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Polish train travel

I am trying to get an idea what to expect buying train tickets in Poland. Right now, I am planning on buying tickets day of or possibly a day or two early. I am anticipating the following:

Krakow to Wroclaw
Wroclaw to Poznan
Poznan to Gniezno (and back)
Poznan to Torun
Torun to Bydgoszcz (and back)
Torun to Gdansk
Gdansk to Malbork (and back)
Gdansk to Warsaw

What can I expect at a train station? Will there be machines with an English option? Are there separate machines for the different types of trains (intercity or higher speed)? I'm assuming that ticket employees will not be proficient in English. There is a Polish train website that encompasses all the trains, but it doesn't seem to work often. (rozklad) I've been using bahn or polrail to get an idea what is available. Are those the best choices for proxy? There is an intercity website that seems to work well, but it doesn't have the high speed trains. When I have been able to get on the rozklad website, I noticed I'm entitled to a 30% senior discount. Do I need any particular card for that? It appears tickets are purchased for a specific time, so they probably do not need to be stamped?

What does 1st class get me? Separate compartment? fewer people? windows that open? We are probably only interested in 1st class if it helps with "COVID distancing".

Can we eat and drink on the train? Is there anything that may not be obvious that we should know?

Posted by
1956 posts

Jules,
When will you be in Poland? You may have posted elsewhere so sorry if I’m being redundant. Would like to hear about your trip!

Posted by
109 posts

The website that list all train operators is https://rozklad-pkp.pl/

Some of your trips can be done on regional trains like Polregio or Koleje Wielkopolskie (more choice) but if you want to stick to Intercity trains, then there is no problem either.

It's always recommended to have details of your train written down when buying a ticket from a ticket counter to avoid language barrier or misunderstanings

High speed trains (Intercity EIP trains) are not available on all routes. Train layouts and facilities depend on the the category you choose -trains are not all the same. You can find out more on operators websites - for example Intercity.pl under "Our Trains"

There is no covid distancing on trains - currently they are allowed to run at full capacity.

The 30% senior discount you mention is a commercial offer from Intercity, no idea if it's available from other operators. You do not need anything to buy discounted senior tickets but you need an ID with photo and date of birth to show the conductor when he/she comes to inspect your ticket.

Long distance train tickets do not have to be validated as they are only valid for a specific departure. City trains like those in Warsaw or Tricity (Gdańsk, Sopot Gdynia) do have to be validated before boarding or on the train depending on local rules (these are not the same everywhere)

Posted by
35 posts

Jules, in 2017 we traveled first class for trips from Gdansk to Warsaw and Warsaw to Krakow. We had purchased the tickets in advance from the site Badger mentioned. Price of ticket included beverages and appetizer or dessert served to you at your seat. We were impressed! Ellen

Posted by
5980 posts

My standard thing anywhere for buying non-advance tickets, is to buy the tickets for the next leg on arrival. That is, when you arrive in Wroclaw train station from Krakow, go to ticket window or kiosk and buy tickets for the Wroclaw-Poznan leg. That way you have more time to get it done without waiting for the day of departure and potential lines or other problems.

Posted by
2048 posts

We were there pre-covid and purchased our tickets a few days before. We purchased all tickets at the Krakow train station for Wroclaw to Gdansk and Gdansk to Warsaw. Definately splurge for first class, just a few dollars more. The ticketmaster spoke English.

Posted by
3893 posts

Thanks for all the great information. I will reply more in depth later, but for now, the website https://rozklad-pkp.pl/ only occasionally works for me. The search times out. I will have to look at poltrain again, maybe I was not seeing a senior discount because I was looking at trains that were ineligible.

Do any of the trains offer compartments?

Thanks!

Posted by
109 posts

Do any of the trains offer compartments?

Yes, if you start booking on Intercity.pl website under "kind of coach" you will see compartment and noncompartment options depending on which are available

Posted by
802 posts

The website you are using that times out is a gateway website. You should use the site Badger suggested because it is a direct site.

Posted by
3893 posts

YES!! Success, the intercity website works great and has all the train types. Someone should let RS know that intercity is the website travelers should be using, not rozklad. Not only is the discount there, but it automatically looks to see if better discounts are available. This is all looking very easy now.

Thanks for all the fabulous suggestions.

Posted by
109 posts

The difference is that the Intercity website only shows trains operated by Intercity. Rozkład shows all train companies in Poland - it's a much more comprehensive site. I do not understand why it does now work for you, for me it works perfectly OK.

Posted by
250 posts

Glad you figured out the websites but you probably don’t need to worry too much about the language barrier. I found that plenty of ticket agents spoke English well enough to buy tickets, so as long as you don’t have any crazy issue, you should be fine. The second class had women come through with water or coffee and they may not have spoken as much English (better than my polish though) but as long as you can say sparkling or still water then that’s not a problem either.

