Krakow Guide

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  1. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    The ultimate Krakow, Poland (Cracow) guide by Jason8612 [​IMG]


    This is a work in progress I'm working on this between my free time

    I'm going to write all about Krakow, Poland. If anyone has any additional info, please let me know so I can add it.

    This is also from MY point of view, what I think is worth while seeing, eating, etc.

    Introduction

    Krakow is a city in Poland. It is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. It used to be the capital of Poland until 1596 and just celebrated its 750 year birthday (last summer). This city is full of many historical landmarks clashed with modern life. It is a growing tourist city on the Top 10 cities in Europe to visit.


    Where is Krakow
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat...aps/pl-map.gif
    its on the bottom there [​IMG]


    When to visit? Climate/weather
    Personally it depends.
    Summer time is the best, but during this time plane tickets are expensive, up to 3x the amount then during fall-spring. Also a lot of other tourists are here during the summer months, and school is out. Streets are crowded, but the climate is very nice.
    I enjoy either fall or really late spring. During this time, all the students are in school, families working, and the climate is still nice enough to enjoy. Plus it is a lot less crowded. Plane tickets are also a lot more affordable including hotels, etc. May is a great time to visit. Last year during May it was about 75F and sunny. Beginning of May there is a holiday, and during this time everyone wants to leave Poland (Don't try to drive to Prague for instance. Last year we spent almost 2hrs at the border due to traffic. So many Polish tourists...) Also Krakow during the months of May/June usually have weekend celebrations with some shows, booths set up. Nice time to visit.
    Winter is also nice. For the Christmas holidays, there are also a lot of booths setup, local foods, etc which is nice in addition to the old town being dressed up for the holiday season. I would say 2nd week of December to after Christmas. But it could get chilly. Last year was a mild winter. We had some snow, and it was cold, but not too cold (40F-50F) but the year before that in Feb was -30C for about a week.

    If you are on a tight budget, I would recommend April/May or October-December (December for the holidays, October while its still somewhat nice outside to go site seeing)
    If not, more summer months June-September are good. the later the better. Be warned lately we had humidity. Krakow never has humidity (or much of it) but this summer was real bad and many places do not have A/C, or they do and are nowhere good enough to cool it down to a nice cold temperature.



    Getting to Krakow (including getting from airport to city)
    To get from the airport into the city, there are a few options.
    Taxi - The easiest, but a bit expensive, around 60-90pln one way.

    Train - there is a express train that leaves every 30min that goes to the main train station in the city. Journey time is around 20min. Tickets are around 8pln (from what I can recall) and can be purchased at the airport or on the train (though on the train I believe only takes Polish coins as payment) Then from there either a walk or a short cab ride to your place.

    Bus - There are buses that go to/from the airport (292 and 208 I believe) and costs 2.5pln. It will take a hr or longer. Remember you have to buy a seperate ticket for your bag.

    I would recommend the train method if you have little luggage, or else a cab.


    Immigration and Customs
    Krakow is in the EU Schengen so EU laws apply. Items brought for commercial use get charged duty, but otherwise noone really checks at the baggage claim...

    getting around Krakow
    There are many ways to get around Krakow
    Taxis – Taxis are affordable in Krakow. They start at 5PLN, and the rates are posted on the windows. Be warned. Check the tariff and see that it matches up. some taxis as a foreigner will try to rip you off by putting you in tariff 4 on a weekday. If I can recall, tariff 1 is Mon-Fri 8am-10pm inside Krakow, tariff 2 is Sat/Sun and nights inside Krakow. And tariff 3 and 4 are same as 1 and 2 respectively but outside Krakow. example is coming from the airport to Krakow can cost as little at 45PLN on a weekday afternoon, or as much as 100PLN+ on a weekend night. Inside the city, average is 20PLN or so.

    Trams/buses
    – Trams and buses are a great way to get around the city. You can purchase a single fare 2.50PLN adult, 1.35PLN under 26. If you switch trams/buses, you need a new ticket. schedules and route maps can be found at http://www.mpk.krakow.pl/
    http://www.mpk.krakow.pl/index.php?idp=1001+1320
    Bus schedules - http://www.rda.krakow.pl/en/

    If you need any help, please PM me. Tickets can be bought at almost any local store, kiosk, and even on the trams and buses. But if you stay inside the city, majority you can walk to places. Also I would recommend the trams/buses instead of taxis in the morning and evenings on weekdays as rush hour traffic can be very bad.

