Bargaining is extremely unusual in Sweden.
Dangers & Annoyances
Sweden is a very safe country, but you should consider the following:
- In and around train stations in large cities (Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm), be aware of pickpockets.
- Only use taxis from reputable companies (we list several), and agree on a fare before you get in.
- If you're venturing out into the wilderness, make sure someone knows where you're going and when you expect to be back.
- Familiarise yourself with the 'new' Swedish bills and coins, as there may still be old (invalid) currency in circulation.
City Summer Cards
Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm and Uppsala have worthwhile tourist cards that get you into their major attractions and offer parking, travel on public transport and discounts at participating hotels, restaurants and shops.
Hostel & Student Cards
A Hostelling International (HI) card means cheaper beds in STF hostels, mountain stations and cabins. You can join the STF at hostels and tourist offices in Sweden (membership adult/16 to 25yr/6 to 15yr/family 295/150/30/450kr); membership is good for one year.
The most useful student card is the International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org), which offers discounts on many forms of transport (including some airlines, international ferries and local public transport) and on admission to museums, sights, theatres and cinemas.
Seniors normally get discounts on entry to museums and other sights, cinema and theatre tickets, air tickets and other transport fares. No special card is required to receive this discount, but show your passport if you are asked for proof of age (the minimum qualifying age is generally 60 or 65 years).
Embassies & Consulates
A list of Swedish diplomatic missions abroad (and links) is available at Sweden Abroad (www.swedenabroad.com). Most diplomatic missions are in Stockholm, although some neighbouring countries also have consulates in Gothenburg, Malmö and Helsingborg.
Embassies & Consulates in Sweden
|Australia||08-613 29 00||www.sweden.embassy.gov.au||8th fl, Klarabergsviaducten 63|
|Canada||08-453 30 00||www.sweden.gc.ca||Klarabergsgatan 23|
|Denmark||08-406 75 00||www.sverige.um.dk||Jakobs Torg 1|
|Finland||08-676 67 00||www.finland.se/fi||Gärdesgatan 9-11|
|France||08-459 53 00||www.ambafrance-se.org||Kommendörsgatan 13|
|Germany||08-670 15 00||www.stockholm.diplo.de||Skarpögatan 9|
|Ireland||08-54 50 40 40||www.embassyofireland.se||Hovslagargatan 5|
|Netherlands||08-55 69 33 00||www.nederlandwereldwijd.nl/landen/zweden||Götgatan 16a|
|Norway||08-58 72 36 00||www.norge.se||Skarpögatan 4|
|UK||08-671 30 00||www.britishembassy.se||Skarpögatan 6-8|
|USA||08-783 53 00||www.usembassy.gov/sweden||Dag Hammarskjölds väg 31|
Emergency & Important Numbers
|International access code||00|
|International directory assistance||118 119|
|Directory assistance within Sweden||118 118|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Sweden’s main airport is Stockholm Arlanda. Entry is straightforward; most visitors simply need to fill out and hand over a brief customs form and show their passport at immigration.
The duty-free allowance for bringing alcohol into Sweden from outside the EU is 1L of spirits or 2L of fortified wine, 4L of wine and 16L of beer. The tobacco allowance is 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of smoking tobacco. You must be at least 20 years old to bring in alcohol and 18 to bring in tobacco.
The limits on goods brought into Sweden with ‘tax paid for personal use’ from within the EU are more generous and somewhat flexible; tax is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Going through customs rarely involves any hassles, but rules on illegal drugs are strictly enforced; you may be searched on arrival, especially if you’re travelling from Denmark. Live plants and animal products (meat, dairy etc) from outside the EU, and all animals, syringes and weapons must be declared to customs on arrival. For the latest regulations, contact Swedish Customs (www.tullverket.se).
Americans don’t need a visa to enter Sweden; some nationalities will need a Schengen visa, good for 90 days.
Citizens of EU countries can enter Sweden with a passport or a national identification card (passports are recommended) and stay indefinitely. Uppehållstillstånd (residence permits) are no longer required for EU citizens to visit, study, live or work in Sweden.
