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Travel Guide: Sweden

Featured hotels in Sweden »

Copperhill Mountain Lodge

Price (US$):
$268 - $640 / night

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Location. Copperhill Mountain Lodge is located in Are, close to Are Bjornen Children's Ski Area, Froa Mines, and Are Old Church. Additional area… more »

Nobis Hotel

Price (US$):
$261 - $555 / night

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Location. Located in central Stockholm, Nobis Hotel is a business friendly hotel within walking distance of Berzelii Park, Stureplan, and Royal… more »

Sankt Jörgen Park Resort

Price (US$):
$192 - $385 / night

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Location. Sankt Jörgen Park Resort is a business friendly hotel located in Gothenburg, close to St. Jorgen Golf Club, Gothenburg Opera, and… more »

Renaissance Malmö Hotel

Price (US$):
$238 - $602 / night

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Location. Renaissance Malmö Hotel is a business friendly hotel located in Malmo's Centrum neighborhood, close to Lilla Torg, Malmo Town Hall, and… more »

Elite Plaza Hotel Göteborg

Price (US$):
$214 - $324 / night

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Location. Elite Plaza Hotel Göteborg is a business friendly hotel located in Gothenburg's Inom Vallgraven neighborhood, close to City Museum,… more »

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About

For other places with the same name, see Sweden (disambiguation).

Sweden (Sverige) is the largest of the Nordic countries in Northern Europe, with a population of about 9.3 million. It borders Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark via the bridge of Öresund (Öresundsbron). The Baltic Sea lies to the east of Sweden, as well as the Gulf of Bothnia, which separates Sweden from most of Finland.

Understand

Although having been a military power and spanning about three times its current size during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two centuries. 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. The country has a long tradition of Lutheran-Protestant Christianity, but today's Sweden is a secular state with few church-goers.

Sweden has a capitalist system and 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, but today pursues a mix of socialism and social-liberalism. Since the most recent election, a coalition of center-right liberal/conservative parties has come into power.

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 just over 100 years ago.

Regions

Norrland
the sparsely populated, northern part of the country (It spans more than half of the country's total area), with nine provinces. Lots of wilderness, with forests, lakes, big rivers, enormous marshes and high mountains along the border to Norway. Great for hiking. Largest cities are Gävle, Sundsvall, Umeå and Luleå.  
Svealand
the central part of the country, includes Stockholm, Uppsala and the provinces of Dalarna, Närke, Värmland, Södermanland, Uppland and Västmanland.  
Götaland
comprised of the ten provinces in the southern part of the country, including the islands (and provinces) of Öland and Gotland. The largest cities in Götaland are Gothenburg in Västergötland and Malmö in Skåne.  

Cities

Major cities
  • Stockholm - The capital, spread out over a number of islands.
  • Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish) - On the west coast.
  • Linköping - The 5th most populous city of Sweden. University city.
  • Kiruna - a mining town in Lappland, and the northernmost city in Sweden.
  • Luleå - Industrial city in northern Norrland, with a technical university.
  • Malmö - Down south, not far from the Danish capital Copenhagen.
  • Umeå - University city in Norrland.
  • Uppsala - lively pretty old university city. Fourth largest city in Sweden.
  • Örebro - Old shoe manufacturing center, halfway between Stockholm and Oslo.

Other Destinations

  • Åre - One of Sweden's largest ski resorts, with 44 lifts.
  • Esrange - A rocket launching facility near Kiruna.
  • Gotland - Sweden's largest island, as well as the largest island of the Baltic Sea, situated in the Baltic Sea. Its capital Visby is on UNESCO's World's heritage list. It's a common vacation spot for Swedes from the mainland.
  • Kebnekaise - Sweden's highest mountain surrounded by vast wilderness areas and a popular trail to Abisko National Park.

Get In

Sweden is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.

There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.

Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you travelling within the Schengen area or not, some airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.

Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.

As of January 2011 only the nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area: Albania*, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan*** (Republic of China), United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports. These visa-free visitors may not stay more than three months in half a year and may not work while in the EU.

Note that

  • while British subjects with the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British Overseas Territories citizens connected to Gibraltar are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European Union purposes" and therefore eligible for unlimited access to the Schengen Area,
  • British Overseas Territories citizens without the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British subjects without the right of abode in the United Kingdom as well as British Overseas citizens and British protected persons in general do require visas.

