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From Lviv to Krakow

Posted in Personal on 2007-10-07 23:50

Lviv bus station

We travelled back from Lviv to Krakow by a different method from how we got there, because the train schedules were a bit awkward for us. So instead we decided to take a bus to Przemysl, just across the border in Poland, and then the train from there. We took a taxi out to the bus station, which like most Ukrainian bus stations was located well outside the city itself. This was a huge, crowded, run-down building surrounded by dusty broken pavements and packs of stray dogs. Inside there were some shops, a hotel, and toilets, but not much else, it seemed.

Anyway, we found our bus without much trouble. To leave, the bus has to pass a gate, where a man comes on to check that all passengers have proper tickets. Apparently they don't trust the drivers to do this, and it seems they are right not to, because the bus stopped again within 500 meters of the station to admit some more passengers who did not have tickets. Presumably they'd paid the driver directly in advance. (This isn't the first time we saw this in Ukraine.)

Queue at the border

The drive to the border was pleasant enough, and didn't take very long. Maybe an hour and a half. At the border there was a huge queue, as expected. After a while the bus driver told everyone to get off and cross on foot, which we did. Presumably because this would be quicker than crossing in the bus. Someone said the bus would need 4 hours to get through, which, judging by the queue, seems like a reasonable guess. It took a while to figure out where pedestrians were meant to go, but we worked it out. Here there was another big queue between iron railings leading up to a little white wooden house that served as the toll station.

The queue was of the Russian variety, which meant that everyone was jostling to get past everyone else. This quietened down near the door, which we initially thought was due to people's respect for the border guards, but it turned out a man was busy painting the railings here, and people took it easy as they did not want to be pushed into railings covered in fresh paint.

This made us lower our guard a bit early, so once inside the station people sneaked past us on both sides. I rescued the sitaution on my side, by slowly pushing my suitcase with my foot until it blocked the person who had passed me. My girlfriend eventually cut off the flow on the left side as well, but accidentally divided a pushy boyfriend from his less pushy girlfriend, who was now stuck behind us. She directed a steady stream of invective in Ukrainian at us from behind until we were through the station, at which point she switched to haranguing her boyfriend. I have to say I felt he was a rather more deserving target.

Inside Przemysl train station

Anyway, apart from the queueing leaving Ukraine was uneventful and even quite quick. However, this left us in no-man's land, a narrow corridor between tall winding green security fences. We couldn't see where they led, but trudged off down the corridor. Round the first bend we found a group of locals busy taping cartons of cigarettes to their legs under their jeans. A couple had bent the bottom of the security fence up, and were receiving more cigarette cartons underneath it from the other side. I'm still wondering why, since this must have been from people going the other way (from Poland to Ukraine), in which case they were receiving cigarettes smuggled out of Poland to take them back into Poland. I didn't stop to ask questions, nor did I take any photos.

We rounded another bend, passed the ashes of a burnt-out bonfire made from cigarette cartons, and found another customs station. Here we had two choices: EU/EEA/CH passports or all passports, and quickly chose the first. Both queues were big, jostling, and noisy, and not fully contained by shoulder-height railings. People were sitting on the railings, jumping over them, and you heard the sound of tape being unwound from tape rolls so loud it echoed.

Train from Przemysl

It didn't take long for the locals to point out to us that we should not be here. This they did in Ukrainian, so we couldn't work out the reason, but eventually it became clear that there was a third queue, which was just a group of people waiting outside a gate next to the other queues. There was an empty line leading down from it, but basically we were stuck out in the security corridor, waiting for we knew not what.

We asked some young Polish people who tried to explain why we had to take this queue, but eventually gave up and said "Just follow us". Having no better alternative we picked out our books and stood reading for quite a while. Eventually a border guard came up, and started a long discussion with the people in the queue. The upshot was that two old women were let through, and everyone else had to continue to wait. I found this strange. Why the discussion? What is there to discuss? Why keep people waiting here instead of in the lane obviously meant for organizing the queue? No answers were forthcoming, however, so we continued reading.

Eventually the other two queues were blocked for a while, and our group was let into the toll station. As we were not very adept at eastern European queueing everyone else squeezed past us, and we made it through last, but the control did not take long. Soon we were in Poland, walking past an area of grass covered in tape and cigarette cartons, and then past it to a minibus (marshrutka), which took us to Przemysl. From there it was just four hours by train to Krakow.

