are less reliable in the rural areas. Poland also has a smaller number of doctors than many countries with a similar population size, and these individuals are usually located in the major cities.


Public healthcare in Poland

The Ministry of Health regulates national healthcare policy and oversees the state-financed system, the National Health Fund (NFZ), that supports it.

State care is compulsory for all Polish nationals and all official residents. Contributions are usually deducted directly from salaries, with self-employed individuals being required to make a personal payment to the NFZ. 

The standard of public healthcare in Poland is adequate, though many of the hospitals may be of a lower standard when compared with hospitals in Western Europe. Despite this, there are excellent public facilities which cover more treatment plans than might be available at private medical centres – there are often no private options for cancer cases, for example.

Expats will need to obtain a personal identification number (PESEL) before officially applying for public health insurance. Once the application is approved, individuals and their dependants are given an official medical insurance card and are entitled to free health services in Poland.

EU nationals who hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or an E-111 form are also able to receive free public healthcare. This includes access to primary care, specialist outpatient care, hospital treatment, dental treatment and ambulance transport.

One disadvantage of public healthcare is the fact that the NFZ issues quotas on the number of free state procedures doctors can perform. For this reason, those needing either consultation or minor treatment may find themselves on a waiting list for months before receiving service.

A further issue is that it is necessary to first get a referral from a General Practitioner (GP) in order to consult a medical specialist, further increasing the waiting time before receiving treatment. 


Private healthcare in Poland

Private healthcare in Poland is often used to supplement the public sector. Expats will find that many nationals choose this option to avoid the long waits and painstaking bureaucracy of the state system. In fact, many of the same doctors that work for the NFZ have private practices on the side in which they can bypass the limits of the quota system and treat patients as they see fit.

Private treatment is relatively affordable, but continuous treatment will certainly pull at an expat’s purse strings. As such, expats should explore their private insurance options.


Pharmacies in Poland

Pharmacies are widely available in Poland and some in the major cities are open 24/7. Although expats will find a wide selection of over-the-counter medicines in Poland, these are often more expensive than in other EU countries. The state does not sponsor most prescription drugs and some medicines associated with long-term illnesses, such as asthma, depression, heart disease and diabetes, are only partially funded.


Health risks in Poland

Although there are few health risks in Poland, expats should visit a health specialist to ensure that they have the latest vaccine information.

Expats walking outdoors should be careful of tick-borne diseases such as encephalitis. Tick bites can be avoided by using appropriate insect-repellant and wearing long trousers. 


Emergency services in Poland

Emergency services in Poland are often prone to time delays, especially in areas outside of the major urban centres. The time between calling for help and receiving treatment is much longer than that found in other Western countries, so it might sometimes be faster for patients to make their own way to treatment centres. 

If a person is not close to a hospital with an emergency room, a GP is required by law to treat them in their home.

Individual emergency services can be contacted on the following numbers:  997 (police), 998 (fire), and 999 (ambulance).

Education and Schools in Poland

The Polish education system has undergone many positive reforms in recent years, marking an overall improvement to the standard of education in Poland.

Expat children are allowed to attend public schools free of charge. However, owing to the language barrier, and a general preference among expats for their children to continue their home country's curriculum, most foreigners choose to enrol their children in international schools, of which there are a number to choose from.

Compulsory education in Poland begins at age 5 or 6 with a preschool year and continues for 12 years to the age of 18. At 16, students write standardised tests which help determine which type of school they will attend in the next level. Students have the option of choosing between general high school, technical high school or vocational high school. 

The Polish school year runs from September to June. The three major holiday periods are over Christmas and Easter as well as a winter break in late January or early February.


Public schools in Poland

The majority of children in Poland attend state or public schools. Tuition is free for all children attending these schools, including foreign children. However, this does not include the additional costs of textbooks, school uniforms, lunches or general stationery and school supplies. Despite the high standard of education and free tuition, most expats in Poland don't send their children to public schools due to the language barrier.

