There are a few different ways to get from Zakopane to Vienna but travelling through Slovakia (Bratislava) is the way I did it without any real planning and it was very easy and lots of fun.
We were in Zakopane, Poland for the new year and needed to find our way over to Vienna, Austria in order to make our next flight. We didn’t really put a whole lot of thought into how we were going to get there when originally booking the flight from Vienna but I do recall looking at Google Maps and thinking “yep, that looks close enough”.
So how do you get from Zakopane to Vienna? Well, one way is to go back to catch a bus back up to Krakow and then fly from there to Vienna – but that’s boring and chances are that if you’re in Zakopane you probably came from Krakow in the first place and if you’re anything like me it will feel as though you’re travelling backwards. Another option is trains but seriously, they’re not really that great in this part of Europe and the trip will take forever because you’ll have to go around the mountains.
Zakopane to Vienna (through Slovakia)
The best option is to head to the main bus station and see if they’re running buses to Poprad, Kosice or another major town in Slovakia. Chances are they won’t be but if they are then this is easily your best option as you can grab a train from there (e.g. Poprad) through to Bratislava which is the capital of Slovakia and very close (less than an hour) away from Vienna.
If there aren’t any buses directly to anywhere in Slovakia then you’re not out of luck but it will mean a couple of interchanges along the way. Head over to the mini buses – they’re across the road from the main bus station and any of the locals will point them out and tell any of the drivers who are heading to Morskie Oko that you’d like to get off at the border between Poland and Slovakia.
The border town is called Lysa Polana and there’s not a whole lot going on there. You’ll get dropped off on one side of a small river and then make your way over to the other side on foot – it’s a two minute walk but I seriously recommend taking a closer look at the river itself as it’s a beautiful spot.
Once you’ve crossed over you’ll notice a large car park and a waiting area which is staffed by a small family. There you can use the bathroom, have a cup of coffee (awful) or tea (not awful) while waiting for the bus that will take you to Poprad.
One thing you do need to remember is that Polish currency is the Zloty and Slovakia uses the Euro. The bus driver will not accept anything other than Euro so take some with you (it’s only about €2 per person) or change it at one of the small stores there. Try to do this before the bus arrives so that you aren’t stressed out changing money while he’s ready to get moving!
The bus doesn’t take too long – about an hour or so – and you can pass the time by buying your train ticket from Poprad to Bratislava online. That’s assuming you’ve got a local sim or you’re roaming. If you’re not then look out the window as it’s truly a beautiful part of the world and worthy of your attention.
If you aren’t able to buy a train ticket using your phone then there’s a really great cafe at the Hotel Europa, right outside the train station, where you can stop in and rest before your train journey. They have complimentary wifi there so you can get your train ticket online. If you still can’t buy it then just pick it up at the ticket office by the station.
As is common in Europe, you’ll be able to purchase first or second class tickets and we chose first class because those seemed guaranteed to come with power points and I was insistent on needing to recharge everything on the 5 hour train ride to Bratislava. It was also really comfortable to set up the Surface Pro and watch a movie.
The Slovakian trains are comfortable and fast and you’ll be in Bratislava before you know it.
Bratislava is a gorgeous city. It’s very sleepy but you could do far worse than staying a night here and seeing what the city has to offer. I’ll probably put up a different post on Bratislava overall but the accommodation is cheap, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and there’s some really great history to explore.
We had a spare day and spent a few hours touring the Old Town Hall in Old Town. It was about 5 euro and was well worth it. There are some beautiful views over towards the castle.
When you’re ready to leave Bratislava the easiest way is probably by train and it will take you straight to Vienna Central Station in under an hour! There are other options to get there from a taxi, bus and also uber.
If you need to get to Austria from Zakopane then I highly recommend going through Slovakia and doing it at a relaxed pace. It took us around 10 or so hours to get to Bratislava but we were in no real hurry and took our time. Slovakia is a wonderful country and we honestly felt as though the locals were surprised that there were tourists visiting their cities
To sum it all up, getting to Vienna from Zakopane involves:
- Zakopane to Lysa Polana (around 10PLN by mini bus)
- Lysa Polana to Poprad (around €2 by regular bus)
- Poprad to Bratislava (€15 to €25 depending on class – by train)
- Bratislava to Vienna (about €15 by train)