Poland Insiders writer Jeremy is renting a car in Poland

Renting a Car in Poland: Our Comprehensive 2023 Guide

Poland is a very large country, and sometimes, the amazing train and bus system will not get you everywhere you want. This is where renting a car in Poland comes in, a process I found to be simple, easy, and not nearly as expensive as I initially expected! Renting a car in Poland is a relatively stress-free process using websites such as Discover Cars, which I used to book a cost-effective rental with a great car company when I took a trip through the beautiful lake district of Masuria. 

However, renting a car in a foreign country can be stressful, so while the process was straight-forward for me, I will share some tips and tricks, and detailed information about how to rent a car in Poland. First, you will find more information about the easiest and cheapest ways to rent a car in Poland. Then, I will share my experience with checking in and dropping off the car. Finally, I will share the overall costs for renting a car, but on average, it will probably cost you around 100 euros per day depending on how much you drive. 

Additionally, I include some extra information about driving in Poland at the end. Poland can be a stressful place to drive. I share my experiences with driving in Poland, including some important safety tips. I also share some essential driving rules that you should not forget, some which are unique to Poland compared to the rest of Europe! Finally, I dedicate a few paragraphs on how to get petrol (or gas for my fellow Americans) in Poland. 

Overall, renting a car in Poland should be a stress-free process overall, and renting a car in Poland can allow you to unlock some beautiful areas of the country you otherwise could not, and gives you extra freedom and flexibility to explore! Read on to find everything you need to know.  

Why would I even need to rent a car in Poland?

As I have referenced in several articles, such as this one about how to travel from Warsaw to Gdańsk, Poland has great train and bus transportation to most major cities in Poland, that is also easy to book. So, why would you want to book a car in the first place? Renting a car in Poland depends on your travel goals and personal preferences.  

But the main reason to rent a car is certainly if you want to get off the beaten path, and outside of the many wonderful cities of Poland to see the beautiful nature Poland also has to offer. This is part of why I rented a car (with the support of the ever-present blog boss) to explore Masuria, a region full of lakes that are spread apart. It was much easier to have a car to go from lake to lake, and visit some of the national parks nearby, as well as go on a kayaking excursion. Without the car, I would have been stuck in the major cities and having to use an expensive taxi ride to get anywhere. 

Rental car parked in Wigry National Park
Rental car parked in Wigry National Park. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Another reason you might want to rent a car is personal comfort. Train travel is not for everyone, and if you have a large group of kids, you might prefer to rent a large car to transport them around. Additionally, you do not have to worry about deadlines for making trains or buses, which might reduce your stress greatly. But also, even if you do not have kids, driving in Poland can be a fun time, with faster speed limits on motorways (autostrada) being 140 km/h (about 85 mph), some of the fastest speeds in the world! 

So, overall, the two main reasons I would suggest renting a car is so that you can explore Poland more fully if you have the time, and for personal comfort and enjoyment! 

How do you rent a car in Poland?

There are many services available to rent a car in Poland. It is easy enough to use Google Maps and see what the best-rated rental car services are near where you are arriving in Poland and going from there. Or you can choose a big-name brand, of which there are many, and arrange to be picked up at the airport. All these options are feasible and work well. 

However, I used a service I never used before that I found to make the process of renting a car in Poland extremely simple, this being the previously mentioned Discover Cars. (Note, this is NOT sponsored content and we paid everything ourselves. However, we might partner with them in the future.) While there are many other services available for renting a car, Discover Cars has a lot going for it beyond the three things it advertises when you first visit the page, this being a promise of no hidden costs, 24/7 support, and free cancellation. 

When you arrive at the page, you can first start by selecting your language, Discover Cars has pretty much every European language available to choose from, or at the minimum, English. Then at the top, you will be greeted by a yellow box. First, you can enter the city, or airport, you would like to get the car at. The box allows you to enter pretty much any address you want. So, you could choose to enter a train station if you are arriving there, or elsewhere.  

From there you can enter in the exact dates and exact times you want to pick up and drop off the car. This is a nice feature, to fully customize your experience. You also can enter in your age, and nationality. This ensures that Discover Cars quotes you the right price, as age influences how much you pay if you are younger or older. Including your country for which your driver’s license is from helps Discover Cars list all the documents you will need correctly.  

