Warsaw - Post Report Question and Answers

What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

No theft/carjacking risk, though I'd recommend something smaller inside the city itself. That said, folks brought American SUVs and were still able to navigate just fine. - Oct 2021

We brought a large GMC pick up truck. It was probably the only US truck in the city ;) Most people bring minivans and mid-sized SUVs, and of course, cars. The embassy guards loved our truck, it was definitely highly talked about. We only had trouble with the truck in parking garages and sometimes in the Embassy parking lot when it was full. We got a second car, a BMW wagon, because we wanted another car and it came in handy for parking issues we experienced in the truck. The truck was easy to drive around the city, on highways, and we actually had no trouble parking the truck with street parking around the city! It’s Europe so smaller is better but they had many mid-sized cars/SUVs. Many people had Jeeps, lots of people did the Dip sales for those. Poles don’t care about personal space around your car, don’t bring something you really care about; it will come back with a few dings and scratches. - Jan 2021

Virtually any dealer you can imagine for repair/parts. Different dealers (usually the obvious ones) were more expensive than others, though. Larger cars could be tight in some parking garages and you will want snow tires. - May 2018

Small to mid size is best either AWD or 4x4. We have a minivan and that is big for this country. - Apr 2018

We have a Ford Explorer, too BIG. Insurance in the DC area was $100 for 2 cars and here we pay over $200 a month just for the Explorer. Gas costs more too (even after the VAT back) and there is no COLA. Not the best roads, can't even compare the roads to Germany or Austria. Many potholes. - Dec 2016

Don't bring a huge vehicle because you will have trouble parking it. Parking garages are tight, and street parking is both somewhat chaotic and very tight. You will refine your parallel parking skills here. For driving outside the city, almost any car will work: the roads are not that great, but they are not third world bad. All-weather tires are a good plan.

I also would not bring a very expensive car because it you will very likely see it get dinged up due to the parking situation, or to aggressive Polish drivers. - Mar 2016

Small to medium because of parking spot sizes, but roads are decently wide and in good condition. We rely solely on public transportation and weekend rentals. - Sep 2015

Parking spaces are small here and roads can be narrow, so it's best to avoid bringing a large vehicle if you can help it. Fuel is expensive as well, though if you are a diplomat you will end up paying about as much as you would in the U.S. if you're coming from the States because you get the VAT and excise taxes refunded. A small SUV would work well here as long as you are prepared to deal with the tight parking spaces. American cars are quite common here and there aren't any restrictions when it comes to bringing one from the States. Of course, if you're a diplomat check with your embassy. It's quite easy to buy a new or used car here and departing diplomats and expats are always looking to sell their cars. Good service is readily available here. If you want to take it to the dealer and have it worked on by a certified Ford/Chevy/Chrysler (whatever) dealer you can have it done here but be prepared to be gouged at the same rate you would in the U.S. There are many highly competent service locations that can do the same work, or better, for much less. Parts are also readily available as well. Your embassy/company should be able to help you out on this. Carjackings are almost unheard of here. I've been here almost five years but don't recall hearing of a single carjacking incident in Poland during that time. What I have heard of, and had to deal with, is cars being broken into if thieves see something of potential value in plain view inside the car. GPS, bags, backpacks, cell phones, etc. offer a tempting opportunity. It's definitely a hassle to deal with a broken window anywhere in the world, and Poland is no different. Dealing with the police on this kind of a matter will eat up a LOT of your time and will only be helpful in terms of getting the report for the insurance claim. Don't expect them to solve the crime. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - don't leave anything of value visible in the car. Leave it in the trunk/boot of the car when at all possible. Speaking of cars - I heard a lot of people complain about Polish driving before I got here. Obviously those complainers had never lived or driven in Latin America or many other parts of the world. I find Polish drivers are generally safe and responsible, and drive as well here as they do in North America or other parts of Europe. That being said, I'm constantly amazed at some of the ridiculous and discourteous driving habits I've seen here. Poles are not always the most helpful when it comes to allowing you to change lanes ahead of them, particularly when it requires merging in heavy traffic. On the other hand, I like the way Poles will give a quick blink of the emergency lights to those drivers who allow them to merge in or otherwise make their drive easier. On one hand they can be courteous and at other times they can be madly impatient or impolite, sometimes exceedingly so. Probably the biggest threat to your safety in Poland comes not from crime but from driving out on the two-lane highways in this country. Be prepared for high-stakes games of "chicken" when driving at higher speeds, as people always seem to be in a rush to get around heavy trucks that tend to stack up along the highway and slow down traffic. I've seen countless numbers of high-speed near misses in my time here - ones that make me shake me head and shiver when I think about how close I came to a head-on collision no matter how safely I was trying to drive. I've also driven past the results of these collisions and it's not pretty. The papers are filled with endless stories of horrible crashes and it's particularly dangerous around major holidays when Poles take to the road en masse to go see their families. I read once that Poland has one of the highest vehicle fatality rates in Europe. Forewarned is forearmed!!!!! Another odd quirk about driving in Poland is that it's quite common for traffic on the right to have the right of way at intersections. I know this is common in most countries but for some reason Poland extends it to times when you'd think you had the right of way driving along a major road, and somebody coming from a small side-street legally has the right of way and will come darting out right in front of you. I've seen lots of diplomats and expats end up in fender benders that were their fault because of this. - Nov 2014

