Updated: 10/3/2019 | October 3rd, 2019
Eating out and going out frequently with friends raised my living costs enormously. While I preach about budget travel, I am often not the best budget traveler. After all, this is my everyday life, and when I want sushi, I want to eat sushi!
So I tend to splurge more often than your average budget traveler.
But as I reflected on how much money I was spending in Stockholm, I wondered what would happen if I flipped the equation.
How long could I make $100 USD last in Stockholm?
What if I decided to be ultra-frugal?
How cheap could Stockholm be?
I wanted an answer, especially since one of the reasons many people don’t come to this city (or travel in general) is because it’s so expensive – and I wanted to prove it isn’t as expensive as people think!
So I set out upon a quest to answer a single question:
“How long can I live on $100 USD in Stockholm without sacrificing too much of the comforts that I enjoy while traveling?”
The answer: five days.
Where Did The Money Go?
It took me five days to spend my $100 USD. In order to keep my costs down, I used Couchsurfing, which brought my accommodation costs to zero.
I walked everywhere instead of taking the train. That brought my transportation to zero. Stockholm is a really walkable city and you’ll never walk more than 30 minutes to where you need to be.
I cooked all my own food. I only went out to a bar one night. My money basically went to food: groceries, lemonades, and brownies (my host didn’t have Wi-Fi so I had to visit cafés for internet), and a few drinks.
That was it.
That’s where my $100 went.
All of it was food and drinks!
How Does This Relate To You?
I don’t think my results are replicable for the everyday traveler. This experiment wasn’t meant to be an example I think you should follow. Living like a pauper was boring. Incredibly boring. Sure, I did some stuff, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. It was hard to go out with friends because even buying a soda could bust my budget.
See that movie? Nope.
Eat out? Definitely not.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything. I did plenty!
Filling the days was easy: I walked around a lot, took the free walking tours, saw the free sights, hung out in parks, did a lot of wandering, or worked.
I was never bored during the day. As a traveler, there’s plenty to see and do on the cheap in Stockholm!
But the nights?
The nights were agony. Well, I watched a lot of movies on my computer or sat there nursing a beer because I couldn’t afford to buy more. When you can’t spend any money, there’s not much to do at night besides watch TV, work out, and sleep.
But the purpose of this experiment wasn’t to have you follow me. The purpose of this experiment was to show that when you are committed, it is possible to have some fun while making your money last, even in a city like Stockholm, home of the $4 McDonald’s value meal.
People always say travel is too expensive, but if I can survive on $20 USD per day in Stockholm, then the excuse that travel is too expensive doesn’t really cut it.
Realistically, your average traveler is going to spend that $100 USD quicker than I did, but this experiment proves there are always ways to stretch your budget. No destination need be off-limits.
Yes, flights cost a lot of money, but luckily there are many ways to get free and extremely cheap flights. Once you get to your destination, there are plenty of ways to save money too.
Cooking your meals, Couchsurfing or house sitting for free accommodation, taking the free walking tours, getting a tourist card — the list goes on.
But those ways only matter if you are willing to stay focused and determined.
Even in Stockholm, there is a happy medium between $100 a week and $100 a day. Using the above-mentioned tips plus some city-specific tips — like sticking to beer (spirits are expensive), lunch buffets, taking advantage of student/youth discounts, or eating at the street carts — one can travel here for $40-70 USD per day.
How to Save Money in Stockholm
Here are some quick tips to help you save money on your next trip:
1. Purchase the Stockholm Card – This pass gives you access to the city’s public transportation system and free entrance into 99% of the museums and canal tours. It’s is well worth the money and will definitely save you a lot more than it costs you if plan to do a lot of sightseeing.
2. Stay with locals for free – Accommodation is so expensive in Stockholm, you should consider Couchsurfing.com, a site that connects travelers with locals who offer a free place to stay. If you can cut out your accommodation costs, you will save a lot of money. It’s also a great way to get to know the local culture because you’re staying in someones’ home and you can ask them all the questions you want.
3. Free walking tours – Free Tour Stockholm runs the best walking tours in the city. They offer a few different walks each day, including a tour of Gamla Stan. They generally last two hours and are available in English.
4. Drink beer – If you are going to drink, stick to beer. It costs about half as much money as mixed drinks or wine at the bars and restaurants. For greater savings, buy your own alcohol at the government-run Systembolaget.
5. Avoid the big restaurants – Eating out in Stockholm is very expensive. If you want to eat out, try to stick to the outside grills you see on the side of the street. You can find a variety in them and they are only about 200 SEK per meal.
6. Try the lunch buffets – If you choose to eat out, the lunch buffets are an economical way to do so, costing around 105 SEK. They are a popular option with locals. For a healthier option, try Hermans.
7. Get a metro card – If you don’t plan to get the Stockholm Card, make sure you get a week-long metro pass. At 300 SEK for a week’s train ride, it is a better deal than the expensive 115 SEK for 24 hours.
8. Avoid clubs – Most clubs have a 260 SEK cover. Don’t waste your money.
9. Refill your water bottle – Water is about 30 SEK per bottle. Since the tap water is drinkable (one of the cleanest in Europe!) you should just buy one bottle and reuse it. Not only will this save you money, but it will save the environment too!
10. Avoid the taxis – With the subway open all night long, don’t take the cabs. A typical ride is 260 SEK or more and not worth the price. Unless you are far from the train and it’s snowing out, the price is hard to justify.
11. Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
In short, if you are focused, avoid unnecessary expenses, and think outside the “hotel/eat out/sightsee” box, every destination can be within your budgetary grasp.
Go to the tourism board and ask what’s free in the city.
Go for a walk more.
Hang out more.
Find the happy hours.
Find art shows and free concerts.
Use all the social media apps to find events and mixers in the city.
Think outside the box!
That’s really what this experiment was about.
It had nothing to do with Stockholm specifically and everything to do with the fact that I wanted to show you the effect that budgeting and out-of-the-box thinking has on travel costs.
Do I want you to travel like this for a week? No. Is what I did sustainable over a long period of time? No way. The first thing I did when my experiment was over was to go out for sushi and drink sake.
But saying that a place is “too expensive” is never an excuse. A place is only too expensive in your head. Everyone has a different travel style and their own budget, but there are always ways to travel for less than you think if you just try.
Even in “expensive” Stockholm.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive hostel inventory out there. If you want to stay in a hotel or guesthouse, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates. Some of my favorite places to stay in Stockholm are:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!