Bargaining

Except at flea markets, bargaining is not part of Scandinavian shopping culture.

Dangers & Annoyances

Scandinavia is a very safe place to travel, with very low crime rates. Extreme winter temperatures must be taken seriously: wear proper protective clothing when outdoors.

Discount Cards

  • Seniors cards Discounts for retirees, pensioners and those over 60 (sometimes slightly younger for women; over 65 in Sweden) at museums and other sights, at public swimming pools, spas and with transport companies. Make sure you carry proof of age around with you.
  • Student cards If you are studying in Scandinavia, a local student card will get you mega-discounts on transport and more.
  • Camping Key Europe (www.campingkeyeurope.com) Discounts at many camping grounds and attractions, with built-in third-party insurance. In Denmark and at some Swedish camping grounds, it's obligatory to have this or a similar card. It covers up to a whole family with children under 18. Order through regional camping websites, or buy from camping grounds throughout the region (this is sometimes cheaper). It costs around €16 depending on where you get it.
  • Camping Card International (www.campingcardinternational.com) Widely accepted in the region, this camping card can be obtained from your local camping association or club.
  • European Youth Card (www.eyca.org) If you're under 30, you can pick up this card in almost any European country (some specify a maximum age of 26 though). It offers significant discounts on a wide range of things throughout the region. It's available to anyone for a small charge, not just European residents, through student unions, hostelling organisations or youth-oriented travel agencies.
  • Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com) The HI membership card gives significant discounts on accommodation, as well as some transport and attractions.
  • International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org) Discounts on many forms of transport, reduced or free admission to museums and sights, and numerous other offers – a worthwhile way of cutting costs. Check the website for a list of discounts by country. Because of the proliferation of fakes, carry your home student ID as back up. Some places won't give student discounts without it. The same organisation also issues an International Youth Travel Card for under-30s, as well as the International Teacher Identity Card.

Emergency & Important Numbers

General emergency number112
International access code00

Entry & Exit Formalities

Entering and leaving Scandinavia is very easy and usually achieved with minimal waiting time.

Customs Regulations

From non-EU to EU countries For EU countries (ie Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Estonia), travellers arriving from outside the EU can bring duty-free goods up to the value of €430 without declaration. You can also bring in up to 16L of beer, 4L of wine, 2L of liquors not exceeding 22% vol, or 1L of spirits, 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco.

Within the EU If you're coming from another EU country, there is no restriction on the value of purchases for your own use.

Åland islands Arriving on or from the Åland islands (although technically part of the EU), carries the same import restrictions as arriving from a non-EU country.

Other Nordic countries Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have lower limits.

Visas

Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days; some nationalities will need a Schengen visa.

Further Information

  • Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are all part of the Schengen area. A valid passport or EU identity card is required to enter the region.
  • Most Western nationals don’t need a tourist visa for stays of less than three months. Nationals of many other countries, including South Africa, China and India, will require a Schengen visa.
  • A Schengen visa can be obtained by applying to an embassy or consulate of any country in the Schengen area.

Etiquette

  • Greetings Shake hands with men, women and children when meeting them for the first time.
  • Shoes Take them off when entering someone's home.
  • Saunas Naked is normally the way to go.
  • Gifts Bring flowers, pastries, wine or chocolate when invited to someone's house.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

  • Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are very tolerant nations, although public displays of affection are less common in rural areas, particularly Lappland.
  • See individual countries for specific information.

Internet Access

  • Wireless (wi-fi) hot spots are rife. Numerous cafes and bars, and nearly all hostels and hotels offer the service for free. A number of towns and cities in the region have free public wi-fi across the centre.
  • Data is cheap. Buy a local SIM card, pop it in an unlocked phone, laptop or USB modem, and away you go. Deals may mean you pay as little as €15 to €20 for a month's unlimited access.
  • Internet cafes are increasingly uncommon, but libraries provide free or very cheap internet service.

Money

ATMs are widespread. Credit/debit cards are accepted for any transaction.

