The Cost of Traveling Sweden

By Nomadic Matt | Published May 10th, 2011

Statue of a horseback rider with a sword in Stockholm, SwedenSweden isn’t the cheapest country in the world to visit. Its high prices keep many people from visiting, which is a shame because this is one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting countries. That’s a bold statement, but I’ve been to Sweden twice before and am constantly amazed at the beautiful landscape and cities. Moreover, the people (besides making the rest of the world look ugly) are incredibly friendly to visitors. I’ve come to realize that while the country is expensive, there are plenty of ways to save money and visit on a budget.

How Much Did I Spend?

I was in Sweden for 19 days, and I spent a total of 11,357 SEK or $1,892.83 USD or (roughly) $100 USD per day (the ex-change rate is about 6 SEK to 1 USD). The numbers break down this way:

Accommodation: 2,320 SEK
Food: 2,289 SEK
Alcohol: 3,072 SEK
Transportation: 1,898 SEK
Attractions: 100 SEK
Phone: 549 SEK
Miscellaneous 1,129 SEK
Total: 11,537 SEK

My spending was pretty high for one simple reason: I went out a lot. My friends in Stockholm took me out most nights, so a large portion of my budget went to that. When every beer you have is 54 SEK ($9 USD), even having only two or three really adds up. I should also note that most clubs have entrance fees and about 500 SEK of my “alcohol” budget went to that.

Moreover, while I ate cheap, I only cooked my own meals three days during my trip. Cooking would have lowered my costs even further, but I couldn’t be bothered, and friends were always taking me places to eat. Lastly, I also stayed with friends for most of my trip. Had I paid for accommodation every night, my accommodation costs would have risen a lot more.

How Much Do You Need?

Homes with red roofs on an overcast day in Sweden
While I spent $100 USD per day, I think you can do it cheaper. Just don’t go out as much. On my cheapest day, I spent $50 USD and that was simply on accommodation and food. While there are ways to save money (see below), the reality is that Sweden is expensive, and there’s very little you can do about it if you aren’t staying in places for free or cooking 100% of your meals. If you want a bare-bones budget of just food, accommodation, and transportation, you’ll need around $60 USD per day (360 SEK). Add in some museums, and you’ll need around $70 USD per day (420 SEK). If you’re the average “stay in a hostel/hotel, eat cheap, go out a few times” traveler then you should budget around $90 USD per day (540 SEK). (Cut-ting nights out from my budget would have reduced it by $20 USD per day!!)

Some typical costs for Sweden are:

Hostel dorm: 220 SEK
Restaurant meal: 150–200 SEK
Beer: 55 SEK
Mixed drink: 100 SEK
Stockholm train: 40 SEK one way, 180 SEK for eight trips, 260 SEK for a week’s unlimited pass
Pizza: 60 SEK
McDonald’s: 60 SEK
Water: 18 SEK
Cheap hotdogs and sausages: 15–25 SEK
Ferry to Gotland: 230 SEK each way
Train to Gothenburg: 350 SEK
Museums: 60–100 SEK

Budget tips for Sweden

Amazing old European buildings around the square in Stockholm
There are ways to make Sweden cheap, but they take some work. Since food and accommodation are very expensive, Couchsurfing or cooking your meals are the most obvious ways to cut down your costs. These are generic tips that will save you lots of money. But if staying with strangers or cooking isn’t your thing, here are some other ways to save money:

Drink beer. Alcohol isn’t cheap in Sweden as it’s heavily taxed. However, beer is quite cheap. If you stick to beer, you can save yourself a lot of money when you go to the bars.

Book in advance. My trip to the Stockholm train station taught me that travel around Sweden is expen-sive, especially if you’re booking only a day or two before hand. Prices can vary wildly, even with just the difference of a day. Booking trains or buses three to four weeks in advance can get you around 40–50% off.

Buy a rail pass. If you plan to do a lot of traveling around, buy a rail pass before you get to the country. You’ll end up saving a few hundred dollars off the high cost of travel. This can be a good alternative to booking in advance if you’re like me and plan everything last minute.

Purchase a Stockholm card. This pass gives you access to the city’s public transportation system and free entrance to 99% of the museums and canal tours. It’s well worth the money and will definitely save you a lot more than it costs if you plan to see a lot while in Stockholm.

Skip the restaurants. Eating out in Sweden is very expensive, especially if at sit-down restaurants. If you want to eat out without spending a lot of money, stick to the outside food vendors you see on the street. You can find a decent variety (I found a Thai one once), and they’re only about 50 SEK per meal. You can also get cheap hot dogs and sausages for about 25 SEK.

