Risks in Sweden
Crime/violence: ModerateAlcohol-related violence, petty theft, muggingAuthorities/corruption: LowNightclub bouncers might be rudeTransportation: Low to ModerateWild animal crossings everywhere, and slippery roads in the winterHealth: LowTick and mosquito bites Sweden has been free of Malaria since the 1930s Nature: ModerateBlizzards and avalanches in the northern mountains. Freezing conditions and icy roads throughout long winters.
Most of Sweden is below freezing point during winter, at least occasionally. See travelling in cold weather.
Sweden has a relatively low crime rate and is generally a safe place to travel, but crime has been rising steadily since the mid 1980s according to police compstat. Use common sense at night, particularly on weekend nights when people hit the streets to drink, get drunk, and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. Swedish people tend to have bad tolerance against alcohol. Heed whatever warnings you would do in your own country and you will have no worries.
Although there is a significant police presence in the city centres, especially on weekend nights, the rest of Sweden is quite weakly policed. This especially applies to the rural areas of Norrland, where the nearest patrol car might be a hundred kilometres away.
If involved in an argument, try to leave before the person becomes aggressive. If you see a street fight, keep a safe distance and dial the European emergency number 112. There have been reports on people injured or even killed when they've tried to stop a street fight. Young people, drunk people, or people who have taken drugs can be dangerous so use common sense. Do not argue with security guards or bouncers; they might become upset, and they are legally allowed to use some force when needed.
Swedes generally tend to avoid eye contact, especially so in dangerous situations. Looking directly at someone behaving aggressively might provoke them.
Pickpockets are rare but not unheard of. They usually work in tourist-frequented areas, such as airports, rail stations, shopping areas and festivals. Most Swedes carry their wallets in their pockets or purses and feel quite safe while doing it. Still, almost all stores and restaurants accept most major credit cards so there is no need to carry a lot of cash around. If you have a bike, do lock it or you may lose it.
Counterfeit Swedish banknotes or other documents are very uncommon. Newer 50, 100, 500 and 1000 SEK bills have holograms and a shiny foil strip. Except for the 20 SEK bill from 1997 and onwards, all Swedish banknotes without a foil strip will be invalid as of 2014. Starting from 2015, all Swedish banknotes and coins will gradually be replaced with updated versions and a few new denominations.
Be sure to watch for cars in the road junctions. There is a law in Sweden called "The Zebra law" which means that cars must stop at zebra crossings. Many Swedes believe that all the drivers do that. By watching for cars you may save not only your life but also a friend's, since reported injuries have increased because of the law. If you do drive then follow the law, police cars may not be seen everywhere but you never know when they appear. The Swedish police is one of the least corrupt in the world, and any attempt to bribe a police officer is seen upon harshly and can lead to serious consequences.
Since November 2009, the pharmacy business has been deregulated. Certified pharmacies carry a green cross sign and the text Apotek. For small medical problems the pharmacy is sufficient. Major cities carry one pharmacy open at night. Many supermarkets carry non-prescription supplies such as band aid, antiseptics and painkillers.
Swedish health care is usually of a decent quality, but can be quite challenging for foreigners to receive. Most, but not all, medical clinics are state-owned, and their accessibility varies. Therefore, getting a time within a week at some medical centers could prove difficult. In case of a medical emergency, most provinces and of course, the major cities have a regional hospital with an around-the-clock emergency ward. However, if you are unlucky you can expect a long wait before getting medical attention. In some parts of the country health care system is sub-standard and does not include preventative physical check ups. It is almost impossible for a woman to get an appointment with a gynecologist unless she is already quite sick. Waiting times for specialized care or tests are very long. Family physicians usually wait long before they prescribe tests that involve equipment like MRI or tomography. There is general lack of physicians and other medical staff. Private care in most areas is virtually non-existent. Pharmacies are closed on Sundays and pharmacies open 24/7 almost do not exist. It is recommended that EU members have EHIC cards that allow them to use health care system in the EU countries in case of emergency.