Further Information

  • ATMs Widespread, even in small places. This is the best way to access cash in Scandinavia. Find out what your home bank will charge you per withdrawal before you go, as you may be better off taking out larger sums.
  • Cash cards These are much like debit or credit cards but are loaded with a set amount of money. They also have the advantage of lower withdrawal fees than your bank might otherwise charge you.
  • Changing money All Scandinavian currencies are fully convertible.
  • Charge cards These include cards like American Express and Diners Club. Less widely accepted than credit cards because they charge merchants high commissions.
  • Debit and credit cards Scandinavians love using plastic, even for small transactions, and you'll find that debit and credit cards are the way to go here.
  • Foreign currencies Easily exchanged, with rates usually slightly better at exchange offices rather than banks. Avoid exchanging at airports if possible; you'll get better rates downtown. Always ask about the rate and commission before handing over your cash.
  • Tax A value-added tax (VAT) applies to most goods and services throughout Scandinavia. International visitors from outside the European Economic Area can claim back the VAT above a set minimum amount on purchases that are being taken out of the country. The procedure for making the claim is usually pretty straightforward.
  • Tipping Isn't required in Scandinavia. But if you round up the bill or leave a little something in recognition of good service, it won't be refused.
  • Travellers cheques Rapidly disappearing but still accepted in big hotels and exchange offices.

Scandinavian Currencies

Denmark

Currency

Danish krone (kr; DKK)

Finland

Currency

euro (€; EUR)

Iceland

Currency

Icelandic króna (kr; ISK)

Norway

Currency

Norwegian krone (kr; NOK)

Sweden

Currency

Swedish krona (kr; SEK)

Estonia (Tallinn)

Currency

euro (€; EUR)

Exchange Rates

Denmark (DKK)Finland (€)Iceland (ISK)Norway (NOK)Sweden (SEK)
AustraliaA$14.990.6785.106.286.37
CanadaC$15.110.6987.196.446.53
Eurozone€17.45126.986.376.51
Japan¥1005.630.7695.947.087.19
New ZealandNZ$14.550.6177.535.725.81
UK£18.471.14144.4610.6710.82
USUS$16.240.84106.307.857.96

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Tipping

Tipping isn't very usual or required in Scandinavia. Rounding up a bill or cab fare is about as far as most locals go. Tips will be gratefully received, however.

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary significantly across Scandinavia; see individual countries for opening hours.

Post

Scandinavian postal services are uniformly reliable, though not cheap. See national postal websites for postage rates and post office locations:

  • Denmark (www.postnord.dk)
  • Finland (www.posti.fi)
  • Iceland (www.postur.is)
  • Norway (www.posten.no)
  • Sweden (www.postnord.se)

Public Holidays

Major Christian holidays are generally taken across the region, with additional public holidays specific to each country. See individual countries for details.

Smoking

  • Smoking Widely forbidden, but some countries have dedicated smoking rooms in hotels and smoking areas in bars. Vaping laws depend on the country.

Taxes & Refunds

A value-added tax (VAT) is added on most goods and services across the region. Visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) are eligible for a refund of this tax on large purchases. See individual countries for details.

Telephone

To call abroad dial 00 (the IAC, or international access code from Scandinavia), the country code (CC) for the country you are calling, the local area code (usually dropping the leading zero if there is one) and then the number.

  • Emergencies The emergency number is the same throughout Scandinavia: 112.
  • Internet Calling via the internet is a practical and cheap solution for making international calls, whether from a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Mobile phones Bring a mobile that's not tied to a specific network (unlocked) and buy local SIM cards.
  • Phone boxes Almost nonexistent in most of Scandinavia.
  • Phonecards Easily bought for cheaper international calls.
  • Reverse-charge (collect) calls Usually possible, and communicating with the local operator in English should not be much of a problem.
  • Roaming Roaming charges for EU phones within the EU have been abolished and are low for other European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

Mobile Phones

  • Local SIM cards are cheap and widely available. They need to be used with an unlocked phone.
  • Data packages are cheap and easy.
  • There is a normal tariff for EU SIM cards in EU countries; otherwise, expect to pay roaming rates.

