Is Sweden Safe? Crime, Scams and Tips for Travelers

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While Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world, travelers should be aware of the minimal petty crime and scams in the country.

Nightfall on Stortorget Square in Stockholm's Old Town Photo © Getty Images/Daniel Haug

Years of brutal raiding during the Viking period seem to have purged a lot of the violent and chaotic tendencies from Swedish society. It is now one of the safest countries in the world. The people are welcoming and helpful while the crime rate is very low, with almost no instances of pillaging.

Unfortunately, there are some who exploit the Swedish sense of security and safety, targeting unsuspecting tourists and locals alike. Violent crime is very rare but petty theft and scams are a real concern. Be sure not to fall into the trusting trap.

Taxi scams in Sweden

In such an organised and regulated country, you'd think grabbing a cab would be the least of your concerns. However, taxi scams are one of the major complaints from tourists, with no shortage of drivers willing to take advantage of your trust.

Frustration with the taxi industry in Sweden caused it to be deregulated in 1990, which resulted in a lot more cabs on the road but also a rise in private operators and scammers trawling the streets for an easy buck. Sweden's taxis are quite expensive but while it might be tempting to try and squeeze a deal, outrageous hidden fares as well as a lack of surveillance and accountability mean unofficial cabs are an unsafe and expensive alternative.

Most Swedes have learned to avoid the private fritaxis or fribilars, instead sticking with their favourite of the larger and more reliable companies. Scammers instead prey on uninformed or careless customers, targeting tourists and people coming out of bars and clubs. Aside from simply taking a long route or charging an exorbitant rate, another known trick is to convince tourists the meter price is displayed in euros rather than Swedish krona, which is never the case.

In February 2011, new legislation was introduced related to taxi fare information. A sticker must be clearly displayed on the passenger side window showing an average price based on a 10km, 15 minute journey. This price should be between 290 and 390kr for a good taxi. Anything above this and you are likely being ripped off, however you won't find this out until you are in the taxi.

Even if you are relatively experienced with Swedish cabs, some devious drivers switch their displayed fare rates around so, while the cheap "Taxa 1" is showing, you're actually being charged the premium late night and holiday rate.

The best way to avoid being ripped off is to only ride in cabs from trusted companies, even if they're not at the front of the queue. The company names will vary across the country, but in Stockholm these are your best bet: Taxi Stockholm, Södertälje Taxi, Taxi Kurir, Taxi Nynäs, Taxi 020, Varmdo Taxi, Ekerö Taxi, Norrtälje Taxi, Top Cab, Roslags Taxi.

If you have an idea of what your trip will cost you can try and negotiate a flat rate. If you have no idea, ask for an estimate before getting in the taxi, but stick to the meter. This way you won't be surprised on arrival and the cabbie will have to explain any wild variance. Lastly, make sure to get a receipt, which will be helpful if you do have a complaint.

While Sweden has its fair share of scammers in taxis, even their Norwegian neighbours have trouble spotting the dodgy companies. Luckily, the Swedish folk are a friendly bunch and will think nothing of it if you go into a nearby restaurant, hotel or cafe to call for a taxi. They will only call a reputable company, saving you the detective work of working out which taxi to get.

Uber also runs in Sweden however it isn't always the cheapest option, often being more expensive than a taxi due to legislation making it impossible for Uber to operate anything cheaper than UberX.

If you'd rather a cheaper and more reliable option than catching a cab, Sweden's public transport system is a safe and efficient alternative. The main cities are well serviced by trains, trams and buses as well as ferries and a variety of travel pass options make it cheap and easy to get around. Most of these can be bought at ticket machines or counters but there is also a move towards online sales that sees the ticket sent to your phone. As well as being cool and efficient, these pre-orders are also considerably cheaper.

Whatever form your ticket comes in, make sure to keep it on hand because there are hefty fines for fare evasion and checks are not uncommon.

Petty crime in Sweden

Sweden is an expensive destination, attracting a higher proportion of wealthy tourists. This, coupled with the low crime rate and resulting sense of ease, means criminals flock to its fertile fields. During winter petty crime is less of an issue, despite the cover of perpetual darkness. But the return of the summer sun brings back the tourists and with them gangs of pickpockets and conmen hoping to capitalise on the crowds.

Airports and train stations are particular hot zones and you need to be wary of people offering to help you with your bags, especially at the main stations in Stockholm and Gothenburg. Thieves also lurk on transit services from airports into the city, when you are often wiped out or distracted, waiting to pounce on your purse. As always keep a hold of all your luggage and try not to flash around expensive items.

Tourist attractions are also obvious targets for criminals, in particular the enormous Ostra Nordstan shopping centre in Gothenburg and Stockholm's Old Town. Pickpockets often work in groups, with one person approaching and distracting you while his friends make off with your bag or clean out your wallet. Game tables are another common sight but don't fall for the promise of an easy win. In fact, it's best not to even watch as the same accomplices who help them bait unfortunate victims are also likely scoping your belongings.

Swedish nightlife safety

Swedes really enjoy a party, especially in the warm summer months, and the streets fill with revellers at the weekends. Most people will only have positive stories to tell about Swedish socialising but there are always a few party-poopers who indulge in a little too much brännvin (Swedish vodka) and make trouble for others or themselves.

