Will be in Krakow middle of Oct. Has anyone been to Auschwitz recently- how did you do it-private tour,independent -any recommendations?
Some people find it easiest to get a tour that includes transportation and a guide at the camps. But it is possible to do it entirely yourself if you prefer. You can take a "mini-bus" from Krakow (the bus station is adjacent to the train station). You can buy tickets in advance - you want a ticket to Oświęcim (Polish name for Auschwitz). You can confirm that the bus goes to the camp, but tourists take these all the time. My mini-bus dropped me off on the street at edge of the big camp parking lot (maybe 1/3 mile walk to the entrance). Some mini-buses seem to depart back to Krakow from the camp, and when I was there a bus schedule was posted there - but the bus I expected never showed up. However, I simply walked back to the street where I had been dropped off in the morning and took the next mini-bus back to Krakow (bought a ticket from the driver). I didn't have to wait long.
If you get to the camp before 10am, you can enter without a guide. After that, you must go in with a guide - you can join a guided tour at the entrance (for a fee, though just entering the camp is free). You can also enter late in the afternoon without a guide - and off season, I believe, this restriction is not in place at all. You may still wish to hire a guide or join a tour in any case - a personal choice. I did it alone and wanted to go around at my own pace.
There's a free shuttle bus from the Auschwitz main camp to the Birkenau camp nearby.
It was 2013, but we did it on a tour, and having a knowledgable guide point things out and tell stories was immensely helpful. They did not rush the group. Make sure you go on to see Birkenau.
Thanks-anecdotal info helpful.
We went today. It was really very easy to do the trip independently. We picked up information from an official TI yesterday that showed the times for the bus and the price (14 zl and 10 zl for seniors). We had purchased our Tickets for Auschwitz on line several months ago. There was no additional charge today.
We arrived 15 minutes before departure time. The bus station is behind the main train station. The bus station is on 2 levels, D platforms on one level and G platforms on the other. Our bus left from G1, the top level. You can purchase tickets from the driver and he will make change. The coach arrived about 10 min before departure and left right on time. We were dropped off in the parking lot at Auschwitz. The bus was full but no one had to stand.
Since we arrived early we had coffee and fruit in the cafeteria.
They were very strict about the size of bag you could bring in. Anything larger had to be checked.
We weren’t allowed to enter the security line until 15 Minutes before our tour time. After security we picked up the audio equipment to hear the guide. There were 2 English tours at our time.
The guide was excellent. It was all very organized. After touring Auschwitz we had a 20 minute break and then met the guide at the bus stop to take the free bus to Birkenau (only a few minutes ride). We then took the shuttle bus back to the original parking lot.
The return bus to Krakow left from the parking lot, same place as the shuttle bus to Birkenau and same place as we had been dropped off on the first place. They had the return bus times posted and they matched the times the TI had given us. Again, it was a coach, not a mini-bus.
Much appreciated info-thanks.
If you get to the camp before 10am, you can enter without a guide....
Got some questions about this...
I'm in Kraków now - just arrived. Without a reservation. Of course, looking online, reservations are essentially non-existent for the days that work for us. Going without a guide would be ok with me, as I don't really feel a great need for that (have the book), but gaining entrance is the thing I'm looking for.
I'm seeing conflicting info here and in the Rick book and on the Auschwitz website. Website says the Museum opens at 7:30 am, and says "These are the hours of entrance to the Museum."
Does that mean one can simply show up at 7:30 or 8::00 am - without a reservation - and enter then? In other words, all the constraints and challenges of booking a slot are really only for those who want to arrive and enter at 10:00 am or later?
That seems too good to be true, but Rick's book hints at that (multiple references to the challenge being going at "busy times") and Andrew's post above...this suggests all one really needs to do to get in without a reservation (even in peak season) is just to get an early start (which is what I'd like to do anyway).
Can someone connect these dots for me? Is the solution just "get up early and there's no problem gaining access" (as long as you don't want/need a guide)?
Thanks for the clarification!
So, if you’re there before anyone else, you can usually get in? That is, it depends on how dedicated you are and how many other dedicated early-risers show up? Local “TI” booth said they had limited tickets, but if you’re among the first, likely you get in...
Well, we’ve been getting up crazy early on many days to go out for photos on this trip...
I don’t need an ironclad guarantee. I can play the odds, if being there by 7 means a very good chance of being let in (that’s assuming few people get there at 7, and the available slots are more than a few). Is that a reasonably good bet?
My experience in Mid-May was similar to Eef's but we took a tour that picked us up. We were on a two week trip to Poland and did everything else by ourselves/independently. I'm glad that we took the tour because it was a cold, rather miserable rainy day. Trying to find out way around with umbrellas, people huddling under any shelter, etc. was difficult. So, the weather issues, which can't be predicted made the day more challenging, thus the tour van picking us up on time at the hotel was great.
Be aware that Birkenau is massive while Auschwitz is rather compact. The pace of the tour was a bit challenging at Birkenau, but it gave me a bit of insight into the daily life of a prisoner. Bring rain gear and leave it in the van unless it is a glorious sunny day. Also, the twenty minute break goes quickly with crowds racing for the restrooms- bring some coins as there is a charge!
Update for any future readers that faced the same dilemma (no reservations, none available)...
We hired a driver (one recommended in the Rick Book). Per my request, he picked us up at 6:10 am, with the goal of getting us there by around 7:15ish. I wanted to beat the people on the first public bus, which we were told would deliver us there at 7:30. We did arrive around 7:15 (early Sunday morning, zero traffic). There were about 8 people in line already, waiting for the ticket office to open when we got there. They opened at precisely 7:30. By then, there were probably a total of about 100 people in line (as I had suspected, when the first public bus arrived, about 10 minutes after us, many people headed our way - that 10 minutes made a big difference in our position in the line). We bought tickets easily. I did not see how many others got tickets too, as we entered by 8 am, but it seemed like there would be plenty of tickets for those waiting there when they opened at 7:30.
Bottom line: if you don't have a reservation and none are available, get up early, get there by 7:30 (earlier if possible) and it seems like almost a sure thing to get tickets. But do not dawdle: they surely were turning people away by the time we left a few hours later.
The visit was very worthwhile, emotionally draining. Highly recommended, of course. I'm really glad we were able to get in (and, being among the first let in, there were only a few other people for the first 30-45 minutes, a bonus benefit to reward one for getting up early).
Hope this helps someone.