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Poland Trains - Guide

Updated on November 23, 2009

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:

Pociag (train)

Wagon (car)

Siedzenie (seat)

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.


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    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Styro: Tego nie wiedzialem. Dziekuje za informacje. And your English is quite good!

    • profile image

      styro 5 years ago

      hi, i'm from Poland, Warsaw, I speek only little english, forgive me for that. For a long time, you aren't allowed to smoke in public places (like bus- and tramstops, restauran's (sometimes you can find a special room for smokers). So, at all trains smoking is strictly prohibited and you can't find for smokers places in train.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Terri: No, the trains are rarely crowded, noisy, or smelly. Yes, there should be smoking cars; you can look (or ask) for "dla palacych" (dlah pah-LOAN-tsikh)

    • profile image

      Terri Allen 6 years ago

      I am going first class from Kracow to Gdansk 9 hour trip! Hope it is okay not too crowded, smelly, noisy. Are there no smoking cars?

    • Art Sebastian profile image

      Art Sebastian 6 years ago from New York, NY

      great article, just came back from Germany and the trains are basically the same there as well. they do have the bullet train and its fast like lightning.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      This looks harder to learn than Klingon! I learned a few Russian words years ago like "krastni", "Ja jedo demoy", and dos vi danja". I'm sure I just slaughtered those as I was attempting to say "red", "I go to home" and "good bye." Any relation to Polish? Someday when I fly there, I'll ask for the okno seat ;-)

    • profile image

      louis vuitton 7 years ago

      I travelled all round Poland by train with a relative about 35 years ago. The restaurant cars were quite something in those days. One time, Zbyszek ordered a tatarski biftek (steak tartare), which was served with great ceremony and flourish.

    • WriteAngled profile image

      WriteAngled 8 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      I travelled all round Poland by train with a relative about 35 years ago. The restaurant cars were quite something in those days. One time, Zbyszek ordered a tatarski biftek (steak tartare), which was served with great ceremony and flourish.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Jenkuye livelonger, I've heard the "yellow" theory before from Chicago Poles, also theories of "gold" and even "green"! I hope to make it there someday! Get some real pierogi and decent pickles or carnina!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      Dziekuje! (Thank you) I believe your last name would be ?ó?tak (with Polish letter) which is pronounced ZHOOW-tahk and derives from the Polish word for yellow (?ó?ty). Surnames ending in -ak typically come from the area near the Czech Republic, but families have tended to move around. At any rate, Gdansk is pretty and a city of a lot of historic importance, so I hope you manage to visit someday.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Love it, I hope to someday visit my long lost Polish family homeland, we're supposedly from the Gdansk area, but no one knows for sure. I will check back here, if ever I'm able to secure the money to go!

      Na Astrovia!

      Ben Zoltak

    • Info Help profile image

      Info Help 8 years ago from Chicago

      Wow, great information that you have written here! I will pass this along to anyone I know who may be visiting Poland in the near future!