This week I’m “liveblogging” my trip to Ukraine. Unlike traditional reports, these posts will be shorter and more frequent.
I’m pleased to report that I was able to secure a nonstop train ticket from Warsaw to Kyiv just hours before departure. What a relief…I was bracing myself for a long and uncomfortable bus ride.
Booking A Train Ticket From Warsaw To Kyiv
I took an Uber from Warsaw Chopin Airport to Warszawa Centralna, where I hoped to find some way to Kyiv. There is a daily evening departure that goes from Warsaw to Kyiv with sleeper cars and requires no change of trains. Polrail sells tickets online for this journey, but for days it has shown sold out.
I journeyed to the train station thinking it was likely futile, but worth a shot: maybe there would be a last-minute cancellation?
At the main station, I found a line at the ticket counter, but it moved quickly.
When I reached the front, an older woman just stared at me and nodded. I greeted her in Polish and asked if she spoke English or German. She shook her head.
I then said, “Kyiv.”
Her eyes opened wide.
She said something to me in Polish…no idea what…but I responded, “Teraz. Dzisiaj.” No idea if I said it correctly, but I tried to convey “now, today.”
She began furiously typing on her computer and about a minute later, pointed toward the credit card reader sitting outside the booth.
What had she found? Was there nonstop space or would I have to make multiple connections? I asked her how much and she just pointed again to the credit card reader.
Oh well, fine.
I tapped my card and this time it worked.
She printed my tickets (both a train ticket and seat reservation) and handed it to me.
She told me something and I was able to catch Warszawa Zachodnia, which is the Warsaw West station. I knew some trains departed from that station, so I pointed west and said, “Inna stacja?” (other station?). She nodded.
It appeared I was booked into a sleeper car with three beds. Fine by me. The ticket cost 215zł (which hit my card as 48USD exactly).
I stopped for a flat white at Ministry of Coffee before proceeding to the station.
Next stop: Warszawa Zachodnia
And the nonsense continues…
Yay! Can’t wait to for the next installment
Awesome! Keep em coming!
Wooohooo!! Be careful!!
Interesting you had to go to Zachodnia. Historically trains would either start in Zachodnia or Wschodnia, then stop in Centralna, then the other one on the way out of town depending on the direction. I KNOW Kyiv used to stop in Centralna. Was there anything special (security or otherwise) you saw at Zachodnia?
What’s wrong with you?? Seriously.
Dumb dumb dumb. What some people will do for page clicks.
What do you know about Ukraine?
Apparently a lot more than you do
What is ypur point to proove?? Frankly going willingly into war torn country while having wife amd 2 kids i find irresponsible. My personal view.If you single no problem. Anyway slowly opening popcorn.
From the image of your reservation, it *looks like* your train will (has already?) depart(ed) from “Warszawa Wsc” — which should be an abbreviation for Wschodnia, the EASTERN railway station. The one from which the only daily “nonstop” train to Kyiv I know of departs.
If you went to Zachodnia instead, I hope either that I am wrong about this, or that you were able to sort out all out in time to get back to Wschodnia…
I also look forward to hearing about your experience on the “non-stop” service. Clue: the rails in Poland are a different gauge (!) than the rails in Ukraine, yet you remain in the same compartment, on the same railway car, all the way to Kyiv.
Puzzle me that.
But you knew you were in for an adventure!
Matt made it! I explained previously that sometimes a slot/bed/seat may get taken by someone taking the train across the border and they charge a premium for that. After all, in theory someone might take the train from Warzszawa to a city just across the border in Ukraine, and then from there someone new might go to Kiev. So that person who was holding up that slot may have cancelled and he managed to score a last minute ticket. He could have taken a train to the Polish side of the border, gotten that uncomfortable bus ticket across the border, and then hopped across and continued from the Ukrainian side…
I should have added as a tip for him to download the PKP app on his phone and he could pay that way (and with his credit card!) and he could have used this to search for ticket openings or even go online. I (think) that PKP website does allow tickets to be saved in your Apple Wallet. Oh well, sometimes I forget this stuff too and kick myself.
In answer to your rail gauge change: They do that while the train is on the tracks. It takes about 15 minutes somehow. You don’t have to switch trains. I also think it seems like he’s supposed to catch East, rather than West station. I hope it works out.
I took the same overnight “nonstop” train to Kyiv myself in November and was fascinated by the 4 hour “whistle stop” to swap out the bogies — about which I was completely uninformed before the trip.
Spent most of that time — wide awake, in the wee hours around midnight — on the open platform at the end of the car, watching the workers hoist heavy equipment to and from, so the train could roll on to Kyiv on Soviet-era Russian gauge rails.
So much hard, manual work to get a trainload of people back and forth. #RESPECT
They pull the train into a shed and swap out the bogies at the Ukrainian border on the IC 68 (Kyiv Express) to accommodate the gauge change.
