Is It Safe to Travel to Sweden?

In this article

Officially known as the Kingdom of Sweden, Sweden is part of the Scandinavian peninsula and the largest country in Northern Europe. The country shares borders with Finland and Norway, and much of its northern regions lie within the Arctic circle. You could go from admiring the skyscrapers and contemporary architecture of the big cities to enjoying the beautiful islands, mountains, and countryside of rural Sweden.
However, safety is a concern for most people looking to visit Sweden. The world is becoming increasingly unsafe, and Sweden is no exception. Most countries’ consulates categorize Sweden’s safety requirements as “normal precaution” but advise its citizens visiting the country to be very vigilant.

Is Sweden Safe to Visit? The Country's Crime Rates and Most Common Crimes

Sweden is generally safe, but there has been a steady rise in petty crimes around tourist hot spots, especially in summer. Petty crimes such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, and robbery are typical in crowded places like public transportation facilities, restaurants, hotel lobbies, cafes, and tourist attractions.
Criminals operate singly or in groups. One member robs you while another distracts you. It’s essential to be careful and vigilant in public and crowded places. Keep all important personal belongings away from sight to avoid attracting petty thieves. Also, be wary of persons offering unsolicited advice.
Organized crime and gang operations are mainly in large cities like Stockholm, Malmo, and Gothenburg. Although they can get violent, they rarely occur in tourist areas; it's primarily gangs fighting gangs. Avoid late-night movements, steer clear of poorly lit areas, and you’ll be safe. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can put you in harm’s way.

Political Situation and Civil Unrest

Demonstrations and public protests occur from time to time. The protests generally start as peaceful demonstrations but often turn violent. Some are politically related, while others are powered by criminal gangs hostile to the police.
In April 2022, a right-wing extremist party organized Koran burnings in several Swedish cities, which led to civil unrest, counter-protest, and loss of lives and properties. The unrest lasted for about three days in major cities like Stockholm, Orebro, Malmo, Linkoping, and Norrkoping. The Swedish police reported that the protests were linked to criminal gangs.
While in Sweden, pay attention to the local media to keep abreast of happenings in the country. Avoid demonstration areas and adhere to the instructions of local authorities. You can also contact your consulate if emergency assistance becomes necessary.

Is Sweden Dangerous? The Risk of Terrorist Attacks

Most European countries face the threat of terrorist attacks, and Sweden is no different. Although the latest known incident of a terrorist attack was in 2017, the government of Sweden regularly updates terrorist threat levels in the local media.
Targets for terror attacks are usually government facilities, worship centers, public places like the market, bus and train stations, tourist attractions, and spaces that attract lots of human traffic. Following the local media news will keep you updated if there’s any threat.

Road Safety, Public Transportation, and Local Customs

Road and public transportation in Sweden are generally safe whether hiring a taxi, taking the bus, or using the train. The road networks are well maintained, but some roads are closed during winter because of snowstorms, particularly in the northernmost regions. It’s not uncommon to see wildlife crossing the road in Sweden, and accidents are common. So you’ll have to be vigilant when driving at night.
Hiring a car costs an average of SEK 3000 for five days, and you’ll have to be at least 18 years and must have held a license for at least two years to qualify. Your Driver’s license must be written in Latin. You’ll also need a valid ID or passport. Traffic is right-sided, and you can only park on your right. Most cities operate metered-on-street parking and charge heavy fines for parking violations.

Relevant Local Laws and Customs

Getting conversant with Sweden’s relevant local laws and customs will help you avoid getting into trouble during your stay. For example, it is illegal to punish a child physically or threaten a child with physical punishment. If found doing so, the authorities can take your child into custody, and you’ll be prosecuted.
Sweden allows dual citizenship. Swedish citizens (whether you hold dual citizenship or not) born in and after 1999 are required to participate in compulsory military service.

Alcohol Policy and Laws on Illegal Substances

Sweden’s alcohol and drug policies are stringent. Alcohol and Tobacco are the only legal drugs, and even that is limited to the appropriate age and defined quantities. Drinking and driving is a criminal offense. You can be prosecuted if your blood alcohol level exceeds permissible limits. Residents and visitors are encouraged to have designated drivers or use public transportation when drunk.
Individuals older than 18 can buy alcoholic drinks from supermarkets, bars, and restaurants with less than 3.5% alcohol content. However, drinks above 3.5% alcohol content are only sold by Systembolaget, and you must be 20 years or older to qualify. Systembolaget is the Swedish government’s chain of alcohol stores. It was established to promote responsible drinking, and its staff are trained to guide you in making the right purchases.
Hard drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and others are illegal in Sweden. It is a criminal offense to be found in possession of them or under their influence. You will be prosecuted and fined heavily or jailed if caught with the smallest amount of illegal substances.

