Festivals, Flights and Northern lights - what to consider on Sweden time
One of the first things you’ll notice about Sweden is that it’s a study in contrasts; you can spend days exploring the rolling countryside before venturing into Södermalm, where you’ll find vintage shops, trendy restaurants and shopping galore. Its stunning landscapes and picturesque villages offer distinct architectural wonders, and the transportation system is one of the best in the world.
While Sweden is known for being difficult to travel on a budget, we’ve tracked down some tips that’ll help you keep more kronas in your wallet, until you make it back.
Geography, population and more
Sweden is located in Northern Europe southwest of Finland and shares the Scandinavian Peninsula with Norway. Ten million people reside in one of the largest countries in Europe. The country is known for its high quality of life, beautiful cities and its love of coffee, pop music and minimalist design. The capital city of Stockholm is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Sweden’s vast landscape ranges from mountains and forests in the north to lowlands in the east and highlands to the west and south. While Swedish is the official language, you also might meet people who speak Finnish, Meänkieli, Sami, Romani, or Yiddish.
Currency and budget
The Swedish krona is the country’s official currency, but beware the cash-free movement; according to Culture Trip, Sweden is leading the cash-free movement, with many Swedes eschewing notes and coins for cards, citing security, convenience and speed.
You’ll find many cafes, restaurants, attractions and even public toilets do not accept cash. Instead, many are looking to apps like Swish, which lets you pay people or businesses with only their phone number or unique business code. You’ll have the ability to split bills, borrow money or share a tab.
As for how many kronas you should bring with you, Budget Your Trip, which provides average travel costs for thousands of cities all over the world as submitted by other travelers, gives cost breakdowns for everything from food and accommodation to local transportation and entertainment for both budget and mid-range trips. At the budget level, expect to spend about 472 SEK per person per day (about $66 CAD) and 1,167 per person per day ($165 CAD) for a mid-range trip.
Plan your visit for August or September
Late August and September are most affordable, because flights and hotels are cheapest during off season. WorldTrips advises signing up for alerts on travel deals sites like Expedia so you can keep an eye on prices and get the best deal.
Tip: You’ll feel the warmest temps from June through August. The stunning Midnight Sun reveals itself from May to July, while the unforgettable Northern Lights colour the sky from September through March.
Book an Airbnb or bunk at a hostel
Similar to other destinations, Airbnb, Couchsurfing and HostelWorld are favourites here. While Airbnbs often come with a kitchen (allowing you to save money by shopping at the market and eating in), you can save even more money and enjoy a more authentic experience by using Couchsurfing to connect with locals renting space in their homes.
WorldTrips says an average dorm bed at a hostel will cost you between 220 and 450 SEK (about $30 to $64 CAD) per night. Again, many offer a free breakfast, fully functional kitchen, and are a few minutes walk from downtown. Airbnb rates vary dramatically depending on location and amenities, but expect to pay at least 209 SEK (about $30 CAD).
Passport and safety issues
Because Sweden is a Schengen country, Canadian citizens don’t need a visa to travel here, but watch how long you stay; visa-free travel only applies to stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period (this information can change any time, so always check with Canada’s foreign diplomatic missions and consulates).
If you’re using a regular Canadian passport, it must be valid for at least three months beyond the date you expect to leave the Schengen area. Learn more about passports, visas travel advice and advisories for any country at travel.gc.
The Government of Canada cautions Canadians to watch out for petty crimes like pickpocketing and purse snatching in urban areas during the summer months. These areas include:
- Stockholm’s Old Town
- The Central Station
- On public transportation
Always secure your personal belongings, passport and other travel documents. The Government also says gang and organized crime-related violence happens in the three largest cities, including Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Fortunately, these have not typically happened in tourist areas, but always be vigilant.
Similar to many international destinations, terrorism is also a threat and targets could include public areas, tourist attractions, restaurants, shopping centres, airports and other transportation hubs. Always stay aware of your surroundings and watch for warnings on the Government of Sweden’s public alert system.
Get deals on budget airlines
When it comes to transportation in and around Sweden, you’re in luck; the country has several large and small airports, and a famously robust transportation hub.
Flights and airports
Flying into Sweden, you’re likely to land in one of the larger airports:
- Stockholm-Arlanda Airport
- Göteborg Landvetter Airport
- Stockholm-Skavsta Airport
- Stockholm-Bromma Airport
- Malmö Airport
- Luleå Airport
- Umeå Airport
Budget airlines are on the rise, so it’s easier to reduce the cost of what’s traditionally one of your largest travel expenses. Travel website Matador Network suggests looking into Ryanair, Easyjet and WOW Air to fly into smaller Swedish airports at cheap prices; Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport is a half-hour train ride from Malmö, the country’s third-largest city. Check baggage weight limits to avoid extra fees.
Sign up for alerts on price aggregators like Skyscanner and Google Flights to find the best times to buy.
Take the train or bus
Good news: Sweden boasts extensive rail and bus networks to help you get around the country easily.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is purchase an Interrail (for European residents) or Eurail pass (for non-European residents). The SJ trainline service releases tickets in March, June, September/October and December. Watch during these times and you’ll likely be able to nab some cheap fares if you book far enough in advance (or want to chance trying to get a last-minute ticket), says The Local Sweden.
Looking to take a short trip? Hop on a Swebus, the country’s largest express bus travel provider. Similar to the train, you’ll want to book online in advance and avoid traveling Fridays and Sundays – the busiest travel days. You’ll also find tickets at Swebus stores and retailers like 7-Eleven, says Smarter Travel. If you’re traveling afar, Eurolines connects Sweden with 25 other countries.
