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Stockholm, Sweden ©Holger.Ellgaard
Crisp and clean, the tranquil Scandinavian country of Sweden offers a variety of experiences within its elegant and sophisticated cities, its picturesque medieval villages, coastal island archipelagos, peaceful lakes and forests and the icy tundra of northern Lapland.
The capital city, Stockholm, encompasses 14 islands on the shores of the Baltic Sea. It is a high-tech city with a small-town feel, filled with top class restaurants, pulsating nightclubs, cosy pubs and a full array of performing arts venues. Best of all, nearly everyone you meet is fluent in English. Few visitors to Stockholm can resist an excursion to discover the offshore islands: the Stockholm archipelago offers some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Europe, and can be enjoyed from the city on a day cruise.
The west coast of Sweden, with its delightful fishing villages, is the place for gourmets, especially seafood lovers, while those digging for history will be fascinated with Uppsala, the ancient Viking city where the newest buildings date from the 18th century. A really novel excursion is a visit up north to the Ice Hotel, sculpted from ice every winter in Lapland where the Sami people enjoy showing visitors their way of life, centred on their reindeer herds. Meanwhile, way down south, Smaland (literally meaning ), has been christened 'the Crystal Kingdom' in honour of the famous glassworks that exist there in places like Orrefors and Kosta.
Sweden is an enchanting country, not as cold as one might imagine despite its situation in the high latitudes, and is well worth exploring whether along the meticulously maintained roads or on the extensive high-speed train system.
The country code for Sweden is +46. There is good coverage across the country for mobile telephones, which use different GSM 900 and 1800 networks. Internet cafes can be found in all the cities and towns.
Swedish is the main language, with Lapp being spoken by the Sami population in the north. Most Swedes speak and understand English. Many also speak German and French.
Travellers to Sweden over 18 years from non-EU countries and residents who arrive on a commercial flight, from a trip exceeding 20 hours do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cheroots, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco, or a proportional mix of these. 1 litre of spirits with alcohol content higher than 22 percent, or two litres fortified or sparkling wine, and two litres of non-sparkling wine and beer are allowed duty free; other goods to the value of SEK 1,700 are also allowed. Prohibited items include drugs, other than those for medical or scientific purposes; and potatoes that are grown outside the EU.
Electric current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Standard European two-pin plugs are used.
Sweden's climate varies from north to south, but in general it is temperate, despite its northern situation, due to the warm offshore Gulf Stream currents. There are three different climate zones in Sweden: the south has an oceanic climate, the centre has a humid continental climate, and the north has a subarctic climate. Summers in the south and centre of Sweden are warm and pleasant, with average high temperatures ranging between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C). In the winter temperatures in these regions average between 25°F and 36°F (-4°C and 2°C). In the north it is substantially colder, with short, cool summers and long, snowy winters. Temperatures frequently drop below freezing between September and May. Rain is possible in Sweden at any time of year, but is most common in late summer. The southwest of the country receives the most rain.
The best time to visit Sweden is in the summer months from June to August, when the days are long and warm and the open-air museums and restaurants are open. As summers are the most busy and expensive time to visit Sweden however, some travellers prefer to go in the spring or autumn, which are both very pleasant seasons and much less crowded.
All visitors are required to have visible means of support as well as tickets and documentation for return or onward travel. The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
To enter Sweden, US citizens require a passport valid for three months beyond intended stay, but no visa is required for stays of up to three months.
No visa is required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, Identity Cards issued by Gibraltar, and 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom). All other British nationals are entitled to a maximum stay of 90 days without a visa.
Canadians require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay to enter Sweden, but no visa is required for stays of up to three months.
For entry to Sweden, Australian citizens require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay, but no visa is required for stays of up to three months.
South Africans require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay as well as a visa for entry to Sweden.
Irish nationals require a valid passport, but no visa is necessary.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay, but no visa is necessary for stays of up to three months.
There are no health risks associated with travel to Sweden, but visitors should guard against ticks when travelling to forested areas or the southern coast, including the Stockholm archipelago. Medical care in the country is excellent, and reciprocal health agreements exist with other European Union countries, including the United Kingdom. UK citizens in possession of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be entitled to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Swedish nationals. All non-EU travellers should ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance.
Sweden is an extremely safe country to visit. There is some petty crime in the cities where tourists congregate, but crime is generally at much lower levels than elsewhere in Europe. Most visits to Sweden are trouble free.
