Some time ago I wrote an article on how to choose the best Polish university. This time I would like to help those of you who are considering studying in Krakow. I’m guessing that you’re a little bit stressed about moving to a new city that you’ve probably never been to. The first weeks are going to be tough, so let me give you 5 tips on what to do after you get into a university in Krakow:

  1. How much money should you have prepared for daily expenses?
  2. Where can you find cheap and tasty lunches?
  3. How can you see a doctor for free in Poland?
  4. How can you move around Krakow cheaply?
  5. Can you work and if so, how?


How much money should you have prepared for daily expenses?

Knowing possible daily expenses is crucial when you’re planning your budget.

How much will you spend as a student at a university in Krakow? In order to find the best answer, I’ve checked three Polish sources: a website for investors, a well-known web portal about finance and economics, and a blog written by an economics student from a university in Krakow. All these websites have published articles about monthly expenses of students.

They more or less agree that you should have prepared no less than 860 zł for every month when you live in a student hall, and 1420 zł when you rent a flat.

Learn more: Average salaries and costs of living in Poland

That amount includes regular living expenses like food and accomodation cost or tickets for public transport. Besides that number you need to consider university fees. If you’re a non-EU citizen, you should also add the cost of a temporary residence permit (500 zł for an application + extra costs like translation of documents).

If you wish to keep money in a Polish bank, check out how to find the best one here.


Where can you find cheap and tasty lunches?

Many people say that you shouldn’t scrimp on food, and it’s hard to argue with that. Still, you can minimize food expenses. Paying 7 zł less for a meal will surely make a huge difference in the long run.


It’s easy to overpay for food

Many universities in Krakow have their buildings in the city center. As there are always many tourists around, restaurants can afford to charge their clients more.

Forget about cheap places just next to the main square. If they have better prices, then they probably cut on the quality of food. Instead of that go to the places that don’t spend money on advertisement and don’t need to pay so much for rent. Milk bars and canteens in student halls are the best solution. Their cooking is delicious and similar to what you would get in any Polish house. Meals usually cost 7 zł less than in regular restaurants for tourists.

I usually eat at Żaczek on Czarnowiejska street. I almost always pay only 11 zł for a plate full of fresh and tasty food and a glass of compote. You could also check:

  • Smakosz at Mogilska 58
  • Kapitol at Budryka 2
  • Bar Targowy at Daszyńskiego 19
  • Tawo at Reymonta 13A
  • Krakus at Limanowskiego 16
  • Krakus at Reymonta 15
  • Piast at Piastowska 47
  • Nawojka at Reymonta 11

Many people also praise the milk bar on Grodzka street. That place is an exception from my rule: it’s in the strict center of the city and there are always plenty of tourists inside, but their food is still cheap and good.

Check out also: How to make your first weeks in Krakow super easy


How can you see a doctor for free in Poland?

Sooner or later everyone comes down with the flu and needs to see a doctor. Many expats decide to buy private medical packages, because it’s challenging to find English speaking doctors in public clinics. In my opinion private medical health care is too costly for students.

I would recommend that you ask older international students and other expats on Facebook groups if they know any English speaking doctors working for public clinics. If no one responds, contact me and I’ll check if anyone is available.


Public clinics are free when you have public insurance

You need to have some kind of insurance in Poland. If you’re an EU citizen, your national insurance together with European Health Insurance Card is just fine. If you’re a non-EU citizen, you will need to buy commercial insurance before moving here.

After arriving to Poland you can choose between public and private insurance. If you go for a private plan, your insurance company will explain to you the rules for using medical facilities in Poland. Private insurance may be much more convenient for you because you pay only once for the whole period and you can choose a company with English customer service. You can also buy it as a non-EU citizen while staying in Poland on the basis of visa-free traffic, whereas you would need a visa or a stay card to buy public insurance.

