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Auschwitz/Berkinau

We will be visiting Auschwitz/Berkinau as well as Oskar Schindler's factory while in Poland. Does anyone recommend guided tours vs. going by ourselves? There is one advertised for $70 per person, 9 hour day including transportation.

Posted by
4745 posts

Personally I would see these two sites on different days instead of one long day, and just pay for the guides using the official Auschwitz website (I'm fairly sure that's a requirement, and it would be well worth it). You'll save a lot by getting there via public transport which is not hard to do (you can even get to the Schindler Factory on foot provided you don't mind walking a bit - it's not too far from the Kazimierz neighborhood of Krakow). I guess the answer depends how pressed for time you are and if you're willing to make the price tradeoffs for personal transport to both places.

Posted by
2837 posts

As suggested above, Auschwitz and Birkenau are a full and emotionally draining day. Visit Schindler's Factory when you are exploring the Kazimierz section of Krakow. You do not need a tour for Schindler's. There are free walking tours to various sections of Krakow that meet in the town square. Ask your hotel to arrange for your tour to Aucshwitz/Birkenau. We went in small van, door to door, and connected to an English speaking tour.

Posted by
1733 posts

I did them on separate days; Schindler's factory on my own (spent maybe 2.5 hours). Auschwitz/Birkenau was by guided small group (about 8 people) tour from Krakow that started with pickup at 7:30 am and I was back in Krakow by 4 pm. I don't know if the $70 is for both--I recall paying about $45 in 2015, and it included a box lunch. You can't tour it without a guide, and I found it a very easy day with transport and our guide was excellent.

Posted by
1572 posts

I agree you should not try to do both of these in the same day. You don't need a tour for the Shindler factory, it's about 2.5 hours and there is lots of reading, no audio guide. I think a tour might whisk you through too quickly, and in any event it's not necessary. You might want to take a taxi there, we got confused trying to get there by tram and walking on our own.

I was not that confident being able to execute on Rick's instructions for doing Auschwitz Berkinau on our own so we pre-booked a tour through Discover Cracow for around $40-45. Poland can come with transit surprises, like track work and so on that limits trains, we found. Also the train station when you arrive is a long ways from the camps. With one day if I messed it up we would have missed out. So for us, better safe that sorry. If you do it on your own, you still have to tour with a guide during peak hours and reserve a spot in advance.

The bus tour was less than ideal, as it picked up at individual hotels and it took us over an hour to pick everyone up. We were the first picked up at noon and the last dropped at 7:30. We had to wait twenty minutes for one group at pickup that seemingly were just not ready in time. So seven and a half hours for 2.5 hours at the two sights. At hour at the sight before our entry. There were other ways it was not great but I still think it was a good choice vs. doing it on your own. We got to the see it and did not have to worry about messing it up doing it on our own. Try to get a tour that picks everyone up at a central location though. Be prepared that the sight Auschwitz I is extremely busy, even chaotic at the entrance.

(My wife and I did all of this in early May 2018, so I speak from recent experience).

Edit: Specifically when I said transit surprises, we showed up to take the train to the salt mine, relying on our guide book saying that trains were frequent. Well, due to track work the day we chose to go, there were no trains between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. We ended up taking a tour to the mine too which was fine. It probably would have been fine to catch the later train, but who knows if we get there and the mine tours are sold out for the day. With one day I did not want to risk it. Also, we found fewer trains between Krakow and Wroclaw, and much less convenient schedules, than when I did my original research. This had to due with track work around Krakow Glowny, I think. We ended up taking the bus for that leg which was fine, but until I figured out that was a good option I was freaking out because that part of our itinerary was tight and I did not want a crazy long day getting from Krakow to Goerlitz. So the point is, maybe we just had bad luck but we found that transit surprises happen in Poland. So plan enough slack before your entry time that if something unexpected happens with the transit situation, you can still make your allotted entry time--if you choose to do it on your own.

Posted by
3407 posts

I was not that confident being able to execute on Rick's instructions for doing Auschwitz Berkinau on our own so we pre-booked a tour through Discover Cracow for around $40-45. Poland can come with transit surprises, like track work and so on that limits trains, we found. Also the train station when you arrive is a long ways from the camps. With one day if I messed it up we would have missed out. So for us, better safe that sorry. If you do it on your own, you still have to tour with a guide during peak hours and reserve a spot in advance.

It's quite easy to visit Auschwitz on your own - but from Krakow it's best by bus, (or "mini-bus") not train. The bus station is adjacent to the Krakow train station. I did it in 2012. The only confusing part was that at the camp, they posted a schedule of buses returning to Krakow (supposedly from the camp parking lot, so some of us waiting thought) that did not in fact show up. The solution was easy: just walk out to the main road where the incoming bus had dropped us off and get on the next bus to Krakow.

The "Schindler Factory Museum" is terrific - one of the best WWII museums I've visited. It's really almost nothing to do with Oscar Schindler - it's instead focused on the occupation of Krakow during the war. I learned a lot I didn't know just from reading the history books, and of course there were a ton of pictures. Definitely not a stuffy museum at all. I might be tempted to try to see the museum and Auschwitz on the same day IF the timing worked out well and I had very limited time in Krakow. In other words, if my only chance to see the museum was the same day as my visit to Auschwitz, I'd definitely do it.

As it was, I wound up seeing both Auschwitz and the salt mine on the same day. THAT may have been a mistake, because both Auschwitz and the salt mine require a ton of walking, so my feet were completely wiped out by the end of THAT day!

Posted by
14 posts

Its really best to save Auschwitz for its own day, its a little bit over an hour to drive out there by bus.... and after you finish touring Auschwitz/Berkinau you are usually both mentally and physically drained.
So best to go out in the morning and once you get back to Krakow in the afternoon just walk around and enjoy the local sites.
Also take a snack or eat a good breakfast before you go because there are no real restaurants out there.

Posted by
16 posts

Hello,

I agree with the others - it's better not to visit both Auschwitz and Schindler's Factory on the same day.

It's not only Auschwitz that is depressing - visit in Schindler's Factory is also quite challenging. After a few moments you become a helpless observer of World War II catastrophe and its influence on Jews in Cracow. It's not as shocking as Auschwitz, but Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory isn't a light and easy entertainment.

If you are willing to spend the money, get a guided tour. You'll get to know many interesting facts about those places. Plus, you don't have to think about transportation.

For some further tips and inspirations, have a look at this article: https://overhere.eu/9-best-places-to-visit-in-southern-poland/