I got several emails regarding my last posts and people were wondering about how easy it is to get to Auschwitz, things they should know etc. So here are a few tips for visiting the concentration camps for those who may find themselves in the region and interested in going.
Also if you want to read more about the visit there, please free to also check out my posts on Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau as well.
Of note, I’ve been working on a longer Visitor Guide Post to Auschwitz that is worth checking out too. Let me know what you think.
Tour Options & Transportation Options
There are many options for getting to Auschwitz, you can take an organized tour at one of the tourist agencies in Krakow or take the bus or train on your own.
If you decide to take an organized tour, note the cost and how much time you are going to have at the camps. Remember that it takes about 1.25 – 1.5 hours each way to and from Auschwitz. Generally, these tours include the museum tour although you are still going to pay significantly more than you would pay to do it independently (and you’ll have to adhere to the tour company’s schedule). But if you feel more comfortable with an organized option there are tons available and easy to book while in Krakow. A good place to book tours is the tourist info booth in the Cloth Hall in the old market square.
Visiting Auschwitz Independently
If you decide to go independently, I would recommend taking the bus. The bus and train station are near each other in Krakow and the will drop you near the entrance to the museum (while the train station is 2km away). Look for buses that say Auschwitz or Oświęcim (the polish city name).
The buses are also really cheap. It cost us 10 zł one direction and 12 zł the other.
You can get bus schedules at the tourist info booth explained above in the Cloth Hall. Make sure to get to the bus early, as they fill up pretty quickly. We got aboard about 20mins before departure and we were full about 10minutes before departure (and they even let extra people in the bus for standing, but who wants to stand for 1.5 hrs.). There are both mini-buses and regular buses and they go at different schedules so the bus at your preferred time might not have a lot of room. There are generally buses and mini-buses about every half hour (less frequently with the large PKSiS buses) until about 8pm in the high season and less frequently in the low season.
All buses back to Krakow arrive and leave from Auschwitz I. So please do keep that in mind if you are in Auschwitz II and it is getting late in the day. You still need to get back to Auschwitz I to catch your transportation back.
Buy a one-way ticket. There are multiple bus companies that service the Auschwitz route and each has a different cost (about 10-12 zł) so not buying a return ticket up front gives you some options with your return times. Also works out well in case you need to take the train back to Krakow.
There is a train option too if it is too long between buses (the train and bus stations in Krakow are near each other), but the Oświęcim train station is 2 kilometers from the museum. You should plan for the added time in your schedule.
The train costs about 15zł for each way and has a fair bit of options in terms of getting between the sites. Check here to see the latest schedule and book your train ticket.
Driving is certainly an option to Auschwitz. It takes about 1 – 1.5 hrs from Krakow to get to Oświęcim (the Polish name for the city). There is parking near Auschwitz I. You could also park in various areas on the street.
Visiting the Camps
If you want to visit the museum by yourself unguided during peak season (April 1 – October 31) you need to enter the museum before 10 am or after 3 pm. These days however you need to book through the official website for the free ticket. Select “Tour for individuals without an educator”. I understand the reason for the change but it is a bit of an annoyance (since people often book and don’t show up since it’s free).
The entrance to the museum is free, although the guided tour of the museum is 85 zł (75zł for students) and includes the film. For Polish it’s 75zł (65zł for students). Supposedly you can pay for the film separately although I swear I saw nowhere to do that. They just ended up letting us in when we asked about buying tickets for it.
Tickets can be booked up to 3 months in advance. So if you know your dates, it is recommended to book your slot as soon as you can. Times fill up regularly.
The guided tours run several times during the day. They seem to change a bit depending on the peak season, but officially the English tours run at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, and 13:20. Polish tours run at 11:00 and 13:30. French, German, Italian, and Spanish tours run at 12:30. The film screens every 30 minutes but does alternate to different languages, so verify the language before going in.
If you want to book a guided tour at the camps, particularly during the high season, you need to book these ahead of time through the Auschwitz Museum Website. The tours can fill up fast (particularly English), so this is a good way of guaranteeing your spot. I’ve seen them start more tours (if guides are available), but this is not guaranteed.
To get between the camps there is a free shuttle bus. It runs generally twice an hour and takes visitors to the gates of both camps. You can alternatively walk between the camps if you prefer.
Also, remember that traveling to Auschwitz from Krakow is a full day affair. Expect to spend a total of 6 – 8 hours for the visit. It takes about 1.25 – 1.5 hrs. each way to and from the camp, and then expect to spend at least 4 – 6 hours visiting the camps. It is an exhausting day both mentally and physically, so plan accordingly. Several people, I had met thought they would try to do several things in one day (like the camps and the salt mines) only to later realize how impractical that is.
While in the Camp
Photography is allowed in the camps. But please do be respectful. There are several places where they ask you to refrain from taking photos, and please do. Remember this a place where millions of people suffered and died, so tread carefully.
