Living in Sweden: a guide
Residing in a new country involves handling many practical issues from day-to-day. Living in Sweden: a guide is our way to help you find answers to some of the most common questions international visitors face living abroad in Sweden.
Click the +/- symbol beside each topic listed below to find information about it. Do not hesitate to contact us for additional queries or if you are in need of support.
Arlanda Airport is Sweden’s largest airport and the main airport for travelling to Stockholm and Uppsala. It is located approx. 40 km north of Stockholm city. To get to and from the airport you can travel by express train (Arlanda Express), by regular train (SJ) (the train terminal is located underground the terminal buildings), by bus (Flygbussarna) or by public transportation (SL) or taxi.
Bromma Airport is a smaller airport located about 10 km west of Stockholm city. Bromma airport has flights to domestic and a few international destinations. To get to and from Bromma Airport, you can travel by bus using Flygbussarna or regular public transportation (SL), or take a taxi.
Kastrup Airport is located just outside the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, and a good option when travelling to Malmö. It is the largest airport located in the Malmö region. The easiest way to travel to Kastrup is by train (Skånetrafiken). The train terminal is located right next to the terminal building and has regular connections to Malmö Central station.
Malmö Airport (Sturup) is a smaller airport located about 30 km east of Malmö city. Malmö airport has flights to domestic and a few international locations. To travel to Sturup you can take the bus (Flygbussarna) or a taxi.
Alcoholic beverages (over 3.5%) are sold at Systembolaget (the Swedish Alcohol Retailing Monopoly). The age limit to buy alcohol is 20 years. At restaurants and bars, it is 18 years.
The four main consumer banks in Sweden are Handelsbanken, SEB, Swedbank and Nordea. You will usually need a national registration number, “personnummer” to open a bank account. Then you can visit a local bank office to open a personal account. Thereafter, you can handle most of your bank matters on the internet. All banks offer an “internet bank” where you log on and pay your bills etc. Most internet banks are in Swedish only, but Handelsbanken internet bank is also available in English.
Once you have a bank account, you can have a debit card tied to your account. With a debit card, you can withdraw money from an ATM (called “Bankomat”) and use your card to pay in most stores. Ask your bank about debit card fees.
BankID & Mobile BankID
BankID is the leading electronic identification in Sweden and is useful for digital identification on the
internet. You can use BankID to login to your internet bank and other services online. BankID is used
both for identification as well as signing transactions and document. The Bank-ID signature is legally
binding. BankID is also available as a mobile app through your internet bank.
Swish allows you to send money to friends, companies and organizations using your mobile phone.
It’s perfect for splitting a check at a restaurant, paying for a bargain at a flea market or for sending a
gift to charity. You can also pay with Swish when shopping online or in mobile apps from companies
offering Swish as a payment option. The money is sent directly into the recipient’s account, no matter
which one of the participant banks they have.
Get started with Swish by downloading the Swish app and Mobile BankID to your mobile phone. Then
register for Swish through your online banking service. Once you have finished those steps your bank
account is connected to your mobile phone number and you can begin sending and receiving money
easily using your mobile phone. You can always be sure of whom you are making a payment to since
the recipient’s name will be shown before you authorize the payment with Mobile BankID.
Bank offices are generally open from Monday to Friday, between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm. Many
branches have extended opening hours at least once a week (until 6.00 pm in larger cities). Banks are
closed at weekends and public holidays.
You can register with the civil registration authorities at your local tax office, “Skatteverket”. You will then be given a ten-digit national registration number, or personal identity number (personnummer), based on your date of birth plus four extra digits. For example, if you were born on May 25, 1986, it might look like this: 860525-1045.
To apply: bring your passport, a letter of admittance from your educational institution, apartment contract, residence permit card and, if you are married, your marriage certificate. If you have children, you need to bring a birth certificate for each child. On registration, you will be entitled to medical benefits through the Swedish National Health Insurance System. When seeing a doctor, for instance, you will be asked for your personal identity number.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Sweden, much more so than the rest of Europe. Commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard and American Express. You can access cash with your Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or Cirrus at any ATM, in Swedish “Bankomat” or “uttagsautomat”.
