Jeremy in Krakow

Is Kraków Expensive? 5 Ways to Save Money & Budget-Friendly Options 

Kraków is an increasingly popular city to visit in Poland, which is often advertised as a budget-friendly destination. So, is Kraków expensive? The answer to this question depends on your frame of reference. For the average Polish person, Kraków is an expensive trip, as one of the most expensive cities to visit in Poland. However, if you are coming from abroad, you will find that prices are considerably lower than other extremely popular cities and countries in Europe. For example, prices in Berlin or London may be 2-3 times more expensive than in Kraków. 

Of course, as more and more tourists choose to visit Kraków every year, due to its amazing history, architecture, great nearby nature, famous day trips, and much more, this could change. It is not an unknown phenomenon that increased tourism increases prices just as quickly as any other outside factor. This has already started to happen in the amazing capital city of Poland, Warsaw, but it is a little bit slower to take root in Kraków. However, this should not discourage you from visiting Kraków, just make sure to support local businesses as much as possible if you feel conscious of this. 

However, even as Kraków will get inevitably more expensive for tourists, and still is expensive for tourists in Poland, there are many ways you can stretch your money farther. This blog will provide as much information as possible on budget options available in Kraków. As a student myself, I usually search for the best deals when I am able, and what I have learned for Kraków is in this blog. This blog will first go over some general price information, before going into the 5 easiest ways to save money in Kraków. Finally, there will be brief information about scams that will be covered in more detail in a future article, and some general tips and tricks for Poland. 

In General: Is Kraków Expensive?

This next section is divided into 6 sections describing the costs of some things you will likely budget a significant amount of your travel money towards while visiting Kraków. From the delicious food of Poland to some of the many great attractions to visit, you will find prices competitive and quite a bit cheaper than other European destinations. Do note that these prices are correct as of December 2023, when I last visited, and may have changed quite significantly by the time you are reading this article. But I believe the prices for the next years will still be low and competitive! 

As a final note, all my prices are in the Polish currency Złoty (PLN), as I traditionally support in almost all the blogs I write. I do this because, quite simply, I do not know where you, the reader, are coming from. A first-time traveler to Europe from, for example, China, is not going to find prices in Euros any more useful than in PLN. So, while I will say that the exchange rate between PLN and EUR is usually between 4.3-4.5 PLN per euro, this is not useful for everyone, so I recommend that you simply plug these prices into a currency converter online! 

Food 

Restaurants in Kraków are top-notch, with delicious Polish and international cuisine available for anyone who would like to try. There are restaurants throughout the city, but it is likely you will be eating in the historic Old Town for much of your trip. In the Old Town, you will find that a meal will range from 35-45 PLN for an entrée at a typical restaurant, but often range more from 50-60 PLN or higher at a nice restaurant.  

A soda will cost 10-15 PLN, and alcoholic drinks will range from 15-40 PLN depending on whether it is a beer (the cheapest choice) or cocktail (the most expensive choice). Appetizers and desserts will usually cost 15-25 PLN. Finally, tipping is not expected in Poland, but if you would like, no more than 10% is normal. 

Alcohol 

The prices for alcohol in a restaurant have already been listed, but many people, including possibly you the reader, choose to come from Kraków for the party atmosphere, and to get drunk on some good-priced Polish beer. At the bars, a pint of beer will cost anywhere from 10-15 PLN, although during happy hour you can sometimes get a beer even cheaper! A round of 4 shots will probably cost between 20-25 PLN, or cheaper depending on the deal or if it’s happy hour. Finally, a cocktail should range between 20-30 PLN, but can be more expensive depending on the place you visit. 

Tyskie beer in Poland
A bottle of Tyskie beer in a Polish supermarket. Taken by Poland Insiders founder Andrzej Tokarski.

Accommodation 

Accommodation in Kraków is very affordable! From hostels to top-class hotels, you will spend less money. A bed in a hostel could run as low as 50 PLN, and a private can run between 200-300 PLN. This will be the same price as a room in a budget hotel. A higher-class hotel will probably cost anywhere from 400-600 PLN per night. You can often get breakfast included at many of these hotels, but this will cost an added 50-100 PLN per person. Widely recognized international hotel chains are readily available in Kraków, so if you are a part of some sort of membership club, you can save even more and get more bang for your buck with your points! 

