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Tips for Driving in Poland

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 18 Jan 2020 | comments*Discuss
Tips For Driving In Poland

Poland is a beautiful country in parts and is fairly easily accessible by car from the UK. However, it unfortunately has a fairly high number of road deaths – around 14.3 per 100,000 of population in comparison to only 5.5 per 100,000 of population in the UK. Poland also has some of the worst roads, largest number of low skill drivers and high number of car thefts in Europe. It isn’t a perfect place to take your own car and you should be aware of this before heading there. This means that you must be extremely alert and educated about driving there, so it’s important to learn as much as you can before you go.

Essential Tips for Driving in Poland

In order to drive legally in Poland you must have your full UK licence. The modern EC format pink or green licence is acceptable in Poland, but if you only have an old style paper licence you must ensure that you also have an International Driving Licence with you. Always remember to drive on the right hand side in Poland and of course overtake on the left. It is illegal to use your mobile phone while driving in Poland, unless you’re using a hands free kit.

Seatbelts are obligatory and should be worn by all front seat passengers. If they’re fitted in the back, they should also be worn there. Children aren’t allowed to sit in the front of the car if they are under the age of 10 and you can be given a fine if you break this rule. There are rules against using your horn in Poland, so try to avoid it at all times – it’s actually illegal. If you must give a warning to another driver, you should use your headlights to flash another driver to let them know you’re passing. You can use your horn in poor visibility to make others aware of your presence, but only at this time.

As a visitor to Poland, keep your registration papers, insurance document and driving licence safe and have it on your person if you’re in the car. The high number of car thefts in Poland mean that it’s not safe to leave your valuable documents in the car, so keep them on your person.

If you’re taking your own car with UK plates, be wary about where you leave it in Poland. Many car hire companies outside of the country won’t allow their cars to enter due to the high possibility of theft or break-in, so keep this in mind when you’re taking your own car.

Speeding Laws in Poland

There are strict speeding limits in Poland that should be adhered to at all times. If you’re a foreign national driving there and are caught speeding, you’ll still have to pay the fine and could suffer more dire consequences if you’re speeding over a certain limit. Although it may seem at times like local drivers have no regard for the speed limit, try not to fall into the same pattern as you may end up in an accident or worse. The general speed limits are:

  • Expressways – 110 km/h or 130 km/h dependent on area
  • Outside Built Up Areas – 90 km/h
  • Built-up Areas – 50 km/h or 60 km/h dependent on area

The drink driving limit in Poland is strictly enforced and they take a zero tolerance approach to drink driving. If you have taken even one unit of alcohol then you are putting yourself at risk of being charged for drink driving. Police will often carry out on the spot breath tests and you will need to pay an on the spot fine in Polish currency if you’re found guilty.

Road Rules in Poland

Polish driving laws are strict, but that doesn’t mean that local drivers are always going to abide by them. The roads are generally of a fairly poor quality and junctions and crossroads are often not marked with stop lines. Roundabouts can be difficult to spot as they’re not actually round, so many drivers just continue through as though they weren’t there. There are also some other important Polish road tips to consider before driving there:

  • Be aware of people overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic
  • Watch for people who red light jump – many drivers in Poland only stop at a red light if there’s another vehicle obstructing your path or you’re likely to get caught
  • Don’t assume that drivers will stop at a zebra crossing. Although you’re meant to, many Polish drivers don’t stop unless someone is on the middle of the crossing
  • Watch out for tailgaters. Try to keep a good distance between yourself and other cars
  • Most petrol stations are open 24 hours and sell diesel and both unleaded and super-unleaded petrol
  • You may pass trams on the right, but if it’s stopped and passengers are disembarking, you must yield to them
  • Watch out for horse drawn vehicles, especially in the harvest months
  • Traffic signals are often ignored and indication on direction is rarely given
  • Headlights should be on at all times, even during the day.