If you are suffering from toothache or just need a check-up, you choose whether to go the public dental service or a private dentist. The public dental service (called Folktandvården) is available locally throughout Sweden (find your local clinic on www.folktandvarden.se) as are private dentists.
The biggest difference between dental care and medical care in Sweden is that you pay a higher proportion of the cost for dental check-ups and treatment yourself. Prices and guarantees for dental care may vary between different dentists and dental hygienists. There may also be differences depending on where in the country you live. Therefore, you should always ask your dentist or dental hygienist about their prices and guarantees before undergoing any dental procedure.
Dental care for children and young people. Everyone who is registered as resident in Sweden is entitled to free dental care up to and including the year they turn 19, regardless of whether they use a public or private dentist (tandläkare).
Dental care for adults. Adults (from the age of 20) pay a large part of their dental care costs themselves. However, they also receive financial support from the state. In order to receive this support, you will have to see a dentist or dental hygienist who is affiliated to Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency). Each year, everyone over the age of 20 receives a dental care grant of SEK 150 or 300. You can save the grant for two years and use it on one occasion, but you cannot save more than two grants at a time.
Furthermore there is a ‘high cost protection’, which means that the state will step in and pay for certain parts of dental care costs that exceed SEK 3,000 in one year. The first SEK 3,000 is always paid by the patients themselves. However, not all types of treatment are included, and it is not always possible to include the entire cost in the high cost protection. Therefore, you should always ask your dentist or dental hygienist what the treatment is expected to cost.
Emergency dental care. If you need emergency dental treatment you should first go to your own dentist. If you or your child should suffer a serious dental injury at night, or in connection with an accident, you can call 1177. You will then be referred to an on-call dentist who will carry out emergency surgical procedures.
Search the combined Swedish yellow and white pages on the website www.hitta.se. You can also call the telephone service at 118 118 (but note that the cost per call is SEK 49 – 125).
Sweden has good quality drinking water so you can drink water straight from the tap.
Driving & Driver's license
Driving: Sweden, like most European countries, has right-hand traffic. The legal driving age is 18 and you are expected to have your driver’s license with you when driving. Unless stated otherwise, the speed limit is 30 km/h around pre-schools and schools, 40 km/h in urban areas, 70 km/h outside and 110-120 km/h on motorways. All cars must drive with at least dipped headlights. Seatbelts are compulsory for the driver and all passengers, both front seats and back seats. Children up to height of 135 cm, must always travel in a suitable child safety seat in the car (according to Swedish law). Note also that the laws on drinking and driving are very strict and such behavior is not socially accepted. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level when driving is 0.02%.
Foreign driver’s license: A foreign driver’s license is valid for a maximum of one year starting the date you register at the local tax office. After one year, you can apply for an exemption to continue using your foreign driver’s license in Sweden. The application cost is 600 kr and the exemption is valid for one year. After one year, you need to apply for a new exemption.
To apply for an exemption, send a letter stating that you are applying for an exemption to use a foreign license and include your name, personnummer, date and signature. With the letter also include:
- a copy of your foreign driver’s license (front and back)
- English translation of your driver’s license, including license number and license validity
- Certificate of enrolment from the university/clinic with start and end date of studies in Sweden (provided to you by Swedish HealthCare)
Send you application to: Transportstyrelsen,701 97 Örebro. Applications take about two weeks to process. If the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) grants you an exemption, you will receive a letter with instruction to go to one of offices of Trafikverket (“förarprovskontor”). There you need sign and have your picture taken. You must bring your ID-card.
Swedish driver’s licence: for more information on getting a Swedish driver’s license, go to the website Körkortsportalen.
