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Hiring a car and driving around Poland is the best way to travel independently.
However, many visitors claim Poland is one of the worst places to drive in Europe. Funnily enough, there's a lot of competition for the lowest rank on Europe's worst roads list, and Poland hasn't made it to the bottom, but it's close.
Poland has some of the worst roads, and there are a large number of drivers who do not meet accepted European driving skill levels.
Don't let that deter you from driving your way around to see the sights – here are our top tips for road safety in the country.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of cars on Polish roads. While the major highways in Poland are in good condition and well maintained, it's the rural roads you need to be aware of.
Driving, especially after dark, is hazardous due to narrow and poorly lit roads. Be aware of road works which may cause detours or delays, especially during the summer months of June, July and August. Stay alert and keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians and cyclists at night in poor visibility.
Poland is a major east-west transit route for heavy vehicles such as trucks (which is one reason for the poor road quality), so drive carefully around larger vehicles, never try to overtake unless it is safe to do so, and keep a safe distance from trucks at all times.
Slow moving agricultural vehicles (and horse dawn vehicles) are common in rural areas, even on main roads. Be patient if you get stuck behind any of these and only try to overtake if it is safe to do so.
Here are a few things to consider before you hit the open roads in Poland.
Check that your rental car has a warning triangle, fire extinguisher and reflective jacket. Hefty on-the-spot fines can be issued if you do not have these essential items with you in the car.
Expect delays - long delays - during summer on the roads leading to the major tourist destinations, like Gdansk, Zakopane or Lake district.
You must carry original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers at all times. This is a legal requirement. They will be asked for if you are stopped by the police and, in particular, when crossing borders. If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police, they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this.
If you have valuables in your car, take them with you, or park in paid guarded lots to be sure your belongings are safe. Car theft and break ins have been reported at popular summer destinations such as Gdansk or Sopot.
Be aware there have been cases where vehicles with foreign number plates are stopped by gangs posing as policemen, particularly in rural and tourist areas such as the Polish lake district. Ask for identification or to see an official badge if you are unsure.
Pay close attention to anyone indicating you should pull over or that something is wrong with your car; you should drive until you find a safe place, like a gas station or supermarket to check whether there is actually a problem with your car.
There have been incidents of thieves opening or breaking passenger-side doors and windows in slow or stopped traffic to take purses or briefcases left on the seat beside the driver. This is more common in Warsaw or Gdansk, where traffic is really bad.
Never drink and drive in Poland. There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. The blood alcohol limit while driving is 0.02% BAC. If you drive and have been drinking (even one unit of alcohol) you can be charged. Offenders can be imprisoned for up to two years if they are found with 0.05% BAC. Alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents, so if you're drinking, get yourself a plan B to get back to your accommodation safely.
If an accident results in injury or death, penalties for drivers involved are severe, and can include imprisonment from six months to eight years or, in the case of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, up to twelve years.
You must drive with your headlights on at all times, day and night.
Seat belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats, and children under the age of 10 are prohibited from riding in the front seat.
Use of phones while driving is prohibited, unless you are connected to the car via bluetooth and are not using your hands to operate the phone. Fines for violating laws against the use of mobile phones while driving are significant. If you need to use your mobile phone while on the road, stop your car in a designated parking area and make your call.
Should you unfortunately breakdown or end up in a traffic incident, call 112. This service is available across Europe, with English speaking operators who will put you in touch with emergency services in Poland, if your Polish speaking skills are a bit rusty.
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In the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, in a strange town in the middle of Poland, Theresa Wong questions her choices.
Watch out for fake cops, dodgy taxi drivers, pickpockets and these crafty con artists when you go to Poland.
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Now this is really a masterpiece! While reading this, i would imagine Salvador or Venezuela, not the country I live in. For your information, Poland currently has countrywide and fast expanding network of highways (yes, and that include A1 to Gdansk), most national roads have undergone a complete renovation, there are speed cameras everywhere and people generally drive modern, expensive cars. Not sure you ever been here, and if so, it must have been in the early 1990s. Also Polish cities are one of the safest in Europe (and yes, again, that includes Gdansk, which is btw my favorite city in the country)
I'm living in Poland and I know that it is really hard to see own weaknesses. But "success story" which you gave here Chris is not the truth. Roads in Poland have poor quality, traffics are common (due to the politics: "The Car is the national good" - and car drivers are favored on the roads by law and by the infrastructure development) and we have many more fatalities than EU average.