Non-EU passport holders from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US can enter and stay in Sweden without a visa for up to 90 days. Australian and New Zealand passport holders aged between 18 and 30 can qualify for a one-year working-holiday visa. For longer stays, you'll need to apply for a visitor's permit instead of an entry visa. These must be applied for before entering Sweden. An interview with consular officials at your nearest Swedish embassy is required – allow up to eight months for this process. Foreign students are granted residence permits if they can prove acceptance by a Swedish educational institution and are able to guarantee that they can support themselves financially.
Citizens of South Africa and many other African, Asian and some eastern European countries require tourist visas for entry to Sweden (and any other Schengen country). These are only available in advance from Swedish embassies (allow two months); there’s a non-refundable application fee of €60 for most applicants. Visas are good for any 90 days within a six-month period; extensions aren’t easily obtainable.
Migrationsverket (www.migrationsverket.se) is the Swedish migration board and handles all applications for visas and work or residency permits.
Sweden is a polite society but not a casually chatty one – strangers typically won’t make idle conversation while waiting in queues or riding buses, and attempts to do so may be greeted with confusion. Once the ice is broken, Swedes are helpful and happy to show off their English. You’ll be asked your thoughts on their country and about current events in your own; don’t be surprised if they’re better-informed than you.
- Thanks The most commonly uttered word in Swedish is tack – it means thanks, but also please, and it’s applied liberally in all situations. When in doubt, throw it out there.
- Excuse Me To get someone’s attention, say ursäkta mig (excuse me). If you step on their foot, say förlåt (forgive me) instead.
- Greetings The catch-all greeting is hej. For someone you know well, say tjena (sheh-na).
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Sweden is a famously liberal country; it was a leader in establishing gay and lesbian registered partnerships, and since 2009 its gender-neutral marriage law has given same-sex married couples the same rights and obligations as heterosexual married couples. The national organisation for gay and lesbian rights is Riksförbundet för Sexuellt Likaberättigande.
There are gay bars and nightclubs in the big cities, but ask local RFSL societies or your home organisation for up-to-date information. The Spartacus International Gay Guide (www.spartacusworld.com), published by Bruno Gmünder Verlag (Berlin), is an excellent international directory of gay entertainment venues, but it’s best used in conjunction with more up-to-date listings in local papers; as elsewhere, gay venues in the region can change with the speed of summer.
Another good source of local information is the free monthly magazine QX. You can pick it up at many clubs, shops and restaurants in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Copenhagen (Denmark). The magazine’s website (www.qx.se) has excellent information and recommendations in English.
One of the capital’s biggest parties is the annual Stockholm Pride, a five-day festival celebrating gay culture. The extensive program covers art, debate, health, literature, music, spirituality and sport.
Depending on the type of policy you choose, insurance can cover you for everything from medical expenses and luggage loss to cancellations or delays in your travel arrangements.
In Sweden, EU citizens pay a fee for all medical treatment (including emergency admissions), but showing an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) form will make matters much easier. Enquire about the EHIC well in advance at your social-security office, travel agent or local post office. Travel insurance is still advisable, however, as it allows treatment flexibility and will also cover ambulance and repatriation costs.
If you do need health insurance, remember that some policies offer ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ medical-expense options, but the higher one is chiefly for countries that have extremely high medical costs, such as the USA. Everyone should be covered for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an ambulance, hospital treatment or an emergency flight home. You may prefer a policy that pays health-care providers directly, rather than your having to pay on the spot and claim later.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim travel insurance online any time – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Most hotels have free wi-fi, and some have computers and printers in the lobby or business centre. Nearly all public libraries offer free internet access, but often the half-hour or hour slots are fully booked in advance by locals, and certain website categories may be blocked. Many tourist offices offer a computer terminal for visitor use (usually free or for a minimal fee).
Internet cafes are rarely found in Sweden as the vast majority of Swedes have internet access at home.
Wireless internet access at coffee shops is nearly universal and usually free; ask for the password when you order. At bus and train stations and airports, you often have to sign up for an account (usually free) to access the wi-fi.
