Auschwitz is one of the three most visited museums in Poland. In 2019, the grounds of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau were visited by over 2 million people from all over the world.
So how to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp and why it is so difficult?
Due to the ever-inreasing popularity of Auschwitz-Birkenau Place of Memorial, tickets should be purchased well in advance to avoid disappointment. The tickets are available 3 months in advance. Some dates sell out very quickly, sometimes even within one week. If you do not get the tickets well in advance, you put yourself at a very high risk of not entering the Museum at all. Coming to Auschwitz on your own and without a pre-bought ticket may result in waiting in long queues to the ticket office without having the guarantee of obtaining the entry tickets. You need to know that there is only a limited number of tickets available for purchase on the spot. If they run out, there is no possibility to enter the Museum premises.
Another trickiness introduced at the beginning of 2020 is that you can only enter the Museum with a valid passport or National ID card. The name on the document must correspond to the one on the entry ticket bought in the presale. If you buy the ticket on the spot, you need to show your passport or National ID card at the counter, and then again at the entrance. An incorrect name or surname may prevent you from visiting the Museum.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is located 75 kilometers west of Krakow. You can get to Auschwitz-Birkenau by train, bus or with an organized tour.
Travelling to Auschwitz from Warsaw on your own means that you need to get to Krakow first. There are no direct train connections between Warsaw and Oswiecim. Journey from Warsaw to Krakow by train takes approx. 3 hours, depending on a type of a train.
From Krakow, there are some direct trains that connect Krakow to Oswiecim, the town located 2 km from Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum. The drawback is, these are suburban trains that run pretty slow. It takes around 2-2,5 hours to get from Krakow to Oswiecim by train (to compare, it takes 1-1,5 hour to cover the same distance by car). You also need to add the extra time for getting from Oswiecim train station to Auschwitz Museum (nearly 2 km).
The public bus is also possible but it can be time-consuming. There is only one bus that goes directly from Warsaw to the town of Oswiecim and the journey takes 8-9 hours (to compare, journey by car takes around 4-4,5 hours). Again, a better way is to transfer in Krakow. It takes around 5 hours to get from Warsaw to Krakow by bus.
The journey from Krakow to Auschwitz by bus takes almost 2h.
BY ORGANIZED TOUR
By choosing an organized tour to the Auschwitz by car or minivan, you save yourself time and energy. The drive from Warsaw to Auschwitz takes 4 hours.
You will be picked up at your hotel/apartment in Warsaw and dropped off there after the tour. By booking the organized tour, you have entry tickets included in the price. You can walk past the queue and have an English-speaking guide waiting for you at the museum. Travelling in a comfortable car, with English-speaking driver and like-minded people, gives you comfort and assurance that you will get back to your hotel safely and without any hassle. And lunch is included as well!
Visiting Auschwitz is a good opportunity to see Krakow as well – the combined Krakow&Auschwitz tour includes 2-hour walking tour in Krakow with a local English-speaking guide.
As an alternative to visiting Auschwitz, you can also consider two other Nazi concentration camps in Poland that are closer to Warsaw than Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Majdanek concentration camp is located south-west of the city of Lublin, 2,5-hour drive from Warsaw. The visit at the concentration camp can be combined with sightseeing in Lublin. It is a good option for a full day trip.
The infamous Treblinka extermination camp is located just 100 km from Warsaw and can be easily reached by car with a driver-guide as a half-day tour option.