- For other places with the same name, see Sweden (disambiguation).
|Currency||Swedish Krona (SEK)|
|Population||9,555,893 (2012 Census)|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz (European plug)|
|Time zone||UTC +1|
Sweden (Swedish: Sverige) is the largest of the Nordic countries by size and population, with about 9.5 million citizens. It borders Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark via a bridge-tunnel across Öresund. The Baltic Sea, including the Gulf of Bothnia, lies east of Sweden, separating it from most of Finland. The northernmost part of Sweden is in the Arctic.
The three traditional lands of Sweden, Götaland, Svealand and Norrland, are further divided into 25 provinces, landskap, which largely define Swedish people's cultural identity.
The provinces mostly coincide with the 20 counties, län, the mid-level political entities. The municipality, kommun, is the bottom-level political entity, typically consisting of a town or a city, and the surrounding countryside, including small villages. Some municipalities used to hold city (stad) privileges, and still style themselves as such, though there is no legal distinction. Most municipalities have their own visitor centre.
Though Swedish people rarely have strong feelings for their country, most of them are patriotic for their province or hometown, and appreciate anything good that a traveller can say about them.
| Norrland (Norrbotten County, Västerbotten County, Västernorrland County, Jämtland County and Gävleborg County)|
A sparsely populated area spanning more than half of Sweden. Lots of wilderness, with forests, lakes, great rivers, enormous marshes and tall mountains along the border to Norway. Great for outdoor life and winter sport.
| Svealand (Dalarna, Närke, Värmland, Södermanland, Stockholm County, Uppsala County and Västmanland)|
The central part of the country and homeland of the Swedes, with cities such as Stockholm, Uppsala and Örebro, and a heritage of mining and metallurgy.
| Götaland (Blekinge, Småland, Öland, Östergötland, Halland, Västergötland, Bohuslän and Dalsland)|
Homeland of the Geats and probable place of origin of the Goths. Many cultural and historical sights from Medieval cities and cathedrals to amusement parks, and Sweden's largest lakes, Vänern and Vättern.
| Scania (Part of Götaland) |
Sweden's breadbasket and gateway to the continent, with partly Danish heritage.
| Gotland (Part of Götaland) |
A limestone island, with a scenery unlike anything on the mainland.
- Stockholm is Sweden's capital and largest city, spread out over several islands.
- Gothenburg (Göteborg) is Sweden's largest port and industrial centre, second in population.
- Karlskrona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the base for Sweden's navy since the 17th century.
- Kiruna is Sweden's northernmost and maybe most unusual city; known for a large mine, a space flight centre, and the Jukkasjärvi ice hotel.
- Linköping has a large university, and is the birthplace of Sweden's aviation industry.
- Malmö, with a quarter million inhabitants, is connected to the Danish capital Copenhagen by the Öresund Bridge.
- Umeå is a university city in Norrland.
- Uppsala is a lively pretty university city with a Viking Age heritage, the fourth largest city in Sweden.
- Visby is the only city on the Gotland island, a Medieval centre of commerce with an impressive city wall.
- Örebro is an industrial city with an impressive Medieval castle.
- Abisko is a national park at Sweden's northernmost edge.
- Bohuslän is Sweden's most productive fishery, rich in maritime wildlife.
- Ekerö is a freshwater archipelago with the Royal family's residence Drottningholm, and Viking Age settlement Birka.
- Laponia is Western Europe's largest wilderness, in the Arctic.
- Siljansbygden is an archetype of Swedish folk culture in central Dalarna.
- Stockholm archipelago consists of islands all shapes and sizes.
- Sälen is a ski resort known for the start of Vasaloppet.
- Ystad is a picturesque waterfront town, known from the Wallander series.
- Åre is one of Sweden's largest ski resorts, with 44 lifts.
- Öland is Sweden's second largest island, with long beaches.
The "Nordic model" of economics and social policy was largely developed by Swedish social democrats and liberals during the early 20th century. The foundation is a strong welfare state, combined with market economics. Swedish society, as it has become through this policy, is often described as "folkhemmet", comparing solidarity in the society with that in a family:
The Home's foundation is community and unity. The good Home knows no privileged or expelled ones, no favourites or step-children. There, no one looks down on one another. There, no one tries to get an advantage at another's cost, the strong does not oppress or plunder the weak. – Per Albin Hansson, Social Democratic Prime Minister 1932—1946.
In ancient times, Sweden was inhabited by the Suiones (svear) in Svealand and the Geats (götar) in Götaland. Some of these participated in Viking expeditions (see Vikings and the Old Norse), and are said to have founded the first kingdoms in Russia.
Around AD 1000, Christianity replaced Norse paganism, Suiones and Geats united under one king (probably Olof Skötkonung), and the first cities were founded; among them Sigtuna, Uppsala and Skara. Swedish kings christianized and annexed Finland. During the 14th and 15th century, Sweden was a subject of the Kalmar Union together with Norway and Denmark. King Gustav Vasa liberated Sweden from Danish rule, and was elected as king in 1523, and is regarded as the founder of modern Sweden. He also reformed the church to Lutheran-Protestant. Today's Sweden is a secular state with very few church-goers.
During the 17th century Sweden rose as a Great Power, through several successful wars, where kings such as Gustavus Adolphus and Charles X annexed Scania, Halland and Bohuslän from Denmark, as well as temporary possessions in the Baltic countries and northern Germany. In the early 18th century, an alliance of Denmark, Poland and the Russian Empire defeated Swedish king Charles XII, marking the end of the Swedish Empire. In 1809, Sweden was again defeated by Russia, which annexed Finland. The country has now been at peace since 1814; having long remained outside military alliances (including both World Wars), the country has a high peace profile, with internationally renowned names such as Raoul Wallenberg, Dag Hammarskjöld, Olof Palme and Hans Blix. Sweden is a monarchy by constitution, but king Carl XVI Gustaf has no executive power.
Sweden is a developed post-industrial society with an advanced welfare state. The standard of living and life expectancy rank among the highest in the world. Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, but decided by a referendum in 2003 not to commit to the European Monetary Union and the euro currency. Leadership of Sweden has for the larger part of the 20th century been dominated by the Social Democratic Party, which started out at the end of the 19th century as a labor movement (coalitions of centre-right liberal/conservative parties held the power 1976–1982 and 2006–2014).
Sweden has a strong tradition of being an open, yet discreet country. Citizens sometimes appear to be quite reserved at first, but once they get to know who they are dealing with, they'll be as warm and friendly as you'd wish. Privacy is regarded as a key item and many visitors, for example mega-stars in various lines of trade, have many times realized that they mostly can walk the streets of the cities virtually undisturbed.
Sweden houses the Nobel Prize committee for all the prizes except the peace prize, which is hosted in Oslo, a memento of the Swedish-Norwegian union that was dissolved in 1905.
The year in Sweden
- Swedish summer is the most beautiful day of the year. – Swedish joke
- See also: Winter in the Nordic countries
Weather in Sweden is typically cold from October to April, but in the summer (late May to early September) temperature lies around 20 degrees C. If you like snow, go to Norrland or Dalarna in January to April.
Daylight varies greatly during the year. In Stockholm, the sun sets at 15:00 in December. In June and July, however, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun around Midsummer and the Arctic night in midwinter.
The major holidays are Easter (påsk), Midsummer (midsommar, celebrated from the eve of the Friday between June 19–25), Christmas (jul, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays). Most celebration happens on the day before the holiday proper; Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve etc.
Sweden has five weeks of vacation, usually spent throughout July. Expect closed venues, heavy traffic (for the holidays) and crowded tourist resorts (for July).
Sweden is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty – the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. Please see article Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works and what the requirements are for your nationality.
In autumn 2015 an exceptional number of refugees entering the European Union has prompted some countries to reinstitute border controls within the Schengen area and traffic by some border crossings is much less smooth than normally. Delays may occur in particular in the south-east of the European Union.
Citizens of the above countries are permitted to work in Sweden without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay. However, this ability to work visa-free does not necessarily extend to other Schengen countries.
For arrival and departure times, as well as lots of other information about flights and airports in Sweden, visit Luftfartsverket - Swedish Airports and Air Navigation Services
- Stockholm Arlanda (IATA: ARN) - serves most major airlines. See Sigtuna for airport amenities, and Stockholm for information on transfer between the airport and central Stockholm.
- Göteborg Landvetter (IATA: GOT) - serves several international airlines and provides convenient bus transfer (about 20 minutes) to central Gothenburg.
