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DRIVING

How to avoid getting too many parking fines in Sweden

Foreigners (or maybe it's just us...) often find that when they start driving in Sweden they get ticketed almost as often as they park. It is all too easy to fall foul of the country's many complex parking rules. If you learn these ones, though, you should keep your annual ticket bill to a minimum.

How to avoid getting too many parking fines in Sweden
Parking tickets like these will (er... hopefully) be a thing of the past if you follow our simple guide. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

In many countries, traffic wardens may let you get away with flouting the rules ever-so-slightly as long as you don't do anyone any harm, or the fine may be so low it's simply the cost of doing business.

But in Sweden, you may risk a hefty fine if you park where you are not allowed – not to mention that they've got a few unique rules of their own. Here are some of the rules that are worth being aware of.

The 10-metre rule

Do you think it's enough to squeeze your car into the last space before a crossing or T-junction, so long as it doesn't hinder the oncoming traffic? Don't. In Sweden, you cannot park within ten metres of one.

This is why you will often see people in Sweden taking big strides and counting their steps, as they ponder whether to risk leaving their car near a corner. If in doubt, it's probably best not to.


Would you risk parking in this space? Photo: Richard Orange

Temporary parking ban for street cleaning

Most residential streets in Sweden will be cleaned once a month, with a sign on the street warning that parking is banned for a morning or afternoon on a certain day of each month. These are called servicedagar and are the cause of many a fine.

If you park regularly on a residential street, you need to know what day of the month the servicedag is and make a recurring note of it in your calendar (If the day falls on a weekend, they normally miss a month).

Be warned that the route of the cleaning vehicle means the day may be different on neighbouring streets, or even on different sides of the same street.

On the street below the servicedag is on the 4th of every month.


Don't park here on the 4th of every month. Photo: Richard Orange

The bewildering system for parking information

When you park, a sign at the end of the street will normally say which hours you need a ticket for, such as 8-18, for 8am to 6pm. Here's a guide (in Swedish) from the Swedish National Association of Driver Educators.

What is confusing for newcomers is how to know what days these hours apply to. If the numbers are only white, that means the hours only apply Monday to Friday, unless there is text saying alla dagar, or 'all days', meaning the hours apply on the weekend too.

If there is a second set of hours in brackets, as in the sign above, those are the hours that apply on Saturday. If there are numbers in red, those are the hours for Sunday.

Doubly confusing, the same system that informs you when you need a ticket also tells you whether parking is allowed at all or not on some streets.

In the sign below, the yellow diamond means that the road is a main road, and the 9-18 describes the only hours between which you are allowed to park, with the 2 tim describing the maximum time, two hours. 

Triply confusing is the difference made by whether the parking hours are on the same sub-sign as the maximum time allowed, or on a different sign. While the sign above means that parking is forbidden outside 9am to 6pm (because it's on a main road), the sign below means that there is unlimited parking outside those same hours.

Go figure!

The 24-hour rule 

Even on streets without any road markings at all, where there is no need to display a parking ticket of any kind, there is still a limit for how long you can park, with the 24-hour rule generally applying.

Traffic wardens will note the position of your wheels and if they have not changed, you risk a ticket. This can be avoided by taking a daily trip to shunt your vehicle backwards or forwards a metre or so. The 24-hour rule doesn't normally apply on weekends.


A parking disc distributed by a Stockholm parking company. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

How to use a Parking Disc or P-Skiva

The parking disc is such a central element of Swedish parking that some municipalities even hand them out in the goodie bags they give to new citizens. Here's, for example, Malmö's online guide to using them (in Swedish).

You will need a parking disc whenever a parking site has either the text p-skiva or the symbol (as seen in the picture below).

The disc should be clearly visible in the windscreen of your car (in Malmö they specify the right side of the windscreen), and you should set the time to the next hour or half hour, so if, for example, you arrive at 2.15pm, you should set the time to 2.30pm.

