Renting a car in Warsaw

Renting a Car in Warsaw: The Best Things to Know for 2024

A trip to Warsaw, an up-and-coming destination in Europe, is worth your time. When you come, you might consider renting a car in Warsaw. The city of Warsaw is very big, with top-notch museums, food, and attractions to visit all around the city, and a car may allow you to see even more. With Warsaw also being the gateway to other amazing cities and regions of Poland, such as Wrocław, Gdańsk, and Kraków, having a car makes it easier to see all these places in one trip! However, you may wonder what it is like renting a car, what the requirements are for renting a car, and how much it will cost. 

Here in this blog, you will find all the answers to your questions about renting a car in Warsaw. I have personally rented a car from Warsaw to explore the lovely city of Lublin so that I can base my answers on my own personal experiences! And overall, I will say that renting a car from Warsaw is extremely easy, cost-effective, and allows the perfect amount of flexibility for exploring both Warsaw and nearby cities.  

This guide will start by supplying the reasons to rent a car in Warsaw. You won’t always need one, but there are some circumstances where renting a car is better! Then, there will be an explanation of where to look when renting a car in Warsaw, how to check-in and check-out, and overall costs. Finally, I will finish with a brief description of some important facts to know about driving in Warsaw, whether related to driving rules, parking, or re-filling your rental car’s fuel tank. Read on to find out all this and more about renting a car in Warsaw! 

Reasons to Rent a Car in Warsaw

Warsaw is a relatively flat city that is easy to get around, and has great public transportation, including great connections to both Chopin and Modlin airports. However, there are still many valid reasons for renting a car in Warsaw. There are specifically 5 potential reasons where I think renting a car is best.  

Reason 1: Day Trips 

Warsaw is a great city to explore on its own, but there also many great day trips to do nearby. While some of the day trips, such as to Lublin or Łódź are reachable by train, there are others, such as the great forests and parks nearby, that are much more easily accessible by car. Even the cities that you can reach by car do not have quite as good public transportation as Warsaw, so having a car may speed things up. Also, having a car for your day trip allows you to see more in the cities or places you choose to visit than you could using public transportation. For this reason, I recommend renting a car in Warsaw. 

Reason 2: Road Trip 

There are many great places to go visit in Poland beyond Warsaw! If you want to see a bunch of them, and have the time, a road trip is a great way to do this. As most people arriving to Poland arrive in Warsaw, a great possibility for a road trip is to see Warsaw, renting your car after completion of seeing the city, and then continuing onwards to the rest of Poland you want to see! Make sure that you read up on any tolls before selecting this choice, at this helpful website. 

Reason 3: Large Family 

While Warsaw’s public transportation is great, it may be a bit harder to manage if you are coming with a larger family, especially if you have kids. If you want to hit all of the great kid-friendly activities in Warsaw in a timely manner, having a car will help greatly. Additionally, in the long run, you might even save money, as renting a car in Warsaw can be cheaper than buying transport tickets for you and all or your children. So, if you want some extra comfort and flexibility, renting a car is a great choice if you have a large family or lots of kids.  

Reason 4: Lack of Public Transportation 

While Warsaw, and Poland, both have great public transportation, there are still some places that are not well-served by buses or trains. Or, alternatively, maybe the place you want to visit is served by buses and trains, but only at inconvenient and infrequent times, such as the case with much of the amazing lake district of Masuria, or the beautiful city of Kazimierz Dolny. Thus, renting a car in Warsaw is a great choice. This will remove any worries of your travels beyond Poland and guarantee you a cheaper rate than taking a train to a regional hub and renting your car from there (I learned this from my prior experience renting a car in Masuria).  

Reason 5: Because it is Fun! 

Driving in a new country is always fun. While Poland’s drivers can be a bit predictable, road infrastructure is great, and Poland has some of the highest speed limits in the world on its autostrada. Thus, a visit to Warsaw can allow you to explore a city in style and comfort, and appreciate what Poland has to offer at your own pace. When I went to Lublin, there was no need to rent a car, but it made the experience even better than it would have been without it. And, since renting a car is affordable, the comfort you will receive will not break the bank.  

If you do not think any of these reasons suit you, you should not need to be renting a car in Warsaw. As mentioned earlier, Warsaw has an amazing network of public transportation that also has some of the cheapest transport tickets in all of Europe. You can get everywhere you need to and more just by using public transport, including both airports. You can also use ride-share apps, such as Bolt and Uber, which are also cheaper than most other European cities, and can get you to the airport or train station if you are in more of a hurry. But otherwise, consider renting a car in Warsaw.

How to Rent a Car in Warsaw

Most people who choose to rent a car probably start on Google, Yelp, or some other review service, looking at what options are available. And there are plenty of services available in Warsaw. Most rental car services will be found at either of the two main airports of Warsaw, Warsaw Chopin and Warsaw Modlin. At both airports you will find traditional rental car companies, such as Hertz, Enterprise, and others, able to rent a car as you show up, or in advance. The rental car area in both airports is right as you exit the customs declaration area. 

