If travelling through Poland, you’re more than likely going to be flying into Warsaw and then connecting. However, if you’re then going to be travelling via rail, there are a few things to know that might help you out. Hopefully this guide helps ease the confusion.
Basically there are 2 different types of trains. The local trains that are TLK, PR, or IR trains and the high speed trains or the EIP/EIC trains. The basic differences are with the price and the “newness” of the trains.
First, when you get to the station, decide on what is more important: time or money. If time is on your side and you really don’t care when you get to a certain destination, then by all means choose the cheaper ticket. It will get you to your destination with minimal disruption and you’ll probably meet some locals while sitting in a 6 person compartment. This would be ideal if travelling with a group for example. If pressed for time, absolutely take the express trains. They’re newer, more comfortable, and much easier to understand.
The local trains will have a lot of stops and they won’t announce every stop so it’ll be up to you to know when your stop is due. The trains also only stop long enough for you to get on or off so if you’re not prepared to hop off quickly, you may be going for a longer ride than expected. The stops that are announced will be in Polish and I honestly couldn’t tell you what the reason is for or against the announcement of these stops but regional trains will stop at every station. The faster trains have fewer stops and the stops are announced in English as well as Polish. Also, there are signs clearly marked on either end of each wagon that shows the next stop in both English and Polish. If you miss your stop on these trains, it’s because you weren’t paying attention. Also, they tend to be more on time since a lot of business travellers take them so peak times are going to be full.
Next, purchase your ticket. You can either buy them online, at a kiosk (in Enlish or Polish), or at the ticket counter. If you’re going to buy them at the kiosk, just hope your card works. Debit cards seemed to work fine but credit cards were sketchy. My Visa worked fine at some kiosks and got rejected at others but I couldn’t tell you why.
Now look at your ticket. It’ll give all the pertinent info like destination, time, etc. But it’ll also tell you where to sit. Remember trains have a tendency to split off if going to different destinations so being in the correct wagon is imperative especially on local trains. In this example, you can see the date and time of departure and arrival, the cities, and the class (2nd). Below that, you can see that I’m in wagon 6 in seat 36. Wagon numbers are located on the doors to the wagon but it’ll show which section of the platform (numbered 1-4) your wagon will stop. The platform will also show the final destination of your train (so it may not be your destination).
If you’re running late and you don’t have time to purchase your ticket beforehand, you can purchase one from the conductor on the train itself. You may not be guaranteed a seat and you’ll probably pay a premium but at least you’ll be on your way.
Hopefully this brief overview gives you a clear understanding of how to navigate the train station. It can be a bit overwhelming (especially during busy times) so it may be a good idea to make your first trip a little easier by departing when it isn’t as busy.