Tap water in Sweden is of great quality, and contains close to zero bacteria. Water in mountain resorts might contain rust, and water on islands off the coast might be brackish, but it is still safe to drink. There is no real reason for buying bottled water in Sweden. Also, there is bottled water that doesn't meet the requirements to be used as tap water in Sweden.
There are few serious health risks in Sweden. Your primary concern especially in wintertime will be the cold, particularly if trekking or skiing in the northern parts. Northern Sweden is sparsely populated and, if heading out into the wilderness, it is imperative that you register your travel plans with a friend or the authorities so they can come looking for you if you fail to show up. Dress warmly in layers and bring along a good pair of sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, especially in the spring. In snowy mountains, avalanches might be a problem.
Around payday, which falls between the 23rd and 28th of each month, stores and bars can get very crowded.
Smoking is not allowed in restaurants, bars or any other indoor establishments except outdoor terraces and designated smoking rooms. Smoking in someone's home is usually out of the question; if you ask kindly you might be allowed to light up on the balcony or the porch. Some men and women use "snus" snuff, a tobacco pouch inserted into the upper lip. It comes in a wide variety of different styles and flavors and in both loose and portion form. Portions are more popular and generally recommended for public events, as loose snus can be very messy when removed. Unlike American oral tobaccos, it is not usually necessary to spit if the snus is properly placed. Most bars and clubs will have snus receptacles instead of ashtrays on the tables. Be warned, however, that snus can seem very harsh to first time users, with a nicotine level several times that of cigarettes.
Swedish is the national language of Sweden, but you will find that people, especially those born since 1945, also speak English very well - an estimated 89% of Swedes can speak English. Finnish is the biggest minority language. Regardless of what your native tongue is, Swedes greatly appreciate any attempt to speak Swedish and beginning conversations in Swedish, no matter how quickly your understanding peters out, will do much to ingratiate yourself to the locals.
Hej hey is the massively dominant greeting in Sweden, useful on kings and bums alike. You can even say it when you leave. The Swedes most often do not say "please" snälla say snell-LA, instead they are generous with the word tack tack, meaning "thanks". If you need to get someone's attention, whether it's a waiter or you need to pass someone one in a crowded situation, a simple "ursäkta" say "or-shek-ta" "excuse me" will do the trick. You will find yourself pressed to overuse it, and you sometimes see people almost chanting it as a mantra when trying to exit a crowded place like a bus or train.
Some things get English names that do not correspond to the original English word. Some examples are light which is used for diet products, and freestyle which means "walkman". Sweden uses the metric system and in the context of distance, the common expression mil, "mile", is 10 kilometers, not an English statute mile. Because of the distances involved, mil is used in spoken language even though roadsigns all use kilometers.
Swedish people learn British English at school, but also watch films and TV programs in American English. Whether they use British or American standards in speech varies from person to person; as a rule of thumb, young people are more likely to speak American English while British English is more prevalent among the older generations.
You should also be able to get by if you speak either Danish or Norwegian.
Foreign television programmes including news interviews featuring foreigners and films are almost always shown in their original language with Swedish subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Swedish.
Sweden's international calling code number is +46. Since 2015, all payphones have removed, due to the vast spread of mobile phones.
Sweden has excellent wireless GSM and 3G/UMTS coverage, even in rural areas except in the central and northern interior parts of the country. The major networks are Telia, Tele2/Comviq, Telenor and 3 Tre. Swedish GSM operates on the European 900/1800 MHz frequencies Americans will need a triband phone, with 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz currently with 7.2-14.4 Mbit HSDPA speeds. Only the Telia network supports EDGE. Some operators may ask for a Swedish personnummer or samordningsnummer to get a number, although with most operators you can get prepaid without any, "personnummer" or ID and these are sold and refillable at most supermarkets and tobacco stores
Prepaid USB 3G modems can be bought cheaply around 150 SEK in many shops. They are a good alternative to WiFi in Sweden. They cost around 100 SEK/week and 300 SEK/month to use. Data limits are high typically 20 GB/month.
Sweden is the world's second most Internet connected country second to Iceland. The Swedish postal system Posten is often considered efficient and reliable, with locations placed inside of supermarkets and convenience stores look for the round yellow logo with the blue horn. Stamps frimärken for ordinary letters to anywhere in the world are 12 SEK and the letter usually needs 2 days within EU. Stamps can be purchased in most supermarkets, ask the cashier.
do not bring
Cash money from your home country - see above.
