“ The best way to see the most of Krakow using their buses and trams. „
== Krakow Transport ==
I moved to Krakow from Birmingham back in October last year, one of the big changes for me was not only getting used to life in a new country, but also getting used to travelling around a city without the use of a car as I don't have one here, but thankfully Krakow does have a really good transport system which so far has enabled me to move around the city with ease and only get lost on a couple of occasions. I teach English privately here so the ability to get around the city and suburbs with ease and good connections is vital for me.
== Buses and Trams ==
The two main kinds of transport in Krakow are buses and trams, my personal favourite are the trams as they are still a novelty to me, they are faster than buses and more comfortable too. To use the buses and trams in Krakow you will need 2 things, a valid ticket or travel card and very good balance as the buses are sometimes more of a white knuckle ride than a trip to Alton Towers! The trams aren't so bad though, but still hold on tight just in case.
Buses aren't my favourite method of transport here but due to where I am living I have no choice but to get a bus when I want to go anywhere. Luckily this is usually only a few stops to the tram stop! In the warmer weather I have been known to walk there but now we have lots of snow I actually prefer the bus!
Buses in Krakow come in all shapes and sizes, we have bendy buses, long buses and tiny buses. All of the buses are single decker and they are all blue and white in colour. The bus will have the bus number and destination clearly displayed on both the front and the side of them.
Trams are the quickest and best way to get around the city in my opinion. They are generally much more reliable than the buses with regards to running on time and they are a lot less bumpy! I find the trams to be rather exciting as we have a combination of both really new and modern ones right through to the old style classic trams. My advice if you are on an old style tram is to be careful of the doors as they open quick and I have on one occasion managed to trap my arm between the door and the metal bar you hold onto. Thankfully this only resulted in a very colourful bruise and some stiffness in my elbow for a few days, but it was extremely painful and also embarrassing as some random guy came to my rescue to try and pull the door off my arm!
Inside the buses and trams is generally clean, although at the moment with the snow I am yet to see a clean floor! The buses and trams do have seats, but not many of them and you are expected to give up your seat to older people, word of warning on this matter, if you don't give it up they will have no hesitation in asking or telling you too and some of them can be quite rude about it!
Another word of warning about buses (and possibly trams too) is to check the seat is dry before you sit down as I have on a few occasions seen drunk homeless men get onto the bus and spill their cans of beer all over the seat and then some poor unsuspecting person has sat on it!
== Tickets ==
The transport here is reasonably cheap with a 30 minute ticket costing 2zl 80gr. The tickets do have time limits on them and can be purchased in time slots of 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 60 minutes. You can also buy tickets by number of days and all tickets are valid from the moment that you insert them into the validating machine on the bus or tram, which I will go into detail in a moment.
The tickets can be bought at the ticket machines located at certain stops or at the ticket machines on most of the more modern trams and some, but not all, of the buses. Tickets can also be bought from the drivers but make sure you have the correct change or as close to it as you can get as in my experience they seem a little grumpy when you board the bus and ask for a ticket!
If you are planning on staying here for a longer period of time then you may wish to purchase a monthly travel card. To do this you will need to go to one of the main stops like Krowodrza Gorka or Maly Plaslow. You will need your passport for ID and a passport sized photo. Then for 89zl you can buy a monthly ticket in the form of a plastic card the size of a credit card and another card with your photo on for ID and to prove that your travel card is valid for use by only you. You will need to carry these cards with you anytime that you want to use public transport. They make the travel cards for you while you wait, its takes around 10 minutes and once you have it you can renew it each month in the ticket machines around the city. I recently bought my first monthly travel card and admittedly I was rather excited by this event until I looked at it and realised they have printed my middle name on it (which I don't like) as they copied it off my passport, so then I wasn't too impressed!
When you get on the bus or tram with a normal paper ticket you will need to validate your ticket in the machines located throughout the buses and trams. To validate a ticket simply insert it into the machine, this will punch 2 holes in the ticket and print the date and time on it. Make sure you keep your ticket as you will need to show it to the conductor if they ask for it. If you don't have a valid ticket then you will be risking a fine of 100zl which at the current exchange rate is around £20. My advice on this one is really don't risk it, I use the buses and trams most days and most days I do see conductors so the chances of getting caught are quite high and the conductors aren't too nice to people who they do catch!
== Bus Stops, Tram Stops and Reliability ==
Bus and tram stops look the same here as they do in the UK. They are usually in the form of some kind of shelter with various timetables displayed inside as well as contact information for the company who runs the transport system, MPK.
I've lived here for 4 months now and I have never experienced a late or delayed tram which is great, but the buses are quite often late which I would presume is mainly down to traffic more than anything.
At the moment we have a reasonable amount of snow and so far the buses and trams still all seem to be running fine. The first time I got the bus in the snow I felt a little un-nerved as when it pulled up the wheels skidded on a patch of ice, but other than this, the journey was absolutely fine and I soon felt at ease again.
