Travelling by train in Poland


General information


Welcome to our guide how to save money, time and confusion when travelling in Poland by train.

Poland has invested heavily over the past decade to modernise its trains and stations, which now frequently compare to some of the best in Europe.

Though this on-going investment is leading to a large number of works being carried out on the railway lines - which seems to impact in particular on Saturday departures.

If you would like help with planning a train journey within or to/from Poland or want to add some Polish destinations to a European train travel itinerary, take a look at ShowMeTheJourney's new Concierge Service.


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However, there is one aspect of Polish train travel that can be particularly confusing to overseas visitors and that is to do with how the platforms (perons) AND tracks are numbered at the large stations in Poland.

How to find your train at a large Polish station:

If you think of the platform in a station, as an island between the railway lines/tracks, with trains departing from both sides of the island -  in Poland these ‘islands' are named 'Perons'.

Or in other words these ‘islands’ are the platforms, while each side of the platform, which the trains depart from and arrive at, are the tracks/tors.

In Poland the ‘perons’/platforms have their own numbers, but OTHER additional numbers are used for the tracks/tors.

However, on the electronic departure screens on station concourses and in the entrances, only the 'Peron' numbers are shown.

The core idea is that you make your way to the peron and THEN when you are on the peron/patform, there are other info screens which tell you which specific 'tor' your train will be leaving from.

Each numbered tor/track also has its own dedicated departure indicator.

Or you can use the yellow departure 'Odjazdy' sheets, as these list both the peron (platform) numbers AND the track numbers.

To avoid confusion (ahem) roman numerals are used for the ‘peron’ numbers on these departure sheets* and numerical numbers are used for the tracks.

So, for EXAMPLE, when arriving at Krakow Glowny station to take a train to Warszawa – the ‘peron’ number on the electronic departure board may be 5, but the departure sheets will show this ‘peron’ number as ‘V’, with the track number written as 10 beneath it.

So you would follow the signs to ‘peron’ 5 and then when on ‘peron’ 5, you would locate the electronic indicator for tor 10 - and this is where the train to Warszawa will be departing from.

Don’t let that put you off as trains can be an easy and comparatively cheap means of exploring Poland.

*At some stations the yellow Odjazdy sheets are paper posters, but some major stations have electronic versions - you can use buttons to scroll through the departures.

4 OTHER KEY THINGS WORTH KNOWING ABOUT THE MAIN POLISH STATIONS:

(1)
'Glowny' is often used for station names in city's other than Warszawa/Warsaw.

The English translation of 'Glowny is 'main station'.

(2) Warszawa has three stations used by long distance trains - Warszawa Centralna lives up to its name with a city centre location.

However, trains from the south and west call first at Warszawa Zachodnia station before going on to Warszawa Centralna and then they call at, or terminate at Warszawa Wschodnia station.

Similarly trains heading to the capital from the north and east, first call at Wschodnia station, before going on to call at Centralna and then Zachodnia station.

(3) On the peron/platforms, the indicators which show the details of the trains that depart from each specific track, will also show the details of arriving trains.

So if you see an unexpected destination on these indicators, it's usually because a train, which will be using the same track from which your train will be departing, has yet to arrive.

(4) Also if you will be taking an EIP or EIC train from a station at which it commences its journey, when you arrive on the platform/peron it can be obvious that the train you will be taking will already be at a track.

However, don't board the train until its departure details appear on the track indicator - if you board too soon, the conductor can politely ask you to leave the train.

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WORTH KNOWING ABOUT POLISH TRAINS:

(1) State managed company PKP InterCity operates all of the express trains in Poland and it groups its trains into four categories of service

(1) EIP

(2) EIC*

(3) IC

(4) TLK

*  When booking tickets for journeys within Poland on the international EC trains, PKP InterCity categorises these services as EIC services.

(2) EIP trains are fastest, followed by the EIC trains, the IC and TLK trains are slower - though the journey time difference between the EIC services and the fastest IC services can be marginal.
IC trains are generally faster than TLK services, but not on all routes.

(3) A bonus of travelling 1st class on the EIP and EIC services are the complimentary snacks and drinks - complimentary light meals are served in 1st class on the rather fabulous EIP trains.

(4) Polish express trains are comparatively infrequent, so look up train times on the PKP InterCity website  before heading to a station - even if you will be purchasing last minute at a ticket desk.

(5) Note that PKP InterCity only operates the long distance and mid-distance express trains.

Most of the regional and local train services in Poland are operated by Polregio.

On these popular routes:

Warzawa - Lodz
Poznan - Wroclaw
Poznan - Szczecin
Poznan - Torun
Krakow - Zakopane
Krakow - Katowice
Gdansk - Sopron - Gdynia

you will have a choice between taking Polregio or PKP InterCity services.

In theory the longer distance Polregio services will be the 'Inter-Regio' branded services, while the shorter distance services, including the local trains, are 'Regio' services, but this can be a tad inconsistent.

(6) Other companies operate some local train networks.
 Most of the local/commuter trains to/from Warszawa are operated by Koleje Mazowieckie or SKM - the trains to/from Chopin Airport are operated by SKM.

(7) Non-folding bikes can be taken on board the PKP Intercity and Polregio train services, but bike tickets have to be purchased pre-boarding at stations, they can't be booked online.

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10 THINGS WORTH KNOWING ABOUT TICKETS FOR POLISH TRAIN TRAVEL:

More detailed info is available by clicking on the green 'Tickets & Passes' button below

(1) PKP InterCity's website now has an English language version - and it sells tickets for the four types of express train services which it operates.

(2) PKP InterCity places tickets on sale 30 days ahead and the further ahead you book, the cheaper the prices will be

(3) When booking on the PKP InterCity website, the only choice of tickets is 1st or 2nd class - it will automatically offer the cheapest possible price available for each departure.

(4) On many routes there is a choice between different PKP InterCity services and when that is the case, the EIP and EIC services are always the most expensive option.

(5) TLK services were introduced to provide a low-cost travel option, so when there is a choice of PKP InterCity services available, the TLK services are always cheaper than the EIP or EIC services.

Though the prices of the IC and TLK services can be more similar.

(6) PKP InterCity trains leaving at different times of the day can be cheaper, so it's worthwhile being flexible re: arrival and departure times.

The demand for a particular departure can have a greater influence on price than journey times.

(7) Tickest purchased on PKP InterCity for journeys within Poland, can be refunded right up until the travel date with no charges.

There are also no additional fees charged for exchanging tickets - if prices have risen since the original booking, you simply have to pay the price difference.

(8) Tickets for the regional and local trains managed by Polregio can be booked on its website, but they're not discounted online, so will cost the same price if you buy at the station.

(9) Because Polregio doesn't sell tickets for PKP InterCity services and vice-versa, PKP InterCity does not sell tickets for the Polregio trains - when both services operate on a route, it's best to compare prices on each of their respective websites.

(10) If you want to take a standard (non-folding) bicycle on Polish trains, you will need to purchase special tickets - our guide to these bicycle tickets is available here.

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