How I got a Polish drivers licence

“Just let me know when you will be driving and I’ll make sure to stay at home at that time…” Those were the comforting words from a work colleague upon learning that I was about to take driving lessons in Kraków. To get a licence in Poland as a foreigner is possible, and while many have done so, they tend to take the easier path of using an existing foreign licence to receive a Polish one. Instead, I was about to do it the hard way, having never had a driver’s licence before.

It was about one year ago when I figured that it was about time to start learning to drive. I had just moved from a job where I could walk 15 minutes to get to work, to one where it was more like 15 kilometres one way to get there. I had spent the previous 10 years telling myself that I did not need to drive, and for most of the decade that was true. When living in Ireland, I had been in the lucky position that I had been able to travel by foot or bus to work, and during 5 years in Dublin, I was living in city centre locations. While this usually meant most amenities were within touching distance, it also meant that there was no point in having a car that would not be used and would need a paid parking space.

"Take a left... No! Your other left!"

Polish regulations stated that before attempting a test, 30 hours of theoretical learning and 30 hours of practical learning were needed. Thus I first sat down to the books and a few weeks later, began sitting in a little Toyota Yaris for practical lessons. By mid-May I was ready and a test was scheduled. However, as the exam came closer, I made the mistake of speaking to some Polish colleagues and friends. The stories began to pop up about how everyone fails their test the first time, and no-one can pass a Polish test unless the instructor might be given a little ‘assistance’. As the day came closer, this lead to a little anxiety. Two tests were required to be passed, the theoretical and practical. I had scheduled both to take place on the same morning, although it is possible to try both tests separately. On the morning of the tests, I joined about 15 others in the room for the theory exam. This was fairly simple, as it was possible to attempt the test in English or German, as well as Polish of course. 18 questions needed to be answered, with a minimum of 16 correct to pass. With 17 right answers within a couple of minutes of starting, I walked out of the theory test with a confident step.

A pass is a pass

However that turned out to be a somewhat of a false dawn. I had a long wait ahead before an examiner would be ready for the practical exam. In the two hours that followed, nerves began to grow. I had asked an interpreter to attend the exam also, as I was concerned that I would get instructions wrong and fail as a result. However, the interpreter had not been involved in translating for a driving test before and she was as nervous as I was. She was chatting away about her experience in failing a couple of times when she attempted her test, and this was not helping me. Eventually after some time, my name was called and away we went.

The first challenge was to open the bonnet of the car and look at the engine. The examiner asks you to show something from the engine area to ensure basic car knowledge. I needed to just indicate where the brake fluid is maintained. However, I froze. I had a mental image of the engine area in my head and the real-life example in front of me was different! My interpreter then opened the 1000 page dictionary she had brought along trying to see if she could help… After a moment , I took a guess in the general area and got lucky. Then I moved into the car tself and had to do some simple practical examples before going on the road. First was the J-curve, where the car starts in one box and has to navigate a corner and end in another box. Then the same route has to be attempted in reverse. So far, so good. However, then the nerves set in again. Next up was a hill-start. The car was stopped on a little hill and needed to be started from the hand brake. First time around, I conked the engine and failed. If I failed a second time, the whole exam would be failed without even driving on the road. At that stage, I decided I had made enough mistakes, and did a good hill-start. About 30 minutes driving around the streets of Kraków without incident followed. As we got back to the test centre, I was mildly surprised to find out I had passed without any errors at all. The examiner even said that if others drove as I did, he would probably have fewer grey hairs. However, the assistance of a pretty young interpreter probably did help also, as the examiner mentioned upon finishing.

"He's got a ticket to drive..."

After all the drama, I had passed my test first time, and in Poland with its demanding roads, and challenging drivers!

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35 thoughts on “How I got a Polish drivers licence

  1. Chris says:

    Now I know why my heart was in my mouth when on the road in Poland. ……..LOL

  2. Decoy says:

    In fairness, I tend to move in the same 20km radius in Kraków, so I guess only if you move in a similar circle should you be on edge!

  3. rjblock says:

    Well done. I know just how you feel. When I moved to London in the 1990’s my company gave me a spanking new BMW and then after about 2 months the HR department kindly told me that I needed to have a UK driving license or they would have insurance problems. I took some lessons as I was not accustomed to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and wanted to be fully prepared to take the exam.

    I was as nervous as a flea before the dog was trimmed and had what I would call flop sweat the day of the exam. Low and behold the examiner was a nice 35 year old lady from Surrey and even though everyone said not to chat with the examiner I figured it was my nature so why not.

    We started out well driving through the Woking area and I was 95% through when she asked me to to the correct stop – parking brake etc (which I was never used to using) and I stalled the damn thing. I turned, smiled and said ‘well I guess I blew it’, fortunatley she said nothing and did not note it and as sweat poured down my bak as wel reached the testing location she told me I passed but just needed to work on the parking brake a bit more. I took her advice and have never used the damn brake again!

    I hope you will enjoy your new found freedom, driving and mobility are two great things as you will discover. Be careful on the Polish roads, the drivers here are dangerous and certainly never heard of the concepts of courtesy and allowing others to ‘merge’.

  4. Decoy says:

    Yep, I’ve had almost a year on the roads, and while the freedom is great, I have wondered a few times if it’s worth it due to the Polish roads. However, the other school of thought is that if you can drive in Poland, then you can drive almost anywhere.

  5. Anonymous says:

    just wondering who provided this young interpreter?

  6. Decoy says:

    She was a friend of a friend, who specialised more in documentation translations but was available.

  7. Wiola says:

    A job well done. Congratulation!

  8. airam says:

    You did well – congratulations! I was so nervous that when the examinator came and we left the test centre to go to the car, I…couldn’t remember where I parked the car! We found it though and now I’m a driver as well, drvier od siedmiu bolsesci though. That’s the Polski leraning to drive in London for you.