In the case that expat parents do decide to make use of public schools in Poland, it's important to know that attendance is determined by where the family lives and schools are required to accept all children residing in their catchment area. Children are not obligated to attend their nearest school, however, and parents can request that their child be allowed to attend another school outside of their residential area. In such cases, it is up to the director of the school to determine whether the child will be accepted or not.


Private schools in Poland

Private primary and secondary education is relatively new in Poland, having only been introduced in the late 1980s. Private or non-state schools are partly funded by the government and partly by fees and donations by parents and other organisations, such as religious orders. As a result, many private schools in Poland are run by religious or social organisations.

The language of instruction at these schools is generally Polish or one of the country's minority languages. These schools are independent of the government and are not restricted to following the national curriculum. Fees at private schools in Poland can be quite high.


International schools in Poland

There are a number of international schools in Poland that cater to numerous nationalities, including American, British, German, French and Japanese expats. Most international schools in Poland are based in Warsaw or Krakow, and there are also a handful in Poznan and Wroclaw. While most of the schools follow the curriculum of their home country, some also offer the International Baccalaureate programme.

Places at international schools in Poland may be limited and expat parents should therefore plan in advance when making arrangements for their child’s education in Poland. Consideration should also be given to the cost of education at international schools, which are often an expat's biggest expense. 


Special needs education in Poland

Expat parents of children with disabilities can rest assured that in Poland, special assistance – both throughout the entire educational process or during a certain period of education – is given to children who have special educational needs or those children whose opportunities for education, development and learning are limited to such an extent that they can't meet the educational requirements at mainstream schools.

Special educational needs may refer to long-term illnesses; adaptive problems; specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia; speech impairment; trauma-induced emotional and behavioural difficulties; or learning difficulties. Special-needs institutions provide care for differently abled pupils by allowing for the implementation of individualised educational processes, forms, curriculum and revalidation.


Tutoring in Poland

Education is highly valued in Poland, and Polish parents use tutoring as a tool to assist students in their learning. It is also invaluable to expat children adapting to a new environment, language and curriculum. Even for children in international schools, tutoring is useful for gaining confidence, or for assistance in particular subjects such as maths, science or Polish. Good tutoring companies in Poland include Apprentus and TeacherOn.

Transport and Driving in Poland

Poland has good road networks as well as an extensive public transport system that makes getting around an easy task for expats whether they prefer to drive, fly, or go by bus or train. It is also easy to travel to cities outside of the country via plane or high-speed train.


Public transport in Poland

Poland’s large cities all have extensive public transport networks. There is also an exhaustive system of intercity trains and buses for travelling around the country and to other countries in Europe. Tickets are easily available from kiosks, machines at stations and on the buses and trains themselves.

Trains

Trains are one of the most popular ways to get around Poland. Intercity, EuroCity and express trains serve the larger cities in Poland, while the regional and local trains stop in smaller towns and villages. Fares will depend on the type of train, the class and the route. 

It is possible to travel by train between all of the major cities in Poland as well as cities outside Poland such as Budapest, Prague, Berlin and Vienna. 

Buses

Poland boasts an extensive intercity bus system and buses cover areas that aren't serviced by train routes. Tickets are reasonably priced and can be bought at kiosks or from the driver on the bus.

Both PKS Polonus and Polski Bus are reputable companies that offer well-priced tickets.


Taxis in Poland

There are many reliable and safe taxi services in Poland, but expats should be wary of unofficial-looking taxis that hang around outside train stations and some hotels. These could take advantage of foreigners and overcharge them. Legitimate taxi companies usually mark their cars with logos. Legally, the driver should have a meter and a cash register in the cab and drivers are obligated to give passengers a receipt when they pay the fare. 

Taxi fares are reasonable but increase on Sundays, holidays and late at night. Expats may be able to secure a discounted rate if they phone and book the taxi in advance.

Alternatively, ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Taxify operate in Poland's major cities. Many expats prefer using these apps as they give them more control over routes and prices while eliminating language barrier issues.


