Getting from Poland to Lithuania by Train
Years back, under the rule of the communists, there used to be direct trains that ran from Warsaw to Vilnius. These trains ran through the town of Grodno in Belarus. However, these were discontinued yet during the communist period. Twenty years later, there were regular trains running to the border town of Sestokai, and, not long ago, services to Kaunas began as well. However, these connections didn’t last long either. Tourists wanting to travel from Poland to Lithuania had to resort to taking a bus or a flight. Recently, the Polish long-distance operator PKP Intercity has restarted the connection and provided an economical alternative to pricey plane tickets and lengthy bus trips. Getting from Poland to Lithuania has become much easier.
We couldn’t resist and made the journey – especially for you! Here’s everything you need to know about PKP Intercity’s latest international service!
The train connection from Poland to Lithuania
The train known as “IC Hańcza” leaves Kraków at approximately 4 a.m. and takes three hours to arrive in Warsaw. It then continues on to Białystok and, after over six hours, arrives at the border station in Mockava in Lithuania. There, passengers must switch to a train operated by Lithuanian Railways, and the Polish train will go back to Kraków, getting there around 8:15 p.m.
The transfer in Mockava is guaranteed, which means that the Lithuanian train will wait until all passengers make a safe transfer. The station is small, and the trains stop virtually door to door, so you can’t miss it. Schedule-wise, you have about 25 minutes to change trains. So there is time for a relaxed transfer or even a short walk around the station. It is a nice, but obviously short, break on a long and boring journey.
The train that leaves Mockava has two more stops before it reaches Kaunas and then continues on to Vilnius. People who would like to visit Kaunas can disembark there. Those who head to the western part of Lithuania should rather continue the ride to Kaišiadorys, or even Vilnius.
How to book the tickets?
In Poland, booking the tickets can be done on the www.intercity.pl website or via the new PKP Intercity app (PKP.appka) available on Apple Store and Google Play. Note that the connection is shown as direct, even though there is a transfer on the way.
In Lithuania, you can book your tickets via the LTG Link website.
A hint for those who enjoy travelling in the first class. This class is only available on the Polish train, which goes from Kraków up to Mockava. If are buying online, you should buy two separate tickets. One is for the first class to Trakiszki (Trakiškės in Lithuanian), which is the final station before the border. The other is for the second class from Trakiszki to Vilnius. As an alternative, you can buy a single paper ticket at the PKP Intercity ticket office.
Prices are attractive, with tickets from Cracow to Vilnius costing just 30 EUR, and from Warsaw to Vilnius – only 25 EUR.
What to expect from the journey?
The PKP Intercity train offers cars for both first and second-class passengers. In the second class, there are both open-space and compartment cars, and the first-class car has compartments only. All seats are equipped with electricity sockets, shared between 2 seats in non-compartment cars. Unfortunately, there is no WiFi connection available on board.
The train operated by Lithuanian Railways offers a bit lower standard. Only second-class seats are available. While the Polish train offers both open-space and compartment cars, the Lithuanian unit is a diesel unit manufactured by Pesa. And this means there are no compartments available. The seats are equipped with electricity sockets, one for two seats. WiFi is available on board.
Food on board
Forget about restaurant or bar cars. On the Polish train, a small trolley with snacks, refreshments, tea and coffee is available. Unfortunately, only between Wołomin (the first station after Warsaw) and Szepietowo (just before Białystok).
LGT Link train offers a similar standard. A snack service is available on board, and you can buy coffee or tea.
Pro tip: If you run out of essentials during your journey, you can get a new supply of them at the station in Białystok or Suwałki. The train stops there for a minimum of 15-20 minutes to change the locomotive, giving you enough time to make a quick trip to the store. Białystok railway station is currently undergoing renovation (until 2024), so it may be difficult to purchase something at the station. However, there are some grocery stores across the street. Suwałki has a grocery shop right in front of the station exit, about 200 metres away. It’s even open on Sundays. Don’t forget to check with the train staff how much time you have for shopping. Also, make sure not to leave your luggage unattended on the train!
Last, but not least: there are no shops at the station in Mockava.
Any sights along the way?
The ride is quite scenic but not particularly impressive. As you depart Kraków, you will traverse some hills before heading out into the level terrain of Central Poland. After you pass through Warsaw, there isn’t much change until you reach Białystok, which is close to the edge of the Masurian Lake District in the east. The landscape here is made up of woods, later some hills and even some lakes (near the town of Augustów). The most picturesque part of the journey is between Suwałki and Mockava. By the way, this is the only railway line that allows getting directly from Poland to Lithuania.
The entire journey from Kraków to Vilnius takes over 12 hours. From Warsaw, it is only 9 hours. In any case, it might be a good idea to make a stopover along the way. Warsaw is famous for its Old Town, the Royal Castle, the Łazienki Park, and the wonderful communist-era architecture. In Białystok, there’s the Branicki Palace, the Botanical Garden, and the Great Synagogue. In Kaunas, you can explore the charming Old and New Town, with the Kaunas Castle, and lots of interesting museums. And, of course, there’s Vilnius, with its Old Town, Užupis district and many more amazing sights. To make the most of your journey, don’t forget to download our mobile guides for Warsaw, Kaunas, and Vilnius. For those travelling in the opposite direction – we also have our original audio guide to Krakow.
- Compartment cars provide greater capacity for storing items overhead than their non-compartment counterparts, making them more comfortable to travel in.
- On the PKP Intercity train, the second-class compartments are a superior option – three seats in a row – compared to the non-compartment ones, which have four seats in a row.
- The beverage trolley is not present on the entire journey. It is shared between many trains, and the trolley gets on and off at the intermediate stops. If the train is so full that people have to stand in the walkway, the trolley may not reach you.
- After arriving at Suwałki, the train will switch directions. So if you were initially facing the front of the carriage, you will now be sitting with your back to the front.
- For some, watching locomotives being changed is an enjoyable activity. It can be experienced at two places – Białystok and Suwałki.
- It is essential that you have a hard copy of your ticket when on board.
- When in Lithuania, do not forget to download a copy of our amazing mobile guide to Vilnius (and Trakai), and Kaunas.