Hej Stockholm, the capital of Sweden!
I had no idea I would actually enjoy Stockholm so much. In fact, I’d expected to feel rather bored with a lack of places to go for 2 days. (Ps: I had no interest in Vasa Museum – the must-go museum with the sunken ship, nor Abba Museum.) But turned out I didn’t feel bored! The weather in Stockholm in May was more than perfect during springtime, though a delayed spring at that. The temperature still dipped low but the sun’s out bright and shiny. Stockholm was over for me too quickly in 2 days.
Here’s some Stockholm Travel Tips I Gathered for Your Next Trip!
1. Landing in Stockholm: Getting to the city centre need not cost a limb.
According to search resources, the Arlanda Express train will be the recommended method to reach Stockholm’s city centre in 20min from the airport. Round-trip tickets will cost SEK 540 ( = S$86 / USD$62) per adult, *gasps*.
Welcome to Stockholm and its prices.
Don’t worry. There’s another method: Flygbussarna airport bus, which serves major airports in Stockholm. Return tickets from Arlanda Airport to city will be SEK 198 (S$32 / USD$23) per adult, taking 45min and there’s free WIFI on the bus! The buses arrive and depart on time and are comfortable journeys. I used this method and enjoyed its convenience.
Tip: Buy the airport bus tickets online before your trip, download the tickets on email or to Apple Wallet, flash the QR code on your phone or printed confirmation to the attendant and you’ll be on the way.
2. Bring your credit card.
Sweden is on the way to going cashless (you can read more from The Guardian). In Stockholm, the card is king, not cash. People use their credit cards to pay for everythingggg – it’s really that convenient. The credit card is the preferred payment method.
But you can still use cash.
However, if you’re like me and worry about lousy conversion rates from your credit card’s bank, you CAN still use cash in Stockholm. I used cash to purchase my SL TravelCard at the train station’s counter, pay for meals, buy museum tickets etc.
It’s good to carry a credit card with you as backup option though! I ended up paying for my accommodation and some shopping with the credit card.
Tip: If you’re joining walking tours, keep cash aside to tip your guide, like I did with Free Tours Stockholm.
Btw, public toilets in Stockholm cost money, even in shopping malls.
Each entry is likely SEK 5 or SEK10, so do have some small change with you. I thought surely toilets will be free entrance at Stockholm Public Library (the toilet wasn’t my purpose for going there, I swear!), but no such luck. There were machines accepting coins or credit card. The only public toilet I came across that was free to use was Moderna Museet’s toilets.
If you see a free public toilet (restaurant or museum) in Stockholm, don’t be shy to go!
3. Save money, drink Stockholm’s delicious tap water.
It’s not a rumour: Stockholm’s tap water is clean enough to drink as it is. In fact, the tap water tastes great! Before filling my bottle, I made sure to ask my hostel staff if the tap-water is safe to drink. To be extra safe, try to only use cold tap water for drinking, not lukewarm water.
I didn’t have to buy any water in Stockholm at all except for soft drinks and coffee, #win!
4. People in Stockholm speak good English.
I noticed that there weren’t many Asians in Stockholm. Service staff will promptly switch to English when they see me. As long as you can speak English, you’re in good hands. And I have met only friendly merchants in the city during my trip!
5. Research on food before coming, because restaurant menus often only come in Swedish.
I should have done more research on what to eat in Stockholm before arriving. It was rather dismaying to walk past restaurants, check their menus and only find Swedish words that I have not read up about. So I just randomly ordered the items whose words I could make out.
6. Look out for “dagens ” menu during lunchtime for best value of food!
“Dagens lunch” translates to set lunch, and will cost SEK 100 (S$16 / USD$12) to SEK 120 for a main course, a drink and salad. Or simply order it “to go” (takeaway) and sit down somewhere! The weather was chilly but sunny and many people in Stockholm will be sitting outdoors enjoying the sunshine.
7. Consider alternative accommodations other than hotels.
Stockholm hotels are really expensive. My hotel criteria for two nights of stay in Stockholm:
• Not too far or inaccessible from city
• Looks decent, not dodgy
• Not sky-high prices
The closest option I got was a single 8sqm room in the city centre, for SEK 2758 (= S$440 / USD$315) for 2 nights, but that to me was expensive as a solo traveller.
In the end, I booked a room in a hostel! It was also my first hostel stay ever. =D
Located in Sodermalm, Skanstulls Hostels is a hotel with quirky decor. I booked a private double room at 16sqm, for SEK 1540 (= S$252 / USD$176) for 2 nights. Staff was professional and polite, room was pretty cosy and the common areas were decorated really wonderfully.
