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Best Transportation in Poland

Hello,

We will be going to Poland from Budapest on May 2 & wonder what is the easiest, most direct way to get to Krakow. We usually take trains between European stops...this looks more challenging.
Any suggestions, especially good websites will be so welcomed.

In Poland, we tentatively plan on Krakow, perhaps Wroclaw, then Gdansk (including Malbork, etc.) & finally to Warsaw ( with side trips to Badkowo & Trzcianka for ancestry) before our flight home on May 22.

If we decide to go to Minsk for a few days (also Ancestry), which city would be best to leave from?

Thanking everyone in advance for the reliable & valuable help!

Posted by
1596 posts

We used Prime Tours Krakow for this transfer this past summer: http://primetourskrakow.com/city-to-city-europe/
I considered bus and train and then just decided to go the private ride route. If you're a group of 4 or more, it's not a bad deal. 355 Euros for the car. It took us most of a day. Since it was a private car, I asked the driver to stop for lunch in Banska Bystrica, which was really pretty. You could also fly it - there's a nonstop now. I prefer to drive when we can so we opted for that.

Posted by
3867 posts

Look into low cost flights from Budapest to Krakow. You can fly almost anywhere in Europe these days for less than you might expect.

Once in Poland, trains generally work well, certainly between Krakow and Warsaw, and other larger cities. Can't help you with Minsk.

Posted by
3695 posts

You really have to go to Krakow May 2? Too bad - there are cheap direct flights on LOT from Budapest to Krakow on May 1 and May 3 but not May 2.

When I visited Poland a few years ago, I started in Gdansk and trained south to Torun, then to Wroclaw, and finally to Krakow (skipped Warsaw). The trains were a bit run down (2012) - maybe they have improved a bit since then, but even then, they worked OK and were cheap. I enjoy train travel too.

You could certainly train all the way from Krakow - Wroclaw - Gdansk backwards of the way I did it and end in Warsaw. Check out the schedules here if you haven't already, to get an idea of travel times:

https://www.intercity.pl/en/

There are also express buses that may be even cheaper and faster. Personally, I prefer the train unless the bus is much quicker, cheaper, or more practical (fewer stops, or changes, etc.).

Posted by
3695 posts

If you want to go to Minsk without a visa, if you are a US citizen, you have to fly in and out, FYI.

So if you really want visit Minsk, perhaps your best bet is to fly there from Budapest to start out with, then fly back to Poland and finish your Polish journey that way. Perhaps you can get direct flights back to Poland from Minsk.

Posted by
1028 posts

We did a private driver from krakow to Wrocla via Częstochowa. But all my research said bus was the best for this route. We then took the train to Gdańsk. Then train to Warsaw. The trains were very modern, clean and a lovely ride. We went first class cause it was only a few dollars more. We loved Poland, and Gdańsk was a real surprise. Lovely city. Make sure you try the donuts.

Posted by
3695 posts

Poland is the only country I've visited where first class on trains made sense. (Partly because second class wasn't that nice, at least on the old trains I took back in 2012.) And even first class is pretty cheap compared to trains in other European countries.

Posted by
2115 posts

There is a daily direct Eurocity connection from Budapest to Kraków, leaving at 08.40 and arriving at 17.24. Consult the website of Man in Seat 61 for details, including buying tickets.

And about Polish trains: I have never had any problem with 2nd class. Even on older trains I found them comfortable enough.

Posted by
3695 posts

And about Polish trains: I have never had any problem with 2nd class. Even on older trains I found them comfortable enough.

Didn't like sitting four people across each side of a compartment, for one thing.

Posted by
4861 posts

There is a cheap, short (1 hour) LOT flight from Budapest to Krakow. Same with Minsk - except the LOT flight is from Warsaw. That will save you a lot of time over the trains.

Trains between the major cities are hardly run down (they've been totally updated) - that seems like old info from 2012. I wouldn't bother with a first class ticket. Even the regional trains are not that bad, although not fast and spiffy as the Pendolino trains used between the major cities.

Posted by
546 posts

I thought the trains were nice. We were perfectly happy on 2nd class.

We did travel in one train, on our way to Torun (it was the connecting train after going to some station on the Gdańsk/Warsaw line, don’t remember where), where we encountered compartments with 4 seats across. If it had been full, that would have not been as nice, but it was not full and it was not a long ride (and it was full of local color). Other than that ride, I think we had all open carriages.

I purchased all our tickets on line. You can figure out which seats are facing forward, which I prefer.

Posted by
3695 posts

I understand the Polish trains have been upgraded since I rode them in 2012. Back then, the 2nd class trains were pretty run down. I booked 2nd class a few times, and then I booked 1st class the rest of the way. 1st class on one of these Polish trains was like 2nd class in other European countries. When I booked the final ticket on to Czech Republic, I also booked 1st class - and marveled about how nice that particular train was...then I realized it was a Czech train.

Even run down, I had no problem with the Polish trains, in any class. But 1st class cost so little extra that it seemed silly not to upgrade.

Posted by
96 posts

We are flying from Cracow to Budapest in May. 1 hour flight, cost $70 or so per person. Saving us at least a half day, plus.

Posted by
62 posts

Thanks everyone!

Andrew, since reading your response, we will fly between Budapest & Krakow, great suggestion. How much in advance should we confirm...ASAP, I assume?