On the other hand public insurance covers most public medical facilities. The problem is that you need to pay contributions every month and frequently deal with some formalities in Polish.


Public insurance in Poland

Most people in Poland are registered for public insurance. People who have employment contracts are insured by their employers, which also insure their families. What about foreign students who neither work, nor have family members working in Poland?

EU citizens should only make sure to have European Health Insurance Card or in some cases their Polish universities may apply for insurance to cover them.

Foreign students from outside the European Union generally need to buy voluntary insurance for themselves.


Buy insurance

Public insurance from NFZ (National Health Fund) will cost you 46,80 zł monthly. In order to buy it, you should go to your local NFZ branch. Make sure to have your passport, a visa or a stay card, and your student card or a confirmation from the university that you’re a student. In the branch submit this form. After that you will be asked to sign a contract and will be instructed about further steps. Unfortunately, all documents are only in Polish, so first you need to find a Polish speaker who can assist you.


Register in a clinic

Once the procedure in NFZ is finished, you should go to the chosen clinic (with a Polish speaker, unfortunately), where you will be asked to register and declare who you will choose to be your family doctor. You can change family doctors three times per year. While registering, make sure to have all documents from NFZ with you.

Unfortunately every time that you want to go to the doctor, you’ll first need to go to NFZ and ask for the confirmation that you paid for your insurance for the current month. That’s not very convenient, so you should think about a PESEL. That’s a number that we use in Poland for identification. People with PESEL numbers are included in a national database where clinics can check if they’re insured or not.

If you’re an EU citizen, check out how to obtain a PESEL here. If you’re a non-EU citizen, then unfortunately I have some bad news for you. Right now non-EU citizens with visas and most types of temporary residence permits don’t receive a PESEL automatically. They need to prove to the officials that they need a PESEL for some reason and indicate an appropriate legal basis. You have two options: to live without a PESEL and remember to have confirmations from NFZ each time you go to the doctor, or to take some extra steps and obtain a PESEL through ePUAP.


How can you move around Krakow cheaply?

The best idea is to use public transportation. Buses and trams in Krakow are really well organized.  The first thing you should do is download an app called Jakdojade. Although an English version is not available, I still strongly recommend that you use this program in order to look for the best way to reach your destination. It’s very intuitive, you just need to learn a few Polish words.

Then you should get a city transport card (KKM). Take a student card with you and go to one of these places:

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

Ask for bilet semestralny (semester ticket), for the first zone only (it should be enough unless you live outside the city). For 184 zł you’ll be able to take all the routes in Krakow for 150 days. After that time use any vending machine to top up your card.


Can you work and if so, how?

Many of my friends started working while still studying.

It’s possible for you as well. Both EU and non-EU students of full-time studies in Poland don’t need a work permit. That’s very important because work permits make it much harder for expats to find employers. In your case the only problem will be finding a part-time job for non-Polish speakers. It will be much easier if you know French, German or Spanish, or if you have IT skills. It’s going to be really difficult if you don’t speak English very well.

Here I’ve written some tips on how you can find student jobs in Poland.

If you wish to work in a restaurant, you should be sure to get a food service worker certificate. Unfortunately you’ll need to pay for that, but the whole procedure is fairly quick. Read more about it here.

Learn also: Why not study in two European countries? Check out how to spend a year of your studies in any other country in Europe and get money from the European Union to do so.

If you’re a non-EU citizen, I recommend that you hold off on working for a little bit and sign a contract with an employer after you obtain a residence permit for your studies. Only a student who doesn’t work is allowed to apply for a residence permit for studies. If someone is already working, they must apply for a residence permit through their work – and then they need work permits for every new employer. Therefore you should start getting familiar with the job market quite soon, but you should plan to start working about 3 months after you apply for a temporary residence permit for studies.


And the last tip – you should definitely check in with me and keep updated with new articles on my blog :). I will be happy to help solve your problems. As for now, check the rest of my articles for international students in Poland here.

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