Trains are not really fast in Poland, with some exception on international routes and routes to Warsaw. Only slowly, rail services are improving, for example to Krakow Airport. Therefore, it is no surprise that many Poles still prefer the long-distance buses over the train with the buses often being far cheaper.
Depending on train type, a trip may be shorter or longer. I once had the unlucky situation to be stuck in a regional train from Wroclaw to Krakow which took three hours. So I recommend to use the website of train company PKP for planning and arrive early at the train station to buy the right ticket and/or get further advice.
The main station (Krakow Glowny) is located a short walk away north of the city centre, close to the Florianska Gate and Florianska Street.
Trains, international and domestic to and within Polish are older and slower than many rail roads in the west. However, fares are inexpensive and whether you go for 1st or 2nd class, both are comfortable.
A wagon will be drought should you wish to buy a snack or a beverage. Prices are acceptable and a good way to fill your belly if the need should present itself.
You can get a train to/from the airport from Krakow's main train station (about 10 minutes walk from Rynek Glowny, the main square).
A free bus will collect you from outside Arrivals and take you to the station (about 5 minutes) or you can walk (takes about 5 minutes).
A one-way ticket costs 12 zloty (March 2013). You can buy a ticket from the guard if there is no machine on the train or if you have no cash, but be aware that it will cost a zloty or so more. The journey to Krakow Glowny station takes about 19 minutes. Trains to and from the airport go roughly twice an hour in season but only hourly out of season, from roughly 0530 to around 2230.
There's a train ticket machine inside the Terminal at Arrivals. It will only take coins or 10 zloty notes (it gives change) so you may need to buy something first to get change. There is also a ticket machine inside some trains.
For the return journey from Krakow Glowny, there are ticket office booths, and machines both in the entrance to Galeria Krakowska (the shopping centre which adjoins the station) and on the platform from which the airport train departs.
Just for the experience, my wife and I chose to take a sleeper cabin for our overnight train ride to Krakow. As you might expect, a second class one is quite crampy (see photo) especially when you've got lots of bags. The train left Budapest at 8 pm and was to arrive at our destination at 6:40 am the next day. In the morning the conductor knocked on our door to inform us that we will be in Krakow in 20 mins. Since the train will continue on to Warsaw we had to get to ready as we would only have a minute or two to disembark with all our bags. That wasn't much of a hassle as we did not really unpack for the night, we just had to dress up and use the toilet.
Anyway, it was easy enough to book on the railway's website. Since you'll purchase an international ticket, you won't get to print out an e-ticket. After paying by credit card you'll be given a 9-digit reference number that you need to key in at an e-ticket machine at a Hungarian train station (see photo). Once typed in, the machine dispenses your e-ticket and you're all set. Since it was the low season cabins were readily available. As of Dec. 2012, the price for 2 persons in a single cabin was 98 euros but this varies with demand.
So did we sleep well? Hardly, as not only was the train so noisy and shaking all the time but our "beds" (regular train seats -- flat and hard -- with pillow and linen) weren't comfortable. After this experience I'll probably not ride another sleeper train again
In December 2004 I arrived in Krakow by IC train from Warsaw. The almost 300 km trip took less than 3 hours and set me back 73,50 PLN. The ticket included a mandatory seat reservation.
In May 2010 we came again to Krakow by IC train. This time from Przemysl, which is located in the very east of Poland. The ticket for the 245 km trip cost only 33,00 PLN.
Krakow's main train station (Dworzec Glowny) is situated in walking distance to the northern end of the old town.
Getting from Krakow to Torun felt a bit ridiculous at times. On my way into Krakow's train station I happened to get my flip-flop stuck in the steps, catapulting me forward and resulting in my huge backpack flying over my head... and getting stuck. It took me a good sixty second to right myself again, during which time I exposed my travel panties to half of Krakow. Then, the ticket agent misunderstood me and booked me on the direct train to Torun, which was direct but ridiculously slow, and changing the ticket afterwards was a comedy in itself. However, upon boarding the train(s) I was pleasantly surprised to find them clean and comfortable, and complete with complementary coffee and cookies! Heck, Air Canada is less luxurious!
It is very easy to get to Krakow by train. I put the link to the national railway company down this page.
If you are searching for connections put "Glówny" after the station name to get to the main station instead of a possible suburban one.
Here is a link showing the railway station on Google Map.
While in Poland we travelled between Warsaw and Krakow by train. Before traveling, I searched the Polish Rail website for info about timetable and prices. There are several trains a day between Warsaw and Krakow, the journey takes about 3h (no stopping train).
