Getting to Torun from London, via the rest of Poland
July 30, 2008 12:38 AM   Subscribe

I need to get between London and Torun, Poland around the end of the first week of September via public transport, but since I'm moving there for at least a year with lots of stuff, I'm having a hard time deciding the best way to do it.

I'll be landing at London Heathrow from Los Angeles around 11:00 on the morning of Thursday, September 4 and have until Friday evening or so, let's say, to get to Torun; the earlier I arrive, the better, though. I'll be going to my new flat as soon as I arrive in the city. However, I'll have something like 25-30 kilos of luggage in a big rolling suitcase, plus a briefcase-style carry-on.

I've done this trip before, but with only a small backpack, and over an evening and an afternoon with a lot of time wasted in London and Warsaw (arrive at Heathrow, day in London lugging stuff around, train to Luton, flight to Warsaw, hostel, train the next afternoon to Torun). There must be a better way!

So: do I stay at Heathrow and fly to Warsaw from there (seems like the only option from that airport) or do I fly to Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan, or Bydgoszcz from another airport on a budget airline? From there, a coach or a train to Torun? If the train is better: where do big suitcases go on Polish trains, anyway? (What if I booked a first-class seat?) If the coach is better: is there a place online where I can check Polish coach times/fares? And are there coaches that would get me from any of the airports directly to Torun?

Overall, it would be AWESOME if I could get to Torun on Thursday evening without staying somewhere else first. I can speak a tiny amount of Polish, have a phrasebook, and am registered with the Polish Railways e-ticket site if that's at all helpful.

posted by mdonley to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
If you can get to Victoria coach station by 1330, there's a Eurolines coach that goes all the way to Torun, presumably with a certain number of changes, by Friday at 1400. One-way is £78.00. (EU enlargement has its advantages.)

Book at The luggage allowance is "no more than two medium sized suitcases or rucksacks (of no more than 30 x 70 x 20cm in size and 30kg in weight", so if your megabag is over 30kg, best bet is to pack a duffel bag or rucksack inside and use it to offload some of your gear.
posted by holgate at 1:19 AM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: You can fly from Heathrow to Berlin, then take a train from there. You'll arrive in Torun around 11 am if you leave Berlin HB at on Friday Morning 04:23.

There's also a train from Berlin Lichtenberg (no idea where that is) at 21:38 on the Thursday evening and then you'll arrive t 5 am Friday Morning in Torun.

Deutsche Bahn Fahrplan
posted by sebas at 1:30 AM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: However, if there's a possibility of changing your ticket I would recommend flying directly from LA to Berlin or Warsaw.
posted by sebas at 1:31 AM on July 30, 2008

(Yes, it does mean you'll spend an entire day travelling by coach after a long flight. But it looks to me like a whole load less hassle than planes, boats and trains, and you'll get to see lots of Europe.)

To get to Victoria coach station from Heathrow? Again, National Express. Middle of the day, so probably about 45m, which makes it a tight connection, and I doubt the Heathrow Express would save you any time. You might want to suck up the expense of a cab into central London.
posted by holgate at 1:34 AM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: Well, there's the plane, train and bus plus combinations thereof. I don't know how much you have to spend, how much you care about environmental impact, how you feel about long bus journeys etc. so use your own criteria to assess this.

Plane (boo, hiss, carbon footprint etc.)
Toruń has no airport, but Bydgoszcz does and, as I'm sure you know, they're right next to each other. RyanAir fly from London Stanstead to Bydgoszcz, but on Thursday they leave at 1110, so that's no good. The Friday flight leaves at 1845 and gets in at 2145. At the moment the base cost is £51, but RyanAir are notorious for adding on charges for everything, so expect to pay an extra £10 to £20 for checking in baggage, not checking in online, paying with credit card, wearing white socks etc. Bydgoszcz airport is about 45km from Toruń and there's a direct bus at 2230 which gets you into Toruń about an hour later. So that gets you in Friday night.

There are a million other options which I don't have time to research, but your basic tools are:
The WhichBudget website to show you which budget airlines fly between which airports in the UK and Poland
A map of Polish airports to give you an idea of which ones are closest to Toruń
PKP Timetables to get you from the city you fly into to Toruń.

Thinking it through, if your plane is due in at 1100, you can aim to leave Heathrow at 1200, assume 2 hours to get to another airport (could be more or less), then allowing an hour for check-in, you need a flight that departs after 1500 for Poland to have a chance. Flight time is about two hours, add on an hour for the new timezone and your earliest possible arrival time is 1800 Polish time. Another couple of hours to clear the airport and get to the train station in the nearest city and it's 2000. So all being well, you might get to Toruń before midnight Thursday, but equally you might not. Friday would be safer, so add on the cost of staying in London.

