Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

Krakow, Poland October 2011

The Airline and the Airport

At Gatwick South Terminal when I arrived at the gate, boarding for Easyjet had already started. I asked the lady at the ticket desk about skipping the queue and she wasn't bothered. However, airport security offered me assistance and escorted me to the front of the queue.

At Krakow John Paul II International Airport, there were two wheelchair users on the flight and as there was no tunnel, I decided to take the lift down. The airport is very small with only four gates and is very flat throughout, with disabled toilets. A staff member offered to push the trolley which enabled my Communicator Guide free to guide me. We got a taxi to the hotel and the driver happily helped me into the car. The journey is roughly 10 miles and costs 70zl (£15).

On my return, the airport had an information area where disabled passengers can press a button to ask for assistance which has a loop system for the hearing impaired. There were leaflets for disabled people which I was very impressed with. When I boarded the flight by steps I was greeted by a stewardess. The stewardess showed me to a third row seat lifted up the arms of the chairs and helped me sit down by the window. A few minutes later she returned and sat in the aisle seat. She then showed me how to use the oxygen mask and the lifejacket.

At the Hotel

Hotel Kazimerz is a small three star hotel, located half a mile south from the heart of Krakow. The hotel has a flat entrance, with a lift taking you up to all five floors. However, this is not considered suitable for disabled people. There are no rooms adapted for wheelchairs and even the bathroom is too small for proper access if you are unable to use your legs.

Entering the hotel, the staff didn't offer to help us with the cases, they obviously saw my Communicator Guide struggling, yet they did nothing. When we checked in, the lady gave me a first floor room and my Communicator Guide a fourth floor room. We were puzzled as to why the rooms were floors apart due to the fact we booked the holiday together. We enquired about this and within a few minutes it was all sorted and we were both allocated fourth floor rooms.

Getting Around

Krakow is a very small compact city which is very easy to walk. There are plenty of Trams and Buses; however they are not accessible for wheelchair users. Taxis are quite cheap about 15zl (£3.00) for a five minute journey.

Krakow's train station is not suitable for disabled people. Upon entering there are five steps up with no handrail, but they have a fold out lift in place for wheelchair users. There is no loop system for the hearing impaired at the ticket office and access to the platforms are by steps a flight of steps down and up with no lifts. There is quite a big gap when boarding the trains.


Market Square is the heart of Krakow and home to numerous attractions. The accessibility factor here is good. The area has a few cobbles, but is generally flat throughout, with lots of bars, cafes and restaurants around.

At The Virgin of St Mary Church there are three steps down at the main entrance, but has a side entrance for disabled people with a ramp leading down in to the church. It is fairly bright inside which is good for the visually impaired.

Cloth Hall is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. Access to this attraction is generally easy as it is flat to enter, with good lighting inside. This attraction is more like a market selling chess sets and porcelain than the modern shopping mall. The only issue here is that the stalls are a bit too high for wheelchair users to view the items on sale.

At the Wawal Cathedral, the ticket office gave concessions to the disabled by offering a discount for both my Communicator Guide and I. However, the ticket office is inaccessible to wheelchairs as there are five steps to enter, strange!

The cathedral has access for wheelchairs, but where we saw a sign with a wheelchair on a ramp there were four steps up. Apparently, someone has to ask for assistance and the staff will bring out a ramp, allowing the wheelchair to enter. Inside the cathedral, it is fairly well lit, but the floor is quite uneven in places. There are two steps down further in this attraction, and the Zygmunt Bell Tower is not accessible for wheelchair users. The bell tower is a 70 step climb and can be tricky with a lot of overhead beams. The journey down which is a different route, the last half was a spiral staircase.

Access to the Wawal Castle is not very disability friendly. Upon entry, there is a flight of stairs heading up to the lift area. On the second floor there are various rooms, some which require a small step to enter. The descriptive text is quite small making it hard to read for the visually impaired. On the first floor we went on a tour which ran up to an hour and was quite tiring. This tour is not easily accessible as it has steps in various places, upwards and downwards. Plus, there are not many seating areas. Even though the tour was in English, some people found the tour guide difficult to understand. On a more positive note, there are two disabled toilets in the cathedral and castle area located on Wawal Hill.

Market Square Tower is one of a few attractions situated in the heart of Krakow. Due to the age of this building, it is not accessible for wheelchair users. It consists of a 92 step climb to the top with steep steps, quite dimly lit and only a chain handrail for support. As I started to descend a member of staff who was at the top offered to help me. With my Communicator Guide in front making sure I got the next step and the staff member holding on to my arm as I took each step slowly. Without this special assistance, it would have been extremely difficult for me.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp is located in Oswiecim, about 37 miles west of Krakow, an hour and 40 minutes train journey. There is a museum with a ramp and has a disabled toilet. At the information area the lady said we have to go on a tour, but as my Communicator Guide was interpreting for me, she decided to allow us to go together. Access for wheelchair users is not good; the area is very cobbled and access to the main buildings have steps. However, I saw a few wheelchair users who had friends to help them.

Please note the experiences at Auschwitz are extremely horrifying and can be traumatic.

Eating Out

Access to restaurants in Krakow is generally poor with many with a step up to enter and no disabled toilets. Some restaurants in the Market Square are very narrow and limit mobility. During my stay, half the holiday was surprisingly warm and the outside seating was more accessible for disabled people.

Disabled Toilets

There are a few disabled toilets at some of the major attractions with two on Wawal Hill near the castle and cathedral, one at Auschwitz and two at the airport. However, I did not notice any in the busier area of the city, the Market Square.