Statistics is better than individual opinion.
But crimes... it is different topic. Most cars are stolen in Germany and car burglary is a common problem in all big cities of each country.
Anyway. It is better to use public transport. Everytime when it is possible.
I'm Polish. People drive expensive and modern cars and unfortunately they're under the impression it entitles them to behave like idiots and assholes on the roads. The percentage of people who drive very dangerously is higher then in other EU countries and what's worse, they consider themselves very good drivers. They also tend to bully cars with foreign plates by tailgating and flashing the lights even though you're already doing the speed limit to "show them how they should drive". (Nevermind you've not got space to get out of their way, who cares).
I've driven my foreign registered car in Poland and seriously, never again. I also drive a car with Polish plates and I see the difference in attitude.
You have to grow a really thick skin to drive here and if (God forbid) you're used to the UK driving style, you're in for a shock.
There's no road courtesy at all and Police will do nothing. Definitely one of the worst places to drive in and I have driven in many countries... India is worse.
The opinions here about driving in Poland are just that, opinions. As such they are subjective. One person will find the driving style crazy and dangerous, while another will find it to his liking. I live in Canada, in Toronto. The Greater Toronto Area and Metopolitan has a population of some six to eight million people, depending on who you ask. Roads are very wide, straight and don't suffer from confusing crossroads, roundabouts etc. And yet there are many fatal accidents, while most people drive like snails and with uncertainty. On the other hand I drove many times for vast distances in European countries and cities considered here in North America as undrivable ( Paris, Rome, Napoli, Florence, Athens among others ). Tourists here are warned against driving in Europe, and particularly in the mentioned cities. Yes the driving in mentioned cities is more challenging than, say in a suburban Omaha, Toronto, or LA. You have to pay attention, make quick decisions and drive with the traffic so as not to impede the locals. If you have driven in and around Napoli, or Athens, then driving in Warsaw or Poland as a whole is a picnic! If you only drive your local American or British suburban roads, to the shop, to school and to work, then yes, Poland might look intimidating at first. Like I said, it's all subjective. Usually if someone says "I have driven everywhere and here is the worst",be it Poland, or some other place - means that you really have not "driven everywhere", you really don't have that much experience (although you may think you do) and/or you are a bad driver.
I liked driving in Germany and the Scandinavian countries best. Poland, for me, is a horror show. Worse than when I lived in NYC and drove in peak rush hour traffic. I have family in Poland, and go there every year for several months. As I am one of the younger members of my aging family, I am often stuck driving. Even after years of doing this, I still am genuinely stressed about driving in Poland. Whereas I never experience stress in other (mainly western) countries.
For me, it mainly comes down to the way in which they pass on the regular (not out of the way) two lane roads, how a car will simply drive in the middle of the road to pass, and then cars in the lanes move to the right or left shoulder to let them take the (non existent) middle. And this is dangerous because the right or left shoulder often has people on it who are selling things on the side of the road. Or bicycles. Or there is no shoulder so you're hugging the grass in order for the crazy car to pass you. The quality of the roads, personally, doesn't bother me. And city driving is fine. As are the highway-like fast roads. It's the two lane, regular roads where people pass others in scary ways that stresses me out.
I'm from Norway and I frequently drive in Poland, and to- and from Norway to Poland.
I like the driving in Poland much more than here in Norway.
The Krakow area where I drive mostly has a lot of traffic during peak hours.
Getting from Krakow to Berlin on the A4 takes just a few hours at 150km/h (speed limit on Autostradas).
The area around Gdansk - Sopot - Gdynia has a different traffic compared to Krakow, almost slow in comparison, so I guess it all depends on how you feel about driving in heavy, fast traffic.
I agree with Adam from Canada regarding the "driving shock" many from North America faces when driving in Europe.
I've lived in the US myself (Washington DC - area), and the traffic was horrible, but very slow.
Well, no matter where or when you drive, drive safely.
This is all true. In my opinion it's not as bad as in Romania but still dangerous. There is a lot of cars in very poor condition., people don't respect the rules and road are in very bad condtion. I adivise to rent the terraing 4x drive. Try to stay on highways (if there are any) and avoid cities.