If you do want to hit the town, be aware that drinking in Sweden can take its toll on both your body and your wallet. Although alcohol is very cheap in bottle shops, courtesy of the Systembolaget government control of the industry, drink prices in bars and clubs are incredibly steep. Spirits are also commonly taken straight and the unexpectedly strong akvavit (Swedish schnapps) claims many tourist's memories.

Sweden has two drinking age limits: 18 in licensed establishments, 20 to buy from the Systembolaget outlets. However many clubs have higher age limits, sometimes up to 30. Nightspots in Stockholm and Gothenburg are often very strict as well, so don't be surprised if you wait in a long line only to be turned away. But before you blow your top, remember Swedish bouncers and security guards are authorised to use force if necessary. You'll both have a better night if you just move along.

Football violence in Sweden

Despite the friendly and relaxed attitude of Swedes in general, some of the country's sporting fans seem to have a few issues controlling their competitive instincts. Sweden's football hooligans are surprisingly some of the worst in Europe, with the 2010 season tainted by violent clashes between fans, threats against management and attacks on players.

Aside from fights before, during and after games there is also a huge amount of vitriol and violence directed from fans to their own teams. Whether this is a symptom or cause for terrible seasons from all the top flight Swedish teams remains to be seen. What is certain is that as these small pockets of so-called supporters revel in bad behaviour, the rest of the fans are forced to avoid games and crowds are dwindling.

It is unfortunate that a few bad apples can spoil the bunch but we advise staying away from Swedish football games, especially in the bigger cities, until a governing body, the clubs or the fans themselves take responsibility and restore some civility to the sport.

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  • Emma said

    The taxi scandal is a national disgrace.... My boyfriend and I recently took a taxi from Central Station in Stockholm to Skavsta airport, a 106km (65 mile) distance. The driver quoted us SEK 2000 about £179 which was expensive but we had little other option than to accept reluctantly.

    The journey ended up costing us a whopping SEK 3,6000 the equivalent of £338.35!!!

    We left Sweden feeling as though we had fallen victim to a crime, reeling from shock and disgusted at the price. While we are aware that Sweden is comparatively expensive this practise felt like something from the third world and whilst we accept that it is deemed legal it is with doubt most definitely immoral and unethical.

    We will never go back to Sweden ever again.

  • Anonymous said

    I had a friend in Sweden who was imprisoned and murdered by someone who was not imprisoned. How did he get in there in the first place? How terrible is their security?

  • Cecilia said

    There are areas where you should definitely not go strolling around if you don´t live there, however tourists are probably not likely to want to go there anyway-Malmö is however a very compact city and tourists may unknowingly stroll into these areas. Shopping malls like Nordstan in Gothenburg should these days be avoided after the shops have closed. Find local information on where you shouldn´t go as a tourist before going there. But crime rates has risen steeply due to poorly regulated immigration in later years. This is not exactly something Swedish government want to be widely known abroad however, but to anyone Swedish following domestic news it´s common knowledge.

  • Nathalie Dahlgren- said

    This is misleading information! You have a responsibility to inform female travelers about the increased violence against women done by Muslim men. I'm Swedish and I'm here to tell you that The rape and violence against women has skyrocketed. I as a women who used to be able to walk in the capital city at night is advised not to by the police. Down south in malmö, going to the cinema with the family a Friday evening is a bad idea. And this is not only happening in the cities. Sweden is absolutely NOT safe anymore due to a huge culture clash between Muslims view of women and the free women of Sweden. It is not ok telling female travelers that they are safe here!!

  • Lisa said

    This whole article must be written by our corrupt government or someone who has been brainwashed. Sweden is not safe. Sweden's crime rate is not low. Läs på innan du lägger upp falsk information på nätet. Eller bo i landet innan du uttalar dig.

  • Dean said

    No, it is not. Most middle-eastern countriest are much safe than here. Swedish government take care of Swedish image more than the Sweden itself. Also, it is not a rich country while being overly expensive.

  • Sven said

    Roflmao Sweden a safe country? Sweden is hell on earth, the only place where all the human sins are encouraged, violence, crime, arrogance, gluttony, selfishness and ignorance. Swedish police is a joke, all they do is rely on European and American help. Criminals end up free after serving minuscule sentences Not to mention the Government has become instable af and we are in one of the Worlds worst housing bubble where NO ONE can afford housing. If you tell a lie too many times no it won't become truth people will only be tired of your lies. Gtfo Sweden time to pay for your lies.

  • Bob said

    Sweden, particularly the big cities are NOT safe, especially during the nightime. I'd say Stockholm, Malmö and Göteborg are among the most dangerous cities in Europe. If you want to visit Scandinavia, go to Norway or Finland.

    The gang violence and the "no go zones" in Sweden are legit, tread carefully.

  • Lutfiskarn said

    The rape capital of Europe speaks for itself, this article is the most ridiculous thing I've read in a while. Sweden is probably one of the least safe countries in Europe, the article is misleading. I wouldn't recommend anyone to travel to Sweden as it's hell on earth.

  • Karen Kent said

    My boyfriend is currently locked up in a Swedish jail for something he didn't do. But their corrupt government will let him go if I pay a large sum of American dollars.

  • Earth Traveller said

    Sweden is NOT safe, especially for women, and it is irresponsible of you to write otherwise. Immigrants make up 14% of Sweden's population, yet the BBC reported in 2018 that 'About 58% of men convicted in Sweden of rape and attempted rape over the past five years were born abroad...'.

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