Warsaw’s integrated public-transport system is operated by Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego (City Transportation Board; 24hr info line 022-9484; www.ztm.waw.pl) and consists of a network of tram, bus and metro lines, all using the same ticketing system. The main routes operate from about 5am to about 11pm, and services are frequent and pretty reliable, though it’s often crowded during rush hours (7am till 9am and 3.30pm till 6.30pm Monday to Friday). Friday and Saturday nights the metro runs until 2.30am. After 11pm several night bus routes link major suburbs to the city centre. The night-service ‘hub’ is at ul Emilii Plater, next to the Palace of Culture & Science, from where buses depart every half-hour.
It’s best to buy a ticket before boarding buses, trams and metros; exact change is normally required when purchasing a ticket on buses or trams and drivers may refuse to sell them if they are running behind schedule. Tickets are sold at Ruch and Relay newsstands, hotels, post offices, metro stations and various general stores – look for a sign saying ‘Sprzedaży Biletów ZTM’.
Tickets, timetables and information are available at the following ZTM information desks:
Hala sprzedaży biletów ZTM (ul Senatorska 37; 7am-5pm Mon-Fri) Enter from Plac Bankowy.
Punkt informacji ZTM (Pawilon 09, Ratusz metro station; 7am-8pm Mon-Fri)
Punkt informacji ZTM (Pawilon 1002, Plac Wilsona metro station; 7am-8pm Mon-Fri)
A jednorazowy bilet (single-journey ticket) costs 2.40zł (3zł from driver; 1.25zł for school children aged seven or over; kids under seven ride free); these tickets are not valid for transferring between services. A 90-minutowy bilet (90-minute ticket) costs 6zł, and is valid for 90 minutes from the time of validation, with unlimited transfers. Also available are one-/three-/seven-day unlimited transfer tickets for Warsaw (7.20/12/24zł), and Warsaw and its surrounding suburbs, including all 700 and 800 buses (9.60/14.40/32zł). These tickets cover night buses; otherwise a single fare costs 4.80zł. Foreign students under 26 years of age who have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) get a discount of 48% (in Warsaw only; no other Polish city gives ISIC student concessions).
There are no conductors on board vehicles. Validate your ticket by feeding it (magnetic stripe facing down) into the little yellow machine on the bus or tram or in the metro-station lobby the first time you board; this stamps the time and date on it (or the route number for single-fare tickets). Inspections are common and fines are high (120zł as an instant fine or 84zł within seven days at an information desk, plus 2.40zł for a ticket). Watch out for pickpockets on crowded buses and trams (especially airport bus 175 and trams running along Al Jerozolimskie).
The construction of Warsaw’s metro system began in 1983 and so far only a single line is in operation, running from the southern suburb of Ursynów (Kabaty station) to Marymont via the city centre. A northern extension to Młociny should be complete by 2008, and there are long-term plans to build a second, east–west line. Yellow signs with a big red letter ‘M’ indicate the entrances to metro stations. Every station has a public toilet and there are lifts for disabled passengers. You use the same tickets as on trams and buses, but you validate the ticket at the gate at the entrance to the platform, not inside the vehicle. Trains run every eight minutes (every four minutes during rush hours).
Warsaw’s streets are full of potholes – some more dangerous than others – so driving demands constant attention.
The local government has introduced paid parking on central streets. You pay using coins (usually 2zł per hour) in the nearest ticket machine (parkomat) and get a receipt that you display in the windscreen. For security, try to park your car in a guarded car park (parking strzeżony). There are some in central Warsaw, including one on ul Parkingowa, behind the Novotel.
PZM (022 849 9361, 9637; ul Kazimierzowska 66) operates a 24-hour road breakdown service (pomoc drogowa).
Taxis in Warsaw are easily available and not too expensive: around 6zł flag fall and 3/6zł per kilometre during the day/night. Reliable companies include MPT Radio Taxi (9191), which has English-speaking dispatchers, Super Taxi (9622), Tele Taxi (9627) and OK! Taxi (9628).
All are recognisable by signs on the taxi’s roof with the company name and phone number. Beware of ‘pirate’ or ‘mafia’ taxis, which do not display a phone number or company logo – the drivers may try to overcharge you and turn rude and aggressive if you question the fare. They no longer patrol the airport, Centralna station, or luxury hotels, but still haunt tourist spots looking for likely victims.
All official taxis in Warsaw have their meters adjusted to the appropriate tariff, so you just pay what the meter says. When you board a taxi, make sure the meter is turned on in your presence, which ensures you don’t have the previous passenger’s fare added to yours. Taxis can be waved down on the street, but it is better to order a taxi by phone; there’s no extra charge for this service.
Cycling in Warsaw is a double-edged sword. The city is generally flat and easy to navigate, distances aren’t too great, and cycle paths are on the increase. However, Warsaw drivers don’t give a toss about cyclists and you’ll soon be following the locals’ lead and sharing the footpath with pedestrians. Bike hire is available from Oki Doki Hostel and Local Rent-a-Car for around 35zł per day, and Hostel Helvetia offers bike rental to guests.