- Copenhagen Airport (Denmark) (IATA: CPH) - serves most major airlines. Located on an island between Copenhagen and Malmö and is the closest international airport hub for southern Sweden. Direct rail line from the airport to both cities.
- Stockholm Skavsta (IATA: NYO) is mainly served by low fares airlines like Ryanair and Wizzair . In Nyköping, quite a distance (about 100 km) from Stockholm.
- Stockholm Bromma (IATA: STO), 6 kilometres west of central Stockholm, mainly for short-range flights.
- Stockholm Västerås (IATA: VST) - international flights to/from Copenhagen and London. Also about 100 km from Stockholm.
- Göteborg City Airport (IATA: GSE) - situated just 14 kilometers from central Gothenburg, this airport was used by Ryanair, Wizzair and Germanwings but damage to the runway closed the airport for airliner traffic January 2015 which moved to Landvetter. (see above)
- Malmö-Sturup (IATA: MMX) - serves domestic flights and low fares flights. Located about 30 km from Malmö.
Most airports can be reached by Flygbussarna - Airport coaches for tickets around 70 to 100 SEK. Copenhagen airport is best reached by train. See Skånetrafiken for schedules.
You can reach Sweden by train from neighbor countries:
- Denmark: Trains depart Copenhagen and Copenhagen's airport for Malmö every 20 minutes, and cost only about SEK 100 ("Öresundståg / Øresundstog" regional trains). The train goes over the magnificent Öresund Bridge to get to Sweden in less than 30 minutes. Furthermore direct trains (SJ) leave from Copenhagen to Stockholm. Be aware that the two operators do not recognize each others tickets. The Elsinore-Helsingborg connection, known as one of the busiest ferry routes in Europe, might also be used (local trains from Copenhagen, change to ship).
- Norway: Main connections between Oslo and Stockholm and Gothenburg as well as connections between Trondheim–Åre–Östersund and Narvik–Kiruna–Boden–Stockholm.
- Germany: Berlin to Malmö with "Berlin Night Express". There are also several trains per day from Hamburg to Copenhagen, and night trains from München, Basel, Köln and Amsterdam to Copenhagen. See the Denmark section about how to get from Copenhagen to Sweden.
- Finland: Travel via Kemi–Tornio–Haparanda–Luleå / Boden by bus. Interrail tickets are valid on that bus. There is no train connection, as Finland and Sweden use different rail gauges.
From Germany, a car ferry or two is needed. See the By boat section. The exception to that is the Great Belt Bridge together with the Öresund Bridge can be used for a ferry-free drive to Sweden (drive Hamburg-(road 7)-Flensburg-(road E45)-Odense-(road E20)-Copenhagen-Malmö). That is however a 170 km detour, and the bridges have heavy tolls, and it is nice to have a break from driving and eat on board.
Before the Öresund Bridge was completed in year 2000, the Scandinavian peninsula could only be reached by boat, unless going very far north. Still, boat traffic is very important to Sweden.
- From Grenå to Varberg by Stena Line.
- From Frederikshavn to Gothenburg by Stena Line.
- From Elsinore to Helsingborg by Scandlines and Sundsbusserne.
- From Tallinn to Stockholm (via Helsinki) by Viking Line .
- From Tallinn to Stockholm (direct connection) by Tallink .
- From Helsinki to Stockholm (via Åland) by Tallink Silja and Viking Line.
- From Naantali to Kapellskär by Finnlines.
- From Turku to Stockholm (via Åland) by Tallink Silja and Viking Line.
- From Vaasa to Umeå by Wasaline.
- From Travemünde to Trelleborg by TT-Line.
- From Travemünde to Malmö by Finnlines.
- From Kiel to Gothenburg by Stena Line.
- From Sassnitz to Trelleborg by Scandlines.
- From Rostock to Trelleborg by Scandlines and TT-Line.
- From Puttgarden to Rødby (Denmark) by Scandlines. Continue by the Elsinore to Helsingborg ferry, or the bridge to Malmö.
- From Gdańsk to Nynäshamn by Polferries.
- From Gdańsk to Visby by Polferries.
- From Gdynia to Karlskrona by Stena Line.
- From Świnoujście to Ystad by Polferries.
- From Immingham and Tilbury to Gothenburg by DFDS Torline (cargo line with limited passenger capacity).
The ancient right to access (allemansrätten) grants everybody a right to move freely in nature on foot, swimming, by horse, by ski, by bicycle or by boat, even on others' private property. However, with this right comes an obligation to respect the integrity of nature and the privacy of others. It is therefore important to understand the limitations.
Domestic flights are mainly for travellers with more money than time, and for the vast distances of Norrland. There are low-price tickets, but they must be bought well in advance.
The most important domestic airlines:
- SAS - the international airline, and flag carrier, has many domestic routes as well.
- Blekinge Flyg - the most south east airport in Sweden and the only one in Blekinge.
- Nextjet - has many domestic routes to smaller places, has taken over some of Skyways routes.
- Direktflyg - several domestic routes and also flights to Norway.
- Norwegian - several domestic and a few international destinations.
- Malmö Aviation - serves domestic destinations, Brussels and Nice.
- Gotlandsflyg - connects Stockholm and the island of Gotland.
- See also: Rail and bus travel in Sweden
Sweden has an extensive railway network. Most major lines are controlled by the government-owned company SJ. To buy a railway ticket, or to obtain information, phone +46 771 75 75 75 or check their website. As of summer 2009, the cheapest SJ tickets are released exactly 90 days before departure, so time your online ticket purchases carefully if your itinerary is set and don't buy tickets earlier than 90 days before your trip. SJ recently started auctioning last minute tickets on the Swedish eBay site Tradera (site only in Swedish), available from 48 until 6 hours before departure. Because point-to-point tickets are quite expensive, for more train journeys in Sweden InterRail (for European citizens) or Eurail (for non-European citizens) pass might be useful.
Unlike most European countries, however, bicycles are not allowed on any trains, except for foldable bicycles, which count as regular luggage.
The national public transport carriers operate an alliance service called Resplus for multiple-leg travel. See Resrobot for an interactive journey planner.
Regional public transport is usually operated by companies contracted by the counties. For instance, when travelling regionally in the province of Scania (Skåne in Swedish), one should refer to Skånetrafiken. For travelling in the region of [Mälardalen] (the "Lake Mälaren Valley"), you can check all train and bus operators on a mutual website, Trafik i Mälardalen. This regional traffic cooperation includes many of Sweden's major cities, such as Stockholm, Uppsala, Västerås, Linköping, Norrköping, Örebro and Eskilstuna, and reaches more than three million people. Connex provides railroad transportation up north, usually at lower cost than SJ. If you're on a tight schedule, be aware that trains, especially those bound for far destinations (i.e. the Connex and SJ Norrland trains), sometimes have quite significant delays (up to 1–2 hours).
Swebus and gobybus runs a number of bus lines in the southern third of the country, Götaland and Svealand. They tend to cost less than going by train, if you can't take advantage of SJ's youth discounts. Y-buss, tapanis, and Härjedalingen operate between Stockholm and Norrland.
Swebus also operates from Stockholm and Göteborg to Oslo. At the county or län level, buses are a good method for travelling short distances from town to town, as they are more frequent and cheaper than trains. It is best to check with the local transportation authority for routes and schedules.
If you plan to use city buses, check out the local arrangements for how to obtain tickets. In many Swedish cities it is not possible to buy tickets for the city buses at the bus. In this case neither cash nor bank or credit cards are accepted. Instead you need an electronic bus card, a special card for each region, that sometimes also has to be filled with a minimum amount of money, typically 100 SEK. This bus card can sometimes be obtained only at dedicated ticket offices, not at the bus, but can often be filled with money for travel at local shops or refill machines that are found at public places.
This observation does not apply to long distance buses, where you normally can buy tickets from the driver.
Svealand and Götaland can be crossed by car within a day, but distances in Norrland tend to be larger. Unless you really need a car, air or rail travel are often faster, particularly in northern Norrland. Travelling by night can be dangerous due to wild animals on the roads, and the cold nights during the winter. See E4 through Sweden and E6 through Sweden and Norway for two of the main highways.