I wonder when the author of the article was in Poland?
This article describes Polish reality at the end of communism era or in the early 90'
Nowadays the roads in Poland are much better then for eg. in Slovakia or Czech Rep.
One thing is true - a lot of drivers don't respect the rules and this causes dangerous situations sometimes.
Unfortunately i have to agree. I have been traveling to Poland for many years since 90's and i am sorry to say the Polish cannot drive to save themselves.
The driving culture is terrible, speed, bad roads although getting better thanks to the EU, drivers take stupid risks in dangering other drivers and pedestrians.
Overall driving skills are very poor and they tend not to respect basic road rules hence causing accidents.
If you are planning on driving in Poland you will need patients....otherwise the stress will drive you crazy.
I've driven about 13,000 miles through europe through the years but never through Poland- Hungary - Croatia. I'm taking delivery of a Porsche 911 Targa in June 2017. What should I beware of?
I'm a Brit living in Warsaw but been to areas outside of the city. The roads are very poor with pot holes and cracks everywhere. The polish in general cant drive very well(however they'll all tell you they can,judge for yourself when your over). A lot of carving up and unpredictable turning I've found. Bit more dangerous than the uk but not as bad as France so you should be ok
Ive been in Poland and only was a passenger which didn't seem to bad. Lots of road work and confusing intersections which cause confusion. OK, im an American country boy, so imagine i don't deal with a lot of traffic.
I do have to say the Poles drive much better than the Cypriots in Cyprus.
In about a month I will drive in poland. I have driven in almost every european country (except Romania).
Do you think it will be too dangerous? Consider that I am driving every day in Greece...
I couldn't agree more with the adverse criticisms about the condition of Polish roads and the almost suicidal overtaking manouvres we witnessed recently; ie July, 2017. We saw a car decapitated at a country crossroads (presumably with its occupants) and 2 other unfathomable accidents, the latter thankfully, without serious injury. Some drivers will not hesitate to overtake long lines of cars and trucks in the face of oncoming traffic, necessitating other drivers to give way on the shoulders of the roads, which are all single-lane each way.
As a driver from Australia, having driven a rental car from Gdansk to Tallinn via Northern Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, I'm so concerned at the prospect of returning to Gdansk that we're seriously evaluating the option of returning to Gdansk via ferry.
My advice to anyone contemplating driving in Poland is DON'T.
What a pile of shit. Not the best but definitely nowhere near as described in here. And must love Brits commenting here how horrible polish roads are when in fact Poland nowadays have better roads then UK...
I've driven all over the world and Poland has, without a doubt, the worst driving I've ever seen. I've been living here for 3.5 years and driving here is more dangerous than swimming with great white sharks. Virtually zero police on the roads combined with poor quality roads, insane speeds within towns, absolute disregard for pedestrians, maniacs overtaking into oncoming traffic, large trucks gratuitously speeding within town limits with kids walking around make Poland the most idiotic place in the world to drive.
I value my life so I take the trains everywhere now. Relaxing, safe and very comfortable. If you value your life, I suggest you also don't drive.
In saying all this, I love the Polish people but when they hop in a car, they turn into complete and utter lunatics. Since there's no police on the roads, they have a green light to drive like this because there's virtually no chance of getting caught.
I can honestly say the Poles drive very bad, in fact quite dangerously at times!
I've lived and worked in a few different countries and now living in Poland.
They are very impatient drivers and don't like to be stuck behind anyone. They will overtake in very dangerous circumstances with disregard to anyone else on the road.
I've seen cars overtaking cars that are actually busy overtaking another car at the same time. It's crazy stuff!!
When you drive in Poland you got to worry more about whats going on behind you than in the front!
