Auschwitz Birkenau

Kraków to Auschwitz: 5 Best Things to Know & Travel Info 

Are you considering a day trip from Kraków to Auschwitz? This is perhaps the most popular day trip in all of Poland, although there are many other great day trips from Kraków. Millions of people each year visit the site of the former Nazi Concentration and Death Camp each year, to reflect on the terrible history, and learn more about this infamous Polish landmark more in-depth. While the distance from Kraków to Auschwitz is not long, doing this day trip will still require planning to save time and money.  

This blog contains the 5 most important things to know when planning your day trip from Kraków to Auschwitz. These 5 points give an overview of what your experience should be like and what planning you need to do in advance. In addition, there is detailed information about how to get from Kraków to Auschwitz in the 4 most popular methods: by train, by bus, by car, and by private tour. Each is a viable way to do so from Kraków, but each has its costs and benefits, which will be summarized in a convenient table later in this article. Finally, there will be a brief overview of everything in detail about visiting the museum itself.  

So, this article does focus on the travel aspect of visiting Auschwitz. I hope you will find all the information you need to make what can be a stressful experience for some much less stressful.

5 Things to Know

1. Auschwitz is super easy to visit from Kraków

There is a reason Auschwitz is so popular to visit from Kraków. The distance from Kraków to Auschwitz is around 70 km (44 miles) in each direction. With multiple options for trains and buses that take no more than 90 minutes, you can get to Auschwitz in no time from Kraków and still have time to explore other fantastic sights of the city before or after your visit. All of these methods are direct and require no transfer and leave from the city center

2. Auschwitz can be visited on a budget from Kraków

While a day trip from Warsaw is possible (and some people try), from Kraków, not only is it a quick trip to Auschwitz, but it is more inexpensive. It is much easier to visit during the free hours later in the day (more on those later), and tickets to get to Auschwitz will cost as little as 10-15 PLN in each direction per person, which is a deal!  

3. Book in advance for everything, especially in the summer

Unsurprisingly, there is a high demand to visit Auschwitz each year. There are also only a limited number of tickets available per day. Especially in the winter, when hours are short, only a few hundred people are allowed on the premises each day, which includes the weekends. With only a limited number of tickets each day available in languages outside of English or Polish as well, your ideal ticket may be in high demand. Thus, book in advance! 

Tickets for Auschwitz are available as early as 90 days in advance, and the free tickets available each day may disappear soon after that window opens. So, book in advance! Additionally, it is important to book your method of transport in advance too in some cases. If going by bus, booking in advance is a good idea. By train, it is not necessary, but you can save yourself time waiting in line at the train station on the day of. For tours, you can usually book at the last minute when you arrive in Kraków.  

4. Give yourself sufficient time to make it from place to place

If you are taking a tour with a guide, you do not need to worry about this as much. However, if you are doing a self-guided tour, it is important to note that the distance between the memorial museum and the sight of the Birkenau camp is approximately 30 minutes by foot, or shorter by city bus or museum shuttle. So, you need to make sure to plan for this time! In addition, it takes about 20-30 minutes on foot to get to either the museum or the Birkenau site from the main train station, which is where most buses also stop.  

The museum recommends you arrive at least 30 minutes in advance due to security checks that must be undertaken, as well as the opportunity to use the restroom or drop off bags, you need to plan for this time. Do not be surprised if you find yourself sitting around for 30 minutes waiting to enter due to train or bus times. Alternatively, if you do not want to do this, the city of Oświęcim is quite nice to visit, with a picturesque town square only a 5-minute bus ride away from the museum.  

5. Pack as light as possible

The great thing about coming from Kraków to Auschwitz is that you should have a place to stay in Kraków where you can leave your stuff behind. Since Auschwitz has strict rules on what you can and cannot bring into the premises, you can take advantage of this proximity and not worry about the bag rules. While there is luggage storage the only things you will need are your essentials (including a passport for entry), and proper clothing. However, backpacks of the size 35x25x15 cm are allowed if you need the room.  