Sweden has a reputation for being a pretty difficult country to hitch in, though it's still quite possible to hitch-hike (but not assured to be risk-free). Ordinary people are often reluctant to pick up strangers. Truck drivers are probably most likely to pick up hitch-hikers, so target them. Asking at gas stations works pretty well. Bus stops are common places to attract attention, position yourself before the actual bus stop so the vehicle can stop at the stop. This works best if the road is widened at the bus stop, allowing cars to pull off easily.
Most Swedish cities have excellent bicycle paths, and renting a bike can be a quick and healthy method of getting around locally. Some cities have bikes for borrowing. Inter-city cycling is a good option for the experienced cyclist.
Cars are by law required to stop at any unattended crosswalks (zebra stripes in the road without red-lights) to let pedestrians cross the road. But keep in mind that you are required to make eye contact with the driver so that they know that you are about to cross the street.
- See also: Swedish phrasebook
Swedish (Svenska) is the national language of Sweden, but you will find that people, especially those born since 1945, also speak English very well - an estimated 89% of Swedes can speak English. Finnish is the biggest minority language. Regardless of what your native tongue is, Swedes greatly appreciate any attempt to speak Swedish and beginning conversations in Swedish, no matter how quickly your understanding peters out, will do much to ingratiate yourself to the locals.
Hej (hey) is the massively dominant greeting in Sweden, useful on kings and bums alike. You can even say it when you leave. The Swedes most often do not say "please" (snälla say SNELL-la), instead they are generous with the word tack (tack), meaning "thanks". If you need to get someone's attention, whether it's a waiter or you need to pass someone one in a crowded situation, a simple "ursäkta" (say "OR-sek-ta") ("excuse me") will do the trick. You will find yourself pressed to overuse it, and you sometimes see people almost chanting it as a mantra when trying to exit a crowded place like a bus or train.
Some things get English names that do not correspond to the original English word. Some examples are light which is used for diet products, and freestyle which means "walkman". Sweden uses the metric system and in the context of distance, the common expression mil, "mile", is 10 kilometers, not an English statute mile. Because of the distances involved, mil is used in spoken language even though roadsigns all use kilometers.
Foreign television programmes and films are almost always shown in their original language with Swedish subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Swedish.
The Swedish countryside is sparsely populated, and the inhabitants depend on their cars. Since the 1950s, Swedes have been fond of cars; preferably classic American cars, which can be substituted for European-made vehicles, but under no circumstances Asian cars. A sub-culture known as raggare (also the Swedish word for "pick-up artist") keeps the American greaser and rockabilly culture alive in the middle-Swedish countryside. Sweden is said to have more road-worthy classic American cars than any other country, the United States included. Though Swedish people are not regarded to be conservative, many industrial towns have declined since the 1960's, so there is much nostalgia for these years. As the legal driving age is 18, the younger teens in the countryside ride custom cars registered as tractors, epatraktor. The Power Big Meet is a series of conventions for classic and custom cars, in several Swedish towns. The biggest meeting takes place in Västerås.
As modern as its society is, Sweden is a country full of seemingly untouched nature and ever-present history. First stop for many visitors is historic and compact Stockholm, full of heritage, home to the Vasa Museum and gateway to the Stockholm Archipelago. There's the canals and cobblestoned streets of Gothenburg, with its famous botanical garden, or the modern architecture of Malmö. For more history, head to the port town of Visby, a recognized Unesco World Heritage Site, or the medieval town of Ystad, famous through the Kurt Wallander novels that are set here and for Ales stenar, one of the ancient iron-age burial monuments in the country.
Yet, you haven't seen Sweden until you've admired its natural side. Its wide natural landscapes offer a multitude of splendid vistas and sights, from dense forests to crystal clear lakes, waterfalls and rolling mountains. The stunning but rugged wilderness of Sarek National Park, called "Europe's last wilderness" by some, is a challenging but highly rewarding area to explore. It was the first of a list of 29 established national parks and is part of the vast and Unesco protected terrains of Laponia, together with the national parks Padjelanta, Stora Sjöfallet (with its snowy peaks) and the taiga and ravines of Muddus National Park. Set out to spot elk, wolverines and more Swedish wildlife or visit in winter for a chance to see the magical Northern Lights. Kosterhavet maritime park is the place to go for lobster or seal safaris.
Sweden has more palaces (slott), castles and manors than other Scandinavian countries. Eleven of them belong to the Royal Family, and are to some extent open to the public. Stockholm Palace (Stockholm/Gamla Stan), Rosendal (Stockholm/Djurgården), Haga, Gustav III:s pavilion and Ulriksdal (Solna), Drottningholm and Kina (Ekerö), Tullgarn (Södertälje) and Rosersberg (Sigtuna) are within greater Stockholm. Gripsholm (Mariefred) and Strömsholm (Hallstahammar) are further away. The farmland areas are full of noble and bourgeois manors from the 17th century and onwards; many of them are used as hotels today.
While the Bergslagen district, Roslagen and other parts of Sweden became world-leading in mining and metalworking during the 17th century, the full industrialization of Sweden lagged behind the rest of Europe until the 20th century, when Swedish product brands such as Volvo, Ericsson, SAAB, SKF, AGA, IKEA, Tetra Pak and Atlas Copco conquered the world. During the last decades, most of the Swedish workforce has moved on to high technology and the service sector, converting many of the mines, factories and waterways to museums. Among industrial heritage sites are Göta Kanal from the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic, the copper mine in Falun, and the Nobel Museum in Stockholm.
There's plenty of nature in Sweden, during the summer Kungsleden in northern Sweden attracts lots of visitors who enjoy a solitary hike between cabins or camp sites in the beautiful mountains. The Swedish Right to access gives anyone the right to walk over other's land, as long as you do not destroy nor disturb. This means that you can go sailing or canoeing and make camp on island in the Stockholm Archipelago, you can go hiking and make camp almost wherever you want, however it is illegal to make a campfire on a rock surface. Sceneries of nature, less populated than most of Europe. Ice and snow during winter. The west coast has plenty of small towns like Marstrand, Skärhamn, Mollösund and Lysekil that are worth exploring with their distinct architecture and cuisine, best experienced during summer.
Sweden is great for outdoor life – winter sport, hiking, canoeing, sailing, horse riding and berry- or mushroom-picking depending of season. The ultimate test of aerobic fitness is the Swedish Classic Circuit; four annual races of cross-country skiing (Vasaloppet, from Sälen to Mora), running (Lidingöloppet), cycling (Vätternrundan starting from Motala) and swimming (Vansbrosimningen).
Stockholm and Gothenburg have great nightlife and shopping opportunities.
Swedish popular music is world famous, with names such as ABBA, Roxette, Swedish House Mafia and others. Sweden hosts dozens of music festivals with international acts, as well as stars-to-be, most of them during summer. Sweden Rock Festival (Sölvesborg) and Way Out West (Gothenburg) to mention only two. There are also several festivals for folk, classical and jazz music.
Live concerts, music galas, DJ's and more are some music shows organized during Christmas events.
Choir (kör) music is big in Sweden, with regular performances even in smaller towns, not least the weeks before Christmas.
Gambling in Sweden is offered by the state (Svenska Spel), and a few privileged organizations.
Casino Cosmopol is a state-owned company with venues in Stockholm (Norrmalm), Gothenburg, Malmö and Sundsvall. Horse racing is a pastime in many Swedish cities, with tracks around the country. The most widespread class is harness racing, trav. Bookmaking is operated through ATG with on-line agents at the tracks, and in most towns. Several bars and restaurants have legally sanctioned slot machines, Jack Vegas.
The national currency is the Swedish krona (SEK, plural kronor), distinct from other currencies, such as the Norwegian or Danish krone. Automatic teller machines take major credit cards. Most stores, restaurants and bars accept all major credit cards. You might need an ID card or a passport when shopping with a credit card, though not in supermarkets and such where PIN code is king.
Many Swedes translate the word krona, which means crown. For example, instead of saying 50 kronor they might say 50 crowns when speaking English. One krona equals 100 öre, but 1 krona is today the smallest coin denomination.
Counterfeit Swedish money is very rare. Newer 50, 100, 500 and 1000 SEK notes have holograms. Older banknotes without a hologram are invalid, but are still accepted at banks.
From October 2015, coins and banknotes are being replaced. The old 20, 50, and 1,000 SEK notes expire on June 30, 2016. The Old 100 and 500 SEK notes, as well as the old 1, 2 and 5 SEK coins, expire on June 30, 2017. The 10 SEK coin remains valid.
