Difference between revisions of "Sweden"
Revision as of 15:17, 28 August 2010
Sweden  is the largest of the Nordic countries in Northern Europe, with a population of about 9,3 million. It borders Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark via the bridge of Öresund (Öresundsbron). The Baltic Sea lies to the east of Sweden, as well as the Gulf of Bothnia, which separates Sweden from most of Finland.
Although having been a military power and spanning about three times its current size during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two centuries. Having long remained outside military alliances (including both World Wars), the country has a high peace profile, with internationally renowned names such as Raoul Wallenberg, Dag Hammarskjöld, Olof Palme and Hans Blix. Sweden is a monarchy by constitution, but king Carl XVI Gustaf has no executive power. The country has a long tradition of Lutheran-Protestant Christianity, but today's Sweden is a secular state with few church-goers.
Sweden has a capitalist system and is a developed post-industrial society with an advanced welfare state. The standard of living and life expectancy rank among the highest in the world. Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, but decided by a referendum in 2003 not to commit to the European Monetary Union and the euro currency. Leadership of Sweden has for the larger part of the 20th century been dominated by the Social Democratic Party, which started out at the end of the 19th century as a labor movement, but today pursues a mix of socialism and social-liberalism. Since the most recent election, a coalition of center-right liberal/conservative parties has come into power.
Sweden has a strong tradition of being an open, yet discreet country. Citizens sometimes appear to be quite reserved at first, but once they get to know who they are dealing with, they'll be as warm and friendly as you'd wish. Privacy is regarded as a key item and many visitors, for example mega-stars in various lines of trade, have many times realized that they mostly can walk the streets of the cities virtually undisturbed.
Sweden houses the Nobel Prize  committee for all the prizes except the peace prize which is hosted in Oslo, a memento of the Swedish-Norwegian union that was dissolved just over 100 years ago.
Sweden is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.
For arrival and departure times, as well as lots of other information about flights and airports in Sweden, visit Luftfartsverket - Swedish Airports and Air Navigation Services
You can reach Sweden by train from three countries at present:
Buses from and to the Western Balkans are also operated by Toptourist, . Call + 46 (0 ) 42 18 29 84 for more info
Travelling around Stockholm and visiting various places can easily turn quite expensive. Therefore, Stockholm offers a card called The Stockholm Card. With it you can ride with trains, busses, ferries and the tram for free. It also offers free admission to over 75 museums and attractions. 
The ancient right to roam (allemansrätten) grants everybody a right to move freely in nature on foot, horse, ski, bicycle or by boat, even on others' private property. With this right comes an obligation to respect the integrity of nature and the privacy of others. It is therefore important to understand the limitations.
Although Sweden is a fairly large country, most of the action takes place in the southern parts where the distances are not huge. Domestic flights are mainly for travellers with little time or much money, however if you are heading for the far north you may want to consider it. There are also low-price tickets, but they must be bought well in advance.
The most important domestic airlines:
Sweden has an extensive railway network. Most major lines are controlled by the government-owned company SJ. To buy a railway ticket, or to obtain information, phone +46 771 75 75 75 or check their website . As of summer 2009, the cheapest SJ tickets are released exactly 90 days before departure, so time your online ticket purchases carefully if your itinerary is set and don't buy tickets earlier than 90 days before your trip. SJ recently started auctioning last minute tickets on the Swedish eBay site Tradera  (site only in Swedish), available from 48 until 6 hours before departure. Swedish Rail passes  are also available for International guests to Sweden.
The national public transport authority is called Rikstrafiken , and it has online timetables in English, which include schedules for trains, buses and ferries. The service is called Resplus .
Regional public transport is usually operated by companies contracted by the counties. For instance, when travelling regionally in the province of Scania (Skåne in Swedish), one should refer to Skånetrafiken . For travelling in the region of [Mälardalen] (the "Lake Mälaren Valley"), you can check all train and bus operators on a mutual website, Trafik i Mälardalen . This regional traffic cooperation includes many of Sweden's major cities, such as Stockholm, Uppsala, Västerås, Linköping, Norrköping, Örebro and Eskilstuna, and reaches more than three million people. Connex  provides affordable railroad transportation up north. If you're on a tight schedule, be aware that trains, especially those bound for far destinations (i.e. the Connex and SJ Norrland trains), sometimes have quite significant delays (up to 1-2 hours).
