How To Get Around Warsaw (Without a Car)

The public transportation system in Warsaw, Poland is great – or at least that’s my experience. It’s safe to say that you do not need a car here and can easily get to any part of the city by metro (subway), tram or bus.

Inside the Warsaw Metro

Inside Warsaw Metro – photo by Elizabeth Viatkin

First of all, Poland uses złoty (PLN) and not euro, so make sure you have zloty to pay for the cab or buy a bus ticket. Money exchange counters at the airport will rip you off (like in most countries) so bring a small bill with you; $5 will be more than enough for a few bus tickets and $30 will be enough for a cab.

Warsaw Airport to City Center

So the first and probably most important question: How to get to Warsaw city center from Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW)? You have 3 choices: taxi, bus or train.

Of course, taxi is the most convenient way and also the most expensive. This route will set you back 40-50 PLN, which is about $15-$20USD. At the arrivals hall you will be approached by many men, almost whispering “taxi-taxi”. I am not sure if these are legit taxi drivers but I wouldn’t bet on it. As soon as you walk out the door you will see a line-up of official cabs and their drivers standing next t them. If you need to take a cab – I would recommend these cars.

 

Option #2 – the train. You can take the train to the central station or to a few other stations in the city. Some people suggested this route was not convenient at all so I decided not to take the train and opted for the bus.

Taking a bus. The directions to the bus stop are clearly indicated from the arrivals hall and the actual bus stop is a few meters away from the door. Walk out of the airport and cross the street, there are also signs pointing to the bus stop. If you are going to the center of the city you can take 2 different buses; 175 or 188.

The 175 takes you directly to central station (Centrum metro) and comes every 10 minutes or so. This bus is usually full. The 188 comes every 20 minutes or so, a lot less people take it (so it’s easier to find place for your luggage) and it goes to Politechnika metro, one station away from Centrum. I chose the 188 as I needed to get to Pole Mokotowskie metro.

Warsaw Center

Warsaw Centrum – photo by Elizabeth Viatkin

Where To Buy Bus/Train Tickets?

You can buy a ticket from the bus driver, however it is highly recommended to buy the ticket from the ticket machine in the airport or at the small newspaper shop inside the arrivals terminal. The machines do offer English interface so it will be quite easy to get the ticket. These machines can also be found at all metro stations (since there isn’t a booth with a person selling tickets).

ticket machine in warsaw

Ticket Prices

A one trip ticket will set you back 4.40 złoty (75-minute ticket).  A full day pass is 15 złoty and a monthly pass is 110 złoty. You must validate the ticket once you enter the bus/tram. Inside the bus you will see yellow machines where you have a slot for that ticket. I have been in Warsaw for 1 week so far and I have taken buses and trams several times a day and I am yet to see a single ticket controller. However, the risk of riding without a ticket isn’t worth it because the fine is pretty steep at 266 złoty. That’s the cost of a 3 months pass!

Ticket Recap:

  • You can buy a ticket in the machines at every metro station. It accepts coins, bills and credit cards.
  • You can buy a ticket at most tram stops. The machine is located outside.
  • You CAN’T buy a ticket inside the tram.
  • You can buy a ticket from the bus driver, or from a ticket machine in the bus. However, the machines in the bus only accept cards.
Tram in Warsaw

Tramway in Warsaw – photo by Elizabeth Viatkin

If you want to buy a 30-Day or 90-Day pass (Warszawska Karta Miejska), you will have to buy it at the ZTM Passenger Service Center (Punkt Obsługi Pasażera ZTM). You can find one of these service points at metro Centrum (underground), however more service centers can be found around the city. You need to bring an ID with your name and date of birth as well as a passport photo. You can make the photos at a photo boutique across from ZTM Center for 25 zloty (6 photos) and it takes a few minutes. However, if you already have a passport style 3,5 x 4,5 cm photo, bring that with you. They will print the image on your card and give the photo back to you. Don’t forget the 110 zloty, you will pay on the spot.

Ratusz Arsenał Station

Ratusz Arsenał Station – by Elizabeth Viatkin

It’s worth mentioning that Warsaw offers several night buses. The metro is usually open until 12:30-1 a.m. 5 days a week and it’s open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. So even if you go out late at night you can avoid paying for a cab. By the way, taxis charge 8 zloty for you to get in, then an average of 2 zloty per kilometer. Make sure you ask the driver to turn on the meter.

I would also like to suggest an app for your smartphone (iOS and Android), JakDojade. This app will help you plan your itinerary around the city by telling you which bus/tram/metro you need to take and when.

Another tip! Although Warsaw Chopin Airport claims to have free WiFi – it’s password protected. In order to get the password you need to scan your boarding pass (and of course there are no check-in machines at the arrivals). So if you need Internet before heading to the city you will have to buy an overpriced drink at a cafe/bar at the arrival hall.

Till’ the next post,

EDIT: After 2 months in Warsaw I have finally spotted the ticket controllers at the Centrum metro station. It was Saturday, 2 a.m. It seems like they caught a lot of people who didn’t pay the fare. Just two days later more controllers were checking people on the bus (Monday 6p.m.). Even though the controllers are not common, the risk is not worth it as the fine is about $100 (and a ticket costs $1.50)

 

– Alex

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