The one tip I have from the experience is to start by entering the city you want, such as “Warsaw” into the pick-up location box. If you enter a specific location, such as the central train station, versus Warsaw, you will find a massive difference in price. This is because entering a specific location indicates to Discover Cars that you want to be picked up there and taken to the rental car agency.  

If this is what you want, go for it, but if not, you should stick with entering in the city name. For me, it was a difference of almost 250 PLN (about 56 euros at writing) to have the pick-up location as the train station versus the city in general. With great public transportation in Polish cities, it should be no trouble to use it to get to your agency. Even taking a taxi there is much cheaper if public transportation cannot get you there directly. So, if you are on a budget, do not make the mistake of booking for a specific pick-up location.  

Rental car parked at lake Mamry
Rental car parked at lake Mamry. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

For me, I was looking to rent a car in Olsztyn, one of Poland’s best cities to visit. I wanted to explore the lake district of Masuria. I entered Olsztyn into the bar, added my dates and driver information, and I was given options from there. You can customize the order, at other options such as automatic/manual or the number of seats you want. It is all very intuitive and made my first time renting a car very simple.  

This is also when you can choose to buy insurance through them. The insurance is comprehensive, and covers up to 13300 PLN in damage, and only cost 86 PLN. The full coverage covers theft, damage to the car, windshield or window repair, tire damage, towing expenses, taxi expenses, lost keys, administration charge, and any other fees. This is much better than the insurance included. The insurance included only has a collision damage waiver, of which you still must cover the first 2225 PLN out of your pocket, roadside aid, theft protection, and third-party liability. Thus, given that full coverage is not super expensive, I recommend buying for peace of mind.  

After you have gotten the car to the specifications you want, it is time to pay. You can pay with any major credit card. Confirmation is instant, it only took about 15 minutes for Discover Cars to match me with a partner. At payment, you also have the choice to pay the entire cost up front, or pay some now, some later. This is great if you are still budgeting for your trip up to the last minute. But, in case the worst happens, you can cancel up to 48 hours before, either getting credit for a future purchase or a refund to your card.  

Car parked on country road in Poland
You will have lots of fun when renting a car in Poland and going on a road trip! Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

After you have rented your car, it is then your job to get all the documents ready, which luckily, Discover Cars tells you what you need. You will need your driver’s license, an International Driver’s License depending on where you are from (I needed one with my USA License), and your passport, as well as your payment method. Also, print out the voucher that Discover Cars gives you, or whatever agency you might choose, and bring that with you. This would show proof of insurance if you bought through Discover Cars, so that the agency does not charge you again for insurance.  

All in all, using Discover Cars was pleasantly easy. I had no trouble at all following the instructions and getting exactly what I wanted. They did the job, and I think using them is the easiest way to find the car that meets your needs when you are renting a car in Poland. For sure, the best part was knowing the entire cost up front, including the insurance, which can make it easy to budget and not have any hidden fees surprise you on pick-up. To use Discover Cars, visit their website. 

Renting a Car in Poland: Check-in Process

My check-in process was as smooth as can be. I was stressed, because my train had been delayed almost 90 minutes, which meant I was going to be about 30 minutes later than my pick-up time. But the rental agency was super kind and professional. I believe that you should experience this professionalism with any agency you rent in Poland, as Poles take customer service in tourist industries seriously (not that they treat you terribly if you are Polish). Everyone I talked to spoke great English, so you should have no problem communicating if you have any questions, or issues like I had. 

Once I arrived, I was greeted by the agent, who looked at my passport, driver’s license, and permit. Then, I paid the remaining part of what I owed, as well as the deposit. If you are worried about poor exchange rates, my agent used Google to use the up-to-date rate, as the payment currency was in euros, but I paid in the local currency as Discover Cars said would happen. 

Rental car in Poland
The rental car I got when picking it up at the dealer. Photo: Jeremy.

After that, I was introduced to my car. First, I was pleasantly surprised to be given an upgrade, because the economy-class car I had booked was not available. Then, the agent showed me around the car, and showed me where the safety equipment was upon request (more on that later). Additionally, he showed me where all the known scratches were on the car. I found this a nice touch, because when my family has rented cars before, they have had agencies try to charge them for scratches and dents that already existed. The honesty and up-front nature of everything was very refreshing. 

