Last Updated December, 2020
During the last two years, since the moment Mark and I left the U.S., we have been revisiting Ukraine on multiple occasions. And, we probably crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border a few dozen times. Seriously. And the most frequented route was the one from Lviv to Krakow and then back from Krakow to Lviv.
The reason we traveled so much is my hometown Khmelnytskyi and my family who live there. Somehow, when we travel in Europe, it is much easier (and often cheaper) to get to my hometown through Krakow and Lviv than to fly to Kyiv. Plus, before we go to Khmelnytskyi, we always stay in Lviv for a few nights to drink the best coffee and walk our favorite streets.
So, I wanted to share our experience of traveling from Poland to Ukraine by land. I hope it will come in handy and you guys get an idea of what is the best way of transportation for you personally.
Getting From Lviv to Krakow By Bus – How Is It?
Lviv to Krakow Bus – Bus Tickets, Companies & Prices
There are about a dozen companies that operate between Poland and Ukraine. The most known are Ecolines, East West Eurolines, and Flixbus. Buses run multiple times during the day every day of the week. So, even if you need to make a spontaneous decision when to go, you can always find a carrier. The average price is €20 per person. East West Eurolines and Ecolines companies often have cheaper fares.
If you prefer to travel by Flixbus (as we do), they also have a route from Lviv to Krakow that leaves Lviv on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 17:25, all other days at 15:00 except Mondays. The ticket cost is 25 euros.
If you check the schedule for Flixbus buses, you see that it says the bus is en route for 6 hours 20 minutes. The average time of travel with other companies is very similar between 6 to 8 hours. In reality though, it almost always takes way more time.
How Long is the Bus Ride From Lviv to Krakow?
One thing to understand about bus travel is that border crossing is unpredictable. When a bus crosses the border, it does have its own lane. But it doesn’t make the entire process faster.
At some point, people need to get off the bus and go through border control. Then you may need to get your luggage out for inspection. And then you’re back on the bus.
The whole process normally should not take longer than an hour and a half. At least that’s what we expect. But! On the Ukrainian border, it’s almost impossible. It always takes much more time.
On average, from our experience and experience of many friends and relatives, the Ukraine-Poland border crossing (and Hungary-Ukraine to be honest) usually takes 3-4 hours. That includes standing in line and waiting for your turn as well as all inspections and passport control. That’s on average.
TIP: Make sure you got a good power bank for your phone because the trip might be long!
|| READ MORE ||
Pitfalls of Bus Travel
However, you never really know. One time we have spent 8 hours on the border. We left Lviv around 10:30 am, were on the border around 12 pm but crossed it, and were on the Polish side sometime after 8 pm. Eventually, we arrived in Krakow almost at 11 pm. It was brutal, it was definitely the longest border crossing ever for me.
But my aunt, for comparison, who travels to the Czech Republic every other month through Poland and crosses the same Ukraine-Poland border, has spent many times 10-12 hours on the border.
What I noticed though, with Flixbus, it still takes less wait time. One time from Krakow to Lviv by Flixbus our trip lasted 6 hours 30 minutes which is almost the same as what the company promises.
Perhaps because Flixbus is not based in Ukraine, officers’ attitude is much better and they try to hustle. But that’s not always the case if a bus gets stuck in a long line before the actual checkpoint.
No one ever knows what the problem is and why it takes so much time on the border. But it is very common.
Traveling From Lviv to Krakow By Blabla Car – Our Experience
For those who don’t know what BlaBlaCar is, it’s a ride-sharing service, allowing drivers to bring passengers along to wherever they are going for a smaller fee than alternatives.
So you might expect a faster ride in the back seat of a nicer car with somebody who is traveling to Poland and basically you are just splitting the cost of gas.
We also used BlablaCar on a few occasions during different seasons. And each time it was a bit different.
You see, there are many minibusses that Ukrainians drive in and out of the EU zone, offering some sort of private delivery services. So they usually have 6-8 seats as well that they try to fill with passengers. It doesn’t mean they always travel full but they may be.
These minibusses go fast on a motorway but they do not use the special bus lane on the border and go with the rest of the cars. And that is the catch. You may spend an hour at the border, or you may spend 8 hours (very similar to a bus.) It all depends on the time of the year, day of the week, time of day and the mood of the border control officer.
