How to See the Best of Sweden on a Budget

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Scandinavia is high on many travellers’ bucket lists and with restrictions on international travel now almost completely gone, the region is poised for a bumper year of tourism.

However, there is no denying that Scandinavia is an expensive region to visit. That’s certainly true in Sweden, where it’s easy to rack up big bills for hotels, travel, and food if you’re not careful.

There are plenty of ways to cut costs without sacrificing your experience. Many of the keys to a satisfying budget travel experience lie in the planning. With that in mind, here are some things to consider.

Walking tour in Stockholm

Sweden’s waterfront capital is packed with historical and cultural attractions, but many come at a price. Still, it’s easy to soak up the atmosphere of historic Stockholm without spending a penny.

The charming old town of Gamla Stan is full of fascinating architecture, public squares, cobbled streets and narrow alleyways.

The best thing to do is to start walking and see the delights you will discover. Just half a mile wide, it’s impossible to get lost. The colorful architecture of the central Stortorget square is the best place to people watch with a coffee in one of the sidewalk cafes.

Although the rest of the city is walkable, take at least one metro ride. Stockholm’s modern public transport system doubles as an art gallery. Nearly 100 stations feature some form of art: vast mosaics, vivid paintings, installations or sculptures.

Visit Sweden by train

In a country with so many regional airports, it’s tempting to hop on a plane to save time sightseeing. But while local air travel is often time-saving, it’s a very expensive option unless you book months in advance.

If time is on your side, the train is a great alternative. Sweden’s national rail network is one of the most environmentally friendly in the world with high-speed lines connecting the major cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö several times a day.

The rail network also serves many other places of tourist interest, including the sunny south and the far north of the country, beyond the Arctic Circle. Booking tickets at least a week in advance is the best way to get a good deal, as day fares are much higher.

To see the real Sweden, consider a trip on the 800-mile Inlandsbanan, which runs through the heart of the country between Gällivare in the north and Kristinehamn in the south. Packages are available that include hotel stays and travel.

Enjoy the great outdoors

Sweden’s 30 national parks and thousands of nature reserves are free to visit. Many famous hiking trailheads are easily accessible from cities and accessible by public transport.

If you plan to spend a lot of time in nature, get acquainted with Sweden rules relating to the right of public access. Known as allemansrätten in Swedish, the set of rules allows people (including tourists) to enjoy nature. This includes the right to camp on public land and pick berries and mushrooms.

If all this seems a bit over the top, there is always the possibility of enjoying nature in the city. The sprawling archipelago of Stockholm, the palace gardens of Drottningholm and the botanical gardens of many Swedish cities are just a few examples.

A short drive or bus ride from Gothenburg, Kosterhavet Marine National Park centers around the mostly car-free Koster Islands.

Change your cooking habits

Take advantage of the generous breakfast buffets offered by most hotels to replenish your energy in the morning. Before leaving the hotel, fill up a reusable water bottle to save money on bottled water later in the day. Tap water in Sweden is safe to drink and tastes good.

Also consider having your main meal at lunchtime. Prices are much lower, and even lower in cities where restaurants are jostling for business with specials. Buffet restaurants, mostly Chinese and Thai, are also the cheapest earlier in the day.

go dry

If enjoying a glass of wine with dinner is a habit rather than a necessity, consider avoiding alcohol on your trip. You won’t be the only ones doing it.

Because alcohol taxes are so high, many Swedes have a drink at home before or after a night out. If you need to buy liquor, Systembolaget is the state-run liquor store. You won’t find anything less than 3.5% ABV available at other stores.

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