Public transport 

Public transportation in Poland is very cheap, as it is heavily subsidized. A single-use ticket costs between 4-8 PLN, with tickets available from 20 minutes to 90 minutes. A single-day ticket is a very good deal, at only 17 PLN, or 22 PLN if you plan to go to the far outskirts of Kraków. There are also tickets available for 2 days, 3 days, and even an entire week, with that ticket only costing 56 PLN. There are also family tickets available for between 2-7 people including kids that are available for Saturdays and Sundays for only 25 PLN.  

Attractions 

There are many places to visit in Kraków. And, as far as attractions go, you will not spend a ton of money. The most expensive place is probably Wawel Castle, with tickets between 25-35 PLN for each set of rooms available. Other museums will likely cost between 15-30 PLN per person, with lower prices for children ranging between 5-25 PLN. There are also many great free attractions in Kraków, although an article later in time will be dedicated solely to the best free things to do in Kraków.  

Other incidentals 

In general, you will be able to buy what you need in Kraków for lower costs than you usually expect. Over-the-counter medication is available for affordable prices at any pharmacy around Kraków, and some can even be bought in local corner stores. Things that are expensive to buy or replace in Poland include some electronics, clothing and shoes.

5 Ways to Save Money in Kraków

While you are now aware of the general price of things in Kraków when visiting, you may be looking for an even better deal while visiting Kraków. This is most certainly achievable, even if prices inevitably rise in the future. Read on for my 5 personal tips for saving money when visiting Kraków. All of these are strategies I have used that has saved me money when visiting and made my spending like other inexpensive cities in Poland.  

1. Look at menus ahead of time before visiting ANY restaurant or bar in Kraków

This is so important! The businesses in the center of Kraków are very much aware that an increasing number of foreign tourists are visiting Kraków every year from all over the world. They are also counting on those tourists to not do their research ahead of time. So, if you want to save money, but still want to eat at some of the great restaurants in Kraków, the WORST thing you can do is not do your research. I recommend looking at restaurants before arriving in Kraków and having a short list of those you are interested in and know are affordable. 

If you do not want to do research ahead of time, at the very list, before entering a restaurant, check the Google review and menu online! Also, make sure to check if a service fee is added to the bill automatically. This is a sure-fire way to know if the restaurant you are considering is nothing more than an expensive tourist-trap, as tipping culture is non-existent in Poland, and no local would ever go to a restaurant with a service charge included if it was not a 5-star dining experience. Another general rule to follow is if a restaurant can afford to have people try to bring you into their restaurant, the restaurant is probably more expensive.  

As far as bars go, it is very expensive to check menus! You do not have to do this ahead of time, but if you walk into a bar and there is no price on the menu, you should view this as a major red flag. Any reputable bar will have prices on its menu. Those that don’t may be trying to rinse your wallet dry, by “accidentally” using the most expensive rum in that mojito you order. There are plenty of great bars in Kraków, you should easily be able to find a trustworthy one with fair prices, going to one without a menu is an easy way to be forced to pay the “tourist” price. 

2. Do not just stay in the city center of Kraków

This sounds like an easy tip, yet most tourists who visit Kraków never leave the Old Town and surrounding area! The first reason to leave the city center is related to restaurants and bars. Not only are you more likely to find a restaurant that is more authentic and owned by true locals, but you will also find lower prices! If you really want to save, look for restaurants that do not have an English menu, then you know you have made it to a truly local restaurant. The same applies with bars, and pretty much anything else. 

Outside of the city center, you will also find cheaper local cafes, better priced pastries and other local treats, and maybe even cheaper souvenirs. Also, there are many amazing parks found outside of the city center full of history to explore, some of which tourists completely ignore! There is so much more than in the city center of Kraków, and staying there is a guaranteed way to drain your wallet quicker. You will want to spend lots of time there, but do not go overboard! You will end your trip wondering why you bought way more souvenirs than you really needed, or how the price of the donuts added up to so much money (and weight gained).  

Plac Nowy is a small square in the center of Kazimierz
Plac Nowy is a small square in the center of Kazimierz which is a very popular part of Krakow. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

3. Use public transportation in Kraków

Yet again, this is such a simple trick to save money. And yet, many tourists who come to Kraków are petrified of using public transport. Admittedly, since many never leave the city center, they might not need to. However, the first place you can use public transport is from the airport! There are both city buses and a regular train service between Kraków and the city center and the main train station available.  

