All warnings in one, Warsaw
Warsaw is rated as the most dangerous city in Poland, and as a medium risk by the US government. There's a small risk of violence, mostly from drunks and football hooligans - both of which can be easily avoided. The biggest problem is from small time theft: pickpocketing for men and bag snatching for women.
For me the city felt very relaxing to walk around, and the shifty character count was low. There was a little hassle, from overly aggressive touts trying to shove tat and leaflets in your hand, and beggars who would shove bowls into people's faces and chase likely beneficiaries down the street, cap in hand.
This kind of behaviour was thankfully concentrated in a few areas, the popular pedestianised shopping street of Chmielna was particularly bad, but busy street corners near pedestrian crossings and entrances to underpasses were popular places for touts. The touts seem to be targeting Polish speakers, so a single word of English seemed to make them lose interest.
What perhaps was telling, was speaking with the taxi driver on the way to the airport. Like many Poles, he'd been working in Britain, London to be exact, but now had returned home. And he was glad. He said there were many nights where he had to fight with passengers who attacked him, often for no reason, not even to rob him. He didn't get that kind of thing in Warsaw.
Before you order at a sit-down restaurant, always check to see if there is a 'service charge'. a 10% charge is typical in the old town, but if you don't ask, be prepared to pay more, like 45%!!!
Restaurantja Arkadia, located in the square with the fountain, charged us MUCH MORE than what we owed, but when we asked for an itemized receipt, they just yelled at us louder and louder.
If you are tempted to use your credit card so that you can dispute the charges, don't expect your card company to be sympathetic. DO expect that your number will get stolen and used by restaurant employees.
This is the new , low cost, no frills terminal at the Airport. Be warned that it can get VERY busy with an enormous line for check in. There are only a few check in desks, and everyone just joins one big line rather than waiting at a specific airline's desk. The lines are also rather disorganised, going round and back on themselves, and people will push in. When you have checked in you then stay in line and move onto security. Tip- GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY!!!
Warsaw is full of "chinese food" kiosks. I don't mean Chinese restaurants but all those small places with a 2 yard desk. Actually they are Vietnamese / Korean but pretend to be Chinese / oriental.
Don't even think of eating there ! ! !
I know it's very tempting if you don't have the money for a better place, only in this case you probably don't have the money for the hospital treatment as well.....
They are responsible for there not being many stray dogs on the streets. It is not a joke - it was all over the news there.
Warsaw is not more dangerous than other European cities, and as every one of those there are things you shouldn`t do and places you shouldn`t go to as a tourist.
Beware pickpockets at railway stations and in crowded buses or trams, aspecially on getting on/off the vehicle. The bus number 175 is a blessing for a tourist- it goes right from the airport through the downtown and city center straight to the Old Town, but you have to watch out! It`s a really good one for pickpockets, so always keep you luggage close by and watch out. Guys- don`t carry your wallet in you back pocket- it`s the silliest thing you can possibly do, it`s like asking for it to get stolen! Just watch your belongings and you will be ok.
There are also places you shouldn`t go to, not only because there isn`t much to see but also because they are the poor areas and you might not be safe, aspecially since you are a tourist. Avoid North Praga District at night - areas of Targowa Street and East Railway Station. I remember my friend and I went there by mistake this one night- wanted to go to one of the pubs on the bank of the Wisla River and missed our stop- and I thought I would pee my pants lol! So you guys just stay away, ok? ;)
It is always recommended to travel by taxi at night. There is a lot of night buses but it`s just safer, aspecially when you don`t know the city too well. Anyways the taxis aren`t so expensive, so it`s better not to risk!
I think if you follow those rules you will be all good. It`s really not a super dangerous city, but it`s like every other big city- you gotta stay smart and you will be fine! Enjoy your stay!
Do Not try and take anything out of Poland pre dating 1945. The Polish customs are very very twitchy and they are very strict about loosing their heritage. I was searched and my cases turned over afetr they found a candlestick in my luggage (airport xray). The candlestick was a reproduction, with appropriate receipts etc.
Taxis are a lottery with organised criminal gangs running many. The best taxis are the ones with the usual livery down the sides and a 'taxi' sign on top.
Polish food - I'll say no more, but its the only time I was greatfull to see a McDonalds.
Like in a big city. Watch out for crowd, sometimes it is artificial to take away sth from you.
DO NOT TAKE ANY TAXI FROM AIRPORT OR RAILWAY STATION. THERE ARE ONLY TWO CORPORATIONS WITH NORMAL PIZES : 'MPT' OR 'SAWA'
As mentioned on my Poland Page - beware of pickpockets in busses and tramways, on Al. Jerozolimskie and Nowy Swiat - that is, in the areas visited by tourists. Be careful with using taxis who don´t belong to a corporation (the ones with just a bland taxi sign on their roof) - you might fall victim to the notorious taxi mafia of Warsaw, they are overcharging and not likely to discuss about some discount
If you are coming by car, take care about polish way of driving. Unpredictable and dangerous.
Do NOT leave worth things in a car, because of possibiltity that car will be stolen is big. Also, take care with your bags on public places.
Stealing is very 'popular' in Poland.
You have to check bill carefully while you are paying.
I don't want to scare you but it is better to be prepared.
This photo...Ok,Ok...it was a warm 26 degrees and I must have been wearing at least 3 pairs of socks and 3 layers of sweaters! And it was still cold!
Seriously, be conscious of the fact that this is a former communist country. Notice the gun hanging from this officer's shoulder. It is commonplace. You will be greeted by police w/guns at the airport instead smiling customer service rep's (at least it was this way in '95). You will also see many police (or military) in groups on the streets and in public transport at night, and unless you're sure it's alright, ask if it's OK to snap a photo! Not all are as friendly to Americans as this policeman was (and I had to convince him to allow a photo...he didn't start out smiling trust me!).
Also, with regard to taking photos, be aware there are some fairly non-scrupulous characters downtown (city center). I had someone start yelling at me that I had to pay him for taking a photo of a public building on a public street (a somewhat inebriated thug). Passers-by will ignore this, they're used to it. You could potentially have your camera snatched. It's a common scam.
Be extra careful of purses or bags on public transport. Trams and buses are packed to over capacity and the pick-pocketing is fairly common (this advice was all per the locals warning me & I avoided a few prob's thanks to their tips).