About getting around in Poland
Roads are generally OK, though not up to German standards. See our tab about driving in Poland. Key points to note are the rules on driving with headlights on 24/7 and staying off the verges, as they’re usually soft and often conceal a ditch!
Also, the police in Poland are vigilant and will fine you for driving offences. And speed cameras are very “popular”.
The only stretches of toll road in Poland are on the A1, A2 and A4. Coming to Kamionka Wielka, the only toll you’re likely to have to pay is on the A4, between Katowice and Krakow.
Note that a little way after Krakow, on what is a very busy route to Eastern Europe, the motorway ends and the road becomes one lane in each direction. This is, to be brutal, better than the motorway Rajmund and I drove on towards Warsaw in 2011, which simply ended.
Ticket validating machine – use it as soon or risk a fine!
Read About validating your ticket
Buses and trains
Once upon a time … well, once upon a time Polish transport was essentially a state monopoly under the PKP (train) and PKS (coach) companies. Since 1989 things have changed and although you will see trains and buses operated by PKP companies, this is at least in part just a hang-over – regional and independent companies operate as, for example, PKS Nowy Sacz.
You’d think trains would be the faster and more expensive option, but Poland’s railways and railway companies have not seen investment at the level of the roads. Tracks often need repair and require low running speeds and trains are elderly and bought second-hand.
There are exceptions, of course. The inter-city expresses are comfortable and fast, but more expensive. But Krakow to Warsaw on the EIC takes 3 hours, compared with up to 5½ on a slower service.
Night trains operate longer national and international routes, with sleeper cars – for example, the Jan Kuiper operating between Warsaw and Amsterdam and the Krakow to Prague sleeper train.
Coaches rule most routes – regional and national, though probably not international. Many coaches are up to European standards – with access, A/C, TVs and on-board toilets.
Local coach and bus services operate as you’d expect – retired long-distance coaches become local coaches and retired city buses become locals. You’ll also find that independent local services (up to two hours, say) operate using mini-buses.
You can find timetables on line, often by simply typing “bus origin to destination” into Google – the same with trains.
Ticket options grow with distance – discounts, booking in advance, booking over the internet, all more likely with longer journeys.
Unlike more “modern” cities further west, larger Polish cities did not pull up their tram tracks and instead the systems kept running throughout the 1960s and 70s into the current day. You will see some fairly “antique” tram cars (well maintained/restored, historic models) but you’ll also realise that they are mixed with cars which are right bang-up-to-the-minute with electronic information boards and digital ticket machines.
Tickets for trams are sold at kiosks, machines at the tram stops and on a pay-the-driver basis.
You’ll find trams today in: Bydgoszcz, Częstochowa, Gdańsk, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Grudziądz, Katowice, Kraków, Łódź, Poznań, Szczecin, Toruń, Warsawa and Wrocław.
As an example, the Kraków Tramway comprises 22 ordinary and 3 night lines with a total track length of 347 kilometres (216 miles).
The only underground railway in Poland is the Warsawa Metro – which consists at the moment of one N-S line of 21.7km, with 21 stations, between the centre of Warsaw and its main northern and southern suburbs. An extension to the original line and one further line are under construction, with one more “in the pipeline”.
By contrast, the Warsawa Tramway has 25 lines and about 240km of track.
Internal flights can be as cheap as other options.
Fine, if you want to travel from close to one airport to close to another, but remember that although time in the air may be short, total time door to door will add up.
Also, some airports have better connections to their linked city than others. Contrast Krakow with Katowice, Warsaw Chopin with Warsaw Modlin.