So you’re coming to Krakow and you have no idea how you’re going to get around. While the Old Town and Jewish District are fairly walkable, there are a lot of valuable things to do just outside the city center that you may need a bus or tram for. Or hey, maybe you don’t want to walk for 35 minutes to get to that bar you’ve always wanted to try. So let’s dive in on how to get around while you are in Krakow, Poland.
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I have received a lot of emails over the last few months about figuring out public transportation in Krakow. The most important thing to remember is that this system is constantly changing. If there is construction one day, or a national holiday, or there has been an accident, the lines will change- and that’s okay. Krakow is constantly named as some of the best public transportation in the world, but with that title comes constant improvements. If you learn a few tricks before your visit, you’ll realize how easy it is to get anywhere.
The video above shows us buying a ticket from a machine at a bus stop- not on a bus- and taking a bus, and then a tram, from the suburbs into the city!
The best, and really only way, to know what tram or bus you should be using is to check on the day you are using it, either online using JakdoJade or at the physcial bus stop where there will be a schedule as well. Google Maps can sometimes work- but it’s pretty terrible compared to jakdojade- which at this point must have partnered with the local government because they track some buses in real time and alert you if they are late.
Now, what is the advantage of using JakdoJade? It will have a map, it can work on your phone as an app, and it updates every minute. At the end of this post will be information about how you buy tickets for the trams and busses etc.. but first I want to show you how to use JakdoJade because it will be a priceless tool to have on your journey. And now, even allows you to buy your tickets directly on the app.
This route planner is really simple to use. Before you leave for your trip, mess around with the program using your home computer or phone. Chances are it will automatically translate everything into English. Become familiar with the planner so that when you get to Poland and start using the app or website and it is completely in Polish, you will still understand everything it is saying. Remember that Saturdays and Sundays often have different time schedules, so if you are trying to pin-point exact times those days may be different from others.
[If you are using it at home that it will adjust the times to you, which can become very confusing. For example, I am currently in America, looking at the route from Galeria Krakowska to Plac Nowy in Kazimierz. If I just search for the route using the current time, it says all the busses/trams are gone, because it is no longer 2:30pm in Krakow, I am looking at schedules that are 6 hours behind. So make sure you adjust the time to period that still exists in the present moment in Krakow]
Okay, still with me? Let’s look at WHAT Jak do Jade can do.
Jakdojade: The Route Planner. Getting From Point A to Point B in Krakow
What’s awesome about this website and app is that you don’t have to know the name of the stops you need; you simply need to know the addresses of where you need to go, or the Points of Interests that you are using. For this example I have used Galeria Krakowska and Plac Nowy** (The mall in the city center that also houses the central bus and train station. Also where you will get dropped of if you take the tram to and from the airport and the little main square of Kazimierz, the hipster-esque Jewish District). **This is an example and does not show a current route that is possible.
So the first step was to type these two points of interest in the part of the website labeled “Planner”:
Once I typed them in and pressed enter, the planner showed me some options (below). You can notice that since I am not entering stop names, the planner even shows me how far I will need to walk from the POI to the actual stop and vice versa. Not shown here, you can scroll up and down in the app to get times in the past or future. And remember that you can change the date and time of your planner search so that you are looking at the next day or week etc.. You can even now set the times for either when you want to depart- OR the time you would like to arrive somewhere! This is great for meeting friends or going to appointments. Keep in mind morning rush hour and afternoon traffic can alter these times.
Now what I can do is actually click on the route that I want to use. Once I click on the option that I want to use it will expand and show me all the information that I need, even a map of the entire route. On the app, you can even choose your route and then follow it in live time. If I’m going somewhere new, I sometimes leave the app open on my chosen route so I know how close I am getting to the stop I need.
As promised below is more basic information on how the bus and tram system in Krakow works…
What is Public Transportation Like in Krakow?
Krakow had a big problem several years ago- every headline was about the levels of smog in the city and how hard it was to breathe in winter. There were red-alert days when the elderly and small children were told to stay inside because the air pollution levels were to high. For whatever reason, the city finally realized it was time to do something about it. While we could write an entire piece on what they’ve done, it’s impressive, but I’m sure some would say not enough- BUT that’s not the point of this article. What does air pollution and public transportation in Krakow have to do with each other? Well, they’ve begun to transition every bus to electric and have upgraded almost every tram to a new model.
We contemplated what to do with our cars- do we ship them, do we sell them and buy one here, do we really need one anymore? So far we haven’t needed one! We pay $40 a month for unlimited transportation in all three Zones of the City and outlying suburbs. It’s some of the best public transportation in the world here in Krakow- and they are quickly working towards being a completely all electric fleet, in fact all their buses I believe are either hybrid or electric as of now.
Gone are the days when you would walk up a flight of stairs into a rickety old tram that Poland bought used from another country. And here are the days where a bag of coins are no longer necessary to buy a ticket- trams are all card only- and many of the busses offer charging stations for your devices!
Oh- and every. single. bus and tram will have a self-service station in it for your to buy a ticket- so you no longer have to interrupt the driver, who may or may not have a ticket to sell you.
