Tips for visiting the Auschwitz Concentration Camps

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

I got a several emails regarding my last posts and people were wondering about how easy it is to get to Auschwitz, things they should know etc.  Ok I didn’t get a lot of emails per se but again I’m not really a big blog so I was quite excited that people actually read something I wrote!  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.

There are many options for getting to Auschwitz, you can take a 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 doing 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.

If you decide to go independently, I would recommend taking the bus.  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, while the buses will drop you near the entrance to the museum.  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 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 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 minibuses 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.

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.

If you want to visit the museum by yourself unguided during peak season (April 1 – October 31) you need to enter the museum before 10am or after 3pm.  Even if you arrive early you can still sign up for a tour if you prefer to do it that way, but at least you have the option.

The entrance to the museum is free, although the guided tour of the museum is 40 zł and includes the film.  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.

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.

To get between the camps there is a free shuttle bus.  It runs generally twice an hour and take visitors to the gates of both camps.  You can alternatively walk between the camps if you prefer.

Bus Schedule - Auschwitz II - Birkenau - every 30 mins between 10:45 and 17:45 (5:45)

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.

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.

There are hotels in Oświęcim and at least one very close to the museum (we stopped there first to try to get breakfast).  Although honestly I don’t think there is much to do in the town in the evenings, so I would recommend staying in Krakow instead.  But it is an option if you are stopping here on your way to somewhere else.

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.

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.

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.

 

Comments

  1. says

    I wish I can visit Auschwitz during mu holiday to Germany on December 2014, next mont. I might go alone from Berlin. How easy to get there from Warsaw? Thanks!

    • says

      To get to Auschwitz from Warsaw? Well if you are going by public transportation you would go to Krakow first (which is about 3hrs by train away) and then from there to Auschwitz.

  2. Marianna says

    I have booked air tickets for vist Warsaw at 14ofMay 2015.We want to vist Kracowe ,auchwitz. And salt mines also.We are 8 people.We arrive inWarsaw at 16,h.
    I feel a little confused because I don.t know how I have to organize the trip in order to see all of them we think to stay 2 days in Warsaw and2days more to kracowe.
    Please help me how I have to reach from one town to other and when to go to the points I have referred above?
    My return day will be 18 of May at 16h from Warsaw.
    I will very much appreciate you if you could help me.
    Thanks in advance

    • says

      Wow that is a lot. Feel free to email me if you could instead of commenting and I can try to help more possibly. There are trains / buses between Krakow and Warsaw that you need to factor in as well as its about 3hrs by train between Warsaw / Krakow.

  3. Oscar says

    Hi AY, I´m glad to find all this valuable information in your site.

    I´m travelling to the camp on 12th November so any info about how to travel in between 2 camps would be very appreciated.

    Many thanks.

    • says

      Have a safe trip. I’m glad the information was useful to you! Sorry to reply late, have been traveling with very limited internet.

  4. Ana says

    Hello,

    I have sent an email for PKSIS, but it remains unanswered so far.
    I want to sleep in Auschwitz in a nearby hotel, so my question is: do you know if the return ticket bought at PKSIS allows us to return on the following day? Because at their site, they only say that we can return at any time (I assume in the proper day), and they only inform about return tickets. I don’t even know if they sell single tickets.

    Thank you for your information.

    Ana Louro

  5. Becky says

    Thanks for a very informative write up, it really is very useful. I am considering planning a trip in January with my partner but I’m wondering if there are down sides to going so “out of season”. I noticed that the shuttle bus that runs between the 2 camps only operates April-Oct, do you know what (if any) the alternatives are for transport between the 2 and how much this might cost roughly? I wouldn’t mind walking normally, but having researched the temperatures in Jan I’m not sure that’s a very good option for us.

    • says

      Sadly there are often downsides to going out of season. Things won’t be running as regularly between places for one and yea the temperatures will be rather cold. Its about 3 km between the sites so it is walkable, but ya who knows with the weather. I don’t know of any regular transport between the sites beyond the shuttle bus unfortunately but I will see if i can find out anything for you. There is always an option of taking a tour which would take care of those logistics however.

  6. Teresa says

    Thank you so much for your detailed breakdown for an independent traveler. I’m taking a shot at this by my lonesome, and I feel more comfortable in tackling this after reading your blog. Thanks again!

    • says

      Glad it was of help Teresa. It is actually quite easy to do independently if you choose so I’m sure it will work out well for you. If you have any other questions please be sure to drop a note.

