Driving Guide

Poland Driving Guide

Poland is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit.

2023-12-31 · 9min read

Poland offers much more than its significant World War II history. It's a destination filled with diverse attractions, from museums and heritage sites to stunning beaches, parks, the remarkable Tatra Mountains, and numerous picturesque towns.

Exploring Poland's scenic rural landscapes is best done by driving. It immerses you in the country's natural beauty, including lush vegetation, majestic mountains, and other water bodies.

However, for first-time visitors, navigating Polish roads can be challenging. You may encounter varying road conditions, and it's common for local drivers to exceed speed limits.

Polish drivers are, unfortunately, in the habit of speeding even in the most risky places. Apart from speed limits, other rules that are often ignored by Polish drivers are those related to overtaking: you will quite frequently see vehicles (including lorries) overtaking on double white lines and in other places where it is prohibited, dangerous or unreasonable, such as pedestrian crossings or junctions.

Kasia Scontsas, a Polish living in New Hampshire, shares in her post, Should you be afraid of driving in Poland? published on Blog Transparent.

We've designed this guide to provide tips, insights, and local perspectives to help plan your trip in Poland, particularly if it's your first time driving here. With this, you'll be well-informed and ready to confidently explore Poland's countryside and natural wonders, ensuring a memorable and rewarding experience.

Let's Take a Closer Look at Poland

Before diving deeper into Poland's driving culture and etiquette, here are some interesting facts about this underrated European destination:

Geographic Location

Ranking as the world's 17th-largest country, Poland boasts the European Union's eighth-largest and one of its most dynamic economies.

Poland shares its borders with Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belarus, and Lithuania. The capital and largest city, Warsaw, is also the political hub of the country, home to about 2 million residents. Other major Polish cities include Lodz, Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, and Gdansk.

Language Diversity

Polish is the second most spoken language in England after Russian. With 97% of Poles speaking it as their mother tongue, Poland is Europe's most culturally uniform country. Polish is also widely spoken in Lithuania, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Ukraine and is a significant language in England. It is an excellent choice for those interested in learning a Slavic language.


Poland offers a blend of beautiful old towns, medieval architecture, natural landscapes, vibrant cities, and a thriving food culture, making it an intriguing destination. Despite its complex history, Poland is known for its unspoiled nature and diverse wildlife.

Historical remnants are visible in every Polish city. Architectural influences from various eras are evident in buildings and monuments. Key historical sites include the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum, Oskar Schindler's Factory, the POLIN Museum of Polish Jews, and The Warsaw Rising Museum. The Old Towns, meticulously rebuilt post-World War II, showcase Poland's rich heritage.

Political Structure

Poland's pre-communist constitution, the People's Republic of Poland, was established in 1952 and underwent significant amendments, particularly in early 1989. These changes, initiated by the Sejm and Solidarity, included replacing the President's Office with the Council of State and reinstating the Parliament, which had been dissolved in 1946.

The reformed Sejm, the lower house, now has 460 seats, and the upper house's Senate comprises 100 members. Further amendments made in 1989 included legalizing political parties and restoring the country's official name to the Republic of Poland.

International Driving Permit FAQs

Is your U.K. driving license valid in Poland? It is not enough. You must have an International Driving Permit in Poland to go around. It is not very difficult to get an International Driving License for Poland. Before you leave home, you should apply for it. For it to be processed, you'll need your original license, two original passport pictures, an International Driving Permit application form, and to pay for the international driving permit cost in Poland. You also have to provide your email address for your digital IDP.

The IDP serves as a multilingual translation of your national driver's license, covering 12 languages. It allows you to drive in Poland for up to three months with an E.U. or U.S. driving license.

Is a Local License Sufficient in Poland?

For tourists driving in Poland, having an IDP is a requirement. You can obtain an IDP before leaving the United States or your home country. The IDP's validity in Poland extends up to six months post-entry, though its overall validity ranges from 1 to 3 years, depending on the chosen duration.