How to Dress
There is no specific dress policy for Auschwitz. However, in terms of what to wear it is recommended to dress respectfully for the location. It is a place for many people lost their lives.
Be sure to wear comfortable footwear as you will be walking around a lot, particularly on uneven ground. Birkenau can be especially muddy, so plan for that as well. Your shoes may get pretty dirty.
Be sure to also dress season and weather appropriately as you will be outdoors much of the time.
What to do with your Bags?
Small bags are permitted to be carried with you. But larger bags will need to be stored. There are lockers on-site, although they can fill up. Price for luggage lockers are 5 zł.
Other Things of Note
Food options do exist at Auschwitz I (there are no options by Auschwitz II). The cafeteria at the museum that serves some hearty (and what I thought heavy) meals. There is also a hotel nearby that also does lunch (and breakfast if you get there before the museum opens).
There are hotels in Oświęcim and at least one very close to the museum (Hotel Olecki). Although honestly, there isn’t much to do in the town in the evenings, so I would recommend staying in Krakow instead. But it is an option if you prefer to stay here or are stopping here on your way to somewhere else.
The weather in Auschwitz varies a lot throughout the year. Winters are really cold (and days short) and the summers are quite hot. Be sure to dress weather appropriately as you’ll be spending the majority of the time outdoors.
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I hope this makes someone else’s trip a bit easier when trying to plan a visit to Auschwitz while in Poland. It is a tragic and emotional place, but one that I was very glad to have had the opportunity to see and experience first hand. Also recently many folks have emailed me about recommendations on guidebooks for Poland/Auschwitz. I really like the one by [amazon asin=1631216236&text=Rick Steves]. It has a great deal of info on Auschwitz and does a good job of taking you on a self-guided tour.
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P.S. Did you find the information useful? Please feel free to share (social links at left) so others can benefit as well. If there is information you are still seeking please contact me or leave a comment below. Any other recommendations (format, additional info, changes) please let me know as well so I can continually improve the information. Also, consider supporting this site by booking through our various affiliate links here. It costs you the same and helps defer hosting costs.
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Sandra J Malpass says
We will be in Krakow for several days the last part of May, 2020. I’ve read the comments here but still need a little clarification. We are thinking about taking the bus one morning to Auschwitz because we prefer to visit historic sites on our own without being rushed from point a to point b in a tour group. If we get there before 10 is it true that we do not have to join a group tour? Do we have to have a reserved ticket to enter before 10? Can we decide to take a tour once we get there? When the tour is over are we free to stay as long as we want?
alvin tan says
As I was reading through the many comments, I get the sense that, without a guide you cannot enter into Camp 1 before 10.00am (even though openings hours are much earlier? Is this right? Reason is – I cannot seemed to access the official website for reservation – it stalls all the time.
We are planning to visit sept 29-30.
Yes. If you want to go independently you need to go before 10am (yes the museum is open earlier than 10, just after 10 you need to be part of a guide during the higher seasons (which these days is much longer). Does that help? I would just try the website again at another time unfortunately as its the only official source. If you are going to go as part of a group you can book that elsewhere of course.
Hi I booked a 9 am 6 hour study tour in Polish (the only one available), what are my chances of joining an English tour and getting away with it?
I don’t know if they’ll let you change. You can certainly ask when you get there though.
great post and articles.. im planning to go Poland/Auschwitz in October 20s.
and plan to go without tour..
i know you can go without one before 10am.
is an option of getting a tour available at the office gate? on site if i want one?
or must be booked with guide online?
if i booked online with guide, as soon as tour ends, you are welcome to roam around,
other sites have mentioned, if you are in site without guide, before 10am or after, you get kicked out.
You aren’t kicked out. you just cant enter without a guide after that time. If you are in, you are in though.
For me, visiting Auschwitz was a shocking experience. During the visit to the camp, I also visited the town of Oświęcim. There is a museum in the synagogue where you can get to know the fate of the former residents of the town. In the same place you can also borrow the key to the Jewish cemetery.
I am travelling to Poland in the motorhome in December is it possible to park anywhere near the Auschwitz museum or the nearest town
I don’t know specifically in relation to motor-home parking. There is parking available for other types of vehicles.
Thank you so much! The article was very helpful for my trip.
Jayne Galloway says
Hi.just read your Auschwitz details.
We had a miserable and very angry time there in June.we were in Krakow for 4 days so I could learn about my family through the holocaust.we had to have a tour ,no option on that,but our guide was worthless guide.she had us round both camps in 3hours.no time to look,to read nothing.after being shown wagon on tracks that was it,over.I said why were we not shown down by krematoria and monument to be answered there was nothing to see.sorry but that’s for me to decide.so she gave us 20minutes to walk the distance ,back and see what we wanted.few others came with us..I met a survivor at monument but literary two words then had to dash back.