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We recently took a trip to Poland and hired a car i was petrified after reading all the negative things about driving in Poland it took us 2 laps of the airport to finally get out an on our way to Krakow .Once in Krakow it was a nightmare as all the big city's are in Poland ,trams,buses, cycle'st, pedestrians ,road signage one way streets.Anyway once out of the big city's its fine,freeways perfect ,just stick to speed limits.Everything is so clean roads,towns didn't have a problem with theft an i came from Australia never driven on the left hand side of the road it was all new to me.All in all we traveled all the way around the main city's and I found Poland far better than Australia in all aspects,people are even more polite, how clean everything is children even far more polite overall it was a great experience.100% great place to visit.
John Obierzynski - 18-Jan-20 @ 11:59 AM
The car theft part is soo 90s. It doesn't happen anymore.
Ddybb - 27-Aug-19 @ 5:53 PM
I live in the uk, I have driven to Poland about 30 times. The roads are in a good state of repair, it was in the 90’s that they were a mess. Always have your headlights on, speed limits can fluctuate every few hundred meters in urban areas, police often hide in bushes or behind buildings to catch you speeding, though oncoming cars often warn you of this by flashing their headlights at you. Some road signs are a bit tricky, when approaching a bend, there will be a sign with a thick line representing a road or bend with thin lines representing side streets (the thick line) traffic has right of way. If a tram stops, you must stop and let passengers embark and disembark, once the tram moves you can too, police are very strict on that. Overall I do enjoy driving in Poland and find it a pleasure able experience. It is compulsory to carry a warning triangle in case of breakdowns and a fire extinguisher. I would advise anyone planning on driving over there to maybe have a look at a few videos on YouTube to get a feel for it. Happy travelling people
Wspanialy - 28-Jul-19 @ 8:36 AM
Im sorry but i dont agree with this article. As im from UK i have driven in poland few times. Roads are not bad as you said and people do obey traffic lights and signs. You may need to re write your article as most of the information is from the early 90s (car theft etc). Who ever is reading this and has been put off by driving. Dont. Its safe i have experienced Poland my self.
Chobc - 1-Jun-17 @ 10:51 AM
I have driven extensively all over the world and Poland has some of the best quality roads that I have ever seen.The roads are mostly all new due to EU funding. As for Polish drivers, I have never seen any of the things mentioned despite extensive driving throughout the country and drive frequently from the UK to most major Polish cities and the only issue is working out where trams are going, a small thing for such a trip. Just remember to have your headlights on or you are likely to have problems with the Police (whom are extremely friendly towards foreigners in my experience). Driving in Poland (and other European countries, Germany in particular) is a very pleasurable experience and extremely recommended.
WKeeble - 12-Aug-16 @ 10:48 PM
Hi, we are going to Poland in August and have hired a car..We are travelling up to Mazury Lakes and after reading all the information are starting to feel anxious about our choice of vacation. I would appreciate any advice that can be given to reduce our anxiety.
Jennifer - 11-Jun-16 @ 5:37 PM
I am Polish and now live in the UK . I have to say that I don't agree with a comment about the quality of polish roads! I honesty think that roads in the UK need a revamp!Road surfaces are so bad that I am findingit shocking .Poland has a great pride in the appearance of roads, pavements and overall infrastructure and I wish roads inBritain were justas good .And car theft?!! Well I left my car outside my parents propertyona busy estate many times and never had a wiper touched! Please go and visit and you will see for yourselves how clean, modern and safe it is !Happy traveling!!!
Natilane - 28-Jul-15 @ 12:31 PM
Having just returned from Poland and driven from the northern coast to Warsaw my comments, as an Englishman driving there, are as follows: 1.Knowing what the speed limit is tricky, at times they seem to go up and down every few hundred yards.Also the speed limits change when you see a sign that looks like a number of houses and again if you see the same sign crossed out and can also change when you pass the next road on the right with no signage required!!!Best tip is to follow a car that has a large CB Radio ariel as the locals use these to exchange road traffic / speed trap info. 2.There are lots of speed cameras, both fixed and mobile - look out for on coming traffic flashing their lights. 3.Rights of way / priorities can can also be confusing as in general you give way to traffic coming from the right unless there is a yellow sign that indicates otherwise and there are lots of signs indicating otherwise!
Creditcardcraig - 16-Jun-14 @ 3:39 PM
Back to the car thefts- I meant late 90s, early naughties.
axelsjoblom - 21-Aug-11 @ 12:22 PM
I've lived in Poland for the past 3 years, have driven about 50,000 kilometres on Polish roads and I would like to make some remarks - I've seen a horse drawn cart only once, and believe me, I've traveled some remote and very rural locations - indicators are quite often not used when changing lanes, otherwise they're used almost always- in fact I think they're used more often than in UK - never seen a situation with red light described above; of course some people jump red light, but it happens everywhere - thefts were a problem till early 90's; now it's almost non existent - alcohol limit is 0.2 but is widely disregarded (no wonder why- it's way too low) The rest of the article is mostly true.
axelsjoblom - 21-Aug-11 @ 12:19 PM
Was thinking of driving my motorhome to poland for a visit. It all sounds doom and gloom.
4star - 3-Apr-11 @ 8:43 PM
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