If arrested, you have the right to contact your country’s embassy, which can usually provide you with a list of local lawyers. There is no provision for bail in Sweden. Sweden has some of the most draconian drug laws in Western Europe, with fines and possible long prison sentences for possession and consumption.
Tourist offices, libraries and hotels usually stock free local town plans.
The best maps of Sweden are published and updated regularly by Kartförlaget, the sales branch of the national mapping agency, Lantmäteriet; they can be bought at most tourist offices, bookshops and some youth hostels, service stations and general stores.
Motorists planning an extensive tour should get the Motormännens Sverige Vägatlas produced by Kartförlaget (275kr, often cheaper online), with town plans and detailed coverage at 1:250,000 as far north as Sundsvall, then 1:400,000 for the remainder.
The best tourist road maps are those of Kartförlaget’s Vägkartan series, at a scale of 1:100,000 and available from larger bookshops. Also useful, especially for hikers, is the Fjällkartan mountain series (1:100,000, with 20m contour interval); these cost around 135kr apiece and are available at larger bookshops, outdoor-equipment stores and STF mountain stations.
To purchase maps before you arrive, try Kartbutiken.
- Newspapers Domestic papers (including the Gothenburg and Stockholm dailies and evening tabloids) are in Swedish only. A good selection of English-language imports is sold at major transport terminals, Press Stop, Pressbyrån and tobacconists – even in small towns.
- Radio Try National Swedish Radio (variable stations around the country, see www.sr.se for a directory) for classical music and opera, pop and rock, and news.
- TV National channels TV1 and TV2 broadcast mainly about local issues, mostly in Swedish. TV3, TV4 and TV5 have lots of shows and films in English.
ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
Cash & ATMs
The simplest and usually cheapest way to get money in Sweden is by accessing your account using an ATM card from your home bank. Bankomat ATMs are found adjacent to many banks and around busy public places such as shopping centres. They accept major credit cards as well as Plus and Cirrus cards.
Sweden uses the krona (plural kronor) as currency. One krona is divided into 100 öre.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, American Express, Discover and Diners Club less so. Credit cards can be used to buy train tickets and on domestic ferries. Electronic debit or credit cards can be used in most shops; in fact, the trend is towards card-only transactions, and many places no longer accept cash.
If your card is lost or stolen in Sweden, report it to your credit-card agency.
American Express (336-393 11 11)
Diners Club (08-14 68 78)
MasterCard (020-79 13 24)
Visa (020-79 56 75)
Forex (0771-22 22 21; www.forex.se) is the biggest foreign money exchange company in Sweden, with good rates and branches in major airports, ferry terminals and town and city centres.
- When to Tip Tipping is rare and usually reserved for great service.
- Restaurants & Bars Not expected except with dinner – service is figured into the bill, but a small gratuity (10% to 15%) for good service is customary. Tipping bartenders is increasingly common.
- Taxis Tipping is optional, but most people add an extra 10-20kr.
- Hotels Service is figured into the bill, but a small tip (around 10kr a day) for housekeeping is appreciated.
Banks around the country accept international brands of travellers cheques. They may charge up to 75kr per travellers cheque, so shop around and compare service fees and exchange rates before handing over your money.
Forex (0771-22 22 21; www.forex.se) charges a service fee of 20kr for each travellers cheque exchanged.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
In large cities, credit and debit cards can be used almost everywhere, and ATMs can be found every few blocks. Visa and MasterCard work everywhere, while American Express and Discover are less widely accepted. The default system uses cards with microchips; if your card has no chip or pin, ask the clerk to swipe it.
In small towns and rural areas, shops, restaurants, hostels and campgrounds are more likely to be cash-only. Changing cash is convenient but relatively expensive, depending on the amount you change.
Keep a 5kr or 10kr coin with you, as many public restrooms charge a fee (even in petrol stations and department stores).
Except where indicated, we list hours for high season (mid-June to August). Expect more limited hours the rest of the year.
Banks 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday; some city branches open to 5pm or 6pm.