Possession of any brand of tear gas or pepper spray or any form of electroshock weapon will be liable for severe prosecution in the same category as possession of non-registered and un-licensed firearms. These must be disposed before passing the Swedish border and disposal will also be offered before passing security and identity control at international airports. You should also consult security regarding any other self-defense or weapon-like equipment. The laws regarding these products also vary greatly between EU and other European countries. This is important to know when travelling between many European countries. You will not be able to retrieve disposed illegal items at departure from Sweden.
Some European countries might offer a light local attitude towards small quantities of certain drugs. This is certainly not the case in Sweden, which has a next to zero tolerance towards all forms of narcotics and even some controversial medicines. To even consider carrying doubtful substances into hardline Sweden is a very bad idea. You could be offered a number of illegal drugs during your stay in Sweden, but you could also be kept for a longer and rather unpleasant stay than expected if you decide to get involved with them.
Most Swedes have liberal, cosmopolitan, secular and environmentalist values by Anglo-Saxon standards. This spares Western tourists from cultural clashes which might be imminent in other countries. However, some strict rules of etiquette are almost unique to Swedish people.
Sweden - a country of numbersSwedish people are reputed to be rigid and organized. Almost everything has a number. Swedish people have a ten-digit personal identity number starting by date of birth in the form YYMMDD used in contact with all kinds of government authorities, usually mentioned before the name. Customers in Swedish shops or bank need to take a queue number note from a machine to be served in order. Each product at Systembolaget is known for its product number which is often easier to keep track of than foreign-sounding names, and the most important feature in selection is the alcohol content often divided by price to find the most cost-efficient product. If you order a drink in the bar, be prepared to tell how many centiliters of liquor you want. Most grocers provide milk in four or more fat content levels plus an organic version of each, barista milk and low lactose milk, not to mention filmjölk, yoghurt and all other milk products. Before going outdoors, Swedes check air temperature, and before bathing in open water, they check water temperature. Many Swedes also own barometers, hygrometers and rain gauges to support the eternal conversation about weather with statistics. In conversation about housing, Swedes define their flats by number of rooms En trea - "a three" - is simply a three-room-and-kitchen flat and usually ask each other about the area by square meter. They have week numbers running from 1 to 52. The world famous furniture retailer IKEA diverts from this pattern, with Nordic product names.
Though narcotics are not unheard of, most Swedes, old and young, are strongly opposed to them. Punishment is harsh, even for private-use possession, consumption, and intoxication itself. This also applies to cannabis.
When it comes to alcohol, Swedes are as double-natured as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Before work or driving, one beer is one too many, and drunk driving is a crime genuinely despised in Sweden. However, drunkenness can be a regular part of many Swedish traditions e.g. Midsommar, Valborg, etc.--keep this in mind if you abstain from alcohol. Some Swedes frown on people being sober at a party and reject excuses other than driving or pregnancy--though no formal policy exists that would force one to drink against their will.
Salespeople, waiters and other service employees are usually less attentive than their colleagues in other countries, to respect customers' privacy, except a short "hej" to entering customers. Customers are supposed to call for attention.
When entering a bus or another form of public transportation it is often considered unpolite to sit next to another person if there is another twin seat available.
Always ask if you should remove your shoes or not when entering a Swedish home. In most homes it is customary to remove your shoes. Only on very rare occasions is the wearing of shoes indoors considered acceptable. Generally, you will see a place by the front door of most homes where shoes are to be stored and can surmise from the presence of other guests' shoes what is expected. If you just assume that you are to take your shoes off upon entry, in most cases you will have done the right thing. Bringing indoor shoes to other people's homes is customary among some. Most Swedish homes have wood flooring; wall-to-wall carpets are uncommon. Should you be dressed up and the host asks you to take your shoes off, then you should do that. As in every other culture one's home is one's castle, and you would not like someone to be disrespectful in your own home.