Consider obtaining a Polish National Driver's License if your stay exceeds six months. A US driving license is insufficient for extended stays in Poland; an IDP is also necessary.

Does an IDP Replace Your Native License?

An IDP is accessible to anyone with a valid driver's license and serves merely as a translation of your existing license. It's crucial for local authorities to assess your driving competence.

To apply for an IDP, you must first hold a permanent license from your country; temporary permits are ineligible for IDP application. An IDP eliminates the need for a separate Polish driving license.

To apply for an IDP, visit the International Drivers Association's application page and choose a suitable package. The application process typically requires:

  • A valid government-issued driver's license (such as a U.S. license in Poland)
  • A passport-sized photo
  • A copy of your passport (if necessary)

Car Rental Guide for Poland

Opting for the best car rental in Poland can be a practical choice over public transportation. When renting, insurance is typically included, providing basic coverage. However, navigating unfamiliar roads, particularly during Poland's icy winters, can be challenging, so considering additional insurance is wise.

Car Rental Services

For those avoiding public transport, renting a car in Poland from companies like Europcar, Enterprise, and National Rental Car offers convenience. Located throughout Poland and near Warsaw airport, these companies provide a range of vehicles from economy to luxury models.

They are known for their exceptional service, well-maintained vehicles, and competitive prices, whether you need a car for business or leisure.

Required Documents

Renters must present valid photo identification, such as a passport or I.D. card and a Polish driving license. Proof of return travel and accommodation in Poland is also necessary.

Security deposit and rental fee payments can be made via a major credit or debit card. Additionally, an International Driving Permit is required for identification purposes.

Vehicle Options

Rental agencies offer a variety of vehicles suitable for Polish roads. Full-size and camping vehicles are popular in rural areas due to the terrain, while small cars suffice in urban settings. SUVs and sedans are ideal for city travel.

Car Rental Cost

Renting a car can be complex due to varying policies and costs. To save money, compare weekly rates with daily rates and check for any early return fees.

Fuel is a significant expense, so research current prices. Hiring a driver can incur a daily fee, but some companies may waive this for certain reasons you may want to discuss with them. Ensure the rental package includes mandatory vehicle equipment.

Age Restrictions

Most companies require renters to be at least 21 years old with a valid driver's license and an International Driving Permit. Some may impose an upper age limit for rentals. Familiarize yourself with the process of obtaining a Polish driving license if necessary.

Car Insurance Cost

Navigating Polish roads can be challenging for those unfamiliar with local laws and customs. Rental car providers often include insurance in their packages, and additional coverage can be obtained through the best car insurance in Poland. Rental car insurance costs vary, usually from $100 to $300, depending on the vehicle type.

Car Insurance Policies

In Poland, ensure your rental car has a fire extinguisher, protective vest, first-aid kit, and hazard warning triangle and is in good condition. Carry your International Driving Permit, II.D. vehicle license, and insurance information. Failure to present the correct documents can lead to fines or impoundment.

Cross-Border Travel

Policies on cross-border travel with rental cars vary among companies. Some allow it, while others restrict it to specific countries. Before planning a trip outside Poland, consult with the rental agency to understand their regulations on cross-border driving in Europe.

Understanding Road Rules in Poland

Before driving in a foreign country like Poland, familiarizing yourself with its driving laws and regulations is crucial to avoid fines and ensure a safe trip. While European drivers may be accustomed to the region's driving practices, those from the Asia Pacific and the Americas should pay special attention to Polish driving laws.

Here's an overview:

Take note of the following when driving in Poland:

  • Seatbelt use is mandatory for all passengers, both in front and rear seats.
  • Children under 12 years or shorter than 1.5 meters must be seated in child seats in the back.
  • Drivers must yield to buses exiting bus stops, as they have priority.
  • Cellphone usage while driving is prohibited unless a hands-free system is used.
  • Valuables should not be left unattended, especially in high-theft areas.
  • Due to ongoing nationwide road reconstruction, extra caution is advised while driving, particularly in rural areas.

