Kraków authorities are working closely with the Poland Without Barriers national initiative to improve access to buildings and public spaces and the city has made remarkable progress in the past decade. Kraków's Main Market Square and surrounding streets are now broadly accessible, with lots of smooth paving and kerb ramps. Most new buildings, including modern museums, galleries, shopping malls and train stations, are designed to be accessible and an increasing number of older buildings are being retrofitted with ramps, lifts and wider doors. The Wieliczka Salt Mine has been modernised and is now wheelchair accessible.
That said, there's still ample room for improvement. High kerbs and stairs (especially at Wawel Castle) pose problems. New trams and buses are accessible, though some older trams are not. Many older buildings, including hotels and museums, are not wheelchair friendly.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Some helpful organisations:
Galeria Stańczyk Art gallery that works on behalf of disabled artists, and maintains helpful information for visitors on its website.
Accessible Poland Tours (www.accessibletour.pl) Specialises in tours for travellers with disabilities and mobility problems.
Kraków Info (www.krakow-info.com/disabled.htm) Great resource for travellers with limited mobility.
Nie Pelno Sprawni (www.niepelnosprawni.pl) Polish-language only, up-to-date information for people with disabilities.
Dangers & Annoyances
Kraków is generally a safe city for travellers, although as a major tourist spot it has its fair share of pickpockets; be vigilant in crowded public areas.
- If you’re staying in the centre of the Old Town expect late-night noise from bars and clubs; ask for a room at the back.
- In summer, large numbers of tourists can mean long queues for top sights, such as the Wawel Royal Castle, and scarce seating in the more popular restaurants.
- Keep a wary eye out for horse-driven carriages around the Old Town, including along the pedestrianised streets.
KrakowCard (www.krakowcard.com) Available online or from tourist information centres and costs 120/140zł for two/three days. Provides free transport on buses and trams and free entry to around 40 attractions, including Schindler's Factory, Rynek Underground, National Museum, St Mary's Church and the Eagle Pharmacy – but not Wawel Castle.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Poland's country code||48|
There’s a polite formality built into the Polish language that governs most interactions between people, though the rules are usually suspended for foreigners who don’t speak Polish.
- Greetings It’s customary to greet people, including shopkeepers, on entering with a friendly dzień dobry! (jyen do·bri; good day!) On leaving, part with a hearty do widzenia! (do vee·dze·nya; goodbye!)
- Religion Treat churches and monasteries with respect and stay silent inside. Wear proper attire, including trousers for men and covered shoulders and longer skirts (no short shorts) for women. Refrain from flash photography and leave a small donation in the box by the door.
- Eating & Drinking When raising a glass, greet your Polish friends with na zdrowie! (nah zdroh·vee·ya; cheers)! Before tucking into your food, wish everyone smacznego! (smach·neh·go; bon appetit)! End the meal by saying dziękuję (jyen·koo·ye; thank you).
Insurance can cover you for medical expenses, theft or loss, and also for cancellation of, or delays in, any of your travel arrangements. There are a variety of policies and your travel agent can provide recommendations.
Always read the small print carefully and make sure the policy includes health care and medication in Poland. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ such as motorcycling, skiing and mountaineering.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Many hotels, restaurants, cafes and clubs offer wi-fi free to customers. Simply ask the waiting staff or reception desk for the password to access. InfoKraków tourist offices offer free wi-fi and a computer terminal for a few minutes of free web surfing. Internet cafes are slowly disappearing, but at least two in the Old Town are still going strong.
Internet Café Hetmańska Well-placed Old Town internet cafe that's conveniently open day and night.
Klub Garinet Near the main square.
Public attitudes in Poland toward LGBT+ individuals remain generally negative, and while homosexuality is legal in Poland, both the Catholic Church and ruling conservative government have opposed initiatives that would make it more acceptable to the public. LGBT+ visitors to Kraków are best advised to exercise discretion and avoid public displays of affection. That said, Kraków has a small, but active LGBT+ population, with a handful of welcoming bars and clubs that change relatively frequently.
LGBT-Friendly Bars & Clubs
Queer In The World (www.queerintheworld.com/gay-krakow-poland-travel-guide) Terrific resource with good advice and bar and club listings.
Queer.pl (www.queer.pl) Poland's leading LBGT+ portal, though in Polish language only.
Kraków Post (www.krakowpost.com) Handy online newspaper, with timely stories on politics, economics and culture.
Karnet (www.karnet.krakow.pl) Indispensable monthly guide to what's on. Find it at InfoKraków tourist offices.
Kraków In Your Pocket (www.inyourpocket.com/krakow) Witty quarterly guide to the main sights, restaurants and clubs. Find it at upscale hotel lobbies.
ATMs, banks and kantors (exchange kiosks) are spread out throughout the Old Town and Kazimierz. Credit cards are generally accepted and often preferred to cash.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping is customary in restaurants, cafes and at service establishments such as hairdressers and optional everywhere else.
