From Warsaw To Vilnius by Train

After many years of limited or absent railway connections between Poland and Lithuania, a significant improvement has emerged. In December 2022, PKP, in collaboration with LTG Link from Lithuania, introduced a rail service linking Krakow, Warsaw, Kaunas, and Vilnius. In this post, I provide insights into what travellers can expect when choosing to travel by train from Warsaw and Kraków to Vilnius.

Years ago, during the communist era, direct trains ran from Warsaw to Vilnius, routing through Grodno and Belarus. These services were discontinued before the fall of communism due to low demand and challenging political circumstances. It took approximately twenty years for regular train services to Lithuania to resume, initially reaching the border town of Sestokai and later extending to Kaunas. Nonetheless, these connections were short-lived. Tourists wishing to travel from Poland to Lithuania were left with no choice but to take buses or flights. However, PKP Intercity, the Polish long-distance rail operator, has recently made efforts to revive this route, aiming to provide a cost-effective alternative to expensive flights and lengthy bus rides.

Driven by curiosity, we embarked on the journey ourselves – all for you! Here’s everything you should know about PKP Intercity’s newest international service!

From Cracow and Warsaw to Vilnius by Train

The train, named “IC Hańcza,” departs from Krakow at approximately 4 am, arriving in Warsaw three hours later. In another two hours, it reaches Bialystok. After a further two hours, it arrives at the border station at Mockava in Lithuania. Here, passengers transfer to a train operated by Lithuanian Railways while the Polish train heads back to Krakow. It reaches its destination around 8 pm.

The connection at Mockava is guaranteed, meaning the Lithuanian train waits for all passengers to make the transfer. The station is compact, and the trains stop door-to-door, making the switch straightforward. By the way, the timetable allows for a 30-minute train change, which is more than enough. During this break, passengers can even take a brief walk around the station; the smoking area is just a few metres from the platform. This provides a pleasant, brief respite during the otherwise lengthy and monotonous journey.

The train departing from Mockava makes two additional stops before arriving in Kaunas and then proceeds to Vilnius. Passengers wishing to visit Kaunas have the option to get off there. For those aiming to explore the western part of Lithuania, it is advisable to remain on the train until Kaišiadorys or even to the final destination, Vilnius.

How to book the tickets?

In Poland, tickets can be purchased through the www.intercity.pl website or by using the PKP Intercity app, available on both the Apple Store and Google Play. It’s important to note that the journey is listed as direct on these platforms, despite requiring a transfer.

For bookings in Lithuania, the LTG Link website is the go-to option.

For those who prefer the comfort of first class, it’s worth mentioning that this option is only available on the segment of the journey operated by the Polish train from Kraków (and Warsaw) to Mockava. If you’re booking online, you’ll need to purchase two separate tickets: one for first class up to Trakiszki (Trakiškės in Lithuanian), the last station in Poland before the border, and a second ticket for second class from Trakiszki to Vilnius. Alternatively, a single paper ticket covering both segments can be acquired at any PKP Intercity ticket office.

Ticket prices are competitive, with fares from Cracow to Vilnius at just 30 EUR, and from Warsaw to Vilnius for only 25 EUR.

What to expect from the journey?

The PKP Intercity train provides options for first and second-class travel. In second class, passengers can choose between open-space cars and those with compartments, while the first-class service offers compartments exclusively. Each seat is equipped with electrical outlets, which are shared between two seats in the open-space cars. However, it’s important to note that WiFi is not available on the train.

The train service provided by Lithuanian Railways features a slightly lower standard, offering only second-class seating. It is a diesel unit produced by Pesa, meaning it does not offer compartment options. However, each pair of seats is equipped with an electricity socket for passengers’ use. Additionally, WiFi service is available on board, enhancing connectivity during the journey.

Food on board

Neither the Polish train nor the LGT Link train includes restaurant or bar cars. On the Polish train, passengers can access a modest trolley service offering snacks, refreshments, tea, and coffee, but this service is only available between Wołomin (the first stop after Warsaw) and Szepietowo (just before Białystok).

The LGT Link train provides a similar level of service. Snacks are available for purchase on board, along with coffee and tea.

A tip for those who find themselves in need of essentials during their journey. The stations in Białystok or Suwałki offer opportunities to replenish your supplies. The train halts for a minimum of 15-20 minutes to change locomotives, providing sufficient time for a brief visit to nearby stores. It’s important to note that Białystok railway station is currently under renovation. The renovation will continue until 2024, which will limit on-site shopping options.

Nevertheless, grocery stores can be found just across the street. In Suwałki, a grocery shop is conveniently located approximately 200 metres from the station exit. It remains open even on Sundays. Always remember to inquire with the train staff about the exact time available for your shopping errands. Also, ensure your luggage is not left unattended on the train.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that there are no shopping facilities at the station in Mockava.

The sights along the way?

The journey from Poland to Lithuania offers serene views, though it may not always be strikingly impressive. Departing from Kraków, the train winds through some hilly terrain before entering the flat expanses of Central Poland. Beyond Warsaw, the scenery remains largely unchanged until nearing Białystok, situated at the eastern fringes of the Masurian Lake District. This part of the journey is characterised by forests. As you approach the town of Augustów, some hills and lakes add variety to the view. The stretch between Suwałki and Mockava stands out as the most visually appealing section of the trip. Notably, this is the sole railway line that directly connects Poland to Lithuania.

The total travel time from Kraków to Vilnius exceeds 12 hours, while the journey from Warsaw is shorter, at around 9 hours. Considering the length of the trip, a stopover in Warsaw or Białystok could enhance the experience. Warsaw beckons with its Old Town, the Royal Castle, Łazienki Park, and unique communist-era architecture. Białystok invites exploration with the Branicki Palace, its Botanical Garden, and the Great Synagogue. In Kaunas, the Old and New Towns offer delights such as the Kaunas Castle and numerous museums. With its historic Old Town, the vibrant Užupis district, and many other attractions, Vilnius is also a must-see. To fully enjoy your travel, be sure to download our mobile guides for Warsaw, Vilnius (and Trakai), and Kaunas. For those travelling from Lithuania to Poland, our original audio guide to Krakow is also available.

Pro Tips

  1. Compartment cars offer the advantage of increased overhead storage space compared to open-space carriages, enhancing travel comfort.
  2. On the PKP Intercity trains, choosing a second-class compartment is particularly beneficial. These compartments feature three seats in a row, in contrast to the four seats per row in open carriages.
  3. The availability of the beverage trolley service is limited; it circulates among various trains and boards or disembarks at intermediate stations. In instances where the train is so crowded that passengers must stand in the aisle, accessing the trolley service may not be possible.
  4. Upon reaching Suwałki, the train changes direction. This means if you were facing the train’s forward direction at the start of your journey, you will find yourself seated facing the rear afterwards.
  5. For enthusiasts, observing the process of changing locomotives offers a unique spectacle. This occurs at two specific locations along the route: Białystok and Suwałki.
  6. It’s essential to possess a printed version of your ticket while onboard.
  7. When in Lithuania, do not forget to download a copy of our amazing mobile guide to Vilnius (and Trakai), and Kaunas.

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