Getting there: Bus tickets
Leave aside 1 day for the Auschwitz concentration camp because it takes about 1-1.5 hours to get there. It would be best to get your bus tickets beforehand at the bus station so that you would know well in advance what time to be at the bus station. I think buses depart every half an hour if I’m not wrong.
We didn’t and it was a mad rush catching the bus because the bus was going to leave soon, and you could only buy tickets on the bus itself with cash. So we were running around trying to find an ATM machine to withdraw cash and the bus actually left but luckily, the bus driver was kind enough to stop and let us board again. The bus ride is 14 zlotys one-way.
Make sure you have enough money for your bus ride back as well! And it’s better to buy 2 one-way tickets so that you have the flexibility of choosing when to leave.
Between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau), there is a free shuttle bus that runs every half an hour. There are some restaurants there, so you can have lunch after Auschwitz I before taking the bus to Auschwitz II!
Get a guided tour
We regretted not booking for the audio guides because we didn’t know that they changed their policy. Previously, you could rent the audio guides for 5 zlotys in English to go around but now, all audio guides are literally guided by a guide who speaks into the device and it transmits into the headsets.
We didn’t know better and went into Auschwitz without a guide, which I think defeats the purpose because we didn’t know what was going on most of the time. Luckily, we found guides who were speaking in English and stuck as close to the group as possible so that we could at least hear some description and explanation.
Guided tours are only available after 10am, and you have to book in advance online because slots get snapped up really fast!
We didn’t spend a long time in Auschwitz though, because the weather was just way too terrible to be outside.
However, one of the descriptions read, “The Jews were stripped naked and forced to work in winter. Occasionally, they will be doused in water. Many of them froze to death”.
Being in Auschwitz on a cold, wintry day where the rain was pouring, it kind of put us in their shoes. If we were already miserable whilst being wrapped out in scarves and coats, can you imagine how they felt? Being out in the cold with no protection from the external elements and then being doused with water.
Some of the exhibits really tugged at your heartstrings as well, because it was really visual, like you see rooms full of shoes, and luggages, with people thinking that they will get it back when they arrive, but they never did, and most of them never survived either.
Birkenau is completely outdoors, where you can see the train tracks that brought the people to the gas chambers, and you can see the ruins and remnants left of the gas chambers where thousands of people were gassed to death.
Definitely worth a visit to realize the gravity of war and its’ atrocities.