While holidays tend to focus on things to do and where to eat, there are also more practical matters to consider. This guide to Kraków basics has information on visas, public transport, where to find a public toilet, and pretty much everything else you might need to know.
Krakow´s Main Square at dusk – image © Jorge Láscar / CC BY 2.0
Despite the medieval and Renaissance architecture of the Old Town, Kraków has all the comforts of a modern city. English is widely spoken in tourist areas and it’s very easy to find your way around. However, it’s always good to come prepared. This guide covers most of the things you might need to know about travelling to Poland, including which electrical plugs you’ll need and which ATMs to use. You’ll find information about public toilets and using mobile phones, what time the shops are open and what to do if you lose your passport. Bookmark this page and come back to it when you need to know something specific.
We’ve provided plenty of links for finding out more, but our First Time In Kraków page is a good introduction to the city, complete with budgets and an overview of the key things to do.
Practical Kraków Basics
This section is all about getting you into the mindset for a trip to Poland. It includes information about the language, the climate and best times of year to travel, as well as other practical information about the time zone, the quality of drinking water, and what plug sockets you’ll find there. Some of this will be useful for helping you plan. The rest may just satisfy your curiosity.
- Do I Need A Visa For Poland? EU citizens can travel for as long as they like in Poland without a visa. Poland is in the European Schengen Area, which allows citizens of many countries to enter without a visa for up to 90 days. See this full list of who needs a visit Poland. As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least six months left until your passport expires. However, you should check the governmental travel rules of your home country, leaving plenty of time before you travel.
- What Customs Restrictions Are There In Poland? Again, you should check the governmental travel rules of your home country, especially for bringing duty-free type items out of Poland. Your airline can also provide details of which items are forbidden on the plane. You cannot take more than €10,000 worth of currency into or out of Poland and there are restrictions on artworks and antiques. VAT can be claimed on goods over 200zł within 30 days.
- What Language Do They Speak In Poland? Polish is the official language, however English is widely (and fluently) spoken in central Kraków. Many will find the language difficult to pronounce, but it’s good to learn the most basic phrases. To say “hello” or “goodbye” informally, use “Cześć” (pronounced “cheshch”). Make sure you use this appropriately or you may come across as rude. tThe more formal “hello” is “Dzień dobry” (pronounced “jen doh-bri”) and “goodbye” is “Do widzenia” (“doh veet-zen-ya”). “Please” is “Proszę” (prosheh) and “thank you” is “Dziękuje” (“jen-koo-yeh”).
- What Time Zone Is Kraków In? Poland observes CET (Central European Time / UTC +1) from late September to late March and CEST (Central European Summer Time / UTC +2) from late March to late September – the precise dates change each year. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) is the standard used for regulating clocks around the world. You can find the current time in Kraków online.
- What Electrical Plugs Are Used In Kraków? Poland uses the same 230V / 50Hz ‘type E’ plug as much of Europe. These have two round pins. If you are coming from North or South America, you should have a voltage converter as well as a plug adapter, as the voltage on your devices will be different.
- Is It Safe To Drink The Water In Kraków? Kraków’s tap water is of the highest quality and perfectly safe to drink or clean your teeth with. You may find public water fountains in some of the shopping malls but don’t rely on it. Instead, fill up a litre flask at your accommodation and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. However, some travellers find the hardness of the water a bit strange and prefer to drink bottled water. Like many European countries, there is a large range of different kinds of water widely available in supermarkets and convenience stores.
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Kraków? Although November to March can be cold, many people visit Kraków for the Christmas markets and winter sports. Spring (April to June) and Autumn (September to October) are mild, relatively dry, and cheaper to visit than the high season. Easter is a key time in the Polish calendar and Kraków will be more expensive and fully booked up. The summer months of July and August can be hot but also see the most rainfall.
- What Are The Key Public Holidays In Poland? There are a dozen key public holidays in Poland, when many shops and services will be closed. Easter has great significance for Poles and Christmas carries on into the new year. See our overview of public holidays and festivals, as well as details of what to expect for Christmas and New Year in Kraków.