- Restaurants At smaller establishments and for smaller tabs, round the bill to the nearest 5zł or 10zł increment. Otherwise, 10% is standard. Leave tip in cash if you pay the bill by credit card.
- Taxis Round up the fare to reward good service.
Most places adhere to the following hours. Shopping centres generally have longer hours and are open from 9am to 8pm at weekends. Museums are often closed on Mondays and may have shorter hours outside of high season.
Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday
Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday
Post Offices 8am–7pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday
Shops 8am–6pm Monday to Friday, 10am–2pm Saturday
Main Post Office The main post office is located east of the Old Town.
New Year's Day 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
Easter Sunday March or April
Easter Monday March or April
State Holiday 1 May
Constitution Day 3 May
Pentecost Sunday Seventh Sunday after Easter
Corpus Christi Ninth Thursday after Easter
Assumption Day 15 August
All Saints' Day 1 November
Independence Day 11 November
Christmas 25 and 26 December
Smoking and vaping are banned in all public indoor spaces, including hotels, bars and restaurants, on public transport and at transport stops and stations. Some restaurants, bars and clubs have a separate, closed-off room for smokers.
Taxes & Refunds
VAT (standard 23%, but 8% on some foods and medicines and 5% on some agricultural products) is included in the sales price. Visitors from outside the EU may be eligible for a tax refund on purchases of 200zł or more in shops displaying a blue and white ‘Tax Free’ sign; inform the salesperson of your intention to recover the tax and fill out the form.
For more information see www.globalblue.com.
All landline and mobile numbers have nine digits. There are no city or area codes.
To make an international, dial the international access code (00), then the country code, then the area code (minus any initial zero) and the number
Poland uses the GSM 900/1800 system, the same as Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It's not compatible with some phones from North America or Japan; check with your service provider.
If your mobile phone is unlocked, consider buying a prepaid local SIM card, which will allow you to make local calls at cheaper local rates. The downside, of course, is that you can’t use your existing mobile number.
Galeria Krakowska Shopping centre, next to the main train station, is a handy place to pick up a Polish SIM card, as the local telecoms companies have outlets here.
Kraków is in the same time zone (GMT/UTC+1) as most of continental Europe, which is one hour ahead of London and six hours ahead of New York.
Daylight saving time (DST) is observed from 2am on the last Sunday in March, when the clocks go forward one hour, to 3am on the last Sunday in October.
- Public toilets are labelled ‘toaleta’ or ‘WC’, and are generally clean and well-kept.
- Men should look for ‘dla panów’ or ‘męski’, or a door marked by downward-pointing triangle.
- Women should head for ‘dla pań’ or ‘damski’, or a door marked with a circle.
- Public toilets often charge a fee of 2zł, collected by a toilet attendant sitting at the door. Have small change ready.
InfoKraków (www.infokrakow.pl) The official tourist information office has branches around town. Cheerful service, free maps and help in sorting out accommodation and transport. Some branches also have free wi-fi.
Jordan Group Sells air tickets and intercity train tickets.
Travel with Children
Poles are family-oriented, and there are plenty of activities for children around the city. There's usually some sort of street theatre taking place on the Main Market Square in summer, and horse-drawn carriage rides and river cruises are always popular. Many museums cater to younger visitors with interactive exhibits.
A new generation of museums has pulled the exhibits out of their glass cases and invites visitors, especially young ones, to interact directly with the displays. The Museum of Municipal Engineering is stuffed with trams and trucks, as well as some hands-on magnetic and water experiments. The Stanisław Lem Science Garden takes this to a whole new level , with an outdoor garden filled with clever exhibits that teach the bizarre natural properties of optics, mechanics and acoustics. MICET is aimed at budding actors and theatre directors and encourages kids to design their own sets and costumes.
For a bit city, Kraków is surprisingly green. Two parks to the west of the Old Town are particularly pretty and family-friendly. Jordan Park has lots of playgrounds and climbing frames, and a kid-friendly ice-skating rink from December to March. Krakowski Park has had a complete refresh and offers plenty of space for kids to run around or to relax at the pond and watch the swans. The Zoological Gardens are well-tended and filled with exotic animals, including elephants, hippos and a rare breed of horse, that younger kids will fall in love with.
Beat the bad weather by heading underground. At the Rynek Underground, below the Main Market Square, kids will be dazzled by the holograms and audiovisual tricks. The Nowa Huta Underground is less tech-oriented but a fascinating look at some old nuclear-fallout shelters. History Land, in the former main train station building, will open up younger eyes with all the virtual-reality tech on hand – and did we say the exhibits are built from LEGO blocks? If all else fails, you can't beat water parks. Park Wodny has it all: pools, slides, saunas and, yeah, hot tubs. Parents have to have fun too.
Need to Know
- Resources Look for the handy brochure Kids in Kraków (www.kidsinkrakow.pl) at InfoKraków tourist offices.
- Public Transport Trams and buses are stroller-friendly, and children under seven years of age travel free (though proof of age is needed).
- Nappy Changing There are nappy-changing facilities in newer museums and in shopping malls like Galeria Krakowska, near the train station.