Getting around Krakow
Updated: Feb 24
So you've decided to visit Krakow! Excellent idea, it's a beautiful city, with enough activities to keep you busy for however long you choose to stay. It can get tricky dealing with transport in a new city and working out the best way to fit everything in, so we have put together this in-depth guide on all things to do with getting around Krakow.
Krakow is a fairly small city that has a decent public transport system consisting of an extensive tram system around the city, which is supplemented with many more bus services.
The trams run all day and until 1:00 am on weekends, while the buses run 24/7, but have fewer services late at night. The city is divided into multiple zones starting from zone 1 in the centre of the city and moving into higher zones the further out you go. Most if not all of the accommodation and main tourist sights around Krakow are in zone 1 & 2 and when buying a ticket you will usually only ever need these two.
Speaking of tickets, they can be purchased on most buses, trams and tram stops from automated machines. Some accept cash, card and coins, while others accept only card or only coins, so it’s better to have coins available if you can. You can also purchase tickets through the app Jakdojoda. The great thing about this app is it also tells you how to get around the city, which services to catch and where from, and will automatically tell you which ticket to buy and even alert you if it expires while on your journey. The app is in English, as well as Polish. It also works in all other major cities in Poland.
There are multiple ticket options available, but the easiest and most often best option, is the 20 minute, single trip option, as you can get almost anywhere in Krakow in 20 minutes. Make sure you always have a valid ticket (and student card if purchasing a reduced-price student ticket) as the ticket inspectors in Krakow are out in force and not very forgiving. The ticket machines can also be changed into English and you will need to validate your ticket using the orange validator boxes (if in doubt just copy the locals).
Walking - Krakow is a pedestrianised city and cars are not allowed into the Old Town. It is also a fairly small city, with the majority of tourist sights in the Old Town and Jewish Quarter all within walking distance of each other. The city is centuries old and became Europe’s first Unesco listed city in 1978. Exploring at your own pace can be great, but with so much to fit into a few days, there is a lot you might miss out on if you don’t have a plan. Therefore one of the cheapest and best ways to really take in all of Krakow's beautiful architecture and rich history, is to join a free walking tour. Free Tours are very common in many cities and are based on tips so are very cost effective. Details on the tours and times can be found here.
You can get pretty much anywhere in Krakow by foot or public transport, but we all know sometimes we'd prefer just to be driven straight to our destination. You will find multiple easily accessible taxi ranks around Krakow's Old Town, as well as popular ride-sharing apps Uber and Bolt. Ride-sharing options are usually slightly cheaper than regular taxis but not by too much and the further you go (i.e. the airport), the more a regular taxi is likely to cost. It’s a good idea to get a rough estimate price first, just in case. The benefit of a regular taxi is they are allowed to drive into the Old Town and access many streets that ride-sharing apps cannot, whereas Uber or Bolt would have to drop you on the edge of the Old Town leaving you to walk a few minutes into the centre. This can be a big difference in choosing what service to take if you are staying in the Old Town.
Quick Tip: When booking a taxi, it’s always better to call ahead and book as it’s cheaper, and some unlicensed taxis can rip people off (for more scams to watch out for click here). You can also book a regular taxi through the app Free Now.
Getting to and from the Airport
If you fly into Krakow's main airport - (John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport) you have four main options for getting to the city centre. Bus, Train, Taxi, and Uber/Bolt (unless you have pre-booked an airport transfer).
The train leaves directly from the airport terminal and ends at Krakow's main station- Rynek Glowny. This station is located just next to the Old Town and Krakow's main shopping centre, so it's very convenient if you are staying in the Old Town, or are getting a connecting tram or bus to your accommodation. The trains are around every half hour and the journey takes around 25 minutes. Times can be checked on the platform (or from this website). A single ticket from the airport to Krakow costs 12zl (€3) and tickets can be purchased on the bus or train itself, or at the airport.
*occasionally there are maintenance works taking place on the train line, in which case a rail replacement bus, will you take you to and from the city. Tickets can be bought on the bus itself, but be aware you might need coins.
There are airport taxis stationed out the front of the airport, but these are more expensive than a regular taxi or Uber. If you order an Uber or Bolt from the airport to Krakow Old Town, it will arrive very quickly and the journey will take around 30 minutes for you to reach the city centre. It usually costs around 35-40zl (€8-10).
You can also take a public bus between the airport and Krakow’s centre. A single journey costs 12zl and takes around 45 minutes. Services 208 & 252 both operate between the city and the airport, with the 902 service operating through the night.
Some airlines fly into Katowice airport, which is about 90 minutes north-west of Krakow. If you are flying in or out of Katowice Airport, the best option is to get a bus from one of the private dedicated airport transfer companies as there is no quick or direct route via public transport. Flixbus offers tickets for as low as €5 when booked in advance.
Getting around the City Centre
When travelling around the city centre, there are multiple options available, and we have listed them below with a short description.
City Bikes - Wavelo
There was a bike-sharing system in Krakow called Wavelo, but as of December 2019 they have stopped operation in Krakow. There are rumours of a replacement company taking over in 2020- watch this space.
Private Bike Hire (and scooters)
There are many great Bike Hire companies around the city. Prices are around 50pln for 24 hours hire but vary depending on the kind of bike you want. One of the best places to go to is Cruising Krakow or KRK bike hire, some of the bike rental shops also have electric scooters or Segways available.
The two main scooter-share companies in Krakow are Hive & Bird. You download the app by scanning an available scooter and are then charged per minute. These are pretty fun to ride for a short time, but for a longer journey it can get pretty expensive. Like most other European cities, many of the scooters can end up broken or out of battery. They can also be dangerous when driven irresponsibly. Don’t drink alcohol and drive a scooter- it is a serious offence! If you do find one that works don't forget you can’t park them anywhere inside the Old Town.