For these options, you will pay the prices listed earlier, versus paying maybe 10 times as much for a taxi. If you have a lot of luggage, I might understand using a taxi. But a train ticket costs 9 PLN, I think it is worth it to haul your luggage and avoid the taxi charge. But, if you feel the need for a taxi, make sure to have Uber of Bolt downloaded in advance, so that you do not get overcharged by the local taxi driver.

Finally, even at night there is a bus service between the airport and the city center. I would recommend using this service, as the Uber price model dictates that night taxi rides to or from airports are way too expensive. 

Additionally, when traveling around the city, you should use public transport as well! There is no need to use those guided tour golf carts you will see in the city center, or the horse carriages. Both of those are extremely expensive, running between 200-300 PLN depending on what price the operator decides to quote you (they will likely judge how rich they think you are to pick the price). Instead, use the public transportation system, which is not only 20-30 times cheaper, but also 5 times faster.  

Some of the hesitation for tourists to use public transportation comes from not knowing how to buy tickets or validate them. Buying tickets is simple. You can do so on the ticket machines on buses and trams throughout the city. Kraków is moving more and more to being able to pay for tickets by card on board as well, while in the past you would need exact change to buy a ticket. You can buy multiple-day tickets at the many ticket kiosks at major transport stops throughout the city. You can also use the app Jakdojade to both buy tickets and plan your trips.

As far as validation goes, there is always a yellow box on public transport where you will insert your ticket. This can also happen on the regional tickets between Kraków and the airport, and other major sites. Just insert your tickets into the box as soon as you enter, and you will have no problems. If you use the app (which is in English), just follow the instructions to enter the transit code inside each bus and tram into the app and keep your app ready for any ticket inspectors. If you do not validate your ticket, you will find that your public transportation trip will suddenly be as expensive as a horse carriage ride.  

For a complete guide to public transportation from the city of Kraków, which is available also in English and German, visit their website, which is full of great information and extra information beyond what I supply here.  

4. Visit a museum on a free day in Kraków

While this is not a specific tip for Kraków, it is still true! Many museums in Kraków offer free admission days. While tickets are first-come first-serve, and there can often be lines, if you want to save some serious money, visiting the museums you most want to visit is advised on free days. Unfortunately, most free days are during the week, and most tourists come to Kraków for a weekend trip.

Thus, a secondary piece of advice is to consider adjusting your trip to Kraków to be partially on the weekend and partially on weekdays. Museums are quite often free on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, so moving your three-day trip from Thursday to Saturday or from Saturday to Monday could save you some money. 

Inside Wawel Castle in Krakow
Inside Wawel Castle in Krakow. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

As far as free museums go, the most important museum to consider visiting on the free day is all the exhibits in Wawel Castle. The castle has many exhibits, all of which you must buy separate tickets for, and the prices can add up quickly, especially if you have a large group. But, on Mondays, you can visit every single permanent exhibit entirely for free, subject to ticket availability. So, extending your trip to Monday, and visiting Wawel Castle early allows you to see one of the most treasured places in Poland entirely for free! 

One important thing to note about museums on free days is that the hours are often shortened, with the museums typically closing earlier than usual. Additionally, since many of these museums are quite popular, tickets can run out for given time slots. Thus, the earlier you get to a museum, the better. But there are also many great museums outside of the center of Kraków that have free days and you should not have to worry about tickets running out, such as the amazing Nowa Huta Museum. Overall, this is the easiest way to save money in Kraków, especially if you are spending longer time visiting.  

5. Plan your own day trips from Kraków

Perhaps the most popular thing for tourists to do when visiting Kraków is to take a day trip to one of the many amazing places surrounding Kraków. The two most popular places are certainly Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Most tourists coming to Kraków visit one, or both during their time in Kraków. However, many tourists book tours to these locations that tend to run in the range from 400-600 PLN per person! While these guided trips, from a logistics standpoint, can make your life much easier, and the guide can be a great resource if you are really interested in history or culture, beyond that, for a budget traveler, such options are not the best. 