Small and fuel efficient is good, but people have everything here. I've even seen the really big American SUVs around. But fuel is expensive about $7 or $8 per gallon. Parking spaces and garages are small. Keep it in mind when planning. We brought our own car which is a midsize SUV and even sometimes that feels too big. Don't bring anything you don't want to get dinged because everything will. Drivers are very selfish and discourteous. The lack of respect for personal space translates to driving as well. My best advice would be to be mildly aggressive, highly defensive, and expect everyone around you to do something unexpected so you are always on guard and ready to react. - Feb 2012

Anything is good. Poles import a lot of American cars, which is surprising because gas is fairly expensive (around 5 zloty per liter) but some are driving American cars which get horrible gas mileage. - Nov 2011

Small car. - Aug 2011

Anything will work. Your primary concern is that the road system is worse than any US road system. High situational awareness is required when driving anywhere in Poland, as you can get into an accident by the craziness of the drivers around you. They do not typically drive in a safe manner. Especially in round-abouts or other intersection areas, the chance of accidents goes up significantly when folks are not aware of what is around them. Local police rarely enforce traffic violations, so the local drivers do not fear to do things that most normal drivers would consider ludicrous, including creating 3-car lanes in a single lane road, turning at intersections without ever stopping for the right-of-way traffic, running through crosswalks as people are crossing through them, etc. Drive something accordingly safe, and avoid driving little tiny tin boxes which, upon being hit by anything else at 10+ MPH, crumbles into dust. Get used to dents, scratches, etc., as those are just par for the game here. - Aug 2011

A smaller car is better than a larger one. Parking spaces are small and Poles are prone to parking too close to other cars. - Mar 2011

4X4 is fine, but you can do well with a small car. - Jan 2011

I would recommend small and with high clearance - the roads are terrible, and parking is always hard. European cars are more popular than Asian, therefore easier and cheaper to have repaired, and more desirable for resale. - Dec 2010

Small! - Feb 2010

Something sturdy, given the HORRIBLE conditions of roads here (outside of Warsaw). Folks at the embassy have cars ranging from regular sedans to SUVs and trucks. Gas is about 2 or 3 times the price in the US, and while available, car parts and servicing are very expensive. - Aug 2009

Even in Warsaw the roads could use a little work. There are potholes and very narrow roads. Your side mirrors are going to get beat up. We have a station wagon and I often wish it were smaller so I could park and get down roads with more ease. - Jun 2008

I would say buy something here since American imported cars cannot be resold on the local market due to EU regulations. I would go for a Honda Civic/Ford Focus type of car since the roads in Warsaw are not meant for big cars. German cars are the best bet. Despite its strategic location in Europe, Poland has the worse roads I have seen this side of the Urals. Major highways are two-lane roads that are shared with cars, bikes, trucks, and every other mode of transportation. There are plans to do a major overahul of the roads in preparation for the European Cup that Poland and Ukraine will be hosting, but it will be a while before the roads will be up to standard - Apr 2008

The roads are bumpy and the traffic lights are ridiculous. Traffic is a problem here. The local drivers are mostly male and love to lay on the horn and hall it to red lights. If you have any form of road rage, I suggest the tram. Buses and the metro are crowded and too many people don't wear deodorant. Car maintenance through the Embassy is expensive. - Feb 2008

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