Guide to Staying Safe

Generally speaking, Krakow is by no means a risky destination. Crime rates aren’t a cause for concern, street police presence is very tangible, medical services are good (and cheap!), and the people are characteristically welcoming and pleasant. The influx of tourism to Krakow in the last decade, specifically since the proliferation of low cost flights across the continent, has given the city something of a tolerant and sheltered feel. The civic services here are used to dealing with all the pit-falls of a tourist town, from the rare incidence of theft, to the variety of injuries caused by a few to many of the strong Polish beers. That said, it’s always a good idea to know where to turn in case of an emergency, what numbers to ring, who you can talk to, and what your responsibilities are as a traveller.

It’s very likely that any visitor to Krakow will encounter both divisions of the city’s police force, the Straz Miejska and the national Polish police themselves. The former are less imposing, and tend to deal with minor infractions around the city, while the latter have full policing powers to arrest and detain. Either division should be able to help in case of emergency, and both usually have a large presence in and around the Old Town.

If there’s no help nearby, or it’s an emergency, you can call the Police using the free number, 997. The other emergency numbers rise in increments of one, so it’s 998 for the fire brigade and 999 for the ambulance service, while the umbrella number 112 can be used to get the emergency switchboard.

There’s a police station on the Main Square itself, with others on nearby Lubicz street and Szeroka, in the Jewish district. There are also a host of hospitals with round the clock emergency departments near the Old Town and Kazimierz to the south, like the szpital (hospital) on Pradnicka street and the Wojskowy Szpital Kliniczny  to the northwest. Visitors from the EU should obtain a European Health Insurance Card prior to arrival, which renders emergency treatments free of charge, and can avoid unnecessary hospital bills.

There are a few well known scams operating in the more touristy areas of the city, which can easily be avoided with a little common sense. One involves several attractive Polish women who lure unsuspecting foreigners into bars under the pretext of enjoying a drink, only to promptly present them with outrageous bills to the tune of 1000 PLN or more; backed up by some intimidating bouncers, the victim usually pays up. It’s also wise to avoid unlicensed street sellers who often peddle fake goods, and unlikely do-gooders who hang around the transport hubs and offer to help you purchase tickets or itineraries. (All of Krakow’s transportation is automated, and there are English language options on the machines, so there shouldn’t be any need to enlist the help of natives.)

When using taxis always check that the driver is registered with a well-known provider, and also try to use the firms recommended by your hotel or hostel staff; this will help you avoid the bloated charges from those found on the street side ranks.

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