We actually used this option many times and it has some advantages. The main one is that it can be your last resort, as often you can book the driver even five minutes before departure, providing of course that you are at the pickup point. Pickup points are usually public areas like central train or bus stations. But sometimes it can be a random bus stop.
BlaBlaCar is wildly used in Europe but, don’t expect any foreigners on the ride from Krakow to Lviv or vice versa. I don’t think we have ever seen one at least. So it is going to be a very Ukrainian experience. Some passengers live and work in Poland, so they speak Polish and some English but they are still Ukrainians.
However, we noticed that since these drivers actually earn a living from deliveries and BlaBlaCar, they try to create comfortable conditions by providing TVs, AC when it’s hot or heat when it’s cold, free smoking environment, etc. They also make stops for lunch and bathroom breaks, their vehicles are clean and overall drivers are nice, accommodating people.
How Much Does the Ride Cost?
We noticed that the price may differ depending on the time of the day and type of vehicle. But on average it costs 15-20 euros per person.
One time we were going with a guy who drove RAV 4 and paid slightly more than 25 euros per person. I can’t remember exactly how much since we paid in UAH currency. But that ride was one of the quickest and most comfortable. First of all, because we were the only passengers. The car was new, we had quiet relaxing music in the background (driver asked us before turning it on) and we crossed a border in a small village which was faster. Also, the drive was more picturesque.
The majority of travelers who come by their cars or by buses go through Korczowa-Krakowiec border. We made a detour and crossed a border in Hrushiv which eventually saved us lots of time because our border crossing was only 50 minutes.
TIP: If you are trailing by your own car, the experience of border crossing in Hrushiv is much more pleasant. The quality of the road (14 km) between Hrushiv and Verblyany is bad but still, it’s going to be faster than going through the main crossing in Krakovets’.
WHAT TO KNOW: Most drivers don’t speak English. When booking online, you may need to use a translator.
From Lviv to Krakow By Train – Is It Worth It?
For us personally, train travel Lviv-Krakow-Lviv is probably the best way to travel between those two cities. Although, it has some disadvantages that you need to know about in advance.
There is one train that leaves Lviv at 23:40 pm and arrives in Krakow at 8:02 in the morning. From Krakow to Lviv the schedule is less convenient since it leaves in the middle of the night.
The train is a sleeper carriage designed for three people in each compartment. In Ukraine, when buying a ticket at the railway station, the ticket agent told us that on international routes, they only sell tickets for two people in each compartment. That’s what we believed.
We didn’t understand why at first, but when boarded the train, we understood the reason. The way these compartments are designed is just so uncomfortable.
They have three sleeping shelves on top of each other, making the bottom one very low, then the middle and top shelf is at the very ceiling. There is just not much room up there. Plus you need an actual ladder to climb to that shelf. That ladder is sort of leaning against the wall inside of the compartment (sometimes making a terrible rattling noise as the train speeds up).
The compartment did not have much room for luggage making this cramped space even smaller. At the same time, the train seemed in good condition. It didn’t feel old and had things like power plugs for every passenger, a mirror, even a sink under a small table. So overall we were fine with everything, especially considering that we were alone. Or so we thought.
One hour later we had a passenger to join us. It was a lady who somehow got a ticket for that top shelf. She was a very big lady and climbing and sleeping on the third shelf was just not an option for her. So she refused to sleep at all and said that she was going to sit on my shelf. Mark offered her his middle shelf but she didn’t want to lay down at all and insisted on sitting on my shelf.
It was the night ride and we really hoped to get at least a few hours of sleep before arriving at the border. And it was impossible. Almost right after the border crossing the lady left, so we had the rest of our trip in peace and quiet.
We traveled by train on a few other occasions but only from Lviv to Krakow. Both times our experience was much better. One time we were completely alone and another time there was a guy who slept on the third shelf (and was also unhappy about it) who was very quiet and respectful.
Lviv Krakow Train – Costs, Pros & Cons
The price of the ticket we paid was more expensive than a bus or BlablaCar. We paid around 40 euros per person.
The advantage is the level of comfort you get on a train. But only if neighbors in your compartment are nice people. On a train, you can lay down, use the bathroom, have tea, eat, and just rest. Also, international trains are always very warm in cold weather and have AC during the summer. On a bus or BlaBlaCar, especially during the night trip, you get a different level of comfort.
