For most travellers, Kraków’s John Paul II International Airport will be their gateway to the city. Here is a step-by-step guide to arriving at (and departing from) the airport and getting everything you need for a great stay in Poland
Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
Kraków Airport Introduction
Most passengers for Kraków will arrive at John Paul II International Airport (KRK). It lies 15km outside the city centre, a mere 20-minute train ride. However, some airlines still serve Katowice Airport (KTW), roughly 100km away. See our page on How To Get To Kraków for more information.
John Paul II International is modern, easy to navigate, and the landside is comfortable. The airport is compact – Arrivals and Departures are both within the same terminal building. The layout is logical and remarkably free of clutter. The airport seems designed for a quick getaway. If you time it right, you could be in Kraków itself within 30 minutes of clearing customs. Transport options to the city centre and what to expect when you get there are covered in Getting From Kraków Airport To Kraków City Centre. If you’re flying home, see our guide for getting to Kraków Airport from the city centre.
Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
John Paul II is not lacking in facilities, but needs are better served by the large shopping centre that most travellers will pass through at the other end of their train or bus journey. We advise getting away from the airport and travelling directly to Kraków itself, then sorting out cash, food, and SIM cards at the Galeria Krakowska mall.
On the other hand, you may want to take a breath and sort some basics before setting off into town. This guide will take you step by step through what to expect on arrival at Kraków Airport and what facilities are available. In particular we’ll focus on:
- Handling Polish cash: changing money, using ATMs, as well as debit and credit cards
- Where to find refreshments and snacks
- Where to get a SIM card
- Where to get a KrakowCard, which gives entry to many key museums and unlimited transport on buses and trams
Kraków Airport Shuttle Bus – image © Jason Weaver
Arriving At Kraków Airport
Planes do not dock at the terminal building. Instead, passengers are ferried directly to Passport and Immigration via shuttle buses. This speeds things up and saves having to walk through a maze of corridors, though logjams can happen during busier periods. The shuttle service takes 2-3 minutes.
Once you enter the terminal, clear signage in both Polish and English tells you where to queue (EU or non-EU, basically) and where the toilets are. The waiting area is clean and modern, and passports are processed without fuss. You should be checked and cleared within 15 minutes.
The passport hall leads directly into the baggage claim area. There are five carousels and you’ll need to check which is carrying your plane’s luggage. The information screen hangs from the ceiling next to the entrance you’ve just come through. It’s quite easy to miss.
Kraków Airport Baggage Claim – image © Jason Weaver
The baggage hall is spacious and has seats, so you can sort out your bags before leaving. There are toilets, ATMs, vending machines, trolleys, and a counter to help with lost luggage. There’s also a curious machine for booking taxis which you should probably just ignore.
Exit through Customs on the left-hand side and, assuming you have nothing to declare, the entire process should be done within 30 minutes.
Kraków Airport – From Customs To Arrivals Hall – image © Jason Weaver
You’ll emerge directly in the Arrivals Hall. If you’ve hired someone to pick you up, this is where they’ll be waiting. Though subject to ebb and flow, the amount of people in this area rarely gets too crowded, and it’s easy to get your bearings.
Directly opposite, you’ll see ticket machines for buses and trains, as well as ATMs and a currency exchange. We’ll return to all these below. There are more toilets to your left and an information point. You’ll also see an escalator that leads to the train station, a bank, and car hire outlets on the first floor. Finally, there’s an exit which leads outside to where taxis and buses are waiting.
If you plan to get straight out of the airport and on your way into central Kraków, skip to the transport section below. Otherwise, read on to find out more about airport facilities.
Facilities At Kraków Airport: Arrivals
The layout of Kraków Airport is both restrained and logical, with ease of use taking priority over squeezing an extra buck out of passengers. The ground floor is split evenly between the Check-in Hall on the left-hand side and Arrivals on the right. Security sits directly above Arrivals, whilst the rest of the upper floor forms a balcony with a clear view over the rest of the airport. Everything is open plan and clearly signposted, with a good line of sight to most key features.
Information centre in Arrivals Hall Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
The information point directly to the left of Arrivals is open from 8am to midnight, and can answer any questions about airport facilities and transportation to the city. It doubles as tourist information between 9am and 7pm, helping with accommodation and providing materials, such as guide books and KrakowCards. There is a second airport information desk in the Check-in Hall, open from 4am. So there should be someone on hand (unless you’re on one of the few flights that lands after 11.30pm).
You can also download the free airport smartphone app with some useful features.
Despite being a member of the European Union, the Polish currency is the złoty and not the Euro.