Posted by
3893 posts

A.W. just tried again. It timed out. I have occasionally been able to get through. I've tried Safari and Bing and Google, Firefox and Chrome. Tried on my PC and on my iphone and ipad.

Someone in a different post said they had difficulty with it, as well. I think I'm feeling more comfortable with routes, pricing etc. and I'll buy my tickets in Poland. Maybe if we decide to take the higher speed train for some of the legs we'll be those when we arrive to Poland.

Posted by
116 posts

I just returned from 3 weeks in Poland and did much of my traveling by train. I bought some of my tickets before hand through the intercity.pl website. If you’re taking a regional train, there really is no need to buy ahead of time. There are always machines to buy from at the station. I’ve also bought from a person at the station as well, even if they don’t know English, it wasn’t hard to communicate what I needed just by saying the city name. If you are doing longer distances, try to book those tickets ahead of time by a day or two. I booked my ticket from Poznań to Gdańsk less than an hour before my train and ended up having to stand the whole time because seats were all taken. Also look into flixbus as they are really comfortable and sometimes much cheaper than train and not much longer. However, buy off the .pl site and not .com to save money as it’s listed for more expensive in dollars. For your day trips, make sure to check the posted schedule so you have an idea of what time the trains are to get back into town. Not every city has frequent trains. I booked first class from Toruń to Warsaw and the compartment was quite nice. It was a 1-2 configuration and had plenty of space and was also far less crowded than the other cars. I bought that ticket in advance though as prices can double buying the day of. Usually doesn’t matter because tickets are so cheap but I had a tight budget for the trip.

Posted by
3893 posts

Hello from beautiful Kraków. We had an interesting start. We took a train from the airport to the main station which up being free and netting us 40 pl ($10)!

I used the tix machine. There was an English option but not when you get to the CC payment pad. I thought I had a ticket but while on the train the ticket employee said my tix said transaction cancelled. She tried to help me on a machine on the train and I discovered the problem was a needed a credit card pin. I have 4 cards, none with a PIn. When she left to take care of other things a man handed me 40pl and said it was no big deal, At the end of the ride I couldn't find the employee and ended up leaving. So now I feel bad that I cheated the train and was given a decent amount of money from a kind stranger!

When we got to the hotel we were able to get zloty from a bank ATM, for no fee. I used cc a handful of times during the afternoon as a test and no PIN was needed.

We did RS's walking tour of old town and had a great time. So moving forward, for the train tickets for the rest of the trip, will I need a PIN at the ticket counter or at the intercity train machines?

Posted by
18916 posts

It's quite possible I never used a train-ticket vending machine in Poland; I took more buses than trains. I did try to buy tram tickets from a machine somewhere (very likely Warsaw), and that failed in a way that suggested I needed a PIN. That's the only time I've (apparently) needed a PIN in Europe.

Posted by
3893 posts

The only place I’ve needed Pin before was some tolls and gas stations in France. If need be, I’ll just keep pulling cash from ATMs

On a positive note, we’re here and having fun, and merchants do not seem to be pushing dynamic currency options in the least.

We were surprised, it’s a bit busy. Also surprised that everyone we’ve encountered is fluent in English

Posted by
2214 posts

So happy you guys made it out to Poland! This may surprise a few people, but you'll find English spoken in Poland en par actually with English spoken in Germany.

Posted by
18916 posts

One imagines virtually the entire country turned its back on the USSR/Russia in the early 1990s and focused on learning English. Then it (I believe) got a bunch of EU money and used quite a bit of that to build new and improve old museums, making them very English-accessible.

Posted by
2214 posts

Also Poland has had strong ties with the USA and the UK for 100+ years, in terms of immigration and culture, well before Communist times. The second largest Polish city is Chicago, right after Warsaw lol!

Posted by
6 posts

Polrail and Intercity sites don't seem to offer specific seat selection with your seat reservation. I will be travelling alone and would like to insure I get solo seat when travelling first class (on trains that have a soio seat side). Is there a way to insure that happens or am I better off waiting till I get there and just buying tickets at a station where I can deal directly with a person?

Posted by
707 posts

Asquared, it’s been a few years, but I bought nearly all of our train tickets on line before we got to Poland and made seat reservations at the same time. I was able to choose which seats I wanted and there was even a map on the site which would (sort of) show you which way the seats were facing on some trains. As I remember, I had some troubles with the site but was eventually able to get it to work. The site was mostly (I think) in Polish. It was the main Polish train site. I don’t remember the name.

Posted by
6 posts

I just tried the Intercity site again and it did offer a seat map. Weird, the site seems to be a little erratic, but I think I can work with it.

Posted by
3893 posts

@Carlos, I had heard that about Chicago.