    Rent a car
    At the airport and in town there are rent-a-cars. Please be advised its all manual here. Gas is expensive around 4.5PLN or more per Liter. and renting is also expensive. Budget, Sixt, Auto Europe, Avis, Hertz, National, Acecar, Europcar are all here. I would not get a rental unless you plan to go outside the city. And in which case, I would recommend renting and dropping at the airport and not to drive in town. Just take the train to the airport, grab the rental and go! The A4 highway is right there, and there is no need to drive into town.

    To add to this the city has Zones. Zones A, B, and C. zone C you can park but need to pay for parking at certain times. You can get a parking paid ticket at some stores or from the patrol (the guys in the bright yellow jackets) Zone B is almost all of old town. The main post office and inwards. If you get caught, its a hefty fine. Only certain cares and taxis can drive, and there are certain parking places, but if you miss them, the police can ticket you, and usually they are expensive (25PLN/hr or more) Zone A is off limits. Only to VIP, ambulances, police, etc. Thats the town square and a few side streets. Commercial vehicles do come in before 10am.
    If you get pulled over by a cop, don't worry. Out here in Poland they believe in bribes. I cannot guarantee any of this, but usually the cop will just name their own price. You can haggle a bit, but be careful. I think the average is 100-150PLN for speeding. If the Strasz Meska (the city police, a lot different than the police) pulls you over, they don't bargain. you can though basically get out of everything BUT drinking/driving. the limit is 0. (some places 0.3..lower than the USA 0.8)


    Currency

    Is the Polish Zloty/Groszy (PLN). Bill wise there are 10,20,50,100,200 Zloty. Coins are 5 Zloty,
    2 Zloty, 1 Zloty, 50 Groszy, 20 Groszy, 10 Groszy, 5 Groszy, 2 Groszy, 1 Groszy. 1 USD = 2.8 Zloty (Easy to round to 3) 1 GBP = 5.7 Zloty (easiest to 6 Zloty) 1 Euro = 3.8 Zloty (easiest to 4) 100 Groszy in 1 Zloty. 1 PLN=1 Zloty
    A recommendation. I would not get anything over a 50 zloty. Kiosks and cabs might not have change. I have found issues where a cab can not break a 50 zloty. Also Groszy under 20 are useless. Example is 1 Groszy is almost 1/3 of a penny.
    Also, I would pay almost everywhere by card. You usually get the best rate, and don't have to worry about carrying too much cash. But if you want to change money, the banks are good. Currency exchanges in the old town are a rip-off. The farther from the town square, the better. Also, some places do take the Euro, but usually their exchange rate is crap.

    Paying
    Most places do take credit cards these days. Visa/Mastercard/Eurocard/Maestro are almost everywhere. American Express is only taken at some places, not most (not like the USA where its almost everywhere) and Diners Club/JCB even less. Also some places have a minimum spending of 15PLN.
    Cash is accepted everywhere. NO CHECKS! Even the banks don't take checks.
    You can cash in travelers cheques, but credit cards are so much easier to use.

    Phones
    Mobile phone wise, there are 4 major companies
    Orange, Era, Plus, and Play
    Out of all of them I really like Orange. they got good rates. All offer prepaid plans. You can top-up anywhere basically, even ATMs. Just put the SIM card into your GSM phone and your good to go. Calling mobile to mobile can range from 35groszy/min to 70groszy/min. Calling foreign countries are a bit more, up to 3-5zloty/min. Incoming is free (usually). If you like to call mobile to foreign countries, I would recommend getting a prepaid phone card to call other countries and calling their number from your cell. You can buy cheap cards to call the USA/Canada/EU. Telepin is one. You can buy these also almost anywhere. I just make a speed dial for instance number-pause-card code-pause-USA home phone and I just press 1 button and it does it all for me. Quite simple. Land lines are expensive and so are public phone booths (which you don't see much these days). If you want internet via mobile, its expensive at 10 groszy/10kB. There are many hotspots around the city and also internet cafes, with cheap computer usage and some do offer internet calls to foreign countries.


    2011 update You can buy prepaid data sim cards and modems from retailers. Play has the best internet rate at 19PLN for 1GB with sim or 220PLN for 1GB with sim and modem. It only works in major cities (3G only) Orange, Era and Plus offer prepaid internet (but at a higher cost)


    where to stay
    There are many small hotels to stay at.

    Sheraton Krakow - Very nice hotel right next to Wawel (castle) They have also private cars, sports bar, restaurant, and a bar. Breakfasts are good.

    Radisson Blu- Next to Filharmonia (concert hall) - Also a very nice hotel with great Thurs-Sat dinner buffets.