Speed Limits

These speed limits are strictly imposed in Poland:

  • The speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h daily and at night.
  • Outside urban areas, the limit is 90 km/h.
  • On expressways, it's 120 km/h, and on motorways, it's 140 km/h.
  • On Class-A roads (marked with a white car on a blue background), the limit is 90 km/h outside towns and 100 km/h on motorways.

Road Safety

It is essential to observe road safety while driving by paying attention to certain measures:

  • Be vigilant for pedestrians and cyclists, even at night.
  • In rural areas, watch out for farm and horse-drawn vehicles.
  • If you suspect a vehicle issue, drive to a safe location (like a well-lit area) before stopping.
  • Headlights must be on all times, day and night, and horn use should be minimal.

Accident Response

In case of an accident or injury:

  • Call 112 immediately.
  • Remain at the accident scene, wait for police, and provide first aid until help arrives.
  • Your car should have a reflective danger triangle, a first-aid kit, a reflective vest, and a fire extinguisher.

Complying with the law is paramount in any country you're visiting. Remember the following when driving in Poland:

  • Pay any fines issued to you. Immigrants with a permanent address in Poland can opt for deferred payment.
  • Right turns on red are permitted only when there's a green arrow, but yield to pedestrians.
  • Display your parking ticket visibly for authorities.
  • Obey police instructions at roundabouts.
  • Stop at red lights and proceed only when they turn green.

Additionally, when driving in Poland, it's important to carry mandatory vehicle equipment for compliance and road safety. Note that blue flashing lights are exclusively reserved for emergency vehicles.

Driving Orientation

In Poland, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. This is important, especially when overtaking, where you move to the left lane and return to the right after passing.

The minimum legal age for driving in Poland is 18. Those younger are not allowed to drive.

Towing Regulations in Poland

In Poland, you can import caravans, camper vans, and luggage trailers without customs documents, but you must provide a duplicate list of contents for customs officials. These types of vehicles are a common sight on Polish highways and major roads. The maximum dimensions for vehicles with trailers are as follows:

  • Height: 4 meters
  • Width: 2.55 meters
  • Overall Length: 18.75 meters

Child Safety While Traveling

Children under 12 years old or shorter than 150 cm must use a seat belt tailored to their size or be seated in a special child seat. Additionally, it's forbidden to place a child in a rear-facing seat in the front of the car, especially if the car is equipped with airbags.

Handling Traffic Accidents

Poland records a high number of traffic accidents, so extra caution is needed, particularly at intersections and roundabouts. In the event of an accident:

  • Stay at the scene, call the police (dial 112 for emergencies), and wait for them to arrive.
  • If there are injuries, call for an ambulance and provide first aid until paramedics arrive.
  • Fleeing the scene is prohibited.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists should wear reflective items to reduce accident risk. In accidents involving reflective-wearing individuals, the driver might be held entirely responsible.

Parking Rules

Polish parking regulations align with the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic. Parking or waiting in areas that might cause obstruction or danger is forbidden. Wheel clamps are required, and illegally parked cars causing obstruction may be towed at the owner's expense, with fines imposed.

Disabled drivers with a valid permit can park in restricted areas, provided they display their permit in the car.

Drunk-Driving Laws

The legal blood alcohol limit in Poland is 0.02%. Drivers exceeding this limit are deemed unfit to drive. Police can conduct random breath tests, particularly after serious incidents or accidents. If you're planning to consume alcohol, it's safer to use public transport or a registered taxi service.

Fuel Stations

Fuel stations are widely available across Poland's towns, cities, and villages. Their typical operating hours are from 08:00 to 19:00, but many stations in larger cities and along international routes are open 24/7.

Speed Limits

It's important to be aware of these limits to avoid fines. The speed limits vary based on the location:

  • In urban areas: The speed limit is 50 km/h at all times.
  • Outside urban areas: The speed limit is 90 km/h.
  • On motorways: The speed limit is 140 km/h.