Swebus  runs a number of bus lines in the southern third of the country, Götaland and Svealand. They tend to be a little cheaper than going by train if you can't take advantage of SJ's youth discounts. Y-buss  and Härjedalingen  operate between Stockholm and Norrland. Swebus also operates from Stockholm and Göteborg to Oslo. At the county or län level, buses are a good method for traveling short distances from town to town (as they are more frequent and cheaper than trains). It is best to check with the local transportation authority for routes and schedules. A newcomer on the bus market is Bus4You 
In Svealand and Götaland driving takes you quickly from one place to the other. In Norrland the distances tend to be bigger between the different sites so the time spent driving may be long. Unless you really like driving, it is often more convenient to take the train or fly to the sites, particularly in Northern Norrland. Traveling by night can be dangerous due to unexpected animals on the roads and the cold nights during the winter. Collisions with moose, roe deer, or other animals are a not uncommon cause of car accidents. See also Driving in Sweden and Winter driving.
Sweden has a reputation for being a pretty difficult country to hitch in, though it's still quite possible to hitchhike (but not assured to be risk-free). Ordinary people are often reluctant to pick up strangers... Truck drivers are probably most likely to pick up hitchhikers, so target them. Asking at gas stations works pretty well. Bus stops are common places to attract attention, position yourself before the actual bus stop so the vehicle can stop at the stop. This works best if the road is widened at the bus stop, allowing cars to pull off easily.
Most Swedish cities have excellent bike paths, and renting a bike can be a quick and healthy method of getting around locally.
Cars are by law required to stop at any unattended crosswalks (zebra stripes in the road without red-lights) to let pedestrians cross the road. But keep in mind that you are required to make eye contact with the driver so that they know that you are about to cross the street.
Swedish is the national language of Sweden, but you will find that people, especially those born since 1945, also speak English very well - an estimated 89% of Swedes can speak English, according to the Eurobarometer, making Sweden the most English-proficient country on the continent. Finnish is the biggest minority language. Regardless of what your native tongue is, Swedes greatly appreciate any attempt to speak Swedish and beginning conversations in Swedish, no matter how quickly your understanding peters out, will do much to ingratiate yourself to the locals.
Hej (hay) is the massively dominant greeting in Sweden, useful on kings and bums alike. You can even say it when you leave. The Swedes most often do not say "please" (snälla say snell-LA), instead they are generous with the word tack (tuck), meaning "thanks". If you need to get someone's attention, whether it's a waiter or you need to pass someone one in a crowded situation, a simple "ursäkta" (say "oor-sehk-ta") ("excuse me") will do the trick. You will find yourself pressed to overuse it, and you sometimes see people almost chanting it as a mantra when trying to exit a crowded place like a bus or train.
Many Swedish people are over-confident with their English skills. One problem can be excessive swearing (accepted in colloquial Swedish, and augmented by Hollywood movies), but also some false cognates can be shocking for a native English-speaker; some examples are fack ("trade union" or "compartment"), fart ("speed"), prick ("spot") kock ("chef") and slut ("end" or "sold out"). Be sure to forgive such misunderstandings.
Some things get English names that do not correspond to the original English word. Some examples are light which is used for diet products, and freestyle which means "walkman". Sweden uses the metric system and in the context of distance, the common expression mil, "mile", is 10 kilometers, not an English statute mile. Because of the distances involved, mil is used in spoken language even though roadsigns all use kilometers.
Swedish people learn British English at school, affecting their vocabulary, but also watch films and TV programs in American English. Whether they use British or American standards in speech varies from person to person. However, the accent of many Swedes, especially rural and old ones, is very distinctly "stubby" unless they had significant experience by conversing or living in United Kingdom or the United States.
The year in Sweden
Swedish weather is best during the summer (late May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norrland or Dalarna in November to April.
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Stockholm, the sun sets at 3 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and Arctic night. However, even at Stockholm's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July.
The major holidays are Easter, Midsummer (celebrated from the eve of the Friday between June 19 - 25), Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays), and the "industrial vacation" throughout July. Expect closed establishments, heavy traffic (for the holidays) and crowded tourist resorts (for July).
Note that most Swedish holidays are celebrated on the day before (Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve etc), while Swedish people do hardly anything on the holiday proper.