Bars & Pubs 11am or noon to 1am or 2am.
Government Offices 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Restaurants 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 10pm, often closed on Sunday and/or Monday; high-end restaurants often closed for a week or two in July or August.
Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday.
Camera supplies are readily available in all the large cities. Expert, a chain of electrical-goods shops, sells a wide range of photography gadgets.
It’s particularly important to ask permission before taking photos of people in Sami areas, where you may meet resistance. Photography and taking videos are prohibited at many tourist sites, mainly to protect fragile artwork. Photographing military establishments is forbidden. Observe signs, and when in doubt, ask permission.
Technical challenges include the clear northern light and glare from water, ice and snow, which may require use of a UV filter (or skylight filter) and lens shade; and the cold – most cameras don’t work below -20°C.
Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography, by Richard I’Anson, contains some handy hints.
Swedish postal service Posten has a network of around 3000 counter services in shops, petrol stations and supermarkets across the country. Look for the yellow post symbol on a pale-blue background, which indicates that postal facilities are offered.
If your postal requirements are more complicated (such as posting a heavy parcel), ask at the local tourist office. Package services are offered at certain office-supply stores.
Mailing letters or postcards weighing up to 20g within Sweden costs 7kr; it’s 21kr to elsewhere in Europe and beyond. Air mail will take a week to reach most parts of North America, perhaps a little longer to Australia and New Zealand.
Midsummer brings life almost to a halt for three days: transport and other services are reduced, and most shops and smaller tourist offices close, as do some attractions. Some hotels close between Christmas and New Year. Upscale restaurants in larger cities often close for a few weeks in late July and early August.
School holidays vary, but in general the kids will be at large for Sweden’s one-week sports holiday (February/March), the one-week Easter break, Christmas, and from June to August.
Many businesses close early the day before and all day after official public holidays.
Nyårsdag (New Year’s Day) 1 January
Trettondedag Jul (Epiphany) 6 January
Långfredag, Påsk, Annandag Påsk (Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday) March/April
Första Maj (Labour Day) 1 May
Kristi Himmelsfärdsdag (Ascension Day) May/June
Pingst, Annandag Pingst (Whit Sunday and Monday) Late May or early June
Midsommardag (Midsummer’s Day) Saturday between 19 and 25 June
Alla Helgons dag (All Saints Day) Saturday, late October or early November
Juldag (Christmas Day) 25 December
Annandag Jul (Boxing Day) 26 December
Note also that Midsommarafton (Midsummer’s Eve), Julafton (Christmas Eve; 24 December) and Nyårsafton (New Year’s Eve; 31 December) are not official holidays but are generally nonworking days for most of the population.
- Smoking Banned in all bars and restaurants in Sweden.
Swedish phone numbers have area codes followed by a varying number of digits. Look for business numbers in the Yellow Pages (www.gulasidorna.se).
Public telephones are increasingly rare, although you may find them at transport hubs, including train and bus stations. They accept phonecards or credit cards. Telia phonecards (telefonkort) cost 50kr and 120kr (for 50 and 120 units, respectively) and can be bought from Telia phone shops and newsagents.
In many cases you can buy a local SIM card to use in your own mobile phone (check with your provider). Barring that, it may be worthwhile buying a cheap mobile phone you can load with prepaid minutes.
Local SIM cards are readily available (around 100kr) from providers such as Tre, Telia, Comviq and Telenor; you then load them with at least 110kr worth of credit. You can buy SIM cards from Pressbyrå locations, including at Arlanda Airport, and purchase top-ups at many stores, including petrol stations.
For international calls dial 00, followed by the country code and then the local area code. Calls to Sweden from abroad require the country code (46) followed by the area code and telephone number (omitting the first zero in the area code).
Mobile-phone codes start with 010, 070, 076, 073 and 0730. Toll-free codes include 020 and 0200 (but toll-free numbers can’t be called from public telephones or abroad).
Directory assistance (118 119) International.
Directory assistance (118 118) Within Sweden.
Emergency services (112) Toll free.