    Amadeus - Small local hotel, very nice

    Likus Hotels - http://hotel.com.pl/
    ~Hotel Stary - One of the nicest hotels in Krakow. Right in the city square
    ~Hotel Copernicus - One of the nicest hotels in Krakow, very close to the city square
    ~Hotel Pod Roza - A nice hotel right in the city square

    Holiday Inn - Nice hotel located close to the town center.

    Andel's - Located right next to the train station. New moden nice hotel. Part of Summit Hotels.

    Park Inn Krakow - Located on the other side of the river, but close to town. 20min walk. Can't recommend it as I never stayed there or been there.

    A good site is booking.com which seems to have many hotels in Krakow. Just be sure to Google map it to know exactly how far it is from the old town.


    restaurants
    There are many, many restaurants in the city worth to check out. Theres just too many to list them all. If your looking for anything in particular, post a reply or PM me and I will be happy to give some recommendations! Almost any cuisine you can find in this city and usually at a excellent price!

    some of my top favorites

    Leonardo's - Excellent Italian restaurant. Great fresh fish, pastas and meat dishes. http://leonardo.com.pl/

    Zen - A restaurant that has great sushi and Asian dishes http://www.zensushi.pl/

    Hawelka - A classic Polish resturant over 150 years old. Classic Polish dishes. http://www.hawelka.pl/

    Szara - Great European food, nice atmosphere.
    http://www.szara.pl/


    2011 update
    Pod Baranem - great Polish food

    Genji - best sushi in the city

    Edo - another tasty sushi / Japanese restaurant

    Balaton - Great Hungarian food. Got to try the potato pancakes with gulash.

    Hard Rock Cafe - Excellent burgers. Also a place to get my American food fix

    Aperitif - a great lunch spot (with a nice lunch menu)

    Pimiento Kazimierz - Excellent Argentina beef. Steaks made the way they should be. I would say best steaks in the city.

    Wesele - A good Polish restaurant with nice main courses.


    Pubs/bars and clubs
    There are hundreds of pubs,bars, and clubs in Krakow. It is a student city, so theres always a place to go out to relax and have fun. Theres just too many to list. If your looking for anything in particular, post a reply or PM me and I will be happy to give some recommendations!

    some places I enjoy are
    Paparazzi - a bar/pub with a nice atmosphere and great cocktails
    Scandale Royale - a bar with great snacks and excellent cocktails


    Cien Club - Probably the best known club in Krakow. Strict door selection, a bit older crowd (23 or so). Nice VIP section (though lately its been getting crowded) with dance/euro music. They have 3 bars, 2 dance floors, a lot of seating and a cloak room. Also a outside beer garden when it is warm.http://www.cienklub.com/


    Frantic - A popular club, which was remodeled a year ago.

    2011 update
    One lounge/club - Located in the rynek they have nice seating and fancy interior. good drinks

    Coco - a new club with modern interior, clean look and great drinks. They usually have Fridays a over 30 party (for the older crowd)

    Other websites to look at
    http://www.cracow-life.com/



    AS with anything, if you have any questions at all, drop me a message :)
     
  2. IMGone
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    IMGone Silver Member

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    I just want to be sure I understand, there is no data access outside the cities? or no prepaid plans to get to the data networks? I was hoping to have my phone as a fallback with google maps, etc when I drive southeast into the countryside but I think you're saying outside of the city, there would be no reception I think. Thanks for the clarification.
     
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  3. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    There is data, but not highspeed. You should get EDGE and GPRS across all of Poland, it just wont be fast enough to stream movies. That is, if you have phone coverage..
    If you plan to go outside a major city, get a Orange, Era, or Plus as they have better coverage (Orange and Era I think have the best)
     
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  4. IMGone
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    IMGone Silver Member

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    Thanks ... Orange/Era it is. Is there anyplace in particular to buy the sim card? Again, my focus is on data less so on the phone.
     
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  5. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    Hmm then I would get the Orange Free prepaid option - http://www.orange.pl/portal/map/map/internet_free_pre_discover its in polish but basically

    29gr/min of talk
    29gr a text message
    and internet amount depends on top up and amount of top up
    like if you topped up 5pln thatll get you 200mb for 2 days valid
    25pln gets you 1.25GB over a month
    50pln gets you 2.75GB over 90 days
    100pln gets you 7GB over 150days

    So depending on how much you really need, this would be the best option as phone calls isnt a high charge and you get a bunch of internet.

    though I would really check the map as it seems that even though it's the same provider coverage might be different
    http://zasieg-orange.wp.pl/?footerlink=true&ticaid=1c26d
     
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  6. lili
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    lili Gold Member

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    Thanks for starting this Jason. I've heard Krakow is lovely and will probably get there next year.
     
