Dec 012009

“Ile kosztuje piwo tutaj?” – “How much does a beer cost here?” These four words may look daunting to a tourist freshly arrived in Krakow, but they can be essential to ensuring a good experience in the city. It is no mistake that in the last five years Krakow has gone from virtually unknown to one of the most visited cities in Europe. Krakow is unquestionably beautiful, fascinating and has an incredibly dynamic and varied nightlife. For many visitors, the city does indeed live up to its fairy tale image. Like most fairy tales however, Krakow has a dark side.

Compared to most modern cities, Krakow’s Old Town is remarkably safe and visitors are free to enjoy its 500-plus bars and cafes in relative peace and harmony. Long ago the city outlawed strip clubs and brothels in the Old Town so, for most visitors, Krakow is a family show. If you look below the surface however, Krakow functions just like any other city and is susceptible to the same dangers, scandals and most certainly, corruption. Recently, a few serious problems have arisen that call into question how safe the city actually is. How these problems are dealt with may very well help to define the city and its all-important image for years to come.

One of the oldest nightclub scams in the world has recently reared its head in the very heart of Krakow, just a minute’s walk from the Main Market Square. Reports of foreigners being fleeced of extortionate sums of money at clubs within the Old Town have raised concerns that Krakow may meet the same fate of Riga or Prague.

The Krakow Post has received numerous reports of one particular scam that follows an unswerving pattern: On a weekend night, typically in the early hours, two beautiful women approach a foreigner or a small group of foreigners. They suggest a specific club where they would like to go, and ask the men to accompany them. The men, usually having had enough alcohol already to affect their judgement, agree and are led to an upscale nightclub. Inside, there are no menus or prices in view. The men order drinks for themselves and their new lady friends, and after some time the bill arrives and the trouble begins. Several visitors have reported being charged sums between a few hundred and several thousand złoty for a handful of drinks. Upon request, the waitress then brings a menu that lists the prices of the drinks. If the tourist attempts to resist or negotiate, bouncers appear to ensure that the payment is made in full.

Several complaints sent directly to the Krakow Post specifically named the Saxon Club on ul. św. Tomasza. In one, a man named Vincent G. writes that he was charged 250 złoty for one shot of whiskey at Saxon. In another, a visitor from South America claims that he was charged 965 złoty for three drinks at the club (one gin and tonic for himself for 65, and two “love drinks” for each of the girls, priced at 450), adding that he “was forced and threatened by some strong guys” and therefore paid the full sum. He also wrote that afterwards he tried to file a report with the Krakow police department about the incident and they allegedly told him that they couldn’t help him at all and it was his fault that he didn’t ask the price of the drinks before ordering them. Some may concede the police have a point, yet one might also also find it troubling if this is the official position on this kind of behaviour. By the time police do act, some fear it could be too late.

The scam originally surfaced in local daily Gazeta Krakowska. On 16 November, the paper published an in-depth investigative article about the Saxon Club, in which they tried to get to the bottom of how the scheme works, discovering a few vital details. For instance, they paid the 40 złoty entrance fee (free if brought in by women) and took a look around Saxon’s plush interiors, not forgetting to peruse the menu. Besides the mysterious “love drink” for 450 złoty (actually called the Saxon Special), they report that beer costs 50 złoty, vodka and whiskey is 70 złoty, and from the VIP room menu one can purchase such delicacies as a Pole Dance for 250 złoty, 15 minutes in a private room for 700 złoty, whilst the coup de grace is an hour of “free time” for 2,000 złoty. The Gazeta Krakowska journalists didn’t make it into the VIP room to actually affirm what was going on, but the menu descriptions do not leave much to the imagination.

Furthermore, the owner of Saxon also appears to own a club in Riga (also called Saxon). On 20 November 2008 the American Embassy in Latvia officially blacklisted Saxon in Riga, along with seven other nightclubs running similar scams, and recommended that American citizens should avoid these clubs at all costs.

