Getting Around Krakow
The best ways to get around Kraków are on foot and by tram. Walking is best suited for visitors who plan on spending the majority of their time in and around the Main Market Square area; to reach outlying areas, hop aboard one of the city's trams. While taxis will get you from A to B in a hurry, getting into Kraków from John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice (KRK), located roughly 8 miles west of the city, is easy enough – for less than $3, you can take the S1 train from the airport to downtown's Kraków Glówny station. You can also take the train to select neighborhoods and attractions like Oskar Schindler's Factory.
Bringing comfortable shoes to Kraków is essential. This especially holds true if you're staying in the Old Town, where several must-visit sights are a short walk away. Also, you'll find a lot of streets are closed off from traffic, so sometimes walking will be your only option.
Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Komunikacynje S.A. (MPK S.A.) – the city's public transportation system – offers multiple tram lines that will bring you within walking distance of attractions like Wawel Cathedral and the Polish Aviation Museum. Most tram lines operate every 10 to 20 minutes between 4:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays, with reduced hours on Saturdays and public holidays. A map with all tram, train and bus routes can be viewed on MPK S.A.'s Network Maps website.
Tram fees vary by zone, and time- or ride-based tickets – which can be purchased at any station or on board with cash and are valid on any tram or bus – are offered. A one-way ride for one person in the Old Town area costs 3.80 Polish zloty ($1), while a round-trip pass is 7.20 Polish zloty ($2). A 20-minute ticket (which is valid for an unlimited number of rides downtown within that time frame) will set you back 2.80 Polish zloty (less than $1). You can also purchase family tickets (for Saturday and Sunday rides only) or multiday passes for up to seven days of unlimited rides. Don't forget to stamp your ticket as you board the tram; you'll get fined if an inspector checks your ticket and doesn't see one.
To get to and from the airport and areas outside the city center, Koleje Malopolskie, the regional train operator, offers three train routes. The main S1 line travels between the airport and the town of Wieliczka, where the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine is located, multiple times daily. It also stops in central Kraków by the Main Market Square. Each standard one-way ticket costs 3.50 Polish zloty ($1), while a one-way trip between downtown and the airport is 9 Polish zloty (roughly $2.50) per person. Tickets can be purchased in advance online. The network can be a bit confusing to use, so be sure to grab a map or visit MPK S.A.'s Network Maps website before your journey.
In addition to trams, MPK S.A. operates more than 150 bus routes, but this mode of transportation can be slower and more confusing to navigate. If you do decide to ride a bus, remember to validate your ticket after boarding. Passes are sold on board or at all stations and can be used on any bus or tram. Standard timed tickets for downtown (which are good for 20 minutes of unlimited rides) cost 2.80 Polish zloty (less than $1) per person; one-way passes are 3.80 Polish zloty ($1) each. Buses generally depart once or twice per hour from 4 or 5 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. on weekdays. Note: Reduced hours are offered on Saturdays and public holidays. A detailed map with all bus routes is available on MPK S.A.'s Network Maps website.
If you don't want to hire a car, hail a taxi or rely on public transportation to reach sights like the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, consider joining an organized tour. Though pricey –tours start at 34 Polish zloty (or $9) per person – you'll enjoy benefits like round-trip transfers (with hotel pickups and drop-offs) and guide services in addition to your attraction admissions. But remember, downtown's can't-miss locales are easy to reach on foot, so skip the tour bus when visiting the Old Town area.
Taxicabs are plentiful and relatively cheap (compared to other European countries). You can go to a cabstand on the street, but it's possible to save 20 percent or more on fare by phoning ahead. Just be sure to use an official cab service with its company name and phone number displayed on its side. All cabs charge a base rate of 6 Polish zloty (about $1.50), plus 2.40 Polish zloty per kilometer traveled (or $1 per mile). However, prices increase between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily. For rides to and from the airport, set charges apply but vary depending on the distance traveled. Expect to pay at least 29 Polish zloty (less than $8) per ride. The Uber and iTaxi ride-sharing services also operate in and around Kraków.
Having a car is usually more of a hindrance than a benefit, as tourists tend to spend most of their time close to the Main Market Square area. Kraków traffic isn't really much of an issue, but parking is very limited and pretty pricey. For trips outside the city center (to see the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum or the salt mines, for example), taking a train or tour bus is your best bet. If you do decide to have your own set of wheels, you can rent a vehicle at the airport for approximately $20 to $55 per day. You'll find that locals drive on the right side of the road (like in the U.S.), but remember, distances are calculated in kilometers and signs are in Polish. Don't forget to obtain an international driving permit, which are sold through AAA and DMV.org, if you plan on driving while in Kraków.
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