After that, there were fresh pictures taken of the car, and I was off. The car I ended up getting after the upgrade was a Škoda Karoq, a nice mid-sized with great handling, a sat-nav included, a rear-view camera, and lots of space for all passengers, and even a spacious trunk. The car served me well throughout my trip, and the upgrade served as a pleasant surprise to an overall amazing check-in process. This could have been lucky on my part, but overall, you should receive a similar experience to mine, minus the potential car upgrade (no guarantees).  

Renting a Car in Poland: Drop-off Process

The drop-off process was extremely simple. I was dropping off on a Sunday, which meant the office was closed, like many businesses are mandated to be on Sundays. So, I just called the office number on the door, and was given instructions on where to drop the keys. All they asked me was if the fuel tank was full (as was policy), and if I had gotten into any trouble that had caused damage. With those questions answered, I dropped the keys off, and was free to go. 

Other cars when dropping off my car
Other cars where I dropped off my car afterwards. Photo: Jeremy.

The invoices for the service were emailed directly to me with all pictures pretty much at once after this. Additionally, I got my deposit back in full within 4 days, although most of these days can be attributed to the time it took the banks to refund, rather than the agency being slow. All in all, both check-in and check-out with the service I used in Olsztyn were very pleasant! 

Renting a Car in Poland: Costs

How much does this process cost? It is more expensive than taking a train or bus, but the price is not so high to make renting a car in Poland leave a bad taste in your mouth. I rented my car for a 48-hour period that included parts of three days. For those 48 hours, I paid 550 PLN (about 123 euros at writing) for the car. This accounts for the fact that I chose the smallest car with the least bells and whistles and paid for the full insurance package. 

Additionally, my payment was inflated a bit, because I, like many Americans my age, cannot drive manual, so I had to pay extra to rent a car with an automatic transmission. Additionally, given that I am under the age of 25, I had to pay a young driver’s fee for each of the 2 days I had rented the car. So, if you can drive a manual transmission and are older than I am, you will save a bit more money.  

If you are hoping to luck into a free upgrade, I would first recommend asking. If not, renting an automatic car increases your chances, as most dealers in Poland do not carry a high number of automatic cars, so if all the small economy cars are taken, you may get a larger car automatically. 

The other major cost is, of course, petrol. I used less than 75% of my tank over the course of the 2 days, because I did quite a bit of exploring. However, my car had some hybrid features, which contributed to fuel efficiency, and I was mostly driving on regional highways with medium speed limits, which also helped with efficiency. All in all, I paid 242 PLN (54 euros at time of writing) for my tank of petrol. 

Petrol Station in Poland
A typical petrol station in Poland. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

All other costs would be related to any part of the security deposit that would be taken away. Some rocks took off two tiny bits of paint while I was driving, and the rental agency did not penalize me for it, but of course it depends on the agency you get. Luckily with Discover Cars, it seems they pick highly reputable dealers to match you with, which should save you the trouble of dealing with shady agencies. My deposit was 500 euros on my credit card, so make sure you have high enough credit to rent a car, as you cannot pay the deposit in cash at most places! 

So, in sum, 48 hours of driving cost me around 800 PLN (around 180 euros at time of writing). I also never had to pay for parking, so depending on where you drive in Poland account for that too. All in all, 90 euros a day for the amount of driving I did, and the amount of Poland that was unlocked for me to see because of the car, was certainly worth it, and if you have a large family especially you can save quite a bit of money that you would have spent on trains or buses.  

