From CSTN Friend Frank B. The following was written in response to a request from member [CSTN Friend Wander) for information on southern Poland. Here are a few things to consider for Krakow and Zakopane.
Arriving at John Paul II Airport (also called Balice Airport): There is a shuttle bus into the city, but you are probably better off taking a taxi. Change only the minimal amount of money needed for the taxi. The exchange rates at the airport are terrible, and there are literally hundreds of places in the Old Town where you can change money at much better rates. Look for the signs that say "Kantor."
Learn about Krakow and its attractions at www.krakow-info.com.
Hotels my favorites:
Getting Around: There is no need for a bus/trolley pass as everything is within easy walking distance. For example, the walk from the Kosmopolita to Wawel Castle (the opposite end of the Old Town area) is less than two miles. You will need two days or three days to see everything in Krakow.
Dining: As for restaurants, there are so many serving good Polish food, I won't attempt to list the names. However, if you want to try something completely different after days of Polish cuisine, ask for directions to the Balaton Restaurant in the Old Town. This is a restaurant serving Hungarian dishes, and for dinner, the pork-filled pancakes can't be beat. You can also try some of the Hungarian wines (especially the Egri Bikaver, which is a really good, light, red wine). The name translates as Bull's Blood, but don't let that stop you.
Hotels: My favorite is the Sabala (again, you can see this at )www.polhotels.com. It is a little pricier, but the location and ambiance can't be beat, and they have an indoor pool. It is on the main pedestrian-only street (Krupowki ulica), has an upper-level outdoor café (which is great for people- watching), has excellent food (regional Polish dishes) and usually has live entertainment on weekend evenings. On my visit last year, I had lamb sausage, which was just heavenly.
Getting Around: I recommend renting a car for the trip to Zakopane. See rates and options at www.polhotels.com. They will deliver the car to your hotel and arrange to pick it up from wherever you want. You will need an international driver's license.
Getting out of Krakow by car might be a bit of a challenge, but once you get on the main highway leading to Zakopane, it is straight through. If you know some Polish, you can get street maps from www.mapa.szukacz.pl for both cities.
There are no express trains between Krakow and Zakopane only locals, which are extremely slow. If you do decide on the train, the train station in Krakow is closer to the Kosmopolita than the Fortuna Bis. Also, keep in mind that in Poland (like other Eastern European countries) you must purchase a seat ticket in addition to the ticket to get on the train, and the seat ticket must be purchased from a different ticket window in the station.
There are express buses that run between Krakow and Zakopane, but despite the "express" designation, buses are relatively slow (about three hours). Most of the train and bus personnel are older and many do not speak English.