Warsaw is the capital and the biggest city in Poland. Many travellers land at Poland’s busiest airport, Warsaw Chopin, before making their way down south to enjoy the historical city of Krakow. There are many different options for travelling between these two cities, but what is the best way?
Warsaw is located in central Poland, almost 300km north of Krakow. With plenty of options for travelling between the two on the menu, we will help you decide what mode of transport is best. Yep, this ultimate guide on getting from Warsaw to Krakow will run through all the ins and outs of trains, buses, cars, and even planes…
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What’s in this guide on how to travel from Warsaw to Krakow
- Warsaw to Krakow by a high-speed train
- Warsaw to Krakow by a normal train
- Warsaw to Krakow by bus
- Warsaw to Krakow by plane
- Warsaw to Krakow by car
- Where to stay in Warsaw
Warsaw to Krakow by a high-speed train
Cost: 49PLN – 150PLN
Since 2014 fast and comfortable trains, Pendolino, have been introduced to Polish railways. These trains have massively reduced the travelling times from Warsaw to Krakow, making it the quickest and easiest way to travel between Poland’s two largest cities overland. It takes less than 2.5 hours to get from the capital to Krakow by Express Intercity Premium’s Pendolino trains. They are over an hour faster than any other road transport.
The train starts in Gdansk by the Polish seaside and stops at three stations in Warsaw. Those are Warszawa Wschodnia (Warsaw east), Warszawa Centralna (the main train station) and Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw west). Pendolino then goes directly into Krakow’s main train station, which is centrally located, right by the old town. Most people will catch the train from Warsaw’s main train station, which has the most central location in the city. The train has the lengthiest stop there so everyone can get on the train without a problem.
Pendolino trains are relatively new as trains go with good levels of comfort. You will need to get a reserved seat, so you don’t need to worry about finding the best seat. There are tables by some seats and trays on the others. There are also electricity plugs, and Wi-Fi is available, so it’s not a problem if you need to work. It’s best to book the seats around the tables if you want the most space or if you’re coming as a group of up to four.
When it comes to buying tickets, it’s best to do it online in advance. The tickets go on sale exactly 30 days before the departure, and the cheapest rates sell out quickly. You can pay as little as 49 PLN if you manage to secure the early bird deal but won’t pay more than 150 PLN for the second class. Make sure to book trains marked as EIP to purchase the high-speed lines. You can also buy the tickets at the counter at all train stations, but that’s also best done in advance to secure the best price and seats.
Warsaw to Krakow by a normal train
Time: 2h37m – 3h50m
Cost: From 37.40PLN up to 150PLN
There are plenty of direct trains from Warsaw to Krakow other than the high-speed rail. Although these take a bit longer, most of them are still quicker than buses and cars. The fastest one is Express Intercity, which only takes around 15-20 minutes longer than the high-speed Pendolino. The carriages, though, are slightly older with different seating arrangements. Those are six to eight seats in each compartment. Similar to EIP trains, these will cost anywhere between 49 PLN and 150 PLN depending on available deals. The sale of these starts 30 days before departure, and it’s worth booking your tickets as soon as you can. They will be marked as EIC online.
Other trains from Warsaw to Krakow are the slower Intercity and TLK, which can take anywhere from 2h47m to 3h50m. Although they are not as quick as the express trains, the tickets will usually be cheaper. They can cost as little as 37.40 PLN, but you will need to get the tickets in advance if you want to secure the best deals. These are also slightly less comfortable since the trains are usually older than the express ones. These are not the most laptop-friendly either since most of them don’t have Wi-Fi, plugs or tray tables.
All trains travelling from Warsaw to Krakow stop at three stations in the capital, but most people start their journey at the main train station (Warszawa Centralna). You can buy your tickets there, but if you want to get the best seats and rates, it’s better to do it online in advance. You can’t buy tickets for any Polish intercity trains earlier than 30 days before departure, though.
Warsaw to Krakow by bus
Cost: From 20PLN
Although this is neither the quickest nor the most comfortable way to get from Warsaw to Krakow, buses are usually the cheapest. You can find tickets for as low as 20 PLN if you book in advance. Buses usually take at least 4h25m, but that is not set in stone. Some buses are scheduled to take a little longer anyway, but the usual cause of delays is traffic.
