Transport Options in Poland: How to Get Around

What's the best way to get around Poland? This is a pretty easy country to get around, whichever form of transport you choose. Here are a few tips to stay safe on your trip.

Photo © iStock/holgs

Except it can be frustrating if you decide to travel on the Polish roads by car. Many travelers swear that the Polish train system is the best way to travel to most of the cities.

However the question is: which is safer, to travel by train or by bus?

First choice: Train

Because it's cheap, it's convenient, and it's usually on time. You've got a choice of four types of train: express, inter-city, fast, and local. For travel between cities such as Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan, and others, the inter-city trains are recommended. The service is really good, you can buy tickets online, you can get help in English and travel is fast.

If you are traveling with children, or have no Polish at all, this is definitely your best choice. But beware of crowds during the holidays (July-August in particular) or on the major routes (Krakow-Warsaw on the weekends). If it is really crowded, then you have an option to upgrade to first class on longer trips. You will be then offered a quieter, more pleasant ride. First class cars generally are cleaner and definitely less attractive to thieves, who tend to focus on more crowded second class cars, as their favorite trick is to create a "crush" as people struggle to enter or exit the train.

When travelling by trains at night, be sure to take a sleeper as it seems to be safer from thieves, you can lock the compartment door while asleep. When looking for a place to sit, it might be better to sit with other passengers rather than try to find an empty compartment to sit in by yourself.

And, do not be surprised, when you see some stations as they can be rather dodgy! Although, in major cities, you can find the all the facilities (luggage lockers, phones, restaurants, money exchange, etc.) but in a small town you may only find a ticket window that opens only a few minutes before the train is due.

In cities like Warsaw, Gdansk or Katowice you can see beggars and homeless wandering throughout the place. The local governments try to take care of them, but occasionally you may see those people asking for money or food.

Second choice: Bus

If you don't like trains, you can travel around Poland by bus, but of course it is less comfortable than train.

Bus can be more useful if travelling in the mountain region, Lake district (Mazury) or for making local connections. And in some cases it may be necessary to take a bus because you can take it to almost all points in Poland. Where there is no stop in a very small village, at least you can get close to it.

The biggest problem you can have as a tourist is to get the right tickets and get on the right bus. In many cases there are no seat reservations. There are two main bus lines: the national PKS or the private line Polski Express. There are also numerous private buses operating locally, for example going from Krakow to Zakopane. You can get a ticket at the station (usually also the train station) or from the driver.

But beware

Organized groups of thieves and pickpockets operate at major tourist destinations, in train stations, and on trains, trams, and buses.

Warsaw, Krakow, and other major cities have higher rates of crime against residents and foreign visitors than other areas.

The tri-cities area of Gdynia, Sopot, and Gdansk are considered more dangerous areas for tourist than other sections of the country.

Thieves will target overnight trains and long distance trains. Most pick pocketing on trains occurs during boarding, so keep your money in a pouch inside your clothes for extra protection.

Local public transport

In the large cities in Poland the public transportation system is well developed. Traveling around a city is easily done using buses or trams or metro line (in Warsaw only).

In small towns local and regional bus services are widely provided. To avoid a fine when a man standing next to you suddenly shows a 'controller' badge and asks to see your ticket, validate it by inserting it into a metal box hanging on the wall of a tram or bus, or before you enter metro. Controllers commonly operate in the centers of the cities and take a cut of the fine and as a foreigner, you may come in for special attention, so spend a little on a ticket to avoid spending much more on the penalty.

Try to avoid travelling during rush hours, and delay your ride for an hour or two unless you want to see how it feels to be crammed into a tram or bus.

Also, Polish cities recognize their tickets only. Do not try to use a left-over ticket from Warsaw while in Krakow. There are other differences across the urban systems: some cities require that you punch your ticket twice or that you punch two tickets for lines that run at night or over longer distances. Try to communicate with fellow passengers to get an answer.

Last choice: Car

TRavelling by car can be a great way to see Poland, especially if you like independent travel. BUt it is the least safe method to get around. See our "Poland's poor driver record" article for more.

Jak moge dostac sie na dworzec?

Wherever you are planning to go always remember to protect your valuables, especially your passport, and try to get as many information as possible on the type of travel you are about to choose. It is also useful to learn a few Polish words just in case you need help on the way. (The phrase above is: "How do I get to...?)

Luckily for all, more and more Poles speak English and they are really helpful when approached for assistance by a foreigner or a tourist.

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  • Leila FONGLIN said

    Thank you very much for the information. I'm travelling alone, using train & local transport to see Poland. What you have written is very useful for me to plan my trip. Thank you

  • ken kosienski said

    No directions from Warsaw to Lipno.

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