A couple of museums are cash only and it’s useful to carry coins for public toilets and snacks from street vendors. In some restaurants you can only tip staff with paper money. But, by and large, Poland is financially progressive. The vast majority of places will accept a (contactless) debit or credit card, including paying for transport into Kraków itself.
A general rule of thumb is to buy roughly 300zł (about 70€) at home and bring it with you as backup. You can always get more from an ATM.
Check with your bank before you travel to find out how they handle currency conversion and whether they charge for overseas use. Also ask if they partner with any Polish banks for better rates. Ultimately, it may pay to open a separate account with a bank designed around the financial needs of travellers. For example, my Starling account is effectively free to use and brings some essential security features that make using a card much safer overseas. Real-time notifications will warn you of fraud or theft, and help keep track of how much you’re spending, in both the local and your domestic currency.
Currency Exchange Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
Changing Money: If you’re travelling in from another country with a wad of cash, you may still need to get some currency changed. Pretty much the first thing you see when you come through Arrivals is a currency exchange, known in Poland as a Kantor. Generally speaking, you’ll get less for your money at airports. Experience suggests you can expect to exchange here at about 8.3% below the market rate. All the same, there’s no harm comparing their rates with an online converter like XE. Remember to check against their buying price rather than what they’re selling the currency for and factor in any commission before agreeing a transaction. If you feel like you’re getting a raw deal, there are plenty of options in Kraków itself.
Euronet ATMs – do not use these! – image © Jason Weaver
Withdrawing Money: You’ll see ATMs dotted around the terminal – these are known as a Bankomat in Poland. Most of them are provided by a company called Euronet – look for the logo on the top right of the machine. There are two reasons to avoid them: the confusing interface, which offers a number of secondary services unrelated to cash withdrawal, and the excessive conversion fees – upwards of 15%.
Escalator to upper level: trains, ATM, Costa, and hire cars – image © Jason Weaver
Hallway to ATM and hire cars – image © Jason Weaver
If you need to withdraw money in the airport, use the ATM outside Bank Pekao on the upper floor. Take the escalator directly opposite Arrivals. Carry on straight ahead once you reach the top. You’ll see a corridor with slanted windows to the left. Follow the sign that says ‘Rent-a-car’ and ‘Travel agencies’. The bank is near the end, past the Europcar office.
Bank Pekao ATM – image © Jason Weaver
ATMs work exactly as they do at home and most will offer a choice of languages. Check what you’re agreeing to before you click any buttons and cancel the transaction if you’re unsure of anything. If asked to choose which currency to base the exchange rate on, always go with the Polish złoty rather than that of your home country. You should also avoid using Euronet ATMs around Kraków’s Old Town.
Tales of financial misfortune in Kraków nearly always involve alcohol. If you expect to get roaring drunk, that might be a good time to switch to cash and keep your cards safely hidden. Only carry as much as you can afford to lose.
Fast food Kraków style – image © Jason Weaver
Food And Drink
If you just need a snack to grab and go, you have three options on the ground floor, all just to the right of Arrivals. The Relay store (coloured bright red) has drinks, sweets, and savoury snacks like crisps. The Suitcase Bar, a little further along, also has takeaway sandwiches and salads for approximately 17zł (about 4€) each. I can recommend the obwarzanki, which are a kind of pretzel, native to Kraków. They can be bought for a few złoty from a stand located near the elevator, just before you reach Relay. You’ll need to pay in cash, though. There are also vending machines on the upper floor. Take the escalator opposite Arrivals and you’ll see them directly opposite. These accepts cards.
Jet Bistro Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
If you want to sit down but are pushed for time, there’s a Jet Bistro at the end of the terminal, to the left of Arrivals. You can get soups and open, toasted sandwiches for about 20zł (about 4,50€).
Costa Coffee Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
The Costa Coffee on the upper floor is a surprisingly good option, if you’re feeling more leisurely. It has a large, comfortable lounge area overlooking the lower deck and is a nice space to decompress. They have a range of tasty Polish sandwiches at roughly 15zł (3,50€), as well as good cakes, teas, and beers. There’s a play area for kids close by. Note: I’ve found that coffee can be expensive in some chains, in comparison with the rest of the menu.
To find Costa, go up the escalator opposite Arrivals. Once you’re on the second floor, look diagonally to your right. There is a Costa sign on the far wall, just to the right of another set of escalators (see image below). Walk past the sign and turn left. Once you’re on the balcony itself, keep going and you can’t miss it.
