15 Most Common Tourist Scams in Poland

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Poland is a wonderful country to explore, the cities are full of historical significance with plentiful stories to tell and the countryside is vast and beautiful. Recovering from communist rule, Poland has emerged as a popular place for tourists to visit especially the fairy-tale city that is Krakow.

Although this city is a UNESCO world heritage site, home to Europe’s largest square and offers a bustling café and bar scene, there’s a darker side to the city. With the rise of visitors to Krakow and beyond, criminals have taken advantage and devised scams specifically targeting vulnerable tourists. If you are heading to Poland take a look at these common scams so as to protect yourself during your trip.

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

1. Two girls bar scam

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This scam has been around for a while but is still going strong especially in Krakow. Male travellers especially those alone or in a small group are usually targeted.

The gist of it is a tourist will be approached by two girls (some claim them to be Latvian girls) appearing to be tourists themselves. They may ask for directions or recommendations, which you probably won’t have an answer for. Striking you up in conversation they will nonchalantly point to a bar nearby and suggest getting a drink.

Once you’ve had a few drinks you’ll be asked to pay the bill, this being an extortionate amount, being told the girls had very expensive cocktails. If you refuse to pay you will be threatened by some large mob guys who will bully or push you around a bit until you fork up the cash.

Rule of thumb:

To avoid this type of scam an easy way out is to tell these girls that you are late and need to get going, that you are travelling on a budget so need cheap places to drink or test them by offering to bring them to your hotel/another place to drink. If you follow them, ask for drink prices before ordering to be sure about what you are paying.

Avoid these places which are infamous for this scam: the clubs/bar particularly on ul. sw. Tomasza, ul. Slawkowska, Florianska (Flames),and sw. Marka, (Club Saxon and Hard Candy)

 

2. Currency Exchange Scam

There are lots of places offering currency exchange in tourist locations and cities. With varying rates, some good value, others not so good and some that might seem too good to be true.

However, with the latest scam you might think you are getting the reasonable rate you are expecting with an added bonus of no commission, but false advertising might leave you out of pocket. Advertised rates in scam currency exchange booths will probably not be the rate that you actually pay.

Tourists will think they are getting a deal only to be told once the exchange is made that the expected rate and free commission is only applicable to large sums of money. Leaving you with a hefty commission fee, a terrible exchange rate and a no- return policy.

Rule of thumb:

When exchanging currency, always check the small print and confirm the rate and commission before making the deal by getting them to write it down before you make your exchange.

 

3. Auschwitz tour scam

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Many tours to Auschwitz are advertised for tourists, however the actual entrance is usually free and tours once you have arrived are provided by the museum. When you book with a tour operator for this trip, all you are actually paying for is your transport and possibly a stop to your driver’s friends’ shop or restaurant where they receive commission.

Rule of thumb:

The best thing to do is to research and plan your own transport to Auschwitz before your visit. There are regular buses from Krakow bus station that will take you directly there for a fraction of the price you would pay a tour operator.

 

4. Pickpocketing

In every major city across the world you should be aware of pickpockets. The most common way this happens is when in a crowded place one person causes a distraction whilst another person takes your wallet or phone using sleight of hand whilst you are confused. Before you know it, your items are gone and so are the thieves. You’re most likely to experience this in crowded places such as tourist attractions and bus and rail stations.

To be well prepared, do check out the pickpocket section in the Netherlands and Spain to see the multitude of situations and creative ways the pickpocket pros go about their business.

Rule of thumb:

Always keep your valuables safe and avoid using open pockets or having valuable items on show. Use a hidden money belt, wallet chain or other safety features to prevent your items from being stolen.

 

5. Tourist Photo Scam

This is an old scam that is still ongoing.

You may be approached by a seemingly friendly stranger offering to take your photo at a popular tourist attraction. Once they have hold of your camera or phone and have taken the photo they will demand a large sum for the privilege of the photo taking and will probably hold onto the camera until you hand over the cash.

Rule of thumb:

Never hand over your camera to a stranger who approaches you. Find a fellow tourist or use a selfie stick instead.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Taxi fare scam

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Taxi scams happen all around the world but specifically to Poland, there are certain scams you need to know. Some taxi drivers turn on night or weekend meters during the day, or even claim the double amount of what was initially agreed upon (if both had agree on a fixed rate rather than use the meter).

Legitimate taxis in Poland will have their rates clearly marked so you know how much you are paying before you get in and start your journey.

Rule of thumb:

Always book with a reputable taxi company (you could also try using mobile apps from www.teletaxi.pl or get-taxi-get.com to get them) and don’t just get into a random taxi. Or even better, if you use Uber in your own country book through your app to know you are insured and are getting the best rate.

 

2. Longhauling taxi drivers

Happens in many other countries as well, do be wary when a driver asks if you will like to take a shortcut.

Another way they do so is by purposely misinterpreting the street name (e.g. bringing you to Matoviska instead of Mazowiecha).

Rule of thumb:

Do your research – how long would the route take and how much would it cost roughly? You can find this online or by simply asking your hotel receptionist for a rough estimate. If you have mobile data, you can use GPS and check if you are on the correct route during the trip as well.

 

3. Phony Taxi Drivers

You will find many of these unregulated/unofficial “taxi” drivers at tourist attractions or major transportation hubs. If you take up their offer, most likely you will be told that their meter isn’t working and you will be charged a fixed rate that is higher than if you were to use an official taxi.

