10 Things you need to know before visiting Auschwitz and The Salt Mines

Auschwitz in Poland

We visited Auschwitz and The Salt Mines in one day as we only had four full days in this beautiful city, and so, sadly we were short on time. We booked through Krakow Tours whom we highly recommend and whilst a busy full day, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, there were a few things we wish we had known prior to visiting, you know the kind of things that just make your day run that little smoother and make the whole experience much more enjoyable?

The salt Mines in Poland

So we decided to share the top things we wish we had known before booking!

1) When visiting Auschwitz, you cannot take in a bag any larger than an A4 piece of paper. There are security checks and you will be turned away so leave larger bags back at your apartment.

2) For both locations and I cannot emphasise this enough, wear walking boots or extremely comfortable walking shoes. You are on your feet for hours in both locations and having sore feet is no fun. I know from personal experience.

3) Whilst you can take bottled water into Auschwitz you cannot take cans of any description, eat food or smoke. There is, however, a restaurant / café at the entrance where you can get a quick snack or bite to eat.

4) Having a tour guide at Auschwitz as far as we could tell is not optional. The entry fee includes a guide and we didn’t see anyone wandering around by themselves. We have read that there is a way around this by turning up very early or late in the day but it’s not something we researched any further. Food for thought if you don’t fancy a guide. Visiting the Salt Mines, it is mandatory to have a tour guide. According to the official website, it’s not hard to get lost and let’s be honest, no one wants to get lost 327 metres underground do they?

5) You can take photographs at Auschwitz without the use of flash in most areas. There are certain areas, as you would expect that you cannot, and this is clearly signposted. In the Salt Mines, you are free to take photographs but do need a permit to enter the Chapel which you can buy right outside this majestic room, so no pre-planning is required. Perms cost just 10PLN which is just £2.

6) The salt mines are made up of 800 spiralled steps down into the mine and over 2km of meandering corridors. If you have any physical impairment that may make this difficult, either avoid it or you can book onto a specific tour which makes certain adaptations that make the tour accessible for anyone who may find it difficult or that are unable to do the full tour. You do need to book this in advance but there Is additional information on their website.

7) The toilets at Auschwitz are payable so try and carry some small change although there are staff tending it so they may give change if absolutely required.

8) Many Jews visit Auschwitz daily in an effort to explore the origins of their identity. Many Jewish families have ancestors that were taken to Auschwitz and so for many, this is an extremely emotional time. It’s important to remember that not everyone visiting Auschwitz is visiting in order to learn more about the history and show their respect. For some, it’s a much more personal experience and it’s important to be aware of this when making your way around the camps.

9) If you need to go to the toilet before your salt mine tour, or even if you don’t, go anyway. The stairs go on forever, and the walk even longer and it is a long while before you hit any toilets down there.

10) Claustrophobia. Or fear of lifts. The mining elevator aka, the lift going back up at the end of the tour in the salt mines is an interesting experience. And a tight one. It’s very small, pretty old and they cram a fair few people in. If you are afraid of lifts this one may not be for you.

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