To dispel misconceptions about hostels, I have to tell you, hostels in Scandinavia can actually be really gorgeous places. It also doesn’t mean you need to stay in mixed dormitory rooms and/or interact with a bunch of people all the time (it’s very exhausting for Introverts). There are quiet hostels where you can just do your own thing; we’re not in high school anymore 😉 Or Stockholm Hostel which officially prohibits loud music, smoking and drinking of alcohol within premises. Give Scandinavian hostels a chance!
Or you can stay on a boat hotel/hostel in Stockholm!
Prices vary on your choice of room type. If you’re looking for something interesting, and since you’re gonna spend the money anyway, might as well choose a boat hotel! This is the most famous one in Stockholm: AF Chapman. I’ve no experience from staying there though, so do your research first ya!
There’s a strange practice about hostels in Sweden though.
You need to rent bed linen from the hostel at an extra charge if it’s not included, or bring your own from home. This refers to the sheet covering your bed, the duvet cover and pillow cover. You also need to load the bed linen yourself. The good news about this is, at least you know they’re fresh sheets. My hostel provided the linen and placed it on my bed.
Some hostels also don’t provide towels – check before you go, or bring a light microfibre towel for your trip!
8. Stockholm is connected by bridges, but it’s not really that walkable.
Don’t harbour thoughts that you can cut costs and walk everywhere since it’s “so walkable”. Unless you really, really like walking long distances and have a lot of spare time for it. I took Stockholm’s public transport often and even so, I clocked 5–8 miles each day. The train stations can be placed quite a good distance apart OR you might be like me — unable to spot the T-bana (Stockholm’s Metro) signposts. I didn’t have 3G so I relied on offline maps to get me to the train station!
Be practical, get a public transport card.
9. Get a Travel Pass. Use Stockholm’s public transport.
Taxis cost a lot in Stockholm, so I heard. Stockholm’s public transport is well-connected and definitely reliable. I had less than 3 days in Stockholm, but decided to get a 72-hour Travel Card at SEK240 (S$38.10 / USD$28) anyway. Stockholm’s main transport operator is SL. They have 24-hour, 72-hour and 7-day passes, perfect for short-term travellers.
^If a Travel Card is not good for you, you can buy an SL Access Card (which is a smart-card, will cost SEK 20 and is valid for use for 6 years). With it, you need to
a) top it up with credit (minimum is SEK 100), and use for each journey, or
b) buy a single-journey ticket and load it on the SL Access Card.
For the SL Access Card’s option (a), each journey costs SEK 30 and is valid for 75min. For option (b), each journey will be SEK 43 for the same amount of time.
^ My understanding of the SL Transport fares system, because the website does not explain it that directly. If my interpretation is incorrect, do let me know!
With my flimpsy but precious 72-hour Travel Card, during my short visit, it was well utilized! I took the metro a few times, the tram in Djurgarden, a bus to Kungstradgen, and the ferry from Slussen to Skeppsholmen and then to Djurgarden. It might work out to be similar to getting the SL Access Card’s pricing, but I saved convenience by not having to keep track of time and travel plans.
Swedish is a tough language to make out. When you’re taking trains, the announced train station name can sound very different from your understanding of the English word. They stick a small map on certain transparent panels so if you’re standing at the wrong spot, you can’t access the map unless you can read mirrored text.
Further tip: Download this app called Linjekartor for the metro map.
10. Stockholm is a welcoming city, whether you have walking aids or luggage.
In Stockholm, I saw plenty of single fathers/mothers out with their babies in big, robust prams, on buses, the metro stations, everywhere. The elderly would be pushing their wheeled walking aids and shopping bags on the streets. There were people shopping in town with their handicapped relatives seated in high-tech wheelchair/bed. People also take their dogs on trains (in specific cabins). With the convenience that Stockholm has built into its system, it’s easy to see why everyone enjoyed being out and about!
Disclaimer: I’m not guaranteeing that Stockholm is 100% wheelchair-friendly, cos the truth is, there were steps down to my hostel’s reception counter, and that at places like Gamla Stan, the ground is cobblestone flooring with slopes.
Now, a very important question:
Are there lifts/elevators at Stockholm’s metro stations?
Something I’m always concerned about whenever I travel to Europe. In short, the answer is yes. Just look for the Hiss sign — that’s the lift. I was thanking my lucky stars until… the lift from street level to the underground metro station stopped working the day I left. So I lugged my luggage down for about 8 steps, and continued to use the lift inside the metro station.
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