Deciphering Number Plates: Poland

Deciphering Number Plates: Poland

Do you know why there wasn’t a single civilian vehicle in Poland after the First World War? Or why you won’t see the letter Q on Polish number plates? This article has all the answers. You will also learn how to recognise the vehicles of the Polish secret services.

8. 10. 2019 MODELS

In this episode, the Deciphering Number Plates series is visiting a country that has been made famous by figures such as Pope John Paul II, the writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, and the racing driver Robert Kubica.

The first number plates appeared on Polish territory in 1901, though only in those parts falling under the Prussian Partition. In 1906, number plates also started to be issued in the territory controlled by Austria-Hungary. There were so few vehicles in areas under Russian domination that no number plate system was introduced and the cars were simply numbered.

There were no civilian vehicles left in Poland after the First World War as they had all been confiscated during the war. The only cars available were at the disposal of the army, which gradually began to sell them into private hands. Following the reunification of Poland in 1918, both military and civilian vehicles were subject to military numbering – a black number on a white background. The first unified registration number system was not introduced in Poland until 1922.


The current system has been in place since 2000 and was a response to a change in how Poland is distributed territorially. Today’s Polish registration numbers have seven to eight characters, which are separated into two groups by a space. The first group contains two to three letters and indicates the territorial jurisdiction of the vehicle’s owner. The second group comprises four to five characters, of which up to two may be letters representing the series of the registration number. Since 2018, a control sticker affixed to the space between the sets of characters, and also attached to the registration papers, has been an extra feature enhancing vehicle security.

The system of territorial designation mirrors the administrative distribution of Poland. It is split into 16 voivodeships, which are further divided into districts and towns with district status (urban districts). The first letter of the registration number signifies the voivodeship the vehicle is registered in. If it is followed by a single letter before the space, this indicates an urban district; if it is followed by two letters, this denotes a district. For example, the registration numbers of the vehicles you can see in the photos begin with the letters PO. The P is the abbreviation for the Greater Poland Voivodeship and the O stands for the city of Poznań.

What is in a number plate?

The traditional blue stripe on the left became part of Polish plates as far back as 2000 so that they would be closer in appearance to those in the European Union. Initially, the stripe featured the Polish flag with the international code of Poland (PL). The national flag was then replaced by the 12 EU stars in 2006.

You won’t find the letter Q in Polish registration numbers because it is entirely foreign to the Polish language. In addition, the letters B, D, I, O and Z must not be used in the final four or five characters as they could be confused with the numbers 0, 1, 2 and 8. Only standard alphabet letters – no special characters – are used in registration numbers to make the Polish plates easy to read abroad.

Polish drivers may apply for a vanity plate, though they do not have complete control over the number because even these plates must start with a letter indicating the relevant voivodeship. This must then be followed by a number of the owner’s choice, and then five characters, the first three being letters and the remaining two letters or numbers. For the sake of example, the resulting plate could take the form R5 SKO94. Needless to say, expletives, insults and derogatory words are prohibited.


Besides conventional number plates and vanity plates, you may also encounter special plate formats in Poland. Vintage cars, for instance, feature yellow plates with black lettering and a veteran pictogram on the right-hand side. Diplomatic plates can be identified by their white lettering on a blue background. Security and law enforcement vehicles also have their own registration number format. They begin with the letter H and are then divided by organisation, e.g. police cars have plates starting with HP, while civilian intelligence vehicles have HK at the beginning. Military vehicles have their own separate format starting with the letter U.

It has been the Polish market’s number one for more than 10 years!


Answered by: Klaudyna Gorzan, PR Manager, ŠKODA Marketing Department,
Volkswagen Group Polska

How would you sum up ŠKODA's historical presence on your market?

ŠKODA’s presence on the Polish market has been full of successes and challenges. We have been the market leader for over a decade, a position we have achieved by relentlessly pursuing product and marketing strategies, underpinned by the confidence that Polish consumers place in us. We pay close attention to the changing market and new customer needs and come up with bold responses. Our pioneering spirit shines through not only in the way we constantly refresh the model portfolio and consistently develop our security systems, but also in our active approach to honing our competitiveness. We are a trendsetter, as exemplified by the first live TV commercial ever broadcasted in Poland, which was promoting the new FABIA, and our online service offering customers the chance to select from our range of new cars available for lease from the comfort of their own home.

What is ŠKODA's current status on your market?

We have just taken stock of the first half of 2019. With 34,672 registered cars, we have maintained our lead on the Polish automotive market. This result was underscored by high sales of the OCTAVIA and the FABIA (the cars Poles choose most frequently), and backed up by the growing popularity of two SUV models: the KAROQ and the KODIAQ. In the months ahead, we will see the expansion of the increasingly popular SCALA, a model characterised by emotional design and carefully crafted details.

In the second half of the year, another SUV, the urban KAMIQ, will also make its debut in the brand’s Polish portfolio. On top of that, the revamped flagship, the SUPERB, is a new addition to ŠKODA’s range.


Which models sell best on your market and how do they fare against competitors in their class?

For the Poles, the OCTAVIA and FABIA take lead the way when it comes to choosing a new car. The ŠKODA OCTAVIA remains a bestselling among Polish consumers, with 10,334 of these cars entering the country’s market in the first half of 2019. The OCTAVIA stands out because of its excellent value for money, which is why it is so popular. We are convinced the model’s new image, being prepared for launch in 2020, will consolidate its leading position.

Is there anything specific to your market or your country?

As a market leader, we want to constantly surprise our customers and stay ahead of the curve. We are a pioneer in the online selection of new cars. We are the only company on the market that enables both business and private customers to purchase a vehicle on lease via an online sales platform. Using the platform saves a lot of time. The whole process of buying a ŠKODA – from selection to collection and signing the contract – takes no longer than two weeks.