Sweden travel guide
Sweden is a land of incredible contrasts, from the dense pine forests and craggy mountains of the north, to the rolling hills and glossy golden beaches of the south. But the diversity doesn't stop at the suburbs, with each of Sweden's seven major cities boasting its own character, history and unique architectural style.
Bordered by Denmark to the south, Norway to the west and Finland to the east, Sweden, the largest of the Scandinavian countries, boasts a long mercantile history that has made it one of the most culturally open and welcoming in Europe.
The instantly likeable capital Stockholm has long been synonymous with style and its sharply tailored brand of chic has percolated throughout the wardrobes of the world. Hipsters notwithstanding, Stockholm, with its 14 islands and medieval beauty, has much to offer those in search of culture, art and historical treasures. However, perhaps the most surprising city is Malmö, which has belied its unfairly grim reputation to become one of the country's liveliest destinations.
Beyond the cities, Sweden's countryside has a gentler charm than the rugged landscapes of neighbouring Norway. Much of Sweden is forested and there are thousands of lakes, including the large stretches of water between Gothenburg and Stockholm. The border with Norway is home to the spectacular Skanderna (Scandinavian) mountain chain, while in the far north you'll find wonderfully bleak Arctic tundra, where you can see the Northern Lights. The south is dominated by emerald forests, the cerulean waters of the Gulf of Bothnia and the jagged Baltic coastline. Of all the lovely spots in Sweden though, the awe-inspiring panoramas of the Stora Sjöfallet National Park take some beating. Part of the UNESCO-listed Laponian region of northern Sweden, the park's majestic waterfalls, soaring peaks and crowded clumps of fir trees make it one of the country's greatest natural treasures.
The Swedes are proud of their green country and believe the great outdoors should be available to everyone. Allemansrätten – the everyman's right – is a constitutional right that allows the public access to public and privately owned land for recreation. As long as you do not disturb or destroy nature, or infringe on the privacy of others (such as by walking too close to their house), you are free to roam the countryside. This right even allows people to pick wildflowers, berries and mushrooms – unless they are endangered.
449,964 sq km (173,732 sq miles).
9,851,852 (UN estimate 2016).
21.8 per sq km.
King Carl XVI Gustaf since 1973.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven since 2014.
Last updated: 17 February 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
More than 850,000 British nationals visit Sweden from the UK each year. Most visits are trouble-free. If you need to contact the emergency services in Sweden call 112.
If you’re living in or moving to Sweden, visit our Living in Sweden guide in addition to this travel advice.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sweden. You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Crime levels are low although there is some petty crime. Violent crime does occur; instances of gang related crime, including shootings and explosions, have been reported in Malmö and Gothenburg. Pick pocketing can be a problem in the major cities when tourists are targeted for passports and cash.
Sweden deals with its harsh weather very well, but delayed trains and flights are difficult to avoid during severe weather conditions. Snow and ice on the roads cause accidents daily. Consider starting your journey earlier to avoid rushing to your destination. Be prepared for harsh conditions particularly in the north during the winter.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in Sweden and other EU/EEA countries as a visitor after 29 March 2019.
There are 3 types of IDP. Check that you have the correct permits covering all countries where you will be driving - you may need more than one IDP. For full information, check this guidance page. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry.
If you’re living in Sweden, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
From 1 December to 31 March and when weather conditions are wintry, all Swedish and foreign registered vehicles, both light and heavy, are required by law to have either studded tyres or un-studded friction tyres bearing the following mark, M+S, M-s, M.S, M&S, MS or Mud and Snow.
The road conditions are considered to be wintry when there is snow, ice, slush or frost on any part of the road. The Swedish police decides whether there are wintry conditions on a certain road.
In 2016 there were 270 road deaths in Sweden (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 2.7 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2016.
In Sweden everyone travelling in a car is required to wear a seat belt. Children who are shorter than 135cm must use a special protective device – either a baby car seat, child car seat, booster seat or booster cushion. All long-distance buses are equipped with seat belts, which passengers are required to use by law. Bicycle helmets are mandatory for children under 15 (but not for adult cyclists). It’s illegal to use a mobile phone in your hand when driving.
You can find information about rail travel on the website of the Swedish train operator SJ.
You should check carefully whether any offers of employment for asphalting or seasonal work are genuine. Contact the British Embassy in Stockholm for further advice if necessary.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sweden. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
There are heavy punishments for importing illegal drugs.
All forms of physical punishment of children have been outlawed since 1979 in Sweden. Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce legislation of this kind. Any public action with the potential to be interpreted as physical punishment is likely to, at minimum, attract strong criticism from on-lookers.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Border controls are in place in Sweden for people travelling from Denmark via the Öresund crossing and arriving on ferries from Denmark and Germany. Make sure you carry a passport or national ID card when entering Sweden. More detailed information is available from the Swedish authorities
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
However, if the UK leaves the European Union with no deal, the passport validity rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change from 29 March 2019. Some passports with up to 15 months validity remaining may not be valid for travel. Before booking travel, you should check that your passport will meet these new rules and find out whether you need to renew it.
If the UK leaves with a deal, travel to the EU will remain the same as now until at least 31 December 2020. You will not need to apply for a visa to travel or work in the EU during this time.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the rules for travelling or working in Europe will change after 29 March 2019.
The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you’re a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.
If you’re intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.
Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.
On arrival in the Schengen Area, you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.
The 90-day visa-free period does not entitle you to work in the Schengen area. Most countries will require a visa and work permit.
You should check with the Swedish Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Sweden.
Travelling with children
If you’re travelling with children other than your own you should carry a letter of consent from the child’s parent or guardian.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is likely to change. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Sweden is available on the NHS website.
You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs will remain valid until 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Swedish nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
The UK government has or is seeking agreements with countries on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March 2019. The NHS website and this travel advice will be updated with further information on travelling to Sweden as the circumstances change.
Whether you’re travelling before or after 29 March, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Sweden, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Sweden guide.
Pharmacies are usually open during normal shop opening hours. You can also get an emergency prescription at hospitals.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
If you’re visiting remote areas, consider the relative inaccessibility of the emergency services.
The currency for Sweden is Swedish Krona, not the Euro.
Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.
The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
The eight Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be dispatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.
Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.