Auschwitz Birkenau

Warsaw to Auschwitz: 5 Best Things to Know & Travel Info for a Day Trip

Are you considering traveling from Warsaw to Auschwitz for a day trip? Such a day trip is one of the longest and most logistically difficult day trips you could take in all of Poland. There are many reasons that such a day trip would not work for most people, including distance, cost, and the amount of energy you will need to use. However, if you are eager to visit this solemn spot, one of Poland’s most important landmarks and historical sites, it is possible to take a day trip. It will require meticulous planning and booking ahead however, this is not a trip you can plan at the last minute.  

You are coming to the right place if you are looking to plan a trip to Auschwitz from Kraków. While I have not dared to take a day trip from Warsaw to Auschwitz, as I prefer some of the closer day trips from Warsaw, I have extensive experience traveling the corridor between Warsaw and Kraków, a likely connecting point on your day trip journey. I have also visited Auschwitz from both Kraków and Katowice, getting a feel for the local trains. I have also rented a car from Warsaw if that is the path you choose to take.  

Thus, in this blog, you will first find the 5 most important things to know about traveling from Warsaw to Auschwitz. Start here to get a general overview of what this day trip requires. Then, continue to the detailed sections about 4 possible ways to take a day trip from Warsaw to Auschwitz, including by train, by bus, by car, and by private tour. Finally, find a brief guide holding the most important things to know about visiting Auschwitz, including opening hours, ticket prices, and when you should book your tickets!  

5 Things to Know

1. The trip is possible, but the day will be very long

Warsaw and the small city of Oświęcim, where the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum are found, are not a short distance apart. The shortest distance between the two is over 330 km (about 205 mi). This means that if you want to take a day trip from Warsaw to Auschwitz, you will need the entire day. It will require lots of planning to ensure you have proper time to visit, tickets for the right time, and energy to finish the visit. However, no matter what, your day will leave you exhausted. Thus, you should plan for some lower-intensity activities in Warsaw the day after this trip! 

But the trip is possible. I do not recommend it personally. I think Kraków is a city worth your time, and seeing Auschwitz from there is exponentially easier as a day trip. But, if you are only coming to Warsaw, and feel a personal need to visit Auschwitz, it is possible. There are four different ways you can achieve this very long day trip, which will be covered in further detail later in this blog.  

2. It will not be cheap to go from Warsaw to Auschwitz

While Poland is considered a budget destination in Europe, with low prices for most things, which includes museums, your trip from Warsaw to Auschwitz will not be a cheap one. Not only will you have to pay for the museum ticket in most circumstances (more on that later), but you will also have to pay the price for long-distance trains, buses, taking a private tour, or renting a car.

All of these will cost added money on top of the ticket prices, as well as prices for eating out and other stops. From a city closer to Oświęcim, you would only have to pay for the much cheaper local train tickets. So, plan some extra budget if you want to make this trip, with more on the exact budget you need covered later.  

3. Book in advance for everything, especially if you are visiting in the summer

Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of the most popular spots in all of Poland. People come to learn about the terrible events to take place here or mourn a relative who may have been lost here. Regardless of the reason, millions of people come to visit every year. However, while over 2 million visited in 2019, the number had dropped to closer to a million. Some of this is attributed to COVID, but most of it is attributed to measures put in place to limit the number of guests on-site at any given time. With these rules in place, it is very important to book ahead of time for the museum! Especially in the summer, ticket spots can go very quickly! 

In fact, a recent experience with booking tickets for Auschwitz means I must stress how important it is to book in advance, especially if you would like to visit on a weekend or a holiday. I found that the free tickets were gone even 5-6 weeks in advance! Since tickets are available 90 days in advance, I recommend booking as early as you possibly can! I know it is not feasible for everyone to plan, but if you want to visit for free, you will need to, or else hope to get lucky and get a ticket on the same day.  

Additionally, it is very important to book your method of travel to Auschwitz in advance! Trains and buses often sell out in Poland. Even if all do not, you do not want to be left guessing when you will be arriving, as you must book a specific time slot for your visit. If you are late, you will be stuck in limbo, waiting for a potential opening that may not materialize. Thus, you will need to plan your entire trip by the hour to ensure it works. More details are to follow on how to do this.  