It’s like they took every bad experience I had six years ago riding the trams and solved them all. Now, are all the problems solved? Of course not. So be prepared for anything. Always have a credit/debit card on you to buy your ticket, but also have an ulterior way as well- a back up so to say- in the form of coins and/or an app like jakdojade where you can buy tickets on your phone. The easiest way? Pre-load money onto your jakdojade account and buy tickets through the app whenever you use transportation. Going to be in town for a while? Look into the monthly more more passes direct from the city on the KKM Krakow application.
So how does it work, step by step? We’ll tell you below…
How to buy and use a ticket for the bus or tram in Krakow
When you get onto a bus or tram, you will buy your ticket from a machine on board. The machines all have buttons to change the language between Polish/English/German. The ticket that you buy works for both the trams and buses, and is timed; however, there are options to buy a whole day, or longer pass. Below you will see a photo of a ticket machine that only takes cards- which is why it is actually important to have some coins and a card on you during travel.
So let’s look at what the machine shows here to the right. You can see that there are different zones, reduced or discounted tickets, and the prices. “zł” is the shortened text for złoty. To think in dollars or pounds just divide by 4 (that’s an estimate) and a comma is the same as a decimal in $0.00. The button “COMPLETE TICKET OFFER” will expand your options to 24-Hour, 72-Hour, 7-Day tickets etc… Technically students and elderly adults can use the reduced fares, but we usually don’t risk it and just buy full fare in case our Student IDs don’t meet the requirements in Europe etc…
Alternatively- you could avoid this machine all together and purchase these same tickets in an application like jakdojade.
When you activate your ticket for use in the app- it’s going to ask you for the inside cabin number- look for something like this:
Public transportation (bus and tram) use only one timed ticket. So you do not need to buy a bus ticket, and then a tram ticket, it is all one thing. But what is most important is that once you buy a ticket, you validate it in the yellow machine that says “validate your ticket here”- or as mentioned before, you actually activate the ticket in your app.
You can see the bright yellow validation machine in the picture. There are usually several on every tram and bus.
Like we said, for everything within the city you only need a Zone I ticket, but if you are going to the Salt Mines by bus 304, make sure you buy a Zone II ticket. The transportation authority checks this bus all the time!
You can buy a ticket for your entire stay as well. Or if you were like us and staying in Krakow for a long period of time you can get a tram card for an entire month or more.
You never show your ticket to anyone unless the bus or tram is boarded by the Transportation Authority. You will see someone with a scanner get on the bus or tram and go to the driver, the validation machines will be locked (you’re too late now!) and they will announce loudly in Polish that they are there to check everyone’s ticket. Then, you wait for them to check yours. This is why it is extremely important that you validate your ticket as soon as you begin to use it because officers will often appear and check to see what time you validated it. If you do not have the proper ticket or did not validate your ticket you will be fined- but what’s worse is the officer probably won’t speak English so trying to figure out what to do about your crime and ticket is even more difficult.
Current 2023 Prices for Riding Public Transportation in Krakow
These prices are for normal tickets and are in the Polish currency- on average you’ve got between 4-5pln per USD, GBP, or EUR.
20 minutes: 4 pln
60 minutes: 6 pln
90 minutes: 8 pln
24 hours: 17 pln-22pln (depending on zones you need)
48 hours: 35 pln (all zones)
72 hours: 50 pln (all zones)
7 days: 56 pln-68 pln (depending on zones you need)
Some Things you will See while using Transportation
The two buttons above can be used to tell the driver that you would like him to let you out at the next stop. In addition the button that says “DRZWI” can also open the doors of the tram or bus when it is at a stop. Similar buttons (but round) are on the outside of the vehicles for you to press for the doors to open so you can get inside.
In some form or another, you will almost always see this guy on a hobby horse printed all over the seats and sides of public transportation– so who the heck is he? His name is the Lajkonik and he is a hugely important symbol to the city of Krakow— so much so that they hold a parade for him every year! Did you know we wrote a children’s book about Krakow? Here is our illustration of the Lajkonik:
These again, are the validation machines. There should be a little arrow on the bottom of your ticket that shows you the proper direction to punch it in for your timestamp. The ticket we are holding here says “7 dni” which means it was good for unlimited rides in the zones we chose for 7 days!
Keep an extra USB charger with you, and you can plug in on the bus/tram if it’s a new one! Even a lot of the stations now have actual charging stations too.
These are both ticket machines. You can see that they are a little different and one only takes credit cards, while the other probably has slots up top for coins. If you ever find a coin keeps getting spit back out at you- rub it on the side of the machine, it seems to do the trick.
Like we said before this number “139” is an identification number for this specific vehicle- the number doesn’t have anything to do with the number of the line you are on. You’ll need this number if you are validating a ticket you’ve bought in an app, instead of a physical ticket.
And finally- you might just see a cat or dog on your journeys- as animals are allowed on all transportation; and it’s not like New York City where animals have to be in a bag or carrier on the subway; they can be out and about- but you’ll notice that most dogs do wear muzzles.
As always- we’re here to help! So just email us at email@example.com