So what can be done if you’re visiting Krakow, and keen to enjoy the city’s nightlife? First of all, use common sense if approached by strangers. Also, be aware that this kind of activity is not limited to one club. According to another local source, several other bars/clubs on ul. Sławkowska, Floriańska and św. Marka have been linked to the scheme. If more tourists are aware of such dangers, these kinds of businesses stand a smaller chance of getting off the ground in the first place.

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  51 Responses to “Imbiber Beware: Scam Hits Krakow Bars”

  1. This is still going on and little has been done. A group of 3 of us tourists from France and the US are on a world tour visiting about 50 cities in the last year. Krakow has been the only city where we were scammed in this way. It’s sad. We were 2 guys and a girl. We met 2 Polish women on the square who claimed that this was a really fun bar with cheap drinks so we followed them. We had met a lot of friendly people in our travels and assumed we should follow their advice. We learned our lesson about trusting people.

    When given the bill after ordering just 3 drinks for ourselves we were cornered and told that if we did not pay we would get “roughed up”. We actually felt threatened because the bouncer who looked like a Russian thug threatened us with violence. He forced a friend of mine to go to an ATM. There was little discussion. My friend ran to the police who did very little. They did come in to make sure there was no violence, but they made us pay the bill of about 300 euro. We only ordered 3 drinks ourselves, but the girls who invited us ordered really expensive drinks. We asked the police if we could make a complaint and he merely said no. I asked if he knew if this has happened before and he said it’s the first time he heard about it.
    When we left we saw the police talking to the bouncer and they were all laughing.

    • Christophe – I had this trick tried on me the other night. Two Polish girls took me to a bar and they tried to charge me 460 Zloty. I realised this was a scam and I threw 10 Zloty down as a payment for my 1/2 drink then got out quickly. If the door had been locked there would have been trouble despite me being 2nd Kyu Karate student. There was a gripper behind the bar but I made my escape quickly thankfully. . More people need to be aware of this kind of thing.

      • Hey Guys! I live in this town all my life and I am really surprised! What I can say. Why the Hell you allow to be pick-uped by not known girls? This is the reason of troubles. Normal Polish girls are to shy and good behaviored to do such things so you can be sure that such girls that you met surely were not worth of your attention!!!! Next time be clever! Good luck!

        • Why are you mouthing off

        • Marta,
          Can you recommend some names of good bars to go out in Krakow for New Years Eve? btw. Me and my friends had the same experience in Budapest 2 years ago, but we just waved them and proceeded our way. I know here in Croatia (in Dalmatia region) there are also some clubs which have business in this way, but who is smart will look for the price list before he makes an order.

          • The local police seems to turn their blind eye to this phenomenon, in just a few years Krakow is “owned” by kartels.
            Theese clubs are really bad to this beautiful town, where you can get so much in one place.
            A large beer in a nice music pub will cost you 10 zloty, and a cheap “champagne” in these clubs will probably cost you 1000 zloty.
            I saw more than 20 boys and girls trying to lure tourists in just a short walk arround the big market square.
            . . . it makes me sad that the authorities are absent.

    • Let me add one thing here…….

      Ive worked & Djed in Krakow for over 15 yrs …NO Scams appeared until “Foreigners” decided to come & open/rent the clubs here.

      The scams are NOT operated by Poles.
      End of.

  2. I am very shock that such bad bad behavior is still consider normal by the local police department.
    If anyone from an foreigner country finds this disturbing then by all means they should report this and other such matters to the local police department and they should know what in the HELL they ought to do.

    Maybe, its true, the prettier the girls the higher the price for touching the items.