Avoid clubs. Most clubs have a 200 SEK cover. Don’t waste your money.

Get a metro card. If you don’t plan to get the Stockholm card, make sure you get a week’s metro pass. At 220 SEK for a week’s worth of train rides, it’s a better deal than the 40 SEK it costs for a single ticket.

Refill your water. Water is about 20 SEK ($3.50 USD) per bottle. Buy one, reuse the bottle, and save money. Plus, you help save the environment too!

Avoid taxis. With the subway open all night long, don’t take cabs. A typical ride is 200 SEK or more and not worth the price. Unless you’re far from the train and it’s snowing out, the price is hard to justify.

Editor’s Note: Visit Stockholm gave me a free city pass for all the museums and three nights of free accommodation.

comments 43 Comments

Kate

Honestly, your tips and posts are so good but the typos are beyond distracting and detract from the legitimacy of your business. Having a friend look over it once to catch these things wouldn’t be hard.

NomadicMatt

Kate, thanks for your comment. I put this up real late where I am and since I can’t sleep, I re-read the post. You are right. I missed an “it’s” when I should have had an “its”, missed a “d” on taxed, and forgot to close an HTML tag that chopped off the end of a sentence. Thanks for pointing them out. My normal editor is on vacation (I’m lost without her!) and this post went up last minute.

Scott and I used to live in Denmark (on a student’s budget at that), and we’re STILL paying down our debt five years later. The sad thing is everything social there takes place in bars (because it’s too cold most of the year to be anywhere but), and even back then, it was $9 for a Tuborg. I went broke, quickly. That said, I’m totally smitten with Scandinavia (except for Finland, where I got run over by a cab). Are you going to Denmark as well?

Sweden is absolutely beautiful but it is expensive. I love that the most expensive thing in your budget was alchohol… even more than accommodation! At least you had a good time though :)

kalyn

Great post, I wish you had more pictures though! Do you have any tips for finding cheap airfare? I am going to London in July, and the prices are already $1500+. I understand its busy season, but I always hear about bloggers finding crazy deals. I use kayak, and I consider myself internet proficient at searching, but it seems that no matter how cheap the sale or price seems to be, the taxes and random charges at the end bring it to the same amount that I would find on Expedia or the airlines site.

If anyone has any great sites or tips they are using for summer airfare to Europe, it would be greatly appreciated! (besides the previously mentioned sites) Thanks!

NomadicMatt

Try momondo.com or mobissimo.com for good flight deals. Make sure to also subscribe to the airfarewatchdog.com newsletter. They monitor flight deals.

kalyn

Thanks for this info! I am thinking about getting a subscription to Travelhacking.org, but since it is new, I am not sure if would be a waste of time/money.

NomadicMatt

You can find most of the deals for free on the internet.

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kwadaso-kumasi

Great tips, and I especially echo the one on the Stockholm Card, especially if you want to see a lot of museums and other attractions. Stockholm’s pretty spread out, so it helps to plan your route beforehand to make sure you’re maximizing your time and getting the best value out of the card. Also pay attention to operating hours, as I noticed a lot of places closed earlier than I would’ve expected them to.

NomadicMatt

That’s typical of most of Scandinavia. Most attractions close at 4pm which is really frustrating when you want to pack a full day of sightseeing in!

Funny that you spent more money on alcohol than on food.

A friend of mine just returned from Stockholm, and he’s just as amazed as you ) He spent about 500$ for 3 days including flight (Wizzair), 3-star hotel, and a car rent.
And where were you living?

NomadicMatt

I was in Soderman most of my time. It’s the south part of the city.

That’s about right, was there last summer.

Obviously could go cheaper, one can always go cheaper. I find it funny that when it comes to travel, the “cheaper you go” the more impressive it is. Talk to some people living in low income housing eating noodles back home, the comparison is valid on the road as well.

That said, Stockholm is one of my favorites, the ladies are out of this world and oh so liberal.

NomadicMatt

I don’t by into the cheaper is better travel argument. For some people it’s a badge of honor. For me, it’s a sign you don’t want to give back.

NomadicMatt

I too think it is worth every penny. I love the country. If it didn’t have such harsh winters, I would move there!

Great cost saving tips. About the water bottle refilling, is the water from tap safe to drink? What is and how much is a Stockholm card?

