I read somewhere that you have to purchase tickets in advance to visit auschwitz. Is this true?
And here's what we did when we were there (without a reservation and couldn't get one) about 4 weeks ago:
Earlier this month I snagged just about the last ticket for the day I visited Auschwitz. I made the purchase 8 days ahead of time. I only needed one ticket. According to the tourist office, tickets sell out all the time at this time of year. Many people walk away from the T.O. very unhappy; I saw that happening myself. It's easy (and comparatively cheap) to take the public bus to Oswiecim, so it's a shame to get stuck paying for a tour from Krakow.
My tour was set to begin at 12:30 or 12:45. I chatted with a fellow tourist who said that when he went by the information booth (where they sell any remaining tickets)--not particularly early--they were still showing availability for times around 10 AM, noon, etc. So either some tickets got turned back in (don't even know whether that is possible) after I made my purchase or they hold some back to sell at the camp. However, the line of people at that last-minute ticket booth was extremely long when I arrived around 11:15, and it remained long the entire time I was waiting for my tour to start. Definitely over 100 people. There is zero shade at that spot, and the temperature was in the mid to upper 80s. You don't want to be in that line under those conditions.
The tour is comprehensive. I thought I might need extra time to see the museum and was worried about starting so late in the day, but there isn't a free-standing, separate museum as such; the entire camp is the museum. So when you've finished the tour, you've seen the bulk of what is there. The tour ends at Birkenau, so you can easily walk around there before getting on the shuttle bus back to Auschwitz. I'm not clear on how you'd go about spending more time seeing the barracks, etc., at Auschwitz I. I definitely didn't have time to read all the posted information as my group was led through, though the guide was doing a good job of covering the key points. I suspect that if you want more time at Auschwitz I, you would need to break away from your tour group before it goes out the gate toward the shuttle bus pick-up point for the Birkenau part of the tour.
Take water with you. Beverages are very expensive on site. Sodas out of the vending machine may splash all over you when you remove the cap.
FYI, the Schindler Factory Museum also sells out, though not as far in advance. On the day I visited (first time slot), there was a sign on the door before the opening, saying that all the tickets for the day had been sold. So unlike Auschwitz, it appears that arriving early at the factory is not likely to work, at least during peak season. The factory is visited with an audio guide. There is a great deal of English-language information, both written and subtitled video. The time you spend at the site will depend on you. I was there for many hours; unfortunately, I don't remember how many.
There's an interesting contemporary art museum right next door, and there's a glass factory across the street. The latter has some moderately priced souvenirs, and there's an opportunity to watch glass blowers at certain times on working days. The museum at the glass factory is probably of interest only to glass nerds, and there is an entry fee. I wouldn't recommend it to the typical tourist not planning to see the glass-blowing exhibition; I believe they are on the same ticket.
FYI, the Schindler Factory Museum also sells out, though not as far in advance. On the day I visited (first time slot), there was a sign on the door before the opening, saying that all the tickets for the day had been sold. So unlike Auschwitz, it appears that arriving early at the factory is not likely to work, at least during peak season.
True. But there's a way around that, too: if you have the Krakow Card, it magically gets you in, even when there are lots of disappointed/frustrated/angry tourists being turned away. Worked like a charm for me last month.
See this earlier post for more details: Krakow Card - Skip the Line?
I don't often think about the city cards because I'm so slow going through museums, but it's good to have a back-door like that if you arrive without a key reservation and the cost is reasonable.
The thing with Polish tourist attractions these days is that they are all very popular, and there are long queues to the ticket office. Weekends and summer are the busiest times.
It doesn't matter if it's Wieliczka Salt Mine, Auschwitz concentration camp, Cracow museums, Tatra mountains, concert in Gdansk, or festival in Warsow. There will be crowds and we just need to live with it ;)
Because of that, I strongly recommend buying tickets online in advance, the sooner, the better.
You can find some further tips and suggestions on which places to visit here: https://overhere.eu/
One other place in Poland where I encountered a significant line was the World War II Museum in Gdansk. No problem getting in eventually, but there was quite a delay to buy tickets on one of my three(!) visits; many of the visitors seemed to be Scandinavian. There were no issues at the Solidarity Center, so I think the deal at the WWII Museum is that it is so new. I imagine ticket demand will drop to a more normal level within a year or two.
Just got back from Poland a few weeks ago- got my online entrance passes (free)for Auschwitz(from their official site) a few months before I left.Took a bus from bus station (by train station)-booked a day ahead just to make sure we did not have to wait around. Got into Auschwitz free ( no guide) as we did our own tour at own pace using Rick's book. So no charges and no issues.
I did it about the same way in 2012, ttsstevenson. (Except I didn't make an online reservation - not sure it was possible then.) Glad to hear it can still be done this way.
Can I glom on to this thread and ask if you felt like the official tour was worth missing the things you might have if you had gone without a tour? Or do you get enough from signs and audio tours to not need a guide? The OP might want this info too, right?
I took the tour provided by the camp itself. The current cost is 50 zloty (about $13.50 US). I thought it was very good. There is information posted in English throughout the camp, so one could get by without the tour. The English tours seem to book up the fastest. I just checked, and at the moment the first day with the regular 3.5-hour English tour available is November 21.
You definitely do not need to buy a package tour from Krakow. I think they probably turn you over to a camp guide, anyway, so why pay the extra overhead?
I used my Rick Steves book's self-guided tour of Auschwitz so did not have to rely on much in the way of signs, etc.
Don't buy a package tour. The "guides" on a package tour are not allowed to lead tours inside, so it's pointless. You must buy a ticket to enter, but there's no need to stick with a guide (in any language). Like others, we followed the self-guided tour in the book and thought it was good. Just be sure you get a ticket - book that in advance.
It's my understanding that all the tours are conducted by camp personnel. They all include Birkenau. You don't get anything extra by paying for a commercial tour. It's just a question of whether you want to travel to the camp on a tour bus or on a regular bus. If you choose a regular bus, you have some freedom about the timing; if you want extra time at the camp, you can take a later bus back to Krakow.