Driving in Poland

Expats who wish to travel around Poland by car should be able to do so relatively easily. Road conditions are good, but snow and ice in winter can be hazardous. Expats should take the proper precautions and be sure to abide by all road rules to ensure their safety when driving in Poland.

It is required by law that drivers in Poland have their headlights on at all times. Fog lights may only be used when there is fog or heavy rain, and rear fog lights may only be used when visibility is less than 160 feet (50m). It is also advisable that expats fit their cars with winter tyres to ensure safe driving during the frosty months.

Driver’s licences

EU citizens can use their home country’s driver’s licence in Poland. Other expats, however, will need an International Driving Permit for the first six months they are in Poland, after which they'll need to apply for a Polish driver’s licence. This involves passing a driving test and providing medical certificates.

Once expats have received their licence, it is important that they keep it in their car, along with their car insurance documents, at all times.

Shipping and Removals in Poland

Despite Poland's Baltic coastline, the major ports of Gdansk and Gdynia are poorly connected to many of the major urban cities in the centre and in the south of the country. As a result, shipping can often take longer than expected.

Still, whether shipping a container or a car to Poland, it generally takes three to four weeks for goods to arrive.

Costs vary depending on the size of the container booked, and it's recommended that expats procure quotes from a number of different service providers in order to find the best deal.


Customs clearance for Poland

As a member of the EU, Poland is part of a greater customs union, which means that goods and items shipped to Poland from within the EU by EU citizens are duty free. Most used and personal items are also duty free.

If expats are using more than one medium of shipping (i.e. air and sea), all goods must be declared at the initial point of entry.

The paperwork required for customs clearance in Poland can be complicated, but shipping agents generally facilitate this process.


Shipping pets to Poland

Shipping pets to Poland is a straightforward process. Animals must have a microchip that complies with ISO standards, and dogs and cats must have the appropriate vaccinations.

A veterinarian must issue an EU Health Certificate (Form EC#998) no more than four months prior to travel, and an International Health Certificate must be issued within 10 days of departure.

Frequently Asked Questions about Poland

Expats considering a move to Poland will naturally have many concerns about life in this culturally rich country.

From transport concerns to salary expectations, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Poland.

What is a PESEL number, and how do I get one?

All new expats moving to Poland for more than three months will need to register at a local district office (urzad gminy), and will need to obtain a PESEL number (Public Electronic System of Population Records). Citizens of the European Union (EU) must register within 30 days of arrival, while non-EU nationals will need to register within four days of arrival.

To register for the PESEL number, expats must bring their passport and appear in person at a public office. The PESEL is vital for completing many bureaucratic affairs, like opening a bank account or applying for a mortgage.

Do I need a car in Poland as an expat?

Poland's larger urban centres, such as Warsaw and Krakow, have cost-effective and efficient modes of public transportation. Buses, trams and state-of-the-art subway systems are available for use, and plenty of package deals exist for ticket purchasing. Night buses and meter taxis are also plentiful in the main urban centres.

On the other hand, if living outside of any of the large Polish cities, or even if living in a suburb on the periphery of the centre, it will be necessary to buy a car in Poland.

Driving culture in Poland tends to be aggressive. Speed limits are often not adhered to, and overtaking is the norm.

What kind of salary can an expat working in Poland expect?

Expats with a quality education, and who have gained valuable experience in a specialised field, such as IT, can expect to earn a salary above the Polish average. Otherwise, earning potential in Poland is quite limited compared to Western Europe.

That said, the cost of living in Poland is among the lowest in continental Europe.

Relocation Companies in Poland

Moving to Poland for work can be extremely challenging for expats and their families in terms of logistics, organisation and general wellbeing. Most large companies and plenty of individuals use the services of a relocation company to help ease the move. A good relocation consultant can help expats complete the necessary immigration and visa formalities, as well as assisting in finding a house or apartment to live in, and suitable schools for any children. Many relocation companies offer orientation tours of the city, and can suggest dentists, doctors, supermarkets, car garages, and so on.