    • The truth is that not everything is a gold. You can find fake gold everywhere but the real treasure you must hardly looking for. So there are many pretty girls in Krakow but you are talking only with easy once that go to you first and start to talk. Why? Try to do some work yourself and you will meet a nice woman :-)

    • Sounds like Poland had a badly corrupt police department which is very disturbing, if you can’t go to the police to help you when your being scammed then your fucked it basically. All country’s use pretty girls to entice tourists into clubs and bars, its standard in bars all across Europe in tourist spots, only in Spain you would get free entry & a free shot, whereas in Krakow you get mugged & then even the police defend it by saying you should look at the price menu ! Haha These undeveloped countries eh maybe one day you’ll get up to speed with civilized society ;-)

      • That’s a load of crap man. Have you even been to Krakow? Have you been to Barcelona? Now there’s a city to get ripped off in, from my personal experience. I’ve been to Krakow 4 times and haven’t been ripped off there once. But how can you generalise about any city, let alone ‘undeveloped countries’ (there’s no such expression by the way- I assume you mean ‘underdeveloped’) that are extremely rich in education, art, music, architecture, history and culture, let alone having a population that are mainly honest and with a real love of life.
        Yes the titty bars are gonna be extortionate but what do you expect? It’s wrong that the law won’t protect you there but sadly it happens in seedy joints all over the world and you must have lived under a rock if youre gonna go to any strip joint with your guard down.
        Krakow is coming down with beautiful women that are extremely civilised and developed so if you can’t find a nice girl anywhere other than a lap dancing club then you must either be a complete moron or an ugly bastard. Or maybe your brains are in yer balls.

        • in reply to stevy b.utter bollocks mate.i was in krakow just last week and got aproached by a girl who took me too what i know now unfortunately “hard candy” bar.was ripped of to the tune of a “grand!”.how can krakow try to promote tourists when these slags are allowed to do this.ok i was pished en route to the scotland game in warsaw the next day which i fortunately krakows generally a lovely place.but needs to clear out this scum.which i doubt cause reading the posts about “candy” etc the police dont give a f…!

          • ps by credit card.there was a good few scots in krakow last week.i met this leech in a jazz club when she approached me.i thought “ok” lets go to this club…..wrong move!i remember going in and drinking the straight vodka? that got served to me.she seemed friendly.i got reeled in like a big fish.obviously didnt know that at the thing i remember was trying to find my hostel in the morn.which i did.”hard candy” u deserve a petrol bomb!

        • Funny you should say friends were there eight hours before they were ripped off and one of them shot by a bouncer on one of there bar scams.your polish I take it

  3. I was approached by two girls on the 2nd of January in the main square. Lucky for me I had read about this scam so I brushed them off. They claimed to come from Warsaw and asked me if I knew of any good bars!? Krakow is famous for its large number of drinking venues so I was immediately wary. (Why ask me?)
    Many thanks to all who posted up warnings about this scam.
    PS: See you next week!

  4. If the police wont listen! tell the mayors office in Kracow and make a complaint about the police as well! A.lso contact the Polish Embassy in your country, this shit has got to be stopped! Sounds like Soho in London were this used to happen quite often till the police were told to clean it up..

  5. Sorry about your luck, Christophe and others..Really a horrible situation. Always be weary of overly friendly people when traveling!

    Honestly though, Krakow is one of many cities that employ this tactic. This isn’t new to Krakow either, has been going on for years. I always wondered why people let their guards down and follow strangers–especially at night!

    Be vigilant folks, just because the girls are beautiful doesn’t mean you should follow them!

  6. Thanks RT: a really incisive comment there.

  7. i am going to poland on my own does not sound like a good idear ?

  8. going to poland on my own does not sound a good idear

  9. You’ll be fine. I have been myself many times. But of course be careful. Even the lapdancing clubs i have visited myself, were great. They give you a menu and you get all the prices beforehand. No rip-off. There wasn’t with me anyway. And they don’t put any great pressure on you to spend money. But obviously if you go to one of these places, which ain’t cheap, that’s the idea. ( to spend money that is.)

  10. I hate that ‘drink now pay later’ shit. I was once billed 100 euro for a bottle of wine in Greece. Never run so fast in all my life!