However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.

Further note that

(*) nationals of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel,

(**) Serbian nationals with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (Serbs residing in Kosovo) still do need a visa and

(***) Taiwanese nationals need their ID number to be stipulated in their passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

By plane

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

Major airports:

  • Stockholm Arlanda (IATA: ARN) (ICAO: ESSA) - serves most major airlines. Check the Stockholm page for information on transfer between the airport and Stockholm City.
  • Göteborg Landvetter (IATA: GOT) (ICAO: ESGG) - serves several international airlines and provides convenient bus transfer (~20 min) to central Gothenburg.
  • Copenhagen Kastrup (Denmark) (IATA: CPH) (ICAO: EKCH) - serves most major airlines. Located on an island between Copenhagen and Malmö and is ideal for travelling in southern Sweden. Train connections leave from the airport to both cities.

Smaller airports:

  • Stockholm Skavsta (IATA: NYO) (ICAO: ESKN) - airport for low fares airlines like Ryanair and Wizzair . Located quite a distance (about 100 km) from Stockholm, near the town of Nyköping.
  • Stockholm Västerås (IATA: VST) (ICAO: ESOW) - international flights to/from Copenhagen and London. Also about 100 km from Stockholm.
  • Göteborg City Airport (IATA: GSE) (ICAO: ESGP) - situated just 14 kilometers from central Gothenburg, this airport is used by Ryanair, Wizzair and Germanwings .
  • Malmö-Sturup (IATA: MMX) (ICAO: ESMS) - 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.

By train

You can reach Sweden by train from three countries at present:

  • 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 (X2000) leave from Copenhagen to Stockholm. The Elsinore-Helsingborg connection, known as one of the busiest ferry routes in Europe, might also be used (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 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's no train connection as Finland and Sweden use a different gauge.

By bus

Get into Sweden by "Eurolines" or "Säfflebussen" . All connections here go via Copenhagen.

Buses from and to the Western Balkans are also operated by Toptourist, . Call + 46 (0 ) 42 18 29 84 for more info

By boat

Baltic Sea cruises

"Our level of drunkenness was normal for a cruise of this kind." The managing director of shipping company Tallink gave an interesting quote after his and the entire board's drunken rampage on one of Tallink's cruise ships in 2006. (The accusations against the VIP's included sexual harassment against female staff, beating up a bartender and causing a fire by putting a fish in a toaster.) The director's explanation clearly shows the main PR problem about the cruise ships on the Baltic Sea: they have a reputation as trashy booze boats, far from the glamor of other international cruises. This is largely due to the fact that the tickets can be dirt cheap - sometimes less than 50 SEK - and that tax-free alcohol shopping is among the main attractions. Still, some of the new ships are really pretty, and it is an easy and cheap way to get a glimpse of a country on the other side of the Baltic Sea. Also, not all cruises include obnoxious drunks trying to toast fish. Stockholm is the main port in Sweden for the cruises, and the main destinations are Helsinki, Åland and Turku in Finland, Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia. Ships are operated by Silja Line , Viking Line , Birka Cruises and, of course, Tallink , MSC cruises . To get the cheapest tickets, try to go on a weekday in low season, share a four-bed cabin with some friends and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for last minute offers.

Image:MS Meloodia Tallink.jpg

Belgium

  • From Ghent to Gothenburg by DFDS Torline (cargo line with limited passenger capacity)

Denmark

  • From Grenå to Varberg by Stena Line .
  • From Frederikshavn to Gothenburg by Stena Line.
  • From Elsinore to Helsingborg by Scandlines and HH-ferries .

Estonia

  • From Tallinn to Stockholm (via Helsinki) by Viking Line .
  • From Tallinn to Stockholm (direct connection) by Tallink .

Finland

  • From Helsinki to Stockholm (via Åland) by Tallink Silja and Viking Line.
  • From Naantali to Kapellskär by Finnlink .
  • From Turku to Stockholm (via Åland) by Tallink Silja and Viking Line.
  • From Vaasa to Umeå by RG Line .

