For Foreigners

12 things to know before moving to Poland

Moving to another country is obviously a huge challenge in terms of just figuring out how to live in a place normally – renting a flat, Internet plans, taxes, residence, bank accounts, what have you. I’ve had this on my mind recently as I just had a new teacher arrive in Gliwice – no Polish contacts apart from me – and he’s going through all these first difficult things that you just have to do when you move abroad. It’s impossible to know how all these official things work! Hence, in an effort to help out those of you in the same position, here are 12 things to know before moving to Poland.

  1. You need to start the residence process immediately. I think technically you’re supposed to apply 45 days before your 90-day travel visa expires. So you need to get everything together pretty quickly. Once you start the process and get the stamp from Urząd Wojewódzki in your passport, you can stay in Poland as long as it takes for the process to be completed. Check out my post about how to get a karta pobytu.
  2. You can pretty much buy anything here nowadays. If you’re looking for food products from your home country, try health food stores or Kuchnia Świata, which is a store with products from all other the word, as the name suggests. You can usually find them in big malls. If you’re looking for other things, try Allegro, the Polish eBay, which has basically everything you can imagine. You can also ship for cheap from Amazon Germany.
  3. Facebook Expat pages are great sources of knowledge. I wish I had known these were so widely used a few years ago when I had more questions. The Warsaw and Wrocław are probably the most active and therefore answer the most questions you may have. Ask questions in English about the karta pobytu or where to do/buy something and get answers from foreigners like yourself. 
  4. Most apartments are fully furnished. The best places to look for flats are on Otodom.pl or Dom Gratka. I’d also recommend getting a real estate agent to help you because if you don’t speak Polish it could be hard to organize meetings with the owners and also know what the typical terms and conditions of leases are (speaking of, here’s a fantastic post on pitfalls to avoid when renting an flat in Poland) Once you find a place, you’ll need to register (zameldować) yourself there in city hall. 
  5. You need a Polish comrade. Poles are quite hospitable, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re inconveniencing them if you ask for help, as I’m sure most would be happy to. It’s pretty hard to know how everything works here, especially without knowing the language, so it’s good to have someone who you can direct questions to. If not, you can ask me 🙂
  6. Bring your birth certificate. You’ll need to have it translated for your residence permit application, so it’s best to bring it with you when you come so you don’t have to scramble around looking for it later. 
  7. You need a PESEL number. This is like a social security number. You’ll need it for many things including your residence permit and opening a bank account, so it’s best to do this asap. Nowadays you can get a PESEL and register your place of living at the same time/place at Urząd Miejski, yay for improving bureaucratic processes!
  8. Value-added tax is pretty high. or VAT as it’s usually referred to, is 23% in Poland. Unlike in the States where the sales tax is added at the end, here the tax is already included in the price. That means the price you see on the tag is the price you pay at checkout. 
  9. Income tax. Those in the first tax bracket pay 18% income tax and anything above 85,000 zł is taxed 32%. Yikes!
  10. Setting up a bank account. You have any number of banks to choose from, but remember they’re going to expect you to have a PESEL number to open an account, so get that before wasting a trip. 
  11. Getting a phone plan and Internet. Again, you can choose from any number of companies, Orange, Play, Plus, T-Mobile, etc.,  but they won’t give you a plan unless you have a residence permit. That means before you get that you’ll have to buy pre-paid sim cards for your phone and rent an apartment which already has WiFi. 
  12. Medical care is relatively cheap. I’m comparing this to the States obviously but still I think it’s pretty cheap. Business owners pay around 300 zł per month and this covers both themselves and their dependents. Private visits are usually around 100 zł. Not so bad, really. You can also consider private medical care from either LuxMed or Medicover.

If there’s anything you think I left out or something you have a question about, please let me know and I’d be happy to help. Good luck!

EDIT: I’ve already gotten some other great suggestions.

Public transport. Most cities have excellent public transport, especially the bigger cities, which means you may not even need a car. In Warsaw, it’s especially possible and you can purchase monthly tickets.

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4 Comments

  • Reply GoHa SamoHa 11 February 2019 at 09:07

    In Warsaw medical visits are mostly above 100zl (I would love to pay only 100 :<).

    Also regular living costs (like food) are about 1.5x greater than in the much smaller cities unless you find a mall like Biedronka, Lidl or Tesco – always think about that when trying to rent a flat in bigger cities. Little private malls will eat your liver and drink your blood (prices of some products might be even 2x greater than usual. Take Dark Chocolate Wedel for example – in my birth city it costs around 2,5zl. In such malls in Warsaw even 5,5zl).

    Also, if you have a car or plan one, don't forget to find a flat with a parking place. I don't have a car myself, but I know that finding a parking plot in Warsaw might be a pain in the as..tonishing city. If I recall it right, you can rent a parking plot from local Spółdzielnia.

    Another thing in Warsaw is to get a monthly ticket which you could then use in every public transport (autobuses, tramways, metro). To buy one you will have to go to a ZTM point which are usually located quite close to metro stations. Probably PESEL will be needed here as well ( regular citizen is required to bring the identity card).

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 11 February 2019 at 10:32

      Hey there! Yeah that’s a good point about the higher payments in other cities. I’ll add that in there just so people are aware that bigger cities cost more. That’s crazy that even food could cost more in the same stores. It shouldn’t be that way! Good points about Warsaw. I should add a point about public transport as it didn’t even occur to me. I appreciate that!

  • Reply Donald Ricardo 12 February 2019 at 20:32

    Thanks so much for this, Leah. I’m definitely going to get boots on the ground in the next year or so. A beautiful woman and I traveling Poland and Europe by motorcycle/camper, working teaching and have a blast.
    Awesome lifestyle, with a home base in Poland. What more could I ask?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 13 February 2019 at 07:36

      Sounds pretty perfect to me 🙂 What about the winter time? Still camper life?

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