The national currency is the Swedish krona (SEK, plural kronor). Automatic teller machines take major credit cards. Most stores, restaurants and bars accept all major credit cards, although in some cases there is a SEK 5 fee or a lowest purchase limit (between 50 - 100 SEK). You usually need an ID card or a passport when shopping with a credit card, regardless of the amount involved, though ususally not in supermarkets and such where PIN code is king.
It is not common to bargain in shops but it might work in some instances, especially when buying more expensive products. Bargaining is also okay at flea markets and in antique shops. When dining out, a service charge is often included in the bill, and there is generally no reason to tip, unless you're very satisfied with the service.
Most shops, at least downtown, are open all week, even on Sundays. Closing times are rigid, most often on the minute.
Many Swedes translate the word krona, which means crown. For example, instead of saying 50 kronor they might say 50 crowns.
The future coin series will consist of 1, 2, 5 and 10 kronor, and the banknote series of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 crowns.
Sweden is considered by some to be a very expensive country to live in, though you can find cheap alternatives if you look around. For example: Sundries like a 33cl bottle of Coca Cola costs 20 SEK ($2,85/€2,20), a beer in a bar will cost you 50 SEK ($7,14/€5,50), average price of Hotel accommodation was around 1300 SEK ($185/€140), a bus/subwayticket in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö will set you back around 25 SEK ($3,57/€2,77), meal will cost you between 60 and 200 SEK ($8,50-$28,50/€6,60-€22,20), 1 litre Petrol costs about 15 SEK ($2,20/€1,60) and 25 Pack of cigarette will cost you 60 SEK ($8,50/€6,60). If you are a bit careful about your expenses a daily budget of around 1000 SEK ($143/€110) per day. While, house prices are probably amongst the cheapest in Western Europe and recently opened discount stores such as "Lidl", "Netto" and "Willy's" offer a wide range of items, why not buy a sewing machine while doing the weekend grocery shopping? Accommodation and dining out is cheaper in Stockholm than in most other West European capitals.
Swedish cuisine is mostly hearty meat or fish with potatoes, derived from the days when men needed to chop wood all day long. Besides the ubiquitous potatoes, modern Swedish cuisine is to a great extent based on bread. Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). They include:
Other Swedish favorites:
Typical Swedish "gourmet" restaurants serve steaks or other grilled dishes garnished with fragrant herbs such as dill, and vegetables such as Broccoli and red bell peppers. Most famous swedish steak is called Planka, or plank steak. It is Beef fillet, duchess potatoes, asparagus wrapped in bacon, huge amounts of bearnaise sauce, tomatoes and for some strange reason orange segments, and is decandently good!
As in most of Europe, inexpensive pizza and kebab restaurants are ubiquitous in Swedish cities, and are also to be found in almost every small village. Note that the swedish pizza is significantly different from Italian or American pizzas, American pizzas are usually sold as "pan pizza". Sushi and Thai food are also quite popular. The local hamburger chain Max  is recommended before McDonald's and Burger King, for tasteful Scandinavian furnishing, clean restrooms, no trans fats and free coffee with meals. In parts of Norrland it is customary to eat hamburgers with fork and knife - available at Max. Another type of fast food establishment is the gatukök ("street kitchen"), serving hamburgers, hot dogs, kebab and tunnbrödrulle (se above).
Highway diners, vägkrogar, have generous meals, but might be of poor quality, greasy and overpriced. If you have time, a downtown restaurant is preferable. Gas stations offer decent packed salads and sandwiches.
You can get a "cheap" lunch if you look for the signs with "Dagens rätt" (meal of the day). This normally costs about 50-120 SEK (€5,50-€13,30) and almost everywhere includes a bottle of water; soft drink; or light beer, bread & butter, some salad and coffee afterwards. Dagens rätt is served Monday to Friday.
The world famous furniture retailer IKEA has stores at the outskirts of 15 Swedish cities. These have great diners, which offer well-cooked Swedish meals for as little as 40 SEK, and the store exit usually has a café selling hot dogs for as little as 5 SEK. (They hope that you spend some money on shopping too.) Great if you happen to pass by. Expect crowds at rainy weather.
If you're on a tight budget, self-catering is the safest way to save your money.
Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are accepted in cities, less common in the countryside but you should be able to find a falafel in every smaller town.