Latvia

  • From Riga to Stockholm by Tallink .
  • From Ventspils to Nynashamn by Scandlines.

Germany

  • From Travemünde to Trelleborg by TT-Line .
  • From Travemünde to Malmö by Nordö Link .
  • From Kiel to Gothenburg by Stena Line.
  • From Sassnitz to Trelleborg by Scandlines .
  • From Rostock to Trelleborg by Scandlines and TT-Line.

Norway

  • From Sandefjord to Strömstad by Color Line

Poland

  • From Gdansk to Nynäshamn by Polferries .
  • From Gdansk to Visby by Polferries.
  • From Gdynia to Karlskrona by Stena Line.
  • From Świnoujście to Ystad by Polferries.

Russia

  • From Baltijsk, Kaliningrad to Karlshamn by DFDS Tor Line .

UK

  • From Immingham and Tilbury to Gothenburg by DFDS Torline (cargo line with limited passenger capacity).

Get Around

Travelling around Stockholm and visiting various places can easily turn quite expensive. Therefore, Stockholm offers a card called The Stockholm Card. With it you can ride with trains, busses, ferries and the tram for free. It also offers free admission to over 75 museums and attractions.

The ancient right to roam (allemansrätten) grants everybody a right to move freely in nature on foot, horse, ski, bicycle or by boat, even on others' private property. 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.

By plane

Although Sweden is a fairly large country, most of the action takes place in the southern parts where the distances are not huge. Domestic flights are mainly for travellers with little time or much money, however if you are heading for the far north you may want to consider it. There are also low-price tickets, but they must be bought well in advance.

The most important domestic airlines:

  • SAS - the international airline has many domestic routes as well.
  • Skyways - the largest number of domestic routes, several from Copenhagen.
  • 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.

By train

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 citiziens) or Eurail (for non-European citiziens) pass might be useful.

Unlike most European countries, however, bicycles are generally not allowed on trains. The list of trains transporting bicycles is on SJ website . The bicycle surcharge is 149 SEK and you should buy it at least one day in advance.

The national public transport authority is called Rikstrafiken , and it has online timetables in English, which include schedules for trains, buses and ferries. The service is called Resplus .

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 affordable railroad transportation up north. 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).

By bus

Swebus runs a number of bus lines in the southern third of the country, Götaland and Svealand. They tend to be a little cheaper than going by train if you can't take advantage of SJ's youth discounts. Y-buss 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 traveling 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. A newcomer on the bus market is Bus4You

By car

In Svealand and Götaland driving takes you quickly from one place to the other. In Norrland the distances tend to be bigger between the different sites so the time spent driving may be long. Unless you really like driving, it is often more convenient to take the train or fly to the sites, particularly in Northern Norrland. Traveling by night can be dangerous due to unexpected animals on the roads and the cold nights during the winter. Collisions with moose, roe deer, or other animals are a not uncommon cause of car accidents. See also Driving in Sweden and Winter driving.

By thumb

Sweden has a reputation for being a pretty difficult country to hitch in, though it's still quite possible to hitchhike (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 hitchhikers, 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.

By bike

Most Swedish cities have excellent bike paths, and renting a bike can be a quick and healthy method of getting around locally.

By foot

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.

Talk

Swedish 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, according to the Eurobarometer, making Sweden one of the most English-proficient country on the planet. 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 (hay) 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-shek-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.

Many Swedish people are over-confident with their English skills. One problem can be excessive swearing (accepted in colloquial Swedish, and augmented by Hollywood movies), but also some false cognates can be shocking for a native English-speaker; some examples are fack ("trade union" or "compartment"), fart ("speed"), prick ("spot") kock ("chef") and slut ("end" or "sold out"). Be sure to forgive such misunderstandings.

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.

Swedish people learn British English at school, affecting their vocabulary, but also watch films and TV programs in American English. Whether they use British or American standards in speech varies from person to person. However, the accent of many Swedes, especially rural and old ones, is very distinctly "stubby" unless they had significant experience by conversing or living in United Kingdom or the United States.

Foreign television programmes and films are almost always shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Swedish.

Do

Where are the Vikings?

