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Living in Poland

Your guide to expat life in Poland

Want to live in Poland?

Expats in Poland experience a typically European way of life for a fraction of the price. Having greater disposable income means you can take full advantage of all the great things Poland has to offer.

Poland’s infrastructure is developing at an impressive rate. Transport networks are extensive and private healthcare is affordable. Housing standards are also high. The country does present a few challenges to expats, and these include the significant language barrier and complex bureaucracy.

Accommodation in Poland

The standard of housing in Poland has certainly improved over the years. While you’ll still find Soviet-style apartment buildings, there are now a greater number of options, especially in the bigger cities where you’ll find everything from large houses with gardens to well-equipped duplexes and modern penthouses.

While both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Poland, unfurnished options are easier to come by. Accommodation will generally come equipped with basic appliances such as a stove, fridge and dishwasher. Rental agreements are negotiable, but it’s difficult to find a lease for less than a year. Utilities are not usually included in the rental price, so you’ll need to budget for those as well as the security deposit, which is usually the equivalent of one to three months’ rent.

Online sources and daily Polish newspapers can be useful resources but, unless you're able to understand the language, finding property will be a challenge. Although they charge a fee, using an estate agent will help remove much of the stress.

Local culture in Poland

Poland may seem conservative to some new arrivals, so keeping an open mind is key as you adjust to the unique local customs. While Poland is not as cosmopolitan as other popular expat destinations, life in its major urban hubs is becoming more dynamic as a result of tourism and a growing expat presence.

Polish is a notoriously difficult language to learn. While younger Poles are more likely to speak English, you’ll benefit from learning basic Polish phrases. Thankfully, the locals are very accommodating and will help people trying to learn their language.

You’ll probably also find the bureaucratic hurdles quite a challenge in Poland. From getting a visa to setting up a business, the paperwork can seem overwhelming, so it’s best to get some help from a local advisor who can also help you with the language barrier.

Catholicism is deeply intertwined with Polish culture and society, and religious festivals are often marked by a public holiday. If visiting a church, you’ll be expected to behave respectfully and dress appropriately.

Education in Poland

While the Polish education system is steadily improving and the number of schooling options growing, the language barrier poses an additional challenge for children who are adjusting to life in a new country. Many expats therefore prefer to have their children attend an international school.

Public schools

All children in Poland are entitled to attend public school for free. However, as classes are taught in Polish, public schools aren’t a feasible option for most expat children.

Private schools

There are a few private schools in Poland that operate partly on funding from parents, religious orders or other organisations. Fees tend be quite high and the teaching language is either Polish or minority languages such as Ukrainian or Lithuanian.

International schools

In major cities such as Warsaw and Krakow, you’ll find international schools catering for various nationalities including American, British, German, French and Japanese. International schools are the most suitable option for expat children, as they allow them to study the national curriculum from home, but fees are high, and places are limited so you’ll need to apply early.

Keeping in touch in Poland

Mobile network coverage in Poland is very good. The four main mobile providers are T-Mobile, Orange, Plus and Play, which all offer both competitive contract packages and pay-as-you-go deals.

Broadband, cable and WiFi are widely available. The main service providers, Orange, UPC and T-Mobile, offer a range of packages, some of which combine telephone and TV in addition to internet access.

Some Polish publications cater exclusively for English speakers. These include magazines and newspapers such as Poland Today and The Warsaw Voice.

Healthcare in Poland

Poland has both public and private healthcare options. Expats working in Poland are entitled to use the public system as they contribute towards it through deductions from their earnings, but it's advisable to have a private health insurance policy as well.

Public healthcare, funded by the National Health Fund (NFZ), is adequate but not on par with standards in Western Europe or North America. It lacks some creature comforts and waiting lists can be long. Emergency services are also prone to delays, especially outside the major cities, so it is best to try and get private transport to the hospital if possible. Private healthcare can be used in conjunction with the public system and allows people to avoid long waiting times and bureaucracy. While private healthcare is affordable in small doses, continuous treatment can get expensive, so you’ll need private health insurance cover.

If you're working in Poland, it will be your employer’s responsibility to apply for public health insurance on your behalf, which will then allow you to access free health services. EU nationals with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are also entitled to free public healthcare.

Pharmacies are found across the country, with some open 24/7. A wide selection of over-the-counter medicines are readily available, but you’ll probably find that these are more expensive in Poland than in other EU countries.

Getting around in Poland

Transport options in Poland are quite extensive, so you won’t find travelling around the country at all difficult, whether you choose to drive or make use of public transport.

Road conditions in Poland are good, but snow and ice in the winter can be hazardous. By law, you are required to drive with your headlights on regardless of the time of day. EU citizens can use their existing licence, but other expats will need an international licence, which will need to be converted to a Polish licence within the first six months of living in the country.

Poland also boasts an extensive intercity bus system, which will allow you to travel to places that aren’t serviced by trains. Tickets are reasonably priced and can be bought at kiosks or from the bus drivers.

An extensive and efficient rail network runs local and regional services and there are options to suit various budgets. Trains can also be used to travel to neighbouring Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic and Austria. Tickets can be bought at station kiosks, but if you are travelling on a popular route, you’d be better off booking ahead of time.

Cost of living in Poland

Poland has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe, though daily expenses are significantly higher in larger cities such as Warsaw and Krakow.

While salaries are relatively low compared to other European expat destinations, if you’re moving to Poland with a family, you’ll find that school fees and childcare are very reasonable.

Top tips for Poland

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Poland.

Establish your social life quickly - find out the best online newsletters to receive and the best magazines / newspapers to buy to find out what is happening in your area.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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