The simple answer is no.
The not so simple answer is that it all depends on HOW you travel . Just like anywhere else really.
Read on to find out why I have never found Sweden to be particularly expensive.
I’ve always flown SAS for the only reason that they’ve worked out cheapest for me. On my last two visits to Sweden I flew from Manchester to Stockholm. Two of my flights (one each time) involved changing in Copenhagen, the other two were direct. Of course depending on where you’re flying from you may find a cheaper airline.
On my visit to Malmö a few years ago I flew SAS to Copenhagen and took the train over the Öresund Bridge to Sweden. This suited me because I was spending the bulk of my time in Copenhagen and only a few days in Malmö, but even if I was planning to spend the majority of my time in the south of Sweden flying to Copenhagen and taking the train might be the best and cheapest way of getting there.
The last time I flew to Stockholm I only booked about six weeks before my departure. My outbound flight needed to be after the start of the school summer holidays and cost me about £200. Because I was able to book the return after the school holidays had finished in September it only cost me £50. Moral of the story; book your flights outside of the school holidays if possible.
Getting Around Sweden
Sweden is a VERY long country and so distances can be long too. I’ve travelled all over Sweden using trains and buses. Sometimes I’ve booked in advance and other times I’ve paid on board. Here are some examples.
The Arctic Circle Train from Stockholm to Kiruna.
Kiruna is way in the far north of Sweden a couple of hundred kilometres above the Arctic Circle (hence the name of the train). The journey is scheduled to take around 16 hours, but often takes longer and is usually overnight. The first time I took this train I only booked a seat. Sweden was in the throes of a tropical heatwave and the train was like an oven. Sitting up all night in that heat saw my feet swell to double their normal size. I’d never had that happen to me before and I’ve spent a lot of time in some pretty hot places!
The ticket, booked a few months in advance, cost me about £67. This seemed really cheap to me as a two hour train journey between Manchester and London can easily cost a lot more than this. And because it was an overnight train I also saved on a night’s accommodation.
Last summer I booked my ticket a few weeks in advance. This time I was going to Kvikkjokk which involved taking buses as well. I’d learnt from experience and booked a bed on the train.
For this journey I needed to change trains at Boden and as usual the trains ran late. We’d been late leaving Stockholm and lost more time along the way so arrived in Boden about 16 hours after the time we’d been scheduled to depart Stockholm. The connecting train was running late too and so there was no problem getting it. This train took about 1¾ hours and was seat only. The combined ticket for both trains including the bed was about £73.
Umeå to Stockholm
I returned to Stockholm from Umeå last September and booked the train with a bed. I only booked it a couple of days in advance. The journey took about nine hours overnight (so again I saved on accommodation) and cost about £50.
Kiruna, Narvik and Abisko
Other trains I’ve taken have included Kiruna to Narvik (in Norway). I bought the ticket on the train and it cost about £10 for the three hour journey.
The train from Narvik to Abisko at the start of the Kungsleden takes about 1½ hours and cost me around £7.
Falun to Stockholm
The train from Falun to Stockholm takes between 2½ and 3 hours and costs about £25. I bought the ticket on the day I travelled.
Copenhagen to Malmö
At the other end of the country the train from Copenhagen to Malmö Central is £12.63 at today’s exchange rate (I just checked). The journey takes about an hour.
When I visited Malmö in February 2014 I stayed in a hostel near Triangeln Station so made the return journey to Copenhagen from there. The journey costs about the same but takes a bit less time. I bought my tickets for both trains on the day at the station.
From Stockholm Airport there are regular buses into the city centre with the final stop being at the train station. The buses are cheaper if booked in advance online though tickets can be bought from the airport or train station right before getting on the bus.
Flygbussarna tickets cost £8.81 (at today’s exchange rate) online and are valid for 3 months from date of purchase. You can use them in either direction. The journey takes about 45 minutes. You can buy your ticket on the day at the station or airport, but that costs a bit more. It’s currently £10.58.
It’s possible to get the train to and from the airport, but prices jump up once you get into the airport zone due to a surcharge. A quick look at the website has just given me prices ranging from £11.38 to £25.62 and journey times from 20 to 49 minutes.