  11. Commenters with stories, if you visited the places which are involved, please NAME and SHAME them to prevent the same happening to others.

  12. Some genuinely good stuff on this internet site , I it.

  13. This is the oldest scam in the book, any hot chicks approaching you on the street and steering you into a bar they know is a red flag right there.

  14. It happened to me three years ago in Krakow at the Hard Candy club. We paid like 650 Zloty for 5 drinks and we were forced to get cash out to the closest ATM by strong guys…Same situation, don’t go too drunk in Krakow’s streets ;)

  15. This happend to me too yesterday at a Club in “Swietego Marka” the road Close to KFC. The Club With the MARTINI logo on top of the Windows. I called the police, they did come, but after 30minutts, and did not help me.I was charged 630Zlotty for 3 drinks. They even told me, and the two Girls that the first drink was for free.

    [Redacted for language] .Never coming back…

  16. I just came home from Krakow today, and we went to several strip clubs…. They all asked us to buy stuff for the girls, but I just said no, bought something for myself with cash up-front, and sat down. No trouble at all.
    I did avoid some of the more shady joints though, for seemingly obvious reasons… Strip clubs are always shady, so don’t get comfy before you get a feel for the place

  17. I have been to Krakow many times 30+ and had heard that this scam was operating there (witnessed it in Buddapest (but was aware beforehand and so did not fall for it) but had never seen any girls out to catch their prey in Krakow.

    In Jan 2014 on a Friday evening I was approached by two different pairs of girls at different times in the evening (20:00 & 23:00)

    Both pairs of girls said they were not from Krakow (yeah, right) and both asked if I knew where a certain street was (Ul Szewska) as they said they had been told there is a nice bar there and they were looking for it. What a co-incidence, two pairs of female tourists, both wandering the streets looking for tourists to ask directions!!!! Why not ask a local on the street or a shop worker???? That should set alarm bells ringing!!

    The club in question where they will take you is Hard Candy.

    • yes Hard Candy has been named and shamed on this website many times. if it is too good to be true then it is. If you cannot pull an oridinary looking girl in your home country lets face it you are not going to pull twp foreign crackers boom boom !

  18. Let me first tell you that I really like Poland and that I have many Polish friends. Therefore I wish that the Polish authorities would take action to stop the criminal scams against tourists in Krakow. As you can see from the internet a place called Hard Candy music club in Ulica Szewska has been in operation at least since 2010 and has caused many problems for tourists. It is threatening Poland’s reputation as a tourist destination and can potentially be harmful to the growing tourist industry. The problem is that young women approach tourists and persuade them to buy them drinks at Hard Candy and similar bad places. When the tourist gets the bill it is heavily overpriced and a total rip off. I am normally a cautious man but I am sorry to tell that I have just been a victim of this scam. Of course in afterthought it is an abnormal behaviour for a young woman to invite a complete stranger with her to a bar and this should make you suspicious. Most people in Poland are good and honest so it is a pity that the few bad ones are allowed to continue day in and day out, year after year.

    Best wishes from Bo, Copenhagen, Denmark

  19. That is why I always ask about pricing anywhere I go. Most bars in Krakow that I visited had price tags on beer bottles and when I asked vodka prices they were nice enough to tell me.

