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Seeking a private guide for Auschwitz

This summer my husband, and girls (16 and 14) will be going to Krakow and we're seeking a really, really good private guide for Auschwitz. We had an extraordinary private guide at Terizin a few years ago (his name is Pavel Batel and he's the best guide we've ever had and worth booking as soon as you book a trip to Prague) and we're looking for someone similar for Auschwitz. Any recommendations are welcome!

Posted by
219 posts

Auschwitz only allows their own guides to conduct tours within the site. You need to go to their website and sign up for a tour ahead of time. (It is possible to go into the camp on your own, but only very early or very late in the day, unless things have changed since we were there.) We hired a private driver (not a guide) to get us to the camp and he was helpful in getting us past the long line and into the camp (with our pre-reservation.) Once there, he waited in the parking area as we took the tour led by an Auschwitz-licensed guide. She was excellent and, I think because they carefully choose, train and supervise these guides, that is the norm. She was very dedicated to the memory of what happened there.

There are also many companies in Krakow that organize bus trips to Auschwitz and these trips include the guided tour there. Again, the bus company does not guide the tour itself, but puts you into the hands of a licensed guide. You can find these companies online. You can also just take a regular bus there - I have heard this is cheap and easy. If you do this, be sure to have your tickets for the camp tour- they often sell-out. (Do not take a train. It leaves you off quite far from the camp.)

The Auschwitz tour guide took us through the first camp (Auschwitz), then gave us a little break, then took us on a shuttle to the second camp (Birkenau) and gave us some more touring. She left us there to look around on our own and take the shuttle back when we were ready. You can actually walk between the two camps, but Poland was having an extreme heat wave (almost 100 degrees) so we were grateful for the transportation.

Rick Steve’s guidebook on Warsaw, Gdansk and Krakow has extensive info on visiting Auschwitz, including a self-guided tour. Also look carefully at the info on the Auschwitz website.

Posted by
5965 posts

you must do the Birkenau part of the tour. It is where you see the iconic train platform and the barracks where the worst happened. Some people skip it, but it is the most moving part.

Posted by
384 posts

Our licensed guide at Auschwitz was also excellent. I booked our tour as soon as I knew the date we wanted to visit. Be sure to pay attention to which language the tour will be given in when you book it. Andrew Durman is an excellent guide in Krakow. (every bit as good as Pavel, who we have also used) We engaged Andrew's services for several different days while in Poland. On one of those, he drove us to Auschwitz. During the drive to Auschwitz, Andrew showed us various things along the way and gave us a lot of additional historical and background information on Poland that was extremely helpful. During your visit to Birkenau be sure to walk all the way to the rear of the camp. This is the area that was called "Canada" and it is not to be missed. After our tour of the camps, Andrew drove us to other sites close by that we would not have seen had we taken public transportation. On another day in Krakow, we hired Andrew for a day trip to Southern Poland and it truly was a highlight of our trip. Like Pavel, he books up early because he is excellent.

Posted by
29 posts

thank you Travel Bug!!! This is exactly what I was looking for!! someone who knows the amazing experience that is Pavel and can point me in the right direction to have a similar guide in Auschwitz!! I will be contacting Andrew right away to get on his schedule!
Thanks! loads!

Posted by
4886 posts

This is an excerpt of a recent post of mine:

Our official tour (10:15 AM) of Auschwitz/Birkenau was satisfactory, but not really “better” than you could do with a thorough reading of Rick and Krakow In Your Pocket. Auschwitz is extremely crowded, and the guides are under pressure to keep you moving through multiple barracks/museum displays. My point is that despite good training and sincere efforts, the professional (3.5 hour) tour product is simply, satisfactory. The August sun and heat were brutal, but they had at least a dozen consumer floor fans in each barracks. You should wear a sun hat that can accept a two-muff headset for the official wireless receivers. Actual tour content can vary, and I did not realize until we were done that we had omitted the outdoor international memorials (I am talking about “artwork”, particularly a brand new one by Daniel Libeskind, and not about the many individual barracks museums devoted to the various deported nationalities and ethnicities.) We also failed to hike the 1 km at Birkenau all the way to the crematorium ruins. This may have been due to the 90-degree temperatures, but I was distressed to have missed these things. The guides have a schedule to meet.
I am glad to say that they sell water and other beverages at the very limited tourist services room (“Bookstore”) at Birkenau. Both camps charge 2 Zl. for clean, well-kept toilets. It is almost impossible to have time to eat at the good Auschwitz cafeteria in the few minutes before your guide takes your group on the same shuttle bus used by independent visitors. I say by way of explanation about eating that, except for the staggeringly vast scale of the site (and crimes) at Auschwitz and Birkenau, we found our first KL visit (to Buchenwald) to be more personally upsetting. It was jarring to walk behind two 16-year olds in tiny shorts, tiny tank tops, and maribou mules! I think their mother “chose her battles.”