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

This continues from the earlier point. You will have to do a lot of traveling to go from Warsaw to Auschwitz. It is also likely you will have to transfer from a train to a bus, a train to a train, or a bus to a bus. Thus, you must leave yourself some time between these transitions. While buses and trains are usually on time in Poland, sometimes they are not. Especially on the way there, being late is not good, so having 30-60 minutes of buffer time between transitions can save you some time, effort, and disappointment.  

But also, make sure you leave enough time to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau! If you are going to make the long trip there from Warsaw, you should see the site as thoroughly as possible. Also, leave time for breaks and eating.  

5. Pack as light as possible

Firstly, do this because Auschwitz has a limit on the size of the bag you can carry with you. There are lockers available at the main museum, however, there is a limited number, and they can all be full when you arrive. Thus, have everyone in your group bring only a small backpack. In the winter, coats serve a great purpose as storage for extra stuff.

I would limit your bag to having weather-specific essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, or winter layers, water, and some snacks, as well as any other essential things you need. You can pick up food for cheap along the way as you get hungry. If you come with too big of a bag, and cannot store it, you will be turned away, so be smart! 

Getting from Warsaw to Auschwitz

There are 4 possible ways to get from Warsaw to Auschwitz. These ways will be described in detail below. However, if you are looking for a summary of all 4 methods, check out the convenient table provided below, which has basic information on the pros and cons, as well as travel time and prices of each of the following ways to go from Warsaw to Auschwitz: by train, by bus, by car, and by guided tour. If you want a full description of how to do each way, continue reading to find out more! 

Method Pros Cons 
Train Relatively cheap Relatively quick On-time/efficient Lower flexibility Requires knowledge of Polish trains 
Bus Cheap choice Can book far in advance Low flexibility Very long day Lower comfort 
Car Complete flexibility Quickest choice Expensive Parking 
Guided Tour Everything taken care of for you No connections Most expensive Limited flexibility in sight-seeing time 
Method Price* Estimated Travel Time** 
Train 310 PLN per person 12-13 hours 
Bus 225 PLN per person 15-18 hours 
Car 250 PLN per car + tickets 10-12 hours 
Guided tour 400-600+ PLN per person 12-13 hours 
Summary table of traveling from Warsaw to Auschwitz

*Price includes round-trip transit ticket or estimated price of tour rental or gas, as well as admission tickets. If you can attend during the free hours, you can subtract 110 PLN from each listed price. Prices may be cheaper for children, students with ISIC cards, and seniors, or more expensive if you opt for the 6 hour tour.  

**This includes both the active time spent traveling on a mode of transport, as well as time visiting the museum, getting meals, and taking breaks. This estimate is conservative and is based on visiting the museum for 3 hours, although the Auschwitz-Birkenau website recommends visiting for 3-and-a-half hours.  

Warsaw to Auschwitz by Train

Warsaw to Auschwitz by train is one of the most inexpensive ways to do so. Polish trains are fast (but not as fast as in other European countries), usually efficient and on-time, and overall, a pretty comfortable experience. I almost always use the train when traveling from place to place around Poland, and only a couple of times have I been delayed or felt like the train experience was terrible. Thus, this method is an ideal way to travel from Warsaw to Auschwitz for a day trip.  

For this choice, you will first need to take a train from Warsaw to either Kraków or Katowice. Each has pluses and minuses. For Kraków, the train can take as little as 2.5 hrs., but this train is the most expensive express train. For a typical ride that will cost around 80-100 PLN per person, a train will last 3 hours and 15 minutes. To Katowice, a train will always take at least 3 hours, with minimal stops along the way. These trains may run as low as 60 PLN but usually run between 80-90 PLN. So, I would recommend heading to Katowice unless you want to take the more expensive express train to Kraków. But both options are fine.  

Warsaw central station after sunset
Central station of Warsaw. Taken by Poland Insiders photographer Andrzej Tokarski.