I have read the post on the subject of driving in Poland and can add some. First I am from the U.S. and am in possession of a professional drivers license. I have logged officially over a million miles. I find it extremely challenging to drive in Poland. I have been driving here since 2003 and have lived here permently since 2013. I have discovered the following. You must first try to understand the Polish attitude. If someone does not have a six shooter pointed at them then they will make every attempt to circumvent, avoid, disregard every law,rule,requirement of them. With that thought in mind the traffic enforcement is next to zero except for the sleeping police and given the advanced suspension on most European cars this has little effect on drivers. If you are from a non Vienna Convention country then the first thing is to learn the signs and road markings. They are different from north American signs and just think if you are thinking a signs means something and the other driver thinks it means something else. The most eye opening circumstance it to learn the priority road markings and when to yield to the right. Secondly polish drivers are exstremely aggressive and offensive and lacking in knowledge and skills. Remember that Poland is a post communist era country and they are new to western style cars. They had to survive on two and three cylinder engine cars during that communist era. Also keep in mind that there are people in their 50,60,70's driving for the first time in their life. Don't think of having a reasoning conversation on the subject of driving in Poland as they know it all and just choose to disregard any rule or law they choose. You also have to keep as much attention in your rear mirrors as cars can come out of nowhere and motorcycles also. Motorcycles seem to operate on their own road rules which I cannot locate anywhere. In my opinion they seem to have some sort of a death wish. You will encounter many drivers that seem to be totally confused and the best thing is to stop and let them do their thing as you just never know what they are thinking. I have found that if all drivers would just do what they are suppose to do then everyone else would know what they are suppose to do. The bottom line to driving in Poland is drive expecting the unexpected. Increase your recheck times and your mirror check times. It is not uncommon for drivers to cross a solid line and enter your lane of direction or pass on a solid line going up a hill. I still don't know how they know there is not someone coming in the opposite direction. I have found that you can lower your stress experience by not driving during peak times and after dark. Polish people like to wear black and dark clothing which is next to impossible to detect in the dark. Overall the road conditions have been improving around most major cities but there are still those roads that were built for small cars and western cars passing each other can be close at time. Watch out for the trees on the minor roads as they are very big and very close to the roads. Just remember when driving you will need two things . Good brakes and a change of underwear as you will need both.
I will never drive in that country ever again.
The most idiotic, dangerous, arrogant road users I have ever witnessed.
Avoid at all costs.
Lovely people otherwise.
I've been driving in US and many countries in western Europe. I must say that I like driving in Poland but gennerally You must remember about this:
1. Traffic goes much faster in PL than in other countries (except Germany). This is nothing unusual for people from Germany to drive with high speeds, but might be for a person from US, UK or Norway. Remember - when in Poland - always to double check You mirrors when changing lanes on highways as it's normal to drive 200 km/h or even faster.
2. People in Poland use cb radio's very often. The manouvers that seem to be dangerous for foreigners are often pre-arranged by radio. Drivers also warn each other by that way about traffic and dangers.
3. The style of driving on highways (there are more of them each year) is more similar to german than to that of Sweden or Norway.
4. Speed limits are mostly ignored when the weather is good. Remeber in this country it's normal to drive on ice or snow so mostly people got used to harsh weather conditions.
5. There's quite a lot of transit trafic through Poland. Highways are mostly in good condition but have mostly just two lanes. That couses need to slow down when lorries are overtaking.
6 Beware of animals when driving through forests as animals in Poland seem for me to behave like polish people; run and jump very fast ;-).
But on the other hand - traffic flows faster and You can enjoy it.
I have lived in Warsaw for 3 years now but didn't start driving here until 3 months ago. I have been a Police officer in Sweden for 30 years, I have been driving all over Balkan for years, but I have never seen anything like the driving in Warsaw. I honestly consider selling my car again. As written somewhere above, the bigger car they have - the bigger jerks they are in traffic. The speed within city limits is insane. If there are 3 lanes - most drivers do not move from the 2nd lane. However; the big Audi, BMW and Mercedes change lanes every 5 seconds in an attempt to gain 2 seconds. If you keep a safe distance to the car in front of you, be sure that a maniac will cut in - in front of you - so you have to brake hard. The big powerful cars stay in 3rd lane until 50 meters before they have to exit to the right and then they cross all lanes without any respect for the other drivers. If you dare move to 3rd lane to overtake a car in the 2nd lane - be sure you will have a big Audi Q7 or BMW X6 tailgating you flashing all the light they have. To safely cross Warsaw I find a truck and stay safely behind it all the way, because no Polish driver will ever get anyway close to a lane with a truck. More that 3000 people were killed in traffic related accidents in Poland in 2016. Be very careful.
