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Eight things that are free or cheap in Sweden (yes, really)

Eight things that are free or cheap in Sweden (yes, really)
Exploring Sweden's nature (headstand optional) is just one of the things you can do without spending anything at all. Photo: Alexander Hall/imagebank.sweden.se
Sweden has earned a reputation as an expensive place to live, but is that fair? Well, yes, but there are still several things that are surprisingly cheap, especially if you know where and what to look for.

1. Education

Free or cheap education is available for almost all levels and age groups. Fee-paying schools are rare in Sweden, and you can even have your child taught in English at a free-to-attend international school in most major cities. University education is also free for many people: Swedish and EU/EEA citizens as well as non-EU/EEA citizens if they're in Sweden for a purpose other than studying.

All immigrants who are registered at their local municipality (as well as EU citizens, whether or not they have a personal identity number) are entitled to Swedish For Immigrants (SFI). And when it comes to professional training, many unions will subsidise this for paying members (as will some workplaces), which makes union membership a potentially good deal for anyone looking into career development. 


Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se

2. Housing

OK, there are some fairly significant caveats to this one. Unfortunately there's no getting around the fact that property in Sweden's major cities is very expensive.

But if you can be flexible in your location, you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Rural houses are often reasonably priced, especially if you can make your peace with being miles from the nearest city or train station. This is especially true far north, where there are some quite incredible deals to be had. 

As for renters, Sweden has a system of rent controls which means tenants in theory shouldn't have to pay more than a set (quite reasonable) price. The downside here is that the queues for this cheaper housing are decades long in the big cities, so it's not an option for people who are newly arrived or only planning to stay for a few years.

If you do take the leap and buy your own property, it will be a dent to your wallet, but the costs actually associated with buying property are low compared to most countries, with no solicitors' fees for example. 

Housing in Sweden:

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3. Lunch

Dining out is pricey in Sweden, but at lunch you can snag a bargain. Look for restaurants serving dagens lunch – literally 'lunch of the day', often abbreviated to dagens. It's a set-price deal often around 100 kronor, including your main dish and usually extras such as coffee, bread and salad. Portions are typically generous and made to the same standard as evening fare, so eating out at lunchtime rather than later can be a good way to sample high quality cuisine for a fraction of the usual price.


Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

4. Coffee and water

If you do as the Swedes do and opt for bryggkaffe (filter coffee) instead of an espresso-based drink, the prices are often very low indeed. Caffeine lovers should look out for the magical phrase påtår ingår (refill included) which means even more brew for your buck.

As for water, tap water is offered free as standard in Sweden when you're dining out and it's not frowned upon to have this instead of ordering a drink.

5. Sports

Not only can you hike and cycle through the vast and varied nature Sweden has to offer for free, but most cities and towns have utegym (outdoor gyms) where you can work out in the open air. There are also many outdoor pools and safe (clean) spots for wild swimming in many cities – not to mention the chance to skate across frozen lakes come winter.

If you need equipment like skis or skates, it's possible to borrow many items for up to two weeks at absolutely no cost from Fritidsbanken. With many locations across the country, these are like libraries for sports gear.

If you're lucky, your workplace will offer a friskvårdbidrag (literally 'wellness subsidy') which means they'll subsidise the cost of things like gym memberships, sports club memberships, and even massages or physiotherapy.


Photo: Niclas Vestefjell/imagebank.sweden.se

6. Camping

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors for even longer, wild camping is completely free in Sweden. You can pitch your tent anywhere in nature, as long as it's not private land or one of 30 national parks.

Some nature reserves like Skuleskogen even have free cabins available for inclement weather. Just make sure you follow the rules and respect the environment.

7. Museums

Sweden's 18 state-run museums became free to enter in 2016, meaning you can have a cultural day out at no cost at all. Find the full list here.

Local tip: public toilets are generally not free in Sweden, but free museums and libraries are usually a good free alternative if you're nearby. 

8. Boat trips

Sweden has many lakes and rivers, and the good news is you don't have to pay for an expensive tourist cruise to enjoy them.

Trips on Stockholm's commuter ferries are included in normal transport passes all year round, and in the off-season you can take longer boat trips out to the archipelago for no extra cost. A public transport pass in Gothenburg can help you reach archipelago islands like Brännö, Styrsö and Vrångö by tram and ferry. And in Karlstad, you can take boat buses in the summer as part of the city's public transport system. 


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