== Boarding and Disembarking ==
Buses and trams stop at every single stop along their routes so you don't need to stick your arm out to signal to them. When the vehicle stops you will see a little button next to the doors which you need to press and the doors will open for you to get on. To get off the bus or tram you simply need to press the button near the doors to open them at your stop and get off.
In general I would say to be ready for your stop to get off as during rush hours the buses and trams do become very crowded and you will end up squashed together a lot and may find it difficult to push your way through to the doors.
At the moment being squashed together isn't too bad as it is winter, but I'm not looking forward to the summer months with hot and sweaty people!
Also the large volume of people means you should be extra alert to pickpockets and thieves as you would be in a normal crowd situation.
== Night Buses ==
The one thing I do really like about Krakow transport is the fact that buses run throughout the night. This is something that didn't happen in Birmingham and I remember countless nights where I've missed the last bus home after a night out and had to shell out for a taxi home, but this doesn't happen anymore as buses run to most areas of the city throughout the night. They are not as often as the daytime schedule and they don't follow the same routes either. Unlike the daytime buses the night buses are 'on demand' so if you want to get one you will have to stick your arm out when you see it coming and you will also have to press the button to let the driver know you want to get off at the next stop.
I've used the night buses a few times and each time they have been quite crowded and full or drunk or tipsy people, but usually they have been reasonably quiet and I've felt safe on there.
== Krakow Glowny ==
There is a central train station in the centre of Krakow, Krakow Glowny. From here you can get trains to other cities and towns in Poland as well as the Balice train which is a frequent service between the city centre and the airport.
The trains can be very hit and miss with reliability, I have used them a few times and had a mix of both delays and running perfectly on time. The trains can get very busy just like the buses and trams so don't be surprised if you end up sitting in a corridor for your journey... its pretty normal! I once sat in a corridor for an entire 8 hour trip!
The trains do have toilet facilities, however I would really avoid them unless you are desperately desperate... they're gross and almost just a hole on the floor and on top of that, they really stink!
The cost of using the trains is also reasonable, and tickets can be bought in the clearly signposted ticket office at the station. I recently travelled from Krakow to Warsaw and it cost me 42zl which is less than £10. As far as I can see they base the prices on the distance the train will be travelling so obviously longer trips will cost more. Also the price will vary a lot depending on the kind of train you take, i.e.: regular or intercity.
== The Good and The Bad ==
As with all methods of transport Krakow transport does have its good and bad points...
# Reliability - The trams are more reliable than the buses for being perfectly on time, but I have never had to wait more than an extra 10 minutes for a late bus. This can be very annoying when you need to get a tram afterwards but usually I leave home earlier for an earlier bus just in case!
# Affordable - With low ticket prices and the option to buy a variety of timed and daily tickets or even the monthly travel card I personally cannot complain about the ticket prices.
# Excellent Connections - So far, for me, I have found that all of the bus and tram routes seem to connect together really well and usually I am only waiting a couple of minutes between swapping from one to another, unless the bus was late and then I usually have a longer wait.
# Jakdojade.pl website - If you know the names of the stops or streets that you want to go to then you can use jakdojade website to find out which buses and trams you need to take. This will also tell you how long it will take and how much it will cost you in tickets. I've found this site indispensable and really reliable.
# Late Buses - This doesn't happen very often, but when it does a late bus seems to delay you quite a lot as you will often then end up on a later tram and what started off as a couple of minutes can easily turn into 10 or 15 depending on how often the tram you want runs.
# Homeless people, Smelly tramps & Junkies - Occasionally you will come across the odd homeless person asking you for money, but if you say no they are usually harmless and walk away, we have had a couple of occasions where they have been pretty persistent and begged for money and as mean as it sounds we have just walked away from them and they have given up. You do also get the occasional smelly tramp sitting on the bus with you too, in my experience they have never asked for money, they have just sat with a can of beer talking to themselves. Finally, Junkies, on Sunday we were on the way home on a tram and found ourselves sitting near 2 junkies who were high on something and although they were just sitting kind of dazed and quiet it still felt uncomfortable and I couldn't wait for our stop to get off.
# Pickpockets - Pick pocketing and thief awareness is widely advertised on the transport network. You will see lots of advertisements reminding you to be aware of pickpockets. I'm not sure how common this actually is or whether they advertise it so much simply to keep people aware but either way be alert!
# Crowded Spaces - if you get a bus or tram between 6:30am and 10am or between 3pm and 7pm you can pretty much expect to be standing up and packed in like sardines!
== Overall ==
All in all I think Krakow has a good transport network and I particularly like that there are night buses which run all through the night to most areas of the city so you don't need to worry about missing the last bus or having to pay for a taxi! I have been using the transport here almost every day for 4 months now and I can honestly say the only thing I miss about having a car is the heater! Other than this I am managing to get around the city and to all of my students with minimal problems. I still find the trams exciting and I think I probably will for a while yet!
So, hopefully this has been some use to you and you will be able to travel safe and easily if you come and give us a visit.
Thanks for reading :)
Operated by MPK