I'm Polish and looking at all of those coments. I'm not sure if I should cry or laugh, because they're so ridiculous.
Yes, of course, not all of our roads are in perfect condition. If you're in a country side or in the midde of nowhere, then yes, you might be driving on a road that has holes and you can't really go past speed limit if you want to stay safe and not demage your car. As for drivers... I have to say that we have some assholes that give us a bad name. Unfortunately, tose are mostly the rich owners of sports, new cars that think they are gods and can do anything they want. One of the people here wrote that we have a lot of old cars and that's the problem. No, it's not because most of the people who drive old cars are actually responsible drivers. We drive old cars because we can't afford new ones with the prices we have in PL. Owners of old cars are also very responsible and careful drivers because they can't afford fines andcausing accidents. We also have in Poland one of the hardest to pass diriving exams, so it prevents us form having people on roads that can't drive at all (like for example in the US). We have our weaknesses and we have our assholes, but I've had a driving licence for a year now and i drive to work every day. Ocasionally you can find an asshole, but mostly driving in Poland is just ok.
Btw, WTF is that photo form? Deep comunism? It was like 30 years ago and we've been far more similar to Western than Eastern countries in years. :)
Check the data
Liz. After I found this discussion I started to take a careful look at the drivers while they are driving (Warsaw). My conclusion is that some of the most dangerous drivers in Warsaw are young women in big powerful SUV's (Audi Qx, BMW Xx, Lexus etc). NO where else in the world have I seen so many drivers (mostly young women) talking on handheld phones, SMS'ing, eating, putting on makeup etc. as in Warsaw. Some are just looking at the traffic every 2-3 seconds.
It is a lethal cocktail - young woman with very little or no driving experience, driving her boyfriends very powerful SUV while trying to keep up with the social media.
What is the police doing. Often you see a big expensive car driving like a maniac in front of a police car - and they do nothing. Are they afraid to stop the "wrong person" or they don't give a fu..
Rented a car and was nervous after reading the above, but drove for a full week around Krakow, Katowice, Oswiecim, Bielsko-Biala etc with no issues. Speed limits are very low in that part of Poland and occasionally some people overtake to go more quickly, but everyone has lights and they all respect zebra crossings and traffic signals. I saw police presence on the roads (especially the A4 where they pulled over fast cars) and you have to take more care at night due to the lack of lighting on a lot of roads. Despite heavy snowfall during my visit, the roads were always clear or ice and snow.
I have to agree with the other comments that the author of the above article gives the impression of a state struggling after the collapse of the soviet union, which is unfair in my opinion and experience.
We just did a road trip from Krakow to Zakopane and it was a horrible experience. Every few minutes I had someone driving centimetres from the back bumper as if they don't care if they live or die. Then when you overtake someone in the fast lane, you have some idiot behind you weaving from side to side to try to find some way past you. Had one motorist mount the sidewalk and drive on it to get in front of me at a junction that I couldn't get out of due to traffic.
The roads were potholed, the motorways have only 2 lanes and it took us an hour to do 15km. The drivers are aggresive and reckless and don't care about the rules. Hardly anyone will ever let you out of a junction.
It's just as bad as a pedestrian too. I actually asked a polish lady at our hotel if drivers are legally required to stop at zebra crossings to which she replied yes.... but they don't. Getting back home to the UK and getting back on our roads was like a breath of fresh air.
I did a road trip from Warsaw to Gdansk recently and it was a terrible experience. I have been driving all over Europe for years and I consider myself a very experienced driver with an aggressive driving style, but now I'm convinced that the Polish drivers are lunatics. On the way back from Gdansk to Warsaw I saw two hair-raising crashes and later almost got hit in the rear bumper by some crazy guy in a big SUV vehicle. When I drove to the airport to return the rental, I prayed that I would take a couple more kilometers without collision. Certainly I would never drive in Poland again.
So far have driven from Krakow to Wraclaw, and then Poznan to Torun. The motorways are generally of great quality but have only 2 lanes and there appears an exsorberent amount of lorrys. The smaller lorrys frequently pull out into the outside lane so that they can drive marginally faster than the big lorrys. Drivers can be unpredictable and are not adverse to zigzagging, tailgating and driving at speed even when you are giving way to them by moving into the slow lane. (I never intentionally drive slower than the speed limit and frequently drive faster when over taking. On the whole, motor way driving was OK but you have to remain doubly alert.
