My husband Chris and I moved to Krakow a month ago for work. I did all the preparation I could in advance, but when we arrived, we didn’t have anyone meeting us at the airport. No one could advise us on where or when to go and it took ages to get a single task done. We needed to find a flat and open a sole trader business initially, so it was very hard to enjoy our first days in Krakow. So here is a couple of tips to make your first few weeks here super easy.

Sofia Balderson

Sofia Balderson

Sofia Balderson comes from Belarus. Together with her British husband, Chris, they make videos for people learning English: Real British English. Sofia came to Poland in January 2017. She’s been keeping track on everything that she and her husband needed to go through to make themselves comfortable in Poland. To make the relocation easier for other expats, she decided to describe how the first weeks in Poland looked from their perspective. We believe that this article on JustAsk Poland will help you, if you are about to move to Krakow or have just moved, but don’t know where to start.

1. Book temporary accommodation

It’s crucial you have somewhere comfortable to live for at least a few days (a week would be perfect) so that you have enough time to find more permanent accommodation. We’d recommend using Airbnb as it’s the cheapest and most comfortable way for finding places to stay in a new city. Depending on your budget, you can choose to stay in either a private room or to have an entire flat to yourself. If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, you can use my link to get a discount (about 14 dollars): click! 

We booked a lovely studio in the city centre with Airbnb and it cost us about 150 dollars for a week. I would definitely recommend staying as close to the city centre as you can as central location will make it easier for you to travel to other places and sort out initial documentation.

 

2. Travelling from the airport

After having a long conversation on the Krakow Expats group about the best way to travel to the airport, we went with Uber, because it’s the cheapest (out of all the taxi services) and the most convenient way to get from the airport to your accommodation. There is free Wi-Fi at the airport and you can order a ride right from there (as with all the Uber services, you won’t need any cash, which will spare you exchanging money at the ridiculous airport rate). Remember to copy the address of your flat to your phone in advance so that you can just paste it in an app. Our trip with Uber from the airport cost us about 30 zl (about 7,5 dollars). If for some strange reason Uber doesn’t work, use Icar as their prices are quite reasonable too. I think you can order Icar from the information desk at the airport.

We had 3 suitcases with us when we arrived, so a taxi was the only reasonable choice, but if you are travelling relatively light, you can consider the train which goes from the airport to the main train station (Dworzec Głowny). The problem with that is you would need then to travel to your accommodation using another form of public transport or a taxi, which can be just as expensive. You can check which bus/tram to take to your accommodation using an app Jakdojade (check out number 4 for more info).

 

3. Money

The cheapest way to get Polish zloty is to bring cash in dollars/pounds/euros and exchange it here in Krakow. DO NOT exchange money at the airport, you’ll simply get ripped off. Most exchange offices in the city offer quite a good exchange rate, so we recommend strolling around your area and comparing a couple of offices before you exchange.

Of course, you might find it quite difficult to bring all the cash you need, so some of your money will undoubtedly be on your foreign bankcard. We recommend using Millenium Bank cash machines for withdrawals, but before you do it, find out what your home bank charges for withdrawals and card payments in shops abroad, as one is bound to be cheaper than the other.

 

4. Getting around

You are bound to travel a lot around the city during your first few weeks in Krakow. After all, you have to find accommodation and sort out the paperwork.

TAKE A TAXI

As mentioned before, Uber is pretty good for getting from the city centre to anywhere, but from our experience it’s hard to find an Uber car (or any taxi in general) if you are outside the centre. So we’d recommend… public transport! It’s very organised in Krakow and once you know how it works, there isn’t a better way to travel.

TAKE A BUS/TRAM

There is a free app called Jakdojade which will tell exactly how to get from A to B. Just let the app confirm your location, and then type in your destination address. Voila! You can choose from any bus and tram routes, it will tell you where to walk to the bus stop, which bus to get on, where to get off and if needed, where to change. It might seem strange at first but you will get the hang of it pretty soon!