However, as food and drink are not allowed on the premises (yes, that means even in your backpack), limit yourself to a small bag with water, the clothes you need, and your essentials, as well as a small umbrella depending on the weather. Food can be bought in the town itself, whether at restaurants or a corner store, so you do not need to carry it with you. For full regulations of what you can bring, visit here.  

Getting from Kraków to Auschwitz

Below is a useful summary table on getting from Kraków to Auschwitz. However, keep reading if you want much more detailed information and where and how to book tickets! 

Method Pros Cons 
Train Cheapest choice Arrives close to the museum Might have to stand Requires knowledge of Polish trains 
Bus Cheap choice Quick journey Lower flexibility Limited tickets 
Car Complete flexibility Good for families Kind of pointless Parking 
Guided Tour Everything taken care of for you Most expensive Limited flexibility in sight-seeing time 
Method Price* Estimated Travel Time** 
Train 140 PLN per person 6-6.5 hours 
Bus 150 PLN per person 6 hours 
Car 200 PLN per car + tickets 5.5 hours 
Guided tour 120-350+ PLN per person 7 hours 
Overview of transport options to Auschwitz

*Prices include tickets, which may be cheaper than some, and if you can get a free ticket, subtract 110 PLN from the price listed.  

** Travel time includes both visiting the museum and getting there. Add 3 extra hours if you plan to do the 6-hour tour versus the regular tour.

Kraków to Auschwitz by Train

Traveling from Kraków to Auschwitz by train is both the quickest and cheapest choice available. There is a consistent daily service from the center of Kraków to the Oświęcim train station. Such a train will include comfortable seats, including some with tables, rooms for luggage, and toilets, and some may even have Wi-Fi. Two trains from Kraków run this route every day, the SKA2 or the SKA3. The SKA2 takes around 90 minutes, and the SKA3 only about an hour to get from Oświęcim to Kraków central train station, with a ticket costing around 15 PLN in each direction.  

Krakow to Auschwitz train
A train going from Krakow to Auschwitz. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

You should just take whichever train comes first, but if both are leaving at similar times, the SKA3 is better. Tickets can be bought in advance online, which is recommended. However, you can also buy tickets from Koleje Malopolskie ticket machines. There is one machine in the Oświęcim station, and one hidden in a corridor closest to the mall in the Kraków train station, with there also usually being availability at stations in between. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket at the train window but expect longer lines in both directions to do this.  

One thing to note is that the train station is about a 20–30-minute walk from the main museum. Alternatively, there are city buses available as well, with ticket machines available outside the train station. I recommend buying your return ticket there too, as it does not appear the buses can buy tickets on board. Otherwise, the walk is quite nice, through a quiet city, and might be a good way to prepare yourself for the emotions the museum is sure to bring.  

Kraków to Auschwitz by Bus

Getting from Kraków to Auschwitz by bus is also quite convenient and fast! Various bus services are available, leaving from the bus station attached to the main train station. The main bus service from Kraków to Auschwitz is offered by Lajkonik. Lajkonik offers buses that leave every 60-90 minutes in both directions, with the journey only taking 60 minutes. The buses typically arrive close to the train station, but some are direct to the museum. A ticket with them costs 20 PLN/17 PLN reduced each direction. Tickets can be booked in advance at the link above, or through the FlixBus app.  

Alternatively, you can just show up at the central bus station and ask for a round-trip ticket to Auschwitz. There will usually always be tickets available when you arrive. However, the disadvantage of this is you have limited flexibility when you leave, especially since the entry tickets for Auschwitz are time-sensitive. Thus, it is better to book in advance, as additionally on busy weekends, buses may be sold out in advance.

Kraków to Auschwitz by Car

Renting a car in Poland is cheap and is a choice for your journey from Kraków to Auschwitz. However, it is not recommended. It is expensive, and with such great bus and train options available, it is not necessary. However, if you have a large family, or are already planning to rent a car to explore Kraków and beyond, it is certainly possible. The main advantage is that you can drive directly to Auschwitz whenever you want, not having to worry about train or bus times. Additionally, you can transport a lot more people without worrying about buying a bunch of individual tickets.  

