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Saving Money in Stockholm

By Monday, November 26, 2012 , , , , ,

I recently went to Stockholm for work, and since they reimburse me for my hotel room, my husband came along. Even though I had an allowance for food, Stockholm is notoriously expensive, and is not a part of the eurozone, so instead of being able to bring euros we had to convert our money to Swedish Kroner, (SEK), making prices confusing. As of this post, 1 euro is about 8.6 SEK, and 1 US dollar is about 6.6 SEK.

Wow, that is an expensive city! We tried to save as much money as possible, and learned a few things:

1. Do not convert from SEK to Euros by dividing by 10! When we were looking at hotels, my colleague emailed one asking about whether all the rooms had windows (apparently this is not uncommon in Sweden, since it is dark so early in the winter and light so late at night some people may just prefer no windows and a good lamp, so check before you book). The reply we received included the prices for our room in SEK, and an approximate amount in euros, however the employee had converted from SEK to Euros by dividing by 10, so 1395 SEK became 139 Euro (for Monday night) and 1495 became 149 (for the rest of the week). However, 1395 SEK is in fact closer to 162 euros ($211) and 1495 SEK is 174 Euro ($226)! This means for a four night stay we would have had a surprise of about 98 euros or $127 on our bill at the end!

2. Consider the SL T-bana card to save on transportation. For 230 SEK (27 Euros, 35 USD) we got unlimited T-bana (that's the subway!) bus and tram rides for 72 hours. The card pays for its self in about 6 rides, and is for a set number of hours, not days, so since we bought ours at about 4:30 on Tuesday it expired at 4:30 on Friday. This was great for us as we arrived at Arlanda airport Monday, took a taxi to the hotel that night and another one Tuesday morning because we had so much equipment, and could use a single card for the rest of the trip. This is a great deal because not only did we save on transportation, but it also saved us from the change that inevitably comes with making numerous small purchases, and just as inevitably doesn't get spent. The card comes in 24 and 72 hours and 7 day increments. Buy it in the T-bana stations.

3. Speaking of transportation, try to figure out how much a taxi should cost first (this is true for anywhere). From Arlanda Airport to the center of Stockholm, our taxi driver told us it would be 690 SEK because we had a lot of luggage. The way back however, was only 520 SEK! I know we should have tried to argue, but we didn't want to risk them refusing to take us. Most taxi services have a flat airport to city rate, sometimes printed on the taxi, so check if there is one before agreeing on a price.

4. Some food and dining ideas:

  • If you want to dine out, consider going for lunch. I have heard that a law was passed requiring restaurants to serve a reasonably priced lunch so that workers could eat well without going broke. Don't quote me on that, but it seems to be the case, with daily lunch specials being common.
  • Forage for Lunch at the breakfast buffet. My hotel in Stockholm and others I've been too in Germany offer a lot of food Americans like me would consider lunch food. Things like cold cuts, cheese, vegetables and fish (we had two types of pickled herring in Stockholm). Although our breakfast buffet closed at 9:30, I was able to make myself a brie and cucumber sandwich and bring some fruit along for lunch. It's not gourmet and it may remind you of your mom or dad packing your school lunch for you, but if you're on the go and would rather spend your money on other things, a smuggled sammich can save you a hundred Kroner a day.
  • The Old Town, AKA Gamla Stan is even more expensive that the rest of Stockholm! Although it's lovely there, beware additionally inflated prices and go back to Sodermalm, Ostermalm or where ever for lunch or dinner! This holds true for the airport, too.

  • We found a Mexican place called the Taco Bar that was quite cheap and had good food. In Germany, all the spice and flavor is taken out of Mexican food and replaced with sugar, not tasty at all! The food here, however was pretty good and we both ate for the price of a single entree at most other restaurants. You order at the bar, and the food is brought to you, and despite having fast food prices, the restaurant was nicely decorated and felt more expensive. There is also a location in old town.
  • We'd read before going that the Koh Phangan Thai Restaurant had good deals. Maybe they did when that blog post was written, but not anymore! My husband and I spent 320 SEK (37 Euros, 48 USD) on two entrees, one of which was tofu and completely meatless! On top of that, there was a mandatory 20 SEK coat check each at the door, so for two people that was an extra 4.65 Euro or $6 cost. I was disappointing in my food, especially since I can get a full meal's worth of sushi, plus tea and miso soup for about 95 SEK in other places such as Koreana, Both meals including tea and miso soup were 189 SEK together:

  • Cheap, fast food can be found along the road at food stands and take away grills/imbuses. It's just the usual burgers and hot dogs, but if you're hungry it's worth considering.

5. Be careful about what you order to drink! Alcohol is extremely expensive in Sweden, and is priced by alcohol content. You could easily find yourself paying 10 Euros for a beer. Unlike Germany, where if you ask for water you'll get expensive (and sparkling) bottled water, in Stockholm it's normal to ask for tap water which can certainly help with the bill.

6. Know what your bank charges for international transactions or atm withdrawals. It may be cheaper for you to withdraw a large sum of money one time, bring euros (or dollars, or whatever you normally use!) and exchange there, or if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees use that whenever you can. It can be really tough to estimate how much money you'll spend, but unless you plan on coming back to Sweden, being left with a few hundred Kroner at the end of your trip won't save you much money if you need to convert it back so try to plan ahead.

7. Some tips I've heard of but haven't tried myself: fly budget airlines Ryan Air, take the Arlanda Express from the airport to the city, and check out the Stockholm Card for bundled transportation and admission to museums, plus more (although it seems you'd have to be very busy to make it worth it).

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