Poland: Krakow – The best tips to know before you go

In Poland, Travel Guides
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**Useful to take in mind while reading the post 1 EURO = 4.25 PLN; 1 Pound = 5.00 PLN; 1 US Dollar = 3.8 PLN (approximate values);

Krakow

How to get there?

From Krakow Airport (John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice)

You have several options to get to the city centre from Krakow Airport.

Taxi (Fastest) – If you decide to take a taxi don’t pick the first taxi that you will see when leaving the terminal, unless you want a driver wearing a nice suit and driving a nice car. After living the terminal turn on your right and you will find others taxis companies (much cheaper than the ones there are closer to the terminal). It is very important to check the price per kilometer of each company, significant differences can be found (I will describe this better later on this post). Specifically from the airport you can easily negotiate a price with the driver. I think that a drive to the city center for 40-60 PLN will be a nice price.

Train (Middle term) – This one is my opinion the best way. You have a train station at the airport that can take you directly to the city center. Directions to the train station are very detailed at the arrivals terminal so just follow them. You can buy the train ticket in the railway platform (you can select the English menu). A single ticket costs 8 PLN. If you are a student you have 50% discount but be aware that they don’t accept your national student card, only ISIC or polish student card. You can check the timetables here. Select “Krakow Lotnisko” (Lotnisko means airport in polish) as your departure and “Krakow Glowny” (Main train Station) as your destination, assuming that you want to reach the city center.

Bus (Cheapest) – There are some bus that can take you to the city center but he trip do not take less than 50-60 minutes. However it is the cheapest way, a single journey costs 5PLN. I will describe below (in the topic about public transports) how you can check the bus number, bus stops, timetables, etc.

From Katowice (Katowice International Airport – Also known as Pyrzowice)

If you are flying to Katowice (located +/- 100 km from Krakow). First of all, the name of the airport is: Katowice-Pyrzowice so don’t be surprised if you will not find “Katowice” but “Pyrzowice” to refer the airport.

There are 2 main bus companies doing the shuttle to and from Krakow: Kraków Pyrzowice Express and Matuszek Airport Bus Service. The price is similar (43 – 44 PLN) so it will be a matter to find the one that better fits with your arrival time. One important note: you can buy your bus ticket, if there are still places available, directly from the driver but it will be a bit more expensive (around 50 PLN)

Currency – best exchange rate

Poland has its own currency – the polish zloty. My recommendation is to bring some cash with you (especially if you have euros, dollars or pounds) and to exchange it in an exchange currency office (Kantor, in polish, means exchange currency office). Avoid the offices at the main square, they have worse rates than the ones that are just a bit further. According to my experience the best currency exchange offices are located in Kalwaryjska Street (Close to Kazimiers, on the other side of the river). No matter the office you choose always negotiate! Higher the amount that you to exchange better will be the rate that you can get. You can have an idea if the exchange rate is good or not by checking previously the rate in the National Bank of Poland.
If you don’t want to bring cash with you I recommend you to check with your bank the rates that they are offering. I think it will be cheaper to take some cash at the ATM and avoid paying with card but maybe your bank has some nice deals to offer. Once again avoid the ATMs in the main square and check 2 or 3 to see which one is giving you the better rate. Yes, the rates can change between ATMs.

Public Transports

In my opinion, public transports in Poland are just awesome! All the main cities in Poland have really nice public transports! The best thing about it is that you can plan your trip from one place to another easily with Jakdojade. You can plan your trip in their website or you can download the app. Jakdojade is really user friendly, simple to use and it’s in English! It gives you all the information like: type of transport – bus or tram; number of the bus/tram; price of the trip; etc.

What about the tickets for public transports?

Trams and buses

The price of the ticket will depend on your trip time and it’s valid for trams and buses. This means that you can buy a ticket for 20 min. (2.80 PLN), 40 min. (3.80 PLN) or 60 min. (5 PLN). You also have the option to buy a ticket for 1, 2, 3 or 7 days. It is up to you. You can check the prices of each ticket here. Once again, if you are a student (and under 26 years old) you have 50% discount and far as I know they are quite O.K. with your national student card, but honestly I wouldn’t put my hand in the fire for that. Regarding the zones of your ticket, you have two options: Zone 1 or Zone 1+2. You can check the zone you are travelling to here (zoom in to see the zones. They are identified as “Strefa 1” and “Strefa 2”, which means Zone 1 and 2, respectively). I can tell you that if you plan to see only the main attractions of Krakow, Zone 1 will be enough.

Where and how to buy?

Another nice thing about the public transports in Krakow is that you can buy your ticket on board (you have some ticket machines at some stops as well). I will say that more that 90% of the public transports have a ticket machine on board which is awesome! Look for the symbol presented in the image below and make sure you enter in the tram carriage that has that sign.

Automat biletowy in the carriage

Ok, now you are in front of the ticket machine and you don’t know what to do.

Ticket machine

It’s peanuts, no worries! Select the English menu and you have the  first menu option (see the image below). Here you have to select the Zone that you want (Zone 1 or Zone 1+2) and if you are a student select the “Discount” option.

Menu - ticket machines

Then you have a second menu (image below), here you will choose the ticket that fits the best for your trip (remember to check the time of your trip with Jakdojade to make sure that you choose the proper time). After that you just have to pay. The machines inside only accept coins, even if there are some new machines in some buses that accept credit cards. If you don’t have coins at all you can buy your ticket in the ticket machines available at some stops. Anyway, just in case, have some coins with you.

select the type of ticket

One last step: stamp your ticket just after you bought it in the machines also available on board (image below). This last step is really important otherwise your ticket won’t be valid.

machine to validate tickets on board

One last tip, inspectors are common so my advice is not to risk. Better safe than sorry (or… better save than be fined!).

Shopping

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Taxis

Taxis are, in my opinion, tricky in Krakow. The main reason for that is that you can find several taxis companies with big differences in the fares per kilometer. I will say that a fare of 2.8 PLN is fair and nice. However there are some taxis, such as Mega Taxi or iCar, that have better prices (1.80 PLN/kilometer) but can’t be taken on the streets (even if you see one free). Those are only available by phone, website or by their mobile app. Unfortunately the apps and the websites are currently only available for polish phone numbers so my advice will be to call them. For Mega Taxi you can call +48 88 77 196 25. On the other hand, for iCar, call +48 12 653 55 55.  Another option, which can be quite cheap as well is Uber. For this one, their mobile app is available for all the phone numbers.

Rent a bike

I strongly recommend, specially if you are in Krakow only for 2-3 days, to rent a bike and visit the city by bike! There a few bike rental offices in the main square, such as Lucky bike, Two wheels, KRK Bike Rental, Cruising Krakow, etc. You can rent the bicycle per hour or per day. The prices (between 40-50 PLN/day) and conditions are similar for all of them, so it will be a matter of choosing the best location for you. Some of them also have students discount. Keep in mind that they will ask you for a cash deposit, usually around 200 PLN and for an I.D.

Tipping

About tips. In fact the service is not the best in restaurants and bars. Don’t be surprised if you will not be received even with a smile. However, the truth is, even if they don’t have the best costumer service, it is common to leave at 10% tip, especially in restaurants.

Safety

Krakow is a safe city. I never had any problems. I will just recommend you to avoid Nowa Huta district at night. Oh! And be aware of the nice girls especially in the city center! You may end in a night club with a huge bill, but it is up to you!

There are rules

I will say that there are two rules in Poland that you must follow. The first one is to not drink in public places, it is illegal. The second one is to only cross the streets in the proper pedestrians crossings, there is a huge possibility to be fined for that!

Enjoy Krakow.

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