View from upper entrance to Kraków Airport: note sign to Costa Coffee – image © Jason Weaver
If you’re very hungry, there’s a restaurant tucked away on the upper floor. Take the escalator opposite Arrivals. Turn right and you’ll see the security area for Departures. Turn right again and walk towards the very end of the terminal. Up ahead is a large play area for children, with ping pong and giant chess. The Eat + Fly restaurant is beyond this – look for the giant wooden sign that says EAT. There’s a bar and the restaurant has a full menu with pasta dishes and the like. The average main course costs about 25zł (6€ or so).
Phones and SIMs
Any visiting EU citizen should be able to use their existing mobile contract in Poland exactly as they would at home, with no extra charges. This means calls and data are available to you the minute you step off the plane. Make sure you check your provider’s fair usage policy before you leave and that overseas use is activated on your phone. Similarly, if you’re travelling and bought a SIM in another EU country, it will often be valid in Poland too.
But what if neither of these categories apply to you? Though SIMs are available in the airport’s Relay store, John Paul II International has no dedicated mobile phone outlets and we recommend you wait until you reach central Kraków to tackle this. See Where To Get A SIM Card in Kraków for more information.
If you urgently need to get online or use your email, the airport offers 15 minutes of free wifi. It’s slow but doesn’t require an email address to log in. Just select ‘KRK Free WiFi’ in your WiFi settings and the login screen will pop up. Unfortunately you can’t pay to extend this.
Kraków Airport free public phone – image © Jason Weaver
There are also a number of yellow phones around the airport that let you call any Polish landline or mobile number for free, which is handy if you need to contact your hotel or similar. Go to the baggage drop off in the Check-in Hall and you’ll find one to the left of the escalator. They’re easy to miss, so ask a member of staff if you can’t find one.
Furthermore, there are also recharging points all over the airport, both in the cafés and general waiting areas. These have plug rather than USB sockets, so you’ll also need the correct adapter to use them.
If you plan to visit a lot of museums, it’s worth considering a KrakowCard, especially if you expect to use public transport a lot. The Tourist Card includes unlimited use of buses and trams. You could pick up a KrakowCard from the tourist information counter, located just to the left as you enter Arrivals, then use it on the airport bus. See below for full details of transport options.
Please note: Although the information counter is open for airport-related questions from 8am to midnight, it is only officially a tourist centre between 9am and 7pm. You may not be able to buy a KrakowCard outside these hours. Have a look at our dedicated KrakowCard page for information on collection points and how to book in advance.
Kraków Airport takes a minimal approach but you should find most things you need. There are plenty of modern, clean toilets, which are easily found.
I have no first-hand knowledge but the airport seems to take disability seriously and has a ‘blue path’ to aid mobility. See the airport website for details or ask staff on arrival.
Relay store Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
In addition to the snacks and tech items already mentioned, the Relay store on the ground floor also sells books (including travel guides), toiletries, luggage, toys, and stationery. It’s worth a visit just to see how such a tiny space organises such a comprehensive range of items. There’s a similar store on the upper floor, next to the Eat + Fly restaurant.
You’ll find a pharmacy upstairs, next to Costa, as well as an observation deck, a chapel, shops selling traditional Polish souvenirs, and a couple of play areas for children.
Getting To Kraków City Centre
There are a number of quick and simple options for travelling into Kraków itself. See our guide Getting From Kraków Airport To Kraków City Centre for full details.
Departing From Kraków Airport
If you’re leaving Kraków by plane, you will probably fly from John Paul II International, rather than the airport at Katowice. Landside, Kraków Airport is well designed and relatively calm. Airside is more hectic but there is a choice of places to eat and drink, and for buying gifts and souvenirs.
Your arrival at Kraków Airport is determined by the means of transport. Any kind of car of bus will normally drop you off outside the ground floor entrances, whereas the train station (and possibly car park) will bring you in on the upper floor. For a detailed description of transport to John Paul II International, see Getting From Kraków City Centre to Kraków Airport
Kraków Airport Check-in Hall – image © Jason Weaver
There are three entrances on the ground floor, all on the same side of the building. The doorway on the left-hand side brings you in just next to the Departures area, but the Check-in Hall is easily reached from the other entrances too. Simply enter the building, turn left, and follow the hallway for a couple of minutes. You’ll quickly find a large area lined with check-in counters for the different airlines. It’s impossible to miss. If you’re pre-booked and don’t need to check any baggage, you can go straight to Security. There’s an escalator to the right of the Check-in Hall. Take this to the upper level and Security is directly in front of you.
The building also has a single entrance on the upper floor, leading directly from the train station and car parks. You’ll cross a footbridge and emerge directly opposite Security. If you’re already checked in and don’t need to drop any luggage, you can go straight through to airside. Otherwise, take the escalator just to your left. The Check-in Hall sits at the bottom.