- What Measurements Are Used In Poland? Like most of Europe, Poland uses the metric system. This means centimeter, meters, and kilometers instead of inches, feet, and miles. Fluids come in milliliters and liters, not fluid ounces, pints, or gallons. Weights are in grams and kilograms, and temperatures are in Celsius.
Finding Your Way Around Kraków Basics
Getting around Kraków is generally a breeze. It’s one of Europe’s most walkable cities and there is an integrated transport system for going further. This section gives you the basics of getting into the city centre and how to find your way once you’re there.
- How Do I Get To Kraków? Most people will arrive in Kraków via John Paul II International Airport, which is roughly 30 minutes from the city centre with good transportation links. Direct flights are available from all over Europe but international travellers will probably need to change at a European hub for Kraków – see our Flights To Kraków page for more details. Otherwise, see our How To Get To Kraków page if you are planning on arriving via train, bus, or private vehicle. We also have a specific page for how to get to Kraków from the UK. Crossing by land is a fairly casual affair. As a member of the EU, Poland’s borders are largely open, except on the eastern side at Ukraine and Belarus.
- How Do I Get Around Kraków? Kraków is a uniquely walkable city, as much of the Old Town is pedestrianised. All the same, there is an efficient and reasonably-priced public transport system of integrated trams and buses. There are ticket machines at most stops, which are easy to use and accept cards, and tickets are interchangeable. Expect to play 3-4zł for a single journey of 20-40 minutes and 15zł-40zł for 1-3 day travelcard. Stamp your ticket in the machine once on board. You can plan routes with the Jakdojade planner and a good guide book will give specific details on how to reach attractions. If you plan to use the transport system a lot, consider getting a KrakowCard Museum and Travel Pass. Service is sparser between 11pm-5am, when you may have to rely on taxis. See Getting Around In Kraków for more information.
- How Will I Find My Way Around In Kraków? Kraków is very well signposted. You’ll find the name of the street attached to the wall on nearly every corner, or on a pole in the middle of pedestrianised areas. “Ulica” (often abbreviated as ul.) pretty much means “street” and “Plac” means “place”. Many streets are named after saints – “święty” or “święta”, abbreviated as sw. Attractions are also well signposted in the tourist areas, usually with an English translation below. It’s also a difficult city to get lost in, with clear north-south / east-west axes and many landmarks to make orientation very easy.
- Where Will I Find A Tourist Office In Kraków? Tourist offices can be useful (and sometimes necessary) for buying entry tickets to certain museums and they can be very helpful for any number of Kraków-based questions. There’s a branch of InfoKraków at the Cloth Hall in the main market square (on the opposite side to St. Mary’s Basilica). This is open from 9am every day, until 7pm in the high season, and 5pm during the rest of the year. If that’s closed for some reason, you’ll find a branch open from 9am-7pm in nearby ul. Świętego Jana. There is also an office open from 9am-5pm in ul. Józefa in Kazimierz.
- Where Should I Stay In Kraków? Kraków has a huge range of high-quality to suit every taste and budget. See our Where To Stay In Kraków page for a general overview of what’s available.
- Are There Any Good Guided Tours In Kraków? Guided tours are an excellent way to get to know a new city, giving an expert’s insight you are unlikely to find in a guide book. Get Your Guide offer a huge range of different tours, or see our overview of Kraków walking, food and drink tours.
- When Are The Museums Open In Kraków? Kraków has a fantastic set of world-class museums, galleries, and other attractions, with incredibly reasonable entry fees. See our Sightseeing In Kraków page for an overview of the the highlights. Prices and opening times vary – so see individual locations for details. Many are closed on Mondays, with late opening on Thursdays. Otherwise, 9.30am-5pm is a good rule of thumb. Even the most expensive will only cost about 30zł (roughly 7€) and some have free entry on Sundays. Many of the key attractions, such as Rynek Underground and Schindler’s Factory, are operated by the Instytucja Kultury Miasta Krakowa. You can find out times and prices, and book on the site. It’s also worth considering the KrakowCard Museum and Travel Pass, which gives entry to almost 40 museums.
