Polish driving licenses

Yes, I am like a London bus, nothing for hours and then two come at once!

There has been an email exchange here at work that may be of passing interest to any “expat” types who drive around Poland. In an effort to show true cultural diversity and embrace the local tongue, I’m using two languages in this post. I’m afraid my cut & paste skills do not stretch to translation.

The long and short of it is that your EU driving license is good for the first 6 months of your stay in Poland. After that you need a Polish one –  perhaps – please check the comments for alternative opinions.

This first section is someone explaining the law. Yawn!

Obcokrajowiec może poruszać się pojazdem po polskich drogach po warunkiem spełnienia zapisów ustawy o transporcie drogowym z późniejszymi zmianami z dnia 29 lipca 2005 r ( Dz. U. Nr 18, poz. 1497) tj.

Art. 94. 1. Na terytorium Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej odpowiednim pojazdem silnikowym może kierować osoba posiadająca ważne zagraniczne prawo jazdy wydane przez:
1. państwo członkowskie Unii Europejskiej – w okresie ważności prawa jazdy;
2. państwo:
a. będące stroną Konwencji o ruchu drogowym, sporządzonej w Wiedniu dnia 8 listopada 1968 r. (Dz. U. z 1988 r. Nr 5, poz. 40 i 44), (wykaz państwa w załączeniu)
b. państwo trzecie, którego wzór prawa jazdy jest zgodny z wzorem określonym w Konwencji, o której mowa w lit. a
w okresie 6 miesięcy od daty rozpoczęcia stałego lub czasowego pobytu, nie dłużej jednak niż przez okres ważności prawa jazdy.
2. Osoba posiadająca krajowe prawo jazdy wydane za granicą, która zamieszkuje na terytorium Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, może otrzymać polskie krajowe prawo jazdy po oddaniu zagranicznego ważnego prawa jazdy organowi wydającemu prawo jazdy, z zastrzeżeniem ust. 4. Jeżeli zagraniczne prawo jazdy nie jest zgodne z wzorem określonym w Konwencji wymienionej w ust. 1 pkt 2 lit. a, dodatkowym warunkiem otrzymania polskiego prawa jazdy jest zdanie części teoretycznej egzaminu państwowego – warunek ten nie dotyczy prawa jazdy wydanego przez państwo członkowskie Unii Europejskiej.
3. Jeżeli prawo jazdy wydane za granicą zawiera ograniczenie terminu ważności, ograniczenie ze względu na stan zdrowia lub inne, należy to ograniczenie uwzględnić w wydanym prawie jazdy.

This second section is what we foreign types were told to do about it – assuming we didn’t already have a Polish license. For further advice about the photos you can refer to Island1’s earlier post.

Good news is that there is no need to pass any exams again. It would be good if we could see Your driving license – is there a date of expiry or any info about health requirements. The list of needed documents – all originals:

• 1 photo (dimensions: 3,5 cm x 4,5 cm), without a hat, without sun glasses,
left side, seen left ear, with regular light of face
• British driving license
• certified translation of British driving license
• passport
• residence card

Additional documents to sign (prepared by Expat): power of attorney , request, declaration (attachment to request) Total cost: 92,50 PLN

When picking up new driving license we have to give back the old one. It takes approximately 1-2 months to get the new one since application.

If I might summarise from a “man in the street (in a car)” perspective.

Swapping your EU license for a Polish one:

The Good Points

  • You will be fulfilling the requirements of the law to the fullest capacity possible – you little goody two-shoes!
  • You will deny the more awake policemen the opportunity to point at your license and wag their fingers at you. This assumes they have asked how long you have been in Poland beforehand.
  • If you drive more in “home” country than in Poland, you may be able to slip under the radar there in future by showing a Polish license and muttering things like “Kurcza! Czy pan rozumiem ze ja nic nie rozumiem? Cholera jasna! No!”.

The Bad Points

  • You will finally be fully qualified to start collecting points, fines and other nice things.
  • No longer will you be able to get away easily by rattling on about Manchester United and how much you love Poland in an endearing cockney accent.
  • It’s going to cost money and involve visits to nasty Urząd people.
  • You’ll lose your EU license, although the Polish one should be just as useful elsewhere.
  • Somewhere in a dark office in the basement of PKiN, the blob on the radar associated with your name will get just a little bit brighter.

The choice, is yours.