Rule of thumb:

Use official taxis, or Uber as an alternative. You could also try website/mobile apps from www.teletaxi.pl or get-taxi-get.com which will help you taxis from reputable companies in Poland.

 

4. Taxi driver sleight of hand

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Happens in some countries, what happens is that some rogue taxi drivers will try to cheat tourists unfamiliar with Polish currency with sleight of hand tricks to hide certain bills and claim that you have not paid enough.

Rule of thumb:

Count the notes out loud before handing them over to the driver. Watch carefully as the driver counts them.

 

5. Friendly helper scam

When buying a train or tram ticket from a machine you should beware of good Samaritans trying to help you with your purchase. You might be stopped by a passer-by, who will press buttons on the machine or attempt to help you insert your payment.

Most people are dazed or confused by this and won’t notice the switch of the ticket or the snatch of the cash until it’s too late and the culprit is on their toes.

Rule of thumb:

Make sure you are aware of your surroundings when booking tickets and if you are approached then politely but firmly decline any help.

 

6. Scam bus companies

When you book a bus ticket in advance you must be wary of fraudulent companies. In Poland tourists have been left stranded when companies cancel, their prepaid services. Meaning customers have no transport and have lost their money too.

Rule of thumb:

Book with a well-known company with a refund policy, or buy your ticket from the bus driver.

 

C. MISC

1. Credit card hotel scams

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You should always be careful when handing over your credit card when travelling but one such scam in Poland has come to light that you should be aware of. If you have given your card details online or booked through an operator you may assume it has all been taken care of.

But in the early hours of the morning, especially after one too many beers, you might receive a phone call from the so-called receptionist to confirm your details. Drowsy, drunk or hungover you might give out your details over the phone in your hotel without a second thought. Next thing you know there’s a massive bill and you have no idea who has spent this money or where it was spent!

Rule of thumb:

If you have a call in the middle of the night remember you don’t have to give any details right there and then. Why would they pick this time to contact you anyway? In the back of your mind think about this, and if the situation arises let the person know you will see reception personally in the morning and hang up.

 

2. Credit card number scams

When paying with your credit card in restaurants and shops, beware of your card being taken away by staff. If your card is taken out of your sight there is a chance that your card details are being taken to be cloned or used fraudulently. You might find yourself hit with a large bill weeks later.

Rule of thumb:

Paying with cash is the best solution. However, if you must pay by card, don’t let your credit card go out of your sight.

 

3. Fake Police Officers

You might find fake “policemen” wandering around looking quite real and official in their uniforms (happens even in the US and many other countries). The difference is that they are there to scam you.

You may be stopped and asked to produce your ID and credit cards and even your PIN numbers. Of course, real officers would never ask for your PIN but these fake officers can be quite intimidating. They look through your wallet, giving it back to you saying everything is fine. However, once you check you’ll find that your money or cards have went missing.

Rule of thumb:

Should you be approached, always ask to check their identification. After getting their identification details, threaten to call the police hotline to check (end of this article). At this point, the scammers will have been scared off.

Never give out your PIN number even if you think it is the Police who are asking.

 

4. Restaurant scam

Although some are tourist traps and not scams, you still feel cheated dining at these restaurants either way. First thing to watch out for is that these restaurants will usually task their waiters to solicit aggressively on the streets, offering some discount or promotion too good to be missed to bring you off the street.

Once at the restaurant, some tricks include serving appetizers which were not ordered which would be charged; tap water may be passed off as expensive bottled water; inconsistent bills; charging for random add ons; misleading prices/weight on the menu; having extra surcharges in Polish when the entire menu is in English, etc.

Rule of thumb:

The only way to prevent this from happening is to do your research – check out reviews of places to eat online. Should you prefer to just drop by a restaurant along the way, always ask when unsure (e.g. if any extra charges for this or that; found something you don’t understand on the menu, etc).

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

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  • Police: 997
  • Ambulance: 999
  • Fire Brigade: 998
  • Road Assistance: 981
  • Municipal Police: 986

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2 Comments

  1. Had a strange thing yesterday.
    We drove on the S11 from Kórnik to Poznan when I saw a car on the emergency lane with yellow plates.
    A man was waving to cars to stop.
    Since I am Dutch I thought it was a Dutch car, but after stopping in front of the car I saw it was a British car.
    The man came to us (spoke good English, had tinted skin, maybe Roman…?)
    He said he had no gas and no money and a kid in the car.
    He gave me a business card and said he would give his golden ring and neckless as collateral and asked if we could lend him some money.
    I said we had none, only credit card. He said it’s no problem, he had a little gas to go to a gas dispenser.
    It didn’t feel right.
    I asked him why he didn’t have any money or credit card when traveling to Poland. And giving him gas or money won’t get him to England. He stumbled and only said “I have a kid the car”
    He didn’t even seemed really upset that we didn’t want to help him.
    I wonder if there are people who also have seen this.

    Reply
  2. Also be aware of Romans trying to sell you fake phones and other crap on the parking places on the highway.
    We had this several times on the A4 near Kraków. They operate in groups and are very aware of the police. They seem to know when the police are coming because every time right before the cops come they hurry and disappear with their cars.

    Reply

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