Swedish people drink plenty of coffee, kaffe. Drinking coffee at home or in a café, an act called fika, is a common Swedish social ritual, used for planning activities, dating, exchanging gossip or simply spending time and money. Swedish coffee is slightly stronger than American one. Italian varieties (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte) are available at most city cafés. One coffee will cost you around 25 SEK ($3,5/€2,8).
The most famous Swedish alcoholic beverage is Absolut Vodka, one of the world's most famous vodkas. There are several brands of distilled, and usually seasoned, liquor, called brännvin or akvavit. When served in a shot glass with a meal it is called snaps (not to confuse with the German "Schnapps").
Sweden does produce some outstanding beers, and have in the recent years seen a rise in the numbers of microbreweries. If you are looking for great local beer keep an eye out for breweries like "Närke kulturbryggeri", "Jämtlands ångbryggeri" and "Dugges Ale- & Porterbryggeri". You may have some trouble finding them, unless you go to a bar specialized in providing uncommon beer, or one of the well stocked "Systembolag", but you will find a few of them in every major city. Despite this the most common beer is the rather plain "international lager". The beer you get in normal food shops is called folköl and has 2.8 or 3.5% alcohol. You are able to find a varieties of different brands of beers in food stores, Swedish, English and even Czech beer. Wine is popular, but the Swedish production is very modest.
Access to alcoholic beverages is, as in Norway, Finland and Iceland, quite restricted and expensive. The only place to buy strong alcohol including starköl (beer which contains more than 3.5% alcohol ABV) over the counter is in one of the state owned shops called Systembolaget . They have limited hours of operation, usually 10-6 Mon-Wed, 10-7 Thurs-Fri, and 10-3 on Saturdays, with long queues on Fridays and Saturdays. Closed on Sundays. Most shops are of supermarket style. The assortment is very good, and the staff usually has great knowledge. Please note that Systembolaget does not serve customers under the age of 20. You will most likely be asked for identification. This also applies to your companion, regardless of them buying anything.
Liquor is very expensive at Systembolaget (vodka is 300 SEK a liter), but the monopoly has brought some perks - Systembolaget is one of the world's largest bulk-buyers of wine, and as such gets some fantastic deals which it passes on to the consumers. Champagne is also very expensive (1 litre), it will cost you 500 SEK ($71/€55). Mid-to-high-quality wines, and exclusive spirits, are quite often cheaper in Sweden than even in the country of origin; sometimes even cheaper than if you were to buy the wine directly from the vineyard. This does NOT apply to low-quality wines, however, due to the volume-based tax on alcohol.
If you want beer, choose a variety of microbrews. All brands are treated equally and there is no large-pack discount. Beverages are not refrigerated.
Bars and nightclubs
The age limit is 18 to bars and beers in shops (to prevent teenage drunkenness, some shops have decided to have a 20 age limit for 3.5% beer as well), but 20 in Systembolaget. Many bars have an age limit of 20, but some (especially downtown in weekends) have age limits as high as 23 or 25. Bring passport or ID.
Some clubs mandate dress code, vårdad klädsel. For male guests, proper shoes (not sneakers or sandals), long-legged trousers (not blue jeans) and a dress shirt is usually good enough.
Age or dress rules are not rigid, and doormen have the right to accept or reject any patron for any reason other than gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability or race. Though illegal, nightclubs are infamous to reject "immigrants", which usually means anyone with hair and skin darker than the average Swede, by pretexts such as "members only" or "too drunk"; men of Middle Eastern or African origin are most troubled. You might avoid this problem by dressing properly and behaving well.
Sweden has enforced non-smoking in all bars, pubs and restaurants, save outdoor areas such as terraces, and designated smoking rooms (where drinks are not allowed).
The prices at clubs/bars are often expensive compared to other countries, a large beer (half a liter) costs usually as much as 45-55 SEK (~US$7), but many low-profile bars advertise stor stark (0.4 L of draft lager) for as little as 25 SEK. A long drink costs around 60-110 SEK. For that reason many Swedes have a small pre-party ("förfest") before they go out, to get started on their buzz before they hit the town and go to nightclubs.
Large clubs can require an entrance fee of about 100 SEK (or more at special performances). They usually offer a rubber stamp on your hand so you can re-enter as you like.