Despite rumours of the "Swedish sin", Swedish people are generally not accepting of public nudity except at approved nudist beaches. Don't go skinny-dipping in public beaches if you are more than about four years old. Female toplessness is accepted but not very common though prohibited at many public baths, breastfeeding in public is also accepted. Male toplessness is accepted in the countryside and at the beach, but might be frowned upon in urban areas.
Greetings between men and women who know each other e.g., are good friends, relatives, etc. are often in the form of a hug. Swedes don't cheek-kiss to greet but are aware that other cultures do. If you are a visitor from France and do cheek-kiss a Swede, they will return the favor but probably feel a bit awkward doing so.
Show up on the minutefor meetings and meals, preferably five minutes before the set time. There is no "fashionably late" in Sweden. However, showing up early at a private invitation is considered rude. If it's acceptable to arrive late it's usually mentioned specifically e.g.,"...arrive after 1700" or there exist formal rules some universities apply an "akademisk kvart", an academic quarter hour, within which it is acceptable to arrive to lectures.
In regards to homosexuality, Sweden is quite tolerant. In fact, as of May 2009, same-sex marriages have legal standing in Sweden. The chance of facing extreme criticism or homophobia is low in Sweden, as the country has anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. Violence against gays and lesbians is relatively rare.
Of equal importance is to avoid assuming positions or cultures based on identifiable signs. For example the Chinese girl you might meet may speak no word of Chinese and have never been anywhere near China. This point is especially true for individuals from areas with ethnic strife - don't assume that anyone you meet is either personally connected to, or shares the viewpoints of their ethnic-origin Nation.
Driving in Sweden is safe and mostly like driving in any other European country. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for everyone in the car. Motorway driving is not as aggressive as in southern Europe, but there's not very much respect for the speed limits and there may be cars who will try to overtake you by driving close behind. There are long distances. Take rests if you are tired; it is dangerous to fall asleep when driving. Though it's not strictly enforced, you are required to keep your head and taillights on at all times - even during the daytime.
Wild animals such as moose, deer and boar sometimes stray onto highways. The moose is a big and heavy animal up to 700 kg and 2,1 m shoulder height so a collision can be violent and endanger your life even if you wear a seatbelt. These are a fairly common sights outside of the southernmost part of Sweden ie Skåne - so care must be taken when driving at all times.
in case of emergency
112 is the emergency phone number to dial in case of fire, medical or criminal emergency. It does not require an area code, regardless of what kind of phone you're using. The number works on any mobile phone, with or without a SIM card, even if it's key-locked.
Police officers are rarely on patrol, and might be too busy to head out for minor crimes. To report a theft or getting in contact with the police in general, there is a national non-emergency phone number 114 14 that will bring you in contact with an operator at a police station usually nearby, but not always.
Nightclubs and shopping centers usually have security officers with a chest badge saying ordningsvakt, authorized to use force, and infamous to do so. These should be respected. Officers with other labels "Security" or "Entrévärd" have no special privileges, but are still notoriously violent as they are usually recruited from the street, without background check. Don't argue with them.
A serious nuisance in summer are mosquitoes myggor, hordes of which inhabit Sweden particularly the north in summer, especially after rain. While they do not carry malaria or other diseases, Swedish mosquitoes make a distinctive and highly irritating whining sound, and their bites are very itchy. As usual, mosquitoes are most active around dawn and sunset — which, in the land of the Midnight Sun, may mean most of the night in summer. There are many types of mosquito repellents available which can be bought from almost any shop. Other summer nuisances are gadflies bromsar, whose painful but non-poisonous bites can leave a mark lasting for days, and wasps getingar whose stings can be deadly if you're allergic. To minimize trouble from insects, use mosquito repellent, ensure your tent has good mosquito netting and bring proper medication if you know that you're allergic to wasp stings.