However, I noticed there were different prices for the journey, and we decided to take the cheapest train, which is also direct (about 3 hours) and costs 43.5 zl (about 11 euro, March 2011). The difference for the more expensive tickets (more than 100 zl) is that there is no reserved seating and trains are not as modern. But they are fairly reasonable for a 3hour trip and much cheaper, so on or way back from Warsaw we choose to travel, once again, on the cheapest trains.
My advise would be to arrive early at the train station and decide fast when your enter the train. We weren't aware of this, we took our time to enter the train in Krakow (our first trip) and we had a hard time finding 3 seatings near each other with space for the luggage. The train seems to be packed with both tourists and young people (students?) - we travelled to Warsaw on a Friday and returned to Krakow on a Sunday. On our way back to Krakow, conscious of the lack of space, we were amongst the first to enter the train and we managed to sit on a small, quiet and more comfortable cabin (former 1st class, nowadays the train is only 2nd class, eventhoug some carriages still hold the 1st sign).
Both Warsaw and Krakow Central Stations are within walking distance of city centre and near other transportation such as buses and underground/ tram. Sometimes signs are only in Polish and platform is Peron.
An advice concerning buying your tickets: in Krakow there seemed to be some queuing at ticket offices, so arrive early and don't miss the train!
We took in advance our tickets to Budapest in a bunk beds for aproximately 270 Zlotys aprox 70 Euros so its not cheap but its an overnight train running from Krk Glowny at 2250h to Budapest Kelety at almost 10am
Via the website of the Polish train company (PKP), it was very easy to make a planning.
You can easily find al the connections and the time schedules.
Mostly I used IC trains, because these trains do not stop so often, so travelling time is shorter.
Via the website of the Polish Intercity company: www.intercity.com.pl/en/main, you should be able to make a reservation. But unfortunately it did not work from abroad.
But like in my case a friendly Polish girl (thank you Anna) made these reservations for me, and then did send me the reservation forms.
And the system works. Once you have your reservation, you have a wagon number and a seat number, you just have to present this reservation form at the conductor and pay the money to him.
So no problems standing in line to get a ticket, no language problems at the ticket office.
So I arrived in Warsaw on time (9h50), and as luggage and passport handling went so quick, I was outside the airport building in no time. Then a short ride by taxi, so arrived at Warszawa Centralna around 10h20.
A had a train at 12h05 towards Krakow. So plenty of time to look around. I also went outside the train station, and from there I could already see my hotel for the last night of my Poland trip (Hotel Metropol). From here I also could admire the big building of the Palace of Culture and science.
So the train from Warsaw to Krakow:
- Warszawa Centralna - Krakow Glowny
- travelling time : 2h55
- travelling distance : 292 km
- price : 85 zl.
And like this I arrived around 15h00 in Krakow, there was still some time left to discover the city.
Even on the train there was a good service, as shortly after the train left the station, a man passed by with drinks.
First I thought he was selling drinks.
No no he was bringing free drinks, you could get coffee, tea, orange juice or water. With this drink he also gave a snack a chocolate waffle.
But this was only the case on the IC-trains, like from Poznan to Warsaw, it was an EC-train and there you needed to pay for your drink.
Krakow's main railway station, Krakow Glowny, is just outside the Old City, through the underpass at the corner of Westerplatte and Bastowa. From here you can get direct trains to most other Polish cities and many International destinations. From here you can also get the train to the airport.
The station is well laid out with good signage - the boards in the main hall show pending departures and arrivals.
The ticket offices though can be a bit of a scrummage at busy periods and not all clerks speak English. I think I noticed that they were in the process of putting in automatic ticketing machines last time I was there which should make things easier for us tourists.
UPDATE Oct 2010 - It seems that Orbis no longer issue train tickets, although I haven't had a chance to verify this. Will delete the following once I've checked.
However if you want to avoid the queues and confusion you can buy your tickets from the Orbis travel agency which is located on the main square. Orbis staff are multi-lingual and can help plan even the most complex journey. They add a small booking fee (50 grozny last time I used them in 2007) but take all the hassle out of things.
For the airport train you can buy your ticket on board.
1st website is the Poltrain site (easier to use than the PKP one). 2nd is Orbis
The Kraków Main Train Station or Kraków Glówny is a great building to see. It was built between 1844 and 1847 as the Kraków terminus of the Upper Silesia Railway.
Still today some of the old grandeur still is visible.
A free bus collects you from outside Arrivals to take you to the station or you can walk (5 minutes).
A one-way ticket costs 7 zloty from the machine or 8 zloty from the guard.
Journey time: 15 mins
Frequency: twice an hour, from 0400 to 2300 hours.
There's a ticket machine inside the terminal, at Arrivals. It only takes coins or 10 zloty notes (gives change).
There's also a ticket machine inside the train.
Krakow's main train station is a 10 minute walk from Rynek Glowny, the main square.