Chopin Airport in Warsaw is not very far away from the center – it’s only a few kilometres. Yet – Warsaw is a very busy city and in rush hours traffic jams in some certain places are very high. Once it took me over an hour to get from Warsaw’s Central Station to Chopin Airport by taxi. But it was before the times where some easier solutions have been introduced.
Euro 2012 championships turned out to be absolutely beneficial for many places in Poland, including Warsaw. We got new stadiums, but also some things that are still useful for Polish people: prettier and more functional bus / train stations, new roads and better public transport. So today, as I had a pleasure to travel this way many times – I would like to give you more details on SKM.
SKM is a train transportation that operates on some certain routes – if you are willing to get to Chopin Airport you need to choose one of the following lines: S2 or S3. And here is something very, very important! If you are going from the center, you should make sure which train you are taking as S2 goes via Warszawa Śródmieście station and S3 stops at Warszawa Centralna. Those two stations are very close to each other (you can get from one to another one is less than 5 minutes and you can do it without leaving the platform area as there are passages below the ground that connect both), but still – if you realize the last minute that you are on a wrong station – it might be too late to catch a train.
SKM is an abbreviation of Szybka Kolej Miejska (which means: Fast Urban Railways) and it is fast indeed. The route from the center of Warsaw to the airport should not take more than 25-30 minutes while with a car it can take more with rush hours like it happened for me twice.
The trains that are used on SKM routes are supplied by Polish company PESA that also produces regular trains and trams. PESA is the company that produces DART train that was already called “Polish Pendolino” by some. All I can say is that DART is definitely more comfortable than Pendolino, but that’s a thing for another post. The name of SKM’s train is “elf” which is exactly what you think of – so an elf. Inside it looks a little bit like an underground train.
The picture was taken on the late morning on Sunday, so it was not crowded at all. Usually, there are more people however I used to travel with SKM in rush hours and it was not that super crowded. The reason might be the fact that the train itself is very long and many people can get inside.
When we are at space – there is definitely more than in regional trains used on the route between my home town of Suwałki and Białystok. And also – much more space than in the city buses. Take a look at two pictures, they show my seat and the seats on the opposite side.
So as you can see – producers of the train thought about the people who might not find it too comfortable to travel on seats without enough space. It is also good if you are travelling with some luggage – you can just put it in front of you or, if there is not enough space for it, you can simply sit on the seats I shown on the first picture.
The train from outside looks very modern, colourful and the trip with it is quite quiet. As I already mentioned – these trains are very long and can fit in a lot of people. Take a look at the train pictures I took after I left it at Warsaw Chopin Airport. You can also see a little bit of the train terminal that gives the easy access to the airport (now it is even connected by the passage with the arrivals and departures hall in a renovated part of the airport).
It is also very convenient to catch those trains as they stop on Warszawa Wschodnia (Eastern Station), Warszawa Centralna or Śródmieście (two centrally located stations) and Warszawa Zachodnia (Western Station). And in case you need to arrive to one of these stations by public transport – you can even use the same ticket for SKM and bus / tram / metro. It is possible as purchasing of full ZTM ticket (4,40 PLN, around 1-1,10 EUR) allows you to travel with various sources of transport for 75 minutes.
There are also Koleje Mazowieckie that would go to the airport, however the system of ticket acceptance there is very complicated – for a single ride you would need to buy a separate ticket from Koleje Mazowieckie’s cash desk or ticket machine.
How to make sure you are on the right train?
- Painting of SKM is always the same: so it is white-yellow-red with red ZTM logo
- They always have a letter “S” at the beginning of the route number (Koleje Mazowieckie start with KM)
- Interior of the train is the same as in the pictures above
How to get a ticket for SKM and what are the rules?
- You can buy a ticket at any ticket machine (they are everywhere in Warsaw) or in any kiosk. This would be the same type of ticket as for any other public transportation in Warsaw. As an opposite to many ticket machines (e.g. in Sofia) you can use the ticket anytime you want and its validity starts at the moment when it is validated.
- You can also buy a ticket inside the train as there are ticket machines – just note that it is possible that machine would not accept cash – then you would need to pay with card
- If you are traveling from Warsaw Western to Chopin Airport – it should be absolutely enough to purchase a 20 minute ticket – this way you would pay 3,40 PLN instead of 4,40 PLN. You save like 0,25 euro, but still – that’s something ;)
- After you purchase a ticket – you must validate it. There are validators throughout the train and they are yellow. If you don’t validate your ticket and there is a ticket control, you will pay a fine
- I had a control just once, but I am not using SKMs very often. Still – it’s better to buy ticket then to pay a fine, as controls might happen. I already had 3 in Warsaw in trams.
Alternatives and cons
- An alternative option to a train if you want to use a public transport is a bus. The most popular one is 175 and it would take around 30 minutes to get to the airport (unless you get stuck in a traffic jam). The other ones are 148, 188 and 331.
- You can also take a taxi and it should not take more than 20 minues in normal circuimstances. However regular taxis might charge a lot. If the taxi driver is not trying to rip you off – it will be 40-50 PLN (10-12,5 EUR). Otherwise – numbers like 20-25 euro might happen, that’s way too much.
- The alternative is to take Uber – I paid 21 PLN last time when I did that (so around 5 euro)
- SKM might be a bad option if you are in a hurry – S2 goes twice an hour and S3 – just once per every hour.
- SKM does not go at night either (the last ones are after 11 pm) – so at night there is a night bus (N32) to the airport or a taxi / Uber available.
So taking all of the above in consideration, I would always recommend SKM, unless… you are in a hurry, you don’t like public transport or you just have a plane somewhere in the middle of the night and you have to use the alternative option. Otherwise – it’s possibly the best option to get to Chopin airport.