In southern Sweden and in northern coastal regions there are ticks fästingar which appear in summertime. They can transmit Lyme's disease borreliosis and more serious TBE tick-borne encephalitis through a bite. The risk areas for TBE are mainly the eastern parts of lake Mälaren and the Stockholm archipelago. A vaccination against TBE is available but the first two doses should be completed before a reliable protection can be expected. Borreliosis can be treated with antibiotics. Although incidents are relatively rare and not all ticks carry diseases, it's advisable to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense and/or tall grass areas the usual habitat for ticks. You can buy special tick tweezers fästingplockare from the pharmacy that can be used to remove a tick safely if you happen to get bitten. You should remove the tick from your skin as quickly as possible and preferably with the tick tweezers to reduce the risks of getting an infection. If the tick bite starts to form red rings on the skin around it or if you experience other symptoms relating to the bite, you should go visit a doctor as soon as possible. Since ticks are black, they are more easily found if you wear bright clothes.
There's only one type of venomous snake in Sweden: the European adder huggorm, which has a distinct zig-zag pattern on its back. The snake is quite common, and lives all over Sweden except for the mountains in the north and farmlands in the south. Although its bite hardly ever is life-threatening except to small children and allergic people, one should be careful in summer, especially when walking in the forests or on open fields. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical assistance. Killing, injuring or capturing a snake is illegal.
There are no really dangerous marine animals in Sweden, although the Greater weevers Fjärsing could be a nuisance; this is a small fish that hides in the sand near beaches, its back has several spikes that are poisonous and will hurt a lot if stepped on. Its poison could be as dangerous as that of the European adder and will likely cause more pain this can be quite severe than damage. There are also types of poisonous jellyfish that can be quite common near beaches. These are distinguished from normal non-poisonous types by their bright blue or red color. These types of jellyfish aren't really dangerous but their venom will hurt.
As for other dangerous wildlife, there's not much more than a few extremely rare encounters with brown bear brunbjörn and wolf varg in the wilderness. Both of these animals are listed as protected species. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no polar bears in Sweden, let alone polar bears walking city streets. If you encounter a brown bear in the woods, walk slowly away from it while talking loudly - the bear is most likely to feel threatened if you surprise it. In the unlikely event of a brown bear attacking you should play dead, protect your head and make yourself as small as possible. Or the opposite, there have been people surviving a brown bear encounter by screaming as loud as possible, jumping, and making oneself as big as possible. Bears are most likely to attack if they are injured, provoked by a dog, going to hibernate or protecting their cubs.
Bears in Sweden have killed no more than a handful of people since 1900. Wild Swedish wolves have not killed a human being since 1821. In general, one shouldn't worry about dangerous encounters with wild beasts in Sweden.
Nearly all stores and all ATMs accept VISA and MasterCard, as well as Maestro Switch. PIN-pads are widely used instead of signatures even for credit cards, so if your card has a PIN, memorize it before you leave home. Don't expect stores to accept foreign currency, apart from close to the borders, where usually only the neighbour currency is accepted i.e. danish krone, Norwegian krone or euro. Larger stores in Stockholm and at larger airports and railway stations often accept payment in Euro, however. Even if the euro or Danish krone is accepted, do not expect the exchange rate to be generous.
or EU national identity card as identification. A driver's license might work but that is not guaranteed. The state and the banks issue national ID cards to Swedish citizens, but those who have a driver's license prefer to have that as their ID. You will frequently be asked to prove age or identity - for instance when using your credit card, when buying alcohol, when renting accommodation or when entering bars and clubs. Banks accept only Swedish identity documents, so a visitor will be required to provide a valid passport or a EU national identity card. Swedish bureaucracy is efficient but rigid.
clothes and extra shoes. Weather in Sweden is unpredictable. It can suddenly get cold and/or wet, and sometimes quite hot. Pack some rain protection if you plan on staying for an extended period of time. It may also be obtained locally, but for quality you also pay high prices. Sweden in winter requires preparations for visitors who are not aquainted with lots of snow and months of darkness in freezing temperatures during the winter months.
Swedish GSM and 3G coverages are great, at least in populated areas but don't expect it to work everywhere. In rural areas the state-owned operator Telia might be the only one available. If you have another operator you may only place SOS calls. Official figures say that 60-70% by total area - most of the populated parts are covered fully of the country has GSM coverage and about 40% for 3G. Even the subway system and other public traffic tunnels offer an almost complete coverage. The number of public phones is dwindling due to most locals having a mobile phone.