Many tourists from English-speaking countries wonder where they can see real Vikings. Unfortunately, they have not been around for a thousand years. "Viking" is not the name of a separate tribe or nation - it is simply a word meaning "sailor" or "navigator of the fjords". Some Swedish, Norwegian and Danish men (and in a few cases women) gave up farming or fishing to join expeditions of trade, exploration and piracy, reaching as far as present-day Canada, Morocco and the Caspian Sea. As the pagan Scandinavians were christened around AD 1000, the Viking raids declined. There are still traces from the Viking age, such as runestones and burial mounds, everywhere in Sweden. Some good places to see Viking artifacts are The Museum of National Antiquities ("Historiska museet") in Stockholm, Gamla Uppsala in Uppsala and Birka and Adelsö just west of Stockholm.

The Viking heritage has been contorted through history - romanticized during the 19th century, abused by neo-Nazis, but more truthfully re-enacted by neo-pagans and live-action roleplayers. Most Swedes are proud of their Viking roots, though they don't take it very seriously.

Sweden is great for outdoor life - skiing, skating, hiking, canoeing, cycling and berry-picking depending of season. Stockholm and Gothenburg have great nightlife and shopping opportunities. Most cities have well-preserved pre-industrial architecture.

The year in Sweden

Swedish weather is best during the summer (late May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norrland or Dalarna in December to April.

Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Stockholm, the sun sets at 3 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and Arctic night. However, even at Stockholm's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July.

The major holidays are Easter, Midsummer (celebrated from the eve of the Friday between June 19 - 25), Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays), and the "industrial vacation" throughout July. Expect closed establishments, heavy traffic (for the holidays) and crowded tourist resorts (for July).

Note that most Swedish holidays are celebrated on the day before (Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve etc), while Swedish people do hardly anything on the holiday proper.

Buy

The national currency is the Swedish krona (SEK, plural kronor). Automatic teller machines take major credit cards. Most stores, restaurants and bars accept all major credit cards. You usually need an ID card or a passport when shopping with a credit card, regardless of the amount involved, though ususally not in supermarkets and such where PIN code is king.

It is not common to bargain in shops but it might work in some instances, especially when buying more expensive products. Bargaining is also okay at flea markets and in antique shops. When dining out, a service charge is often included in the bill, and there is generally no reason to tip, unless you're very satisfied with the service.

Most shops, at least downtown, are open all week, even on Sundays. Closing times are rigid, most often on the minute.

Many Swedes translate the word krona, which means crown. For example, instead of saying 50 kronor they might say 50 crowns.

The future coin series will consist of 1, 2, 5 and 10 kronor, and the banknote series of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 crowns.

ATM

The Swedish word for ATM is Uttag, Bankomat and Kontanten. 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 ($1420/€1110) per use. During a seven-day period you can withdraw a maximum of 20 000 SEK ($2840/€2220). 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 1000 EUR per use. You can make multiple withdrawals after the other but a maximum 20 000 SEK per week.

Costs

Sweden is considered by some to be a very expensive country in which to live, though you can find cheap alternatives if you look around. For example: Sundries like a 33cl bottle of Coca Cola costs 10 SEK ($1,06/€0,91), a beer in a bar will cost you 50 SEK ($7,14/€5,50), average price of Hotel accommodation was around 1300 SEK ($185/€140), a bus/subwayticket in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö will set you back around 25 SEK ($3,57/€2,77), meal will cost you between 60 and 200 SEK ($8,50-$28,50/€6,60-€22,20), 1 litre Petrol costs about 15 SEK ($2,20/€1,60) and 25 Pack of cigarette will cost you 60 SEK ($8,50/€6,60). If you are a bit careful about your expenses a daily budget of around 1000 SEK ($143/€110) per day. While, house prices are probably amongst the cheapest in Western Europe and recently opened discount stores such as "Lidl", "Netto" and "Willy's" offer a wide range of items, why not buy a sewing machine while doing the weekend grocery shopping? Accommodation and dining out is cheaper in Stockholm than in most other West European capitals.

Shopping

  • 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 SEK 100 for a very small one or several hundred crowns 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.
  • Exclusive wines from Systembolaget.