Daniel

Hey, the tap water is cleaner then the bottled water and tastes as good.

NomadicMatt

It sure is!

NomadicMatt

The tap water is safe to drink. A Stockholm card is a tourist card that gets you into attractions and museums for free or at a discount. It is 425 SEK.

A country I need to check out. Perhaps first I need to save a bit more though.

NomadicMatt

Sweden is one of my favorite places in the world. Prices are like living in Manhattan though.

Thanks for such a innovative thought that you have initiated. You have mentioned really nice ideas. Find the perfect Fort Lauderdale vacation rental. Great selection of affordable and luxury vacation rentals in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.

Victor M.

Hi Matt, great info on the cost of living. I’ll be in Stockholm for just 1 day next month…any advice on how to fill that day? I know it’s a broad question and it depends on my likes but I was wondering about your opinion. Also, do you think it’s worth getting the 24 hour Stockholm pass?

NomadicMatt

if you can be a productive in seeing all the attractions, then yes. But if you only want to see 1 or 2 things, it might not be worth it. You have to weigh the admission of what you want to see vs the cost of the 24 hr pass.

Rachel

Hey there, so just to recap, to visit Sweden, $2000 CAD should cover accomodations, food, alcohol, etc if you do it the cheap way?

NomadicMatt

How long are you going for?

Matt, thanks for the info. Although I enjoy cities I much prefer going on treks and climbs in the wilderness. I’m sure if someone were to eat local ingredients (a lot of reindeer in the Sami regions), camp or couchsurf, hitchhike (which I’ve been told by Swedes is very easy) and learn some Swedish than it wouldn’t be that expensive to visit and have a good time.

I am not much of a drinker but if I were I would just hold off while in Sweden. You could say for example, “I’m here for two weeks but drinking is expensive, I’ll save the drinking for when I get further south.” Of course no avoiding it if you live there.

Thanks again Matt. Have a great one!

NomadicMatt

Grocery shopping here is pretty cheap and couchsurfing would help a lot. It’s not impossible to do this place cheaply. It’s just harder.

Evren

We are going to Stockholm for 3 days and staying in a pvt hostel room. We plan to go to only 1 museum (not a big museum guy- I can save money this way! Hahaha). We were going to do a self guided walking tour, and a boat tour. We plan on eating at fast food places. Do you think $100USD per day, which incl accommodation, would be a suitable budget?

NomadicMatt

Yes, if you split the cost of the room but fast food only? Sweden does have some good food worth trying.

Samuel

Sweden is beautiful! But have you visited prague or amsterdam?

NomadicMatt

Both places.

Kim

Eating in restaurants may be expensive. But if you eat at lunchtime (11:30-15:00) every restaurant has “dagens lunch” meal of the day. It costs 50-80 SEK and you’ll get a good meal, often a swedish speciality, and coffee.

Sana

I appreciate all the valuable info you posted! Just curious, how easy is it to travel to other nearby European countries and which one(s) would you recommend. Thanks for your help :)

Christopher S

I’m going to Malmö may 17-may 27 staying with a friend at her house going out to sites in Malmö going to Swedbank stadium and one trip to Bakken in Copenhagen will drink beer and go out one- three nights for dinner what do you think ill need to bring $ money wise or an average day for me in SEK thanks

Ryan D

You and I see eye to eye on a lot of the budget options in Europe. I’ve found, however, that buses to various places around the countries ten to be far cheaper than rail. Do you know what the long distance bus situation is like in Sweden? I know it varies. In Ireland, I’ve found it to be by far the best option but not so much in France.

NomadicMatt

Swebus is a good company to look into.

Bradi

A friend and I are planning on backpacking Stockholm, Malmo, and Copenhagen in May for 10-13 days on a $1100 (plus airfare) budget. We know we will definitely be staying in hostels the whole time and cooking most of our own meals (I was thinking we’d go out for a cheap meal at a cafe once a day and cook/snack the rest of the day). Does that seem like a reasonable budget? And do you have any advice for places to stay?

Thanks!
Bradi, U.S.

NomadicMatt

About $100 a day? Yeah that’s plenty.

Jack

Hey Matt! Thanks for great budget travelling tips! I recently got back from Stockholm and my budget for a 4 days trip got only 300 Euro including visiting Vasa and Skansen museums as well as taking boat trips. Staying in a hostel allowed saving really good money as well as light cooking done myself. I highly recommend the hostel where I stayed – Lodge32 for a good budget travel.

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