Here is a list of some relocation companies that can assist any move to or from Poland.


Relocation companies in Poland

express-relo

Express Relocations

Express Relocations helps HR departments of large and small companies from around the world with their relocations to Poland. They employ 80 experienced consultants, with offices in the major Polish cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Lodz, Gdynia and Katowice.

Website: www.expressrelocations.com

Plus

Plus Relocation

Plus Relocation is a full-service global relocation management company providing domestic and international relocation, global assignment management and consulting services. Plus Relocation has the experts that expats can trust to make their move to Poland smoother and easier.

Website: www.plusrelocation.com

Santa Fe

Santa Fe Relocation

Santa Fe Relocation has over 50 years of experience providing comprehensive relocation services to both corporate and individual clients relocating to Poland. As an international firm, Santa Fe Relocation has a strong understanding of what is required in a move and caters for a full spectrum of needs.

Website: www.santaferelo.com

Banking, Money and Taxes in Poland

Polish banking has come a long way since its monopolised and inefficient banking system of the 1990s, and nowadays offers a good number of both local and international banking options. Each has different fee policies and different account options, so it’s highly recommended expats do some preliminary research to find which will work best for them.


Money in Poland

Even though Poland joined the European Union in 2004, it has not yet adopted the euro. The Polish currency is the złoty (PLN), which is divided into 100 groszy

  • Notes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 PLN

  • Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 groszy and 1, 2 and 5 PLN

Expats can change money in banks or kantors (exchange offices). Banks will likely charge a commission, whereas kantors usually provide better exchange rates and don't charge a commission.


Banking in Poland

PKO BP is the largest and most popular national bank in Poland, while Citibank, MultiBank and MBank (a purely telephonic/online services bank) are most commonly used by expats. Bank staff generally speak English, and online banking can also be done in English.

Smaller, more traditional Polish banks and branches may not have English-speaking staff readily available.

Banking hours in Poland are generally from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Opening a bank account in Poland

A local bank account is necessary for day-to-day expenses and is needed in order to receive payment from employers.

Expats can use their passport and residency card (Karta Pobytu) to open a bank account. In cases where an expat doesn't have a residency card, it is often adequate to sign a declaration of residency.

A small monthly fee is required to maintain an account, and additional charges for transactions and direct debit orders also apply.

ATMs and credit cards

ATM machines are plentiful and conveniently located around the major cities, but rarer in rural areas. Credit cards are widely accepted.


Taxes in Poland

Expats living and working in Poland qualify for tax status based on the amount of time they spend in the country, or the nature of their employment contract.

Those who are residents, or who spend more than 183 days of the tax year in the country, will be taxed on their worldwide income.

Poland has a progressive tax system, meaning that according to the annual income earned, expats will be taxed between 19 and 32 percent.

It is necessary for expats to register for a tax identification number (NIP) upon arrival. This is a 10-digit number that is also required for social security payments. It can be requested and applied for at local public tax offices.

Expat Experiences in Poland

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Poland and would like to share your story.


Leonie Müller is a 40-something-year-old mother of four living in Krakow, Poland. She grew up in South Africa, but has spent most of her life living as an expat. Read her experience of expat family life in Krakow.

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Rose Moore is an Australian expat living in Poland. After living in Australia for a few years, she decided to move to Poland with her Polish husband. Rose works as an English teacher, freelance writer, editor and translator, all while adjusting to life as an expat and mother of infant twins. Read more about her expat life in Poland.

Lois is an American expat living in Poland. She moved to the western city of Poznan in 2011 when her husband was transferred there with his company. Although Lois finds the Polish bureaucracy and customer service somewhat of a challenge, she finds the quality of life in Poznan to be excellent. Learn more about her expat experience in Poland.

Vice-Principal of International American School of Warsaw, Christopher Uden, gives some advice to expat parents on the ins and outs of international schools in Poland in this exclusive Expat Arrivals interview.