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  7. IMGone
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    IMGone Silver Member

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    This works for me pricewise, but I'll check the maps to ensure coverage as having the plan with no receptionis fairly useless. I doubt I'll use that much data, but it'll be security to have it available just in case I'm totally lost! Thanks!
     
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  8. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    no problem.
    I would also go ahead and swing by and orange store when you arrive and ask in person.
    the other option is adding a data option on a mobile phone sim. There is a package you can add 100MB for 2pln valid for 1 day or 100MB for 10pln over 1 month
     
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  9. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    Krakow is just great :) If you have any questions, drop me a message and I'll be happy to help.
     
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  10. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    I have used the Orange plan and had iPad coverage everywhere, always had Maps. I use it only for Maps and the odd restaurant lookup or email, because every urban hotel has good wireless internet (actually I have stayed at a couple of places deep in the rural areas that did not have internet access in the hotel.) Because I also have a portable GPS with good Polish maps I have used the dataplan mostly for getting around walking and/or finding restaurants, etc. Zero problems with Orange for me.
     
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  11. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    On the question of driving. I drive everywhere in Poland, even in krakow, although doing so there is ridiculous. The roads are generally quite good everywhere, but most roads are not motorways, but are two lane roads, so can get congested. I try to watch speed limits but I do seem to have a heavy foot. I have been stopped by police once for speeding, but the policeman was very pleasant and did not cite me or demand a bribe. On that situation I was driving a German registered car, rented in Berlin. I gave him my Brazilian license and he made futebol gestures and sent me on my way.:D In cities there's no need to drive, particularly Krakow where it is insane, but if you like to drive it is quite easy to do so and signage is good. Do have a GPS. Renting in Germany and driving into Poland is much cheaper than renting in Poland, but they generally will not allow Mercedes Benz or BMW to be driven into Poland.

    I used Jason advice for my first trip to Krakow. It helped. He knows the city and loves it. How can you not love Krakow?
     
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  12. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Classical music concertsIn Krakow
    There are daily concerts in several different venues in Krakow, mostly in churches. They are cheap, but can get full at peak times. There are lists available in your hotel and reservations can be made at the location itself, through your hotel or in a few other places. You will not miss hearing about them. If you have even the slightest interest in classical music do take advantage of these.
     
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  13. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    Yup, if you plan to rent a car outside of Poland you need to check if they can drive it into Poland. Germany still thinks Poland is a hub for getting cars stolen, which these days including in big cities is just not true. There are nice cars in the cities and doesn't seem like they get stolen (I mean if you park it in a bad neighborhood then that's your fault). In Krakow, I see nice BMW, Benz, Audi and even a Ferrari and Bentley or two.
    I do drive in Krakow all the time, but that's me (I hate public transport). It did take some time to get used to and there is plenty of traffic. Roads in this country are not great. Some places there are big potholes, damaged roads, etc but there seems to be an effort to fix them up. So you just need to be careful when driving. One way streets, zones, and traffic can be hectic, but outside the city it's usually a nicer drive. I've driven around Poland and the scenery and driving between small towns is very pleasant.
     
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  14. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    To add to that, including in the summer if you walk in the Rynek almost certainly someone will give you a flyer for one of them.
    There are basically daily concerts in churches and also the Philharmonic Orchestra is worthwhile to check out. I've went a few times and really enjoyed it. Started there and then a late dinner or the opposite and it made a nice evening :)
     
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  15. ShopAround
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    ShopAround Silver Member

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    Thank you for this info, Jason. I'll be in Krakow and Warsaw for the first time in August, so this is very helpful, particularly the data SIM details.
     
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  16. Mark.Dragon
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    Mark.Dragon Silver Member

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    Thx also from me for your Tips Jason!
    This helps me much in planing and preparing my Trip to Krakow in June... :)

    Greetings Mark
     
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  17. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    good it's been helpful :D
     
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  18. ShopAround
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    ShopAround Silver Member

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    I wasn't sure if I was willing to post my Krakow experience, but if it can prevent my misery from happening to another person, it will be worth it.

    I was in Krakow with a friend last week. Overall, I did not find the Poles to be very friendly or helpful. Just sorting out how to get into town from the airport was not easy - if people spoke English, they did not admit it.

    I should add that I have traveled all over Europe - as many of us have - and am always very, very alert and careful.

    Anyway, we were at the train station in Krakow. We had first class seats on a train to Warsaw. The platform was crowded, we could not find any indication of the car number we were looking for and there was no sign of a conductor. No one offered any assistance. My hand, as always, was firmly on my bag.