My main frustration was when no motorways were available, the main road routes are single lane which travel directly through towns along with all the lorrys. Alternative roads are generally not available. Not all these roads have hard shoulders and they do not even have overtaking verges. In the towns cyclists, cycle both sides to overtake when traffic is slow. There is no opportunity to relax and admire views. I over heard a person explaining that trips from city to city take longer than expected, predominantly due to the single lanes, l tend to agree. I have driven in many country's around the world and live, work and drive throughout the UK. So far the quality of the roads that are available in Poland are OK but l look forward to driving when city bypass roads have been built.
I just travel to Poland for 2 weeks with 9 days of driving from Krakow to Zakopane, Wroclaw, Poznan, Torun and Gdansk. Before I travel I read through all the available review and sharing about the driving experience in Poland. Most of the comments are mentioned by the readers are very bad experience and never try to drive in Poland. However, I agreed with Tomas (commented 6 months ago, January 2018). where I was nervous when get my rented car because of the reading from above.
After 9 days of driving, I found the driving experience in Poland are totally different with most of the readers commented here, except driving in the main road when there is single lane (as mentioned by Patricia UK, 6 weeks ago, Jul 2018) you need to extra alert when overtake the slow vehicle or motorbike or bicycle because almost all the vehicles will not drive according to the speed limit even entered into town area. Other than that, the overall driving experience was good and most of the drivers will signal when they turn left (or overtake) and right. Please be careful when you saw those luxury (BMW, Audi etc) or modern vehicle with turbocharged engine cause their acceleration would be faster than your expectation.
To share my past driving experience in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia), China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Europe (UK, Croatia, France, Germany and Norway etc.), USA, Australia and New Zealand. Noted that every country have their own way to drive and we may not use to it in the short period but we have to stay alert and be a smart driver, then everyone should be able to enjoy the journey. However, if you think Polish driver is crazy, please never rent a car in Southeast Asia or Asia, because you will get a heart attack before go home. For instance, in Malaysia, the road condition is bad and speed limit is 110km/h but most of the driver (luxury or lousy car (local made 1300cc without turbocharged or ABS brake car) will speed to 140km/h and above. When you drive in fast lane within the speed limit, you will find all the drivers from behind will tailgating and high beam flash to ask you give way even there is way to give when you overtake slow vehicle.
I am from Malaysia and was thinking of driving in Poland. From the comment above I think I will be very at home driving in Poland. Thank you for the reassurance.
Being a North American driver of many years of experience. Driving in Scandinavian was fine, but Russia was really dangerous. Poland was more closer to Russia drivers, but not as worse. They don't follow the rules and are aggressive drivers.
I'm Czech with origin in small town on Czech-Polish border and I often travel to Poland there. Don't be kidding about better roads in Poland than in the Czech republic. I admit there is a huge improvement, but your new roads are bumpy as old hag just year after they have been reconstructed, so...
And oh boy, don't even mention how Polish drivers behave on Czech roads. They cause so many deaths! Feel free to check that on google.
Recently I've been to Lebanon and road transport there is the best. All directions are moving at the same time and still nobody crashes or endangers pedestrians!
A brilliant article. Great photo from Cracow, hehe:). It all looks worse than in Bangladesh:) One could also add a moustached Pole with a saber at his side;-)
As of today, I drove from south to north, through all of Poland on A1. Through construction and finished shiny highway parts.
The scary part is, trucks on the right go between 90-100, cars or the left go between 140-180. My speed where I still feel “safe” is 120, I’m from Sweden. Make sure you have FAR distance in your back before passing trucks and do it quickly!
Cars will come in about 3 seconds and tailgate you with 1 meter distance and they will start to pass before you have gone to the right lane. They will flash their lights and everything.
I see how this can get very dangerous
I read the above comments before I went and was a bit apprehensive about renting a car, but I had a wonderful vacation. I just returned a couple weeks ago. I'm 66 years old and live in rural USA, but I had no problem driving nearly 2100km in Poland, both in big cities like Warsaw or in small villages, like Lalin, where my grandfather was born. The roads are no different than most in the US and in some cases, better. While some drivers are aggressive, so are US drivers. Polish drivers use their turn signals unlike many US drivers. Like one person said, it's subjective. What's aggressive to one is no big deal to another.