Sweden is one hour ahead of GMT/UTC and is in the same time zone as Norway and Denmark as well as most of Western Europe. When it’s noon in Sweden, it’s 11am in London, 1pm in Helsinki, 6am in New York and Toronto, 3am in Los Angeles, 9pm in Sydney and 11pm in Auckland. Sweden also has daylight saving time: the clocks go forward an hour on the last Sunday in March and back an hour on the last Sunday in October.
Timetables and business hours are quoted using the 24-hour clock, and dates are often given by week number (1 to 52).
Public toilets in parks, shopping malls, libraries, and bus or train stations are rarely free in Sweden, though some churches and most museums and tourist offices have free toilets. Pay toilets cost 5kr to 10kr, usually payable by coin or text message, except at larger train stations and department stores (where there’s an attendant).
Most towns in Sweden have centrally located tourist offices (turistbyrå) that provide free street plans and information on accommodation, attractions, activities and transport. Brochures for other areas in Sweden are often available. Ask for the handy booklet that lists addresses and phone numbers for most tourist offices in the country.
Most tourist offices are open long hours daily in summer; from mid-August to mid-June a few close down, while others have shorter opening hours – they may close by 4pm, and not open at all at weekends. Public libraries, hostels and large hotels are good alternative sources of information.
Tourist Offices Abroad
The official website for the Swedish Travel and Tourism Council (www.visitsweden.com) contains loads of excellent information in many languages, and you can request that brochures and information packs be sent to you.
Tourist offices can usually assist with enquiries and provide promotional material by phone, email or post (most don’t have a walk-in service). In countries without a designated tourist office, a good starting point for information is the nearest Swedish embassy.
Travel With Children
Sweden is a fantastically fun and easy place to travel with children, from infants up to teens. Most sights and activities are designed with kids in mind, with free or reduced admission for under-18s and plenty of hands-on exhibits. Dining, accommodation and transport providers are also well accustomed to handling families.
Best Regions for Kids
- Stockholm & Around
Museums, a petting zoo and an amusement park make the capital city a delight for kids.
- Uppsala & Central Sweden
A great water park, zoo, family-friendly ski slopes and tons of camping.
- Gothenburg & the Southwest
The country’s biggest amusement park, plus great museums and public parks.
- Malmö & the South
One of Sweden’s best open-air museums, plus a rad skatepark.
- The Southeast & Gotland
Take the family on an easy, round-island bicycle trip on Gotland, or visit Astrid Lindgrens Värld in Vimmerby.
- Östersund & the Bothnian Coast
A legendary sea monster, a great zoo, an open-air museum and several kid-friendly hostels.
- Lappland & the Far North
Hit the ski slopes or take the kids on a dogsledding adventure in winter, or a good long hike in summer.
Sweden for Kids
If you’ve got kids, you’re guaranteed an easy ride in Sweden. As a general tip, get the kids involved in your travel plans – if they’ve helped to work out where you’re going, chances are they’ll still be interested when you arrive! Remember, don’t try to cram too much in. Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children is a useful source of information.
Swedes treat children very well, and domestic tourism is largely organised around children’s interests. Many museums have a kids’ section with toys, hands-on displays and activities, and there are numerous public parks for kids, plus theme parks, water parks and so on. Most attractions allow free admission for young children – up to about seven years of age – and in many cases up to about 18. Tours and hostel beds are usually half-price for kids. Family tickets are often available.
High chairs and cots (cribs) are standard in most restaurants and hotels. Menus usually feature at least a couple of children’s meals at a reasonable price. (These are generally along the lines of Swedish meatballs or pancakes with lingonberries and cream – a fairly easy sell even for fussy eaters.) Swedish supermarkets offer a wide choice of baby food, infant formulas, soy and cow’s milk, disposable nappies (diapers) etc. There are nappy-changing facilities in most toilets (men’s and women’s), and breastfeeding in public is not an issue.
- Skansen A miniature Sweden.
- Himmelsberga A farm village with quaint cottages.
- Kulturen A vast museum with buildings from all points in history.