- Where Can I Go Shopping In Kraków? Kraków is a fantastic city for shopping. The Old Town is full of interesting shops for gifts, the large shopping mall Galeria Krakowska has a big supermarket and virtually everything else you might need, and there are late night convenience stores all over the city, selling food and drink. Most shops will be open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday, and 10am-2pm on Saturdays. Many shops will be closed on Sundays and key public holidays such as Easter. Galeria Krakowska is open 9am-10pm Monday-Saturday and 10am-9pm on Sundays, but is closed on many public holidays. There are a number of 24-hour shops dotted around including branches of Carrefour Express on ul. Dunajewskiego in the Old Town, ul. Krakowska in Kazimierz, and ul. Karmelicka in Podgórze. You’ll also find 24-hour branches of Delikatesy Kocyk on ul. Grodzka and ul. Wielopole in the Old Town, and late night convenience stores like Żabka in most areas. See our full guide to Shopping In Kraków for more information.
- Where Are The Public Toilets In Kraków? You can use the toilets for free in bars, restaurants, and cafes, as well as museums and other tourist attractions, provided you are a customer. You’ll also find them in train stations and shopping malls like Galeria Krakowska, where there may be a 2zł fee, so carry some small change with you. Look for ‘toaleta’ or ‘WC’, in general, or “damskie” / “dla pan” for women’s and “męskie” / “dla panów” for men’s toilets. The symbol for a women’s toilet is sometimes a circle and an upside-down triangle for men. The toilets at the Cloth Hall in Kraków’s main square are supposed to be open 24 hours a day. The toilets on Wawel Hill are open from 10am-8pm and are located next to the Lost Wawel exhibition. There are also a couple of underground toilets in Planty gardens, which are signposted. It should be pointed out that virtually none of these public toilets are accessible. The Collegium Mauis in the Old Town and Galeria Krakowska both have disabled toilets.
Food stalls in Little Market Square – image © Kgbo / CC BY-SA 4.0
Kraków Food And Drink Basics
Kraków well known as a party town but it is also an excellent destination for foodies, with a huge range of restaurants and cuisines. There’s also plenty of choice for vegans and vegetarians, making it a truly inclusive city to eat in! This section covers the basics on finding your way around Kraków’s food and drink scene.
- When Is The Best Time To Eat In Kraków? Places will open for breakfast any time between 8-10am and generally serve until midday, before switching to lunch for a few hours. You may find it harder to get a meal from 3pm-6pm, but dinner is usually served from 6pm until 11pm. However, this is just rule of thumb, so check any opening hours before setting out to eat!
- What If I Have Dietary Restrictions? Kraków eateries are very attuned to dietary restrictions and you’ll find many menus offer allergy information and options, such as gluten-free, nut allergy, halal, kosher, and so on. Download the Equal Eats app that lets you display cards for your particular allegy in Polish on your phone. It’s also worth spending a bit of Google time researching the best places in the city for your particular restriction. Chances are you’ll find some great places to eat that meet your particular needs.
- Are There Any Vegan Places To Eat In Kraków? Among the many surprises in Kraków are the number of places for vegetarians and vegans. From the fast food Vegab on Starowiślna (to the east of the Old Town) to healthy Jewish plates at Hamsa Hummus & Happiness in Kazimierz, there is enough choice for vegans to eat somewhere different for every meal during a two-week stay. You can even find vegan sushi and delicious vegan ice cream.
- What Local Specialities Should I Try? Polish food tends to be hearty, with lots of stews and soups on offer, and bread is important. Kraków also sees a big influence in its cuisine from further east in Europe. Flour dumplings, known as Pierogi, filled with cheeses, meats, or mushrooms, are the stars of Kraków eating. But you should also try Żurek – a hearty, sour soup, made with rye, sausage, and hard-boiled egg, Barszcz – beetroot soup, and Bigos – a sauerkraut and meat stew. Polish vodka comes in a number of varieties and endless flavours and Polish beer is very good. Our Kraków Food And Drink page has more information about the local cuisine.
Kraków Money Basics
Poland is a modern European country and is as advanced as almost any other country when it comes to money. The only real gotcha is the Euronet ATM network, which should be avoided. You can pay for almost anything with a contactless debit or credit card, and cash is easy for tourists to get hold of without exorbitant costs. Things should just work as they would at home, perhaps even better.
What’s more, Kraków remains extremely good value for money. A little can go a very long way here. This section gives an introduction to getting money in the city and paying for things. You can find out more about typical travel budgets on our How Much Money Do I Need For Kraków? page.