If you arrive before the controlled parking time, you should set the time to the time that parking requires a disc. So, for example, if you arrive at a parking place at 7am, and see the sign above, you should set the disc to 8am.

This is not an exhaustive list. Are there other Swedish parking rules foreigners should be particularly aware of? Let us know in the comments below!

Member comments

  1. There is an error in the article, or at least some misleading information that can cause you to get extra fines.

    The times in red for parking restrictions are not stritcly for Sundays, but for “red days”: sundays and holidays.

    And what is also important is that the parking times within brackets are for any days that come before a red day, which includes almost every saturday, but for instance if the saturday is also a red day (a holyday), then that friday will use the times in brackets, and the saturday and sunday will use the times in red.

    So it is better to see it this way:

    Red: for red days
    Brackets: for any day before a red day
    White: for every other day

  2. There is an error in the article, or at least some misleading information that can cause you to get extra fines.

    The times in red for parking restrictions are not stritcly for Sundays, but for “red days”: sundays and holidays.

    And what is also important is that the parking times within brackets are for any days that come before a red day, which includes almost every saturday, but for instance if the saturday is also a red day (a holyday), then that friday will use the times in brackets, and the saturday and sunday will use the times in red.

    So it is better to see it this way:

    Red: for red days
    Brackets: for any day before a red day
    White: for every other day

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For members

DRIVING

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

With the cost of airline tickets increasingly discouraging, is driving from Scandinavia to the UK becoming a more attractive option? The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett gave it a try.

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

This summer has seen the return of large-scale international travel after a couple of Covid-hit years that have not been a picnic for anyone.

While the end of restrictions came as a relief, severe delays and disruptions at airports have added a new uncertainty around travel in 2022.

Scandinavia has not been an exception to this, with strikes at Scandinavian airline SAS and delays at Copenhagen and other airports among the problems faced by the sector.

Additionally, the increasing price of airline tickets in a time when inflation is hitting living costs across the board has become another factor discouraging air travel.

Finally, there’s the impact of air travel on climate to be considered. So is there an alternative?

The plan

Unlike colleagues who have made long distance journeys from France and Sweden respectively by rail, our plan was to make the trip from our home in Denmark to the UK by car.

There are a few reasons we picked this less climate-friendly option. I’ll readily admit they were driven (no pun intended) by our own needs, and not those of the planet. I hope we can offset this by using the train more than the car for longer journeys within Denmark, where costs are competitive.

Once we decided not to take our usual Ryanair flight, we only really considered driving. This is primarily because we have a toddler (age two), and felt that on such a long journey, the ability to control the timing and length of our stops would be crucial.

Secondly, the route would have taken longer and been more difficult logistically by rail, and would also have cost more. For example, we arrived at Harwich International Port late on a weekday evening, from where onward travel was to rural Suffolk. The thought of doing this on multiple local rail (possibly bus) services with a tired two-year-old makes me shudder a bit.

The route

From our home in central Denmark, we set out on a Monday morning and drove south on the E45 motorway, crossing the German border and continuing past Hamburg. We then got on to the A1 Autobahn and made for Bremen, where we stopped overnight.

Travelling non-stop, this journey takes just under four hours. It took us around five and a half. We stopped twice and were caught in traffic at Hamburg, where there is lot of construction going on around the city’s ring road.

Leaving early (just after 6am) the following day, we drove southwest and crossed the border into the Netherlands after a brief stop, but then managed to complete the journey to the port town Hook of Holland without a further break.

Our ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich was due to leave at 2:15pm and check-in time was an hour before that. This was the only deadline we had on our journey that would have been problematic to miss, so we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive from Bremen. We arrived in Hook of Holland at around 11:30am.

Next was a six-hour ferry crossing to the East Anglian coast. We booked a cabin – they are inexpensive on daytime crossings – which gave us a chance to relax after the drive and our daughter a comfortable spot for her afternoon nap.

After a queue at customs in Harwich which took around 45 minutes, we were driving through the Essex countryside just before 9pm local time. The final drive to our destination took an hour and a half.

