Rick Steves Reveals How To Tell If Your Trip To Poland Would Be Smoother With A Rail Pass

If you want to dispel any lingering misconceptions you have about Poland, jump on one of its high-speed trains and enjoy the ride from the glorious former capital of Kraków to the vibrant present capital of Warsaw. Kraków's outlandish beauty and Warsaw's youthful vibes will instantly banish the idea of Poland as a grey, industrial country. And frankly, Amtrak could learn a thing or two from Poland's modern, comfortable, and reasonably priced trains.

Despite recent improvements to Poland's road network, the train is still the best way to travel. Railway stations tend to be in city centers, making travel convenient, and the network reaches even the smallest villages. But you're already sold on taking the train in Europe, right? You really want to know whether you should buy a rail pass for Poland. Rick Steves published an article on his site Rick Steves' Europe to help you decide. His basic advice: A rail pass is unlikely to save you money in Poland, but it might make your journey smoother.

Passes and tickets

If you're new to European rail passes, let us introduce you to Eurail. Eurail passes are for people who live outside Europe and want to travel the continent by train. You can get global passes covering 33 European countries (including Poland) or one-country passes. A six-day pass covering only Poland costs $130 for people aged 28–59. For those aged 12–27 or people over 60, the price is even less. There's even a mobile option to make it easier to plan the perfect trip.

Yes, rail passes in Poland are cheap. But so are point-to-point tickets, as Steves explains. His article has a graphic of the approximate costs of point-to-point tickets in USD. You can use Steves' map to get a general idea of what each ticket costs to check whether a rail pass is cheaper.

Alternatively, you can search for more exact prices on the PKP website (there's an English version). We searched for tickets from Kraków to Warsaw for two weeks. On the fastest, most expensive EIP trains, tickets cost between $23–35 in second class. On cheaper trains, the price was as low as $10. If you can book in advance, even tickets on the most expensive services are excellent value in Poland.

A smooth trip?

So why would you want a rail pass? Steves writes that with a pass, you avoid having to buy tickets. On the surface, that means you save time, and your trip may go more smoothly. However, seat reservations are compulsory on many trains in Poland, and the fastest EIP trains require you to pay a reservation fee of around $10, even with a Eurail pass. Because of this, we at Explore have reservations (ahem) about using Eurail passes in Poland. If you need to go online or stand in line to reserve seats with a pass anyway, why not buy a ticket at the same time?

If you're hoping to visit one of Poland's neighbors during your vacation, you might jump at a Eurail global pass. However, that's not necessarily a money-saver either, and many visitors overspend on their rail passes. International point-to-point tickets are often fairly cheap to and from Poland. You can do the five-hour Berlin to Warsaw journey for $27 or the nine-hour Prague to Warsaw trip for $32. If you're on a budget, a rail pass for Poland probably isn't going to pay off — and even if you're not, your trip will likely not go any more smoothly with a pass.