However, if you are seeking the best deal on rental cars, you should use Discover Cars. As someone with no loyalty to any rental car company, I used Discover Cars to find the best deal for a car and get the exact car I wanted for my trip. This was the second time I used Discover Cars to rent a car in Poland, and both times I was left extremely satisfied. All you do is first enter the airport or location you will arrive at, the dates and customizable pick-up and drop-off times you want, as well as your age and country of residence.  

Then, Discover Cars will return hundreds of results, which you can also filter based on automatic vs manual (for my fellow Americans), and other amenities. All you must do is then select the choice that fits your needs best. Additionally, there will be separate entries for each class of car (from economy to deluxe), so you can clearly see what size and type of car you will get. Then as you book, you can also buy their insurance, which I found to be a very good deal and cheaper than the insurance offered by any rental car company and click book! Discover Cars will then match you with one of their dealers within an hour, but usually this happens faster! 

Discover Cars is also useful because it supplies a list of everything you must have to be prepared for picking up the car, from International Driver’s Permits to confirmation of booking and insurance, and you are ready to go to the airport! All in all, Discover Cars (which does not sponsor us, by the way), is extremely easy to use, and both times I have used it I was left happy.  

Do be warned that sometimes you may be matched up with a company that does not have the best reviews on Google. However, in my experience, if you follow the rules and don’t damage the car, you will be fine no matter which company you get. But you do get the chance to leave feedback to ensure Discover Cars will pick the best partners in the future. 

Otherwise, traditional methods of renting a car will work well in finding your car. You may not get the greatest selection of cars and engine types if you do not book ahead, as renting a car in Warsaw is decently popular, so I always recommend renting ahead. Especially if you have a flight that arrives a bit later, renting in advance is advised, as this ensures there will be someone at the desk waiting for you when you arrive. Discover Cars can make this whole process even easier but doing it yourself is completely valid as well!  

Renting a Car in Warsaw: Check-in and Drop-off Process

Check-in and drop-off should be extremely easy. The confirmation document you must print will provide you with the instructions about where to meet the rental car agent. From there, you will have to show your passport, driver’s license, and international driver’s permit where applicable. At this point, the agency may ask you to buy insurance.

If you have already bought insurance from Discover Cars or another site, make sure to say this. This should not lead to any problems, both times I rented this was viewed as completely normal. Afterwards, you will pay the security deposit, and be off on the road! Polish customers service is efficient, and for rental cars it is no different.  

Dropping the car off will be no different. Most likely, you will be dropping your car off in a parking lot at either of the airports, but if you get lost (like I did), a call to the rental car service will solve all your problems. Beyond that, make sure to stay with the agent as your car is checked over for damage, and after that, you are free to go! You should expect to see the security deposit removed from your statement (minus any damages) after no more than 5 days. If there is damage, document everything with the agent, and the insurance will pay for it (more on the insurance later).  

The rental car drop-off area and garage near Chopin Airport in Warsaw
The rental car drop-off area and garage near Chopin Airport in Warsaw. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

One thing I will add is that when you choose to rent your car, you might be given the choice to have pick-up or drop-off at a different location, such as at one of the many train stations in Warsaw. This will however add quite a bit to the overall costs. This entails the agency sending a car to pick you up to drive to the agency, and then doing everything described above. Instead, make sure you have pick-up and drop-off at the airport, and take advantage of an Uber or Warsaw’s great public transportation, including the direct Bus 175 from the train station to Chopin Airport, to save yourself a lot of money.

Renting a Car in Warsaw: Costs

I rented a car for approximately 32 hours. This costs me a grand total of 99 PLN, which comes out to around 75 PLN per 24 hours. However, this was a cost at the beginning of October out of tourist season. But, even during the summer, you should be able to get a car at a cost-effective rate, no more than 150 PLN per day. However, this is the rate without insurance, adding Discover Cars insurance added an extra 100 PLN, making my total cost around 200 PLN. However, the insurance should be cheaper for most readers, as I am only 23 years old at the time of writing, which significantly raised the costs for me. 

The cost of the insurance is certainly worth it. It covers up to 13300 PLN of damage, which covers theft, damage to the car, windshield or window repair, tire damage, towing expenses, taxi expenses, lost keys, administration charges, and other fees. The 100 PLN charge was about 50% less than what the rental car agency offered, another reason renting through a third party might be more cost effective. Additionally, I was charged around 4000 PLN as a security deposit on my credit card, which is quite high. So, make sure you have the proper credit limit before renting (this is mostly aimed at my fellow students).  

Finally, the largest cost of the whole experience was petrol. Petrol is quite expensive in Poland right now due to an ongoing energy crisis, supply issues, and some typical business shenanigans of raising the costs (as well as some governmental issues). I paid around 250 PLN for around ¾ of a tank. So, the total cost for an overnight trip cost around 450 PLN. However, given that train tickets can cost around 100 PLN each way, if you have a large family, you will save lots of money by renting, as well as still having the desired flexibility you would like. All in all, the price was more than manageable for me, a student. 