  20. Hardy Candy and other bars are know for this type of scam since forever.

    Why don’t the police do anything? These bars are mafia owned I guess…

  21. I’ve been in Kraków twice no problems… Mostly drank in Kazimierz, no issues whatsoever

  22. Nowe Miasto on Beera Meiselsa 24, Kraków.
    Incident on Wednesday night July 8th 2015
    It seems to be a common scam now that I saw it. This is what happened:
    1. Walking along the street nearby the bar when two girls across street are asking for directions.
    2. Crossed the street and they ask for directions to Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t know since I am jot from here so I pulled out my phone to look it up.
    3. Then they say forget since it’s too far and asked if I would join them for a drink nearby. I said sure why not since I was just walking around anyway.
    4. One them said tugged at hand to go ahead and the other one said she’ll come shortly and she pulled out her phone.
    5. It looked like a random bar the one who was with me picked.
    6. We sat at the bar and looked over the drink menu. I don’t really drink so I was asking for something without alcohol. I ended with canned apple juice and with a dash of ‘supposedly weak Polish vodka’. I didn’t see, smelled, or tasted any vodka. That was ok by me since it’s a cheap drink anyway though I should have just ordered water.
    7. The two girls ordered something in Polish but they never looked at the menu. The drink that they got looked like orange juice.
    8. The bill came to 369 Zlotys ($128.14 Canadian) !! That’s like more than 4 days of travel money!
    9. The bartender – a woman demanded payment right after serving the drinks and showing the amount on a calculator.
    10. I was never in this situation before in my life and being in a foreign place I decided to pay the bill. One of the girls said she’ll get the next set of drinks after. I paid feeling I was ripped off.
    11. The bartender at times would say she doesn’t know much English but I was beginning to get the feeling they all knew each other. And there was no else in the bar.
    12. I was just getting ready to leave when the two girls decided to order more drinks. I refused anything else and two of the same drinks they had previously.
    13. When the bill came I said it’s not mine so one of them took out her Mastercard to pay. The card was declined. It looked strange that the bartender was explaining to her in English why the card was declined! Bartender who said she didn’t know much English speaking to another Pole.
    14. The bartender turned to me with the calculator and demanded the money. I insisted that they girls pay for their own drinks this time. The older of the two girls started nagging at me to pay and then I was sure something was up.
    15. I looked around and didn’t see a bouncer or anyone else but I didn’t want to be cause a scene. I paid the bill which was for another 344.00 zlotys ($120.14 Canadian ) and was trying to get my head around what really happened here.
    16. One of the girls insisted that I drink something and I said no. She ordered a vodka shot and I made it clear I am not paying for it or drinking it. She asked if I had 20 zl and I just got up and left without giving anymore money.
    17. I left the bar about 12.00 midnight and came back to the hotel. I googled ‘bar scams’ for Krakow and read several identical stories. I called my bank in Canada and the advised to get the police involved. I went back to the bar and the door was locked but music was playing. I knocked really hard but no one opened. This was just before 3 am – about 3 hours after I was last in the bar. I hung around for a couple minutes and the same two girls walked out of the bar onto the street. They looked awkwardly surprised to see me and began to hurry towards a taxi. I tried to talk to them and the older was saying she needs to hurry for the taxi but there was several taxi all sitting nearby. Then when she won’t stop I tried to snap a their picture but it blurry and they ran into another bar nearby.
    18. I called the police but the girls had left in a taxi already. The police went into the bar and questioned the same bartender. ( Strange that the bartender opened the door when the police knocked but not when I knocked earlier and even harder )
    19. The police said there isn’t much they can do since the girls are gone and they can only take this as information.
    20. I asked the bartender when did the girls leave and she replied ” ..right after I left..” I explained to the police that she is lying and the police asked her in Polish. The police then explained to me that she said those were different girls who just left. WHAT A LIER AND SCAMMER!!
    DON’T GO TO THIS BAR – THEY ARE THIEVES AND SCAMMERS! The good people of Krakow should put them out of business!

    • I’m sorry this happened to you… But once scammed, you should’ve simply walked away… Your staying was just a bigger chance for them to continue.

      Thing is, just don’t accept invitations from strangers… There are many fine places in Kraków where this doesn’t happen, just stay away from the touristy places

  23. I do believe some police officers are on the take here…

  24. American here. Avoid sapphire club on Tomasza.

    I will admit to being quite drunk at the time, but woke up with some OUTRAGEOUS charges on my credit card. Should have known I was being scammed as the club was a dump anyway. Otherwise a pleasant experience in Krakow.