Auschwitz and Wieliczka specifically can be reached both by train and bus services that you can book on your own ahead of time. Additionally, there is a local bus from the city center in Kraków as part of the public transit ticket that can get you there in 30 minutes. For train tickets, I recommend buying them ahead of time using the local train website or the national train website. The former will have tickets for both Auschwitz and Wieliczka, and the latter will have options for Auschwitz. Additionally, for Auschwitz, entry is free, and for Wieliczka, you should buy tickets directly from the website or upon arrival.  

For other popular day trips, you might find that there is no convenient bus or train service. At this point, using a guide service may be a better choice, but you could also save money by choosing to rent a car. Renting a car in Poland is very affordable, and can get you anywhere nearby without any issue, and save you money. If you want to go to Zakopane, having a car may be a great choice, or you can also use local trains or buses to get there cheaper than using guide services. All in all, while guide services can be great, for a budget traveler, you are better off planning the trip yourself.  

2 Scams to Watch out for in Kraków

In general, Poland is a very safe country for every traveler. However, Kraków has a few problems unique to it that you should be wary of, especially if you are a male traveler, or planning to travel as a large all male group. These scams can lose you a lot of money, so it is best to avoid them. I will cover these issues and more in a later article, so check out the blog for that when it comes. For now, I will cover the 2 most significant ones related to your wallet in some detail below.

1. The bar/strip club scam

I will keep it simple. If you are approached by 1 or 2 attractive ladies, who seemingly out of nowhere offer to go for a drink with you at a great place they know, just say no thank you, or even better, say nothing at all and keep walking. If you choose to say yes, your night could end in being drugged, having your credit cards maxed out, and your bank and local authorities unwilling to do anything to help you.

Or, in the worst case, you could be beat up by the big burly security guards that work at these “great spots.” This scam relies on conning drunk people into thinking they will get free drinks, or a free peep show, and instead ends in the above. 

The best way to avoid this scam is to not walk drunk by yourself around Kraków. You should make some friends to go safely with. If you are traveling in a group, having someone who is a little less drunk might be helpful, as they can make sure proper judgement is used. If you are sober, just say no. They should not bother you after you say no, as they will not want to waste time trying to convince you; rather, they will want to find a more willing victim.

2. The charitable donation scams

I will again keep it simple. If there is someone asking for donations for charitable causes in the city center, it is 99.9% likely that the charitable causes will be that person’s own wallet. It is a sad thing to say, but it is the truth. If you want to donate for a worthy cause in Poland or Ukraine (the most common form of the scam), do it yourself to a charity that you know you can trust. The people on the street are far from that and may even be part of the group running the bar/strip club scam. So, be careful, and make donations safely and properly, not in busy tourist destinations. 

Conclusions: Some Final General Tips

So, overall, Kraków is a cheap city for tourists, following the trend of most cities in Poland. However, with some wise spending decisions and a little bit of extra work, you can save even more money. In general, use your common sense, and do some research in advance. In my scientific opinion, each minute you spend researching before arriving is equivalent to saving a few dollars or euros. So, do this!  

Finally, below you will find some general tips for Poland that you might find useful. Or you can check out the Poland budget-traveling blog I have written previously, which holds lots of helpful hints for Poland in general.  

  • Do not be afraid to get a local SIM card. SIM cards are extremely inexpensive. You can get a starter 15-day SIM card with 10 GB for around 15 PLN. This is certainly cheaper than any local plan your phone provider can happen. And of course, if you are coming from an EU country, you can take advantage of the free roaming, with Poland and Kraków having very fast internet speeds. You can buy SIM cards at the airport or train station, or at any corner store, of which there are many. All you need is your passport so the clerk can register the SIM card. 
  • Make sure not to accept an ATM’s currency exchange rate. The exchange rates offered will be unreasonable, and if you choose to accept, you could lose up to 25% in addition to the money you wanted to withdraw! Instead, you should except the transaction fee, which is usually around 15 PLN, and is much less than the money you will lose from the exchange rate. Or choose a local bank’s ATM, which will offer better, but not the best, exchange rates. Or just don’t use cash, as it is very likely you can pay for everything you need using your card.  
  • Always book things directly on the website of the place you want to visit, or train or bus service you want to use. Unfortunately, when you Google things like “Polish trains” or “trains from Kraków to Auschwitz,” you will be taken to third-party websites. These websites make their living charging transaction fees to book tickets that you could book yourself for no transaction fee. So, always do a little bit of extra searching beyond the top results, or Google terms like “official website” so that you get the correct price for anything you plan to book

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