Driving in Poland – general rules, tips, and advice, about driving in Poland.
Driving in Poland is as pleasurable as driving in your home country, as long as you know the regulation. Here is an overview of everything you need to know to drive in Poland with a light heart.
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General rules about driving in Poland
Some general driving rules that you must know in Poland:
- You must drive on the right side of the road.
- Seatbelts are always obligatory, also for passengers.
- Strict alcohol laws. Acceptable limit of blood alcohol content is 0.02% (basically 0%, don’t drink and drive).
- Headlights must be used all year long, also during the day (low beam or daytime running light).
- Forbidden to use a hand held mobile phones while driving.
- Children under 150cm need a special seat.
- Cars must be equipped with a fire extinguisher and a hazard-warning reflective triangle.
- In Poland, driving licenses are valid for 15 years.
- Always have a driving license and insurance papers with you.
The speed limits differ in every country, these are the current speed limits in Poland for cars and motorbikes:
- In urban/built-up areas: 50 km/h from 5 AM to 11 PM and 60km/h from 11 PM to 5 AM
- on single carriageways 90 km/h
- on dual carriageways or single carriageway expressways 100 km/h
- on dual carriageway expressways 120 km/h
- On motorways 140 km/h
Tips when driving in Poland
- There are plenty of radar traps and police hiding behind corners, respect the speed limits. I can tell you from personal experience (sigh) that the radar is freaking scary as it flashes you twice with a super bright yellow light.
- If a car flashes you twice it means that there is police ahead or that you have the headlights off.
- In areas with regular fatal accidents, you will find black points signs (czarny punkt). Be extra careful and slow down.
- Get a GPS, driving in Warsaw is very tricky if you are not born here. The streets are very wide and give a “highway feel”. It’s pretty easy to miss your “exit”. I actually still do it all the time.
- Buses moving from a bus stop have precedence, slow down! They WILL enter the traffic when you least expect it.
- There are many petrol stations in Poland and the quality of fuel changes according to where you go. The worst fuel is offered by supermarkets or small/independent stations. These stations offer lower prices, but don’t fall for it. It is generally recommended to refuel at big companies stations like Orlen, Shell, BP, Statoil, Neste or Lotos.
- Bus lanes can be used only by buses and taxis. This kind of lanes are common so pay attention to it.
- Varsovians will pass you from the right-hand side, it is very common. It can be avoided by staying in the right lane.
- Flashing hazard lights is a sign of gratitude or apology.
Driving in Poland: Do you need a Polish Driver licence?
NO, you don’t. But only if you have the EU driver’s licence.
You could, however, get a driver licence for your own convenience: if you lose your driver licence in Poland you’ll have to go back to your country to apply for a new one. If you get a Polish insurance you have to exchange your driver licence for a Polish one after 180 days from your registration in Poland. Exchanging the driver licence can take up to three months.
What if you don’t have an EU driver’s licence?
If you don’t have the EU driver’s licence, you need an “International Driving Permit” or a driving licence compatible with international agreements for the countries listed here Contracting Parties of Convention on Road Traffic of Geneva, here Contracting Parties of Convention on Road Traffic of Vienna + Japan and South Korea.
The IDP will be valid for six months from the day of your registration in Poland. Then you will have to either exchange your national driver’s licence for a Polish one (Your original licence will be collected and sent back to your home country and you will be able to retrieve it upon coming back) or get a polish driver’s licence (the theoretical part of the exam can be taken also in English and German, check more info here).
Driving in Poland: Can you exchange your European driver licence?
You can get a Polish driving licence if you declare Poland as your place of residence. You should, therefore, spend a minimum of 185 days in Poland every year.
You don’t have to wait 185 days though. You can do that just after arrival but you’ll have to provide documents confirming that you’re allowed to stay in Poland over 185 days: a residence permit for EU citizens, a visa, or a stay card.
Driving in Poland: Where can you exchange your driver licence?
You can exchange your driver licence at the city hall in your district (the same building where you got your residence).
If you need more guidance please refer to this step by step article on how to exchange the driver licence from our partner site Just Ask Poland.
Driving in Poland: Car Insurance in Poland
As in other EU countries, every car needs to be insured for third party liability (causing damage to others or other’s property). It is not compulsory to get the so called “first party liability”, which could extend the cover to damages to your vehicle, injuries, theft etc.
If you have an EU insurance that you can use abroad, these two situations apply:
- You are a tourist in Poland, then you are fine.
- You are a resident in Poland, then you have to register your vehicle.
Check the terms and conditions of your insurance before coming to Poland and make sure it is valid here as well. Insurers can apply different rules in each country.
Nevertheless, remember that if you get a Polish insurance you have to exchange your driver licence for a Polish one after 180 days from your registration in Poland. You could otherwise risk facing problems with the car insurance.
You can exchange your licence for a Polish one if you meet ALL of the following conditions:
- You live in Poland and you are registered
- You are from the EU, the EEA, Switzerland
- You have a valid residence permit (unless you are a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland)
- Your current driving licence is valid
- You have been a Polish resident for at least 185 days.
Polish insurance can be:
- AC – Auto Casco – (first party) which is optional.
- OC -ubezpieczenie od Odpowiedzialności Cywilnej (third party) which is compulsory.
If you are looking to get a polish insurance you could check ubea.pl, which compares 17 insurance companies in one place.
Parking in Warsaw
From Monday to Friday (from 8 am to 6 pm), the centre of Warsaw is a paid parking zone (check this custom Google map).
If you work or study near the border of the map it’s smart to park just outside the border and take a short walk!
On Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and at night parking is free.
EG: If you park your car at 5 pm you just need to pay one hour and you can stay until 8 am next day.
• first hour: 3 PLN
• second hour: 3,60 PLN
• third hour: 4,20 PLN
• fourth and each subsequent hour: 3 PLN per hour
Large paid parking lots in Warsaw city centre:
• next to large hotels, such as Sofitel Victoria, Mercure Centrum, Marriott, Sheraton
• next to the Supreme Court (Sąd Najwyższy) building, and at Plac Krasińskich (close to the Old Town)
• Plac Defilad at The Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki).
This list of tips about driving in Poland is neither exhaustive, nor perfect
Please let us know if you notice a mistake, missing info, extra tips or if you’d like us to cover a subject we didn’t cover in this post.
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