Departure board Departures Hall – image © Jason Weaver
Look for a departure board for information about the status of checking in, boarding, and take off. You should be able to see one from wherever you’re standing. You can find out if checkin has begun for your flight and which counter to go to. Once you’ve checked in, you’re free to pass through Security or to relax in one of the airport’s landside facilities.
The landside of Kraków Airport has a clean, open-plan layout. Everything lies on a simple left-right axis, with very little walled off or tucked around corners. This means the key facilities are almost always clearly visible. Even the upper floor is formed around a balcony, so you can see what’s upstairs from the ground floor.
The terminal is divided into four equal quarters. The ground floor is split evenly between Depatures on the left-hand side and Arrivals on the right. The left half of the upper level is mainly shops and services, whilst Security takes up the bulk of the right-hand side.
All signage has an English translation and is easy to follow. Over the air announcements are also multi-lingual and purely informational. There’s an information counter just next to the Check-in Hall, if you do have questions, or just ask a member of staff.
Information desk Departures Hall – image © Jason Weaver
There are pros and cons to waiting landside. It’s much calmer and quieter, and there’s usually plenty of room to spread out. There are also play areas to keep children occupied. On the other hand, there are more options for spending once you’re through Security, but it can get a little claustrophobic. My recommendation would be to eat landside but save some money for airside souvenirs and treats.
Food And Drink: There are two cafés on the ground floor. The Suitcase Bar (daily, 4am-last departure) is self-service, with packs of sandwiches and salads. There are plug-socket charging points built into the seats. You’ll find it close to the Check-in Hall. The Jet Bistro (daily, 5am-last arrival) is at the other end of the terminal, past Arrivals. This has a counter service with open, toasted sandwiches and soups. Expect to pay 17zł (4€) for a sandwich at the Suitcase and a little more at the Jet.
The Suitcase Bar – image © Jason Weaver
The better bet for departing travellers is the Costa Coffee on the upper floor, which has a large, comfortable lounge area overlooking the Depature Hall and a children’s play area nearby. They stock a tasty range of Polish sandwiches, as well as good cakes, teas, and even beers. The coffee itself is relatively expensive but I got a free orange juice with mine and, at roughly 15zł (3,50€), the sandwiches are generally cheaper than the ground floor cafés. Costa does not currently advertise set times but it will almost certainly be open before your flight.
Eat + Fly restaurant – image © Jason Weaver
If you’re particularly hungry and don’t expect to eat on the plane, there’s a comprehensive menu at the Eat + Fly restaurant (daily, 5am-10pm) on the upper level. Find Security and, instead of joining the queue, carry on towards the very end of the terminal. You’ll see a large play area with ping pong and giant chess. The restaurant is tucked away just behind this. The cost of an average main course here is about 25zł (6€).
Money: If you have a limited amount of Polish currency left, there are plenty of ways to spend it at the airport, especially once you’ve cleared Security. Although there is a currency exchange opposite the Check-in Hall, I’d recommend changing larger quantities at a city Kantor before reaching the airport, as you’re bound to get a better rate. However, there’s little point taking złoty out of the country, so you might as well change them here if you weren’t able to do so earlier.
It’s unlikely you’ll need an ATM at this point but, if you do, avoid the Euronet machines dotted around the airport and use the cash point outside Bank Pekao instead. On the upper floor, find the footbridge that leads to the train station. Directly to the right of this, you’ll see a corridor full of car rental agencies. The bank is near the end, past the Europcar office.
Other Facilities: If you’ve forgotten to send postcards, you can do so at the post office, which is just inside the Check-in Hall on the right. Opening hours are 9am-3pm Monday-Thursday and 2pm-8pm on Friday, closed at the weekend.
The airport offers 15 minutes of free wifi. It’s slow but doesn’t require an email address to register. Just select ‘KRK Free WiFi’ in your device’s WiFi settings and the login screen will pop up. Unfortunately you can’t pay to extend this.
Kraków Airport ground floor waiting area – image © Jason Weaver
There’s a comfortable waiting area with reclined lounge seating at the very end of the Departures Hall, just to the left of the main entrance.
The walkway between Costa Coffee and Security has a chapel, some souvenir shops with varying opening hours, and a play area for children. You’ll also find a games area at the very end of the upper floor, past the queues for Security.
Pharmacy Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
To the left of Costa Coffee, there is a chemist (daily, 7am-9pm) and stairs to the observation deck. You’ll need some loose change, as entry is via a coin-operated gate.
The Relay shop on the ground floor has a surprisingly comprehensive selection of things like snacks, reading material, toiletries, and accessories for electronic devices. It’s open daily, from 5am until 10pm, and can be found between the Departure and Arrival areas.
