Poland and Czechoslovakia shared a rather long border after WW2. This border included several touristically relevant places, e.g. Snežka in the Krkonoše mountains and several peaks in the High Tatras.

How was the border regime at that long border? Were there precautions against people crossing from one country to the other? If yes, how were these precautions implemented e.g. on the Snežka peak? Did the border regime change after the unrest in Poland in the early 1980s?

I have tried Google in English and German, but did not find anything useful.

2 Answers 2


For the countries of the former Warsaw Pact borders were normally restricted to permitted traffic. Borders themselves were patrolled and places where one could cross it were limited. Mind you that permission to cross the border was not only for the "entering another country" part, one had to have permission to be able to leave one's home country, too. Different countries did it differently in different time periods

For example, Poland issued in 1970-1990 period, besides customary and internationally recognized passports (which were issued on "per travel basis" and had to be turned back over to authorities upon return), also something called passport insert, which contained entry that owner could cross the state border, and it was valid with one's ID only, and just for a number of socialist countries. In later time of that period that insert was replaced by an entry in the ID (stamp, as @MarkJohnson pointed out), but it was still for the "demopeoples'.

In case of the Polish-Czechoslovakian border, it was yet another difference. In 1955 both states signed a Polish-Czechoslovakian Tourism Convention, which designated a number border regions (expanded in 1961-62 to several more, including ones with road border crossings), where passport-less traffic was permitted and where only a pass was required. However, the border could be crossed only at designated points, but my understanding was that there was a lot of them and at popular tourist foot trail traffic especially.

In 1959 there was additional agreement about "small cross-border traffic", that defined a zone at the border where dwellers were entitled to receive a pass authorizing crossing (difference between 1955 and this one was former was tourism-oriented, while latter expanded reasons to receive the pass to a number of them i.e. work, family etc.)

In 1986 there was another agreement signed, but it formalized organized tourism and had no impact on the cross-border traffic. The change came in 1991, when another treaty abolished visa requirement. All those were carried over when Czechoslovakia first reformed internally and then split. Some of them are still in force.

In 1995 there was another treaty about "small cross-border traffic", this time between Poland and Czechia and Poland and Slovakia, requiring only ID for dwellers of the defined border zone instead of passports. After joining EU and Schengen there are no more restrictions on cross border traffic.

I have no information if these were suspended temporarily after both 1968 Czechoslovakian Uprising nor 1980s Polish unrests.

From my personal experience the tourism up until 2006 was not hampered, but of course passports were required whenever crossing borders were required. Snezka is one example but Biskupská Kupa (PL: Kopa Biskupia) is actually hilarious one: the area is very attractive and active tourism region. And when I was there in 2003, I had to present a document to traverse 200m path from PL-CZ border to the actual viewpoint, located at the top of that mountain. It was just ID for me, but friend from different town had no passport, so he had to wait. Fortunately those times are gone...

Passport: official document issued for the purpose of confirmation of holder's identity and nationality.

Pass: document issued by any authorized official confirming holder's right to enter and move within any restricted area. In case of this question the pass could be in the form of paper document to be presented with ID or - in Poland at least - suitable entry in the ID (usually a stamp). Polish ID document before 2001 was a multi-page document very similar in appearance to international passports.

  • Can you clarify what you mean by "passport" and "pass"? From what I read at German Wikipedia, e.g. in East Germany passports were not that common (only 25% of the population had one) but travel to CSSR was possible with ID card and to Hungary Romania and Bulgaria with ID card and a separate (East German) permission document: de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 12:51
  • By "ID card" I mean the Personalausweis. Travellers to Poland also only needed an ID card from 1972 to 1980, but from 1980 on travelling to Poland was much more strictly regulated than travelling to Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 12:56
  • @Jan Amended. As far as rarity, in Poland Passport was more rare - they were issued mostly on per travel basis, to be returned to the government on return from travels before 1970, after one could have passport if travelling officially or had enough money in foreign currency in a bank account... For comparison: in years 1970-1981 there was 200k Poles traveling outside Warsaw Pact countries per year, after 1981 it quintipled to 1M
    – AcePL
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 13:23
  • 1
    In the early 1970's polish ID were stamped making them valid for travel to East Germany and, I believe, also for the CSSR. Blue passports, valid only for socialist countries, could be retained at home. Other blue passports, valid for the world - but only for one trip - had to be returned to the passport office (and would be reused for a later trip). Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 13:41
  • @AcePL: Just for clarification: In the 70s and 80s and until 2005 it was not possible for the average Polish citizen to travel to Czechoslovakia just with the ID document? (i.e. without passport and without the paper that you called passport insert)
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 8:48

Just from asking around a little here is a bit about the situation between East Germany and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s (sorry, no online sources):

Crossing the border at official checkpoints was easy and common. Vacations in Czechoslovakia were also quite common and were usually organized independently (unlike e.g. the USSR which was only really accessible to tour groups)

Crossing the border inofficially was also easy and common at least among some demographics (hikers, climbers and the like). The border was not heavily patrolled and unless you crossed directly in front of a border guard, you were unlikely to be fined.

In autumn 1989, East Germany started requiring visas for Czechoslovakia and to erect a fence after East Germans started defecting via the West German embassy in Prague, but that did not last long before the wall opened.

Things changed considerably in the 1990s, when the German side was patrolled quite heavily in order to limit the smuggling of people into Germany and of stolen cars out of Germany. Forest tracks were made unusable e.g. by blocking them off with large stones, cars with thermal sights were posted at strategic points, and occasionally there were also helicopters around. But as long as one was able to hold a short conversation in accent-free German, they did not ask many questions. And so crossing the border inofficially remained easy and common, at least for Germans.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.