  7. Emma Hurt says

    Thank you so much for writing what is a very useful blog. I would be so grateful if you could help me. I’m planning a trip in February 2015 with my husband flying from London and staying in Krakow for 3 possibly 4 days. We plan to do as much independently as possible and would like to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. Now I’m just trying to get my head around the logistics. Is it best to get a coach to the museum or taxi and is it right the museum is free to visit but you pay for a guide? I have been looking at lots of different travel websites but believe that the best advice comes from people who have been and can walk you through step by step what to do, where and how. Any help would be massively appreciated. We both feel compelled to visit. We know it will be harrowing but it’s important to remember and to educate our own children of the horrors that happened so that it may never be forgotten or happen again.

    • says

      Buses are really easy to get to the museum and they are quite cheap. The bus station is next to the train station actually. There are large buses and the link in the article gives you the times for those buses as well. The buses drop you off right at the entrance to Auschwitz I actually. You are right, the museum is free and you pay for a guide. In February which should be low season you wont have as much issues but generally during the on season you have to pay for a guide if you arrive after a certain point. You need to decide for yourself what is best for you. The guides are really good but you might not like the pace of the tour perhaps. Also you don’t visit some of the blocks on the tour which I was glad to visit personally. Let me know if you have other questions and feel free to use the contact form if you prefer to email back and forth instead of comments.

  8. says

    We just visited last month and were glad we booked a tour from our Krakow hotel. The times they let you visit the sites by yourself are very restricted (early morning and late afternoon,) and it would be disappointing to arrive too late and have to wait hours before they let you in by yourself. The tours were inclusive of transportation to and from Krakow and between the two camps, and an excellent guide provided by the museum. At about 40USD, I didn’t think it was unreasonable at all. Here’s an account of my visit.
    Tom Bartel´s last blog post ..
    Tallinn, Estonia: Fascinating Capital City

    • says

      Thanks Tom! Glad the tour you used was great and thanks for the recommendations. The tour guides are quite good but some of the companies providing the tours and travel aren’t as great. I think everyone does Auschwitz differently so I’m trying to let folks know the options available. I’ll certainly pass on the tour info to anyone who asks. The link you posted seems to be for Tallinn (which I loved too!) instead of Auschwitz. I’ll try to check out your site and read it however.

  9. Chata says

    Thank you so much AY. You gave me a better idea of what to do for our visit to Auschwitz. We were going to pay tons of moneys on a tour that wouldn’t allow much time on the camp. Honestly or main reason to go to Krakow is to have the chance to visit the concentration camp. Thanks you!

    • says

      yeah that was one of my main reasons to go to krakow too. It is an exhausting trip but very much worth the time and effort to go there. I hope you have a good trip to Krakow and beyond. Please do drop me a note to let me know how it goes!

  10. Karin says

    Thank you for useful and well put together information on visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau.

    Kind regards Karin from Sweden

  11. says

    Thank you so much for this blog! My friends and I visited Auschwitz today and your tips were invaluable and saved us a lot of money. This was definitely the most helpful blog I read about traveling to Auschwitz!

  12. Jayne says

    Hiya! Can i just turn up at the museum one morning and definitely get in? Or do you have to book in advance? Is Poland quite a cheap country to visit? i.e Food, drink, etc?

    Thank you!!

    • says

      Poland is cheaper than other parts of Europe, but it all depends on where you are coming from I suppose. You don’t have to book in advance.

    • says

      There is definitely value in the tour in the information they provide. However if you have some info on the camps I definitely enjoyed just wandering at my own pace. I appreciated being able to go as slow as I wanted though.

  13. says

    I’m planning to visit Auschwitz next month with my brother. I’m a bit scared but I think I need to go there, I mean everyone should, it’s our moral duty not to forget. Thanx a lot for the info, now I know it’s possible to go on our own, unguided. I guess it’s a very emotive experience, very personal too, I’d rather be with my brother than surrounded by strangers. Again thank you.

    • says

      Glad you found the information useful. I liked going on my own through there at my own pace (and you get to see more too). It is definitely a worthwhile experience. I would be interested to hear about your experience after you return as well.

  14. Deepak says

    Greetings ! I plan to visit Auchwitz in June 2014. I have a wife, 2 daughters ( 21 and 8 ) and son ( 5 ).
    We are from India. We do not have a great budget but our heart goes out for Israel and so we wish to visit.
    Which is the Airport we must fly in to ?
    Then how do we reach Auchwitz ?
    How expensive is the food ?
    Any other tips will be useful, Sir.

    Thanks

    Deepak Jariwala

    • says

      The food at Auschwitz isn’t too expensive actually, there is also a hotel nearby that has better options for food than the museum itself. It is certainly not as cheap as you would get further from the museum though. There is a town there although most of the things are far from the museum if you don’t have your own transport. You should fly into Krakow. To reach Auschwitz you can drive, take a bus, or a train.