I did a similar trip in December, but leaving from Chisinau rather than Warsaw. One of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and one I would absolutely repeat now that I know a bit more about what to expect.
Despite the negativity in the comments on this post and your last, I experienced literally none of these sentiments from those within Ukraine. Everyone outside UA will think you’re crazy for going, but those actually there are happy to see visitors and will welcome you warmly.
You’ll be amazed by how “normal” life seems in the major cities. Truly a testament to the strength of the Ukrainian nation. The spirit of patriotism and unity is really inspiring, and depending on where you go, the damage done by the war is incredibly moving.
Best wishes for a safe trip, and I hope you find it to be as positive of an experience as I did.
Thank you, Kyle.
Nothing in life is risk free and I admire those with an adventurous spirit. Looking forward to following your journey. Wishing you safe travels and stay warm. Carpe diem!
I’m not going to be as critical of Matthew as others. It’s not the same call that I would make, especially if I still had young kids but I don’t live in his head or his relationship with his wife,
I don’t have any burning desire to travel to Ukraine while there is still an active shooting war, but I do plan on returning to flight school and getting my pilot’s license once my kids are out of my house and on their own. That’s probably almost as dangerous as going to Kyiv right now.
Safe travels Matthew. You are on my prayers. All will be good.
He acts like he is the only American in Ukraine when there are literally dozens of Americans blogging about going into war torn Ukraine. You are not unique, my friend.
Don’t make stupid assumptions or put words in my mouth Mr. Justice.
It’s important to give some notion of normal life to people of Ukraine. Being a visitor in this time is a sign of support to the nation in distress. Even a small token like spending money for food and accommodation can support businesses. Be safe.
ukraine has no right to even exist! It’s already patient and heroic of Putin that he has allowed this to happen since 1991. Fuck you
Run along troll Putin’s time is coming to an end
I am enjoying the posts. Life is full of risks and rewards. It’s no different to abseiling or ropes courses etc. a risk of injury tjst is probably minimal.
We walked with kids along the streets of Saigon in December. No footpaths often. People would probably say risky but we felt safe and watched where we were going. And loved the experience. Where are the naysayers drawing the line here? Ukraine bad? What risk in adventure is too much ?
I don’t understand the negativity. Matthew is an adult and perfectly entitled to make his own decisions based on his own assessment of risk. Keep this series going, Mathew – it’s very entertaining! Oh, and I hope you find great coffee in Kyiv.
Honey, kiev is destroyed and there is no basic food, let alone coffee
That’s just objectively not true.
That will do troll, that will do
I’ve purchased electronic circuits from a designer in Kyiv several times during this war, most recently last month. Interesting how he’s able to not only design and build such things, but also ship them to the US with me receiving them within 12 days of order.
I don’t understand how I could spell your name correctly, and then incorrectly in the same post – sorry!
Kiev not kyiv, and why do you even speak polish?
Kyiv is the Ukrainian spelling genius. Please never comment again.
Putin whack job. Hope you don’t get thrown out of a sixteen story window anytime soon. Seems to be happening pretty frequently these days ….
Matthew isn’t exactly live blogging this. He said it would be blogged via delay.
Could he have been part of the recent Congressional delegation to Ukraine as support staff? Congress visited a day after Biden did
I respect and follow you for your work as an enthusiastic travel writer. But what’s the point here? Are you going to show us pictures of bombed houses, or pictures of daily life in Kiew? For what? To proof you as an adventurer (you are a „Gaffer“ – let your wife tell you what that means in English). To support the people in Ukraine? (You have no political influence, sorry). Please, I want to continue reading this aviation and travel blog. Show some decency and abort your trip. There is nothing you can show us, which does not proof you as an attention seeker or gaffer. There is dramatic lack of resources in Ukraine, and there will be a day when there will be again enough of power/heat/water to also pamper you in an downtown 5 star hotel.
I held off for months on a trip to Ukraine thinking that this was the case (resources too limited to support foreign guests), but I found that this is not the case in reality (both with contacts on the ground before my arrival and upon my arrival)…it simply is not true.
Safe travels anyway.
Hey as an Israeli I will not go to Israel when there is war with Hamas a despite the iron dome. Ukraine as far as I know is does not have the iron dome. I will not call you stupid. I would say you are a family man if I recall. Stay safe.
Longtime reader, first time commenter. I am befuddled at the number of ignorant commenters who slander the author. Ukraine, while risky, is not off-limits to Americans. It is not a selfish act to travel there. What travel does not include some risks? It is not “disaster tourism.” Perhaps no better way to convince the naysayers than to report that our very own United States Department of Justice is recruiting an attorney to work in Kyiv as a Resident Legal Advisor?
I am not aware of the blog’s policy regarding links so I will not include one, but if you search USDOJ careers and filter the site to show attorney positions overseas, this vacancy is the first that appears.