Important Driving Safety Tips

Driving in any country can be a little bit scary, but especially so in an unfamiliar country! After my experience driving after renting a car in Poland, I will supply a few safety tips below. These tips are also based on my experience of living in Poland, and seeing how cars interact with pedestrians, bicycles, and public transport 

  • Always be very alert when driving in Poland! Polish drivers tend to be more on the erratic side and can drive very fast on highways. Basically, Polish drivers are aggressive, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but can be if you are not used to it. If you have ever driven in California, you would be used to Polish drivers. Thus, the worst thing you can do is be indecisive, so remain alert and be confident in your choice to be aggressive or passive.
Cars parked in the middle of nowhere in Poland
  • Do not speed! Traffic tickets in Poland have recently got much higher to try to dissuade the behavior of the typical Polish driver. Generally, you can safely go within 10 km/h over the speed limit without worrying about being pulled over. However, I would personally not recommend testing this system. 
  • Polish roads are not very wide, especially on regional highways (more on those later). This can be intimidating, but keep to the right as much as possible, especially since many Polish drivers will drive as close to the center as they can get away with. 
  • Since many roads are one-lane highways through forests between cities, there are many places where faster drivers will want to pass. They will do this very quickly even with oncoming traffic coming quickly. So, if a driver wants to pass, I recommend slowing down and moving to the right to give them the most space possible, or else you will end up in an accident you do not want to be in with a rental car.  
  • Show extra caution around vans, especially those of construction workers. While this tip of course does not apply to every construction van, just know that construction workers may drink quite a bit while working. In fact, I have seen construction workers buy bottles of vodka for consumption as they work, and others pop open a beer as they start driving away. Basically, I especially do not trust these vans to drive safely, and so you should give them space.  

Other than these 5 tips, just be confident. Poland is not too much different from other countries when it comes to driving, other than drivers do things a little bit faster. You should overall have no troubles, but following these tips can help reduce your stress levels a bit.  

Important Driving Rules

Perhaps the most important rule is related to the speed limits in Poland. It can be confusing to figure out which speed limits apply to which roads, especially since most Polish roads do not list the speed limit when you enter a road. You must know them! The below table explains Polish speed limits. 

Road TypeDescriptionSpeed Limit
Motorway (Autostrada)Numbered roads marked with “A”, usually toll roads140 km/h
2-Lane Expressway (Droga ekspresowa)Numbered roads marked with “S” or “E”120 km/h
1-Lane ExpresswayNumbered roads marked with “S” or “E”110 km/h
2-Lane Regional HighwayNumbered roads without letter100 km/h
1-Lane Regional HighwayNumbered roads without letter90 km/h
Local Street in TownsMain roads in towns (can include regional highways)50 km/h (60 km/h from 11 PM to 5 AM)
Residential StreetStreet solely with houses20 km/h

Autostrada are the least common roads in Poland, with only a few between major Polish cities and Polish borders. So, you will likely only drive on them if you are planning to drive to Germany from Poland, or between Wrocław and Kraków for example. On these roads, you will also have to pay a toll, which will require you to set up an e-Toll. You can ask your rental car provider for more information about it or find exact details about prices and ways to pay here.  

Expressways are going to be the most common road you might drive on if you are driving between cities. For example, most of the roads south or east of Warsaw fall under this category. However, you will also likely drive on many regional highways, with most being 1-lane. You will especially need to drive on these roads if you want to avoid paying the tolls on some of the roads. Overall, I would recommend checking your route before driving somewhere so you know which roads you will be driving on. 

Additionally, you might wonder what is considered a “local street” in Poland. Even if the village has two houses, there is one sign in particular that will help you know if you are in a “city” by Polish standards. Look out for a white rectangular sign, pictured below, with black buildings on it. This will show you must abide by the 50 km/h speed limit, until you see the same sign with a line drawn through that. 

The white rectangular sign with a crossed-out city means that you're leaving a city
The white rectangular sign with a crossed-out city means that you’re leaving a city. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Other than that, Polish roads will occasionally have special speed limits, whether due to a winding road, an upcoming train crossing, or for another reason.  These speed limits disappear when you see the circular speed limit sign with a black slash through them. At this point, the speed limit returns to the pre-determined limit for whatever road type you are on.  

Beyond the complicated topic about speed limits, below you will find a list of other important driving laws in Poland that you will certainly want to know if you are renting a car in Poland. 