This route may not be much travelled by tourists, but nobody can claim that it's boring.

View from the train, somewhere in Poland

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Mark - 2007-10-14 04:14:57

I have taken the trip from Krakow to Lviv and Lviv many times. I am an American that lives in Krakow, and write about Ukraine The easiest way is by bus. There is a direct bus with only a stop at the border that leaves every night at about 10 pm. From both cities. However, train is a nicer trip.

GEORGE THOMPSON - 2007-11-21 01:51:31

Your Lviv to Krakow trip was interesting.I intend trying Krakow Lviv on my next visit to Donetsk.My wife is (was) Ukrainian so we visit Donetsk at least twice a year.Have tried several routes from the UK.Durham/Warsaw flight then train to Kiev- Kiev-Donetsk by train,and return same route.Comfortable enough and not too tiring.Have done the Newcastle/Krakow/Przemysl/(local bus) to Lviv and found this to be easy and pleasant enough.But want to cut down on travel time from Krakow to Lviv and thought train from Krakow glowny to Przemysl then mashrutka to border.Cross border on foot,then get bus/mashrutka to Lviv thence train to Kiev.- Comments??

Lars Marius - 2007-11-21 05:32:38

George: It seems like the various ways to travel between Krakow and Lviv take about the same time, because most of the time is spent on the border, anyway. And how long you spend at the border seems to be unpredictable. I've heard people reporting everything from 30 minutes to 9 hours... We didn't spent too long when we crossed on foot; roughly an hour, I think.

Personally, I thought train was the best approach, because you could just relax the whole way. Crossing the border on foot requires a bit more effort, and lots of changes between modes of transportation, but is an interesting experience. So I guess it depends on preference.

Dav - 2007-12-04 08:56:32

There are some interesting forums that you should visit regarding tips on which mode of travel and which route is best:


- Dav

Dav - 2007-12-06 17:17:34

i was crossing the Medyka - Shegynij border in August this year. it took me 4 hrs and would take 5hrs if one of the polish custom officiers wouldn't allow me to jump the last queue. short travel report on:

Pete - 2008-04-13 05:12:23

My first adventure in to the ukraine and a visit to lviv, i was not too sure on how to get there and after seeing the price of flying from heathrow at about 300, i decided to try a cheaper option, i managed to get a flight from stansted ryan air for 24 return, taxes inc, to krakow, if you are attempting the trip yourself and want to keep costs down, on arrival at krakow airport, take a bus which costs around 60p to the centre, a taxi is 15.00, the buses park to the your right when you leave the airport, or just ask, massive saving!!, when you book your ticket at the train station, you will have to pay at the desk around 70 sloty, but when on the train you will have to pay the guard another 50 sloty, visa cards are okay at the station but cash on the train,if your lucky to meet someone on the train that speaks your lingo, the time will pass quickly, if not get your head down for the 11 hours your on the train, my train departed at 13.19 and i arrived on the dot with all the stops, customs and change of wheels, ha what a experience at 23.46,on the way back its advisable to buy your ticket the day before you travel, cash only and you only pay once at the station in the ukraine, when i go back i may take a train to the border and walk through customs and if you make it known your a tourist it might help to get through a bit quicker, if not a $10 bill helps a long way, bus travel is cheap and must be a option its just knowing whats best and getting some one to help with the language, Lviv is a awesome place, friendly and full of interesting places to see, if your backpacking and need some cheap accomadation, try the kosmanaut hostel, the staff all speak english and are so helpful, a aussie runs the place and hes a top man, Thanks for reading my account and if you are like me and making this trip for the first time, i hope this is helpful,

Redha - 2008-06-08 17:39:41

Hello all! Does any one know if it is possible to buy a train ticket to Lviv from Krakow airport instead of buying it at the train station? I am travelling to Lviv in two weeks time using the train option, which I used in the past and found it not bad as an adventure. Thanks

Lars Marius - 2008-06-09 17:06:04

Sorry, Redha, I don't know the answer to this. You could try a Google search for "krakow forum" and asking on one of the forums.

Tony - 2009-01-21 12:33:59

Great news.. from January 2009 you can fly from Luton, London to Lviv. The air company is Wizzair.

Wien - 2012-04-03 14:05:14

May I know how did you buy the bus ticket from Lviv? Bought it at the station on the travel date or bought in in advance at somewhere? Thanks!!

Lars Marius - 2012-04-22 05:49:55

Wien: we bought the tickets at the bus station.

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