Be aware that you often have to stand in line to get into a bar or a club. Many places deliberately make their customers wait in line for a while, since a long queue indicates a popular club. At the very fanciest places in the major cities the queue is replaced by a disorganized crowd, and the doorman simply points to indicate who gets in and who does not (to be sure to get in either be famous, very good-looking or a friend of the doorman. Or simply a regular).
Most bars that are open until 1AM will have a free entry policy. Most bars and clubs that remain open until 3AM will charge an entrance fee. There some clubs that remain open until 5AM. Their entrance fee will usually be around 200 SEK (~US$28.00) and their entry policy will generally weigh less favourably for the non-rich, non-well-moisturised, non-Swedes, non-friends or non-regulars.
In the cold season it is often mandatory to hand in your jacket at the club's wardrobe for a fee, usually around 20 SEK.
Authorized security guards carry a badge saying Ordningsvakt, see #Stay safe.
Moonshine (hembränt) is popular in the countryside, though illegal. Though some shipments can be as good as legal vodka, most are disgusting and some even lethally dangerous, so you should stick to the real thing.
All education in Sweden is free for residents, except for a mandatory Students' Union membership (usually a fee of less than 500 SEK) at universities and other tertiary education institutions. Although the government has subsidized schools and classes, there also exist many private alternatives where a tuitition fee is required.
As a foreigner wishing to study at a Swedish university or school of higher education, you do not have to pay tuition fees. However, the current center-right government have introduced tuition fees for non EU-/EES- citizens, starting 2011.
Some important university cities:
If you are a student there is something known as an "academic quarter" where classes and school related events will start 15 minutes past the hour. At some schools after 18:00 this becomes a "double quarter" where events commence 30 minutes past the hour. Students are expected to be punctual and show up at the appropriate time.
You can find more useful information about studying in Sweden on the Study in Sweden website. 
EU and EEA citizens are allowed to work in Sweden without a permit. Citizens of other countries need a work permit, and getting one is quite a hassle, however, Working Holiday Visas are available for Australian and New Zealand citizens aged between 18-30. Swedes, foreign citizens already living in Sweden, and EU/EEA citizens have preference over others in obtaining work in Sweden. Also, if the offer of work is for more than three months you will also require a Swedish residence permit. More information about the paperwork is found on the government website swedenabroad.com .
As for finding a job you could try the public "Arbetsförmedlingen" ('The Job Agency') and give it a try, it might work! However, you can also buy a lottery ticket, you will have roughly the same chance to get an income that way. Usually jobs are better provided by certain knowledges and luck. Sweden has an unemployment rate of about 9.0% (Mar. 2010). Salaries range from 15,000 to 70,000 SEK (€1600-€7700) per month (2008).
Sweden enjoys a comparatively low crime rate and is generally a safe place to travel. Use common sense at night, particularly on weeknights when people hit the streets to drink, get drunk, and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. Mind that it is likely that your home country is less safe than Sweden, so heed whatever warnings you would do in your own country and you will have no worries.
If involved in an argument, try to leave before the person becomes aggressive. If you see a street fight and want to stop it, be sure to have a friend. There have been reports on people injured or even killed when they've tried to stop a street fight. Young people, drunk people, or people who have taken drugs can be dangerous so use common sense. Don't feel bad if you don't do anything: there is a reason why many tend to do that, unfortunately. Do not argue with security guards, they might be upset, and could be violent. Don't report a security guard for violence, since they are likely to accuse you of violence, which might result in a prison sentence, as courts tend to believe uniformed people.
Pickpockets are rare but not unheard of. They usually work in tourist-frequented areas, such as airports, large rail stations, shopping areas and festivals. Most Swedes carry their wallets in their pockets or purses and feel quite safe while doing it. Still, almost all stores and restaurants accept most major credit cards so there is no need to carry a lot of cash around. If you have a bike, do lock it or you may lose it.
Be sure to watch for cars in the road junctions. There is a law in Sweden called "The Zebra law" which means that cars must stop at zebra crossings. Many Swedes believe that all the drivers do that. By watching for cars you may save not only your life but also a friend's, since reported injuries have increased because of the law. If you do drive then follow the law, police cars may not be seen everywhere but you never know when they appear.
The E6 between Helsingborg and Norway is haunted by robbers, known as "road pirates". If sleeping in your vehicle during nighttime, consider a guarded camping area.