Despite being the two largest cities in Poland, there is no motorway between Warsaw and Krakow. The expressway that connects these two metropolises is far from perfect, with large parts being one lane. It often gets congested, so 4.25 h can often be more like 6 h. That said, if you choose your times wisely and avoid the rush hours, you should get to Krakow at the scheduled time without having to pay much for your ticket.
There are a couple of bus companies running from Warsaw to Krakow, but the most popular is Flixbus. Other ones include NEOBUS and PKS Polonus, but those go less frequently than the European green coaches known as Flixbus. You will need to book your tickets online, and doing it in advance should save you a bit of cash. Most buses go from Warsaw West bus station with a couple of daily connections going from Warsaw Mlociny and two of the capital’s airports.
Warsaw to Krakow by plane
Cost: from 142 PLN
Technically, the quickest way to get from Warsaw to Krakow is by plane since the flight only takes around 55 minutes. That said, if you count the time you spend on getting to and waiting at the airports, you may find that the trains can actually take less time. But if we’re only counting the time of travel, then yes, flying is the quickest option.
The only carrier offering direct flights from Warsaw to Krakow is the Polish national airline LOT. There are seven flights daily, going around every 2-3 hours during the daytime. Due to the length of this journey, the planes on this route are small, with no possibility of booking premium or business class, so the only available seats are those in the economy. We still rated the comfort as 5, though, since this is such a short flight.
The flights to Krakow only depart from Warsaw’s main international airport, Warsaw Chopin in Okęcie. The airport can easily be reached by public transport or taxis from most parts of the city.
When it comes to buying the tickets, we strongly advise you to do so online in advance. The morning flights tend to be cheaper than the evening ones, with prices starting at around 142 PLN per person. You can book your tickets via LOT’s official website.
Warsaw to Krakow by car
You can always drive from Warsaw to Krakow if you have a vehicle, but we should warn you that it’s not the quickest way. Despite being the two largest cities in Poland, there is currently no motorway connecting these two metropolises. The fastest road is the expressway S7, which is around 290 km long. It will take you at least 3.5 hours without the traffic that can often be more like 5-6h in the rush hours.
The quality of the road, though, is far from perfect, with large sections being only one lane. The S7 often gets congested so if you’re pushed for time, opt for a train or flight. There are two alternative routes. Both are longer but sometimes quicker. The combination of S8 and A1 roads that go via Czestochowa and Katowice is around 370 km long. Some sections of it are dual-carriage motorways. This way should take about 4h25m. The third option is taking a slower DW728 road before joining S7 by Kielce.
Where to stay in Warsaw
- H15 Boutique Hotel ($$$) – A beautiful five-star hotel in the heart of Warsaw. It’s located in a beautiful, historic building which once was a soviet embassy.
- Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw ($$$) – A luxury hotel with a spa situated in the middle of Warsaw’s beautiful old town. It’s quite pricy but well worth it.
- Hotel Indigo Warsaw Nowy Świat, an IHG Hotel ($$) – A stylish boutique hotel in a fantastic, central location. The hotel offers free bike rentals, the best way to explore Poland’s vibrant capital
Warsaw to Krakow – the conclusion
There are many ways to travel from Warsaw to Krakow, but not all of them are the most convenient. We think that trains are the best option to travel on this route, especially if you go on the high-speed Pendolino train that takes less than 2.5 hours. It’s best to avoid the roads if you are pushed for time. That said, buses are usually the cheapest mode of transport on this route. It’s also possible to fly with Poland’s national carrier, but this option is usually pricier than going overland.
How much does the train from Warsaw to Kraków cost?
The prices start at 37.40 PLN and can go up to 150 PLN in the standard second class. The cost of the ticket will depend on the type of train and the time of booking. You can buy the tickets up to 30 days in advance when you can secure the early-bird deals. The express trains are also more expensive than the Intercity and TLK trains.
Is it cheaper to fly into Warsaw or Kraków?
You will usually find cheaper tickets to Warsaw’s secondary airport, Warsaw Modlin. That said, it is not a rule, and you can often find cheaper flights into Krakow. The cost of getting from the airport to the city is also less in Krakow than in Modlin, so you should consider that when planning your trip.
How do I get from Warsaw airport to Kraków?
There are two airports in Warsaw, Warsaw Chopin Airport known as Okęcie and Warsaw Modlin. You will usually have to travel to central Warsaw to catch a train or a bus to Krakow, which is easier done from the better-connected Chopin Airport. There are also a couple of direct bus connections from both airports with Flixbus. The quickest option, though, is to fly from Okęcie with Polish national carrier LOT.