We’ve been in Krakow and Wroclaw now, it’s pretty busy, but I’m told it’s mostly Czech and Germans.

We find most service employees speak English very well. People on the street, especially older folks do not as much, but they still try to be helpful. Funny, the only language difficulty was at the Krakow bus station when only one of us was trying and then a young gal at the train counter and I struggled a bit, but we were both patient and got the tickets purchased.

We seem to only need CC PINs at the ticket kiosks for Krakow city bus and at the automated train ticket machines.

In terms of buying train tickets ahead, I was glad I purchased tickets to Wroclaw a few days in advance. The train was pretty full. I may try 1st class when we move on to Poznań. The train car was full and hot, especially with a face mask, and our seats were “backwards” I usually do not have issues with motion sickness but I did today.

I think some of the recommended Wroclaw restaurants have disappeared so if anyone has additional recs we’d be appreciative.

Posted by
20 posts

We used trains and buses in Poland. On our train trips, neither of the agents spoke English fluently enough to answer our questions well. Fortunately, kind strangers gave us guidance and one even walked us to our platform.

Your experience may also depend on if you come from a city that has trains or you are quite experienced with train travel. Ours (Columbus, OH ) does not.

One recommendation is to always have paper and pen available and WRITE the name of the city rather than saying it. Most of the time it is no big deal, but Plock sounds like Pwoch and Rzeszow...try that one. A LOT airline reps helped me learn how to say that city. Whew! Also, taxi drivers often are now from Ukraine and their English is not great. One struggled with the word "bus." After I wrote it down, he said "Ah! Boose!"

Posted by
18916 posts

Even in countries with easier languages than Polish, I write my destination in block capitals (in the local language) and my departure date (European format) and time (24-hour clock) and show that to the ticket agent at every bus or train station where I can't use a ticket-vending machine. You can see those folks visibly relax when they realize they aren't going to have to communicate with the strange woman wearing the big sun hat.

Posted by
3893 posts

So far, I would say Polish people are the warmest and kindest people we’ve encountered in Europe with the possible exception of the Spanish. It is at times difficult to distinguish the locals from travelers since no one on the busy streets is speaking English. But the staff in the restaurants, hotels and shops are very helpful. I found that when I ask questions at museums or churches the staff is practically thrilled to provide detailed information.

A staff person at a church today recommended a marvelous restaurant in Wroclaw, Bernard’s, right on the town square. Wonderful food, friendly service.

We will be trying a minibus tomorrow from Wroclaw to Swidnica. I have a card ready with SWIDNICA and WROCLAW. I’m going to have enough cash in case of a CC issue.

Posted by
1947 posts

*We will be trying a minibus tomorrow from Wroclaw to Swidnica. I have a card ready with SWIDNICA and WROCLAW. *

The minibus has multiple stops in Swidnica. I'm hoping you got the details from my Wroclaw post (which you mentioned having read) on which stop to get off at. It's a bigger town than I had anticipated. If you start heading up the hill in Swidnica you've stayed on the minibus too long.

Posted by
1947 posts

Copying this detail from my Wroclaw trip report:

I got off [in Swidnica] near St Margaret's Square (Plac Świętej Małgorzaty) which is 650m from the Church of Peace.

Posted by
707 posts

Don’t worry too much about where to get off. We took the minibus from the bus station which is across the tracks from the train station. It was not a long walk.

Posted by
1947 posts

True, however if it goes up the hill into the modern residential areas I think it is much further. It's a town of 57,000 people.

Posted by
3893 posts

Thanks, CW, I did have that in my notes, but now it’s “front and center”! I had to plan this trip so quickly that I am less organized.

It may be rainy so the less walking the better.

Posted by
1947 posts

An advantage of Eef's excellent idea of getting off near the train station in Swidnica is that you'll know where to catch the mini bus to return!

Posted by
2214 posts

Ah so sorry that it appears some of the Wroclaw restaurants have closed down, such is the story with travel during Covid times I guess :(

After you have visited the Church of Peace in Świdnica, make sure to visit the centre of town of Świdnica too! Just 15 min walk you will find the perfectly preserved Baroque market square, and under the Rathaus hall you will find Restauracja Rynek 43 (if it has not closed), which is quite a charming little bistro serving modernized central European cuisine.

Note that when I went they only had menus in Polish, so it will definitely be an adventure if nothing else lol!

Posted by
802 posts

Every time I look at a menu for a restaurant in Poland I am stunned by the inexpensive cost of a quality meal. The restaurant mentioned above offers a $20 or less meal basically of a soup, main and dessert. Always amazes me!!!

Posted by
1947 posts

You are so right, Threadware! And that particular restaurant was right in the tourist area of the town center, in a lovely little courtyard, with white cloth setting and service. I paid $15 for a memorable 3-course meal and drink.