This summer I had the pleasure of doing a 2 week trip to beautiful Sweden, the world’s wild camping capital. But besides the natural beauty, there are countless reasons why Sweden is my favourite vanlife destination. There’s no friendlier nation and no other place that will fill you with so much relaxation. A trip to Sweden will include driving down peaceful forest roads, going skinny dipping, eating cinnamon buns in the sun – and so much more. If you’re ready to start day-dreaming about going wild camping in Sweden, put on my Sweden Roadtrip Playlist on Spotify, and keep reading.
Sweden is located in Scandinavia and is the fifth largest country in Europe. However, with a population of roughly 10 million people it has the 4th lowest population density in Europe. Its largest cities are Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö – all of which are located in the Southern half of the country. The most commonly spoken language is Swedish, but most Swedes have a very good level of English.
Although it is part of the EU, Sweden has its own currency, the Swedish kronor (SEK). But don’t worry about exchanging money before or during your trip, as you can pay by card wherever you go. Sweden has a reputation for being one of the most cash-free societies in the world. Personally, I’ve never even had a physical Swedish krona in my hand!
When traveling to Sweden, EU/EEA citizens simply need their ID card or passport. If you are a traveler from outside the Schengen zone you will require a valid visa. In any case you should make sure that your insurance will cover your trip to Sweden. Legally, it must cover emergency medical expenses as well as costs of repatriation for at least 30.000 Euro.
Geography & Climate
Sweden boasts a stunning and often un-spoilt natural world, most notably its seemingly endless forests. In fact, 69% of the country is forested, while only 8% is farmland. Furthermore, Sweden has an estimate of 95.700 lakes as well as a coastline that spans 3218 km (2000 miles). 15% of Sweden’s area is permanently protected and the country has 30 national parks, which are free to visit at any time. All that endless space and unspoilt nature make Sweden the perfect wild camping destination.
Sweden has a temperate to subarctic climate, however the climate strongly varies between regions:
Götaland in the South experinces the mildest climate of Sweden. Its air is relatively humid and daytime temperatures in the summer range from 15 to 25 °C. In Götaland’s coastal regions snow is rare, even in the winter.
Svealand in the middle of the country experiences slightly colder temperatures and shorter summers. Snowfall is much more common than in Götaland.
Norrland, which is in the North, has long and cold winters wirth sub-zero temperatures lasting for months. Summers are short in this part of Sweden, but temperatures may even reach occasional highs of up to 30 °C.
The weather can be unpredictable in the Spring and Summer months, so it is always advisable to prepare for shitty weather. Besides, nights can get cold even in the summer, so don’t forget to bring warm clothes!
Another factor you should keep in mind is that Sweden experiences extremely long days in the summer as well as extremely short days in the winter. The further North you travel the more pronounced this gets. In Kiruna, the country’s Northernmost town, the sun does not set AT ALL from mid-May to mid-July.
The Laws on Wild Camping in Sweden
Whereas most countries strictly forbid it, wild camping is perfectly legal in Sweden due to the so-called Allmansrätten (which can be translated as “Everyone’s Right”). You have the right to freely roam around the countryside as long as you do not disturb or destroy the natural environment, wildlife, or other people, such as landowners. In nature reserves, natural parks, public parks and on golf courses, local rules apply, so make sure to check the website of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency to verify that the Allmansrätten applies.
In practice, this Freedom To Roam law means that you can access any land, apart from private residences, if you keep a 70 metre distance of inhabited houses and cultivated farmland (!). This also includes pitching a tent or staying for a few nights with a van/ motorhome. Additionally, you are allowed to pick flowers, berries, and mushrooms and you are allowed to access/ swim at any beach or lake – as long as you keep the above-mentioned distance. Furthermore, you’re allowed to have a bonfire if you deem conditions to be safe. However, always confirm on municipal and county websites if there is a local ban for any reason.
All in all, you’ll notice that the Swedish countryside is very clean. Swedes truly seem to respect their country – and so should you. Besides that, littering is highly illegal and you could face a huge fine.
Overall, you should always make sure that you follow the Leave No Trace Principles, which I explained in this post.
The Cost of A Wild Camping Trip To Sweden
Scandinavian countries have a reputation for being expensive, so Sweden might not be your go-to destination if you’re on a tight budget. However, I found that vanlife may be the cheapest way to explore this beautiful country. When you’re wild camping in Sweden, the main areas that will cost you more than in other countries are gas as well as food & drinks.
Filling up your vehicle’s gas tank is pricier than in most other European countries. According to the Swedish institute SBPI (2019) the average price for standard gasoline is 16,89 SEK (ca. 1,58 Euro) per litre and 16,56 SEK (ca. 1,55 Euro) per litre of Diesel.
You should also have a higher budget for groceries than in other European countries. I personally estimated that I spent 30% more in Sweden than I would normally do in Germany. Besides this, going out to restaurants in Sweden is also pretty expensive, even in the countryside. If you are on a budget, you’re better off preparing all of your own meals.