I’m sorry but this trip was only made worthwhile by Schindlers factory,that was emotional.Krakow is a beautiful city and we had hot and dry weather.
We go back in January,hoping that we will do Auschwitz/birkenau on our own.your story made it easier to arrange in my mind.so thank you.
This trip ,past, was meant to be a trip for me but like I said unemotional.sad to say.
Clelia Mattana says
Wow, this is weird, sorry for your experience… I went there a few years ago and I had the choice to go with a guide or not. In the end, I decided to go with a guide to Auschwitz 1, to better understand what I was looking, and she was one of the most tactful people I’ve ever met. Then for Birkenau, I chose to go by myself, it was such a numbing experience that I also wrote about it to take it out of my chest. In some places, I stumbled upon a guided tour and I sort of “joined” them by just listening here and there but the real experience, in my opinion, is the feeling you have while in there. I understand that you wanted to learn about your family, but just being there, observe, reflect, walk around… is also part of knowing your roots in a way. A painful way. I didn’t have any connection to the atrocities, but I needed the urge to visit to pay my tribute to the people who died in there and the experience will haunt me for the rest of my days. Maybe for you, going by yourself, especially a Birkenau, it’s the best way to achieve what you wanted to achieve the first time. I hope you will be able to do that…
Kristina Drapeti says
Hello to all, my name is Kristina and i have booked 2 entrance tickets for the museum as individual tourists for 19/11/2018. In which camp exactly is this museum?also, i do not know exactly the opening hours for camp 1, 2 and the museum (for november). Is there free shuttle between them? Should i book tickets for the camps entrances? I only booked for the museum? Also how to reach by specific bus number the camp from Krakow city?
Steph of Big World Small Pockets says
What a wonderfully useful post, thank you so much! I’m heading to Krakow and wanting to visit Auschwitz from there in a few weeks time. Delighted that I read your post and booked a guided tour at the museum today as there was only one place on an English tour left the day I wanted to visit – phew!
Hello – I am still confused about the time that it takes to visit the camp. I booked my ticket (individual) for 16:00. Since most blogs recommend at least 4 hours to see the major sites, that means I wouldn’t be done untill 20:00, when it is probably closed.
When they allow us to book that late, does that mean we need to rush or?
Thank you for your help!
I’m visiting Dachau in June. Then I go to Krakow for 3 days. Please compare Dachau with Auschwitz, as I wonder if I should visit both sites?
Hi there! Looking to take a train into Poland (from Germany) to spend a day at Auschwitz. While I’d love to stay longer than a day in Poland, time is very limited. My question is- where do you suggest we leave our luggage? Is there a place at the train station or at auschwitz? Looks like the train arrives at Chrzanów.
Analiese van den Dikkenberg says
My mother and I are planning to visit Auschwitz in July of 2018. But we will be staying in Vienna. I found a tour company that advertises a 1-day trip from Vienna to Auschwitz for 330 Euros per person (for the two of us). It sounds good to me since we will have no rental car and don’t want to drive ourselves. Do you have any knowledge of the www[.]auschwitztours[.]info, www[.]polandtraveltours[.]com, or Sun & Moon Adventure Group – www[.]sunandmoonadventure[.]com companies? These were named on the polandtraveltours[.]com website where I found the tour. I want to make sure it is a trustworthy business before paying them so much money.
Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with those sites or tour companies. perhaps someone else here might.
Hi I’m going to Poland next week were doing the camps independently as there is a disabled person going can u tell me the best taxi company and price to get to auswitz for 4 passengers thankyou staying in Kraków old town
Sorry I got hit with a lot of spam recently on my blog so its been a while trying to sort through it for real comments. I don’t unfortunately know the best taxi company for this. but you can try tourist info in the old town and I’m sure they could direct you.
We are planning on visiting Krakow and Auschwitz in May 2018.
We are the type of travellers to go at our own pace and on our own. So the bus option to Auschwitz would be the best option for us.
From where do these busses leave? Do we need to make a reservation for these buses or can we just buy tickets when entering the bus?
Laurie Mangru says
Hope you reply to this quickly as I am leaving tomorrow for Poland and a visit to Auschwitz. I was under the impression that I didn’t need to get a ticket and now it seems I must have one to enter… I am extremely worried that I won’t get into the museum on Aug. 18th, when I had planned to visit because no tickets seem to be available. I had planned to go on my own without a guide at the end of the day. Do I definitely need a ticket or can I just go on the 18th and get in?
That’s really tough. Unfortunately these days with the greater number of visitors they started requiring tickets even for free visitors and often people will book the free tickets and not use them. I’ve heard of people getting in and those being turned away or made to book a tour. You might have more success in that regard since late in the day is generally quieter. You could also try the tourist info in Krakow or whichever city you are traveling from and maybe they can find out the situation with tickets at the camp.