While roundabouts are less common in rural areas, they are frequently found in larger cities. When approaching a roundabout, give way to vehicles already circulating within it. Drive at a cautious pace when navigating through a roundabout.

Understanding Road Signs

Polish road signs serve as essential guides for safe driving:

  • Triangular signs warn of potential hazards ahead.
  • Inverted triangles indicate the need to yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Red circles indicate prohibited actions.
  • Octagonal stop signs require drivers to come to a complete stop.
  • Blue circles provide mandatory instructions for all road users.

Familiarize yourself with these signs for easier navigation, especially in remote areas where signs might be less frequent.

Cross-Border Travel

If you are planning to drive across borders in a rental car, check with your rental agency for permissions and insurance requirements. Some non-EU countries may have specific restrictions.

Right of Way and Emergency Vehicles

At intersections with equally important roads, traffic from the right has priority. Also, give way to emergency vehicles with active signals to facilitate their passage.

Overtaking Trams

Trams generally overtake on the right, and drivers may share tram lanes but must vacate them for approaching trams. At tram stops without pedestrian islands, drivers can stop to let passengers board or alight safely.

The Driving Etiquette in Poland

Driving in Poland can be as manageable as in your own country, provided you're familiar with local regulations and proper driving manners. Patience and defensive driving are key to becoming a more considerate driver.

Dealing with Car Breakdowns

Car breakdowns are rare, but in case it happens, don't panic. Contact your rental agency immediately for assistance and avoid doing anything that could further damage the vehicle.

Ensure that you safely move your vehicle off the road and keep passengers inside to avoid obstructing traffic. Before starting your journey, check the vehicle's headlights, brake lights, windows, and door locks.

Be prepared for occasional stops by road authorities. Your interaction with them can significantly affect the outcome of the checkpoint stop. Always cooperate and avoid any issues with authorities.

Asking Directions

Most Poles speak English, making it easy to ask for directions. Always approach locals respectfully to ensure a friendly response.

When traveling in Poland, knowing a few key phrases in Polish can greatly assist tourists in navigating and asking for directions. Here are some common phrases that might come in handy:

  • "Przepraszam, gdzie jest...?" - "Excuse me, where is...?"
  • "Czy mógłbyś mi pomóc?" - "Could you help me?"
  • "Jak dojść do...?" - "How do I get to...?"
  • "Czy to daleko stąd?" - "Is it far from here?"
  • "Na lewo/na prawo" - "To the left/to the right"
  • "Prosto" - "Straight ahead"
  • "Czy jest tu w pobliżu...?" - "Is there a... nearby?"
  • "Jaka jest droga do...?" - "What is the way to...?"
  • "Czy to jest droga do...?" - "Is this the way to...?"
  • "Zgubiłem się" - "I am lost."
  • "Potrzebuję taksówkę" - "I need a taxi."
  • "Dziękuję za pomoc" - "Thank you for your help."
  • "Przystanek autobusowy" - "Bus stop"
  • "Dworzec kolejowy" - "Train station"
  • "Lotnisko" - "Airport"

These phrases can make your navigation easier and help you interact with locals, especially in areas where English is not widely spoken.

Merging on Roads

Merging should be smooth and cooperative. Wait your turn and merge alternately with traffic from the other lane. If someone allows you to merge during heavy traffic, a smile or wave is a nice gesture of appreciation.

Using the Horn

Use your horn responsibly and only when necessary. Different horn sounds convey different messages, ranging from a friendly alert to expressing frustration. Avoid using the horn to vent your anger.

  • A series of brief beeps: "Hello!""
  • Quick beep: "Heads up!""
  • Loud and marginally longer beep: "Oh, the light will turn green" or "Watch it!"
  • A more extended blast, repeated several times: "Come on, let's go—you're taking way too long."
  • A long, nonstop blast: "I'm furious, and I've lost control."

Parking Etiquette

Parking respectfully is important. Don't take up more space than needed; avoid taking a spot someone else is waiting for. Be mindful of leaving enough space for others to enter and exit their vehicles without difficulty.