Emergency Phone Number
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
The Swedish monetary unit is the Kronor/Krona or Crown (SEK), which is divided into 100 öre. Banks exchange money during business hours from Monday to Friday. At other times money can be changed at airports, ferry terminals, post offices and Forex exchange offices, which are open daily. There are numerous ATMs throughout the country, most of which accept MasterCard and Visa. Most major credit cards are widely accepted for payment throughout Sweden.
Exchange RateNot available.
Embassies of Sweden
Swedish Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 467 2600.
Swedish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7917 6400.
Swedish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 244 8200.
Swedish Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6270 2700.
Swedish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 426 6400.
Swedish Consulate General, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 265 0888.
Consulate-General of Sweden, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 499 9895.
Foreign Embassies in Sweden
United States Embassy, Stockholm: +46 (0)8 783 5300.
British Embassy, Stockholm: +46 (0)8 671 3000.
Canadian Embassy, Stockholm: +46 (0)8 453 3000.
Australian Embassy, Stockholm: +46 (0)8 613 2900.
South African Embassy, Stockholm: +46 (0)8 824 3950.
Irish Embassy, Stockholm: +46 (0)8 5450 4040.
New Zealand Embassy, Brussels (also responsible for Sweden): +32 (0)2 512 1040.
Swedish culture is very liberal and secular. Despite a reputation for excess and a love for partying, drunk driving is a serious crime and public nudity is considered inappropriate anywhere other than designated nude beaches. Smoking is not allowed in indoor establishments like restaurants and bars. It is polite to remove your shoes when entering a Swedish home. Equality is an important part of Swedish culture, and boastfulness and open conflict is usually avoided. 'Chivalry' is often considered an outdated concept in Sweden, which is one of the most gender equal countries in the world, and gestures like opening doors for women are not considered necessary.
Sweden hosts the headquarters for many multinational companies. Scandinavians, and Swedes in particular, value the inherent equality and dignity of all people; this is reflected in business where consensus and compromise is valued in the decision-making process. Decisions often take a long time to be made as all opinions are considered. Avoid overt displays of wealth or status. Business practice and personal conduct should always be rational, calm, and disciplined. This may makes Swedes come across as slightly unfriendly, but it also makes business meetings efficient.
The business world in Sweden draws a strict line between work and social gatherings so don't expect many post-work social events or dinner invitations. The best way to circumvent the reserved nature of most Swedes in the business environment is at the twice-daily 'fika', or coffee break, when the general rules regarding business behaviour are relaxed a little. Punctuality is vital; it is a point of pride for many Scandinavians and illustrates mutual respect. It is important to schedule an appointment in advance and have it confirmed shortly before any engagement. Keeping one's cool and not showing too much emotion is also vital. Handshakes for men and women are common after introduction and often first names are used instead of surnames.
Dress codes are conservative and smart, but suits are not always necessary. Business people in Sweden should endeavour to show honesty, transparency, professionalism and mutual respect in all business dealings. Sweden is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, making it a pleasure to do business here. Business hours run from 8am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. The language of business is Swedish, but English is generally spoken throughout the country and many multinationals will use it as the language of business when necessary.
A service charge is included in restaurant bills, but an additional tip of seven to 10 percent is expected for evening meals in Sweden. Generally customers round up the fare when using a taxi. Tips are welcome for exceptionally good service in hotels, but are not expected.
Public Holidays in Sweden
Dotted with picturesque medieval villages, tranquil lakes, lush forests, coastal island archipelagos and cosmopolitan cities, sightseeing in Sweden is anything but dull. For a break from historical and cultural attractions, enjoy Sweden's remarkably clean air by breathing deep somewhere beautiful; hop on board a ferry, or take a day out in one of Sweden's countless parks and enjoy a picnic.
Head north to explore the icy tundra and UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Laponian area in Lappland, sample some reindeer steaks, marvel at the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), and explore the Ice Hotel which is sculpted each year by the Sami people in the winter months.
Head south to the capital of Stockholm, boasting more than a dozen islands to explore by day cruise, a wonderful arts and nightlife scene, and ocean fishing from the heart of the city. Visit the quaint Gamla Stan (Old Town), a maze of narrow cobble-stoned streets shaded by historic houses circling the Royal Castle where Swedish royalty has resided since the 13th century, or explore the canals of Gothenburg.
The west coast fishing villages are the place to be for seafood lovers, while culture vultures will be smitten with Uppsala, the ancient Viking city where the newest buildings date from the 18th century and more than 150 museums can be investigated.
The summer months are the most popular time to visit Sweden, but the country truly is a year-round destination, short on sunlight as the winter months may be. With a wealth of attractions and breathtakingly beautiful historical sites, it will take visitors a few weeks if not months to touch the tip of the iceberg of what the magical Sweden has to offer.
Map of Sweden
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