If you have any feedback, spot any inaccuracies, or find anything unclear, please talk to u/me-gustan-los-trenes.
Types of trains in Poland
- EIP – “Express InterCity Premium” (a.k.a. Pendolino), the high speed trains served by ETR610 trains.
- EIC – “Express InterCity”, long distance express trains.
- IC – “InterCity”, long distance trains.
- TLK – Twoje Linie Kolejowe (eng: Your Railways), long-distance low cost service.
- EC – EuroCity (usually code shares with IC), long distance international trains.
- EN – EuroNight, international night trains.
- Regio – Regional trains, operated by Polregio
- Os – Osobowy, local trains stopping at every station, usually operated by regional operators (Koleje Mazowieckie, Koleje Małopolskie, Koleje Śląskie and more), similar in concept to S-Bahn
- SKM – Szybka Kolej Miejska (eng: Rapid Rail Transit or S-Bahn) in some cities, at least in Warsaw and 3city (Gdańsk/Gdynia/Sopot)
- ŁKA – Łódzka Kolej Aglomeracyjna (S-Bahn in Łódź)
EIP a.k.a. “Pendolino”
Note: Reservations on EIP are absolutely mandatory and this is serious. See the section on reservations below.
EIP is commonly known as “Pendolino”, as the connections are served by New Pendolino trains, namely ED250, which are modified ETR610 trainsets.
EIP is the highest tier of rail service in Poland. The trains are new, comfortable and well maintained. There is always an onboard restaurant and catering service. Additionally, passengers in 2nd class receive free water, passengers in 1st class receive a snack and two drinks.
EIP links Warsaw to major cities, including Gdańsk, Kraków, Katowice, Wrocław, Rzeszów.
The EIP service is advertised as “high speed”, but don’t expect a real high-speed service similar to TGV or Shinkansen. The trains reach up to 200km/h in some places and connection times are comparable to those offered by EIC. However the EIP are served by more modern trains and have a better service on board which justifies the higher price tag.
EIC, IC, TLK, EC
All these are long distance connections. They are usually served by traditional loco-pulled wagons. There are some IC services served by new trainsets though.
Reservations are mandatory on some of those trains. But it is always fine to board the train without the reservation. In the very worst case you will get the reservation from the conductor on board for some small extra fee.
Polregio operates countrywide. On the displays in the stations their trains are usually marked with letter R followed by a number, the operator tag is PR. Polregio accepts Interrail.
There are many regional operators, those include:
- Koleje Mazowieckie – serving the region of Warsaw and some long range connections, including one to Gdańsk (operator tag: KM)
- Koleje Małopolskie – serving the region of Kraków (operator tag: KMŁ)
- Koleje Śląskie – serving the region of Katowice (operator tag: KŚ)
- Koleje Dolnośląskie – serving the region of Wrocław (operator tag: KD)
- Koleje Wielkopolskie – serving the region of Poznań
Trains operated by these are marked as Os or OsP followed by a number. Most of these operators don’t accept interrail. A notable exception is Koleje Dolnośląskie, who does accept interrail. You can always confirm whether the specific company accept interrail by consulting the “Network guides” in the RailPlanner app.
Local trains, SKM
Most local trains, S-Bahn services (SKM, WKD) and U-Bahn (metro in Warsaw), ŁKA in Łódź, trams are not covered by interrail passes. Always double-check whether the pass is valid on a specific connection when taking local trains in Poland.
One notable exception is SKM in Trójmiasto (Gdańsk, Gdynia and surrounding towns). You can use interrail pass on that service.
Warsaw Airport link
Warsaw Airport is served by Koleje Mazowieckie (KM) and by Warsaw SKM. Neither accepts Interrail (despite the Rail Planner app saying that they do. They really don’t).
The ticket validity, especially on the KM trains, is very complicated. I am not going to explain all the nuances. Here is the safe thing to do that will give you a ticket valid on all KM and SKM trains within the city limits (as well as all city buses, trams and metro).
There will be two types of machines near the airport train station. The green KM machines, and red ZTM machines. Find a ZTM machine. It may look like this:
There are many types of those in the city. Look for the ZTM logo on the machine, or just try the one that is NOT green.
Buy a daily ticket or longer (24h or 72h). While the machine offers shorter tickets, those are only valid on some trains. With a 24h tickets you can board any train from the airport to the city center, and you can continue using it on all public transportation within the city.
You must validate the ticket upon entering the train. There are validators near the entrances.
Alternatively you may try to buy a 24h ticket with one of apps (try Jakdojade or moBILET). You still need to validate such a ticket. You do that by tapping “validate” and then scanning a QR code posted on train.
The numbers of trains listed in the Rail Planner app don’t correspond to what you will see posted on stations and on trains. If you are going from the airport to the city center, board any train. They all go to Warszawa Centralna or Warszawa Śródmiecie. Those two stations are next to each other and in the most central point of the city. You can easily change there to metro, trams, buses.
If you are traveling from the city to the airport, you want SKM the S2 line or KM the RL line.
Gdańsk airport link
Gdańsk airport is served by Trójmiasto SKM and by Polregio trains. All accept interrail.
Kraków airport link
Kraków airport link is served by Koleje Małopolskie (SKA1 line). The ticket costs 14PLN (about 3EUR). Interrail is not accepted.
Finding a train in Poland
Finding a train in Polish stations is an art. Here are some hints.