Buying a car: If you choose to buy a car while in Sweden, you need to register it in your name, have third part insurance, pay vehicle tax and have the car inspected annually. From December 1st to March 31st when there are winter conditions on the roads, you need to use winter/snow tyres. You can choose between studded winter tyres and winter tyres without studs. After April 1st you are not allowed to drive on studded winter tyres.
Stockholm and Gothenburg have systems for congestion taxes. The payment system is completely automatic. When you drive past a control point, your vehicle is registered and a payment slip is sent to the owner of the vehicle.
For registration and taxes, contact the Swedish Transport Agency:
www.transportstyrelsen.se tel: 0771-503 503
For vehicle inspection contact the Swedish motor vehicle Inpection Company:
www.bilprovningen.se tel: 0771-600 600
For towing services contact Assistancekåren:
www.assistancekaren.se tel. 020-912 912
Electricity is standard European 220 volts and 50 cycles (Hz). The standard type of electrical plug and socket in Sweden is a two pin round continental plug, also known as “Type F”, “Schuko” or “CEE 7/4”.
In the event of an emergency, call 112 and ask to be connected to the Police, Ambulance or Fire Brigade.
European Health Insurance card
With a European Health Insurance Card (“Europeiskt sjukförsäkringskort”), you are entitled to necessary medical care if you become sick or have an accident while travelling or staying in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland. The medical care is provided on the same financial conditions as the residents of that country. You must be able to show your European Health Insurance Card together with your ID-card to medical personnel. The card is free and valid for three years.
To apply for a card go to Försäkringskassan website. Enter your “personnummer” with 12 numbers (ex. 19920101-XXXX) and click “Gå vidare” (continue). Check that the personal number is correct and click “beställ” (order). You can also call Försäkringskassan tel. 0771-524 524 to order the card. All members of the family (including all children) need to apply for their own card. Order well in advance as it can take up to 10 days for delivery. The card will automatically be sent to your registered home address in Sweden by post.
Sweden has numerous holidays and many observances every year. Please refer here for holidays and observances in Sweden for 2020.
Household & furniture
You can shop furniture and household items at IKEA, Mio, EM and Åhléns. You can find tools, DIY, electrical supplies at Clas Ohlson and Kjell & Co. To purchase second hand items, go to the website www.blocket.se where people post ads for furniture, bikes, cars and much more. To search Blocket, first choose your region and then enter search words in Swedish.
Identification (ID) card
An identification card (“legitimation”) is a card on which the bearer’s photo and personal number are registered. Having an ID card will help in any contact you may have with Swedish authorities. It will also make it easier for you to open a bank account. To obtain a Swedish ID card you must be registered as a resident. ID cards are issued by the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket).
To apply for an ID card:
- Make an advance payment of the application fee of 400 SEK to bankgiro 389-0100 or plusgiro 50 40 62-1. If you pay via the Internet, add your “personnummer” in the field for reference/information, and make a printout of the confirmation of payment. Make your payment at least one day ahead of visiting the tax office.
- Make an appointment online in order to visit a Tax Agency office that issues ID cards.
- Bring a receipt for payment of the application fee. If you cannot prove that you have paid in advance, they will not accept your application.
- Bring an approved ID document. If you do not have an approved ID document you can bring a foreign passport and your proof of residence permit. You can also show your identity by bringing an approved attestor or other documents that you believe could be used in a balanced assessment. Do not take a photograph with you, you will be photographed at the office.
Normally, it will take around two weeks for your card to be produced. When the card is ready, you will receive a letter from Skatteverket. This will tell you that five days later you will be able to collect your card from the office where you applied for it. Keep the letter and take it with you when you got to collect your card. You must collect the card in person, because you will have to sign a confirmation that you have taken possession of the card. You can read more about how to apply for an ID card at the Swedish Tax Agency website.