Counterfeit Swedish banknotes or other documents are very uncommon. Newer 50, 100, 500 and 1000 SEK notes have holograms. Older 100 and 500 SEK banknotes without a hologram are invalid, but older 50 and 1000 SEK banknotes without a hologram are still valid.
Driving in Sweden is among the safest in Europe. It doesn't mean that there are no dangers in the roads; wild animals like moose, deer and boar sometimes stray onto highways. The moose is a big and heavy animal (up to 700 kg and 2,1 m shoulder height) so a collision can be violent and endanger your life even if you wear a seatbelt.
Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for everyone who is in the car. Some motorways have traffic signs that warn about wild animals and it's mostly seen in the northern areas of Sweden, although they can be spotted in the south as well. Motorway driving is a lot less aggressive than in Denmark or mainland Europe, although this may not apply to drivers who are not Swedish. There are long distances. Take rests if you are tired; it is dangerous to fall asleep when driving.
In Case of Emergency
112 is the phone number to dial in case of fire, medical or criminal emergency. It does not require an area code, regardless of what kind of phone you're using. The number works on any mobile phone, with or without a SIM card, even if it's keylocked.
Police officers are rarely on patrol, and might be too busy to head out for minor crimes. To report a theft or getting in contact with the police in general there is a national phone number 114 14 that will bring you in contact with an operator at a police station (usually nearby, but not always)
Nightclubs and shopping centers usually have security officers with a chest badge saying ordningsvakt, authorized to use force, and infamous to do so. These should be respected. Officers with other labels ("Security" or "Entrévärd") have no special privileges, but are still notoriously violent (as they are usually recruited from the street, without background check). Don't argue with them.
Since November 2009, the pharmacy business has been de-regulated. Certified pharmacies carry a green cross sign and the text Apotek. For small medical problems the pharmacy is sufficient. Major cities carry one pharmacy open at night. Many supermarkets carry non-prescription supplies such as band aid, antiseptics and painkillers.
Swedish health care is usually of a very high quality, but can be quite challenging for foreigners to receive. Most, but not all, medical clinics are state-owned, and their accessibility varies. Therefore, getting a time within a week at some medical centers could prove difficult. In case of a medical emergency, most provinces (and of course, the major cities) have a regional hospital with an around-the-clock emergency ward. However, if you are unlucky you can expect a long wait before getting medical attention.
Tap water in Sweden is of great quality, and contains close to zero bacteria. Water in mountain resorts might contain rust, and water on islands off the coast might be brackish, but it is still safe to drink. There is no real reason for buying bottled water in Sweden. Also, there is bottled water that doesn't meet the requirements to be used as tap water in Sweden.
There are few serious health risks in Sweden. Your primary concern especially in wintertime will be the cold, particularly if trekking or skiing in the northern parts. Northern Sweden is sparsely populated and, if heading out into the wilderness, it is imperative that you register your travel plans with a friend or the authorities so they can come looking for you if you fail to show up. Dress warmly in layers and bring along a good pair of sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, especially in the spring. In snowy mountains, avalanches might be a problem.
A serious nuisance in summer are mosquitoes (mygg), hordes of which inhabit Sweden (particularly the north) in summer, especially after rain. While they do not carry malaria or other diseases, Swedish mosquitoes make a distinctive (and highly irritating) whining sound, and their bites are very itchy. As usual, mosquitoes are most active around dawn and sunset — which, in the land of the Midnight Sun, may mean most of the night in summer. There are many types of mosquito repellents available which can be bought from almost any shop. Other summer nuisances are gadflies (bromsar), whose painful but non-poisonous bites can leave a mark lasting for days, and wasps (getingar) whose stings can be deadly if you're allergic. To minimize trouble from insects, use mosquito repellent, ensure your tent has good mosquito netting and bring proper medication if you know that you're allergic to wasp stings.