Cash currency exchange is best done at companies that have specialized in this, since many commercial banks are cashless on foreign currency. Forex has branches all over most of Sweden. X-change has branches in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Tavex has branches in and around Stockholm.
Tipping has traditionally not been common, but is being introduced by outside influence. You can tip 5-10%, or round the bill up if you've had a nice experience; tipping should be given only as a token of real appreciation for the service. Be aware that the tips will most often be split between the waiters and the kitchen. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, any extra service (such as carrying bags) will be listed on the receipt according to rate.
The most used Swedish word for automated teller machine is Bankomat, although this is technically a trademark of the Trade Bank Consortium, much like the term cash point in the United Kingdom, and therefore not used by several banks. A more generic word would be Uttagsautomat; Uttag, Minuten and Kontanten may also occur. Nearly all machines regardless of operator will accept the MasterCard, Maestro, Visa, Visa Electron and American Express. You can withdraw up to 10 000 SEK per use. During a seven-day period you can withdraw a maximum of 20 000 SEK.
You have three attempts to enter the correct PIN code. If you fail a third time, the machine retains the card and closing it. In order to facilitate the visually impaired have the keys on the machines equipped with Braille. You may have spoken guidance, press the TALK button. In some ATMs you can withdraw euros if you have a card issued by a Swedish bank. You may take up the maximum per use. You can make multiple withdrawals after the other but a maximum 20 000 SEK per week.
As of 2015, Sweden is a rather expensive country to inhabit. Sundries like a 33 cl bottle of Coca Cola costs 10 SEK, a beer in a bar will cost you around 45 SEK, the average price of hotel accommodation is around 1300 SEK, a room in a hostel varies between 150 and 350 SEK, a bus/subway ticket in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö will set you back around 25 SEK, one meal will cost you around 100 SEK, 1 litre of petrol fuel costs about 13 SEK and a pack of 19 cigarettes will cost you 50 SEK. If you are a bit careful about your expenses, a daily budget of around 1000 SEK will be enough. House prices outside metropolitan areas are probably among the lowest in Western Europe, and discount stores such as Lidl, Netto and Willys offer a wide range of items to a low cost. Accommodation and dining out are cheaper in Stockholm than in most other West European capitals.
- Paying tax is awesome. – Coined by Social Democratic politician Mona Sahlin. Repeated years later, by her opponent Finance Minister Anders Borg of the Moderate Party, as a comment to Sweden's persistently high taxes, regardless of government.
Sweden has three levels of value-added tax (moms or mervärdesskatt). Financial transactions, gambling, healthcare, dentistry and prescripted medication are exempt from VAT. The 6 per cent level applies to passenger transport, books, newspapers, sport, cinema tickets, performances, zoos and museums. The 12 per cent level applies to travel accommodation and food (including restaurant meals and soft drinks, but not alcoholic beverages). Everything else has 25 percent VAT; that includes clothing, alcohol, tobacco, non-prescripted medication, cosmetics, hair and beauty services, appliances, souvenirs, amusement parks, nightclubs, office supplies, electronic services, vehicles (including rental), fuel, etc.
Price tags always include tax, except in business-to-business context (wholesale stores, etc).
Bargaining is not commonly used, but it might work in some instances, especially when buying more expensive products, at flea markets and in antique shops.
Most shops, at least major chains in central areas, are open all week, even on Sundays. Closing times are rigid, most often on the minute.
- An unofficial national symbol, the Dala Horse (Swedish: dalahäst) is the souvenir of souvenirs to bring from Sweden. Named after their origin, the province of Dalarna, these small wooden horses have been around since the 17th century. They are normally painted orange or blue with symmetrical decorations. They are fairly expensive: expect to pay around 100 SEK for a very small one or several hundred SEK for bigger versions. The horses can be bought in souvenir shops all over Sweden. If you want to know more about how the horses are made, visit Dalarna and the municipality of Mora where the horses are carved and painted in workshops open for tourists. And if driving towards Mora from Stockholm, keep your eyes open when you pass the town of Avesta where the world's largest (13 meters high) Dala Horse overlooks the highway.
- Swedish glass is world famous for its beauty. Several skilled glass artists have contributed to this reputation through innovative, complex (and expensive) art creations, but mass-produced Swedish table glass has also been an international success. Part of the province of Småland, between the towns of Växjö and Kalmar, is known as the Kingdom of Crystal. 15 glassworks are packed into this small area, the most famous being Orrefors, Kosta and Boda. Tourists are welcome to watch the glass blowers turn the glowing melt into glittering glass, and you can even give it a try yourself.
- High-end wines from Systembolaget.
- Swedish design, spanning from furniture to jewelry, is known for function, efficiency and minimalism. Designtorget is a chain of stores with a wide range of everyday products; Lagerhaus is another. Svenskt Tenn is another store with beautiful items by designers such as Josef Frank.
- There are some items for the home that are invented by Swedes that might be fun to bring home such as the cheese slicer, adjustable spanners or adjustable wrenches, safety matches, paraffin cooking stove (Primuskök) or a good old Celsius thermometer.
- Flea markets are literally translated as loppmarknad or loppis, and one of few places where haggling is accepted.
Smörgåsbord, the traditional Swedish buffet
A smörgåsbord, literally buttered bread table is a Swedish buffet. Traditionally, it consists of seven servings. The first is herring, sill, the poor man's staple food. It is followed up by seafood, cold cuts, warm meat, sausages/meatballs, cheese, and dessert. The Christmas version of smörgåsbord is known as julbord.
- See also: Nordic cuisine
The staples of Swedish cuisine are meat (notably pork and game), fish, dairy products, potatoes and bread, together with berries and wild mushrooms. Fresh fruit and vegetables are rather recent additions to the menu.
Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). Some of them are:
- Pickled herring (sill), available in various types of sauces. Formerly the poor man's food, it is eaten with bread or potatoes for summer lunch or as a starter on the smörgåsbord, at holidays such as midsummer, Christmas and Easter.
- Cured salmon (gravlax), an appetizer made by thin slices of salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill.
- Meatballs (köttbullar), the internationally most famous Swedish dish. Served with potatoes, brown sauce and lingonberry jam.
- Hash (pytt i panna) consisting of meat, onions and potatoes, all diced and fried. Sliced beetroots and a fried or boiled whole eggs are mandatory accessories.
- Pea soup (ärtsoppa) with diced pork, followed by thin pancakes (crepes) afterwards. Traditionally eaten on Thursdays; there are many just-so-stories about this tradition; one of them tells that the servants had half the day off, as it is an easy meal to prepare. Some lunch restaurants in Sweden serve pea soup and pancakes every Thursday.
- Blodpudding, a black sausage made by pig's blood and flour. Slice it, fry it and eat it with lingonberry jam.
- Falukorv, a big baloney from Falun. One of the most common ways of cooking it is sliced, fried and then served with ketchup and mashed potatoes.
- Sweden has more varieties of bread (bröd) than most other countries. Many of them are whole-grain or mixed grain, containing wheat, barley, oats, compact and rich in fiber. Some notable examples are tunnbröd (thin wrap bread), knäckebröd (hard bread - might not be an interesting experience, but is nearly always available), and different kinds of seasoned loaves. Bread is mostly eaten as simple sandwiches, with thin slices of cheese or cold cuts. Some more exotic spreads are messmör (whey butter) and leverpastej (liver pâté).
- Reindeer, ren, traditionally herded by the Sami people. Renskav is sliced, sautéed reindeer meat, preferably eaten with wild mushrooms, lingonberries and potatoes.
- Tunnbrödrulle, a fast food dish, consisting of a bread wrap with mashed potatoes, a hot dog and some vegetables.
- Kroppkakor Potato dumpling stuffed with diced pork, reminiscent of the German Klöße. Originally from Småland, there is also a variant from Piteå up north, known as pitepalt.
- Hard cheese (ost): In an ordinary food market you can often find 10 to 20 different types of cheese. The most famous Swedish hard cheese would be Västerbotten, named after a region in Sweden.
- Milk (mjölk) is commonly drunk during meals. Filmjölk is a Nordic yoghurt, eaten with breakfast cereal.
- Rose hip soup (nyponsoppa) and bilberry soup (blåbärssoppa), for recovery of heat and energy during winter sports.
Other Swedish favorites:
- Raggmunk, wheat flour, milk, egg, and shredded potatoes fried like thin pancakes served with fried pork (bacon) and lingonberries.
- Soft whey butter (messmör), breadspread with a sweetish, hard-to-describe taste.