Eat

The world's stinkiest fish dish

Adventurous diners might want to try surströmming, which is (coastal) central and northern Sweden's entry in the revolting-foods-of-the-world contest. It's herring which is fermented in a tin can until the can starts to bulge and almost bursts. It all gets so foul-smelling that the fish is only eaten outdoors to keep it from stinking up the house, although it has been known for unsuspecting visitors from other countries to be "treated" to an indoor surströmming experience for more intensity.

It is considered bad manners not to notify (or invite) the neighbors before having a surströmmingsskiva, a party where the delicacy is consumed. It is claimed that the best way to get over the smell is to take a deep breath of it just when you open the can, to as quickly as possible knock out your smelling sense. Surströmming season peaks in August.

Swedish cuisine is mostly hearty meat or fish with potatoes, derived from the days when men needed to chop wood all day long. Besides the ubiquitous potatoes, modern Swedish cuisine is to a great extent based on bread. Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). They include:

  • 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 afterwards. Traditionally eaten on Thursdays since medieval times when the servants had half the day off as it is an easy meal to prepare. All lunch resturants in Sweden with any self-respect serves pea soup and pancakes every Thursday.
  • Pickled herring (sill), available in various types of sauces. Commonly eaten with bread or potatoes for summer lunch or as a starter. Virtually mandatory at midsummer and very common for christmas.
  • Blodpudding, a black sausage made by pig's blood and flour. Slice it, fry it and eat it with lingonberry jam.
  • Gravlax, a widely known and appreciated cold appetizer made by thin slices of salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill.
  • Falukorv, a big baloney from Falun. Sliced, fried and eaten with ketchup and mashed potatoes.
  • Sweden has more varieties of bread 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 cheese) and leverpastej (liver paté).
  • 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.

Other Swedish favorites:

  • 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%.
  • Crayfish (kräftor), hugely popular around August, when Swedes feast on them at big crayfish parties (kräftskivor). Silly paper hats and lots of alcohol included.
  • Semla, a cream-filled pastry eaten around 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 Skåne 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.

Typical Swedish "gourmet" restaurants serve steaks or other grilled dishes garnished with fragrant herbs such as dill, and vegetables such as Broccoli and red bell peppers. Most famous swedish steak is called Planka, or plank steak. It is Beef fillet, duchess potatoes, asparagus wrapped in bacon, huge amounts of bearnaise sauce, tomatoes and for some strange reason orange segments, and is decandently good!

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 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 offer decent packed salads and sandwiches.

You can get a "cheap" lunch if you look for the signs with "Dagens rätt" (meal of the day). This normally costs about 50-120 SEK (€5,50-€13,30) and almost everywhere includes a bottle of water; soft drink; or light beer, bread & butter, some salad and coffee afterwards. Dagens rätt is served Monday to Friday.

The world famous furniture retailer IKEA has stores at the outskirts of 15 Swedish cities. These have great diners, which offer well-cooked Swedish meals for as little as 40 SEK, and the store exit usually has a café selling hot dogs for as little as 5 SEK. (They hope that you spend some money on shopping too.) Great if you happen to pass by. Expect crowds at rainy weather.

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 every smaller town.

Drink

Coffee

Swedish people drink plenty of coffee, kaffe. 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 slightly stronger than American one. Italian varieties (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte) are available at most city cafés. One coffee will cost you around 25 SEK ($3,5/€2,8).

Alcoholic beverages

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 or akvavit. When served in a shot glass with a meal it is called snaps (not to confuse with the German "Schnapps").

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 "Systembolag", 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 varieties of different brands of beers in food stores, Swedish, English and even Czech beer. Wine is popular, but the Swedish production is very modest.

Systembolaget

Access to alcoholic beverages is, as in Norway, Finland and Iceland, quite restricted and expensive. The only place to buy strong alcohol including starköl (beer which contains more than 3.5% alcohol ABV) over the counter is in one of the state owned shops called Systembolaget . They have limited hours of operation, usually 10-6 Mon-Wed, 10-7 Thurs-Fri, and 10-3 on Saturdays, with long queues on Fridays and Saturdays. Closed on Sundays. Most shops are of supermarket style. The assortment is very good, and the staff usually has great knowledge. Please note that Systembolaget does not serve customers under the age of 20. You will most likely be asked for identification. This also applies to your companion, regardless of them buying anything.