I live in the UK. I have driven in, and in the area around, Jelenia Gora, a town in Lower Silesia, on three separate stays in the town. In this comment I will assume that this area is typical of Poland, although this may not be the case, and certainly I imagine driving in a big city would be different; so when I write "Poland", please bear in mind that this is actually short for "Jelenia Gora and the surrounding area, which may or may not be typical of Poland".
My advice is: you do need to familiarise yourself with the legal position, such as can be found on this website, but once you have done that, there are some other things to be aware of, which I haven't seen elsewhere on the internet.
There are two road signs which don't exist in the UK, but which are extremely important and extremely common in Poland. These are a yellow diamond on a white background, and the same sign with a thick black bar through it. If you don't recognise these signs from this description I strongly urge you to find Polish road signs on the internet now: eg http://www.adcidl.com/pdf/Poland-Road-Traffic-Signs.pdf. On this PDF, the road signs I am referring to are the ones called "Road with right of way" and "End of right of way". You will see one or other of these signs at almost every road junction. (There is also a sign called "Yield", which is a downward-pointing triangle with a red border, as in the UK, but the main body of the sign is plain orange, unlike in the UK. You sometimes see both the "Yield" sign and the "End of right of way" sign at the same junction.) The question is, why is there a sign in Poland to specifically tell you that you have right of way? (The UK sign "You have priority over oncoming traffic" is of course normally only used when a point on the road is too narrow to allow cars to pass in both directions at once. This is NOT the function of the Polish sign.) The answer is that in Poland it is much more common than in England for, at a junction, the "straight ahead" road NOT to have priority. Polish roads tend to be curved more often than English ones, and without the sign it would not necessarily be clear who had priority. If you are going to drive in Poland I would say you MUST know these signs, and be able to respond to them instantly without having to think too hard about it.
Double white lines have the same meaning (ie, no overtaking) as in the UK, but are much more common. I had an angry Polish driver come up to me in a market car park after I had transgressed this rule. I had been driving my passenger (Polish-speaking but not a driver) to a small market; neither of us knew exactly where it was, or what we were looking for, and I was a bit stressed. To my relief I saw the entrance to what was obviously the market car park off to my left. I stopped, waited for the oncoming traffic to pass, and then drove into the (very small) car park. After I had parked the car, the car behind parked in the next slot, which I thought was a bit odd, as there were several slots free. It turned out that in driving into the entrance, I had crossed a double white line; and while waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass, I had held up the traffic behind. What I should have done was to carry on past the entrance, and I would have found that fifty metres further on there was a roundabout, which I could have driven round so that when I returned I was on the right-hand side of the road. (As I speak almost no Polish I didn't understand what the driver was saying - ironically the only thing I could make out, when he was complaining to my passenger, was "rozumie" - "he understands".) The point is that in the UK it would be extremely unlikely to have double white lines opposite the entrance to a market car park, so when I saw the entrance it didn't occur to me to check.
Beware - the pedestrian crossing points at traffic lights are marked with the same markings as zebra crossings; I have had a momentary panic when seeing a pedestrian walking towards me as I drove over the crossing, imagining for a moment that I should have stopped, before remembering that it was a traffic light junction and they were simply crossing behind me.
Also "filter arrows" at traffic lights seem to be much more common than in the UK.
Speed limits in Poland are almost never observed. Traffic will normally drive at about 20 kmph above the speed limit. If you choose to stick to the speed limit you will inevitably be tailgated. I once found myself on an unmaintained country track, where I had to slow to about 20 kmph to preserve the car's suspension, and the bloke behind me was tailgating me...on a pushbike. Force of habit, perhaps.
I don't remember this from previous visits, but on my most recent visit I found several times that, at roundabouts, for some reason I thought a car was taking the exit before the road I was in (and hence that it was OK to pull out), but in fact the car drove past this exit. I don't really know why I thought this, but it happened several times. All I can do is just say "take extra care at roundabouts".
Generally speaking I would say the roads are in a much better state than the roads in the UK.
