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The name Sweden was derived from the Svear, or Suiones, a people mentioned as early as 98 CE by the Roman author Tacitus. The country’s ancient name was Svithiod. Stockholm has been the permanent capital since 1523.
Sweden occupies the greater part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, which it shares with Norway. The land slopes gently from the high mountains along the Norwegian frontier eastward to the Baltic Sea. Geologically, it is one of the oldest and most stable parts of the Earth’s crust. Its surface formations and soils were altered by the receding glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch (about 2,600,000 to 11,700 years ago). Lakes dot the fairly flat landscape, and thousands of islands form archipelagoes along more than 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of jagged, rocky coastline.
The country has a 1,000-year-long continuous history as a sovereign state, but its territorial expanse changed often until 1809. Today it is a constitutional monarchy with a well-established parliamentary democracy that dates from 1917. Swedish society is ethnically and religiously very homogeneous, although recent immigration has created some social diversity. Historically, Sweden rose from backwardness and poverty into a highly developed postindustrial society and advanced welfare state with a standard of living and life expectancy that ranks among the highest in the world.
The kingdom of Sweden is divided into three main regions – Norrland, Svealand, and Götaland. Norrland is the largest of these regions, covering about three-fifths of the country’s total land area. It is characterized by its mountainous terrain and vast forests, and it also contains numerous ore deposits. Svealand includes undulating glacial ridges, home to many of the country’s 90,000 lakes. The region of Götaland is made up of the stony Småland highlands and the Skåne plains. Roughly fifteen percent of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle.
The economy of Sweden is largely based on services, heavy industry, and international trade. Key industries include mining, steel production, timber, and tourism. Agricultural products cultivated in the country include grains, sugar beets, potatoes, and livestock. Sweden is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and is renowned for its comprehensive social welfare system.
- Capital: Stockholm
- Area: 450,295 sq km
- Population: 10.4 million
- Languages: Swedish, plus Sami, Finnish, Meankieli, Romani, Yiddish
Some key dates in Sweden’s history:
17th Century – Sweden developed as a major European power, rising to prominence under Gustavus Adolphus, seizing territories from Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in multiple wars including the Thirty Years’ War.
1700-1721 – The Great Northern War saw a coalition led by Russia under Peter the Great successfully contest the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.
18th Century – Sweden gradually lost its remaining territories outside Scandinavia.
1810 – One of Napoleon’s Marshals, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, is chosen as heir to the throne – establishing the House of Bernadotte.
1814 – Sweden forces Denmark-Norway, an ally of France, to cede Norway. Norway is joined in a personal union with Sweden under the Swedish crown.
1905 – The Union between Sweden and Norway peacefully dissolved.
1914 – Outbreak of World War One. Sweden remains neutral.
1920s – Sweden developed from an agricultural into an industrial society. Social democratic governments enact social reforms.
1939 – At the outbreak of World War Two, Sweden declares neutrality.
1952 – Sweden becomes founder member of the Nordic Council.
1959 – Sweden becomes founder member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
1971 – The two-chamber parliament is replaced by one chamber elected by proportional representation.
1975 – Further constitutional reforms enacted. The last remaining powers of the monarch are removed, so that his duties become purely ceremonial.
Early 1980s – Relations with the Soviet Union deteriorate when Soviet submarines are suspected of infiltrating Swedish territorial waters.
1986 – Prime Minister Olof Palme is assassinated in Stockholm. Sweden is plunged into shock, and the conduct of the police investigation prompts public criticism. In 2020, police conclude the killer was Stig Engstrom, a troubled man who disliked the prime minister and committed suicide in 2000.
1994 – Swedes narrowly support EU membership in a referendum.
2000 – Official opening of new bridge and tunnel linking Malmo in southern Sweden and Danish capital Copenhagen.
2003 – Foreign Minister Anna Lindh dies from stab wounds after being attacked in a Stockholm department store.
The referendum vote goes against joining the single European currency.
2004 – Man who confessed to killing Anna Lindh on impulse is convicted of her murder.