If you choose to take the train to Kraków, your next step is to buy a ticket to go to the city of Oświęcim. The train you will take is either the SKA2 or the SKA3. The SKA2 takes around 90 minutes, and the SKA3 only takes about an hour. Both cost the same amount of money, around 15 PLN in each direction. You should just take whichever comes first, but the SKA3 has the advantage of being much faster.  

To buy the ticket, you can do so online in advance, at the main ticket window of Kraków train station, or from the Koleje Malopolskie ticket machine. There is one of these machines in the train station, hidden in a corridor closest to the entrance of the mall, next to the office for Koleje Malopolskie. Staff who work there should know where it is if you need help finding it. My preference is to buy online in advance, as you need to plan your trip completely anyway.  

If you choose to take the train to Katowice, you will also then buy a direct ticket to Oświęcim. The KS S31 running every hour takes about 45 minutes and costs around 10 PLN in each direction. Tickets can be bought online in advance, at the main ticket window at the Katowice train station, or from a Koleje Slaskie ticket machine, which is right across from the main ticket window. In general, these trains will be a bit less busy than the ones from Kraków.  

For your return trip, you will need to buy your tickets from the right ticket vendor online, or at the ticket window in the Oświęcim station. Be warned that the station is very small, and also only has one ticket machine which was not working when I visited. The line for a ticket will get quite long in the summer, so buy in advance if you are planning a day trip.  

When booking your overall trip, you should plan everything in reverse. First, pick a time that you would prefer to visit the museum. The earliest you could probably do is 12. Do not book your tickets yet but keep this time in mind as you look at train times. Then, figure out when trains to Auschwitz leave from your preferred connection point of Kraków or Katowice. Finally, find a train from Warsaw that will take you to either Kraków or Katowice at least 45 minutes before your train to Auschwitz, if not more if you prefer some more buffer time in case of delays. Once you have everything confirmed, book all your tickets.  

Overall, this choice will take around 8 hours of train travel time, and adding in your time at Auschwitz and some buffer time will mean a total day trip time of 12-13 hours from start to finish. You should expect to have to wake up between 5 and 6 AM to make this whole plan work the best. But it is less expensive, at around 285-300 PLN per person including tickets, and less expensive if you can manage to visit during the free hours. 

One final note: There are occasionally direct trains to Auschwitz from Warsaw, which then continue onwards to Prague or Budapest. However, these trains often arrive at either 11 PM or 6 AM, meaning you would be leaving Warsaw at 3 AM. In theory, you could take the 6 AM arriving train, but you would have to wait 90 minutes for the museum to open, and you would be tired. The train will also be more expensive even though it is direct. So, instead, follow my advice above. And always book long-distance trains with PKP.

Warsaw to Auschwitz by Bus

Warsaw to Auschwitz by bus can be by far the cheapest choice. However, choosing this choice will mean extremely long days. In general, I would not recommend it, but if your budget is tight, I can see the merit in choosing it. Even though trains make many more stops than typical long-distance buses in Poland, the buses are much slower in Poland. While a train from Warsaw to Auschwitz can be achieved in as little as 4 hours plus transfer times, a bus trip will probably take around 6 hours each way plus transfer times.  

But, if you want to do it, you will first want to book a bus from Warsaw to Kraków. This is the fastest bus choice to get to a hub closer to Oświęcim. Buses leave consistently from Warsaw West bus station. In my experience, FlixBus, while similarly infamous as Ryan Air due to its budget conditions, is the best choice for this bus journey. It is fast enough, and usually on time.  

Oświęcim bus terminal
The Oświęcim bus terminal. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

Once in Kraków, there are many buses to choose from that continue to Oświęcim. Probably the best ones are with Lajkonik. A bus ride directly to the museum costs 20 PLN/17 PLN reduced. Buses leave approximately every 60-90 minutes in both directions. Additionally, you can book your bus ticket on one ticket using FlixBus, which has a partnership with Lajkonik for the Auschwitz bus. The combined ticket may cost around 20 euros per person.  