- What Currency Is Used In Poland? Although Poland is in the European Union, the country uses its own currency – the złoty (roughly pronounced as “zwoty”), which is abbreviated as zł or PLN – instead of the Euro. It’s a good idea to bring a bit of backup currency into the country with you, but you can easily withdraw some when you arrive, or pay your way with a debit card.
- Do I Need To Tell My Bank Before I Travel To Kraków? Always inform your bank before travelling and check that your cards will work internationally. If your bank is partnered with a Polish equivalent, they may offer a better exchange rate. Try a couple of different banks if you’re having problems withdrawing money, then call the number on the back of the card and you should be able to get it unfrozen. I’ve also found it prudent to carry a back up card from a different account.
- Can I Pay With A Card In Kraków? All variations on Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards are almost universally accepted in Polish shops, restaurants, and museums, and the country was quick to move to contactless payments. Other cards, such as American Express are less widely accepted.
- Can I Pay With My Phone In Kraków? Any Apple or Android payment system should work here, exactly as a contactless debit card would.
- Can I Withdraw Cash In Kraków? Visa and Mastercard are also widely accepted in Polish ATMs (‘Bancomat’). Cash machines don’t usually carry a usage fee, especially if you stick to the main banks. Although you should avoid any Euronet-branded ATMs, as their fees can be punitive. If your bank charges a flat fee, withdraw a large sum in one go. And, if offered, withdraw in the local rather than your home currency. It’s cheaper. You will need your PIN number to withdraw money. Most machines give language options and work exactly as they would back home. If you wish to withdraw money at Kraków International Airport, use the ATM outside Bank Pekao on the upper floor. You can also use the ATMs outside either the ING or Millennium Bank in Galeria Krakowska shopping mall. There are several banks on the western side of Kraków’s main square.
- How Do I Change Money In Kraków? You’re unlikely to need to change currency once you arrive but exchange offices (look for ‘Kantor’) are competitive and often don’t ask for commission. Wait until you’ve left the airport and get to the city. There is one on the top floor of the Galeria Krakowska shopping mall, to the right of the Carrefour supermarket and a number around the Old Town. Try ul. Slawkowska. These are usually open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday and 9am-2pm on Saturday, but closed on Sundays, and some stay open longer. Make sure they advertise two rates (buying and selling) and confirm any transaction fees upfront. Change a lump sum for a better deal. Find out the latest exchange rates with our handy currency converter.
- When Are The Banks Open In Kraków? Banks are typically open Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm, although they will close on certain public holidays.
- Can I Use Cash In Kraków? It is perfectly possible to spend a week in Kraków with just a debit card. However, there are occasions when cash is more useful. Keep a few notes for emergencies and tipping (see next item) and some loose change in case you need to use a public toilet.
- How Much Should I Tip In Kraków? Add 10% in bars, cafes, and restaurants if the service has been good. You can also tip tour guides. You may not be allowed to add this to a card payment, so carry a little cash with you. Hand the money to the server directly. Although it is not customary to tip taxi drivers, feel free to round up the fare to the nearest 5 or 10zł.
Orange store Galeria Krakowska – image © Jason Weaver
Kraków Phone And Internet Basics
Mobile phones and internet use have made many aspects of travel much easier in the last decade. There are, however, a few things you need to know before you arrive, such as whether you can use your phone in Poland and what to expect when you do. This section will point you in the right direction.
- Can I Use My Phone In Kraków? Don’t expect to see many public pay phones in Kraków. Poland uses the GSM 900 / 1800 network. If you’re bringing a cell phone from Australasia or the rest of Europe, it should work okay here. The network isn’t compatible with phones from Japan or North America, so you may need to buy a cheap device when you arrive. Similarly, you’ll need to find out what fees your contract covers from your phone provider. EU residents, for example, can usually roam freely throughout the Schengen Area without having to pay extra, whereas travellers from the UK will generally be charged. If your phone is compatible and you want to buy a temporary SIM, you’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked. The easiest option might be to buy a cheap phone when you arrive. We have more information on our Where To Get A SIM Card In Kraków page. It’s easy to burn through data just from ambient use of a smartphone. Keep an eye on usage and toggle between airplane mode or turn off mobile data use if necessary.