This will be easily the most pleasant way to travel IMO. The man in Seat 61 is the shiznit on these matters. His suggested itinerary leaves London at 1257, which is cutting it fine. I think Heathrow to St Pancras is about an hour by the Piccadilly line or you could take the Heathrow express and then the circle line, which is pricier but safer - you could always choose when you get to Heathrow station. Use London Journey planner to double check the journey times. Anyway, if you get the 1257 Eurostar from London, you go via Brussels to Cologne where you arrive at 1945. The sleeper service then leaves at 2228 and you get into Poznań at 0746. Take the 0835 InterCity, change at Kutno and you'll be in Toruń at 1142 Friday. Read the Seat61 link above for all the details.

You've already had information about Eurolines, but there are many other bus lines, mostly small companies operating out of Poland, happy to take you across the continent. Voyager tells me that Pol-Fol will take you from Victoria at 1530 and get you into Toruń at 1600 the next day for 359zł. EuroTicket give the same time and price for a Sindbad bus, so it might be the same service (or it might not, there are a lot of buses plying that route.) You should also speak to your contact in Toruń who can probably give you the names of several more companies.

I need to get up early in the morning, so I'm off to bed now. Please ask for more info if you need it, but I won't be at a computer much over the next five days, so wait for a reply.

Enjoy Torun, it may well be the most beautiful city in Poland.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:42 AM on July 31, 2008

Best answer: D'oh. I wrote all that and then forgot to answer the other bits of your question.

There is plenty of space for suitcases on Polish trains - luggage racks above your head. And plenty of beefy young Polish men ready to show a foreigner that lifting 30kg above your head is not hard at all...

I don't believe any of the Poland - UK coach services go to airports. They mostly serve Poles, who would fly from Poland if they wanted to fly. They also compete on price and airports bus stations are expensive places to berth.

If you can find a perfect flight, you might get to Toruń Thursday night, but my preference would be to take the train, arrive before noon on Friday and take a look at Europe as you go. You'll get a good night's sleep, a few hours in Cologne and generally a journey to remember.

posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:51 AM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: Great options, everyone! Thanks a lot.

Either I'll fly to Berlin if I can find a cheap deal from Heathrow and get the train from there after staying overnight, or do a London-Brussels-(overnight)-Berlin-Poznan-Torun train trip, which seems like quite an adventure!
posted by mdonley at 2:56 PM on July 31, 2008

For future reference, RyanAir goes from Birmingham to Bydgoszcz, though it looks like they currently only fly on Friday evenings. There's a direct bus from Heathrow to Birmingham airport which takes 2.5 hours.

Also, click4sky goes from Heathrow to Prague, from where there are sleepers to Poland, though I'm not sure how best to connect with Toruń.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:01 AM on August 1, 2008

Response by poster: Complete itinerary for posterity:

September 4, 2008

• London Heathrow-Berlin Tegel, British Airways (flight 986), departs 16:05, arrives 18:55, $140 from the US British Airways site (though I did see the exact same flight for $10 less on the American Airlines site later!)

Heart of Gold Hostel, Mitte, one night in an eight-bed dorm, €15 (I actually really like this place having stayed there twice before, and this one's 100 meters from an U-Bahn station with an elevator, so it's easy with luggage! They've got a huge luggage room with lockers in the back, too.)

September 5, 2008

• Berlin Ostbahnhof-Poznań Glowny on the Berlin-Warszawa Express (train EC 45), departs 12:40, arrives 15:32, €35 in second class; photos of/info about the train here

• Poznań Glowny-Toruń Glowny (train P 65104), departs 16:07, arrives 18:21, about €15 in second class

The key to making this work was that the Deutsche Bahn website let me purchase the tickets online without showing me the price (though I knew approximately what it would cost because I'd searched for the trains individually on the German and Polish rail websites) and charged my card only when they mailed the tickets to me in California a few days after I finished the online transaction (though they e-mailed me a receipt with no prices on it and a few e-confirmations).

On the online timetable search page, it lists the train, but even though it says "Total price cannot be calculated" (screenshot of timetable), it still lets you process the whole thing (screenshot of itinerary confirmation page before signing in) and counts it as a valid booking and all that.

It's easier to do all this as well as save itineraries online if you create an account on their website, but it's super-quick and it isn't a problem even if you live outside Europe. I received the tickets about a week after they were mailed - and for just €3.50 for delivery to my normal mailbox! - so you'd need enough lead time to make this work, a few weeks at least.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by mdonley at 12:19 AM on August 22, 2008

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