Another advantage is the actual time of travel. Yes, the train travels 9 hours but those are solid 9 hours that already include border crossing and change of rails.
By the way, the total wait time on the border (including change of rails) takes less than 2 hours. The ride is long because the train goes really slowly, not because it takes a lot of time on the border. In fact, it is usually just one cart connected to a domestic train which goes to Poland. So it doesn’t take a lot of time for officers to check passports.
You don’t need to go outside or change the cart. All passengers stay in comfort during the wait time.
Taking into consideration how much time you can spend traveling by bus or car, traveling by train doesn’t seem to be that long anymore.
The disadvantage is a compartment where you get to sleep. It’s very small. Shelves are wide but climbing on the third shelf (and getting down) is very uncomfortable. If you are traveling with huge suitcases and other people in the compartment have their bags, the luggage may take all your space.
TIP: For train travel, you can’t purchase tickets online, not in Poland, not in Ukraine. You can get them in the ticket booth at the railway station.
Ukraine Poland Border Crossing on Foot
There is another option to take two separate trains and walk across the border in Shehyni/Medyka which we personally haven’t done but some of my friends did, so I am sharing their experience.
Despite the fact that walking across the border seems tedious and difficult, in practice it is often not so difficult and not so long.
Ukraine Poland Crossing Time & Step-by-Step Guide
Before you get to the Ukraine border crossing, your route should look like this: Lviv-Shehyni-Medyka-Przemysl-Rzeszow. From Rzeszow or even Przemysl you can go to Krakow or any other Polish city.
In Lviv, using a marshrutka or taxi, you need to go to the Zakhidna bus station (359 Gorodotska St.). Buses to Shehyni go from there, not from the train station.
Travel to the border to Shehyni will cost you around 50 UAH (less than 2 euros). The first bus leaves at 05.45 in the morning and in 1.5 – 2 hours it gets to the small but hectic town of Shehyni, right near the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Usually, buses arrive at a small station near the border. You can just follow people along the road to the right of the station.
Crossing the border on foot is much faster and easier than by bus or car. If there is no line, then to go through all the formalities takes 20 – 30 minutes.
There are practically no long lines on the Ukrainian side, officers just look at your passport and move on. But the Polish side is usually busier.
TIP: If you have a flight or another connecting train, show the officer your ticket. With it, he/she will let you go to another window.
Catching a Bus From Polish Border
Once you crossed the border you are in Medyka. From there, a bus to Przemysl costs 2 zł (16 UAH). Buses depart on the opposite side from the wooden log cabins which are exchangers and the Biedronka supermarket. They leave often and will take you to Przemysl in 20 minutes. Check the Interbus website for the schedule.
By the way, if you need to change money, it’s better to do it at the border. As my friends told me, the rate at the border is better than in Przemysl or even other cities.
TIP: If you want to save money, buy tickets in advance online.
In Przemysl, the bus stops opposite the railway station, which is connected to the bus station by an underground passage.
From there you can reach any city in Poland: Krakow, Warsaw, Katowice, Wroclaw, Zakopane or any other city by either bus or train. So it’s not only Krakow.
TIP: use the Polish railway website Neobus to check the availability of tickets and prices directly from Przemysl.
If you actually walked across the border in Medyka, I would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts on this!
So, What is the Best Way of Transportation Between Ukraine And Poland If Traveling By Land?
Based on our experience, I am going to say that a train is the best option. Even though it may seem like not the fastest way to travel to Poland from Ukraine and it’s more expensive, it is still the most comfortable way of transportation.
When traveling from Lviv to Krakow at night you can definitely sleep a few hours before the border crossing and a few hours after it. So the journey doesn’t feel that long. And on the border you don’t need to get off the train, the border officer will go through the cart.
Just understand that there are might be small complications in regards to room space. We ourselves have taken this train a few times and only one time we had an issue.
More Ukraine Travel Resources
If you will be spending some time in Lviv, check out my guide on unique places to see in Lviv, the best coffee in Lviv, and where to eat, and day trips to take. I am constantly adding more content on Ukraine topic. If interested to receive updates and learn when the next post is up, you can sign up to receive a newsletter from me.
And have fun! Lviv is an adorable city!