- How Do I Use My Phone In Kraków? The city code for Kraków is 12. All landline and mobile numbers have nine digits, including the city code. You don’t need to dial 0 before calling a number in a different Polish city. Poland’s country code is 48, so you would dial 00-48 followed by the local 9-digit number, if you wanted to call from a different country. If you want to dial another country from Poland, use the 00 prefix, followed by the country code (i.e., 44 for the UK).
- Where Can I Use The Internet In Kraków? Check the data allowance for your plan while travelling with your phone provider or buy a SIM card with data once you arrive. Your hotel should provide some kind of free WiFi, though don’t expect it to be fast. Many cafes in the city let you log on. Try Fitagain Coffee & Food, Szczepańska 7, just off the main square (8.30am-6pm Monday-Thursday, 8.30am-8pm Friday-Sunday), or Cafe Tektura, Krupnicza 7, close to Teatr Bagatela (8am-9pm daily). There is also limited free WiFi in the main train station and airport. Consider using a VPN if you’re going to log into public networks.
- Where Can I Send Postcards In Kraków? The main post office (or Poczta Główna) is located at Westerplatte 20, across the road from Planty Park, to the east of the main square. It is open from 8am-8pm Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm on Saturday, and closed on Sundays.
Basic Safety In Kraków
Kraków is a relaxed and tolerant city, with low crime rates. However, as in any city, you should keep your wits about you, as theft and scams are always possible. See our full Guide To Staying Safe for a deeper dive.
Apart from the usual caveats about avoiding potentially dangerous situations, solo women travellers should find low levels of harassment in Kraków, and there are lots of safe attractions and play spaces for families with children. And, despite Poland’s reputation around racism and LGBT+ issues, public attitudes in Kraków are increasingly progressive. Don’t let negative stories you may have heard scare you away.
Despite a concerted effort in recent years to make Kraków more accessible, there is still some way to go, and travellers with mobility issues will need to check every venue before venturing out.
Emergencies In Kraków
Kraków is generally very safe for tourists. However, accidents happen and no city is completely free of crime.
The number for emergency services from a mobile phone is 112. Once you’re through, you can select which service you need: ambulance, police, or fire. For medical emergencies, ask for an ambulance or go to the University Hopsital at ul. Kopernika 50. There is a police station on the main square in the Old Town at Rynek Główny 29. It has a small, plain entrance with a shield and Komisariat Policji sign above the door.
See our full guide to dealing with emergencies for key information if you find yourself in trouble.
Travel Insurance For Kraków
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Kraków Basics Summary
Kraków is a fantastic city to visit – beautiful, safe, and extremely easy to navigate. Most travellers won’t need a visa to enter the country, it is great value for money and you can pay for almost anything with a recognised debit or credit card, fluent English is widely spoken, and – for EU citizens at least – you may be able to use your phone on your existing plan. If not, setting up a temporary SIM is straightforward. You can get an overview of when to travel, where to stay, and sample budgets on our First Time In Kraków page.
We have also prepared a number of itineraries to cover a quick trip to Kraków or a longer weekend. These offer suggestions for the key sights, and possible day trips, as well as where to eat and drink.
Kraków also makes a great base for visiting other Polish cities and a handy hub for a number of cities in neighbouring countries.
Things To Do In Krakow
Start Planning Your Kraków Trip Now!
:: Find available Kraków hotels on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
:: Wondering where to stay in Krakow before you book your hotel? See our comprehensive guide to the city's most convenient areas for visitors.
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:: Book an airport transfer to take you hassle-free direct from the airport to your hotel with the driver meeting you in Arrivals.
:: Find out how to get your phone set up with a SIM card in Kraków.
:: Make sure you don't forget to bring any of the essentials with our comprehensive Packing List For Kraków.
:: World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
:: Get a KrakowCard 1-, 2- or 3-day pass that gives entry to almost 40 of the Kraków's fantastic attractions and unlimited use of the city's bus and tram network.
:: Need inspiration? Check our Kraków Itineraries for two-day, three-day, and four-day trips, as well as our Things To Do In Kraków guide for ideas of where to do and what to do.