As is the case in other Scandinavian countries, the price of alcohol in Sweden is HIGH. Additionally, supermarkets only sell alcoholic drinks up to 3,5%. Drinks with a higher alcohol percentage are only sold at Systembolaget, the state-owned liquor store. My recommendation is buying your favourite alcoholic beverages before heading to Sweden. Make sure to designate some storage space in your van/motorhome for these!
How To Get There
Sweden shares a land border with Norway and Finland, but you can also easily drive to Sweden via Denmark and then take the famous Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö. You should consider that there is a hefty price to be paid for taking this bridge though (one way currently costs 49 Euro for cars up to 6m, including passengers). In any case, it is always cheaper to buy your ticket for the Øresund Bridge online, not at the toll station.
Another easy way to get to Sweden from Denmark is to take a ferry, of which there are various routes. For instance, you could take the quick 20-minute ride from Helsingør to Helsingborg. This may even save you some money compared to the Øresund Bridge! You can find additional information, prices and online tickets for this route here.
If you prefer taking a ferry to Sweden, there are routes from all of the countries on the Baltic Sea:
From Germany to Sweden, there are a total of four ferry routes with departures from Rostock, Travemünde, Kiel and Sassnitz. Moreover, there are 4 ferry routes operating from Poland, 2 routes from Lithuania, 2 routes from Latvia, 2 routes from Estonia and even 1 route from St. Petersburg in Russia. You can find information and book tickets for all routes here.
Roads and Driving
I found driving in Sweden to be an absolute pleasure. Swedish roads are generally in excellent condition and not busy at all. Moreover, Swedish drivers are among the calmest drivers I’ve ever encountered. They obey traffic laws and are not likely to pressure you to drive faster.
What makes driving in Sweden even more enjoyable is that most roads, including highways, are toll-free. However, there is a year-round toll for the Motala and Sundsvall Bridge as well as a city toll in Stockholm and Gothenburg (except for weekends, holidays and in July).
A driver’s license from any EU and EEA country is valid is Sweden. The same applies for driver’s licenses from non-EEA countries for up to one year. An additional International Driving Permit (IDP) is required if your driver’s license is not written is roman letters, for example if it is in Arabic or Japanese.
As Swedish traffic laws differ slightly from other European countries, I recommend informing yourself about these ahead of your trip using the website of the Swedish Transport Administration Trafikverket.
Here’s a small summary:
You need to use your low beam lights at all times. Furthermore, between 1st December and 31st March you are legally required to use winter tires. Please also note that off-road driving is illegal, as it may damage the environment. Legal blood alcohol levels are 0,2 per mil. If the police would catch you with a blood alcohol level of 0,3 or more your driver’s license may be taken from you for up to one year. If your blood alcohol levels exceed 1,0 per mil you may even have to go to jail. Ouch! Better not risk that.
Traveling & Wild Camping With Pets in Sweden
I promise, you and your pets will love wild camping in Sweden. The vast amount of space and solitude in nature, make it an ideal pet-friendly vanlife destination.
It is relatively straightforward for you to bring your pets (dogs, cats or ferret) on your trip to Sweden, if the animal is ID-marked and vaccinated against rabies. You must also always be able to present the animal’s EU-passport (or form E9.207 for non-EU travelers). Additionally, if you are bringing a pet on your trip, you must notify the Swedish customs office. You can do this online ahead of time or upon arrival at the border. Check this website for more information. Lastly, you require an owner’s declaration for pets if you are a resident of Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland or the Vatican.
Even if your van is already equipped for the road, there are a few items you should bring to Sweden to get the most out of your trip:
- Mosquito repellent (!)
- Bite-away (to provide relief against mosquito bites)
- Warm clothes, particularly sweaters and cozy socks
- A hot water bottle
- A sleeping mask (to get better sleep during the long summer days – especially in the North)
- Fire-starter pellets for bonfires
- A Stand-Up-Paddle board (if you own one)
- A bucket, laundry detergent and a clothesline (it’s almost impossible to find laundrettes)
Why I loved vanlife & wild camping in Sweden…
As Sweden’s populations density is very low, you’ll often feel like you’ve got the whole country to yourself. And what a gorgeous country it is! Besides that, it’s exceptionally easy to find beautiful wild camping spots, especially lakeside ones. Let me tell you: It’s absolutely magical to jump into one of these lakes on a hot summer’s day.
Moreover, I absolutely loved that we never had to share these spots with any other campers. It meant we had complete privacy and space to relax – who wouldn’t want that?
On the rare occasion that we met some local Swedes during the day, we were delighted to find out how friendly, helpful and relaxed these are. We had great conversions with all of them, young and old. And guess what? They also gave us fantastic insider tips on the region, such as as a hidden quarry that we loved swimming in.
Furthermore, Sweden is also a truly vegan-friendly destination. As I already said, food will cost you a bit more. However, I actually really enjoyed visiting Swedish supermarkets, because of the great selection we found there. That means we ended up spending more money than we had to, simply because we wanted to try so many of the goodies we found. Oops!
I hope you enjoyed daydreaming about vanlife in Sweden with me for a bit. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org <3 I’d love to hear from you!
You’re looking for more inspiration? Check out my Vanlife Switzerland Guide and stay tuned for my upcoming Vanlife Greece Guide. If you’re curious to find out how to find the best wild camping spots check out this post.