Private Tours of the City
If you are looking for a guided tour of the city and don't want to use any physical effort and don’t fancy a Segway or hired scooter, then these options are for you:
Golf Buggies - Take a guided tour around the city in an enclosed golf cart with heating. The great thing about these is they can drive all over the city and are not restricted like normal cars. The price should range from 60 to 100pln per person, but you can normally negotiate with the drivers. They can be found Sławkowska street or booked here.
Horse Carriage - An excellent way to enjoy the city and feel like you are Royalty back in Krakow's Medieval time. They depart from the main square next to St Mary's Church, and the price ranges from 200 to 600pln depending on the time of the year and how long you want to ride.
Visiting Auschwitz Concentration Camp
There are two main options for visiting Auschwitz Memorial Concentration Camp from Krakow- either as an individual visitor, or with an organised tour operator. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Most visitors to Krakow opt for an organised tour as these include pick up from Krakow and transfer to the camp, guaranteed entry, guided tour of both Auschwitz and Auschwitz Birkenau II camps and a return transfer back to Krakow. Prices for these in Krakow are usually around the €35- 40 mark (150-180zl).
We do not operate tours to Auschwitz directly but if you need help arranging a tour, drop us an email at email@example.com with your name, amount of visitors, the date you would like to attend and address of your accommodation (if you know it) and we can arrange this for you. The price is 160zl (€37) and includes all transfers and fees. A round trip to Auschwitz will take around 6-7 hours, 3 hours return travel and a three hour tour of both camps.
Travelling as an individual visitor will usually work out the most cost effective way to visit Auschwitz and is a good option for backpackers on a budget. However it can also mean more hassle and often a very early start if travelling by public transport.
Be aware that due to overwhelming interest in visiting the camp, Auschwitz operates a reservation procedure for guests. The only way they can guarantee entry for individual visitors is with a reservation.
Reservations can be made for free through the Auschwitz website, but these can get booked up very quickly. If you haven’t reserved a spot and find the spaces are already gone, then best to try an organised tour operator. More information on individual reservations can be found here- visit.auschwitz.org.*
*As of March 2020 Auschwitz are revising their booking process, making it that all visitors have to register either directly through the Auschwitz website, or with an organised tour operator, 48 hours prior to visiting, so for many it will be best to try to arrange your visit prior to arriving in Krakow.
Public Bus - Getting the bus from Krakow to Auschwitz costs about 13pln, each way. The bus stop is a 10 minute walk to the entrance to Auschwitz and the journey takes around two hours. Given that a private transfer takes 6-7 hours round trip, on a public bus you can expect to add extra time onto that, once you factor in a little waiting time and getting to Krakow main bus terminal.
Once inside Auschwitz, you will also need to take a separate shuttle bus which operates for free between the two camps.
Train - The train is 9pln but a slightly shorter journey time of 1 hour 40 mins. You will need to get a train to the city Oswiecim then walk about 30 minutes to Auschwitz or take a local bus that takes about 5-10 minutes. The train and bus departs from Krakow main station Rynek Główny.
Again this involves taking a separate shuttle bus between the two camps.
Getting to the SALT MINE
Wieliczka Salt Mine is an extensive, warren of mining corridors dating back as far back as the 13th century. Over the centuries, the chambers have been carved into magnificent works of art including a crystal ballroom. The salt mines are one of three Unesco World Heritage sites in the area (Krakow Old Town & Auschwitz Concentration camp being the other two) and are well worth a visit if you have the time. A round trip from Krakow including a three hour tour, will take around 4.5 hours.
Much the same as when visiting Auschwitz, visitors can choose a private transfer or a public travel option.
Organised Tour - You can book a tour from Krakow that includes transfers from your accommodation or the Old Town, entry to the mines including a full tour and return journey to Krakow. It means you have a scheduled tour time and won’t have to queue for tickets in the busy summer months. If you would like to book a trip just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the date would like to go and we can arrange it. The price is 160pln and includes all entry fees and transfers.
You can also travel by public train or bus. This option will work out a little cheaper, but might take a little longer as you are relying on public transport. Entry to the mine is what takes up the majority of the cost and individual entry with a tour in English costs 93zl. It gets very busy in summer so it’s advised to book in advance either through an organised tour as mentioned above, or through the Salt Mines website if travelling individually.
Train - You can take the train from the main train station in Krakow. You need to take a KMŁ train to Wieliczka, and they usually leave once per every half-an-hour, and it takes about 20 minutes to Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia. The walk to the salt mine from the station is 500m and can be done via foot. Tickets for this trip cost 3.5pln(€1) and need to be purchased at the train station before entering the train. Entry to the mine is what takes up the most money and entry with a tour in English costs 93zl for .
Line 304 leaves to Wieliczka at the intervals of 20 minutes, and it takes about 33 minutes from Krakow to Salt Mines. The cost of a single ticket is 4.5PLN, The stop to get off at is Wieliczka Kopalnia Soli, and it's just around the corner from the salt mine.
Getting to Zakopane
Zakopane is an astounding mountain top city that is worth visiting if you have the time.
Train - There are multiple private bus companies that offer trips to and from Zakopane, and the best place to check and book them is here. Times and price vary depending on the company.
Krakow to Major Polish and European cities
Krakow has a great connection to many other European cities as it has one international airport and close to katowice international airport. The central train station also takes international trains. You can also use blah blah car to get to most cities from Krakow.