14 Most Common Tourist Scams in Poland

Safety at Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Bydgoszcz, Poznan, Katowice, Bialystok, Torun, Lodz, Zakopane, Sopot, Szczecin, Gdynia, Lublin, Swinoujscie, Karpacz, Kolobrzeg, Wladyslawowo, Rzeszow, Szklarska Poreba, Bielsko-Biala, Olsztyn, Kielce, Wisla, Leba, Krynica, Gliwice, Miedzyzdroje, Czestochowa, Ustka, Radom, Opole, Zielona Gora, Jelenia Gora, Mielno

Image source: Pixabay – tookapic

 

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 fairytale 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 here.

 

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS / ACTIVITIES

1. Two girls bar scam

Image source: tripadvisor.com

 

How it works:

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.

You 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 large mob guys who will bully or push you around until you fork up the cash.

 

What to do:

Either firmly decline, or you can test them by offering to bring them to your hotel bar or 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).

Finally, do not flaunt your valuables, leave them in your hotel / hostel room safe which you can further secure with hotel safety tools.

 

2. Pickpocketing

 

How it works:

Poland has one of the highest numbers of reported pickpocket cases in Eastern Europe.

Hotspots include tourist spots (e.g. Krakow Old Square, Rozbrat Square near Lazienki Garden, etc), transportation hubs (e.g. Warsaw train station), routes connecting to tourist areas (e.g. bus to and from Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street, the Royal Route / Trakt Królewski), resorts in the summar (Gdansk, Sopot, Gdyni), nightclubs, etc.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelery / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One will keep a lookout and block passer-bys from seeing the scene
  • Another will push or distract the target (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it)
  • A third will steal your valuable / slash your bag and then passes it on
  • The last will hide the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it

Do watch out for child pickpockets who distract you by asking for money or food as well.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

To make it impossible for thieves to steal from you, we recommend:

  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables securely in a slim fitting money belt or hidden pouch.
  • Store larger valuables in an anti-theft bag that is slash resistant and lockable. Keep it in front of you.
  • Keep most of your valuables in your hotel / hostel safe, which can be further secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead instead of the actual one.

 

 

3. Tourist photo scam

Image source: Warsaw Tourist Office

 

How it works:

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 a 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 hold onto your camera until you pay.

 

What to do:

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

 

4. Restaurant scam

 

How it works:

Restaurants of poor quality and out to scam will usually engage touts to solicit aggressively on the streets, offering a discount or promotion too good to be missed to entice you in.

Once you are in, tricks to exploit you include:

  • Serving appetizers which were not ordered but which would be charged
  • Passing off tap water 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.

 

What to do:

The only way to prevent this from happening is to do your research – check out reviews of places to eat online, or check with your hotel staff.

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).

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Taxi fare scam

Image source: Pixabay – AgaPo

 

How it works:

Taxi scams happen all around the world (e.g. India, Mexico) 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 flat fare 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.

 

What to do:

Always book with a reputable taxi company (you could also try using mobile apps such as www.teletaxi.pl or get-taxi-get.com to get them) and don’t just get into a random taxi.

Alternative, you can use taxi booking mobile apps such as Uber in your own country.

 

2. Longhauling taxi drivers

Image source: Pexels – Sebastian Ottenbreit

 

How it works:

Happens in many other countries as well (e.g. Chile, Greece) , 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).

 

What to do:

Do your research – how long would the route take and how much would it cost roughly?

You can find this online through online fare estimator or by simply asking your hotel staff.

Alternatively, you can use GPS and check if you are on the correct route during the trip as well.

 

3. Unofficial taxi drivers / black market taxis

 

How it works:

You will find many of these unregulated / unofficial “taxi” drivers at tourist attractions or major transportation hubs.

If you take up their offer, you will most likely be told that their meter isn’t working and will be charged a fixed rate that is higher than if you were to use an official taxi.

Another technique they use is to offer a much cheaper price. However, halfway through the trip, perhaps on a highway or stopping by a secluded area, they will demand an inflated fare.

 

What to do:

Use official taxis or Uber as an alternative.

You could also try website / mobile apps from teletaxi.pl or get-taxi-get.com which will help you taxis from reputable companies in Poland.

 

4. Taxi driver sleight of hand

Image source: Pixabay – adam_gorka

 

How it works:

There are rogue taxi drivers who 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.