- Fredriksdals museer och trädgårdar An old manor house, a farm, lovely gardens and a French baroque theatre.
- Vallby Friluftsmuseum A farmyard and several craft workshops.
- Jamtli The north’s answer to Skansen.
- Murberget A traditional shop, smithy, church and school, in typical Norrland style.
- Tekniska Museet Thrill tiny nerds with science and gadgetry.
- Naturhistoriska Museet The forest comes to life in this diorama-filled museum.
- Medeltidsmuseet Go back in time and underneath Stockholm for the gripping story of the city’s foundations.
- Värmlands Museum Everything there is to know about the region, plus great contemporary art.
- Ájtte Museum Sami culture gets the attention it deserves, with beautiful multimedia presentations.
When to Go
Parents will find that travel in the summer tourist season (mid-June to August) is easier than outside those times, simply because more visitor facilities, sights and activities are up and running. Be sure to book ahead, though, as this is also when hostels tend to fill up.
If your family is interested in outdoor activities, winter is also a great time to visit; several ski hills (including the world-class Åre) have family-friendly facilities, bunny slopes, ski schools, day care and so on.
Campgrounds have excellent facilities and are overrun with ecstatic, energetic children. They get very busy in summer, so book tent sites or cabins well in advance.
Hotels and other accommodation options often have ‘family rooms’ that sleep up to two adults and two children for about the price of a regular double. Cots for young children are available in most hotels and hostels, usually either free of charge or for a nominal fee.
Hotel staff are accustomed to serving families and should be able to help you with anything you need, from heating bottles to finding a babysitter for a parents’ night out.
Car-rental companies will hire out children’s safety seats at a nominal cost, but it’s essential that you book them in advance. Long-distance ferries and trains may have play areas for children.
Ask about free rides on public transport for young children; this is offered at certain times of day in many cities (for instance, kids under 12 ride free at weekends in Stockholm). Buses are nicely set up for strollers/prams, and most of the time you’ll be swarmed by locals trying to help you get the stroller on and off the bus.
Travellers with Disabilities
Sweden is one of the easiest countries in which to travel around in a wheelchair. People with disabilities will find transport services, ranging from trains to taxis, with adapted facilities – contact the operator in advance for the best service.
Public toilets and some hotel rooms have facilities for those with disabilities. Some street crossings have ramps for wheelchairs and audio signals for visually impaired people, and some grocery stores are wheelchair-accessible.
For further information about Sweden, contact De Handikappades Riksförbund, the national association for the disabled.
Also, contact the travel officer at your national support organisation; they may be able to put you in touch with tour companies that specialise in travelling with disabilities.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Historically, volunteering in Sweden was difficult for non-Swedish speakers, but that's changing. lVolontärbyrån (www.volontarbyran.org) is a nationwide organisation with a program that matches volunteers with opportunities, recently including English-speakers.
Weights & Measures
- Weights and measures Sweden uses the metric system. Some shops quote prices followed by ‘/hg’, which means per 100g. Watch out for mil, which Swedes may translate into English as ‘mile’ – a Swedish mil is actually 10km.
Non-EU citizens require an offer of paid employment prior to their arrival in Sweden. They need to apply for a work permit (and residence permit for stays over three months), enclosing confirmation of the job offer, completed forms (available from Swedish diplomatic posts or over the internet), two passport photos and their passport. Processing takes six to eight weeks, and there’s a non-refundable application fee of 2000kr (1000kr for athletes, performers and a few other job categories).
Australians and New Zealanders aged 18 to 30 years can qualify for a one-year working-holiday visa. Full application details are available online through Migrationsverket (www.migrationsverket.se).
Work permits are only granted if there’s a shortage of Swedish workers (or citizens from EU countries) with certain in-demand skills; speaking Swedish may be essential for the job. Students enrolled in Sweden can take summer jobs, but these can be hard to find and such work isn’t offered to travelling students.
Plenty of helpful information can be found online from the Arbetsförmedlinga (Swedish National Labour Market Administration; www.arbetsformedlingen.se).