Security is on the upper level, in the right half of the terminal, directly above Arrivals. It’s easy to find. Simply follow the signs for Gate 1-18. If you take the escalator from the Check-in Hall, Security is straight ahead, opposite the walkway connecting the terminal building with the train station.
Queuing for Security – image © Jason Weaver
Passing through Security is straightforward and similar to most other airports. You’ll arrive at a cordened-off area for queuing. This moves quickly but it can get busy at certain times of day. The free airport smartphone app has live estimates for waiting times.
When you reach the front of the queue, you’ll be directed to put any bags through the X-ray machine. The usual rules apply for separating out any liquids, metal objects, and electronics. Rather than bundling these in together, trays must be filled in a specific way. Pay attention to the instructions on the screens as you’re queuing. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of room to sort everything out. All the same, the process is reasonably smooth and you should be through in a few minutes. There is also provision for people with special needs, such as limited mobility. Ask a member of staff for assistance.
While the compact design of Kraków Airport puts everything within easy reach, it has also made the airside experience very cramped in comparison with landside. Regardless, it’s clean and modern, with lots of natural light, and the shopping side of things is pretty good.
Kraków Airport Duty Free – image © Jason Weaver
Once through Security, you’ll immediately pass through a small Duty Free shop, selling all the usual perfumes, cosmetics, cigarettes, and booze. And, on the other side of this, you’ll find a tight cluster of shops, and places to eat and drink (see below). Unless stated otherwise, most facilities open from two hours before the first flight until the very last departure of the night.
Kraków Airport hallway leading to shops and Gates 1-5 – image © Jason Weaver
Main waiting area in Kraków Airport airside – image © Jason Weaver
As with the landside, airside is designed around a single hallway running lengthways through the terminal. The waiting area for gates 6-9 is just opposite the main hub of shops. If you turn left and walk to the end, you’ll find a large waiting area for gates 1-5. There’s a restaurant and a few more shops at that end. Turn right to reach gates 10-18. There’s a separate section for travel within the Schengen Area and passengers are required to show their passports before passing through. Beyond this barrier are toilets, a couple of places for drinks and snacks, and a glass box for smokers!
Schengen waiting area Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
Snacks in Schengen waiting area – image © Jason Weaver
Kraków Airport smoking booth – image © Jason Weaver
If your plane hasn’t been assigned a gate yet, just sit anywhere. There are departure boards throughout, so you can stay up to date. There are also comfortable business lounges in both the Schengen and Non-Schengen waiting zones. These have showers, refreshments, and unlimited wifi. Admission can be purchased on the door. There are plenty of toilets scattered around the whole departure area.
So!Coffee – image © Jason Weaver
Food And Drink: You’ll find So!Coffee opposite Duty Free. Though it gets crowded, you can get pulled pork rolls, salads, and quiches, in addition to cakes and soft drinks, and there are charging points built into the tables. Expect to pay around 30zł (7€) for coffee and a croissant.
Boccone Trattoria Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
For something more substantial, try the Boccone Trattoria (7am-11pm), next to the Duty Free. Though the décor doesn’t let you forget you’re in an airport, the pizza and pasta dishes look and taste good. A standard main course costs around 49zł (11,50€). Otherwise, you’ll find local cuisine at Galicya, in the main waiting area near gates 1-5.
Virgin store Kraków Airport – image © Jason Weaver
Other Facilities: In the small batch of shops around the Duty Free, you’ll find a fairly large Virgin store (5am-10pm), selling books, papers and magazines, sweets and drinks, as well as toys, chocolates, and other souvenirs. The Keraniss shop stocks a similar range but also includes alcohol and cigarettes. There’s also a rather nice delicatessen called Premium Food Gate (5am-10pm), selling local food and drink products.
Premium Food Gate – image © Jason Weaver
Discover Kraków – image © Jason Weaver
I recommend Discover Kraków (5am-10pm) in the main waiting area, near Galicya and gates 1-5. Deceptively small, this shop covers the range of ‘typically’ Polish souvenirs, from local chocolates and vodka sets, to folk art ceramics and scarves, and ‘Lady With An Ermine’ bags and t-shirts. The Fashion Place and S&A Jewellery Design sell more upmarket items, such as amber, watches, designer spectacles and clothing.
Kraków Airport exercise class – image © Jason Weaver
Meanwhile, the Toys Store has plenty to occupy restless children, and there is a kids’ play area at either end of the terminal. You might even find there’s a free exercise and stretching workshop taking place near gate 4, to help shake off travel stiffness.
Once your flight is called and you’ve passed through boarding, you’ll be picked up by a shuttle bus and taken to your plane.