Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Travel within Warsaw (and Krakow)

Traveling around the city, let's also throw in traveling between Warsaw and Krakow for good measure.  Many blogs, travel sites, forums etc make it seem like getting a ticket for the tram or bus is SO complex.  It's really not, and if I say it once, I'll say it again... Warsaw (and Krakow) are very tourist friendly, as in they have plenty of signs and maps that will guide you here there and everywhere.  Also included are the plentiful free information stations.

So, if you are staying in Old Town Warsaw or near the Ogrod Saski, you are already pretty much near all the major attractions and can probably walk to any of them.  Let's give it about a 30-40 minute walk from point A to point B. I very much believe that walking around Warsaw and Krakow is the best way to get to know the city, find little treasures and hey, at least you get some exercise in. (ie. I went for a good loop around Krakow today and threw down about 7 miles, boo-yah!)

But, if you have a heavier pack, bad shoes, exhaustion from a previous long trek (hello me tomorrow morning) or if you have terrible weather, take the bus or tram.  Start with a quick Google Search via the maps, type your location and your final location and voila! You have a long list of various ways to get around.  Since the FIFA World Cup, Warsaw transit has become so easy to follow, I'd even say better and easier than NYC.  The buses announce the next stop, have a big and clear sign for the next stop, and each stop is clearly labeled with its location name!

Some bloggers have stated that bus or tram stations are hard to find, I don't know what he was talking about as most bus stops have the bus numbers on a pole, a small waiting enclosure and a posting board with all the lines and their times.  But if your nervous, just leave about 10 minutes earlier, but hey remember your Google search? You'll be fine, plus you can always duck into a store and ask.

Now comes actually getting the ticket.  This is part of the reason why I love my ISIC pass so much (discounts!!) But you need to make sure of two things and one directly stands with the ISIC pass,

1. Always keep you ISIC pass on you.  A private university ID from out of country doesn't count.  ISIC is the only recognized foreigner student ID, and if you opt for the "ulgowi" (discounted) rate, you have to have proof that you have the proper documents for it, or else you get a fine. Undercover agents walk through transport trying to catch people who try to pay less for their ticket and have either no document at all or forgot it at home.  You can be the age for the discount, but you MUST HAVE THE DOCUMENTATION.  Make sure you have your pass or else you pay 150 PLN or about 50 USD.

The colorful tickets are for Warsaw, the white ones are Krakow. 

2. Validate your ticket.  Now I'll dicuss more details about the actual purchase of tickets, but better not try to purchase your ticket on the actual tram or bus, as there may be a long line and that lovely agent will wait to pounce.  If you arrive at your destination before purchasing the ticket and validating it, you will get fined.  Not every car on the bus or tram has a machine or it could be broken.  But validating it, you take your ticket and pop it into 1 of 2 or 3 machines that time stamps your ticket.  You can't reuse it after being validated once.

It's not really complex to remember, but each day several people (and especially foreigners) get caught and fined.  Save your cash and pay the less than a buck transport.

Now the actual kinds of tickets, there are two: zoned and timed.  I've never used the zoned tickets, so sorry for there, I've found that I get around very easily with timed tickets.  They start from 20 minutes and go up to 40, 60, 75 and the rare 90 minutes.  The trick to remember is that even though your good old Google maps journey says 13 minutes, they don't add on time for traffic lights, the unload and reload of passengers, or traffic jams.  If your timed ticket runs out of time, you need to either buy or validate a new ticket, cause that lovely ticket agent is watching.  So simply add on a few more minutes and give cushion time, if all else fails keep a 20 minute ticket in your purse or pocket just in case.

Where, oh where to purchase them though? Thankfully, you can purchase a tram or bus ticket almost anywhere.  At any kiosk, bookstore, grocery, post office, stand alone ticket machines, from the bus driver, or via on tram ticket machines (HEED THE WARNING!). But if you plan to buy from the driver, bring as close to exact change as possible :).

You can buy monthly passes, and yes ISIC gives student monthly discounts too, you also just have to remember to always have documentation at the ready.  I prefer the one off tickets, as I've been walking a whole lot more.

So let's see the discount and costs in action:
Warsaw: 20 minute ticket is 1.70PLN (about 45 US cents)
Krakow: Strefa 1 20 minute ticket is 1.40PLN ( about 39 US cents)
     *Strefa 1 just represents you are staying in Krakow major, if you try to get to the outer suburbs you would take Strefa 2 and need about a 40 minute or more ticket. *

Hope this helps!
Happy Travels.

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