  25. To all genuine tourist who love to have fun and I mean in all senses if service is being offered it should be paid.I can only say 5hat we maltese are not used to this scamming and yes they do these very bad scams I would myself rather stay elsewhere then having to check all through the restaurant menu for scams and little print as also for meat dishes we had to be very careful.
    I did meet this girl and they scammed us 998 zl and the next day I made her run as she was doing it again to another tourist.

    The city of the Pope is full of thieves and low life in the side streets I believe Amsterdam is the place d they now what customer service is and it’s all on paper.

  26. DON’T GO INTO ROCCO CLUB, KRAKOW!!!!!! My son was scammed in Rocco Club Krakow, recently, he thought he was paying in Zloty but since he has come home the payment was clearly pounds. He authorised only two payments for drinks at the club which were 39 and 98 on the tcard terminal, upon return home it is pounds. BASTARDS! He was clearly ripped off/scammed. Since returning home the LOW LIFE SCUM have also taken a further £985 which he did not autthorise, somehow. Just trying to sort it with banks, he only earns minimum wage. “Gone through the telling off bit why use yr cards in a seedy club etc?” I would love to come to Krakow but not now, I do not want to support a corrupt town. My son spent time with a Polish family in the country and they and the community were so lovely. Shame this city isn’tkept under control by the Police and councils. I will not be encouraging anyone to visit.

  27. Wait… What is a minimum wage worker doing in a club? That being said, Kraków has become way more expensive than it used to be… Thank Goodness I stay away from touristy bars and stick with more out of the way places. Three visits so far with zero issues

  28. One more to this list is this bar called drink bar at ul. Szewska 18

    Ridiculously prcied and total scammy

    The girl I met in street asked if I am down for drink. We orders one drink each and bartender came with 620 zlots bill for 4 drinks day if the lady ordered one more round when he was serving first round and they will come soon

    The bartender charged 160 zlot per drink. Raising a credit card disputed would not help as card company would say as long to talk bill I superb for is same as what was billed that cannot do much

  29. Scam bar operating at 35 Szpitalna street in Krakow. Usual story cajoled in by 2 girls. paid excessive amount for drinks on card and when left numerous fraudulent transactions were made due to cloning of card! Been to many European cities and had no trouble in Prague, Bucharest, Sofia, Ljubljana to name a few! shame as its a lovely city but just cant recommend until it cleans up its act! not to mention the dodgey taxi’s and bureau de change’s!!

  30. Was new visitors to krakow just 10 minutes of getting off the train and got talking to what we thought were two sweet polish girls *pretending* to be tourists! they took us to a bar on szpitalna street. A man comes over with a card machine asking for payment not long after they served us the drinks when I took out my card to make payment. Shortly after the man said the card was declined and I then suggested I can pay cash which I should of done in the first place!!!!! but I guess this was the trick to clone your card!! As soon as this happened the girls left and after we drank up so did we. Next morning all hell let loose with my bank trying to contact me due to repeated attempts of large amounts trying to be debited from my account. The name of the company trying to charge theese large amounts was appearing as dionizos svetlana ivano. When doing some research online this company based at szewska 18, krakow, poland. Also at this address is the pub called Hard candy which is referred to in this forum!!

    Please be aware of a dodgey pub at 35 szpitalna street!

  31. I was in Sapphire club on Tomasza street 8.

    I was ripped off by 8k Zloty!!!. I have to admit that I was drunk but thx to my limits on my cards I didnt spend much more.

    The prices were allegedly for 2 bottles of champagne and 5 mins of a stripshow. I wish I’ve never visited the club!


  32. Same thing with Hypnose Club. I was drunk and the staff managed to slip something stronger in my drink. No recollection at all what happend in the next three hours. Lost about 8k€ on my card. I made a report to the Police but don’t have too high hopes. Beware and just don’t go there.

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