Liquor is very expensive at Systembolaget (vodka is 300 SEK a liter), 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 the consumers. Mid-to-high-quality wines, and exclusive spirits, are quite often cheaper in Sweden than even in the country of origin; sometimes even cheaper than if you were to buy the wine directly from the vineyard. This does NOT apply to low-quality wines, however, due to the volume-based tax on alcohol.

If you want beer, choose a variety of microbrews. All brands are treated equally and there is no large-pack discount. Beverages are not refrigerated.

Bars and nightclubs

The age limit is 18 to bars and beers in shops (to prevent teenage drunkenness, some shops have decided to have a 20 age limit for 3.5% beer as well), but 20 in Systembolaget. Many bars have an age limit of 20, but some (especially downtown in weekends) have age limits as high as 23 or 25. Bring passport or ID.

Some clubs mandate dress code, vårdad klädsel. For male guests, proper shoes (not sneakers or sandals), long-legged trousers (not blue jeans) and a dress shirt is usually good enough.

Age or dress rules are not rigid, and doormen have the right to accept or reject any patron for any reason other than gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability or race. Though illegal, nightclubs are infamous to reject "immigrants", which usually means anyone with hair and skin darker than the average Swede, by pretexts such as "members only" or "too drunk"; men of Middle Eastern or African origin are most troubled. You might avoid this problem by dressing properly and behaving well.

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/bars are often expensive compared to other countries, a large beer (half a liter) costs usually as much as 45-55 SEK (~US$7), but many low-profile bars advertise stor stark (0.4 L of draft lager) for as little as 25 SEK. A long drink costs around 60-110 SEK. For that reason many Swedes have a small pre-party ("förfest") before they go out, to get started on their buzz before they hit the town and go to nightclubs.

Large clubs can require an entrance fee of 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.

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 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 are open until 1AM will have a free entry policy. Most bars and clubs that remain open until 3AM will charge an entrance fee. There some clubs that remain open until 5AM. Their entrance fee will usually be around 200 SEK (~US$28.00) and their entry policy will generally weigh less favourably for the non-rich, non-well-moisturised, non-Swedes, non-friends or non-regulars.

In the cold season it is often mandatory to hand in your jacket at the club's wardrobe for a fee, usually around 20 SEK.

Authorized security guards carry a badge saying Ordningsvakt, 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 and some even lethally dangerous, so you should stick to the real thing.

Learn

All education in Sweden is free for residents, except for a mandatory Students' Union membership (usually a fee of less than 500 SEK) at universities and other tertiary education institutions. Although the government has subsidized schools and classes, there also exist many private alternatives where a tuitition fee is required.

As a foreigner wishing to study at a Swedish university or school of higher education, you do not have to pay tuition fees. However, the current center-right government have introduced tuition fees for non EU-/EES- citizens, starting 2011.

Some important university cities:

  • Uppsala
  • Lund
  • Gothenburg
  • Stockholm
  • Linköping

If you are a student there is something known as an "academic quarter" where classes and school related events will start 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.

You can find more useful information about studying in Sweden on the Study in Sweden website.

Work

EU and EEA citizens are allowed to work in Sweden without a permit. Citizens of other countries need a work permit, and getting one is quite a hassle, however, Working Holiday Visas are available for Australian and New Zealand citizens aged between 18-30. 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 residence permit. More information about the paperwork is found on the government website swedenabroad.com .

As for finding a job you could try the public "Arbetsförmedlingen" ('The Job Agency') and give it a try, it might work! 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). The unofficial is closer to 15-20%, so the chances of getting a job in Sweden without arranging it before arrival are slim at best. Salaries range from 15,000 to 70,000 SEK (€1600-€7700) per month (2008).

Stay Safe

Risks in Sweden

Crime/violence: Low
Alcohol-related violence, petty theft, mugging
Authorities/corruption: Low
Security guards might be rude
Transportation: Low to Moderate
Wild animal crossings everywhere, and slippery roads in the winter
Health: Low
Tick and mosquito bites
Nature: Low to Moderate
Blizzards and avalanches in the northern mountains

Sweden enjoys a comparatively low crime rate and is generally a safe place to travel with violent crime being rare. Use common sense at night, particularly on weeknights when people hit the streets to drink, get drunk, and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. 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.