I'm polish professional driver and what can I say about polish driving style? All things that was exhibited in this afticle and comments are true, but i think today situation on the polish roads is little more better. Tips for safe driving in Poland : always stay extremely focus, pay attention to road signs, avoid rush hours (7-9 am, 1-3, 7 pm), if someone tailgaiting you should just little slow down or free him up. In towns you will see that infrastructure is extremely dense (crossroads on the crossroads) so everyone hurry up for green light if you dont like to be jammed by red wave ( you can loose so much time
even 2 h a day on red wave traffic lights ! sick ) Rember polish roads are like fast river and you have to be like others to stay in. On highways you have very good readible signs with road numbers so you dont need to know names of cities, but always stay focus, sometimes signs are bad situated and you need to predict which exit road is proper one. If there is a sign with 40 km/h speed limit be aware! something is wrong with road and YOU MUST SLOW DOWN to this speed if you want to survive.
Have you driven in Lagos, Nigeria?
If you have , then the writer's narrative of driving in poland is comparatively easy street.
"You must carry original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers at all times. This is a legal requirement. They will be asked for if you are stopped by the police and, in particular, when crossing borders. If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police, they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this"
Completely outdated information. All you need is a driving license to have with yourself.
Have driven on the German roads once and been mulling of taking a road through to Poland through Szczecin. I didn't know I have to keep lights on in all times because it's illegal to have lights on during the day where I come from. I think by combining the above tips with safety tips in case of an accident (here is the link: http://www.automotivegazette.com/immediately-car-accident/
It will be an entertaining journey
I moved to Poland for a year work contract and live here since three months. I've been here six years ago and since then a lot has changed. A lot! First of all even in the rural areas many roads have been rebuilt and driving them is now similar to Germany or France. Secondly, there's much more highways and they are really great. I often travel between Lodz and Gdansk and I love it.
Omg, this is so biased, completely not true! Poland has the biggest network of motorways in Central and Eastern Europe. Update your article! At this moment (2021) PL has the 5th longest network in Europe. Bigger than the UK!!! Did you know that? I am sure you didn't. The top rank is: Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Poland. And within few years Poland may surpass Italy, since Poland builds hundreds of km of motorways a year (300-400 km average) and Italy doesn't. Many pro drivers say the quality of PL motorways is better than in Germany, it is definitely better than in Italy, because it is simply newer, built based under more modern constructions norms. They also have much better system of resting areas, free toilets, kids playgrounds, etc. This article is so biased, based on some old stereotypes, it is simply misleading the reader with false information. Also in the cities the system of lights, lanes, bike lanes, rounds etc is on par with the best samples from West Europe. You just have to visit Poland and experience it yourself. Every 2-3 years it updates and improves significantly, all things there are changing very very fast
You may consider updating the article: Road conditions have improved drastically over couple of last years, potholes these days are a rarity and network of expressways and autostrada's interconnecting major cities is almost complete. Unless you want to travel through countryside and smallest villages or want to trust navigation with that "amazing shortcut through a forest" you will hardly ever find a road in a truly bad condition.
Cyclists and pedestrians on small dark roads at night are still a thing to consider. Farming equipment is a normal sight in a countryside - Like everywhere else on Earth where there is a farming going on. With that horse drawn vehicles I guess author was in some tourist place where they offer such rides, I've not seen an actual horse drawn cart used for farming in Poland for like two decades now.
Also you don't need to carry neither a driving license, insurance conformation nor a registration for a vehicle, Police can check all of this online. Still it is good to have especially if you are a tourist and may not be in a database.
Also the general safety has improved a lot: It's not the 90's anymore, there is much less criminal activity. To be honest I feel safer in Poland than in many other western countries. Still leaving valuables like a purse or a laptop in plain sight is not the smartest thing to do.
We are observing an increase in driving culture too, there are less careless drivers than before. Still people generally drive over the speed limits in cities.
The important new law is that a driver needs to yield to pedestrians that are intending to cross the road. While it doesn't mean absolute right of way to pedestrians in practice it means that you need to watch out and stop when you see people that are close to the crossing. Same rules apply to bicycle crossing and they require extra attention because often it is hard to see fast approaching bicycles.
What a bunch of bullsh*t in this article. Looks like the author visited Poland some 10 years ago or even more.