When I told my friends and colleagues I was going to Sweden for vacation (during winter no less) the first question asked was, “Why?” As a traveler, this seems like a silly question to me.
Why not Sweden? Typically I enjoy going to places I know very little about. Makes things more exciting.
If you’re planning to visit Stockholm soon, or have a glint of curiosity, here’s ten things you should know about before heading to Sweden’s capital.
STOCKHOLM: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Photo by fabsit
1) YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR CASH AT HOME
In Sweden, card, not cash, is king. Many places do not take cash at all, so be prepared! Hopefully you already have a credit card that offers no international fees. If not, more and more cards are offering this perk now, so consider opening a new one just for travel.
2) FIKA IS A PRIORITY
Wait, you don’t drink coffee? You do now! Fika is a big part of the Swedish culture. Every day take a break over coffee and dessert with your friends or colleagues. By the way, the desserts in Sweden, they are superb! I thought I already had a sweet tooth in the US, but this takes it to a new level.
3) IT’S SUPER EXPENSIVE…
You probably already know this, but just in case I want to offer a fair warning. Lunch will start around $12 USD without drinks, and dinner is more like $17+. I never went out for cocktails despite the trendy bar windows. If you normally don’t keep a budget during your trips (I may be guilty of this), consider keeping one whilst in Sweden. Pro tip: Order from a Kebap place for dinner, have muesli with yogurt for breakfast, and try anything from the Strommingsvagnen food truck to help keep costs down.
4) SWEDES ARE NOT ACTUALLY RUDE
Just because no one makes eye contact or smiles or says “excuse me” as they pass you in the street, doesn’t mean they aren’t kind. Swedes are incredibly helpful and cheery if you engage with them, but it’s generally considered polite to keep to yourself. If you have a question or want to strike up a friendly hello, don’t hesitate! You’ll probably receive the same in return.
5) VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS WILL FLOURISH
Stockholm is very vegetarian and vegan friendly. Many restaurants and cafes either included vegan options, or were completely vegetarian/ vegan friendly. Maybe you don’t eat vegetables only but, perhaps your best friend does. Now you have a travel destination to bring them to!
6) EVERYTHING DOES COME FROM IKEA
Everyone shops at IKEA, including locals (I stayed at an AirBNB that verified this) to hostels to Old Town restaurants in buildings that have been around for hundreds of years. If someone at home makes fun of you for having IKEA furniture, just tell them to visit Stockholm. Everyone there will tell you it’s a great choice. (This is how I justify my current apartment..)
7) MOST SWEDES SPEAK ENGLISH
Yes, in general you can speak English freely, but try to greet people with “Hej!” (Pronounced “hey”) or “Hej! Hej!” when you can. It’s considerate to use a country’s language whenever possible. Fortunately 90% of the population does speak English, so chances are anyone you talk to will be easy to communicate with.
8) DON’T SHOP ON SUNDAYS
You may be disappointed. Many stores are closed on Sundays, depending on where you’re staying. Typically shopping hours in Sweden are between 9:00am -4pm on weekdays, and 9:00am- 2:00pm on Saturdays. In Stockholm, more stores and cafes will remain open, but not all. I made the mistake of visiting Sigtuna, Sweden’s oldest town, on a Sunday, and the main street was a ghost town. Just be aware that Sunday isn’t always the best.
9) PLAN OUT YOUR ALCOHOL PURCHASES
Like to drink? Like to drink cheaply, i.e. Buy your own wine, liquor, or beer, and drink at home? Alcohol above 3.5% can only be purchased from Systembolaget in Sweden. It’s open Monday-Saturday, and closes at 7pm, so be strategic! Tip: If you go to a grocery store and find mini bottles of “vodka essence,” know this is definitely NOT real alcohol. It’s supposed to add flavor to your alcohol. I learned this the hard way
10) BUY BUS AND METRO TICKETS IN ADVANCE
This will help you save money, unless you’re paying for a ride on the Arlanda Express to or from the Stockholm Airport (about $30!!!). You can download the SL app to pay for your rides as you go, or buy a pass at the transit station, which will cost significantly less. They sell them as 24 hour or 72 hour passes, and they are good for the busses and ferries as well. Note for busses: You cannot purchase a ticket on the bus. You must have a prepaid card to scan, or a ticket on your SL app.
And #11) The bloody Mary’s aren’t very good. Just kidding. I wasn’t happy with the one I ordered, but it was probably just the restaurant, which shall remain nameless.
Let me ask you: Why do you travel?
If it’s for the love of new experiences, you should go to Stockholm. If that’s not the main reason, there’s always the next destination on your list. Otherwise, why not?