You’ll be driving in Poland? Then you’re definitely in the right place because this guide is all you need to read to be prepared to start driving in Poland!
I’ve covered standard rules and regulations, mandatory vehicle equipment, parking, car rental, and a lot more in this guide. I will also talk you through some of the regulations that are specific to Poland, speed limits, and a few apps that you should have on your phone to make your stay in Poland even better! Read on to learn everything you need to know about driving in Poland!
Driving in Poland is on the right side of the road, and overtaking is usually done on the left. You’re not allowed to use your phone, you mustn’t drive over the speed limit, and you should always give way to public transport vehicles.
That’s one thing that might be surprising to foreigners – in Poland, bus drivers simply do not care. They know they have the right of way, and they will engage in traffic when you least expect. So, always slow down if you’re passing a public transport vehicle.
Another peculiar rule in Poland is that all children under 12 years and 150 centimeters must be in special child seats, otherwise, they’re not allowed to travel in the car. Seatbelts are compulsory in both front and back seats if the car is fitted with them, and you must have your headlights on at all times.
Foreign driver’s licenses and international driving permits are valid in Poland for up to six months. After that, you must pass the state exam to continue driving in Poland.
Additionally, there are quite a few unofficial traffic rules in Poland. If an oncoming car blinks twice (with beams) at you, it’s either to let you know your headlights are not on, or there’s police behind the next corner. If there are police nearby, it’s customary to beam twice at other oncoming cars. And this isn’t the case just in Poland – this is a custom in most Eastern European countries, especially in the Balkans.
Also, you can turn your headlights on and off to ask the car in front of you to give you the way. They won’t always be too happy about it, but it can’t hurt to ask.
Poland has strict rules on driving under the influence – stricter than in most other European countries. Your blood alcohol level must be under 0.025% – anything higher and you’re in serious trouble. Up to 0.05% is an offense punishable with a fine, and anything above 0.05% is a criminal offense for which you can go to jail. At least, that’s what the law states.
Despite such strict rules, drunk drivers are a serious issue in Poland. The police will often accept bribes and let people go, which results in major road accidents. Therefore, you should be extra careful if you’re driving around at night and during holidays.
November 1st is known as the “Black Day” in Poland because most of the country’s road accidents happen on that day. I’d advise you to refrain from driving if you find yourself in Poland on that particular day.
Roads in Poland are in good condition, at least in terms of asphalt quality. They’re very wide, but that’s because in most cases there’s only one lane in each direction. This results in a lot of overtaking even when there is oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, and this can be quite frightening for people who aren’t used to Polish drivers.
Highways and speedways are in excellent condition, while the less frequented roads aren’t exactly that great, but they’re perfectly drivable. But despite that, it’s not exactly easy to drive in Poland.
Locals are the issue, particularly young and inexperienced drivers who lack skills but like to go fast. If you encounter a vehicle that is behaving erratically, don’t drive on their tail and just let them pass you. Also, be extra careful on highways – the speeding limits are rarely enforced on the highways, and locals often drive 200 km/h. They’re not that keen on looking in the mirrors, so you want to be alert if you’re overtaking on the highway.
If you get stopped by the police, your car might be checked for mandatory vehicle equipment. This includes a warning triangle, a fire extinguisher, and a high visibility jacket. High-vis jackets aren’t actually mandatory to have in the car, but you must wear one if you’re leaving the vehicle during an accident.
First aid kits aren’t compulsory in Poland, but it can’t hurt to have one in your car. Also, the minimum tire tread depth for summer tires is 1.6mm and it’s not regulated for winter tires. Additionally, snow chains are allowed only on roads that are covered with snow and ice. Areas where snow chains are compulsory are indicated with road signs.
Other than that, there aren’t any rules that regulate winter tires. It is recommended to have the car fitted with them between October and March, but this isn’t stipulated by any laws. That means that you’re free to drive on summer tires in the middle of December – it’s not such a big mystery anymore why there are so many car accidents in Poland!
Speed limits in Poland depend on the type/weight of vehicle, road, and time of day. Also, you should always drive according to the last speed limit sign you encountered on the road.
In built-up areas, the speed limit is 50 km/h during the day and 60 km/h at night, and this applies to all vehicles. The night speed limit is applied between 11 PM and 5 AM. In residential areas, the speed limit is always 20 km/h.
On motorways, cars and motorcycles are allowed to drive 140 km/h, while bigger and heavier vehicles mustn’t go faster than 80 km/h. On expressways with dual carriageways that’s 120 km/h for cars and motorbikes, and 80km/h for everyone else, while on expressways with single carriageways it’s 100 km/h and 80km/h.
On all other roads (outside built-up areas) the speed limit for motorcycles and cars is 90 km/h and 70 km/h for larger vehicles.