Thus, with a ticket included a trip from Warsaw to Auschwitz by bus may cost around 200 PLN, and even less if you can visit during the free hours. Your day will probably take at least 15-18 hours, but typically in the lower range of this estimate. In general, you can expect to leave Warsaw at 7 AM, get to Kraków at 10:30, take the bus to Auschwitz by 12:30, explore the museum, leave by 4:00 PM, then catch a bus from Kraków around 6 PM, and arrive back to Warsaw around 9:30 PM. With travel time to the bus station in Warsaw added, this results in the 15-hour estimate.  

So, in general, I do not recommend traveling from Warsaw to Auschwitz by bus. While it can be dirt cheap, the trains are much more comfortable, have much more flexibility, and mean a much shorter journey time. But, if you want to, it is possible, just follow the instructions above.  

Warsaw to Auschwitz by Car

Looking for the shortest possible travel time that is a great budget choice for a family? Consider renting a car in Warsaw and driving to Auschwitz. Using great booking services such as Discover Cars, you can book a car, pick it up at Warsaw Chopin airport, and be on your way in no time. In general, a car, plus the petrol you will need to pay to keep your car full, will cost around 250 PLN per car, and then you need to add in ticket prices.  

However, renting a car has two main advantages: economies of scale and complete flexibility! Firstly, if you have a group of 4 to comfortably fit into the cheapest economy-sized rental car, 250 PLN is much less than the price of 4 train or bus tickets, even if you have discounted travelers such as children. Additionally, with a car, you can easily make your arrival time during the free hours, saving you even more money on the tickets you would likely have to buy by taking another method! Finally, you can make as many stops as you want when you want.  

In general, driving a car in Poland is easy, and the drive from Warsaw to Auschwitz only takes around 3 hrs. and 40 minutes. The drive could be even faster, but this would require driving on a toll road, which I recommend avoiding as it is tricky to set up the electronic toll for a rental car. Either way, with a more direct driving route and complete flexibility, your day trip could be over in around 10-12 hours.  

The one disadvantage is that you will have to focus on parking. Parking is available at both Auschwitz and Birkenau, at a rate that depends on the day. If those lots fill up, there are also other parking providers, usually with attendants wearing bright yellow jackets. Parking there will be cheaper, but you will have to walk a bit more or pay for a golf cart shuttle to the museum. Otherwise, make sure to check out the guide linked above to learn everything you need to know about renting a car in Warsaw.  

Warsaw to Auschwitz by Guided Tour

Does having to plan out a meticulous schedule of train and bus times, or having to drive yourself sound like too much effort? Luckily, there is a fourth, but most expensive, choice to choose. There are many guided tours from Warsaw to Auschwitz offered by various travel agencies. Through services such as Viator, you can usually find a variety of options with different specifications. What is certain is that each tour will involve round-trip transit directly to and from Auschwitz in an air-conditioned bus, an entry ticket, a guide to take you around, and much more comfort of mind if you do not like planning.  

However, this choice will still take 10-12 hours and cost a whopping 400-600+ PLN per person. A small hack that may get you around the costs is to book your tour from Kraków! This still involves you having to take a train from Warsaw to Kraków, but once you have done that, the tour agency will take care of everything else! A tour instead will cost around 120 PLN per person with a ticket included and take around 6-7 hours. Adding in trains, you could end up taking a private guided tour for less than 400 PLN with just a little more effort. 

Visiting Guide to Auschwitz

Now that you know how to get from Warsaw 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. Since the museum closes quite early in the winter, a day trip from Warsaw to Auschwitz becomes much harder, as you need to make sure you get an early start to get to Auschwitz on time. 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 for 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 are able to 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, as the available 6-hour tour is not feasible for a day trip from Warsaw. 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 required for admission into the museum, especially if you have purchased your ticket ahead of time. It helps prove that the name on the ticket matches who you are. Do not forget your passport or appropriate 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 Warsaw to Auschwitz

So, traveling from Warsaw to Auschwitz as a day trip is possible, but will result in a long day. If you can manage it because you are not visiting a closer city like Katowice or Kraków, it is still worth some time, as the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau is worth visiting. Just follow the 5 tips I wrote at the beginning of this blog, and you will be good to go! My overall recommendation is to use trains if you are a solo traveler or a very small group of friends, and a car if you have a family or larger group. These are the best bang-for-your-buck options that still also allow flexibility for your visit. Safe travels! 

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