Visit ResRobot.se to look at bus routes and download a handy smartphone app.
Tip: In Stockholm, you can get an SL 24-hour access card for 125 SEK (less if you’re under 20), which lets you travel anywhere in the county on the commuter train, bus or metro. – The Local Sweden.
The major cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö are all walkable, too.
Bonus: You might try a ferry if you’re visiting Gotland (Sweden’s largest island). Many ferry companies, including Tallink Silja and Viking, offer passenger travel routes from Stockholm to other countries in the Baltic Sea. Smarter Travel points out that one-way ticket prices are often cheaper than round trips.
Eat street-side, shop at food markets
The key to eating on a budget in Sweden is knowing where to go, since prices can vary significantly, points out As We Travel, which suggests looking for restaurants out of the main city centres of Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö.
Looking for a taste of Swedish culture? Check out a gatukök (street kitchen). Essentially, these are small street side hot dog huts that serve cheap fast food – think Swedish meatballs, the “halv special” sausage, and more.
Routes North, an independent travel guide covering Sweden, Denmark and Norway, dropped an ingenious tip to eat for cheap: Check out any of the restaurants that run cheap lunch deals to attract business types. Menus are similar to their evening fare, so it’s a low-risk chance to try that delicious Swedish dish you’ve been eyeing.
You can also meet a few locals during “afterwork” hours, held at bars and restaurants in most larger towns. Simply get yourself a beer or glass of wine, and dine on a sizeable buffet for free. Although you’ll get a tiny plate, you can always go back for more.
Of course, you can always meet locals, experience a country’s authentic culture and find some of the best food at a local food market. TripSavvy mentions Östermalms Saluhall food market as one of the best. Expect to see everything from butchers, cheesemongers, bakers to cafes and sandwich shops in one mouth-watering, tightly packed space.
Tip: Picking up a bottle of wine to open with dinner? Your only legal option in Sweden is Systembolaget, one of about 400 state-run liquor stores where you can buy stronger alcohol. You can still purchase alcoholic drinks in restaurants and bars. – Sweden.se.
Celebrate, stroll the city and explore nature
From the busy city centre of Stockholm to the tranquility of Sweden’s national parks and awe-inspiring views of the Northern Lights, there’s much to see all over the country. Here are just some unforgettable sites and experiences.
Sweden’s capital city is a study in contrasts, from its historic old town to its young districts, captivating city centre, museums and cultural hot spots. Among favourites are Gamla Stan, one of Europe’s medieval centres. Prepare to be stunned by gabled shops and warehouses, award-winning restaurants, museums, cafes and cobblestone lanes.
Tip: You’ll want to get yourself a Stockholm Pass, which gives you free entry to over 60 attractions and use of the hop-on hop-off bus and boat tours.
The Crazy Tourist has a great list of the 25 best things to do in Stockholm.
Check out free sites
Some of the most interesting sites in Sweden are free, from free exhibits and museums to botanical gardens and parks. Matador Network suggests a self-guided walking tour or free guided walking tour to catch any sites you may have missed in your travels.
Experience festivals and celebrations
Hoping to learn more about Sweden? Visit one of the country’s many festivals, from Valborg (where you’ll enjoy dancing and socializing around a huge bonfire) in April to Midsummer – a famous Swedish celebration – in June and medieval week on the island of Gotland, there’s something for everyone. There are even crayfish parties, where locals eat crayfish, drink schnapps and wear silly hats. Learn more over on Swedish Nomad.
Take in Liseberg
Whether you’ve got the kids with you or are looking for a more romantic outing, head to Liseberg, where you’ll find one of Europe’s leading amusement parks, entertainment options like The Liseberg Theatre (Lisebergsteatern). There are also gardens, a sculpture park and in the winter, an Icebar, says Visit Sweden.
Visiting between Mid-November and December 23? You can stroll among Liseberg’s 5 million famous Christmas fairy lights and visit the huge annual Christmas market if you visit in December.
Explore Sweden’s national parks
Once you’ve got your fill of Sweden’s city life, you might be looking for an escape to nature. Sweden’s national parks have you covered, from the peaceful Muddus (said to be the quietest place in all of Sweden) with a waterfall and marshland to the Baltic seascape in Skuleskogen and the snow-capped mountains and incredible wildlife at Abisko, the most visited national park in the country.
Start planning your hiking trip – see Touropia’s list of the 10 most beautiful national parks in Sweden.
Catch the aurora borealis (Northern Lights)
Seeing the Northern Lights is an awe-inspiring experience that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip if you’re traveling between December and March (when you’re most likely to see them due to there being more darkness than light). You’ll want to head to the region of Lapland, and don’t hesitate to pack extra layers to keep warm in the frigid cold, batteries and of course, your camera.
Space Tourism Guide has a comprehensive guide to the Northern Lights in Sweden.
From Sweden’s famous architecture and museums to the bustling city of Liseberg and the tranquility of its national parks, this country has a lot to offer travellers, whether you’re honeymooning, bringing your brood or crossing the globe with friends. While Sweden is well-known for being costly to travel, there are also many free sites, exhibits and wonders to see if you’re willing to compromise on when you go, cook a few meals yourself and take advantage of the country’s robust public transportation system.
Don’t forget to tell us about your experience! Have you ever traveled to Sweden, or are you planning to book a trip? What are your best tips when it comes to saving for vacations? We’d love to hear what you’ve planned, or any tips we’ve missed. Share your story in the comments and tell us what destinations are on your wish list. Our team love saving for holidays and we hope to inspire our members with exciting suggestions to spend your Caddle money.