You should always drive the speed limit since Poland is pretty much covered with speed cameras. Foreigners must pay the fine on-site and in cash, but you can try to haggle with the police. You probably won’t get out of the ticket entirely, but you can reduce the amount of the fine. Also, speeding fines are not actually that expensive in Poland – the points on your license are much worse.
The fines for speeding range from 12EUR and one point for going up to 10km/h above the speed limit, to 120EUR and 10 points for going 50km/h over the speed limit. It’s worth noting that this is only the amount of the speeding fine – if you’re caught by the police, they can add additional charges like reckless driving, which will significantly increase the amount of the fine.
On top of all that, there are quite a lot of unmarked police cars on roads all over Poland. They’re fast, and if they catch you, don’t even try to haggle with them since these officers all have bodycams.
Poland does not have a vignette, so you will need to pay a toll on three of its major highways (A1, A2, and A4). There are two ways of collecting toll in Poland – passenger vehicles under 3.5 tonnes pay at toll booths that are on every exit. The amount of toll you pay is relevant to the road section crossed. For vehicles over 3.5 tonnes there is an electronic toll system in place, but they must have the viaBOX in their car.
There’s a convenient toll fee calculator for heavy vehicles, which also shows you alternative routes you can take on toll-free roads. Additionally, the emission class of your vehicle also impacts the amount of toll you must pay – the lower it is, the higher the tolls.
It’s worth noting that the four major highways are separate and in different parts of the country. Therefore, if you’re planning to travel from one part of the country to another, you will likely drive on several tolled roads, meaning you will have to pay toll more than once. Naturally, you can avoid this by driving on secondary roads that are toll-free.
Car rental in Poland is slightly trickier than in the rest of Europe. You must be over 21 years old and have a driver’s license for at least one year. Also, there is a young driver fee of an additional 8EUR per day for anyone under the age of 25.
It’s cheaper to reserve a car weeks and maybe even months in advance. This gives you a guarantee that the vehicle class you’ve chosen will be available upon your arrival, but you might not get the specific car model you wanted. To rent a car you need a driving license if you’re from a European country, an international driving permit if you’re not a European citizen, and a valid ID. Additionally, the international driving permit is considered valid only if you present it along with your original driver’s license.
If you want to take the rental car out of the country, you must check whether the company you’ve chosen allows that. They all have different rules – Europcar is one of the companies that allow you to take a car outside Poland, but not everywhere. You’re not allowed to go to Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, or Ukraine, and there is a 25EUR fee every time you cross the border. Keep in mind that this is one of the better car rental agencies in Poland.
There are a lot of gas stations in Poland, including larger chain stations and smaller independent ones. Independent gas stations usually offer cheaper refueling, but they also have horrible fuel quality. Try to avoid refueling at those, and stick to the internationally recognized petrol companies like Shell, Orlen, BP, etc. Avoid refueling at supermarkets if you can since the fuel at these gas stations is usually poor quality.
Diesel, unleaded petrol, and LPG are available at all gas stations in Poland, and the prices are similar to those in the rest of Europe. Sometimes the petrol type will be marked with the periodic table sign –
Pb is unleaded gasoline, and ON is diesel fuel.
Parking in Poland is fairly standard – you may park on marked parking areas, including large parking lots, car parks in residential districts, and unattended car parks with special signs. There are parking meters in most cities, and you must pay for parking Monday-Friday between 8 AM and 6 PM. You can pay with cash or with an SMS, and you should always make sure that your parking receipt is visible inside the car.
One thing to note is that it’s forbidden for parking wardens to collect payment, and this is stated on the official website of the Polish Police. So, if you park at a lot with an attendant and they try to charge you for the parking, you’re likely being scammed.
In addition to that, small cars are allowed to park half-on and half off the sidewalk, as long as you’re not within 5.5 yards of a crosswalk.
Having these apps on your phone will help make your stay in Poland more convenient, so be sure to check them out!
You can rely on Google Maps to get around Poland. The maps are accurate both in the bigger cities and in the rural areas, with precise directions. You can also download offline maps to get navigation even if you don’t have Internet access, which will certainly be helpful if you plan to go on road trips around the country. Plus, the live traffic density and events updates are also convenient.
NaviPay is a great app for easy parking – the only problem is the limited availability. The app works only with select parking spots in Warsaw and Gdańsk, which is such a shame. It’s a great app – it navigates you to a selected parking spot and everything is done within the app, from the opening of the gate to payment of the parking fee.
NaviParking is made by the same developers as NaviPay, and it’s available in more cities throughout Poland. However, the app can only show you where you have a free parking spot and navigate you to it. There’s no option for payment through the app, but it certainly is useful if you don’t want to waste time driving around parking lots.
SkyCash is one of the best apps to have on your phone in Poland, and it’s not just for driving. The app allows for digital payments of a lot of different things, including parking tickets, train tickets, and even tolls! This app is widely used by locals in Poland and it can make your life much easier while you’re in the country.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.