Handling Accidents

If you're involved in an accident, leave your contact details when you caused damage to another vehicle. As a rental car user, return the vehicle in the same condition as when you received it, including a full gas tank.

Driving Conditions in Poland

Accident Statistics

From 2004 to 2014, Poland experienced 475,591 road accidents, resulting in 52,217 fatalities and 597,191 injuries. This high incidence rate places Poland among Europe's most dangerous roads.

The leading cause of death among men in their 40s in Poland is traffic accidents, primarily due to speeding and non-compliance with traffic laws. Drunk driving also significantly contributes to these accidents, with severe penalties for offenders, including imprisonment.

Common Vehicles

In summer, be prepared for roadworks causing detours or delays. Night driving requires extra caution due to low visibility, pedestrians, and bicycles. Heavy vehicles like trucks are common due to Poland's role as a key transit route.

In rural areas, expect slow-moving farm and horse-drawn vehicles. Overtaking these vehicles should be done with utmost caution. Taking driving lessons in Warsaw can help navigate these conditions.

Toll Roads

Tolls in Poland are determined based on the total gross permissible weight of the vehicle. Vehicles over 3.5 tons have separate toll units in the ViaToll system. Tolls can be paid in cash, credit card, or fuel card at private tollgates. Electronic toll units are planned for regular users and vehicles over 3.5 tons on certain roads.

Road Conditions

Polish roads can differ significantly from U.S. roads, with higher accident rates and hazardous conditions, especially after dark. Road conditions may vary, with narrow, dimly lit, or under-repair roads. The "Black Spot" program identifies areas with high accident rates, marked by specific signage. Awareness of these areas is crucial for safe driving.

Driving Culture in Poland

Poland has focused on improving road safety, aiming for a 50% reduction in traffic-related deaths and a 40% decrease in injuries by 2020. This involves enhanced safety measures and a comprehensive system for implementing these initiatives, reflecting Poland's commitment to road safety.

Winter Driving in Poland

Winter driving in Poland posU.S.nique challenges due to varying temperatures and frosty conditions. While the winter landscape offers a scenic experience, it requires careful preparation and awareness for those driving on Polish roads. Selecting the best time to visit Poland and packing appropriately is key to enjoying Poland's winter beauty and ensuring road safety.

Poland's Top Roadtrip Destinations

Hop along Poland's northern coast, boasting stunning Baltic beaches and enchanting medieval ports. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit and sunscreen as you embark on an adventure to some of the best places to visit in Poland!


Rebuilt post-WWII, Kołobrzeg now thrives as a serene seaside resort, blending historical remnants with beachside charm. Its highlights include a redbrick Basilica and Gothic structures, but the beaches and iconic lighthouse are the main attractions.

In summer, beer bars enliven the shores, the Baltic Sea buzzes with swimmers, and spa hotels offer a range of sea therapy treatments.


This stretch features the Slowinski National Park, known for its unique flora and stunning dune formations.


With its rich military history, Hel offers an engaging mix of historical sites and summer relaxation. Notable for its significant red lighthouses and vibrant harbor life, Hel is a delightful summer destination.


Gdynia, part of the Tricity, is a young city with a massive port and a rich WWII history. Naval museums here are a must-visit. Then, head to Sopot, known for its vibrant nightlife, the longest wooden pier in Europe, and unique attractions like the Crooked House.


Venture to Wrocław, a city known for its picturesque Old Town, vibrant market square, and iconic dwarf statues scattered throughout the city. Explore the Gothic architecture of the Cathedral Island, stroll along the charming Ostrów Tumski, and experience the lively atmosphere of Rynek, one of Europe's most beautiful squares.

Get an IDP to Explore Poland

Each region in Poland offers a rich history and numerous attractions, including breathtaking natural landscapes and charming towns. To fully experience the captivating allure of Poland and how it beautifully intertwines history and nature, securing an International Driving Permit is among the essential travel requirements. This permit will enable you to explore the country's scenic routes and hidden gems at your own pace.


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