Sweden COVID-19 Restrictions and Preventative Measures

Sweden has lifted its COVID-19 border restrictions. You can now enter Sweden without presenting proof of vaccination at the border. However, airlines still adhere to strict COVID-19 regulations and preventative measures. You might still be required to provide a COVID-19 exemption or vaccination certificate before boarding.
While the border restrictions have been lifted, safety measures are still being encouraged within the country. While vaccination is no longer compulsory to access public spaces, unvaccinated adults are advised to avoid crowded public and indoor spaces to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. You’re required to isolate at home if you show disease symptoms.

Climate and Natural Disasters to Be Mindful of

Sweden is prone to several natural disasters because of its extreme weather conditions. Natural disasters often occur in the country in winter and summer. Winter in Sweden is extremely harsh, particularly in the northern regions within the arctic circle. The weather in these regions is freezing and can fall as low as 30oC in mid-winter.
There is heavy snowfall in much of the country, including the big cities. The intense snowfall often leads to the temporary shutting down of public facilities, including roads and train tracks, causing transport difficulties. In the arctic north, snowstorms are common, and some roads are closed off throughout winter.
In summer, there’s intense and unpredictable rainfall in Sweden. The intensity of the rains often results in disastrous floods across the country. Most of the regions on the east coast (especially the areas around Lake Vanem and Gota Alv river valley) are prone to landslides, avalanches, and rockfalls due to increased precipitation and rise in underground water level.
Forest fires have also become a yearly occurrence in the southern regions during the summer and early autumn months. The fires are caused by several human activities, such as industrial logging, burning grass, and many other activities. The fires are spread by wind and kept aflame by the dryness of the trees and shrubs in summer.
Pay attention to the local media for news and updates on potential disasters before setting out. This will help you avoid walking headlong into disasters.

Arctic Tourism - Travel Advice

Sweden’s arctic regions attract lots of tourists all year round. Tourists defy the extreme cold of these regions in winter and visit to enjoy the winter wonderland of the Swedish Laplands. The entire landscape is white, from snow-covered forests to frozen lakes and the northern lights. If you’re visiting the remote areas of Sweden for arctic tourism, several safety measures should be put in place before heading to the arctic circle. They include:
  • Avoid solo tours
  • Ensure you’re in good physical condition before embarking on any activity
  • Be well prepared, and come with the right equipment
  • Stick to marked trails
  • Check for extreme weather conditions and potential hazards and set off only when it is safe to do so
  • Keep your family or close friends informed of your itinerary
  • Get travel insurance that includes medical evacuation and emergency rescue

Ensure you have comprehensive international travel insurance that provides for helicopter evacuation and covers all overseas medical costs before traveling. Also, ensure your travel insurance policy covers the activities you want to partake in.

In the End: Do You Need a Visa to Go to Sweden?

Citizens of Schengen area countries or other countries with visa-free entry do not need a visa to go to Sweden if visiting the country for 90 days or less. Only a valid passport is required. Citizens of non-Schengen areas and countries without a no-visa arrangement need a Schengen visa to visit Sweden and other Schengen member states.
ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) is the new visa waiver program for countries with no-visa entry agreements with the European Union. From 2023, visa-free visitors to Sweden and the European Union will be required to have an ETIAS visa in addition to their passports. An ETIAS is valid for three years and grants its holder access to any European country for not more than 90 days at a time.
You can apply for a Sweden ETIAS by completing the online application form. You’ll be required to provide basic personal information, passport details, and answers to some health and security questions. The application process typically takes less than fifteen minutes, and you can expect a response within 48 hours.

The Verdict: How Safe Is Sweden?

Sweden is generally considered a safe country. While there’s been an increasing crime rate in the country over the years (as in much of the world), exercising standard safety precautions will keep you safe during your trip. Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching are the most common crimes in crowded tourist areas. Violent crimes are less common, though certain areas like Rinkeby street in Stockholm are known as crime hot spots and are better avoided at night.
Political unrests are not very common, and while there are still terrorist threats in much of Europe, Sweden has not had any reported terrorism incident in over five years. The country has good road and rail networks. You can travel between regions via any of its bus stations or railway stations.
For safety's sake, traveling alone to remote areas of Sweden is not recommended. One way to stay safe in Sweden is to follow the local media; that way, you’ll stay informed on happenings in the country and take recommended precautions. It is also essential to have comprehensive travel insurance before embarking on your trip. Contact your country’s consulate for emergency consular assistance if need be.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

FAQs

  • 1. Is it safe to travel to Sweden during the Ukraine war?

    It is safe to travel to Sweden during the Ukrainian war. Sweden does not share borders with Ukraine or Russia, and the warring countries are not members of the EU. Also, Swedish authorities have not issued any travel warnings regarding the war.
  • 2. Is it safe to travel to Stockholm, Sweden?

    Yes, it is. You must exercise caution in crowded public and tourist spaces, so you don’t fall victim to petty crime.
  • 3. Is it safe to travel alone in Sweden?

    If you’re staying within the cities, then yes. But traveling alone is not recommended if you’re traveling farther into the country, especially to remote areas.
  • 4. Is it safe for Americans to travel to Sweden?

    Yes, it is safe for Americans to travel to Sweden.

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