    We waited for the crowd to subside after most of the people boarded and my friend started to panic that the train would leave without us, so we decided to just get on any car and sort out our reserved seats later.

    At that point, a very tall man grabbed my luggage and started hauling it on the train. It was a large suitcase with my carry-on attached to the handle (inside the carry on was my netbook, iPod, mifi, etc). I couldn't decide if he was a threat or trying to help, but considering how completely un-helpful people had been, I was alarmed. I climbed up on the train after him. All this time, my hand is still on my handbag, a cross-body bag that no one can rip off my shoulder. My friend and I were separated by the crowd and I'm trying to keep an eye on my luggage, which the man is dragging into the train car as I'm yelling after him.

    As I'm moving forward, someone comes towards me and rams into me, shoving me into the train wall. It was at that point that, just for a few seconds, my hand came off my bag and one of the bastards got my wallet. I am not stupid, I realized it immediately and started screaming that he had my wallet. Not one single person did anything to help.

    To make matters worse, they got my friend's wallet as well, grabbing his crotch to distract him. He also realized it immediately.

    Now that they had two screaming Americans, the train conductors finally showed up, as did the police. The man that had grabbed my luggage was still on the platform, we told the police that he was one of them and they did NOTHING. They let the bastard just walk away.

    We could not make out a police report because we had no choice but to get on the train. We had no money, no credit cards, no way to pay for another set of train tickets or a hotel in Krakow. We still had our train tickets and our hotel in Warsaw was prepaid, thank goodness. We spent an entire day in Warsaw getting cash and replacement AmEx cards, which did little good in Poland. I cannot even bear to think about how much cash I lost (we both had just gone to the ATM before leaving Krakow). A week has gone by and I am still having nightmares about it.

    The reason I chose to post this is to give a very clear description of the man that grabbed my luggage. The others were very non-descript, but not so the first one. He was very tall, I'd say around 6"3" and thin. He had very short, gray hair and, that day, a disgusting case of body odor.

    If anyone happens to be reading this and is planning a trip to Krakow, please be VERY careful and keep an eye out for this man at the train station. Try to tuck his description in the back of your mind and be especially alert if you see him. They clearly work in a gang and are probably there day after day preying on tourists. The others were just average looking. But this one stood out. So FWIW, beware of a tall, thin, gray-haired man if you're at the Krakow train station.
     
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  19. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    Every city has its bad apples.
    I was swarmed by gypsies on a downtown street in Milan. They tried to get money from my pockets but I had none there. Passers by helped me....It is always good to know some words like help....police..
    I still enjoyed Milan. ;)
     
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  20. jason8612
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    jason8612 Gold Member

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    I'm sorry that your experience of Krakow wasn't nice.
    As milchap pointed out every city has it's bad apples whether it be Krakow, Milan, New York, Chicago, or any other big city in the world. Unfortunately, the train station is known for these problems - so many people coming/going and usually no locals. I can recommend that assuming you put a block on the credit cards, to find out if there was any attempt to use them. If so, have your card company send the info to the bank owner of the ATM or place of use and have them pull their photos from the ATM. Maybe there will be some luck to get them.
     
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  21. ShopAround
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    ShopAround Silver Member

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    Not a single person helped, including the police. One of the thieves was still on the train platform and the police did nothing. I think that is, most of all, what has left me with a very negative feeling towards Poland.

    Are you kidding me? Read my post, one of the thieves was standing right there on the platform after the police arrived, we pointed him out, they did nothing. There will be no "getting" the bastards!

    That's why I decided to post as good a description as possible online; in case someone is researching a trip to Krakow, maybe it will be helpful to a future traveler. If so much as one person doesn't have this traumatic experience because they knew to be on the lookout for him, then I have done what I think is right.
     
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  22. IMGone
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    IMGone Silver Member

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    Very sorry to hear about your experience. I hope you were able to get your paperwork and credit cards reinstated quickly so you could refocus on the vacation. Nothing you can do about the cash, unfortunately.

    I took the night train from Krakow, and while there were some crowds on the platform, did okay on finding the car and getting onboard. It was definitely more visitors than locals waiting for the train, and I can see what happened to you happening too easily to others. I was lucky that when I bought the ticket, the clerk was great with decent english and pointed out on the ticket what I needed to find the right carriage.
    This can happen to anyone. One thing you might want to consider in future, is putting a bit of money here, and a bit there (same with id and credit cards), so they'd need to take more than a wallet, or even one bag for everything. Hope the rest of your trip goes better!
     
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