Auschwitz parking lot
The Auschwitz parking lot. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

However, there are a few downsides to renting a car. Firstly, you will have to deal with parking. Parking is offered both at the museum and the Birkenau camp, with the rate depending on the day you visit. However, this rate will be around 30 PLN per day at both locations. Thus, I recommend picking one location, parking there, and using city buses or shuttles to transport between the two. Parking at the museum is better. There are also other independent parking lots nearby for busier days that may offer a cheaper rate. Just look for people in yellow jackets along the street.  

The other disadvantage is that renting a car just for this trip is quite expensive. While you can park close to the museum and return to Kraków at your leisure, you will have to pay around 100 PLN to rent the car just for the day. Plus, with petrol being so expensive in Poland, you will pay an additional 70-100 PLN just for petrol on this trip, plus parking. So, going by car can be done, but is overall not recommended by me.  

Kraków to Auschwitz by Guided Tour

If the idea of having to plan your arrival time, buy train or bus tickets, or rent a car, sounds too stressful for you, a fourth and final choice for getting from Kraków to Auschwitz is to do so by private tour. Dozens of companies in Kraków offer daily tours from Kraków to Auschwitz. You will find many tour companies in the Kraków Old Town, with big signs and people on the street trying to get you to buy. The typical tour can be as low as 120 PLN per person in the offseason but will typically range around 300 PLN per person.  

While you could book directly from the tour companies in the Old Town, I would recommend shopping around in advance online. Websites like Viator or Get Your Guide have dozens of options available, and you will be able to see the price on certain days, as well as how long the tour will take, and where you will need to leave. Booking the day before (which is usually the minimum time allowed) runs the risk of having an inflated price, so I would book in advance! 

Finally, a good tour should run for around 7 hours. It should include entry tickets, private transport to and from, and a private tour guide. If a tour you see does not include these three things in the typical price, you should not take it. As always, read reviews, check ahead, and most of the companies should offer an overall good service. However, it is easy to do everything on your own from Kraków, and you can save a lot of money! 

Visiting Guide to Auschwitz

Now that you know how to get from Kraków to Auschwitz, you might have some information about what it is like visiting Auschwitz itself. The Auschwitz website has a great website and FAQ page that answers a lot of different questions you might have. However, based on my knowledge and past research, I have compiled a brief amount of information about visiting in the following sections. Read on to learn more.  

Visiting Hours 

The visiting hours for Auschwitz can be found below. They vary based on the month of the year. I have also shown which visiting hours are for free admission, a topic which I will go into more detail in the next section.  Also, note that the museum’s actual closing time is 1 hour after the listed hour. The listed closing time is rather the last hour in which someone can enter.  

Month(s) Hours Free Hours 
January and November 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM 
February 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM 
March and October 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM 
April, May, and September 7:30 AM – 6:00 PM 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM 
June, July, and August 7:30 AM – 7:00 PM 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM 
December 7:30 AM – 2:00 PM 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM 
Opening hours of Auschwitz Museum and Memorial

Guided Tickets vs Self-Guided Tickets 

When you are looking to book your tickets, you will notice that there will be tickets available labeled as “guided” and “self-guided.” Guided tours are offered throughout the day, and require staying with a guide, who will provide history and context as you walk around. A self-guided tour means you can pace yourself through the museum and outdoor areas as quickly or slowly as you want after entry. They are also related to the price of your visit, which will be discussed in the next section.  

Is Auschwitz Museum Free: Ticket Prices 

Visiting the Auschwitz Museum is only free at certain times of each day. When you Google “Is Auschwitz Museum Free,” the top result you might get is a quote from the official Auschwitz-Birkenau website saying that “entry to the premises is free,” and that “a fee is only charged for visits with a museum educator.” While these statements are both true, the way it is put into context is very misleading. So, the simple answer is that visiting Auschwitz is almost always NOT FREE. Yes, you will have to pay to visit Auschwitz.  