2009 – The government reverses a 30-year-old policy of phasing out nuclear power, saying new reactors are needed to fight climate change and secure energy supplies.
2011 – Swedish car maker Saab files for bankruptcy after failing to attract a buyer for the ailing business.
Currency & banking
- The monetary unit in Sweden is the krona SEK (plural “kronor”) and equals 100 öre.
- Banknotes are printed in values of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 kronor.
- The coin is available as 1, 2, 5 and 10 kronor.
Credit cards and cash
Sweden is widely regarded as the most cashless society on the planet. Most of the country’s bank branches have stopped handling cash; many shops, museums and restaurants now only accept plastic or mobile payments. Most terminals in stores are supporting the use of paying with contactless cards.
But no need to worry. Major credit cards (some restrictions may apply to American Express) are widely accepted throughout Sweden at banks, hotels, stores, restaurants, taxis, car rental companies, and for air, ship and rail tickets.
For those wondering how much it will cost to use your card abroad, it all depends on the agreement you have with your card supplier. Most credit cards will charge you for using a cash machine abroad, but since it varies between companies, contact your card provider to know the rate for sure.
How and where can you get cash in Sweden?
You can get cash with your Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or Cirrus card at any “Bankomat” or “Uttagsautomat” ATM. A small fee can be added for your withdrawal, it’s all depending on your bank’s terms.
There are often ATMs available directly at the airport, for example in Stockholm Arlanda, Göteborg Landvetter, Skavsta, Malmö and Luleå.
For the most part tipping is not common in Sweden, with the exception of bars and restaurants where the locals tip when they are happy with the service or food.
There is no fixed rule of thumb for how much to tip, but tips tend to stay within 5-15% of the total amount of the bill. But remember that tipping is entirely up to you – there will be no hard feelings in any case.
Driving in Sweden
Swedish roads are well maintained, and the country is said to have some of the best highways and secondary roads in Europe.
You won’t have many traffic jams outside of the big cities—though once in a while you might cross paths with a moose or an elk. If you are thinking about renting a car, learn the rules of the road before you go with these practical tips for drivers in Sweden.
Rules of the Road
- Driving on the right: You drive on the right side in Sweden and can pass slower vehicles on the left as long as you do this in a safe manner.
- Distances: In Sweden, distances are expressed in kilometers; 1 kilometer equals 0.6 miles. Any car you rent in Sweden will have speed and distances expressed in kilometers.
- Speed signs: They are round and yellow with a red outline. The speed limit for city areas is 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour). On open country roads, the limit is 90 kph (55 mph), and on highways, it is 110 kph (68 mph).
- Seat belts: The driver and any passengers in the front and back seats must use seat belts at all times when in motion.
- Children and car seats: Children under 3 years of age or under 4 feet, 5 inches (1.25 meters) tall must ride in an appropriately-fitted car seat.
- Headlights: Regardless of whether it is sunny or not, headlights must be on, and other drivers may flash their headlights to let you know you need to put your headlights on. Cars sold in Sweden always have the lights turned on automatically, so car renters won’t have to be concerned with this.
- Drinking and driving: Sweden is extremely strict when it comes to drunk driving. Police can require a breathalyzer test without reason, and if you are over 0.02 percent blood alcohol content, you will get a high fine and/or a jail sentence.
- Cyclists: Maintain consciousness that cyclists and bike lanes are frequent sights in Scandinavia. Cyclists have the right of way when traveling in designated bike lanes.
- Tolls: Drivers typically won’t have to pay tolls for roads in Sweden; however Swedish cars and those registered in other countries will have to pay tolls any time of day on the bridges across Sundsvallsfjärden and Motalaviken.
- In case of emergency: You can reach the police, local fire department, and an ambulance by calling 112 nationwide in Sweden. Remain at the scene of the accident until you have given the emergency response team all the information they ask for. If your car stalls on a road where the speed limit is over 50 kph, you must put out a warning triangle—place the warning triangle 50 to 100 meters behind the car.
