Autotourism in Poland
Poland is a fascinating country that offers a rich history, diverse culture, stunning scenery, and delicious cuisine. If you are planning to visit Poland, one of the best ways to explore this beautiful land is by car. Driving in Poland gives you the freedom and flexibility to discover its hidden gems, from charming towns and villages to majestic castles and national parks. However, before you hit the road, there are some things you need to know and prepare for a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some tips and advice on driving in Poland as a tourist.
Getting an International Driving Permit
If you want to drive in Poland, you will need a valid driver’s license from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is a document that translates your driver’s license into 11 languages and certifies that you are authorized to drive in Poland. You can obtain an IDP from International Drivers Association before you travel. You must always carry your IDP along with your driver’s license and passport when driving in Poland. An IDP is valid for one year from the date of issue.
Renting a Car in Poland
Renting a car in Poland is relatively easy and affordable. You can find many car rental companies at the airports, train stations, or city centers. You can also book your car online in advance to get the best deals and availability. Some of the most popular car rental companies in Poland are Europcar, Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Sixt.
When renting a car in Poland, you should consider the following factors:
The type of car: Depending on your budget, preferences, and itinerary, you can choose from different types of cars, such as economy, compact, intermediate, standard, or luxury. You can also opt for a four-wheel drive if you plan to drive in mountainous or rural areas. Generally, smaller cars are cheaper and easier to park and maneuver in narrow streets.
The transmission: Most cars in Poland have manual transmission, which means you have to shift gears yourself. If you are not comfortable with manual transmission, you can request an automatic car, but they are more expensive and less available. Make sure to specify your preference when booking your car.
The insurance: When renting a car in Poland, you will be offered different types of insurance options, such as collision damage waiver (CDW), theft protection (TP), personal accident insurance (PAI), or third-party liability (TPL). Some of these options may be mandatory or included in the rental price, while others may be optional or extra. You should check what is covered and what is not before signing the rental agreement. You should also check if your credit card or travel insurance provides any coverage for car rental.
The fuel: When renting a car in Poland, you will have to pay for the fuel yourself. You should check the fuel policy of the rental company before picking up your car. Some companies may require you to return the car with a full tank of gas, while others may charge you for the gas used. The most common types of fuel in Poland are unleaded gasoline and diesel. The average price of gasoline is about 5 PLN per liter ($1.3 USD), while diesel is about 4.5 PLN per liter ($1.2 USD).
Road Rules and Tips for Drivers in Poland
Driving in Poland is not very different from driving in other European countries, but there are some specific rules and tips that you should follow to avoid fines or accidents. Here are some of the most important ones:
Drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left.
Use your headlights at all times, even during the day.
Obey the speed limits, which are 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) outside urban areas, 100 km/h (62 mph) on single-lane expressways, 120 km/h (75 mph) on dual-lane expressways, and 140 km/h (87 mph) on highways.
Do not drink and drive. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.02%, which means even one drink can put you over the limit.
Wear seat belts in both front and rear seats.
Use a hands-free device for your mobile phone.
Give way to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport vehicles.
Respect the traffic lights, signs, and signals.
Do not park on sidewalks, crosswalks, or bus lanes.
Carry a first-aid kit, a warning triangle, and a fire extinguisher in your car.
Must-Visit Places for Auto Tourists in Poland
Poland is a country with a lot of attractions and destinations for auto tourists. Whether you are interested in history, culture, nature, or adventure, you will find something to suit your taste. Here are some of the must-visit places for auto tourists in Poland:
Kraków: The former capital and the cultural heart of Poland, Kraków is a city full of charm and beauty. You can admire the stunning architecture of the Old Town, the Wawel Castle, and the Kazimierz district. You can also visit the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and the Ojców National Park.
Gdańsk: The maritime city of Gdańsk is located on the Baltic coast and has a rich history and heritage. You can explore the colorful buildings of the Main Town, the impressive St. Mary’s Church, and the Solidarity Center. You can also enjoy the sandy beaches of Sopot and Gdynia, or take a ferry to the Hel Peninsula or the Malbork Castle.
Wrocław: The capital of Lower Silesia, Wrocław is a vibrant and modern city with a lot of character. You can marvel at the Gothic architecture of the Market Square, the Cathedral Island, and the Centennial Hall. You can also have fun hunting for the hundreds of dwarf statues that are scattered around the city.
Zakopane: The winter capital and the mountain resort of Poland, Zakopane is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. You can admire the breathtaking views of the Tatra Mountains, hike in the valleys and forests, or ski on the slopes. You can also experience the local culture and cuisine of the highlanders.
Warsaw: The current capital and the largest city of Poland, Warsaw is a dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis that combines tradition and modernity. You can visit the reconstructed Old Town, the Royal Castle, and the Łazienki Park. You can also learn about the history and culture of Poland at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and the Copernicus Science Center.
Cultural Insights and Etiquette in Poland
Poland is a country with a strong sense of identity and pride in its history and culture. Polish people are generally hospitable, friendly, and respectful to visitors. However, they also expect some basic manners and etiquette from foreigners. Here are some cultural insights and etiquette tips to help you interact with Poles:
Greetings: When meeting someone for the first time, you should shake hands firmly and smile. You should also use formal titles such as Pan (Mr.) or Pani (Mrs./Ms.) followed by their surname until you are invited to use their first name. When greeting someone you know well, you can hug or kiss them on both cheeks.
Gift-giving: If you are invited to someone’s home for dinner or a special occasion, you should bring a small gift such as flowers, chocolates, wine, or liquor. You should avoid giving chrysanthemums or red or white flowers as they are associated with funerals or national symbols. You should also avoid giving an even number of flowers as they are considered unlucky.
Dining etiquette: If you are dining at someone’s home or at a restaurant, you should wait for your host or hostess to invite you to start eating. You should also follow their lead on when to toast or drink alcohol. You should use your right hand for eating and your left hand for holding your fork. You should not leave any food on your plate as it may be seen as rude or wasteful.
Social etiquette: Polish people tend to be polite and courteous in public. They avoid loud or aggressive behavior and respect personal space. They also value punctuality and honesty. You should avoid topics such as politics, religion, money, or personal problems unless you know someone well. You should also avoid making jokes or comments that may be seen as offensive or insensitive to Polish history or culture.
Dress code: Polish people dress conservatively and modestly in public. They avoid wearing casual or revealing clothes such as shorts, skirts, tank tops, or low-cut shirts. They also dress appropriately for different occasions such as business meetings, religious services, or cultural events. You should follow their example and dress smartly and respectfully when visiting Poland.
In conclusion, driving in Poland is a great way to explore the country’s diverse landscapes, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. By renting a car, obtaining an IDP, following the road rules, respecting etiquette, and exploring the hidden gems, you can have a wonderful journey through the land of contrasts. So, get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in Poland!