- Caviar, not the expensive Russian or Iranian kind but a cheaper version made from cod roe, sold in tubes and used on sandwiches. The most famous brand is Kalles Kaviar.
- Julmust, stout-like Christmas soft drink that every year annoys The Coca-Cola Company in Sweden by lowering Coke's sales figures by 50%. Available during Easter as well, by then known as Påskmust.
- Crayfish (kräftor), hugely popular around August, when Swedes feast on them at big crayfish parties (kräftskivor). Silly paper hats and lots of alcohol included.
- Surströmming; the world's stinkiest dish. See Nordic cuisine for more information.
- Semla, a cream-filled pastry traditionally eaten on Tuesdays in February and March, with start on Fat Tuesday.
- Rabarberkräm/Rabarberpaj rhubarbcream or rhubarbpie with vanilla sauce ( other cakes or pies on fresh blueberries, apples, or just strawberries with cream or ice cream are also very popular in the summer)
- Spettekaka A local cake from Scania in south Sweden, made of eggs, sugar, and potato starch.
- Smörgåstårta A cold Sandwich layer cake, often with salmon, eggs, and shrimps. (Also often with tuna or roast beef) Swedish people often eat it at New Year's Eve, or birthdays and parties.
- Lösgodis candy from boxes that you mix on your own, sold by weight, is one of the most popular candy among this candy-loving nation. A choice of chocolate, sours, sweet and salt liqorice are always offered.
- Swedish cookies and pastries like bondkakor, hallongrottor, bullar or cakes like prinsesstårta are widely popular. It used to be tradition to offer guest 7 different cookies when invited over for coffee. If you have a sweet tooth you should try chokladbollar, mazariner, biskvier, rulltårta, lussebullar, the list goes on...
- Surströmming, a stinky canned fish popular along the Norrland coast.
- Spettekaka, a meringue-like cake from Scania.
As in most of Europe, inexpensive pizza and kebab restaurants are ubiquitous in Swedish cities, and are also to be found in almost every small village. Note that the Swedish pizza is significantly different from Italian or American pizzas, American pizzas are usually sold as "pan pizza". Sushi and Thai food are also quite popular. The local hamburger chain Max is recommended before McDonald's and Burger King, for tasteful Scandinavian furnishing, clean restrooms, no trans fats and free coffee with meals. In parts of Norrland it is customary to eat hamburgers with fork and knife - available at Max. Another Swedish chain Frasses offers apart from all kinds of meaty burgers a tasty vegetarian alternative - a quornburger. Another type of fast food establishment is the gatukök ("street kitchen"), serving hamburgers, hot dogs, kebab and tunnbrödrulle (se above).
Highway diners, vägkrogar, have generous meals, but might be of poor quality, greasy and overpriced. If you have time, a downtown restaurant is preferable. Gas stations sell decent packed salads and sandwiches.
You can get a relatively inexpensive lunch if you look for the signs with "Dagens rätt" or just "Dagens" (Today's special or literally meal of the day). This normally costs about 50-120 SEK (-) and almost everywhere includes a bottle of water; soft drink; or light beer, bread & butter, salad bar and coffee afterwards. Dagens rätt is served Monday to Friday.
If you're on a tight budget, self-catering is the safest way to save your money.
Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are accepted in cities, less common in the countryside, but you should be able to find a falafel in any medium-sized town; or you may negotiate a price to only access the salad bar, as all well assorted eateries have one.
Swedish consumption of coffee (kaffe) is among the highest in the world. Drinking coffee at home or in a café, an act called fika, is a common Swedish social ritual, used for planning activities, dating, exchanging gossip or simply spending time and money. Swedish coffee is filtered and usually stronger than American coffee - but still not the espresso of France or Italy. Italian varieties (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte) are available at larger city cafés. One cup is around 25 SEK, usually including a refill, påtår.
The traditional Swedish café is called konditori, and every city and town has at least one. They offer warm beverages as coffee, tea and cocoa, and an assortment of cookies, pastry and perhaps also smörgås, the Swedish open sandwich, and fralla, the Swedish closed sandwich. The sandwiches offered can vary a lot depending on where you are in Sweden.
The most famous Swedish alcoholic beverage is Absolut Vodka, one of the world's most famous vodkas. There are several brands of distilled, and usually seasoned, liquor, called brännvin. Brännvin does not have as high requirements on distilling as for Vodka and it is distilled from potatoes or grain. Liquor seasoned with dill and caraway is called akvavit. When brännvin is served in a shot glass with a meal it is called snaps (not to confuse with the German "Schnapps"). It is part of custom to drink snaps at occasions such as midsummers eve, Crayfish party, Christmas, student parties, etc. Often it is done together with a snapsvisa to every drink (a typical snapsvisa is a short, vigorous song; its lyrics usually tell of the delicacy and glory of the drink, or of the singer’s craving for snaps, or about anything in a cheeky way).
If visiting Sweden in December or January a typical hot drink is glögg (similar to mulled wine or Glühwein). It is often served together with ginger bread and lussebullar or at the julbord (Christmas buffet). The main classic ingredients (of alcoholic glögg) are red wine, sugar, spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and bitter orange, and optionally also stronger spirits such as vodka, akvavit, or brandy. There is also non alcoholic versions of glögg.
Sweden does produce some outstanding beers, and have in the recent years seen a rise in the numbers of microbreweries. If you are looking for great local beer keep an eye out for breweries like Slottskällans, Nils Oscar, Närke kulturbryggeri, Jämtlands ångbryggeri and Dugges Ale- & Porterbryggeri. You may have some trouble finding them, unless you go to a bar specialized in providing uncommon beer, or one of the well stocked Systembolaget, but you will find a few of them in every major city. Despite this the most common beer is the rather plain "international lager". The beer you get in normal food shops is called folköl and has 2.8 or 3.5% alcohol. You are able to find a variety of different brands of beers in food stores, Swedish, English and even Czech beer. Sweden has a seasonal beer for Christmas, julöl. It is sweeter than normal beer and usually seasoned with Christmas spices, mostly it is of the beer type ale. All Swedish breweries make at least one type of julöl. Wine is popular, but the Swedish production is very modest.
Drinking alcohol in parks and public areas is generally allowed, if notifications don't state the opposite. Drinking at public transport stations or on board is prohibited, with the exception of trains or boats serving alcohol in a bar.
Beer and lager up to 3.5% ABV is readily available in supermarkets at 10-15 SEK a piece, but strong alcoholic beverages are, as in Norway, Finland and Iceland available over the counter only from the state-owned retailer, Systembolaget (also sometimes referred to as Systemet or Bolaget). They are usually open 10:00-18:00 Mon-Wed, 10:00-19:00 Thurs-Fri, and 10:00-15:00 on Saturdays, with long queues on Fridays and Saturdays, closing at the minute no matter how long the queue outside the store is, something the Swedes themselves joke about. They are always closed on Sundays. Most shops are of supermarket style. The assortment is very good, and the staff usually has great knowledge. Systembolaget does not serve customers under the age of 20 and will most likely ask for identification from younger looking customers. This also applies to any companions, regardless of who is making the actual purchase.
Beverages are heavily taxed by content of alcohol, some liquor is very expensive (vodka is around 300 SEK a liter at Systembolaget), but the monopoly has brought some perks - Systembolaget is one of the world's largest bulk-buyers of wine, and as such gets some fantastic deals which it passes on to consumers. Mid-to-high-quality wines often cost less in Sweden than in the country of origin; sometimes even less than if you were to buy the wine directly from the vineyard. This does not apply to low-quality wines or hard liquor, due to the volume-based tax on alcohol.
All brands are treated equally and there is no large-pack discount. Therefore, microbrews cost largely the same as major brands, and might be a more interesting choice. Beverages are not refrigerated. Drinking alcohol in public is usually allowed, with a few restrictions, such as shopping centres, playgrounds and public transport areas.
Bars and nightclubs
The minimum age requirement is 18 to get into bars and to buy regular (3.5% ABV or less) beer in shops (to prevent teenage drunkenness, some shops have decided to enforce a minimum age of 20 for 3.5% beer as well), and 20 in Systembolaget. Many bars have an age limit of 20, but some (especially downtown on weekends) have age limits as high as 23 or 25, but this rule is arbitrarily enforced. Bring passport or ID.