  • Knowing what a priority road is! In the USA, there are a lot more stop signs and yield signs to show who has the right of way. In Poland, this is all shown by a rotated square sign. This sign has a yellow square in the middle, with a right ring around it, and is pictured below. When you have this sign, it means you have the complete right of way. All turning traffic must yield. When the same sign is seen with a black line slashed across, you no longer have right of way.
Start and end of priority road in Poland
If you see the first sign, it means you have the complete right of way. Once you see the second, you don’t have the right of way anymore.
  • You must always keep your headlights on! This is the case no matter the weather, or how bright it is. Alternatively, if your car has fog lights, you can keep those on. Additionally, if you see someone flash their headlights at you, this might mean your headlights are not on (but it can also mean there is a police car ahead). 
  • No drinking or driving is allowed, the legal limit is 0.02%, which is only 25% of the rate in the USA. This means you cannot drink very much at all before driving illegally. Thus, just do not drink if you plan to drive at all, it is better off that way. 
  • Driving through a red light is obviously against the law anywhere, but you do not want to do this in Poland, as it carries a huge fine. Also, there is no turning right on a red light, unless there is a separate smaller green arrow to the right that allows you to turn right while the rest of the traffic cannot go straight.  
  • All cars require safety equipment, and your rental car should come with them. This equipment includes a reflective warning triangle, a fire extinguisher, and a high-visibility jacket. Make sure to ask your rental car provider before where this equipment is found so you are prepared just in case. 
  • You must stop for pedestrians at crosswalks! Pedestrians always have the right of way in these scenarios. Failure to do so can result in a huge fine starting at 1500 PLN. So, always stop for pedestrians, and slow down if you think a pedestrian might even consider crossing. You must also yield to public transportation leaving a transit stop, and they will cut in front of you anyways if you do not stop 
  • It is illegal to overtake at a pedestrian crossing, in an intersection, or at a railroad or tram crossing. 
  • Phones are illegal to use while driving, have a passenger do all navigation for you, or pay for a car that has a sat-nav inside, which is allowable to use while driving, as it is hands free. 

There are of course many other driving rules in Poland. However, these rules are more universal, and spending time stressing over rules is not necessary. The rules mentioned above are the important ones, especially those related to speed limits. Study those a bit, and you should be prepared and ready to go.   

Getting Petrol in Poland

Getting petrol (or gas if you are an American like me) is not too troublesome. There are many petrol stations within city limits, and roadside stops quite often alongside highways. However, the first tip I have for you is to stick to name-brand petrol providers when choosing where to fill up your tank, to ensure the quality of petrol you are receiving. Brands such as Shell, Orlen, BP, and others are the most reputable, and will have similar prices. If the prices seem a bit low, the quality too will be low. 

Additionally, when getting gas, note that the letters Pb means the petrol you are getting is unleaded, which is most certainly what your rental car will take, and ON means the petrol is diesel. Be extra sure what petrol you are putting in your tank to avoid destroying your rental car.  

Standard pumps at a petrol station in Poland
Standard pumps at a petrol station in Poland. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

When it comes to getting petrol, you might find that you first must fill up your tank, and then pay, which is the opposite of what seems intuitive. I cannot say if this is the case for all petrol stations. But you will fill up, and then go inside and tell the cashier what number you were, or maybe what car you have. So, it is helpful to know some small Polish numbers, as there is no guarantee the cashier will speak English, especially in rural areas.  

Overall, petrol stations in Poland are very nice, even as petrol prices skyrocket. You can use a typically clean restroom for free, buy some food or drinks at the convenience store, and sometimes get a car wash or find vacuuming stations. Some even have fast-food restaurants and rest areas. And most petrol stations are also open 24/7, which adds convenience.  

Conclusions about Renting a Car in Poland

So, renting a car in Poland should overall be a low-stress experience. Using a service like Discover Cars makes the process extremely quick and simple and helps ensure the lowest cost. Driving itself can be a bit more of a challenge, with the aggressive mindset of Polish drivers being quite intimidating if you are not prepared for it. But, renting a car in Poland is a very rewarding experience, I had such a fun time driving around and exploring the beautiful nature Poland has to offer! 

The most important thing to remember is to check if you need any special permit to drive in Poland, and to get it well in advance of when you plan to come to Poland! Luckily, you can usually cancel if things go terribly wrong. The other important thing to remember is the speed limits! Study these the most of any Polish driving rule, as they are the rule that leads to the most trouble when driving in Poland. 

Overall, I hope your process of renting a car in Poland is pleasant and easy, and that you have as much fun as I did.  

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