Looks like trains & buses will work for most of our trip but the side trip to Badkowo & Trzcianka will work better with a car. We prefer not driving this time around. Can anyone recommend an English-speaking driver/guide?

We’ve got about 17-18 days to enjoy as much as we can while not plowing through it. Does this seem enough (it’s never, really) for Krakow, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Warsaw with the above stated side trips along the way or from a point to Torun, Malbork, etc? If not, opinions on what we might skip would be appreciated. Thanks again.

I can’t wait to be able to offer help as well.

Posted by
493 posts

Hi Barbara,

Here would be my 18 night "Best of Poland" itinerary:

Fly in to Warsaw
-Warsaw (3 nights) - Day trips to Badkowo & Trzcianka

-Torun (2 nights)

-Malbork (2 nights): - Day trip through the Masurian Lakes District to the Grunwald Battlefield/Museum.

-Gdansk (2 nights)

-Gniezno "Birthplace of Poland" (2 nights) - Day trip to the Iron Age fortified settlement of Biskupin

-Wroclaw (3 nights) - Day trip to the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica

-Kraków (4 nights): Day trips to Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains and Pszczyna Palace
Fly out of Kraków

While this itinerary has the big ticket sights, it also incorporates some smaller, but just as interesting, sights like Biskupin and Pszczyna Palace. You will find significantly less people at these places, but that in no way means they are any less time-worthy. Hope this gives a few ideas! :)

Posted by
62 posts

Thanks All.

And, thank you Carlos. We are starting off in Krakow, finishing up in Warsaw so it will workin reverse. Is it better to do as many 2 night stops rather than doing some of your suggested stops as side trips perhaps? Or, does getting to fro use up too much valuable time?

Posted by
493 posts

While one can do some of the smaller towns, like Torun or Malbork, as day trips from Warsaw or Gdansk, since you have the good amount of nights available, I would recommend staying in these places for a couple of nights instead. The magic of some of these towns, like Torun, really comes alive in the golden hours of the afternoon, when all the day trippers have gone back to the big city, and you have the medieval old town all to yourselves.

By staying in these smaller towns, you also open up the possibilities of doing day trips to more "off-the-radar", but still equally interesting places, like the Masurian Lakes District from Malbork, which would not be as viable as a day trip from Gdansk.

Posted by
2115 posts

I found Gniezno somewhat underwhelming. It's better to stay in Poznan, which has much more to do and is less than half an hour to Gniezno on frequent trains.

Posted by
10601 posts

I did what I saw the locals were doing, ie using both bus and train options.

Posted by
62 posts

Thanks Tom & Fred.
Has anyone flown LOT between cities? Safe,reliable? Seems many reviews are pretty negative but we’d prefer flying Budapest to Krakow to save time.
Thank you all for the insight.

Posted by
12053 posts

I'd like to comment that I would have found 2 nights in Gdansk wildly short. The new WW II Museum is excellent and very large. I know I'm odd--I read every bit of English text in the place and watched any subtitled videos--but I visited on three separate days for a total of 20 hours. The Solidarity Center could nearly fill a day. I think travelers wanting to see both of those places would need three nights to allow time to enjoy the rest of the city.

Posted by
4861 posts

Has anyone flown LOT between cities? Safe,reliable?

Of course it's safe. It's the national airline and it's highly regulated like all other airlines (Poland is part of the EU). For short flights, I would not worry about it. Or look into Wizz Air, they're based in Budapest and fly into Polish cities.

As for an English-speaking tour guide/driver, a man named Andrew Durman gets rave reviews on this forum. You can probably Google and find him easily. I think he's based in Krakow.

Posted by
62 posts

Thanks much for the quick responses. I suppose I just needed the additional feedback, Agnes.

Posted by
546 posts

We flew LOT from JFK to Warsaw and it was very nice. New airplane. Of course, long haul flights have better services than shorter flights.

Posted by
10601 posts

The last time I took Polish trains was in 2005, as always, I picked 2nd class...absolutely no problems, nice and comfortable. The last ride was from Torun to Berlin. Good that they now have newer ones in service.

I would recommend too going to the Masurian Lakes area, one of my destinations in future trips to Poland. There are bus tours going there. Those I have seen advertised were in Polish or German.

If you do have the time for Minsk to spend a few days, I would suggest leaving from Warsaw since that is a main line.

Posted by
62 posts

Thanks again, everyone. Three weeks from departure & looking forward to new experiences & discoveries! Will post on our return.

Posted by
5 posts

Aloha Barbara,
At some point you asked about any recommendations on private drivers. Wanted to respond to that part of your inquiry. On our first trip to Poland we found Andrew Durman on Rick's website and then found Andrews website so contacted him for a tour of Krakow - we cannot praise him enough he gave us 2 full days and we saw "everything" he was just fantastic and made us want to see more of Poland and read more about Poland which we have done in the past few years. We are now heading to Poland again for our second Poland trip in about a month from now. This time we will take the train from Linz Austria to Warsaw and then go on to Gdansk (Danzig). Andrew was not available (he is very popular) so is recommending an associate for us. We are confident this will be another wonderful experience. The Polish people are great, the food and sights are wonderful. wishing you safe and pleasant adventures!