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Confused.com guide to driving in Poland

Chojnik castle, PolandLooking for a destination with a difference? Then pack your car and head to Poland.

Getting started

A country rich in history, Poland’s turbulent past and influences from East and West make it a fascinating travel destination. The flip side is that its infrastructure isn’t the same level as much of Western Europe, so it’s best suited to more adventurous travellers.

However, don’t be put off. With Confused.com’s guide to driving in Poland, you’ll be able to stay safe on the road while experiencing the sights of this unique and vibrant country.

Hit the road

The main issue with driving in Poland is the quality of the roads. An injection of European money over the last decade has funded a substantial road-building programme, but the overall quality is still poor. Of the major roads that run between cities, only fractions are equivalent to a British motorway. The remainder tend to be single or dual carriageway, and in need of repair.

While travelling in Poland you’ll also need to watch out for the local drivers. They’re certainly not the worst in Europe, but you may find the lack of courtesy and consideration from fellow road users something of a surprise. Keep your wits about you and be prepared for belligerent truck and bus drivers pulling out when they feel like it.

You can, however, console yourself with petrol prices: In February 2009 the average price was just 68p per litre, the second cheapest in Europe.

Star drive

For the sheer novelty factor, the Błędów Desert has to be worth a visit. Located northwest of Katowice, the sands are the largest in central Europe at 32 sq km and were formed in the Middle Ages by a melted glacier. It’s also impressive by virtue of its depth – up to 70m of sand in places.

Best of the rest

Poland also has its own take on the Lake District for those keen on water. It has over 9,000 closed bodies of water with districts in both the north and the south. Check out Lake Śniardwy in the Masurian Lake District, the largest lake in Poland.

Those with a love of twisty, testing roads will want to head south to the Tatras, the mountain range bordering Poland and Slovakia. Head towards Nowy Targ then follow the range along Route 969 to Nowy Sącz. The spectacular views and challenging roads are a thrill, while the numerous ski resorts are popular with visitors.

Laws of the land

  • The minimum age for drivers is 18.
  • Vehicles must have their headlights dipped at all times. Fines are given for those ignoring the requirement.
  • All occupants must wear seatbelts if fitted, and children under 12, or less than 1.5m tall, may only travel in the front or back of a car if fitted with an appropriate restraint.

Polish speed limits

Road type

Speed limit

Residential areas

50 kmh or 20 kmh depending on area

Built-up areas

50 kmh from 05.00 to 23.00; 60 kmh all other times

Outside built-up areas

90 kmh

Dual carriageways

100 kmh (one lane) 110 kmh (two lanes)

Motorways

Up to 130 kmh

Local knowledge

Using your horn in traffic may seem like a normal thing to do, but unless it’s to avoid an accident, use of it is illegal in built-up areas and could land you with a fine.

Like many European countries, using a radar detector is illegal in Poland. As well as having it confiscated, you could end up dipping into your savings to pay another fine.

Did you know?

Motorways in Poland also have a minimum speed limit. If you’re not clocking at least 40km/h, then expect to be spoken to by the Policja.

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