 

What to do:

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

 

5. Transport ticket friendly helper scam

Image source: polrail.com

 

How it works:

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 your cash until it’s too late and the culprit has ran away.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings when booking tickets. If approached, decline any help politely.

 

6. Fraudulent bus companies

 

How it works:

In Poland, tourists have been left stranded when companies cancel their prepaid trips.

 

What to do:

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

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Credit card hotel scams

Image source: Pixabay – wawaleszek

 

How it works:

In the early hours of the morning, especially after one too many drinks, you might receive a phone call from the self proclaimed hotel 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!

 

What to do:

Never reveal your credit card details over the phone. Check with the reception the next morning to find out if the call is genuine.

 

2. Credit card skimming

Image source: europol.europa.eu

 

How it works:

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.

 

What to do:

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.

Finally, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet. That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

3. Fake police officers

 

How it works:

You might find fake “policemen” wandering around looking quite real and official in their uniforms (different variations in different countries such as the US, Egypt, etc).

You may be stopped and asked to produce your ID and credit cards and even your PIN numbers.

Of course, real officers will never ask for your PIN but these fake officers can be quite intimidating.

They look through your wallet, then give it back to you and say everything is fine. However, once you check, you’ll find that your money or cards have went missing.

 

What to do:

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).

Never give out your PIN number even to the police. Also instead of giving up your real passport, show only a photocopy of it.

In such cases, it is also useful to have a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside for daily transactions, while the rest of your valuables are hidden securely in your money belt or hidden pouch.

This way, the scammers might simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash on you.

Even if not, you can simply give up that wallet or the cash in it with minimal loss to yourself and save a ton of trouble.

 

4. Currency exchange scam

 

How it works:

There are scam currency exchange booths which advertise a super low rate along with the claims of there being no commission.

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.

Thus, you end up paying a hefty commission fee, a terrible exchange rate due to the no-return policy.

 

What to do:

When exchanging currency, always check the small print and confirm the rate and commission before making the deal.

Get them to write it down before you make your exchange.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: catholicphilly.com

 

  • Police: 997
  • Ambulance: 999
  • Fire brigade: 998
  • Road assistance: 981
  • Municipal police: 986

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8 Comments

  1. Radiotechnieman

    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
    • Mike

      This is a common gypsy trick. The things he would have given you are worthless.

      Reply
  2. Radiotechnieman

    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
  3. marek

    To be fair, the “fees” for the Auschwitz museum are publicly advertised so it can’t be really considered a scam only something that people need to be aware of

    Reply
  4. myname

    I was in playhouse club , a taxi driver in the entrance of the club offered to take me back to my hotel.While driving he said he knows great place for massage , it was in Felińskiego 8, Warszawa.

    When arrived staff there asked to pay by credit card for 455 PLN , I paid it using their credit card machine, once returned back to hotel I discovered they stolen 11,000 PLN

    Reply
  5. N999

    I ended up in a place called club dopamina on foksal street in Warsaw. Agreed to pay 240 zł for a dance and told they only accept card. First mistake was believing this, second mistake was I then noticed there was a 3 in front of the240 but there was a space and no. So I believed them when she said its the terminal number 3 with 240 zł and not 3240 zł… now of course i find I was charged 3240 zł and as I paid it using my pin I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back again even though it’s a blatant scam that I should have bendable to avoid but it was expertly carried out by this club.

    Reply
    • Mike

      Indeed, the same they tried with me in April 2018.
      The first time, when I ordered a drink, the girl who had asked me to come inside charged me correctly for my beer (I paid in cash) and a drink for the girl, which was not overpriced.
      Then they gave me many drinks (free shots).
      Then they tried to make me buy another drink for a special price.
      Somehow they first produced a receipt with 139 PLN, then they were putting a number 2139 PLN (600 Euro).
      Luckily, I left the club after they did not explain me and they were pushing me not to go.

      Reply
  6. From LTU

    Are those scams really happening? I have been in that restaurant in Gdansk and it was ok. I have been in Warszava and Gdansk and Gdynia like 10 times and for me it seemed like its pretty safe country. I have also met a lot of hot girls there and they didnt scamed me. Can somebody from Poland make a comment on this?

    Reply

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