  9. Decoy says:

    Thanks guys!

  10. Chris says:

    BTW…forgot to say Congratulations to you. :)

  11. Decoy says:

    Thanks Chris!

  12. Will McNeice says:

    Well done. I’ve been driving in Wroclaw for 6 months and it’s a terrifying experience every time, especially when they switch off the traffic lights at night. Do they do that in Krakow too? I think they do it for fun, just to keep drivers on their toes.

  13. Decoy says:

    Thanks Will. I have seen a few spots where traffic lights change from red/orange/green to blinking orange in the evenings, but never switched fully off.

  14. Zoe says:

    Hello, maybe you know if there is some place where i can find the questions?…i have to make the test by computer now..tks

  15. Anna says:

    Hello Decoy, very good your chronic, you can tell me where I can get the manual for study in English? Thanks

  16. Decoy says:

    Hi Anna,

    I received the manual when I signed up for the driving school. They included it in the price of the foreigners course, so unfortunately I do not know where you would be able to source it ‘publicly’.

  17. Emma says:

    Dear Decoy

    I am an EU citizen living in England, and I want to sit my driving test in Poland because it’s much cheaper. I know it’s possible to pass the theory in English and get an interpreter for the practical test

    However, I’ve read on several pages that it’s very hard for foreigners to register for the test in Poland, because they first need to have proof of living there for over 3 months in order to get a 5-year residence permit registration in Poland. Apparently this is hugely complicated and would take months. I only have a few weeks in Poland to pass the test.

    Did you need all this registration stuff, or has the law perhaps changed recently? (the pages I read were older than your article).

    Many thanks for advice anyone,

    Best wishes,

    Emma

  18. Anna says:

    It’s true, you must proof you have been living here in Poland at least 185 days. I got my driving license 2 weeks ago only was necessary presented the theory test in English and medical exam because I had driving license previously from USA. Good luck!

  19. Muhammad says:

    Hi, I am British and I got a United Arab Emirate ( DUBAI ) Driving License and I want to like change the Driving License in Poland, what is proceedure to change the driving license and what documents are required.

  20. Ray says:

    wonderful issues altogether, you just won a new reader.
    What would you recommend in regards to your submit that you made a few days ago?
    Any sure?

  21. Ray says:

    wonderful issues altogether, you just won a new reader.

    What would you recommend in regards to your submit that you made a few days ago?
    Any sure?

  22. Ryan says:

    I have just passed my test in Krakow and had the same experience, now they have changed the theory test and its alot harder, worst part is the translator whitch i had to pay 100pln an hour to sit in on the test,

  23. ali says:

    good information and best of luck that u hit the road i am from Asia have good driving experience but when i move with my girl friend in Warsaw, Poland. its really hard to drive … people just drive like they are driving in some race anyway i need some information that i have my country driving licence can i change to here in Poland i am doing job in Poland now…..

  24. Joachim says:

    HI. well done!
    Can you send me the contact for the drivingschool ?

  25. Anonymous says:

    Please also send the Motor Driving School phone No. for driving test

  26. Anonymous says:

    Please also send the Motor Driving School phone No. for driving test on my email t1s@live.co.uk

  27. Burak says:

    Hello it is Burak. I am from Turkey and I have the Turkish driving licence. I moved to Poland in January and soon in June my driving licence will not be valid ( as I know). and I will have to take exam. Here I see that some of you has the same issue. Here is my question: If anyone has English tests ? If anyone can share with me? Thank you in advance. Mail: akde@wp.pl

  28. joachim says:

    Hello. I do have driving license for car. Took it in Norway. I wan’t to take motorcycle and thinking of do it in Poland. But have not found any driving schools that I can take the test on. Most convenient for me is to take it in Gdansk. But do I really need to live in Poland in 180 days or can I fix something ? Can anyone help me ? If it is better to take it in Krakow is ok. Joachimlyngholm@yahoo.no

  29. Tum says:

    Hello Decoy,

    I have a question of process – what it looks like – where to you go to do all the stuff and do I need somebody all the time to help me on translation?
    Any address or place names will be really helpful I’m also looking for obtaining driving license.

    Thank you!

  30. moughal says:

    hi i have driving permit from pakistan i would like change in poland can it possable if any person know about it plz send me information thabks
    gram786@hotmail.com

  31. mathilda says:

    Hey there! Was wondering how long did it take you to do the preparation including the tests and when did you get your licence?

  32. Marceli says:

    Thank You!

    Are you going to become a driver?
    Feel welcome to Specjalistyczna Praktyka Lekarska Marceli Sternak” in Cracow.
    – medical certificates for candidates applying for driving license and making a renewal of this document (category B and A).
    The Cabinet is open every Wednesday from 15.30 to 17.00 (Kraków, ul. Śląska 11/10
    Tel. 606124032).
    Reliability, low price and English speaking doctor guaranteed!

    p.s.
    Please see a presentation with detail information (including how to get to the Clinic). http://youtu.be/YkKwvC0QkpM

    Yours sincerely,
    Marcel Sternak

  33. Marceli says:

    Medical test for driver’s in Krakow:

    Please feel more than welcome.

  34. Hey there! I just looked up “driver’s license Poland” in the internet, and you’re post appeared on the top. I am living in Kraków for one year, as a volunteer. Me and my french flatmate would like to pass our driver’s licenses during this year. Unfortunately I don’t know how so contact you personally through WordPress, but I have a few questions and I’m sure that you could give us some helpful tipps! We would be very grateful to hear from you! Best greetings from Kraków, Clara and Rodrigue.

  35. PS.: e.g. you could find me on Facebook as “Clara Hoodman” (there is only one)

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