By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for Poland (or Lithuania)?
Since point-to-point train tickets are cheap in Poland, a rail pass isn't likely to save you much money. The main reason to buy a rail pass in this region is to avoid the hassle of buying tickets as you go.
A pass makes even less sense for Lithuania — not only are tickets cheap (e.g. about $20 in second class between Vilnius and the port city of Klaipėda), but North American travelers connecting by train to Lithuania need a visa for either Russia or Belarus, as there are no direct international trains between Lithuania and Poland.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Also, follow the links below for:
• More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
• The basics on choosing among rail passes
• More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
• Advice on deciding between first and second class
• Fare-estimate maps outside Poland
• Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Extra tip: If your trip is primarily Germany-based and your only leg of Polish train travel is between Berlin and Kraków, you maybe fine just getting the German Rail Pass, since it covers buses between Berlin and Kraków (and Katowice and Wrocław).
Poland's faster trains require a seat reservation (specifically InterCity, Eurocity, and TLK services), along with overnight trains and some international routes (as indicated in online train schedules). Anyone with a vaild rail pass can make seat reservations for free at any Polish train station for any domestic trains that require them.
What do rail passes cover in Poland?
Virtually all trains within Poland, as well as the following extras:
- Express Berlin–Kraków buses (which also stop in Katowice and Wrocław), provided you make a paid seat reservation
- A handful of minor bonuses (described in materials that come with the rail pass).
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.