Warsaw Stories and Tips

Fast, reliable and cheap if a bit smelly at times!

Warsaw Tram Photo, Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw transport - is it any good? Yes, it is and very reliable too. I don't think I have lived anywhere where I have relied on public transport so much - maybe Sheffield in the UK. In fact, we don't really use a car any more except for longer journeys, holidays and picking heavy shopping up from Arkadia and such places. There is no need for a car in the city and in winter it is a pain in the ass with changing tyres, moving snow and stopping the inside of the car from freezing up. I know it's not as bad as the Ice Truckers in Yellowknife, Canada but it's not far off.

There are three main forms of public transport; buses, trams and the Metro. All good, reasonably priced and punctual.

Let's start with the buses; this is a well developed system with buses travelling throughout the city and to the outskirts. At peak times roads can get hectic and as there aren't enough bus lanes buses do get stuck in traffic jams. They also get packed but most of the buses are new and in good condition so they are very safe. Most drivers are okay and not too grumpy but they won't wait for you if they see you coming towards the bus and they are due to leave - they will just drive off. Also they don't give you long to get off the bus so if you are elderly or struggling with a pram you have to be quick or else the doors will close.

Before you get on the bus this is what you should remember to do:

Buy a ticket.......

These can be purchased from kiosks, some shops, transport office at Ratusz Arsenal, automated ticket machines on popular routes, on line and from the driver. I have never bought one from the driver but have seen people do it. I am always worried about the reception I would get asking for a ticket. I can't be doing with grumpy drivers so have always avoided this scenario. I read somewhere that there is a surcharge of 0.50zl so bear that in mind.It isn't much but it all adds up.

All tickets should have the words ZTM Warszawa written across the top and remember it is only valid if it has been punched or validated. The validation machines are attached to a vertical handrail on the bus near the doors - you just push the ticket through, it makes a buzzing noise and Bob's your Uncle. Inspectors do get on and are very thorough. Note they don't all wear uniforms and sometimes are dressed like normal folks - very sneaky! If you are caught without a ticket it is a big showdown and they take you off the bus, ask for identity, give you a telling off and you have to pay a fine of 120zloty (about £25) while everybody is staring at you. I haven't been fined - well not in Warsaw but I have seen other people suffer this embarrassment.

Tickets for buses, trams and the Metro are identically priced and the ticket types are:

Czasowe - time

Jednorazowe - disposable

Krótkookresowe - short -term

Długookresowe - long-term.

To buy tickets at the automated machine is simple enough. The machine is computerised with a touch screen pad. There is an English and German language option and you just follow the instructions. The ticket types mentioned above are shown, you just tap the one you want and the price comes up. If you want to buy more than one ticket you add the number you want and the computer does the maths. There is the option of paying by cash and the machine will accept notes, small change and you can even pay by credit card.

What else can I tell you about our buses? There are three types:

Black Number - means this is a regular service and stops at all stops

Red Number - Speedy service stopping at selected stops on the same regular routes

Black square with white numbers followed by N - you've got it - night buses. These don't stop - you have to wave them down!

There are also two other types of buses; E for Express and buses showing the numbers 700-799. These are suburban buses which travel to the outer parts of the city.

Personally, I prefer to travel by tram but my husband loves Warsaw's buses. He travels into the city a lot more than I do and he says they are very comfortable and don't get as packed as the trams.

Trams:

My favourite form of transport but only in the winter as they are too hot and smelly in the summer. A few times I have been travelling across town in July and felt physically sick with the heat and the smell of BO from other travellers. Wicked!

We still have a lot of old trams on all lines throughout the city and although very nice to look at they are a bit cronky and you do get thrown around if you are stood up. These have heating but it is quite poor in the winter and I find the older trams much colder than the newer models. The seats are hard and if you are on a long journey you will find that your bum aches at the end of it. Things to look out for:

Smelly tramps - there are a lot around and boy, they do stink. It isn't unusual for passengers to get up and move down to the other end of the tram to escape the odour of wee and poo, sometimes vomit. It is sad but a fact of city life. It used to make me feel icky at first but I have become used to it.

Old ladies built like wrestlers - I say this tongue in cheek but until you have encountered a Polish old lady on a bus or tram you won't have any idea of what I am talking about. They are tyrannical - rush to get all the seats even if they are fit and push everybody else out of the way. When stood next to one you will find yourself suffocated between huge breasts sagging and swaying to the rhythm of the tram and the smell of sweet perfume which is enough to make you keel over. Not a pleasant experience.

Children who take up all the seats. It is traditional for children under the age of 12 to sit on seats on a tram or bus. In UK I think a mother would sit the child on her knee or make the child stand up. Not here - children and old people come first which I guess is a good thing in a way but irritating when you are knackered and need to sit down.

The practical info regarding the trams is the same as the buses except there are no night trams. Trams run between 5am and 11pm. Be careful though on some routes. I have been caught out before on my way home to Wola from Ratusz - jumped on a tram at 10.20pm to come home suddenly when it got to Tesco's instead of turning right to my road it went straight on to Wolska. That was in the days when I didn't know the city and I panicked - ran all the way home scared to death. Warsaw still has a reputation of being dangerous at night which I never believed and took with a pinch of salt but I think it is true.

Overall, I like travelling on trams the best as it is the quickest way to get through the city especially through the rush hour as buses and cars cannot travel on the tramlines.

Finally, the Metro.

Things are changing as far as Warsaw's underground is concerned. We only have one line at the moment travelling north to south from Ursynow to Bielany so you won't lose your way. The second line is being built to be finished in time for the Euro Football Championships 2012. The new line will connect Wola (where I live) and Praga (my favourite district).

I have only travelled on the Metro a few times since I moved here 4 years ago. It's okay, very nice and clean and the trains are modern, punctual and very comfortable equipped with TV screens showing advertisements and short films. Trains run from 5am until 12pm every weekday. During busy hours trains run every 3 minutes and in the evening every 10 minutes. At weekends the train service runs until 3am with trains running every 15 minutes. Ticket information is the same as it is for buses and trams and you can use the same website as above which is an excellent site with loads of detail.

Hope this info helps for visitors to Warsaw especially for those coming over to watch the football.

Zapraszamy na wycieczkę (enjoy your trip).

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