Some high-end nightclubs mandate dress code, vårdad klädsel is casual dress; this is also arbitrarily enforced. For male guests, proper shoes (not sneakers or sandals), long-legged trousers (not blue jeans) and a dress shirt is almost always good enough.
Age and dress requirements are not rigid, and doormen have the right to reject any patron for any reason; except gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability or race, which is illegal discrimination. Still, some nightclubs are infamous for rejecting "immigrants", especially men of African or Middle Eastern origin, on pretexts such as "members only", "too drunk", or "dress code". Getting into a club is easier for patrons who dress and behave well, and arrive fairly early.
Sweden has enforced non-smoking in all bars, pubs and restaurants, save outdoor areas such as terraces, and designated smoking rooms (where drinks are not allowed).
The prices at clubs and bars are often expensive compared to other countries: a (0.4 L) glass of draft lager, stor stark, usually costs 45-60 SEK, but some dive bars advertise it for as little as 25 SEK early evenings. A long drink costs around 60-130 SEK. For that reason many Swedes have a small pre-party ("förfest") before they go out to get buzzed before they hit the town and go to nightclubs.
Large clubs can require a cover charge, usually about 100 SEK, or more at special performances. They usually offer a rubber stamp on your hand so you can re-enter as you like without having to pay again.
Be aware that you often have to stand in line to get into a bar or a club. Many places deliberately make their customers wait in line for a while, since a long queue indicates a popular club. At the very fanciest places in the major cities, the queue is often replaced by a disorganized crowd, and the doorman simply points to indicate who gets in and who does not (to be sure to get in either be famous, very good-looking or a friend of the doorman. Or simply a regular).
Most bars that close at 01:00 or earlier, will have a free entry policy. Most bars and clubs that remain open until 03:00 will charge an entrance fee. There are some clubs in the largest cities that remain open until 05:00. Their entrance fee will usually be around 200 SEK and their entry policy will generally weigh less favourably for the non-rich, non-well-moisturised, non-Swedes, non-friends and non-regulars.
The club's wardrobe (or coat-checking) fee is often mandatory, usually around 20 SEK.
Authorized security guards carry a badge saying Ordningsvakt. The club's own doormen carry a badge saying Entrévärd. These should be taken seriously, see #Stay safe.
Moonshine (hembränt) is popular in the countryside, though illegal. Though some shipments can be as good as legal vodka, most are disgusting, so you should stick to the real thing.
Car camping is convenient and cost-efficient, as you can stay overnight nearly anywhere.
The Right to access (Allemansrätten) allows anyone to camp in uncultivated areas (including private property, but not near houses) without asking. There are certain limitations, for instance you are only allowed to stay at a certain spot for one night, before you have to move on. If you are travelling to Sweden in the summer, check out the local conditions when it comes to camp fires. Forests in Sweden can get very dry and temporary bans on lighting fires are not unusual.
If you prefer camping a bit more organized, most towns have campsites with showers and electricity. Expect to pay around 100–150 SEK for a tentsite. More info on the official site for Swedish campsites: camping.se. The leading chain is called First Camp.
Svenska Turistföreningen, STF, is by far the most important operator of hostels, vandrarhem, in Sweden, with a network of more than 300 hostels around the country. Membership for foreigners is 175 SEK, and if you plan to stay four nights or more at hostels in Sweden you should join, since non-members pay an additional 45 SEK per night. STF is affiliated with Hostelling International or HI, and if you are a member of any HI organisation you are considered a member of STF.
STF offers beds for the night in dorms or single and double rooms. The concept is standardized throughout Sweden, and only includes the price of the bed or room, with access to common kitchen facilities, common bath rooms and showers. Some hostels have double rooms with bath room and shower en suite.
Sveriges vandrarhem i förening, SVIF is another nation-wide hostel confederation.
The price per night per person in a hostel is 80-280 SEK depending on where the hostel is located and how classy or tacky it is. Sheets are required (just a sleeping bag is not enough) and if you don't bring any you have to purchase at the hostel for around 50 SEK. You are expected to clean out your room when leaving. Cooking equipment is normally available at all hostels for those who want to self-cater.
Apartments and B&B:s are not the same thing, but Swedish online booking agencies tend to think so. Renting an apartment may be an interesting option if you plan to stay for a few nights in one of the major cities and want more privacy than a hostel offers.
Road signs with the word Rum don't show the way to the nearest drinking den for pirates - rum in Swedish means "room", and that sign points to a B&B.
Normal Swedish hotels tend to be clean, not-so-interesting and fairly expensive. A single room can easily set you back 1000 SEK. Most towns, even smaller ones, still have a traditional stadshotell, Statt, (town hotel) somewhere in the city center, which usually contains the town's largest restaurant and/or nightclub. On a more positive note, breakfast buffets at Swedish hotels are often impressive with plenty to choose from - try not to be in too much of a hurry in the morning! Major hotel chains include Scandic and First.
It doesn't matter how many circumflexes Stockholm's Grand Hôtel uses, or how many celebrities stay there, the coolest hotel in Sweden is the Icehotel. Located in the village of Jukkasjärvi in the far north, it is a hotel built from snow and ice. It melts in spring and is rebuilt every winter. Ice hotels are built in several other countries, but the one in Jukkasjärvi is the original. One night in a single room is SEK 2850, book in advance.
All education in Sweden is free for residents. Although the government has subsidized schools and classes, there also exist a few private alternatives where a tuition fee is required. Students' Union membership is optional since 2010, but the union fee of around 500 SEK/year can give several perks, such as mediation of dorm rooms or entrance to union parties and events.
As non-EU/EES citizen wishing to study at a Swedish university or other school of higher education, you will need to pay tuition fees. Even if you don't need it, you need to pay for housing, food, literature etc.
Some important university cities:
Most universities follow the custom known as an "academic quarter" where classes and most academic events will 15 minutes past the hour. At some schools after 18:00 this becomes a "double quarter" where events commence 30 minutes past the hour. Students are expected to be punctual and show up at the appropriate time.
EU and EEA citizens are allowed to work in Sweden without a permit.
Citizens of some non-EU countries are permitted to work in Sweden without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay – see the 'Get in' section above for more information.
Working Holiday visas are available for Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South Korean citizens aged between 18–30, permitting the holder to work for one year.
Citizens of other countries need a work permit, and getting one can be quite a hassle. Swedes, foreign citizens already living in Sweden, and EU/EEA citizens have preference over others in obtaining work in Sweden. Also, if the offer of work is for more than three months, you will also require a Swedish residency permit. More information about the paperwork required is found on the government website swedenabroad.com .
As for finding a job, you could try the public "Arbetsförmedlingen" ('Public Employment Service') and give it a try. However, you can also buy a lottery ticket, you will have roughly the same chance to get an income that way. Usually jobs are better provided by certain knowledges and luck.
Sweden has an official unemployment rate of about 7.1% (Nov 2010). Salaries range from 15,000 and up (for full time) per month minus 30% tax(2013), but the average salary is around 30 000 SEK, April 2011 (/), and are typically paid only once per month.
There have been some scandals in 2010–2013 in which Asian workers, formally employed by temporary work agencies in their home country, came to work in Sweden in low-paid jobs, e.g. berry picking. They often didn't get paid what they were promised and had costs they didn't expect, so they often didn't earn enough to pay the loan used to pay the plane ticket. On the paper everyone should be paid minimum 85 SEK (60 after tax deduction) per hour, also foreign temporary workers, otherwise there will be no work permit. But often they still make much less, otherwise Swedes would get the job. That is a contract violation, not a crime in Sweden, hard to enforce when the employer promise to pay but don't, and two countries are involved.
Risks in Sweden
Sweden is generally a safe place to travel. Mind that it is likely that your home country is less safe than Sweden, so heed whatever warnings you would do in your own country and you will have no worries. A notable risk factor is drunk brawls at weekend nights. Swedes generally tend to avoid eye contact, especially so in dangerous situations. Looking directly at someone behaving aggressively might provoke them. Do not argue with security guards or bouncers; they are legally allowed to use some force when needed.
Although there is a significant police presence in the city centres, especially on weekend nights, the countryside is quite weakly policed; especially Norrland, where the nearest patrol car might be a hundred kilometres away.
Knife carrying in public areas is criminalized in Sweden, regardless of size or shape, unless needed for work or other activities. Packing down a knife with camping equipment is legitimate.