Although there is a significant police presence in the city centers, especially on weekend nights, the rest of Sweden is quite weakly policed. This especially applies to the northern parts of the country, where the nearest patrol car might be tens of miles away.

If involved in an argument, try to leave before the person becomes aggressive. If you see a street fight and want to stop it, be sure to have a friend. There have been reports on people injured or even killed when they've tried to stop a street fight. Young people, drunk people, or people who have taken drugs can be dangerous so use common sense. Don't feel bad if you don't do anything: there is a reason why many tend to do that, unfortunately. Do not argue with security guards, they might be upset, and could be violent. Don't report a security guard for violence, since they are likely to accuse you of violence, which might result in a prison sentence, as courts tend to believe uniformed people.

Swedes generally tend to avoid eye contact, especially so in dangerous situations. Looking directly at someone behaving aggressively might provoke him.

Pickpockets are rare but not unheard of. They usually work in tourist-frequented areas, such as airports, large rail stations, 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.

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.

The E6 between Helsingborg and Norway is haunted by robbers, known as "road pirates". If sleeping in your vehicle during nighttime, consider a guarded camping area.

Counterfeit Swedish banknotes or other documents are very uncommon. Newer 50, 100, 500 and 1000 SEK notes have holograms. Older 100 and 500 SEK banknotes without a hologram are invalid, but older 50 and 1000 SEK banknotes without a hologram are still valid.

Driving in Sweden is among the safest in Europe. It doesn't mean that there are no dangers in the roads; wild animals like moose, deer and boar sometimes stray onto highways. The moose is a big and heavy animal (up to 700 kg and 2,1 m shoulder height) so a collision can be violent and endanger your life even if you wear a seatbelt.

Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for everyone who is in the car. Some motorways have traffic signs that warn about wild animals and it's mostly seen in the northern areas of Sweden, although they can be spotted in the south as well. Motorway driving is a lot less aggressive than in Denmark or mainland Europe, although this may not apply to drivers who are not Swedish. There are long distances. Take rests if you are tired; it is dangerous to fall asleep when driving.

In Case of Emergency

112 is the 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.

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 phone number 114 14 that will bring you in contact with an operator at a police station (usually nearby, but not always)

Nightclubs and shopping centers usually have security officers with a chest badge saying ordningsvakt, authorized to use force, and infamous to do so. These should be respected. Officers with other labels ("Security" or "Entrévärd") have no special privileges, but are still notoriously violent (as they are usually recruited from the street, without background check). Don't argue with them.

Stay Healthy

Since November 2009, the pharmacy business has been de-regulated. 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, antiseptics and painkillers.

Swedish health care is usually of a very high quality, but can be quite challenging for foreigners to receive. Most, but not all, medical clinics are state-owned, and their accessibility varies. Therefore, getting a time within a week at some medical centers 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 especially in wintertime will be the cold, particularly if trekking 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.

Dangerous animals

A serious nuisance in summer are mosquitoes (mygg), hordes of which inhabit Sweden (particularly the north) in summer, especially after rain. While they do not carry malaria or other diseases, Swedish mosquitoes make a distinctive (and highly irritating) whining sound, and their bites are very itchy. As usual, mosquitoes are most active around dawn and sunset — which, in the land of the Midnight Sun, may mean most of the night in summer. There are many types of mosquito repellents available which can be bought from almost any shop. Other summer nuisances are gadflies (bromsar), whose painful but non-poisonous bites can leave a mark lasting for days, and wasps (getingar) whose stings can be deadly if you're allergic. To minimize trouble from insects, use mosquito repellent, ensure your tent has good mosquito netting and bring proper medication if you know that you're allergic to wasp stings.

In southern Sweden and in northern coastal regions there are ticks (fästingar) which appear in summertime. 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 lake Mälaren and the Stockholm archipelago. A vaccination against TBE is available but the first two doses should be completed before a reliable protection can be expected. Borreliosis can be treated with antibiotics. Although incidents are relatively rare and not all ticks carry diseases, it's advisable to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense and/or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). You can buy special tick tweezers (fästingplockare) from the pharmacy that can be used to remove a tick safely if you happen to get bitten. You should remove the tick from your skin as quickly as possible and preferably with the tick tweezers to reduce the risks of getting an infection. If the tick bite starts to form red rings on the skin around it or if you experience other symptoms relating to the bite, you should go visit a doctor as soon as possible. Since ticks are black, they are more easily found if you wear bright clothes.