It is important that you insure yourself, your apartment/house and your belongings during your stay in Sweden. Therefore you will need two types of insurance, home insurance (hemförsäkring) and personal accident insurance (olycksfallsförsäkring). Home insurance will also cover you when you travel during the first 45 days. The largest Swedish insurance companies are Trygg-Hansa, Folksam, If and Länsförsäkringar but there are many others. Make sure you compare prices and terms before you choose your insurance. You can also use an online service to compare insurance prices such as Insplanet or Compricer. Both websites are in Swedish only, but use their telephone number to call customer service for help in English.
Leave of absence
Annual leave. Most employed Swedes have 25 days of paid annual leave each year. However, all leave from the workplace must be pre-approved by the employer. Therefore you need to apply for your annual leave well in advance, and wait until your request is approved before making any plans and booking tickets.
Sick Leave. If you are sick and cannot attend your classes and/or work, you need to contact:
- For Swedish classes, contact your Swedish teacher and Swedish HealthCare Academy.
- For internship and/or residency program: contact your supervisor at the clinic.
Primary care centres (Vårdcentraler)
The primary care centre (vårdcentralen or husläkarmottagningen), treats adults and children for non-urgent illnesses and complaints, e.g. sore throats, a high temperature in children, urinary infections, allergies, dizziness, backache and chronic illnesses such as diabetes. At the primary care centre you can also have your blood pressure taken, wounds dressed and stitches removed after minor surgical operations, as well as receive advice and support in how to stop smoking or lose weight. You can also speak to someone if you feel depressed or worried. If the family doctor (husläkaren) at the primary care centre feels that you need specialist care (specialistvård), you will be referred to a specialist clinic (specialistmottagning).
If you or your family member is ill, your first contact should be with your local primary care centre (vårdcentral). There are both private and public primary care centres. Book an appointment by calling in advance.
You can also, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, call the Medical Advice number, 1177, to get:
- medical advice from a registered nurse,
- advice on how to take care of yourself, or
- information on where you can go if your condition calls for care by a physician.
For poison information call 010-456 6700, if urgent call 112.
For emergencies or life-threatening situations, call 112.
To receive consultation and regular health check-ups during pregnancy, you need to register with a midwife (Barnmorska). You can choose between public and private midwifes and both are free. To search for public and private midwifes in your local area go to website Vården. In the first search field “kategori” enter “Barnmorska”, and in the second search field “område” enter city “Malmö” or “Stockholm” etc. Check the results to find a midwife in your local area. You can also contact your local primary care center for information about midwifes in your area.
Prescriptions can be filled at local pharmacies called “apotek”. These are open during normal shopping hours. 24-hour service is usually available only in the major cities. Over-the-counter medicines may additionally be available at supermarkets and gas stations.
Pets that are brought into Sweden must have a passport, be id labelled, vaccinated and wormed. The import of a pet must be reported to Customs. For more information, go to website Jordbruksverket.
Post offices are nowadays a service integrated in shops, grocery stores, kiosks and gas stations. The opening hours differ according to the specific outlet, but many stay open in the evening and on weekends. At the postal service outlet you can send and receive parcels, send and receive registered letters and other postal errands. Look for the blue postal sign above or by the entrance of the outlet.
Stamps are available for sale at most newsstands and supermarkets with postal services. Letters and
postcards of up to 50 grams cost SEK 9 within Sweden and SEK 21 internationally (2019). Yellow
letterboxes are for national and international letters and blue letterboxes are for regional letters.
For more information, go to www.postnord.se.
For lunch, most restaurants serve a today´s special (“dagens rätt”) for about 90-120 kronor. If you visit a restaurant in the evening, you should be prepared to pay 150-350 kronor for a main dish. If you want to try some typical Swedish fast-food, you can go to a hot-dog stand (korvkiosk). There you can choose between fried and boiled hot dogs, served with French fries or mashed potatoes together with mustard and/or ketchup.
Right of Public Access
The Right of Public Access (“Allemansrätten”) gives everyone the right to enjoy Sweden’s outdoors. It allows the public to roam freely, even on private land, to camp overnight and to pick mushrooms and berries. The right also brings responsibilities – to treat flora and fauna and other people’s property with care. It can be summed up in the phrase ‘don’t disturb, don’t destroy’. For more information, see www.naturvardsverket.se.