Pickpockets usually work in tourist-frequented areas, such as airports, rail stations, urban rail, shopping areas and festivals. Most Swedes carry their wallets in their pockets or purses and feel quite safe while doing it. Still, almost all stores and restaurants accept most major credit cards, so there is no need to carry a lot of cash around. If you have a bike, do lock it or you may lose it. While organized crime exists in some Swedish neighbourhoods, it causes no trouble to lawful visitors.
Be sure to watch for cars in the road junctions. There is a law in Sweden called "The Zebra law" which means that cars must stop at zebra crossings. Many Swedes believe that all the drivers do that. By watching for cars you may save not only your life but also a friend's, since reported injuries have increased because of the law. If you do drive then follow the law, police cars may not be seen everywhere but you never know when they appear.
- See also: Driving in Sweden
The rate of car crashes in Sweden is among the lowest in Europe. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for everyone in the car. Motorway driving is less aggressive than in Denmark or Central Europe. Traffic jams are common around Stockholm and Gothenburg. Distances are long, especially in Norrland, where settlements can be tens of kilometres apart. Take rests if you are tired.
Animal collisions with moose, deer and boar are a major danger. The moose is a big and heavy animal (up to 700 kg and 2,1 m shoulder height) so a collision can be lethal, even if you wear a seatbelt. These are a fairly common sight all over Sweden – so care must be taken when driving at all times.
In Case of Emergency
112 is the emergency phone number to dial in case of fire, medical or criminal emergency. It does not require an area code, regardless of what kind of phone you're using. The number works on any mobile phone, with or without a SIM card, even if it's keylocked (without SIM, you will be asked to press "5" before the call will be answered).
Police officers are rarely on patrol, and might be too busy to head out for minor crimes. To report a theft or getting in contact with the police in general, there is a national non-emergency phone number 114 14 that will bring you in contact with an operator at a police station (usually nearby, but not always).
Brown bear (brunbjörn), wolf (varg), lynx (lo) and wolverine (järv) roam the Swedish wilderness, though they are unusual to sight. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no wild polar bears in Sweden. Bears are most likely to attack if they are injured, provoked by a dog, going to hibernate or protecting their cubs. Bears in Sweden have killed no more than a handful of people since 1900. Though wild wolves might attack pets and livestock, they avoid people.
Certified pharmacies carry a green cross sign and the text Apotek. For small medical problems the pharmacy is sufficient. Major cities carry one pharmacy open at night. Many supermarkets carry non-prescription supplies such as band aid and antiseptics. Strong painkillers are sold only at pharmacies.
Swedish health care is usually of a very high quality, but can be quite challenging for foreigners to receive. Most medical clinics are run by the public sector, and their accessibility varies. Therefore, getting a time within a week at some medical centres could prove difficult. In case of a medical emergency, most provinces (and of course, the major cities) have a regional hospital with an around-the-clock emergency ward. However, if you are unlucky you can expect a long wait before getting medical attention.
Tap water in Sweden is of great quality, and contains close to zero bacteria. Water in mountain resorts might contain rust, and water on islands off the coast might be brackish, but it is still safe to drink. There is no real reason for buying bottled water in Sweden. Also, there is bottled water that doesn't meet the requirements to be used as tap water in Sweden.
There are few serious health risks in Sweden. Your primary concern in winter will be cold weather, particularly if hiking or skiing in the northern parts. Northern Sweden is sparsely populated and, if heading out into the wilderness, it is imperative that you register your travel plans with a friend or the authorities so they can come looking for you if you fail to show up. Dress warmly in layers and bring along a good pair of sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, especially in the spring. In snowy mountains, avalanches might be a problem.
A serious nuisance are mosquitoes (myggor,) particularly in the north, during wet summers. While they do not carry malaria or other infections, Swedish mosquitoes make a distinctive (and highly irritating) whining sound, and their bites are very itchy. As usual, they are most active around dawn and sunset — which, in the land of the Midnight Sun, may mean most of the night in summer. Supermarkets have many types of mosquito repellents.
Other summer nuisances are gadflies (bromsar), whose painful but non-venomous bites can leave a mark lasting for days, and wasps (getingar) whose stings can be deadly for allergics in very rare cases. Use mosquito repellent, ensure your tent has good mosquito netting, and bring proper medication if you know that you're allergic to wasp stings.
Ticks (fästingar) appear in summer, especially in tall grass. They can transmit Lyme's disease (borreliosis) and more serious TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) through a bite. The risk areas for TBE are mainly the eastern parts of Svealand and the Stockholm archipelago. Wear bright clothes, and check your body (and your pets) after outdoor trips. You can buy special tick tweezers (fästingplockare) from the pharmacy.
There's only one type of venomous snake in Sweden: the European adder (huggorm), which has a distinct zig-zag pattern on its back. The snake is not very common, but lives all over Sweden except for the northern mountains. Its bite is hardly ever life-threatening (except to small children and allergic people), but people bitten should seek medical assistance. All reptiles in Sweden, including adders, are protected by law and must not be harmed.
There are no really dangerous marine animals in Sweden, although when bathing in the sea one should watch out for Greater weevers (Fjärsing); a small fish hiding in sand, with several venomous spikes on its back. The venom is about as dangerous as that of the European adder, and will likely cause more pain (this can be quite severe) than damage. There are also venomous jellyfish, bright blue or red, in the sea. The venom is not lethal, but it hurts.
Stinging nettles grow in wet and nitrogen-rich places (especially where people urinate outdoors), but getting stung is generally not dangerous, only locally hurting for a few hours.
- I never said, "I want to be alone." I only said, "I want to be let alone!" There is all the difference. — Greta Garbo; usually quoted to describe Swedish people's desire for privacy
Most Swedes have liberal, cosmopolitan, secular, egalitarian and environmentalist values by Germanic standards, similar to other Nordic countries. This spares Western tourists from cultural clashes that might be imminent in other countries. However, some strict rules of etiquette are almost unique to Swedish people.
Sweden – a country of numbers
Swedish people are reputed to be rigid and organized. Almost everything has a number. Swedish people have a ten-digit personal identity number (starting by date of birth in the form YYMMDD) used in contact with all kinds of government authorities, usually mentioned before the name. Customers in Swedish shops or bank need to take a queue number note from a machine to be served in order. Each product at Systembolaget is known for its product number (which is often easier to keep track of than foreign-sounding names), and the most important feature in selection is the alcohol content (often divided by price to find the most cost-efficient product). If you order a drink in the bar, be prepared to tell how many centiliters of liquor you want. Most grocers provide milk in four or more fat content levels (plus an organic version of each, barista milk and low lactose milk, not to mention filmjölk, yoghurt and all other milk products). Before going outdoors, Swedes check air temperature, and before bathing in open water, they check water temperature. Many Swedes also own barometers, hygrometers and rain gauges to support the eternal conversation about weather with statistics. In conversation about housing, Swedes define their flats by number of rooms (En trea – "a three" – is simply a three-room-and-kitchen flat) and usually ask each other about the area by square meter. They have week numbers running from 1 to 52. The world famous furniture retailer IKEA diverts from this pattern, with Nordic product names.
- Though narcotics are not unheard of, most Swedes, old and young, are strongly opposed to them. Possession and intoxication of non-medical drugs (including cannabis) lead to a fine and a note in the criminal record. The police can force a suspected drug user to produce a urine or blood sample.
- When it comes to alcohol, Swedes are as double-natured as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Before work or driving, one beer is one too many, and drunk driving is a crime genuinely despised in Sweden. However, drunkenness can be a regular part of many Swedish traditions (e.g. Midsommar, Valborg, etc.) – keep this in mind if you abstain from alcohol. Some Swedes frown on people being sober at a party and reject excuses other than driving or pregnancy — though no formal policy exists that would force one to drink against their will.
- Swedish people want much privacy and personal space. Salespeople, waiters and other service employees are usually less attentive than their colleagues in other countries, to respect customers' privacy, except a short "hej" to entering customers. Customers are supposed to call for attention. When entering a bus or another form of public transportation it is often considered impolite to sit next to another person if there is another twin seat available.
- Always check whether you should remove your shoes or not when entering a Swedish home. In most homes it is customary to remove your shoes. Only on very rare occasions is the wearing of shoes indoors considered acceptable. Generally, you will see a place by the front door of most homes where shoes are to be stored and can surmise from the presence of other guests' shoes what is expected. If you just assume that you are to take your shoes off upon entry, in most cases you will have done the right thing. Bringing indoor shoes to other people's homes is customary among some. Most Swedish homes have wood flooring; wall-to-wall carpets are uncommon. Should you be dressed up and the host asks you to take your shoes off, then you should do that. As in every other culture one's home is one's castle, and you would not like someone to be disrespectful in your own home.
