Poland’s train network is extensive and reasonably priced. It’s likely to be your main means of transport for covering long distances.
That said, service to many smaller cities is poor or nonexistent, which means you may find yourself relying more on buses or a combination of bus and train.
Poland’s rail network has several different types of train that differ primarily by speed, cost and level of comfort. Identify the train type by the initials on station and online timetables.
ExpressInterCity Premium (EIP) High-speed 'Pendolino' trains that travel between major cities, such as Warsaw, Kraków, Katowice, Wrocław and Gdańsk. Both 1st- and 2nd-class seats are available, and reservations are mandatory for both.
ExpressInterCity (EIC) One step down from EIP trains, the modern, comfortable EIC trains also run between major cities, like Warsaw–Kraków and Warsaw–Gdańsk, but are slightly less expensive. There's seating in both 1st and 2nd class, and reservations are compulsory in both.
InterCity (IC) As with EIC, but generally offer a slightly slower service with more stops than EIC trains.
EuroCity (EC) International express trains linking Polish cities with cities in other European countries.
TLK (Pociąg Twoje Linie Kolejowe; TLK) Low-cost express trains that run between major cities at speeds approaching EIP trains, but at fares that are around 40% cheaper. TLK trains are a step down in comfort and can be crowded. There's seating in both 1st and 2nd class; both classes require reservations. Bicycle carriage on TLK trains may be limited.
InterRegio (Pociąg InterRegio; IR) These are the standard Polish ‘fast’ trains running between regions, with stops at most medium-sized cities along the route. IR trains normally don’t offer 1st-class seating, and no seat reservations are required.
Regio (Pociąg Regio; Regio/Osob) These trains are much slower as they stop at all stations along the way. These may be 2nd-class only and reservations are not required.
Since the demise of the state monopoly Polskie Koleje Państwowe (PKP) the Polish rail network has been broken up into around 10 different operators that manage different routes and trains.
PKP InterCity runs all of Poland’s express trains, including ExpressInterCity Premium (EIP), ExpressInterCity (EIC), InterCity (IC), EuroCity (EC) and TLK trains.
A second main operator, PolRegio (www.polregio.pl), takes care of most other trains, including relatively fast InterRegio trains and slower Regio trains.
A handful of other private operators provide regional services.
You can buy international and domestic train tickets in advance from outside Poland through Polrail. Its website is a very useful source of information on Polish train travel.
Rozkład jazdy (train timetables) are posted on the walls of most stations, with odjazdy (departures) written on yellow boards and przyjazdy (arrivals) on white.
In addition to departure and arrival times, timetables also include initials beside the destinations to let you know what type of train is running: EIP, EIC, TLK, IR or Regio. Faster trains are marked in red and slower trains in black.
There are several useful online timetables that show schedules between routes, and which usually display prices and allow you to purchase tickets online.
www.rozklad-pkp.pl Shows information for all Polish trains.
www.rozklad.sitkol.pl Another general timetable with easy-to-use instructions in English.
www.intercity.pl Displays information for high-speed express and TLK trains.
Timetables normally require Polish spellings for cities (diacritical marks are not necessary).
(There are several options for buying tickets. Most of the time you’ll purchase them at train-station ticket windows. Plan to be at the station at least half an hour before the departure time of your train.
If you’re planning on travelling a lot, consider buying an InterRail pass. Passes are only available to those resident in Europe for at least six months and are priced in three bands: youth (under 26), adult 2nd class and adult 1st class. Tickets cover three/four/six/eight day’s travel within one month and range from €51 to €114 for 2nd-class travel. See www.interrail.net for more information.
Many Polish train stations have undergone major renovations since 2010, and those in Kraków, Poznań and Warsaw are now attached to gleaming shopping malls. Others, such as those in Wrocław or Tarnów, are historic buildings in their own right. Most larger stations have left-luggage desks and lockers (fees are around 12zł to 16zł per bag per 24 hours).
Station platforms (peron) are numbered, but there are usually also track (tor) numbers if there is a line on either side of the platform – check you have the right one. If there are no overhead signs displaying the destination of the next train, look for the signboards on the sides of the carriages.