In southern Sweden and in northern coastal regions there are ticks (fästingar) which appear in summertime. They can transmit Lyme's disease (borreliosis) and more serious TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) through a bite. The risk areas for TBE are mainly the eastern parts of lake Mälaren and the Stockholm archipelago. A vaccination against TBE is available but the first two doses should be completed before a reliable protection can be expected. Borreliosis can be treated with antibiotics. Although incidents are relatively rare and not all ticks carry diseases, it's advisable to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense and/or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). You can buy special tick tweezers (fästingplockare) from the pharmacy that can be used to remove a tick safely if you happen to get bitten. You should remove the tick from your skin as quickly as possible and preferably with the tick tweezers to reduce the risks of getting an infection. If the tick bite starts to form red rings on the skin around it or if you experience other symptoms relating to the bite, you should go visit a doctor as soon as possible. Since ticks are black, they are more easily found if you wear bright clothes.
There's only one type of venomous snake in Sweden: the European adder (huggorm), which has a distinct zig-zag pattern on its back. The snake is not very common, but lives all over Sweden except for the mountains in the north and farmlands in the south. Although its bite hardly ever is life-threatening (except to small children and allergic people), one should be careful in the summertime especially when walking in the forests or on open fields. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical assistance. All reptiles in Sweden, including adders, are protected by law and must not be harmed.
There aren't any really dangerous marine animals in Sweden, although when bathing in the sea one should watch out for Greater weevers (Fjärsing); this is a small fish that hides in the sand near beaches, its back has several spikes that are poisonous and will hurt a lot if stepped on. The poison of the Greater Weever is to be considered about as dangerous as that of the European adder and will likely cause more pain (this can be quite severe) than damage. There are also types of poisonous jellyfish that can be quite common near beaches. These are distinguished from normal non-poisonous types by their bright blue or red color. These types of jellyfish aren't really dangerous but their venom will hurt. There are no large predatory fish that pose a lethal threat to humans in Sweden, but in extreme cases the Pike (gädda), a common fish in Sweden's many lakes has been known to bite people when threatened. You probably run a higher risk of being struck by lightning than a Pike bite though!
As for other dangerous wildlife, there's not much more than a few extremely rare encounters with brown bear (brunbjörn) and wolf (varg) in the wilderness. Both of these animals are listed as protected species. Contrary to popular belief abroad, there are no polar bears in Sweden, let alone polar bears walking city streets. If you encounter a brown bear in the woods, walk slowly away from it while talking loudly - the bear is most likely to feel threatened if you surprise it. In the unlikely event of a brown bear attacking you should play dead, protect your head and make yourself as small as possible. Or the opposite, there have been people surviving a brown bear encounter by screaming as loud as possible, jumping, and making oneself as big as possible. Bears are most likely to attack if they are injured, provoked by a dog, going to hibernate or protecting their cubs.
Bears in Sweden have killed no more than a handful of people since 1900. Swedish wolves have not killed a human being since 1821. In general, one shouldn't worry about dangerous encounters with wild beasts in Sweden.
Most Swedes have liberal, cosmopolitan, secular, egalitarian and environmentalist values by Anglo-Saxon standards. This spares Western tourists from cultural clashes which might be imminent in other countries. However, some strict rules of etiquette are almost unique to Swedish people.
Do not bring
Sweden's international calling code number is +46. Payphones are available, with older models only accepting cards (special smartchip phone cards as well as credit cards), and newer models that accept coins (Swedish as well as Euros). Collect calls are possible by dialing 2# on a pay phone.
Sweden has excellent wireless GSM and 3G/UMTS coverage, even in rural areas except in the central and northern interior parts of the country. The major networks are Telia, Tele2/Comviq, Telenor and 3 (Tre). Swedish GSM operates on the European 900/1800 MHz frequencies (Americans will need a triband phone), with 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz (currently with 7.2-14.4 Mbit HSDPA speeds). Only the Telia network supports EDGE. Some operators may ask for a Swedish personnummer (or samordningsnummer) to get a number, although with most operators you can get prepaid without any, "personnummer" or ID and these are sold and refillable at most supermarkets and tobacco stores
Prepaid USB 3G modems can be bought cheaply (around 150 SEK) in many shops. They are a good alternative to WiFi in Sweden. They cost around 100 SEK/week and 300 SEK/month to use. Data limits are high (typically 20 GB/month).
Sweden is the world's second most Internet connected country (second to Iceland). The Swedish postal system ("Posten AB") is often considered efficient and reliable, with locations placed inside of supermarkets and convenience stores (look for the yellow horn logo). Stamps for ordinary letters (to anywhere in the world) are 12 SEK and the letter usually needs 2 days within EU. Stamps can be purchased in most supermarkets, ask the cashier.