- Despite rumours of the "Swedish sin", Swedish people are generally not accepting of public nudity except at designated nudist beaches. Don't go skinny-dipping in public beaches if you are more than about four years old. Female toplessness is accepted at public baths, but uncommon. Public breastfeeding is a consolidated right at any place, even at business meetings and high-end restaurants. Male toplessness is accepted in the countryside and at the beach, but might be frowned upon in urban areas.
- Greetings between men and women who know each other (e.g., are good friends, relatives, etc.) are often in the form of a hug. Swedes don't cheek-kiss to greet but are aware that other cultures do. If you are a visitor from France and do cheek-kiss a Swede, they will return the favor but probably feel a bit awkward doing so.
- Show up on the minute for meetings and meals, preferably five minutes before the set time. There is no "fashionably late" in Sweden. However, showing up early at a private invitation is considered rude. If it's acceptable to arrive late, it's usually mentioned specifically (e.g.,"...arrive after 1700") or there are established rules (some universities apply an "akademisk kvart", an academic quarter hour, within which it is acceptable to arrive to lectures).
- Sweden is quite tolerant to homosexuality. As of May 2009, same-sex marriages have legal standing in Sweden. The chance of facing extreme criticism or homophobia is low in Sweden, as the country has anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. Violence against gays and lesbians is very rare.
- As emphasized in many places, Sweden is a multicultural country – as such the paramount point of respect to embrace this attitude as much as possible. Outward displays of racism, sexism, or homophobia will be met with hostility. Even slight preferences may be noticed and noted. Of equal importance is to avoid assuming positions or cultures based on identifiable signs. For example the Chinese girl you might meet may speak not a word of Chinese and may never have been anywhere near China. This point is especially true for individuals from areas with ethnic strife – don't assume that anyone you meet is either personally connected to, or shares the viewpoints of their ethnic-origin Nation.
- Begging used to be uncommon in modern Sweden. As of 2015, beggars from the Balkans (typically of Roma origin) can be seen in most towns or cities. Begging, as well as handing money to beggars, is legal in Sweden, and most begging transactions take place without nuisance.
- A sensitive topic in Sweden is hunting and wildlife management, especially when it comes to the population of wolves and other predators. People in the countryside have strong opinions on the subject.
Urban legend: "Why do all Swedish families hire gay nannies?"
The story tells that some English-speaking visitors to a Swedish city were perplexed by the sight of men in their thirties pushing baby strollers along the streets. While the visitors in the story assumed they were nannies hired by the family (and homosexual, for some reason), these men are full-time fathers. Sweden has one year of paid parental leave, of which three months are designated for each parent. While world leading in paternity leave, the current debate in Sweden is why fathers spend too little time with their babies.
- Around payday, on the 25th of each month, stores and bars can get very crowded.
- Smoking is not allowed in restaurants, bars or any other indoor establishments (except outdoor terraces and designated smoking rooms). Smoking in someone's home is usually out of the question; if you ask kindly you might be allowed to light up on the balcony or the porch. Relatively few Swedes smoke daily, but some men and women use "snus" (snuff), a tobacco pouch inserted into the upper lip. It comes in a wide variety of different styles and flavours and in both loose and portion form. Portions are more popular and generally recommended for public events, as loose snus can be very messy when removed. Unlike American oral tobaccos, it is not usually necessary to spit if the snus is properly placed. Most bars and clubs will have snus receptacles instead of ashtrays on the tables. Be warned, however, that snus can seem very harsh to first time users, with a nicotine level several times that of cigarettes.
- Credit card. Payment by credit card is very widespread in Sweden: in some cases (e.g. at some parking meters or when buying tickets from a ticket machine) there might even not be the option to pay cash. Nearly all stores and all ATMs accept VISA and MasterCard, as well as Maestro (Switch). PIN-pads are widely used instead of signatures (even for credit cards), so if your card has a PIN, memorize it before you leave home. Don't expect stores to accept foreign currency, apart from close to the borders, where usually only the neighbour currency is accepted (i.e. Danish krone, Norwegian krone or Euro). Larger stores in Stockholm and at larger airports and railway stations often accept payment in Euro, however.
- Passport or EU national identity card as identification. A driver's license is not a valid ID in Sweden, but it might work nonetheless (more frequently if issued in the standard EU format). You will frequently be asked to prove age or identity – for instance when using your credit card, when buying alcohol, when renting accommodation or when entering bars and clubs. Banks accept only Swedish identity documents. Swedish bureaucracy is efficient but rigid.
- Warm clothes and extra shoes. Weather in Sweden is unpredictable. It can get cold and/or wet, but almost never too hot.
- If you plan on staying in Sweden for an extended period of time, pack some rain clothes. If you don't own any, they can be bought in many stores across Sweden – but can be somewhat expensive.
- Mobile phone. Swedish GSM and 3G coverages are great, at least in populated areas, but don't expect it to work everywhere. In rural areas the state-owned operator Telia might be the only one available. If you have another operator you may only place SOS calls. Official figures say that 60–70% (by total area – most of the populated parts are covered fully) of the country has GSM coverage and about 40% for 3G. The number of public phones are going down a lot because most Swedes have a mobile phone. There's even very close to complete coverage in the subway.
- Powerplug adapters, if you come from the UK or North America. Sweden follows European standard 230 volt 50 Hz and uses Schuko plugs.
- European Health Service card, if you are an EU/EES citizen.
- In forests and mountains, use mosquito repellent, myggmedel, which is available in most food stores.
Do not bring
- Cash money from your home country – see above. However there are currency exchange offices at airports and in city centres that will exchange most currencies. Some bank branches will not exchange currency, or handle cash at all in some cases.
- Tear gas or pepper spray for self-defence. These require authorization to be carried in Sweden, and you will probably not have use for them either way.
The availability and standard of public toilets varies a lot. Except gas stations, they are available at most rest areas. Public toilets in cities and at rail stations might be scarce, and often require a 5 SEK fee. Toilets in city restaurants are usually for guests only. There are approximately 350 public rest areas along the roads in Sweden (rastplats). Most of them have a lavatory, an information board and access for the disabled, some benches and a waste management system.
Urinating behind a tree at a countryside road is acceptable; in a city street it is criminalized and might lead to a fine.
Sweden's international calling code number is +46. Payphones are available (however extremely rare), with older models only accepting cards (special smartchip phone cards as well as credit cards), and never models that accept coins (Swedish as well as Euros). Collect calls are possible by dialling 2# on a pay phone.
Sweden has excellent wireless GSM and 3G/UMTS coverage, even in rural areas except in the central and northern interior parts of the country. The major networks are Telia, Tele2/Comviq, Telenor and 3 (Tre). Swedish GSM operates on the European 900/1800 MHz frequencies (Americans will need a triband phone), with 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz (currently with 7.2–14.4 Mbit HSDPA speeds). Only the Telia network supports EDGE. Some operators may ask for a Swedish personnummer (or samordningsnummer) to get a number, although with most operators you can get prepaid without any "personnummer" or ID, and these are sold and refillable at most supermarkets and tobacco stores. If "prepaid" is not understood ask for a Kontant Kort.
Prepaid USB 3G modems can be bought in many shops. They are a good alternative to WiFi in Sweden. They cost around 100 SEK/week and 300 SEK/month to use. Data limits are high (typically 20 GB/month). The number of WiFi access points are growing and fast food chains, libraries, hotels, cafés and malls and others may offer free wireless internet access. Fixed terminals where you can pay for internet access exist as well, although many libraries can provide the same service for free.
The prepaid 3G data package of the provider 3 bought in Sweden can be used in Denmark without incurring any roaming charge. It is, however, not possible to buy refill vouchers for this products in Danish stores.
COMVIQ allows tethering, which makes it easy to bring more than one device in the internet if you bring along an old smart phone or dual SIM mobile.
Sweden is the world's second most Internet connected country (second to Iceland). The Swedish postal system (PostNord or just Posten) is often considered efficient and reliable, with franchises placed inside of supermarkets and convenience stores (look for the yellow horn logo). Stamps for ordinary letters (to anywhere in the world) are 14 SEK and the letter usually needs 2 days within EU. Stamps can be purchased in most supermarkets, ask the cashier.