The only times you can visit the museum for free is if you book a self-guided tour. These are only available during the last hours of the museum’s opening. If you can book a ticket then, you can visit for free. Otherwise, you will have to pay. Tickets cost 110 PLN/100 PLN reduced for tours in any language but Polish. If you can understand or speak Polish, a tour costs 100 PLN/90 PLN reduced. This price is about 25% more expensive than it was last year, so expect the price to increase even further due to popularity and inflation.  

Ticket Availability 

Tickets are available a maximum of 90 days ahead of time, with at least 15 tickets available for each time slot. For free visiting hours, the amount per 15-minute time slot is always 15 tickets. For regular visiting hours, there are usually multiple sets of 15 tickets available, with tours in different languages. Polish and English tours run every 15 minutes, and other languages are offered 2-3 times per day with seasonal demand. Other languages for which there are dedicated guides are German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Czech, and Slovak. Visit here for more info.  

Tickets do sell out, especially for busy weekends and holidays. Thus, it is recommended to reserve a spot as soon as you can once you know you are visiting Auschwitz. A small number of tickets may be available closer to the date, but maybe not in the language you want. From recent experience, free tickets for Auschwitz may be gone as early as a month in advance, especially for weekends or holidays, so I recommend booking that ticket exactly 90 days in advance if you can plan for it.  

How Long It Takes to See Auschwitz 

The Auschwitz website says to plan 3-and-a-half hours. This includes the time it takes between the main museum and the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. If you are doing a guided tour, this is how long your trip will take for the typical tourist, unless you choose the full 6-hour guided tour, which is an option from Kraków. If you are doing a self-guided tour, your tour can be quicker. However, the maximum a self-guided tour can be is 4 hours, based on getting the earliest possible time slot. So, in general, plan a 4-hour block for visiting.  

How to Get Around at Auschwitz 

Once you get to the city of Oświęcim, it is only about a 20-minute walk to the main museum. Or you can take a city bus. There is a ticket machine right outside the train station by the bus stop. Take a bus to the Muzeum I bus stop. You can take either Bus 3, 16, or 686.  

Muzeum I (Auschwitz) and Muzeum II (Birkenau) are in two different locations, found about 30 minutes apart by walking. Alternatively, there are shuttle bus services between the two offered to museum guests. The walk is not the easiest (having done it myself), so I recommend the shuttle bus to save time and effort.  

Rules of Visiting Auschwitz 

When you visit, the ultimate rule is to BE RESPECTFUL. This means staying quiet throughout the trip. This means hushed voices, no jokes, no loud conversations, no phone calls. You would think this is obvious, but not everyone near the sites followed these rules. Additionally, if you are bringing children along, which is not recommended by the museum but still allowed, make sure they will be well-behaved throughout the trip. But good behavior applies to everyone. Remember that you are also in a city that real people live in, so be respectful for this reason as well. 

Another important thing to do is to BRING YOUR PASSPORT! It is needed for admission into the museum, especially if you have bought your ticket ahead of time. It helps prove that the name on the ticket matches who you are. Do not forget your passport or ID card, or else they will not let you enter the museum even if you have paid!  

The final main rule I will mention is related to photography. Personal photography is allowed. Photography for commercial purposes (such as selling it for profit, using it in a logo, etc.) is not allowed without a permit. Using drones anywhere near the museum is not allowed. Finally, an unofficial rule is not to take pictures with the train tracks at Birkenau! The Auschwitz-Birkenau site is not a place for Instagram photo shoots. You would think this is obvious, but you would not believe the number of people posing for a picture or selfie in front of the gates that meant the deaths of over a million people. 

Conclusions about Kraków to Auschwitz 

So, going from Kraków to Auschwitz should not be a challenging task, and is certainly worth your time if you are visiting Kraków. It can be done quite cheaply if you buy your ticket and take a bus or train. If you can get free tickets, it can be done for as little as 30 PLN per person! Just make sure to book in advance, give yourself time to get from place to place, and pack light. I hope you found all the information you needed in this guide, and I hope your solemn trip to Auschwitz will be enlightening.  

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