A lot of Sweden is without rail routes and so you’ll be relying on buses. Fortunately the buses are good (like comfortable coaches) and tickets can be bought from the driver. On my most recent visit some buses were only accepting card payments which is fine if you have a Swedish bank account, but if you have a British account like me this really bumped the price up as I have to pay a hefty surcharge to my bank each time I use my card abroad. (I’m looking at getting a credit card that doesn’t have charges like this for my future travels).
Here are some ideas of bus prices.
The bus from Murjek to Kvikkjokk (which is actually two buses because you have a 30 minute stopover in Jokkmokk) takes 5 hours and costs about £23.
Buses from Jokkmokk to Luleå take 2-3 hours and cost £22.
If you take the bus from Luleå to Dorotea this involves changing in Arvidsjaur. The journey will take most of the day (6-8hrs) and costs £34
Now I can see how if you were to travel a lot and take lots of buses and trains the prices would soon start to stack up, but if you stay a few days in each place so you’re only travelling a couple of times a week then I don’t think that’s too bad. Especially when I compare these prices to what I’d have to pay for similar journeys in the UK.
The majority of my nights in Sweden have cost me nothing. Yep, that’s right, nothing. Okay, this is because I’ve spent most of my time out in the wilderness and used my tent (wild camping is legal in Sweden) so if you want to go walking and are happy to carry camping gear then you’ll have a very cheap trip indeed.
If you stay at campsites in towns then of course you’ll need to pay. Here are some examples.
I stayed at the campsite in Dorotea two years ago which I think I paid about £5 for. I was on my own and have a tiny tent. I’ve had a look at the website and it only has the price for 4 people in a tent (must be a much bigger tent than mine). This price is £13.34 so about £3.34 per person. The campsite has showers and a kitchen for guests to use.
The campsite in Arvidsjaur is £10.67 for a solo hiker in a tent. This includes use of the sauna. (I haven’t stayed here, so can’t vouch for it).
The website for Camp Ripan which is the big campsite in Kiruna quotes £20 a night for up to 4 people in a tent. It doesn’t have the price for solo hikers, but I think I paid about £10-12 when I stayed there in the summer of 2014. This included use of a very good kitchen, showers and sauna. The campsite itself is home to a waterpark, posh spa and conference centre though these all cost extra.
But what if you don’t want to carry a tent or sleep under the stars?
Hostels are your next cheap option.
I’ve looked at hostels I’ve stayed in and would recommend. I’ve searched for the price of a bed on a Saturday night next August.
Jokkmokk – this hostel is in a lovely old house and feels like a home. It has a great kitchen. A bed in a dorm is £22.24 and a single room is £38.24.
Malmö – this hostel is upstairs in a modern building with a supermarket on the ground floor. It’s close to Triangeln Station and only a short walk from the city centre. It has a good kitchen and is one of my favourite hostels overall. A bed in a dorm is £19.57 and a single room is £45.36.
Stockholm – Zinkensdamm hostel is about 10 minutes’ walk from the metro and only a couple of stops from the old town. It’s large and a bit impersonal, but clean and comfortable with a big kitchen. There are other hostels in Stockholm, but this is usually the cheapest and so is the only one I’ve stayed at. Currently a dorm costs £28.46 using my Saturday in August 2017 search. This is a bit more than I remember paying, so if I was booking now I’d check the prices at the other hostels too. The hostel isn’t showing any single rooms, but this might be because part of it is run as a hotel. A single room in the hotel on the date I looked at is £115 including breakfast.
Food and Drink
Eating in restaurants in the evening can get pricey as can drinking alcohol in bars. Many restaurants and cafes do special lunch deals though where you’ll get a main course, salad, bread and possibly a dessert and soft drink for less than £10.
Another way of keeping food costs down is to shop in supermarkets. There are different supermarkets and some are pricier than others. However, on the whole I found prices similar to the UK – some things were more expensive, some were cheaper and so it evened out. One of the best things about the supermarkets are the salad bars.