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 mountains in the north and farmlands in the south. Although its bite hardly ever is life-threatening (except to small children and allergic people), one should be careful in the summertime especially when walking in the forests or on open fields. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical assistance. All reptiles in Sweden, including adders, are protected by law and must not be harmed.

There aren't any really dangerous marine animals in Sweden, although when bathing in the sea one should watch out for Greater weevers (Fjärsing); this is a small fish that hides in the sand near beaches, its back has several spikes that are poisonous and will hurt a lot if stepped on. The poison of the Greater Weever is to be considered 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 types of poisonous jellyfish that can be quite common near beaches. These are distinguished from normal non-poisonous types by their bright blue or red color. These types of jellyfish aren't really dangerous but their venom will hurt. There are no large predatory fish that pose a lethal threat to humans in Sweden, but in extreme cases the Pike (gädda), a common fish in Sweden's many lakes has been known to bite people when threatened. You probably run a higher risk of being struck by lightning than a Pike bite though!

As for other dangerous wildlife, there's not much more than a few extremely rare encounters with brown bear (brunbjörn) and wolf (varg) in the wilderness. Both of these animals are listed as protected species. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no polar bears in Sweden, let alone polar bears walking city streets. If you encounter a brown bear in the woods, walk slowly away from it while talking loudly - the bear is most likely to feel threatened if you surprise it. In the unlikely event of a brown bear attacking you should play dead, protect your head and make yourself as small as possible. Or the opposite, there have been people surviving a brown bear encounter by screaming as loud as possible, jumping, and making oneself as big as possible. 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. Swedish wolves have not killed a human being since 1821. In general, one shouldn't worry about dangerous encounters with wild beasts in Sweden.

Respect

Most Swedes have liberal, cosmopolitan, secular, egalitarian and environmentalist values by Anglo-Saxon standards. This spares Western tourists from cultural clashes which 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.

  • Though narcotics are not unheard of, most Swedes, old and young, are strongly opposed to them, and the criminal penalties are harsh by Swedish standards. This also applies to cannabis and other "soft drugs".
  • 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 own will.
  • 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.
  • Always ask if you should remove your shoes or not when entering a Swedish home. In most homes it is customary to remove your shoes, but some Swedes prefer if their guests keep their shoes on, or at least say so. 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 (or if you do not like to take off your shoes when indoors), bring a pair of clean indoor shoes. Removing your shoes when entering someones home is always the safest bet in Sweden.
  • Though rumors of the "Swedish sin", Swedish people are generally not accepting of public nudity except at approved nudist beaches. Don't go skinny-dipping in public beaches, if you are more than four years old. Female toplessness is uncommon (and prohibited at many public baths), but breastfeeding in public is accepted. 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.) is 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 akward doing so.
  • Show up on the minute for meetings and meals, preferably five minutes before 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 "...arrive after 1700" or exists formal rules (some of the universities applies a "akademisk kvart", an academic quarter hour, within which it is accetable to arrive to lectures).
  • In regards to homosexuality, Sweden is quite tolerant to gays. In fact, as of May 2009, same-sex marriages have legal standings in Sweden. The chance of facing extreme criticism or homophobia is low in Sweden, as the country has anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws. Violence against gays and lesbians is relatively rare.

Contact

Sweden's international calling code number is +46. Payphones are available, with older models only accepting cards (special smartchip phone cards as well as credit cards), and newer models that accept coins (Swedish as well as Euros). Collect calls are possible by dialing 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

Prepaid USB 3G modems can be bought cheaply (around 150 SEK) 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).

Sweden is the world's second most Internet connected country (second to Iceland). The Swedish postal system ("Posten AB") is often considered efficient and reliable, with locations placed inside of supermarkets and convenience stores (look for the yellow horn logo). Stamps for ordinary letters (to anywhere in the world) are 12 SEK and the letter usually needs 2 days within EU. Stamps can be purchased in most supermarkets, ask the cashier.