Local Transportation in Poland
Local transportation in Poland is not as advanced as in the other countries of Eastern Europe.
The larger cities do not have the big metro systems that you will find in places like Prague and Budapest. But don’t let this stop you from settling in a town or city in Poland. Bus, tram, and train networks are effective means of getting around. As in other cities of East Europe, inner-city bus fares are cheap.
If you live in a larger city and commute frequently, you should consider investing in a monthly bus or tram pass. You will save both money and time. Because it’s embarrassing to be “controlled” (caught without the proper pass or ticket) by a conductor, don’t forget to carry your pass with you at all times.
Most of Poland’s cities are not yet equipped with metro systems. Warsaw is the only exception. Given the success of the metro systems in several other of Eastern Europe’s capital cities, it may come as a surprise that this is only a very recent development. Over seventy years in the making, Warsaw inaugurated its single metro line in the spring of 1995.
Though it’s clearly a step in the right direction, a single metro line can’t cover a city the size of Warsaw. Please refer to the following sections for further information on local forms of transportation.
You will find trams in many of Poland’s larger cities. Though tram routes are usually not as extensive as bus routes, trams effectively complement other forms of local transportation, while lending their own charm to the urban environment.
Be sure to check whether or not the tram system in your city requires separate passes or tickets. Bus tickets will not always work on the trams and vice versa.
In Warsaw and in Poland’s other cities and towns, buses are the most common and convenient mode of inner-city public transportation. In the larger cities, they are almost always crowded.
Buy tickets for city buses at the kiosks near the stop, and be sure to validate your ticket once you board the bus. It’s a good idea to keep several extra tickets with you because not all buses sell tickets on board.
For longer trips, you can buy tickets at the station or on the bus if you’re running late. Express buses take seat reservations, though they’re not always required. If you absolutely have to be somewhere at a particular time, plan in advance and make a reservation.
If you travel longer distances between larger cities, buses usually are slower than trains. Because buses travel to some of the more out-of-the-way places where trains don’t venture, you will need to familiarize yourself with bus routes and schedules if you settle in a remote small town.
Poland is like any place in Eastern Europe: if you aren’t careful, many taxi drivers will not pass up the chance to relieve you of the heft of your wallet. Here are some tips to help you negotiate the shark-infested waters of Poland’s taxi system:
- Taxi stops (where taxis line up and wait for fares) are the worst places to catch a taxi. The best way to get a taxi is to call ahead. Companies such as Halo-taxi and Radio-taxi are reputable and do not charge extra to pick you up.
- Settle on a price with the driver before you get in the cab. At least you’ll have the option of turning down a fare that seems exorbitant.
- Once you board the cab, make sure the meter is in operation. If you can, try to determine the charge per kilometer.
- Familiarize yourself early on with the details of taxi travel in Poland, especially in the larger cities. You will save yourself both money and grief. Find out the shortest routes to and from places where you frequently go, so you will know if a taxi driver is trying to run up the fare by taking the long way.
- If you can, make the driver aware that you know where you are going, he’ll be much less likely to try to put one over on you.
Warsaw may be the capital, but all trains do not lead there.
A vast network of train lines criss-cross Poland (the national train service is known as PKP).
There are three types of trains in Poland: Ekspres, Pospieszny, and Osobowy – express, fast, and slow(est), respectively. Take these descriptions literally, or else you will find yourself pondering every tiny ripple in Poland’s gentle topography as you ramble on the slowest train to Sosnowiec. The Ekspres and Pospieszny trains offer both first- and second-class cars. Reservations are obligatory on express trains and recommended on the fast trains, especially if you plan to travel in the crowded second-class compartments. Just to be safe, make reservations whenever possible, and particularly if your destination is several hours or more away.