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a few questions, Auschwitz visit

Great Torrington...
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a few questions, Auschwitz visit

I want to visit Krakow in february, with the sole intention of going to see Auschwitz. I will be travelling alone and im not a very experienced traveller. I find it may be daunting.

Do the people speak English, by people, I mean hotel staff, bus/railway staff?

Are there signs in English?

Should i get a taxi straight from the airport to my hotel?

Then, whats the best way to visit Auschwitz on my wn, in terms of transport, i don't want to be part of a group and want to spend a good deal of time there. Should i hire a cab from my hotel to the Auschwitz?

If not, where can i get a bus from?

Is it safe to travel around alone?

Any extra advice would be very useful and welcome.

I'm so clueless! Thank you in advance.

Warsaw, Poland
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1. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

As for visiting Auschwitz check uot the website:

http://en.auschwitz.org.pl/z/

I would recommend taking a guide as an individual visitor. You will get to know much more.

The busses to the Museum depart quite frequently from the central bus/train station in Kraków. There are also lots of minibusses that depart from the parking lot located at Pawia street (the other side of the shopping gallery (Galeria Krakowska) which is located adjacent to the railway station (the platforms of the station are connected with the gallery with underground passage).

ENGLISH - Elderly people usually dont speak English. Younger and middle aged people do speak English. As to the staff on Polish trains, some train attendants speak English, others dont, there is however always somebody that can help you. In places like airports, hotels, restaurants, sights there is no problem with communicating in English. Signs are in Polish mostly, in tourists areas there are signs in English. Kraków is a very tourist oriented city, so you should not have any problems with communicating in English or finding what you are looking for.

AIRPORT - CITY - I would recommend to take the shuttle train that departs from the airport (you can either walk to the station which is 200 meters from the airport - clearly marked in English, or tak ethe free shuttle bus to the train, that departs from in front of the airport - also clearly marked, you cant miss it). By train it takes 17 mins to get to the central railway station (which is very close to all the attractions). The tickets can be purchased from train attendant (8 PLN) or from a ticket machine (also on the train - 7 PLN). You have to have some Polish money though (you can exchange small amounts at the airport, but remember - just small amount like 10 EUR or so, cause the exchange rates are ridiculous as at each airport. It takes longer to get to the city by taxi, and costs 70 - 80 PLN which is 10 times the price of the train ticket. The travel by train is easy, as is it operates only between the airport and the central station (some trains have one stop on their way, just get off where everybody does).

SAFETY - Kraków is a safe city, definitely safer than Paris, Rome, London, NYC etc. Be simply street wise cause as in every large city there can be pickpockets in congested areas etc.

MONEY - Be careful when exchanging money. Do not use the "interechange" bright orange exchange shops (or other similar places, that post a huge sign with a very good exchange rate in the window, with a small print saying "today we sell...", the "buy" exchange rate is not posted). Use only Kantors (Polish for exchange shops) which post all of the exchange rates (buy/sell) on their windows or doors. there are many of them in the old town. Havent seen any kantors that would charge commission, so dont be fooled by signs saying "no commission here". There is no commission anywhere, and Poles know it.

TAXIS - Remember to check the taxi rates befire entering the cab (they are posted on the back passenger door). The taxis in Krakow charge 2,30 - 2,80 PLN per kilometer in day-time within city limits . The rates for night rides are 50% more expensive. The rides outside city limits are 100% more expensive. All of these rates are posted on the door, also in English. The meter should be on. There is an initial charge of about 6 - 8 PLN.

EATING - Kraków (as entire Poland) is much cheaper than other western european cities. A decent meal in a restaurant would cost about 10 EUR. Lots of cheap food options (check out Bar Mleczny - MIlk Bars, one is located at Grodzka street, very cheap simple Polish food). There are no restaurants that could be regarded as tourists traps (like in many other popular european cities), so actually wherever you go, if the place looks nice, the food should be ok. For fancy Polish cuisine I recommend the "Pod Aniołami" (Grodzka street), "Miód Malina" (Grodzka Street), Szara (Old town makret square and in Kazimierz - Szeroka Street), Wesele (Old Town Market Square). Fancy does not have to mean extremely expensive. Grodzka street is the street that leads from the market square to the wawel castle.

LOTS TO SEE IN KRAKÓW - do not go to Kraków just to see Auschiwtz. Kraków is such a lovely city. The market square, the Wawel castle, the jewish quarter Kazimierz, all of the museums etc. are absolutely remarkable.

Have a nice stay!

Great Torrington...
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2. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

Thank you so much for your help, its a fantastichelp and i will be sure to take in all your advice.

Thanks again, i feel moire confident after just reading this post ;-)

Krakow, Poland
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3. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

You get to see far more of the museum WITHOUT a guide, you also get as much time as you like to view the exhibits without being rushed around from room to room and block to block.

Aberdeen
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4. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

I would also recommend Auschwitz without a guide - I preferred this way of seeing it.

Lublin
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5. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

Krakow is in fact a beautiful city. And you can see many historical buildings there.

liverpool
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6. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

hi when we went we went alone and by bus it was so easy and was not rushed like you are when your with a guide. we spent the whole day there between the two camps it was very moving.

Leicester, United...
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7. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

Unless there is a specific reason for a February visit I'd suggest leaving it a couple of months to have the weather a little warmer.

Having said that I suppose that seeing Auschwitz and Birkenau in possibly freezing temperatures could add to understanding the conditions endured

Manchester, United...
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8. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

I also would say do it without a guide.

But i wouldn't get the bus i would contact a company and pay a bit extra to get there early, gives you more time in the camps.

Warsaw, Poland
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9. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

Well, as you can see there are different opinions on whether to take the guide or not. In another forum topic most of visitors recommend taking the guide (the one from the museum, not an organised tour) and then walk on your own around teh museum if you wish to spend there some more time. The guides usually tell you thinks that you will not read in your guidebook or on the boards placed around the museum.

Great Torrington...
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10. Re: a few questions, Auschwitz visit

Thats exactly why i want to go in feb. For the conditions.

I spoke to a taxi firm (Krakow transfers) who said they will take me in a private taxi and wait for me all day for 300pln. Which sounds great to me and he sounds like a really nice guy.

Anym opinions on that?

Thanks for all the help peeps, :-)