Wrocław's centre is walkable but if you stay and/or want to visit places outside the centre, the trams are the most convenient means of transport. The city has a combined tram and bus network but I have to admit that I entirely relied on the trams and never needed to use any bus apart from the airport line 106. Anyway, both can be used on the same tickets. For the night network other fares apply.
Each tram line runs every 20 minutes during the day, every 15 minutes during rush hours. At most stops there is more than one line. The vehicles in use are a varied mix. You’ll see everything from new, shiny, ultra modern trams to oldies of the „shake, rattle and roll“ type that were roaming the tracks already in the socialist era. The trams reach more or less everything of interest. There are several attractions outside the immediate city centre, so the use of the transport network saves a lot of walking and precious time.
Trams are also great for people-watching. Everyone uses them, there are all kinds of people on board. I was amazed at the politeness I watched and experienced myself. While in my country few kids would even give their seat to an elderly person with obvious walking difficulties, Polish youngsters have been taught better manners. Everyone is observant if an elderly passenger boards. When a young man and a woman around 50 (= me) aim for that one empty seat, the lady gets the seat.
Polish men are still dżentelmen. Yes this is how they spell „gentleman“, LOL. However, Polish men know much better what a real gentleman is, than their mates from countries that know how to spell it right. Polish men of all ages have preserved that certain chivalry towards ladies which is almost lost and forgotten in our Western societies. Being treated like a lady, being 'taken' to a cafe or restaurant by someone who is just a friend, being offered a seat on the tram - I enjoyed that very much. I hear that even the handkiss is still in use now and then, but I have never observed that, let alone been offered one.
Once I got into a situation that describes the Polski Dżentelmen in a nutshell. I was sitting on the tram, one of the rattling oldies, when an old man with a crutch boarded with some difficulties because of the high steps at the door. I immediately offered my seat, so did the girl behind me, but the man put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me back on my seat, then the same to the girl, and he only accepted the seat from a young man further behind us. He could hardly walk, but taking a seat from a lady - never!
What are those Stickers?
Most trams sport football stickers attached to the side mirrors and to the front window. Śląsk („Silesia“) Wrocław is the local football (soccer) team and very popular in the city. Their colours are green, white and red, with green being the main colour of jerseys and fan t-shirts. On match days the green colour will be impossible to overlook in the streets...The team is playing in the first Polish league. Their greatest recent success was winning the Polish championship in 2012. Since the Euro Cup 2012 and the completion of the new Stadion Miejski in the western suburbs of the city, this arena has become the team's new site for home matches.
Are the tram drivers all Śląsk supporters? No, not necessarily. But the stickers protect their trams from attacks by local hooligans! Instead of causing trouble the Śląsk fans would rather protect such a tram from the opponent‘s supporters. That indicates that hooligans exist and are a problem. I once ended up in a tram full of Śląsk fans after a match, though, and they were totally peaceful, many families with children among them.
The transport network runs an online route planner which is simply genius. The weblink is https://wroclaw.jakdojade.pl It can be switched to English and German. You enter your starting point and destination and the hour and then get a detailed description of the route. You can enter a bus or tram stop, or a street address anywhere in the city, or set the markers on the interactive map. You will receive a list of connections, including informations on fares and tickets, alternative lines and routes, and when the next bu or tram will be running should you miss a connection. For every stop you have to use, there is a separate little map that shows where exactly your tram or bus will stop. This is particularly useful if you have to change, as there may be up to half a dozen different stops in a big street crossing.
Fares and Tickets
There are a couple of particularities that tram and bus travellers should know.
- A single ticket is 3 PLN. This is for one single ride and does not allow changing tram/bus. Then there are timed tickets - 30, 60, 90 minutes etc., 24 hours, the longest is 168 hours (= 1 week). All these can be bought from ticket machines at the stops, from ticket machines on board, or from (some) kiosks. These cover the whole city, there is no division into zones.
- The 24-hour-ticket is of most interest to short-term visitors, it costs less than 3 single rides. A one-week ticket costs the same as 10 single rides, thus really worth considering if you are staying for a couple of days.
- For longer periods, i.e. monthly passes etc., you need to obtain an electronic Urban Card with passport photo which is then uploaded at ticket machines.
- The language of the ticket machines can be changed to English, German, and Russian.
- In the streets, the ticket machine is often not directly at the tram or bus stop but located on a nearby street corner. Look for a 'box' with a blue top.
- Ticket machines outside take cash and cards, while those on board accept only 'plastic', no cash!!!
- The ticket must be stamped immediately when you board the tram or bus in one of the yellow boxes as in photo 5.
- For large luggage (rule of thumb: items that are too big to place on your lap) you need to buy an additional luggage ticket for 1.50 PLN.
- School and university students can buy reduced tickets at 50% of the normal fare, but only if they hold and carry either a Polish Student ID, ISIC, Euro26, or a foreign university card together with a certified translation into Polish.
Ticket machines are often blocked or broken or won't accept a foreign credit card or are in a bad mood or suffer from hiccups... It is wise to carry a spare unused ticket, just in case you can't buy one when you need it.
Ticket inspectors are said to be merciless and have zero understanding for ignorant tourists travelling with invalid tickets. I was controlled only once and did not notice any particular problems, but better have a correct ticket.
Update and alert, Februar 2018: Through the Tripadvisor forum (credits to TA member JakWilk) I just learned that the trams and buses in Wroclaw have recently been equipped with new ticket machines that take "paypass credit cards" only. They do not issue paper tickets any more but store the ticket on the card. If you do not have a paypass credit card you cannot buy tickets on board. The ticket machines at the stops, however, still work the way they used to. Best, buy your ticket before boarding.
I have not seen these new machines in operation myself. So please recheck with more knowledgeable sources than me.
Jas i Małgosia in ul. Szewska in front of the Institute of Art History
Historical trams from the pre-war era, carefully restored and maintained, can be spotted on Wrocław's tram rails every now and then. On weekends they do round trips for everyone, you can ride them from the city centre to Hala Stulecia and back. Special tickets are needed, though, normal tram tickets aren't valid. I imagine they can also be rented for groups.
The tram cars have names. I have seen three different ones. The red „Baba Jaga“ was the one I encountered most often. Then there is a yellowish-white tram named „Juliusz“, and a double streetcar with hanger which are known as „Jas i Małgosia“ (Hansel and Gretel) like the two houses in Rynek.
Pit stop for a pizza? For Baba Jaga or her driver?