When you look up a train in one of the apps, on displays on the station, or in a paper timetable you will see two numbers. It can look like that:
or like that:
Peron 4, tor 12.
The first number is the “peron” number, meaning the platform number. The second number is “tor” number, meaning the track number.
At many stations tracks are numbered very randomly. For example when you find a track number 3, don’t assume tracks number 2 or 4 are anywhere near. As an example in Warsaw Central station the tracks are in the following order: 7, 5, 3, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8. That’s where platform numbers comes in. Platforms are usually numbered in order so they are relatively easy to find. Once you find your platform use the track number to find your train.
Do I need a reservation?
Reservations for EIP trains are mandatory. Don’t ever try to board those trains without valid pass and reservation, or you’ll pay a fine which can be as high as 750PLN (160EUR).
Reservations for EIC and EC trains are optional.
Reservations are mandatory on some IC and TLK trains. To confirm whether your specific train requires reservation, consult that list (sorry, it’s only available in Polish): https://www.intercity.pl/pl/site/o-nas/dzial-prasowy/komunikaty/lista-pociagow-objetych-obowiazkowa-rezerwacja-miejsc.html – if the train is listed there, the reservations are mandatory.
However it is okay to board those trains without a reservation. In the worst case the conductor will issue one for you. They may ask for a fee for doing that on board, the fee won’t be higher than a few EUR.
Booking domestic DAYTIME reservations
- Book reservations for individual trains. It usually doesn’t work to book a reservation for the whole trip spanning several trains.
- The reservation system will keep switching to Polish language. That’s unfortunate.
- The reservation for EIP trains will cost 42PLN (8EUR). The reservation for EIC/IC/TLK trains will cost 1PLN (0.2EUR). If you see higher price, something is wrong.
To book a reservation:
- got to https://intercity.pl/en/
- fill out the origin and destination points, enter the time and date, click “Search”
- if it fell back to Polish, switch the page to English, there is a knob on top of the page.
- select the connection you want and click it. Ignore the the prices listed. Those prices are for full tickets. Prices for reservations are fixed.
- if at this point it says “Unable to check prices”, that means the system is down. Try again in a few hours.
- the page will scroll down to several pull down menus. Find the one saying “Discount / reservation type”. Click it and find the option “Interrail/Eurail/NRT/EWT/FIP/OSJD”.
- Select the class of travel. If your interrail is 2nd class you must choose 2nd class. If you hold 1st class ticket you can book 1st class reservation.
- If you are booking reservation for EIP train, you can click “Select in the graphic scheme” where you can select a specific seat. Otherwise click “Continue”.
- Enter the passenger name. Must match the name on the ID you are holding and on your Interrail pass. Enter the number of the pass. Click Choose and finalize the payment.
You will receive an email with a PDF. There will be an Aztec code in the PDF. That code is what you need to show to the ticket controller alongside your Interrail pass.
Booking domestic SLEEPER reservations
For domestic overnight sleepers in Poland https://intercity.pl/en/ only offers interrail options when traveling in a seat. These are available using the interrail reservation service but at a considerable markup and only for limited classes of accommodation. The best option for these trains is usually through https://www.cd.cz/en/ – search as normal then select “reservation only” when the times of trains appear.
Booking international seat reservations
The only international trains in Poland that require reservations are night trains. You can usually book reservations for those using https://oebb.at or https://cd.cz.
None of the daytime EuroCity trains in Poland requires reservations (contrary to what the RailPlanner app may claim). If you want a reservation though, the easiest way may be to use https://intercity.pl/en to book a reservation just for the Polish part of the journey.
For trains going to Austria it may be possible to book reservations with https://oebb.ch.
How to get in/out of Poland
Trains from/to Germany
There are direct EC trains connecting Berlin to Warsaw, Kraków and Gdańsk. For other connections it is usually best to go from Berlin to Poznań and change to other trains there.
There are also local trains connecting boarder towns along the border. For example Szczecin is served by regional German trains.
Trains from/to Czechia and Austria
There are both daytime and nighttime connections between major Polish cities and Prague, Vienna, Graz.
You can use https://cd.cz to book reservations if you want one. However reservations are not mandatory.
Trains from/to Lithuania
Trains from/to Slovakia
A daytime Eurocity train runs direct from Bratislava to Przemyśl stopping at Kraków and Katowice among others.
An overnight sleeper train runs direct from Bratislava to Warsaw stopping at Kraków and Katowice among others.
Additional connections are available by changing in Czechia.
Further East some a small number of regional trains cross the border on weekends and during peak season only. ZSSK run 2 trains a day from Poprad to Muszyna which runs weekends only from 3rd June to 3rd September 2023. This route also operates during the winter season – previously running from 31st December 2022 to 26th February 2023, again weekends only, dates for 2023/24 winter season have not yet been published as of writing this in March 2023. Another route run from Sanok to Medzilaborce, again twice a day and summer weekends only. This summer these dates are 24th June to 3rd September 2023. On this route 1 of the trains in both directions continues direct to/from Rzeszów. As this route is run by Polregio interrail passes cannot be used but tickets are cheap. More information on these seasonal trains can be found at https://www.zssk.sk/en/train-connection-poprad-tatry-muszyna/ & https://www.zssk.sk/en/tickets-abroad/poland/medzilaborce-sanok-rzeszow-trains/
Special thanks to u/KJ_is_a_doomer for providing information on the topic of Kraków airport link and regional trains.