Long-distance coach service between cities in Sweden is generally slower than traveling by train, but it’s also usually significantly cheaper. Unlike long-distance train travel, there’s no centralized operator, so you may have to shop around. Flixbus and Vy are the two main companies serving destinations throughout Sweden, but regional bus networks such as Västtrafik, Skånetrafiken and Länstrafiken Norrbotten also cover quite large areas, connecting cities, towns and rural areas.
Getting around in the cities
Swedish cities typically have excellent bus networks that extend well into the suburbs or surrounding countryside. In Stockholm County, buses, subways, commuter trains, streetcars and city-center passenger ferries operate seamlessly under a unified ticket system. Additional passenger ferries connect downtown with communities in the archipelago.
In Göteborg, streetcars and buses wind through the city’s neighbourhoods, part of a larger network that extends throughout Västra Götaland County and also includes commuter trains and passenger ferries. In the far south, Skånetrafiken serves Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmö, and the rest of Skåne County.
Getting around on bicycle
Sweden like most Scandinavian countries is very bicycle-friendly. Cities and towns have wide and extensive cycle lanes on the sides of roads.
With beautiful rural roads, plentiful urban bike paths and numerous organized long-distance cycling routes, Sweden is made for exploration on two wheels. Rent a bike for a day to explore a city and its environs, or set off on a longer journey to see more of the country at a relaxed pace. RentBike is one option for single- and multi-day bike rentals in southern Sweden and beyond.
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those travelling to Sweden
The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
The healthcare system in Norway is of very high quality, generally regarded as one of the best in the world; life expectancy is high and infant mortality is low.
Costs of medical care for those who are not local or from an EU country, such as tourists, can be very high. It is therefore important to take out appropriate travel insurance, which should include repatriation to your home country in the event of an emergency.
As always when you travel you should take out the necessary travel insurance coverage. We always use World Nomads but there are plenty of other insurance companies that offer travel insurance
Sweden is generally a safe country to visit. There’s a small risk of petty theft, particularly at airports and railway stations in and around Oslo.
Useful emergency numbers
- 113 13 – Information number in case of accidents and crises
- 114 14 – Police number for non-urgent matters
- 112 – Emergencies
- 1177 – Healthcare advice
The south coastal areas, classified as humid continental or oceanic using the -3°C isotherm, benefit from milder winters and relatively cooler summers in contrast to other regions of the country. Conversely, central Sweden falls under a humid continental climate, leading to warm summers and cold winters. The further north one travels, a subarctic climate is encountered, where long, icy winters and brief, cool to mild summers are the norm. These varying climatic conditions bring a unique diversity to the nation’s weather, making Sweden a land of climatic contrasts.
The best time to visit Sweden
The worst time to visit Sweden
What is Schengen?
Schengen refers to the EU passport-free zone that covers most of the European countries. It’s the largest free travel area in the world.
What is a Schengen Visa
A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen Area, per stays up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.
The Schengen visa is the most common visa for Europe. It enables its holder to enter, freely travel within, and leave the Schengen zone from any of the Schengen member countries. There are no border controls within the Schengen Zone.
However, if you are planning to study, work, or live in one of the Schengen countries for more than 90 days, then you must apply for a national visa of that European country and not a Schengen Visa.
The 26 Schengen countries are:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
From 2024 visitors to a Schengen country that currently does not require a visa to enter will be required to obtain an ETIAS. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is a completely electronic system that allows and keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. It is similar to the US ESTA programme. The ETIAS will cost only €7 for each application and will last for 3 years.
Citizens of Which Countries Need a Schengen Visa to go to Europe?
The countries whose citizens are required to obtain a Schengen visa in order to enter any member country of the Schengen Area are:
|Angola||Ghana||Papua New Guinea|
|Belize||Indonesia||Sao Tome And Principe|
|Burkina Faso||Kazakhstan||South Africa|
|Central African Republic||Lebanon||Syria|
|Dem. Rep. Of Congo||Mali||Tunisia|
Which power plugs and sockets in Europe?
In Europe, the power plugs and sockets are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Check out the following pictures.
Type F: also known as “Schuko”. This socket also works with plug C and plug E.
|Type F: This socket also works with plug C and E|