Poland Trains - Guide
Train service is just about the only way to get around from city to city in Poland, and truthfully they're fairly reliable and not that expensive.
However, not knowing Polish can be a bit of a problem considering the average train station personnel and conductors do not speak English...even if they are manning the International Ticket Counter!
I lived in Poland for 2 years and speak the language, and have taken the train all over the place in the country, so here's some basic information when buying tickets, and navigating your way to the platform.
Feel like a beer?
You can always seek out the bar car (wagon barowy), but there is a cheaper option... Wait until you hear someone yelling "piwo, piwo, piwo! piwo jasne, piwo ciemne" (PEE-vo, PEE-vo YOSS-neh, PEE-vo CHEM-neh).There will be a guy running around the platform selling beer cans from his duffel bag! Yes, I'm serious. The only problems are that the beer tends to be of a cheaper variety, and can be warm.
An important question to ask: Czy sa zimne? (chih soan(g) ZHEEM-neh?) Are they cold?
If the can is warm, you can always give it back and reply: Dziekuje, ale cieple jest. (jen-KOO-yeh, ah-leh CHEP-weh yest. - thanks, but it's warm)
He will probably sell it to you through the window, because when the whistle blows, he will not want to still be on the train!
Getting to the station
Jak sie dostac do dworca kolejowego? yock she DOUGH-stotch dough DVORR-tsah ko-lay-oh-VAY-go (How do you get to the train station?)
Do dworca (name of station), prosze. dough DVORR-tsah (name), PRO-sheh. (To the ____ train station, please.)
glowny - GWOOV-nih - main (station)
centralny - tsen-TRAWL-nih - central (station)
wschodni - FSKHOAD-nyee - east
zachodni - za-KHOAD-nyee - west
polnocny - poow-NOATS-nih - north
poludniowy - po-woo-dnee-OH-vih - south
At the train station
Look for "bilety" (tickets) to purchase a ticket.
There are 3 types of trains:
- pociag osobowy - "people's train" - slowest and cheapest; stops at every stop
- pociag pospieszny - "fast train" - a bit faster; skips a few stops to maintain a higher speed
- pociag ekspresowy (or Intercity) - "express train" - fastest - a must if you're going between major cities, or crossing the country
Go to the ticket counter and ask:
Czy jest ktos ktory mowi po angielsku? chih yest ktoash KTOO-rih MOO-vee po on-GYELL-skoo? (Is there anyone who can speak English?)
(If there is, they'll direct you to that person's counter. In general, look for the youngest person working there; it will maximize your chances of them being able to speak English)
If you get a "nie ma nikoga..." (there's nobody) response, you'll have to buy your ticket in Polish.
Prosze bilet [or other variants, below] osobowy/pospieszny/ekspresowy do stacji (destination). PRO-sheh BEE-let oh-so-BOW-vih/po-SHPYESH-nih/express-OH-vih dough STOTS-yee (....). One ticket (slow/fast/express) to (...) please.
bilet - BEE-let - one ticket
dwa bilety - dvah bee-LET-ih - 2 tickets
trzy bilety - tshih bee-LET-ih - 3 tickets
cztery bilety - CHTAIR-ih bee-LET-ih - 4 tickets
piec biletow - pyench bee-LET-oof - 5 tickets
** If you get an "osobowy" ticket, it's just free seating. You just need the ticket. Find a seat where you can when you get on the train.
** For "pospieszny" or "ekspresowy" tickets, you'll also need to buy a seat reservation in addition to your ticket (they usually staple them together). The word for seat reservation is "miejscowka" (myays-TSOOF-kah) but they will typically issue you one automatically when you buy the ticket.
The seat reservation will have 3 elements to it:
It may have some other things next to it like:
okno - window (seat)
przy stoliku - by the table
dla palacych - for smokers
dla niepalacych - for nonsmokers
od - from
do - to
w jedna strone - one-way (single) ticket
tam i z powrotem - round trip (return) ticket
Class: There's typically first and second class tickets available for Polish pospieszny (fast) and ekspresowy (express) trains. Both require a seating reservation, but the first class seats are a bit less cramped (6 seats per compartment instead of 8) and better-quality seats. They're usually not worth the extra price unless you want some space and relative solitude.
By default, they tend to sell you 2nd class tickets but you can request 1st class by adding "pierwsza klasa, prosze" (PYERRV-shah KLOSS-ah, PRO-sheh; first class, please) to the end of your ticket request. (2nd class is druga clasa; DROO-gah KLOSS-ah)
Getting on the train
So you can usually ignore the pociag (train) number - there should be only one train on the track for where you're going! - but look for the "wagon" (car) number that matches what's on your seat reservation, and then the seat number.
If you want to ask someone if a seat is free, you can say:
Przepraszam, czy jest to (miejsce) wolne? (psheh-PROSH-ahm, chih yest toe (MYAYS-tseh) VOAL-neh?) Excuse me, is this (seat) free?
Can you get on a train without a ticket? Yes, but you better have cash! Immediately look for a train conductor (kontroler - they'll be wearing something looking official) and tell them:
Nie kupilem (kupilam) biletu na dworcu. Jade do stacji (your destination), Czy moge od pana/pani kupic bilet? nyeh koo-PEE-wem (if you are male) - wom (female) bee-LET-oo nah DVORR-tsoo. YAH-deh dough STOTS-yee (destination). Chih MO-geh oad pawnna (if conductor is male)/pawnyee (if female) KOO-peetch BEE-let?
I didn't buy a ticket at the station. I'm going to (destination). Could I buy a ticket from you?
You'll end up paying a bit of a service fee above the standard fee paid at the station, but you'll avoid paying a huge penalty. If you wait until the conductor comes to you while you're seated, you can penalized, so it's best to seek them out proactively and buy the ticket that way.
- PKP - Polish train timetables
The official Polish train site (English).