How to do Sweden on a budget

When you arrive in Scandinavia, you’ll notice that seemingly small purchases add up quickly, putting a strain on your wallet. But there are plenty of things you can do to travel around Sweden on a budget.

Sweden wolves guided tour

Budget train travel in Sweden

If you haven’t already got your hands on an Interrail or Eurail pass, don’t panic. Sweden’s government-owned rail firm, SJ, has some good deals on intercity services.

Tickets from Stockholm to Gothenburg, a very comfortable three-to-five-hour journey, regularly go for as little as 195 SEK. Sleeper tickets for the 16-hour journey to Kiruna, in the far north of Sweden, can also be had for around 750 SEK. To get these prices you’ll need to book around 12 weeks in advance.

Note that some train services in Sweden require you to have a seat reservation (it costs extra). If you want to avoid the hassle of getting a ticket and seat reservation separately, head to the ACP Rail website. Seat reservations are included as standard and you can have an e-ticket sent to you instantly.

No cheap train tickets? Take the bus

A couple of private bus companies – Swebus and Nettbuss – run long-distance services between Sweden’s main cities, and also have reliable connections to regional destinations like Copenhagen and Oslo. Tickets are good value (again, book ahead if you can) and the buses are second only to the train in terms of comfort, with free wifi and on-board toilets.

Pay a visit to Systembolaget

Alcohol is incredibly expensive in bars, restaurants and nightclubs, so make like the locals and have a couple of drinks at home first. Systembolaget – the government-run bottle shop – normally has a good selection of beers, wines and spirits. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Tough! Systembolaget is a monopoly, and the only retail store in Sweden with permission to sell drinks stronger than 3.5%. This guide has more on surviving the alcohol monopoly.

Eat out at lunchtime, or ‘afterwork’

In cities, plenty of restaurants run cheap lunch deals to lure in business groups. The menus are often similar (if not identical) to what’s offered during the evening, so see this as your chance to try something swish, like a proper New Nordic restaurant.

Another great way to eat on the cheap and mingle with locals is the Swedish ‘afterwork’, which takes place at bar-restaurants in most big towns. The idea is pretty simple: buy a beer or a glass of wine and you get to tuck into a big buffet of food for free. The plates are invariably tiny to discourage overeating, but there’s nothing stopping you going back for seconds… or even thirds or fourths.

Join STF for cheap Swedish hostel stays

The Swedish youth hostel association STF gives cheaper beds to people who join its membership club. Sign up and you’ll save every time you stay at one of their hostels. There’s a joining fee of around 300 SEK, so this is only really worthwhile if you plan to stay for a week or so.

Make use of the right to roam

Allemansrätten – the right to roam – is enshrined in Swedish law. It essentially gives people the right to camp wild, pick berries and go hiking, as long as they show respect towards nature and stay away from private properties. Our guide to camping in Sweden has a full list of what is and isn’t allowed.

Grab a discount card

The tourist boards in big Swedish cities often offer discount cards that give you free admission to popular attractions, as well as reduced rates at local restaurants and bars. Check out our guides to the discount cards in Stockholm and Gothenburg to see if you could save money.

Don’t forget insurance – even if your trip has already started!

It’s no good visiting Sweden on a budget if you don’t have adequate travel insurance. Even though Sweden is safe, we strongly recommend getting a decent policy in place for your trip. It really can make a world of difference if you lose your valuables or get involved in an accident. For lots of different reasons, including the fact that they will cover you even if your trip has started, we recommend World Nomads. You can get a quote below.

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