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30 thoughts on “Polish driving licenses

  1. b. państwo trzecie, którego wzór prawa jazdy jest zgodny z wzorem określonym w Konwencji, o której mowa w lit. a
    w okresie 6 miesięcy od daty rozpoczęcia stałego lub czasowego pobytu, nie dłużej jednak niż przez okres ważności prawa jazdy.

    it only applies to “other” countries

    1. państwo członkowskie Unii Europejskiej – w okresie ważności prawa jazdy;

    as long as your EU driving license is valid is also good in Poland

  2. Thanks lukasz. I had a vague recollection of such rules, and know that that’s how it is in other EU countries, but who knows how the Polish authorities think…

    I was a bit afraid about the part of having to be without licence for 1-2 months while waiting for a Polish one… But now I can stop worrying.

  3. Not so hasty! I’m being told emphatically that this applies to EU people. It all started when an insurance company refused to pay a claim because the driver had been here longer than 6 months and did not have a Polish license. I’m pretty sure the diver concerned was from EU country, Britain in fact, but I’m checking.

    It comes down to interpretation of the part “w okresie 6 miesięcy od daty rozpoczęcia stałego lub czasowego pobytu, nie dłużej jednak niż przez okres ważności prawa jazdy.”. I’m told this overrides the part “państwo członkowskie Unii Europejskiej – w okresie ważności prawa jazdy;” because it comes below and looks like it is intended to apply to all above.

    My argument is “Why bother to put “w okresie ważności prawa jazdy” after the EU at all, if it is to be changed a few sentences further down? Nobody can answer this yet because we’re not lawyers but our leasing companies are most definitely taking the view expressed in the post.

    I’ve badgered our admin dept enough now that they’re asking a lawyer for a definitive position. I’ll let you know the answer.

  4. Since I’m an American we don’t even get to swap our licenses. I need to take the “theory” test but, thankfully, not the practical. That is, of course, assuming I get around to taking the test. I’ll need to at some point because my US license will expire in 2013 or something.

  5. Not sure if it is of any consolation to you but the same applies to Polish people (and any other EU members) in UK. We have to change it after 6 months.

  6. Hey, Brad, life is not so bad. At least you get to keep your practical exam. People from Macedonia have to pass both tests in the UK, for example. And this costs much more than in the States.

  7. A Polish licence in Poland has yet another advantage. If one gets caught speeding by the police and produces a native licence, he will receive a penalty ticket to be paid within seven days (mandat kredytowy). With a foreign licence, he must pay cash on the spot, and exclusively in złotys. The points will be assigned in either case. Guess how I learnt that. Just my two pennies.

  8. I keep my US DL. I see no reasonable reason (whew) to change at all. When it expires each 10 years I just go back and renew in my home state. The more things you have your name associated with in a ‘foreign country’ the more you are in fact on the radar. Just obey the traffic laws (easier said than done). I have been stopped for speeding in the past and was billed so to speak – the Resident’s Permit works well to show you are legit and with the Shengan rules – who the heck is in Poland that much anyhow??

  9. Hmmm… just reading the explanation, there doesn’t seem to be a requirement on changing an EU licence.

    The law clearly states:

    On the territory of RP, a person can drive a permitted vehicle when possessing a valid foriegn driving licence issued by:

    1. An EU member country – within the validity period of the licence;

    2. A country:
    a. being a signatory to the Convention….
    b. being a ‘third party’ country, whose licence design is in line with the convention mentioned in a. in the 6 month period from the start date of temporary or perminant residence, but not beyond the validity period of the licence.

    No gramatical reference in any way whatsoever with 1. in part b. with its grammatical meaning clearly being that the 6 months condition refers to when the licence design was

    The grammer is crap (e.g. without the ‘validity period’ ending the meaning of the 6 months time in b. could be understood as referring to the period within which the licence design conformed with the convention), but the 6 months refers only to b. contextually and gramatically, and maybe a. by virtue that no mention was made earlier in a. as to how long convention licenses might be used. In fact since the licence validity period is mentioned in 1. as it is in point b., this clearly seperates point 1. from point b.

    Point 2 then goes on to advise that foreign licence holders can or may obtain a Polish licence and not that they must or are required to.

    Seems straight forward enough to me a non lawyer to quite properly claim as per lukasz that EU licence is valid as per 1.