Driving Tips and Rules for Warsaw

Driving in Warsaw is a bit of an experience! While not as dangerous as some other places in Europe (like Lisbon or Tirana, from my experience), driving around still requires great focus, and a good understanding of the rules. First note that many people in Warsaw will drive fast. People in Warsaw are in a hurry to get where they are going, whether to work or to a date, and you are better off yielding to the speed demons of the road than trying to mess with them. The same goes for any person driving a construction van or vehicle, the chances of them having had a drink or two is shockingly high. 

Additionally, traffic in Warsaw can get extremely bad from around 7 AM to 10 AM in the morning, and then again from around 4 PM to 7 PM. The rush hour in Warsaw is very extended, since all the businesspeople who drive work quite different hours. Additionally, driving in the city center or near the Old Town during these times is not recommended by me, as traffic is extremely bad in these areas. Another area with bad traffic is the roads around Pole Mokotowskie. So, make sure to keep an eye on Google Maps when planning to drive somewhere, to make sure you leave yourself enough time to get where you are going.   

Traffic while driving in Warsaw
Traffic in Warsaw can get bad from around 7 AM to 10 AM in the morning, and then again from around 4 PM to 7 PM. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Many people in Warsaw are either walking, biking, or using public transportation. As a driver, you must realize that all these modes of transport get the right-of-way. If you see one of the blue pedestrian crossing signs, you must stop for any pedestrians or bikes crossing this point. Additionally, while most bike paths in Warsaw are well away from the roads, some are on the roads, so make sure to watch out for those drivers. Additionally, if you see a bus about ready to leave a stop, you must let it turn in front of you.  

Finally, there are some places in Warsaw where tram and bus stops are in a central lane separated from the physical bus or tram stop by the road you are driving on. In these cases, you may notice that there is a white zigzag line through the road. If a bus or tram stops while next to this zone, you must stop driving at once, either before the zone if you can, or in the zone. You cannot start driving again until the tram or bus has left. This can create a situation where pedestrians are walking right between your car and the one in front while walking to the tram! 

Zigzag line in Warsaw
If a bus or tram stops while next to a zigzag zone, you must stop driving at once. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

It is important to know some of the important driving rules in Poland. The rules are typical of other European cities and countries. The speed limit in Warsaw is 50 km/h on most roads. This speed increases to 60 km/h from 11 PM to 5 AM. Otherwise, on residential streets, which are any streets that only have houses on it, the speed limit is 20 km/h. There will usually be a large sign that shows a kid playing with a football or walking to show this, and usually some speed bumps. If you do drive on the highway, the speed limit will be either 100 or 120 km/h depending on whether you are on an expressway or a street-level highway.  

For a full guide on traffic safety and driving rules in Poland, check the section in this previously written blog.  

Parking in Warsaw

Parking in Warsaw can be extremely hard to come by. In general, there are not many large parking spaces throughout the city. There are a few paid park-and-rides on the outskirts of the city, where you can leave your car and take public transport into the center. Or there are some parking lots in the center around the main attractions, such as under Plac Defilad by the famous landmark Palace of Culture and Science. However, this parking can be quite expensive, but would be the most convenient, especially if you have a family to transport. Another place that will usually have spots is any major mall, such as Arkadia Mall or Zlote Tarasy.  

Street parking in Warsaw
Street parking in Warsaw. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

However, the easiest choice is street parking. There is street parking found throughout the city. It is easy to tell where you can park based on whether you see other cars parked there, or a parking meter alongside the street. This should cover your need to park anywhere throughout the city. The first hour costs 4.50 PLN, the second hour costs 5.40 PLN, the third hour 6.40 PLN, and every hour beyond costs 4.50 PLN. Parking must be done beforehand, either at the meter with card or coins, or on one of the parking apps available for every smart phone. For more information, visit the official page for parking in Warsaw.  

Getting Petrol in Warsaw

There are petrol stations found throughout the city. All are major petrol brands, and all are okay to buy petrol at. Firstly, make sure to get the right petrol for your car! Pb means petrol is unleaded, and ON means diesel. Make sure you clarify with the agent what gas your car needs beforehand (although it will almost certainly be Pb). What is not intuitive about filling up your car is that you first fill up, and then go inside and pay. You will tell the cashier what number your pump was, and then pay by cash or card. It is helpful to know a few numbers in Polish to help this process go smoothly.  

Conclusions about Renting a Car in Warsaw

Overall, renting a car in Warsaw is easy, especially when using Discover Cars, and is cost effective! It allows greater freedom to explore the many great places within and outside Warsaw and allows you to visit some places most tourists might not visit! It is also a more cost-efficient choice for large families, and a comfortable choice if you want to travel in more privacy and luxury. My personal experience was amazing, and I think yours will too! Make sure to check out all the blogs linked in this article, especially the ones related to renting a car in Poland and day trips from Warsaw to maximize your use of a car while in Poland. Safe travels!

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