You don't need to pay for an organised trip to Auschwitz. Catch the PKS-Oswiecim bus which leaves from the lower floor of the bus station behind the railway station. Ask at the ticket office if you can't find it. Pay on the bus (about 18zl for a return ticket). The bus is slightly larger than a minibus and when I went it was driven fast on the bumpy roads, so be warned if you suffer from travel sickness! It picks up and drops off along the route, but it is obvious when you arrive outside the Auschwitz camp gates and the driver announced it on my trip. Your ticket has return times printed on the back and the bus picks up outside the gates where it drops off. Journey takes about 1hr.20mins. Frequency of trip varies but is about twice an hour during the main part of the day. You don't need a guided tour of the camp. Buy a small booklet (c.7zl) and read the comprehensive display boards. Entrance is free. Allow two or three hours for your visit.
Bus station on ul.Bosacka behind railway station.
Take the free bus from the airport to the railway platform about 500 metres from the airport and then catch the train into central Krakow.You can pick up a time table from the tourist information desk inside the airport. There are about three an hour.
A vibrant city rich in culture, art, entertainment and superb architecture, there is so much to enjoy here and at very reasonable prices.
However, if you intend travelling around and do not speak Polish you will not find it easy to purchase tickets at the railway station. I found the booking office staff singularly unhelpful and when I did eventually manage to obtain a ticket for my journey to Auschwitz it turned out to be invalid for the train I had specified. And there are strict on-the-spot financial penalties for those found in possession of an invalid ticket - 75 zlotys (15GBP).
So take my tip save yourself time and trouble and stick to the hotel excursions. You will be glad you did.
Krakow now has a fast train link (szynobus) between Krakow Balice Airport and the city centre. The journey form the airport to the main railway station in the city centre takes only 15 minutes, and costs only 3,8 PLN (= 0.65 GBP = 0.96 Euro = $1.2). The trains operates between 4am and 11pm. Initially there are 35 trips a day. Such a fast train link between the airport and the city centre is a first in Poland and eastern Europe. Isn’t it great?
Balice (Krakow) is a small airport and the transfer links to the city centre, some 17km away, are sparse, being two local buses or a local taxi. We arranged a transfer over the net the day before departure and, for 25 Euro (about £17) were met at the gate, had our luggage transferred to a very smart limo and were taken directly to the hotel by a native English-speaking driver, son of the owner of the business. Got a running commentary on the sights en-route free. By 10am we were checked-in and exploring the city - no worries. They arrange visits beyond the city boundary too.
Remember to get a luggage pass, the one time I went to Krakow the party I was with forgot and we were fined by the police, which was not a pleasant experience. You will not find obvious information to tell you to do it, nor will anyone necessarily suggest it before you get on, but you must do it and excuses aren't tolerated.
The centre of Krakow is entirely pedestrianised so that walking between the main sights is both quick and safe. Use the cheap and frequent trams to get to the historic outlying eastern districts such as Kazimierz and Plaszow. Avoid taxis for short journeys as they are expensive.
In the summer (May – September) several companies operate regular cruises on the river Vistula. You can choose from ½ hour cruises within the city boundaries, or a longer trip to Bielany or Tyniec and catch sights such as Wawel Castle, Manggha – Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Skałka monastery and Kosciuszko Mound.
Żegluga Krakowska offers a round trip Wawel-Tyniec Abbey-Wawel on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. (Tickets 20 PLN; concessions 15 PLN) and one hour river trips every day through Krakow (Tickets 12 PLN; concessions 10 PLN).
Piotruś Pan and Sobieski Boats have cruises to Bielany (2 hours) and to Tyniec (3 hours), every day from 10 a.m. until dusk.
River Tram has trips along the river through Krakow and to Tyniec. (tickets: 8 PLN on weekdays and 10 PLN on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; concessions 6 and 8 PLN respectively)
Board the boats at the Czerwieński Embankment (opposite Wawel castle, between Dębnicki and Grunwaldzki bridges).
tel: 422 08 55 or 663 165 910; www.zegluga.krakow.pl;
Piotruś Pan and Sobieski Boats
tel: 626 81 40 or 452 23 04; www.ster.net.pl
tel: 0 506 107 037; www.tramwajwodny.pl
I recommend this guesthouse for its location, just round the corner from the main square in Krakow, its price (£20-30 for a single room, £32-46 for a double) and for the very friendly helpful staff.
It provides clean simple en-suite rooms and flats arranged around an attractive courtyard off one of the roads leading to the main square. Breakfast is available in bars in the same road, or at the impressive Metropolitan which adjoins the Hotel Saski and ul slawkowska 3, a few minutes walk away.
Reviews of Globetrotter and other Krakow hotels can be found at www.cracow-life.com/krakow/hotel_directory.php which is where I found details of it. I would certainly stay there again.
Globetrotter can arrange lifts to and from the airport if needed. It can be reached easily by the airport bus which stops only five minutes walk away, but the bus can be very crowded on the way back to the airport.
The Krakowska Karta Turystyczna, valid for two (45 PLN) or three (PLN65) days, entitles the holder to free travel on city buses and trams (including the bus route no 192 from/to Krakow's Balice international airport) and to free entry to 32 Krakow museums. Cardholders also receive discounts in certain restaurants and shops as well as when buying tickets for local trips and excursions.
You can buy the card at the airport, tourist information centres, travel agencies and hotels.
1 Polish Zlotych = approximately 0.18 Great British Pounds (April 2006)
See www.krakowcard.com/ for more details.
One of the great things about Krakow is that most of the main attractions are all close at hand within the Planty, the park that defines the boundaries of the Old Town. But if you are staying outside the centre or want to go further afield, the city’s efficient bus and tram network kicks in. You probably won’t need to use it very often, but if you do, it’s helpful to buy a pass. You can buy one at the kiosk on ul. Lubicz, just in front of the train station. Remember you’ll need a separate ticket for luggage items larger than 60cm x 40cm x 20cm. Playing the dumb foreigner won’t work with the ticket inspectors if you don't have one.
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