  10. I was on the other side, living in Oz now and you’re only allowed to use your international – Polish one is not even recognised – license for a year. I’ve used mine for a bit longer than 2 and then had to pass theoretical and practical test to get local Aussie (Western Australian to be precise, every state has its own in here) one. Would be so much easier if I had a UK one, you can just swap those – must be something with the side of the road you’re driving on. But why would they trust me for the first year but not after that?

  11. Actually if you read it carefully, the punctuation makes the statement (relatively) clear. The semi-colon divides the statement 1 from the statements in 2. Since semi-colon is a separating punctuation mark and the colon after 2 is inclusive it makes it quite clear that EU licences are valid on Polish roads until they expire.

    The fine points of punctuation; Lynne Truss would be delighted :)

  12. gosh! it’s hard to find your way in the endless maze of Polish legal regulations. If we are a EU member state, driving licenses of all EU countries should be valid here, without totally unnecessary and inexplicable validity period of six months.

    One thing more – that’s not the discrimination of British or Irish residents but I think when switching from right-hand to left-hand traffic or the other way round one should pass an exam to ensure they get on with the traffic arrangement where everything is one the opposite side. I would be deeply afraid to sit behind wheel in the UK, afraid to get lost and cause an accident – maybe that explains why Poles cause so many accidents in the British Isles. BTW it’s horrible to operate the gear lever with the left hand, almost everything in the dashboard (aside from pedals, they’re in the same order – L: clutch, M: brake, R: gas) is also inversely – indicators, wipers – very tough…

  13. I couldn’t resist to mention here a story I read in a newspaper in UK about a French lorry driver who was taken to court for driving on the wrong side of the road. And he insisted that he drove on the RIGHT side!

  14. Yes, that email really made my day!

    I think you make a good point when you ask how many awake policemen are out there who would think of asking how long you’ve been in Poland. And if you lied – would they check? Worth the risk, me thinks.

    My wife got stopped a few months ago for speeding on the Katowice road, showed them her British licence (she’s Polish) and they made her pay a fine at the station within 10 days, and told her she would never get any points because the system between the UK and Poland isn’t set up yet.

    Thanks – but I think I’ll stick to my UK licence unless further pressure comes my way regarding company cars.

  15. I have been using my license from the Great State of Illinois and an International Driving Permit (renewed yearly) for over three years now. I was stopped once for speeding (doing 65 in a village with a 50 limit after hours on a German autobahn), and the police had no idea what to do with me. After hemming and hawing for fifteen minutes and hearing that I was teacher in a public institution, one officer said to the other, “He has no money, let him go.” I was given a very stern warning that I will never forget and which has left a great impression on me.

  16. mjn – spot on!

    Bartek – driving on the left hand side is ‘easy peasy’ – you only have to folow the car in front and aim at where traffic is going on junctions.There is always the probem of the empty juction though. More than once I have (especially first thing in the morning when the roads are empty and my brain is on automatic) turned on a jucntion into the wrong lane.
    The indicators etc all fall into place before you know it, and from what I’ve read/ heard most people prefer driving on the lhs after doing so for a while. Maybe it is something to do with the fact that a majority of people are ‘right eye dominant’ hence their dominant eye is more in line with the centre of the road and side of car (which helps in tight passing situations).

    L? M? R?
    Me no understand.

  17. Driving in England on the left side is much more save then driving in Poland on any side of the road.
    I’m driving in Poland several times a year.
    The weekends are famous for the amount of accidents.
    Reckless driving and alcohol are the major problems in Poland.

  18. Nit-picking time:

    Art. 94. 1. Na terytorium Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej … może kierować osoba posiadająca ważne zagraniczne prawo jazdy wydane przez:
    1. państwo członkowskie Unii Europejskiej – w okresie ważności prawa jazdy;

    So in my case that’s the UK; an EU Member State, and my driving licence is valid to 2027.

    2. państwo:
    a. będące stroną Konwencji o ruchu drogowym, sporządzonej w Wiedniu dnia 8 listopada 1968 r. (Dz. U. z 1988 r. Nr 5, poz. 40 i 44), (wykaz państwa w załączeniu)

    Does not apply as I’m covered by Point 1 …

    b. państwo trzecie, którego wzór prawa jazdy jest zgodny z wzorem określonym w Konwencji, o której mowa w lit. a
    w okresie 6 miesięcy od daty rozpoczęcia stałego lub czasowego pobytu, nie dłużej jednak niż przez okres ważności prawa jazdy.