Shopping hours are generally between 10 am and 6 pm on weekdays. Shops close between 1 pm and 4 pm on Saturdays and are often closed on Sundays. Shops generally close early on the day before a public holiday. However in larger cities, department stores and shopping centres are usually open long hours all days of the week.
There are many taxi companies to choose from in the larger cities in Sweden. Approved taxis with metered fares always bear yellow number plates. Credit cards are readily accepted.
PLEASE NOTE: Taxi prices are not regulated in Sweden and therefore prices vary greatly! It is the customer’s responsibility to check prices beforehand. Check the price on the yellow-and-white label, which is usually on the rear door window, before entering the vehicle. The highest unit price of most taxis is between SEK 300 – 400 (based on a 10 km, 15-minute journey). Other firms may charge unit prices exceeding SEK 1000, so make sure you check the unit price before you enter a taxi!
For trips to and from the major airports, the major taxi companies have fixed prices. Always ask the taxi driver beforehand.
In Sweden, smoking is prohibited indoors in public places, shops, restaurants and bars. This prohibition also applies on buses, trains and trams.
The country code for Sweden is +46. The code for international calls is 00. Telephone numbers starting with 020 are free of charge to call.
Broadband: In Sweden, household broadband is mainly available through cable and ADSL, but in many places also through copper Ethernet LAN networked via fiber. The prices for these services depend on which city you live in, and the provider of the physical cable. Many cities own their own fiber networks and allow different ISPs to offer their services through these networks. Please check with your landlord what internet options are available in your house/building.
Mobile broadband: You also have the option of mobile broadband (wireless Internet access through a mobile phone or USB Wireless Modem). In Sweden you have several main suppliers of mobile broadband services: Telia, Tele2, Telenor, Bredbandsbolaget and 3, offering speeds from 2 Mbit/s up to 80 Mbit/s. Make sure you check the network speed and coverage in your area before choosing a supplier, as the network coverage varies between operators.
Mobile phones: Most international students in Sweden choose to use Skype and mobile telephones with pay-as-you-go SIM cards from companies such as Comviq, Telia, Tele2, Telenor, 3 and Halebop. The card can easily be topped up online or at newsstands. If you don’t want to buy a mobile phone in Sweden, it is often possible to use a phone from your home country with a Swedish SIM card. Make sure that the phone is not locked to your previous operator. Another option is to subscribe to a mobile phone contract, but this requires a Swedish personnummer.
Sweden has Central European Time (CET), GMT +1. Daylight saving time (GMT +2) applies from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October. Clock time is written according to the European system, e.g. 1 pm is written 13.00.
A service charge is included in the price at restaurants and taxis, but a 10% tip is always welcome.
SJ is the largest train operator in Sweden. To book train tickets go to www.sj.se or call 0771-75 75 75.
Sweden has four main public service television channels: SVT1, SVT2, Barnkanalen (for children) and Kunskapskanalen (documentaries, science and nature). Many of the programs on Swedish public television are available online at www.svtplay.se.
The main commercial television channels are TV4 (www.tv4.se & (www.tv4play.se), TV3 (www.tv3.se
& www.tv3play.se ) and Kanal5 (www.dplay.se/kanal5). Many households have access to cable
tv with a wide selection of international channels. Check with your landlord if there is access to cabletv
in your apartment building or house.
Every household and company that owns, rents or borrows a TV receiver has to pay a radio and TV
fee. The fee is currently 2 216 SEK per year (2015). It doesn’t matter which channels you watch, the
mere fact that you have a TV receiver makes you liable to pay for a radio and TV fee. The tv-license is
mandatory by law and is used to fund Sweden’s public service tv and radio. A single radio and TV fee
is payable for all receivers in one and the same household. For registration contact Radiotjänst.