These salad bars have everything – different leaves, sliced tomatoes, cherry and sundried tomatoes, olives, peppers, meatballs, falafels, seafood, veggi patties, different kinds of meat and cheese, eggs, potato salad, pasta salads, cous cous, pickles, avocado, beans, fruit and more and more and more. They’re sold by weight and so you can fill your container with a bit of everything. The price is usually around £10 a kilo and a very large bowl costs about £7. This will do me for 2 or 3 meals, particularly if I have some bread with it.
Another bargain food I found was the falafel in Malmö. Malmö has a large Middle Eastern population and falafel is easy to find everywhere. The best one I had was at Shawarma King in Stortorget, Malmö’s main square. It’s a big kiosk with seating inside and a large falafel goes for about £3.
If you want to drink alcohol find a systembolaget which is a Swedish off-licence. These are the only places allowed to sell strong beer, wine and spirits to take away. Supermarkets sell beer but are only allowed to sell drinks with less than 3.5% alcohol. In the systembolaget you can get a can of beer for around £1 and a bottle of wine for £5-10. If you want to drink in bars and restaurants expect to pay a lot more.
Swedish coffee is great, really strong and refillable. If you order fancy coffees like lattes and cappuccinos then you’ll pay a few quid (similar to the UK) and just get the one drink. If you drink the regular coffee this costs between £1-2 and you can refill your cup as many times as you like.
Make sure you discover fika whilst you’re in Sweden. It’s kind of like elevenses but much better and at any time of day. Lots of places will do a special fika deal where you get coffee and a gorgeous cake (or more traditionally a cinnamon roll) for a set price.
In Stockholm I’ve done a mix of paying admissions individually and using a tourist card. I work out what I want to do and what’s going to be the cheapest way of paying for it.
The Stockholm Pass includes admission to 60 sites including the popular and more expensive sites like Vasa, the Nobel Museum and Skansen.
Vasa on its own costs about £11.50. The Nobel Musuem is about £9 and Skansen is £10-15. When I think about the prices for big tourist attractions in London and elsewhere in the UK these prices are actually really good. But they can be even cheaper with a Stockholm Pass. Just make sure you work out first if it’s worth it depending on what you want to do and how much time you have.
The pass also includes boat and bus tours and costs £52 for a one day pass; £70 for a two day pass and £88 for three days. I had one for three days and definitely got my money’s worth out of it.
To travel around Stockholm you can walk which is perfectly possible and very pleasant. If you want to get around a bit faster or go further out than the city centre you’ll need to use public transport.
If you’re going to be using public transport for more than a couple of journeys or if you plan on returning to Stockholm then it’s worth investing £1.80 in an SL Access card which you can then top up. You can also buy a single use card which is valid for 75 minutes, 24 hours or 72 hours.
Fares differ depending on how you pay for them. If you use an SL Access card for a single journey (75 minutes – if you need to change then your last change must be within the 75 minutes) it will cost £2.70. Buying a ticket from a ticket machine or booth will cost £3.80 for the same journey. On a few rare services you can pay cash for a ticket from the conductor but this will set you back £5.35. (Note: most services do not allow you to buy a ticket on board and you can be fined for not having one)
That’s just for a single journey. Like most places the more journeys you buy the cheaper it gets.
Travel cards loaded on to an SL Access card cost £10.67 for 24 hours, £21.35 for 72 hours and £28 for 7 days.
The best thing about a travel card though, is you can explore the metro stations. They’re done out in so many different styles and form Stockholm’s largest art gallery.
Phew, this post has turned out to be a lot longer than I intended. There’s just one last thing I need to share.
Free Things To Do in Stockholm.
These sites will give you plenty of ideas.
And just to finish:
So is Sweden really expensive?
Well, Sweden is never going to be as cheap as South East Asia or even Eastern Europe, but it is possible to travel there, stay in a decent place, eat well and see and do a lot for less than you’d probably spend having a similar holiday in the UK. This is especially true if you compare Stockholm to London.
What do you think? Is Sweden cheaper than you thought it would be? If you were putting off visiting because of the prices does this make it seem more feasible? Share your thoughts in the comments below.