Telephone Codes

Denmark

Country Code (CC)

45

International Access Code (IAC)

00

Finland

Country Code (CC)

358

International Access Code (IAC)

00

Iceland

Country Code (CC)

354

International Access Code (IAC)

00

Norway

Country Code (CC)

47

International Access Code (IAC)

00

Sweden

Country Code (CC)

46

International Access Code (IAC)

00

Estonia (Tallinn)

Country Code (CC)

372

International Access Code (IAC)

00

Use the country code to call into that country. Use the international access code to call abroad from that country.

Time

Scandinavia sprawls across several time zones. The 24-hour clock is widely used. Note that Europe and the US move clocks forwards and back at slightly different times. The following table is a seasonal guide only.

New York

Time in winter

11am (UTC -5)

Time in summer

noon (UTC -4)

Reykjavík

Time in winter

4pm (UTC)

Time in summer

4pm (UTC; no summer time)

London

Time in winter

4pm (UTC)

Time in summer

5pm (UTC +1)

Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm

Time in winter

5pm (UTC +1)

Time in summer

6pm (UTC +2)

Helsinki, Tallinn

Time in winter

6pm (UTC +2)

Time in summer

7pm (UTC +3)

Toilets

Public toilets are usually good, but often expensive; they can cost €1 or €2 or equivalent to enter.

Tourist Information

  • Facilities Generally excellent, with piles of regional and national brochures, helpful free maps and friendly employees. Staff are often multilingual, speaking English and other major European languages.
  • Locations Tourist information offices at train stations are often in the town hall or central square of most towns.
  • Opening hours Office hours are longer over summer, with reduced hours over winter; smaller offices may open only during peak summer months.
  • Services Offices will book hotel and transport reservations and tours; a small charge may apply.
  • Websites Most towns have a tourist information portal, with good information about sights, accommodation options and more.

Travel with Children

  • Most of Scandinavia is very child friendly, with domestic tourism largely dictated by children's needs.
  • Bigger camping grounds and spa hotels are particularly kid-conscious, with heaps of facilities and activities designed with children in mind.
  • In Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden you'll find excellent theme parks, waterparks and holiday activities. Many museums have a dedicated children's section with toys, games and dressing-up clothes.
  • Iceland is something of an exception: children are liked and have lots of freedom, but they're treated as mini-adults, and there aren't many attractions tailored specifically for kids.
  • For more information, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet's Travel with Children.

Practicalities

  • Cots (cribs) are standard in many hotels but numbers may be limited.
  • Baby food, infant formula, soy and cows' milk, disposable nappies (diapers) etc are widely available in Scandinavian supermarkets.
  • Car-rental firms hire out children's safety seats at a nominal cost, but advance bookings are essential.
  • High chairs are standard in many restaurants but numbers may be limited.
  • Restaurants will often have children's menu options, and there are lots of chain eateries aimed specifically at families.
  • Breastfeeding in public is common and often officially encouraged.
  • Many public toilets have baby-changing facilities.

Travellers with Disabilities

  • Scandinavia leads the world as the best-equipped region for travellers with disabilities. By law, most institutions must provide ramps, lifts and special toilets for people with disabilities; all new hotels and restaurants must install disabled facilities. Most trains and city buses are also accessible by wheelchair.
  • Some national parks offer accessible nature trails, and cities have ongoing projects in place designed to maximise disabled access in all aspects of urban life.
  • Iceland is a little further behind the rest of the region – check access issues before you travel. Scandinavian tourist office websites generally contain good information on disabled access.
  • Before leaving home, get in touch with your national support organisation – preferably the 'travel officer' if there is one. They often have complete libraries devoted to travel and can put you in touch with agencies that specialise in tours for the disabled. One such agency in the UK is Can Be Done (www.canbedone.co.uk).
  • Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Volunteering

There's not a great deal of scope for volunteers who don't speak local languages in Scandinavia. Volunteering on farms in exchange for bed and board is relatively common. See individual countries for details.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures The metric system is used across the region, though old local miles are still referred to sometimes.

Work

  • English teaching and working as an au pair are popular choices for travellers looking for work in Scandinavia.
  • If you're aged between 18 and 30, Scandinavian and looking for short-term work in another Nordic nation, www.nordjobb.org is a useful website.
  • See individual countries for useful national websites.