Note that public transport in Krakow is not free, but if you are staying long-term and need to travel around, there is a perfect option for you – to get a city transport card (KKM). All you need is a standard passport-sized picture of you and your passport (ID) and then you can go to the office at the city centre (address below) and they will issue the card free of charge; you’ll be able to top it up there as well. Currently the cost is 96zl per month for all the routes around the city, which we would recommend getting, as you can enjoy more flexibility. It’s cheaper than getting tickets all the time and it’s also easier, as if you have a card, you just keep it with you during all the journeys without having to validate it as it’s unlimited. If you don’t get it and opt for buying tickets all the time, you would either need to buy them in the vending machines next to some stops, or need coins (on the old trams) with you or a contactless card (on the new buses/trams) as the machines on the buses don’t accept cash. Normally you can’t buy tickets off the driver. Here you can find the price info for the long term tickets and the short term tickets.

Here are the addresses you can go to with your photo (they will scan it and give it back) and a valid passport or ID to get your KKM:

The first one is the most central.

Mon-Fri Sat
Pętla autobusowa MPK

przy Dworcu Głównym Wschód

9:00 – 19:00 8:00 – 16:00
ul. Podwale 3/5 9:00 – 19:00
os. Centrum D bl.7 9:00 – 19:00
ul. Krowoderskich Zuchów 8a 9:00 – 19:00
ul. Św. Wawrzyńca 13 8:00 – 16:00
ul. Powstańców Wielkopolskich 6 9:00 – 17:00

When the time on your card runs out, you can top it up at most ticket vending machines. Learn more here.

WALK IT

Sometimes the location will be close enough that you need not do anything other than walk, and no need to use old-fashioned paper maps if you’ve got a smartphone and internet access! Google Maps might not tell you which transport to take, but it will show you the best way to walk to your destination.

 

5. Get a sim-card with internet access.

Having a Polish number is crucial for many reasons. Firstly, it’s much cheaper than roaming. Secondly, you can use almost unlimited 4G internet, which you will need for Jakdojade and Google Maps routes. Depending on your needs, you can choose from a variety of providers in Krakow: Virgin, Play, Orange and T-Mobile. I still don’t know which one is the best, but we went to Galeria Krakowska (a very big shopping centre near the train station) and got ourselves two Orange sim-cards for 15 zl each (3 pounds). They currently have a “free month” offer when you can use unlimited internet, calls on mobile phones in Poland and texts for 30 days. Quite handy indeed! Remember, that you will need your passports to register your numbers.

 

6. Finding permanent accommodation

I’d been researching this topic for about 6 months before I arrived and I can honestly say that flat hunting is somewhat of a lottery, as there is so much to consider: location, landlords, flat condition, rental contract, the price… and if you are not a confident Polish speaker, it will be even more challenging for you. But there’s no need to fret! Everyone who’s ever arrived here managed to find something for themselves and after you’ve done it, life will be so much easier. So where do you start?

Identify your budget: how much do you think you can afford to pay for a flat?

Keep in mind that prices are generally like this: under a 1000 zl for a separate room, under 1500 for a one-room flat and around 2000 for a two or three-room flat. Places in the city centre will be more expensive than the ones further away and a nicely furnished studio in the city centre with expensive furniture might cost you around 2000+. Some offers are overpriced, so just because you’ve seen a couple of flats, don’t think you won’t be able to find a cheaper one.

Where would you like your flat to be – in the city centre or somewhere quieter?

The big plus for living in the city centre is that you will most likely be able to walk to the majority of places, but the houses are quite old and it’s the most expensive part to live in. It can also be noisy and DO NOT rent a flat next to the tramline as you won’t sleep a wink.

Living outside the city centre has only one minus: you will have to travel almost everywhere. But for that you get much cheaper offers, quieter areas and generally nicer and newer flats.

What condition would you like the flat to be in: do you want it fully equipped or will you be ok with buying some required furniture/appliances? Do you want it to be pet-friendly?

Most flats are nicely furnished here in Poland as it’s cheap to buy Ikea furniture and do the flat up. However, most landlords won’t buy any expensive appliances if they think the flat doesn’t need them. For example, our landlords bought us a table, a hoover and some bedding, but didn’t agree on buying a microwave. It’s always worth asking anyway as after all, you are the one paying them money!