What went right

It’s not the most relevant information for anyone considering a similar trip, but I have to mention our car. A 2003 VW Polo we bought two years ago that has never had any mechanical issues, I was nevertheless braced for possible problems given its age (and ensured I had roadside assistance for outside of Denmark, more detail on this below).

However, there was not so much as a hint of an issue of any kind at any point during the 900 kilometres it covered on the journey, nor on the way home. Respect.

Our plan to split the trip into two days paid off. I think you could do it in one day (there are also overnight ferries) if you shared the driving and needed less flexibility. I should also recognise here that we live relatively close to Germany and our destination was close to the east coast of the UK. If you were travelling, for example, from Copenhagen to Cardiff, you’d have significantly more driving to do.

For us, knowing we could take long breaks if we needed them took a lot of stress out of the journey and allowed us to adapt to our toddler’s needs – changing nappies, finding a service station playground or stopping for an ice cream.

Stopping overnight also gave us the chance to see some new places (we switched things up on the way back and stayed in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, instead of Bremen) and gave us a feeling of being on our own little bonus holiday.

What went wrong

In all, things went as well as we possibly could have hoped for and our conclusion after we got back home was that we’d like to travel this way again.

We were stopped by traffic police in Groningen city centre because I failed to understand signs showing we were entering a public transport-only zone. The officers who stopped us then offered to escort us to our accommodation a few streets away.

The ferry, operated by Stena Lines, had far less to do on board than we’d imagined there would be on a six-hour voyage. Two tiny off-duty shops, a cinema showing a superhero film and a minuscule play area (which our daughter nevertheless enjoyed) were about the extent of it. We hadn’t downloaded any films ourselves or brought much entertainment with us from the car, so we got a bit bored during the crossing. This is hardly a serious gripe and an easy one to rectify on the return trip.

The practical stuff 

Roadside assistance is obviously crucial for a journey like this, and it’s also important to double check your insurance is valid once you leave the country in which your car is registered and insured – Denmark, in our case.

Foreign authorities can check your insurance is valid. You can document this with the International Motor Insurance or “Green” card, which serves as proof you have motor insurance when you drive outside of the EU (you don’t need it within the EU).

This means that (in theory) you can be asked to present it in the UK. We weren’t asked for it.

The Green Card can be printed via your insurance company’s website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID secure login to access the platform and print off your document. Here is an example of the relevant page on the website of insurance company Tryg. If you can’t find the right section on your insurance company’s website, contact them by phone.

A number of Danish companies specialise in roadside assistance, including Falck and SOS Dansk Autohjælp. You can also include roadside assistance as part of your motor insurance package. We have the latter option, but in either case, I’d recommend calling your provider to make sure you are covered for breakdown in the EU and non-EU countries like the UK (if that’s where you’re going). Obviously, you should add such cover to your existing deal if you don’t have it, or change to a different deal.

The company which operates the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is Stena Line. Both directions have daytime and overnight departures.

There is a range of prices, and I couldn’t cover all the options here if I tried. However, I’d recommend a cabin on the daytime departures, because it’s inexpensive and gives you a bit of personal space and privacy, which is useful with children.

After calculating what our approximate fuel costs would be, the price of the hotel stays and ferry tickets, we found that the trip cost around 1,500 kroner more than we would have paid to fly from Billund Airport to London Stansted with checked-in baggage with Ryanair on the same dates. In return, we could take as much luggage as we want with us (and back), we got to see Bremen and Groningen and had our own car with us in the UK. This was more than worth the additional expense.

I also spent 50 kroner on a “DK” sticker for the tailgate of the car (because the car is so old it predates the EU number plates that include the country code) and 70 kroner for some headlight stickers which prevent full beam headlamps from dazzling oncoming drivers when you are driving on the left in the UK.

As I busily fixed them onto my car as we waited to disembark the ferry, however, a lorry driver parked next to us said these were, in fact, entirely unnecessary.

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