  15. Ashley says

    Very Helpful. Been trawling the internet for hours trying to find a guide to visiting Auschwitz and this one was most informative. Thanks

    • says

      Thank you, I’m glad you found it helpful, that means a lot. If there is something more you think you’d want to know, let me know and I can see about adding it as well.

  16. Suren Shah says

    Thank you for posting. We were planning to do a day trip to both camps plus the salt mine. I think we will go on our own by Bus early and spend more time then a tour. Thanks again for your time.

    Can we do the salt Mine own our own?

    Suren

    • AY says

      You can do the salt mine on your own too. There is a bus there. Do catch the bus from the start of the route and not closer to the end (we found out the bus had been rerouted due to construction and couldn’t get it in time).

  17. Sue says

    We (family of four grown ups) are going to Krakow in four days (28th Aug 2013) and although we have known we were going to visit Auschwitz, only today did I realise by reading your blog & other sites, that we have to get a guide to go in. If we get there at 3pm will we have time enough to queue to get in and time to see both camps? We usually take longer than most when visiting galleries etc. and had hoped to go independently so as to explore at out own pace. Are there information ‘wands’ to hire for walking around with? One site said at this time of year you’d have to book a guide two weeks in advance, is that the case still for the guides at the camps? Thank you in advance for your reply.

    • AY says

      It is possible as the museum closes at 7pm on those days. It will be easier if you have your own mode of transportation however. You should try your best to call ahead and reserve a guided tour. They can fill up if it is really busy, especially if you are arriving late. What do you mean by wand thing? They have decent information at the different barracks. If you are looking for a guide book The Rick Steves’ book on Eastern Europe has a really good Auschwitz section. There is not as much information written in Auschwitz II so a guide or a good book would be very useful. You don’t need a guide to enter Auschwitz II between 10-3pm so you could reverse your trip but I found it more interesting the other way to see the progression of the camps and the war. You could also read my write-ups on the camps too if you haven’t they have a lot of information about what you’ll see in each area.

  18. says

    I recently visited Auschwitz-Birkenau myself and while I wouldn’t mind travelling out there on my own – trains and busses are easily accessible and cheaper than taking the full tour – I really think one needs the guide walking through the camp. This time of year it is also the only option. A tip is to go weekdays and not weekends, as the lines are shorter.
    I believe everybody needs to see Auschwitz-Birkenau or some other camp, we need to keep history alive and we need to remember. It is heartbreaking, every death is a whole world lost, and in a war there are no winners. I am glad I went even though it is a horrifying experience.
    Ann-Katrin´s last blog post ..The horrors of war – study trip in Poland – shaken, sad, upset, but I needed to see this

    • AY says

      Thanks for the advice. I do agree that having something for a tour is good. You can still do a tour if you go to the site by yourself, but then you can stay longer if you choose. I liked going to some of the exhibits in the front blocks that almost no other tourists visited.

      I agree people really need to go see it. It is important to understand. Sadly I don’t know if we’ve learned as humans all the lessons from this time in history as we still see similar atrocities being committed.

    • AY says

      Thanks Andrew. I hope it helps people who are trying to visit there. I know it can be confusing finding out the information while in Krakow before you’ve done it already.

  19. says

    This is going onto my bucket list! I just finished reading ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ by Victor Frankl and found his perspective of the meaning and value that the suffering he endured here gave to his life existentially that I felt a strong urge to see it, even if just to really see where it happened.

    I have read that it’s a very humbling and emotive experience, and I am interested to note what you ‘felt’ whilst there, since aside from all of the really useful info on how to get there, what I was keen to read was your actual experience of the site and how it impacted upon your life and your comfort zone, and whether you felt it was worth taking the time for you personally?
    Emma’s Bucket List´s last blog post ..10 Reasons why Latitude Festival is Top of My Festival Bucket List for 2012

    • AY says

      Hi Emma. Thanks for the comment. Yes it is definitely a very humbling and emotive experience. I did write up two posts last week about my experiences in visiting the camps. So feel free to check them out here and here if you want. I updated my post as well here to add some links to those posts.

  20. Jodi Aman says

    I have always wanted to go. I feel that i should go before the survivors/tour guides are all gone. What do you think?

    • AY says

      Thanks for visiting my blog Jodi. The tour guides in Auschwitz are mostly younger folks who were trained as official tour guides for the facilities. It is unlikely you will meet survivors visiting the museum unless perhaps for a special program there or something. I did previously meet an Auschwitz survivor years ago in the US when they were giving a presentation at a local library.

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