Whatever you do, never rent a flat without a contract, as you will need it for your documentation, for sure. It’s quite a simple procedure as the landlord is responsible for preparing it and you will just have to read it very carefully and sign it. There will be two copies: one for you and one for the landlords. Make sure that you have a list of all the furniture in the flat and if anything is broken already, it should be mentioned there. Make sure the landlord also mentioned the fact that you gave them a deposit (usually 1 month’s rent) which should be returned when you move out.

DO NOT give any money, document details or valuable things to the landlords until you have actually SIGNED A CONTRACT. After you’ve signed, give the rent and a deposit, but don’t let them take a picture of your ID cards or passports: just write the numbers on the contract and check that it’s correct (do the same with theirs).

Now you’ve got some general info, it’s time to search for a flat. You can either do it yourself or if you have spare money, you can use the help of the agent (they usually take 1 month’s rent as commission).

Websites

You will need to know a bit of Polish as the websites are mostly in this language and not all landlords are fluent in English. If you don’t speak Polish and don’t want to pay an agent, I would recommend getting yourself a Polish friend, sit down together and take a look at the flats Krakow has on offer, make a couple of calls and go and see some flats. Flat hunting is a quick business and landlords are very interested in renting asap, so you should call and visit as soon as you can.

There are a couple of websites for flat searching, here they are:

It’s actually an agency but they don’t take commission from the tenant as long as you stay for 12 months minimum. I spoke to an agent from there and he seemed quite friendly. They speak English and Russian too, so you might want to check it out!

These FB groups (not super effective, but still some people might be moving out exactly when you want to rent).

These two are just for renting:

And these two have a lot of expats in them (the groups you should join anyway as you can find a lot of info there!):

Our experience: we found a flat literally in an hour, I called the number and said in Polish that I would like to rent a flat and they invited me for a viewing straight away. We took an Uber there as we didn’t know about Jakdojade and spent about an hour looking at the flat and chatting with the landlord. They didn’t speak a word of English, so I had to really stretch my Polish abilities :). But I think it was that which warmed them up to us and we got the flat! That’s why I would recommend speaking Polish or taking somebody who can speak it, as people mostly prefer speaking their native language and it would be more comfortable for you to discuss things.

 

7. Getting all the paperwork done

The paperwork you will need to do will depend on your situation: are you an EU/non EU citizen, did you come for work, study, or are you married to an EU citizen? Do you need to obtain a work permit or are you going to register a company? Regardless of your circumstances, you will have to do some paperwork for sure and the sooner you start, the sooner you will be free to enjoy your life in Krakow!

I used Just Ask Poland through their Facebook page and got free advice on immigration and business set-up procedures. You can also get all the help with your office trips (not everyone speaks fluent English here) and any documentation. Read this article to get a feel for what you need to do: What to do upon arrival in Poland?

 

8. Speaking Polish

Regardless of your language ability, make sure you learn at least some basic words and expressions before you come: I was told Krakow was super English friendly only to come here and realise that some people can’t understand a thing in English. Ideally, learn as much as you can and I assure you it will pay off! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: Polish people will be very pleased that a foreigner is trying to speak their language and will do their best to understand you.

 

9. Be polite and smiley

Generally Polish people are super polite with everyone and are never short of “Please” and “Thank you”. People will open up and help if you open up to them. Despite the fact that Polish people seem a bit gloomy to westerners, I think they are very polite and helpful. I was never frowned at and always got the help I needed, even though it was not always easy for them to understand what I wanted. People helped me even when if wasn’t their job to and did it with pleasure.

 

10. Don’t be afraid to Just Ask!

I know that when you arrive abroad and want to establish your life here, you might feel afraid to turn to people for advice and help. Well, don’t be! As I said before, everyone here is super helpful and it’s much easier to ask a Pole than to spend hours searching on the internet only to find unreliable outdated information. Locals can save you a lot of time if you Just Ask! You can either do it here, on expat groups or at the numerous information desks around Krakow (or ask your Polish friends of course).

Hope you found it useful and let me know if you have any more questions or comments.

Enjoy your life in Krakow!

Sofia Balderson

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