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Poland’s capital Warsaw is a massive city that had to be completely rebuilt after the devastation of WWII. There isn’t much of old Warsaw, which is a real shame. But its Old Town was rebuilt in such accurate style that UNESCO awarded it World Heritage status. This provides a welcome splash of medieval charisma to the capital. Many visitors to Warsaw opt for car hire when they arrive since the city is so spread out and the options for day drives are so enticing.
Who to Book With
There are plenty of choices for a rental car in Warsaw, especially if you pick one up right at the airport. Europcar and Avis are just a couple of the international chains on hand in the capital’s downtown districts. Wherever you rent a vehicle, it’s always a good idea to go online and book it in advance. This way you can rest assured the car you want will be ready at the best price when you arrive.
Best Time to Go
Warsaw’s climate is classic continental Europe. Summers are relatively mild at around 24ºC but also very humid. This is the peak tourism period when rentals are often at their highest rates. Winter is the slow season because it is so bitterly cold and snowy, with daytime highs of only 1ºC. Try a visit in the shoulder months of May or September to get the best of all worlds.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental in Warsaw, bring these items to the pick-up office:
- An International Driving Permit or an EU or UK driving licence
- A valid credit card to serve as a security deposit
- A second piece of photo identification, like a passport
- A print out of your rental booking
Warsaw is a massive city, so outside of the Old Town district you will need to drive or use public transportation to move around. There is a paid parking zone in the city centre that uses meters but has no time limits. You can choose one of the private parking lots if you don’t want to worry about feeding coins into a meter. Traffic in Warsaw is typical of most major European capitals, but made slightly more congested because there are no bypass highways around the city.
Our Guide to Poland contains more detailed driving information.
Warsaw’s city-operated tram and bus system is useful for visitors. There is a small metro line but it doesn’t offer the same convenience as the trams, which are really the best deal in town. Taxis in Warsaw are refreshingly cheap and easy to find on the streets. Outside of the Old Town core, you’ll need to rely on some form of transportation to get around the capital.
The most useful form of pubic transport in Warsaw is the tram. With some 30 lines to work with, the trams can get you to almost any point of interest in the capital from 04:30 until 23:00 every day. The Warsaw Transit Authority manages the system, with fares of just £0.50 per ride. It is also possible to buy one-day (£2), three-day (£3) and one-week (£7) passes that are both convenient and a good deal. Also worth looking into is the Warsaw Tourist Card that gives access to transport, museums and other attractions for £7 a day.
The bus system is more confusing than the tram network, but buses cover the more obscure nooks and crannies of the capital, including areas where the trams don’t go. Fares are the same as for the trams at £0.50 per trip.
Warsaw’s new metro line is small and caters primarily to residents commuting into the city centre from the northern and southern suburbs. Fares are £0.50 per trip but the single line in operation is of little use to visitors.
Taxis in Warsaw are actually a very good deal compared to taxis other European cities like London or Paris. When you get in a cab, the meter starts ticking at £1.50 and fares increase with the distance travelled. Each taxi company has different fares but you can typically get anywhere in the central district for £5. Be careful of unmarked, unofficial cabs and be sure the driver starts the meter when you take off.
With a car, it’s fairly easy to escape the confines of Warsaw and spend a day exploring the Polish countryside. There are historic spa towns nearby as well as well-maintained forests where locals go to walk and bike. It takes a while to actually get out of the Warsaw metropolitan area so allow yourself plenty of time for excursions.
Konstancin-Jeziorna – One of the closest destinations to Warsaw for a day outing is this historic spa town. It is famous in Poland for its clean air and rejuvenating spa facilities. There is also a massive public park in the centre of town that is ideal for lounging outdoors.
Kampinos Forest – Less than 30 minutes’ drive northwest of Warsaw by car is this beautiful pristine forest where residents go on weekends for a walk in the woods. People call it the green lungs of Warsaw since it’s so close to the city. Wildlife still lives here, and wide walking paths make the forest a perfect spot for a day in nature.
Lublin – Get up early and head out to Lublin, one of Poland’s most popular historic cities. In the Middle Ages, this town was one of the most important trading centres in Europe. Today, Lublin is a hot tourist spot for people who want a look at old Poland in its well-preserved medieval core where castles and traditional marketplaces still thrive.