    Does not apply as I’m covered by Point 1.

    “How long has Sir been in Poland?”

    “Well Officer, I last crossed the border between Slovakia and Poland on 24 June 2009, so less than one month”.

    “Is Sir zameldowany in Poland?”

    “As stated on my UK Driving Licence, my registered address is ……”

    End of conversation.

    My situation is made complicated by my attachment to my immaculate, one-owner, showroom condition 16 year old Nissan Micra, steering wheel on the right. I can see no reason, economical or environmental, to part with it. No one would buy it from me in Poland even if I did want to sell it, and in the UK, the money I’d get for it would barely cover the cost of the petrol used to drive it to Blighty.

    So while the Micra is still going strong (it has a Polish roadworthiness check annually, insurance cover via the AA), I will hang on to my UK Driving Licence.

    My wife has traded in her UK Driving Licence for a Polish one, drives a Polish registered car (paid for by me!), has a Dowód Osobisty* and is 100% legal in it.

    *And another thing. I refuse to have a Dowód Osobisty without the Polish diacritic marks in my name. Just because there’s no ‘ń’ in my name in my birth certificate does not mean I am Dembinski. In front of the Polish State, I insist on being Dembiński. And I have my father’s birth certificate, rescued from the rubble of Warsaw, to prove that he is Dembiński.

  19. Michael, a very timely comment. I received the following in the mail today from our admin guruette:

    We asked our lawyer for an interpretation of the Polish law concerning the use of British driving license in Poland. He suggested that as this rule can be freely interpreted by each Insurance company we should ask for an official statement from each of our car lease companies. So here attached the official confirmation from [XX Leasing Company] (as you drive their car), that you don’t need to change your British driving license. You can use it until you’re 70 or until the expiring date of the DL.

    You have to admire the lawyer’s comment that the law ‘can be freely interpreted’!!

    There was a letter attached from the insurance company responsible for my car, Austrian company. The insurance company feel, as many here do, that point 1.1 is clearly stating that driving licenses issued by EU countries are good in Poland until the license expires. However, as one insurance company has apparently already refused to pay on this basis it might be worth checking, or having a good lawyer ready to go into action interpreting the law in your favour!

    I suppose there remains the question of what I should do when this license needs renewing in March?

    Glad we’ve cleared that one up.

  20. This driving on the right business is Napoleon’s fault. Throughout the ages, knights have travelled on the left, so that upon meeting an assailant coming the other way, they could draw their sword with their right hand (89% of humans are right-handed), and take on the villain. This is the same reason that spiral staircases in castles are threaded the way they are.

    The French Revolutionaries, who introduced the world to months called ‘Brumiere’ and ‘Thermidor’, the 100-minute hour, the ten-hour day, exported driving on the right to the countries that Napoleon went on to conquer.

    “What have the French ever done for us?”

    “Forced us to drive on the right”

  21. Riding on the left also meant that you mounted/ dismounted your horse on the side of the road rather than in the (muddy and shitty) road itself.

  22. Re: “makes it quite clear that EU licences are valid on Polish roads until they expire”. I gather the state of some Polish roads is rather dire…
    Think I observe a mostly British licenCe and US licenSe spelling split, which leaves me with doubts about the origins of the author of this article? I get so easily confused :( having just read posts mostly from the British contributor, esp the excellent one about the British Embasy in Poland!!
    adthelad “a majority of people are ‘right eye dominant’ hence their dominant eye is more in line with the centre of the road and side of car (which helps in tight passing situations).” Great excuse to get back to Europe and do some more driving, tho’ I guess there is an easier scientific way for me to check this out!

  23. I’m from South Africa, but living in the Czech Republic – I haven’t got an EU or Czech driving icence, even though I have been living in CZ for a few years (and should have). My International Drivers Licence was issued on 4.4.2007 and expires on 3.4.2010.

    I plan to visit Poland this coming weekend and am a bit confused about the 12 month limit listed in the IDP for Poland. Does anyone know if this limit applies in the way that it cannot be used in Poland 12 months from when it is issued, or 12 months from entering Poland?

    What is the worst that can happen if it is 12 months from the permit start date and I get stopped for something? ;-)

  24. The clock starts ticking on the license the day you get it. Whatever date that is you have 12 months.
    However, I always showed my US license and never used the international one.

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