I have a tourist fascination for the price of food and beer in different places I travel. Perhaps that is because I know how to find cheap airline tickets and hotel rooms, so food is the primary variable in the cost of my travels. Ground transportation is the other variable expense and that really adds up if you require a lot of movement to different places on your trips, which is why I prefer to go to a place and stay for several days rather than extensively touring a country. On this 2-week trip to Europe I am only visiting Stockholm, Krakow and Copenhagen.
One of the best features about hotels in Scandinavia is breakfast is usually included. A travel writer I spoke with in Sweden said the continental breakfast she had at her hotel was not sufficient to last very long into the day. That has never been my experience at the Radisson and Nordic Choice Hotels, which are the only two hotel chains I have stayed at in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. I generally find a large selection of foods at breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes, oatmeal/porridge/cereals, yogurts, breads, meats, cheeses and frequently a variety of vegetables for a breakfast salad. Breakfast generally gets me through half the day with a light lunch snack and a dinner meal from food I buy at the market. That means I get by on about $10 to $15 per day for food, and often far less when traveling in Scandinavia.
One of my first activities after arriving in Sweden was hanging out in a grocery store looking at the price of different food items. This is my fourth time in Sweden this past year with hotel stays in Malmo, Uppsala, Arlanda Airport and now Stockholm.
A trip to the grocery store
In Sigtuna, Sweden I popped into a market and checked out food prices. The two things that stand out in my mind from my quick walk around is the seafood looked inexpensive and a hot roasted chicken was 59 SEK, about $7 USD.
Farmers markets and fruit/vegetable stands are something I have seen in every town I visited in Sweden, regardless of the month of year. Last night I attended a TBEX Stockholm conference event at The Haymarket by Scandic Hotel at Hötorget square. I thought I would get the opportunity to have a few free beers and hot food. There was food, nothing hot and I received one free beer/wine ticket.
While the dining was below my expectations, the truly enjoyable part of the event was realizing Hötorget was the farmers’ market square where I shopped every day at the fruit and vegetable stands in the middle of January 1993 when I was a poor college student in Stockholm for the founding of the Education International union. I had been trying to figure out for two days where that Stockholm city square was located. I spent so much of my time shopping for fresh food at Hötorget produce stands so many years ago. In 1993 I lived in Amherst, Massachusetts as a graduate student attending UMass. I was blown away by the wide selection and quality of fresh produce available in Stockholm in January. The grocery stores in Amherst had far higher food prices and poorer quality produce than Stockholm that winter.
Yesterday at an ICA Market in Stockholm I purchased bread, brie, sliced cheese, hummus, packaged salad and smoked salmon for 174 SEK ($20.47 USD).
- baguette (fresh, and still hot bread) 18.90 SEK = $2.23 USD (about same as USA).
- Brie 180 g. (6 ounces) 28.78 SEK = $3.39 USD (less than USA prices).
- hummus 250 g. (8.8 oz.) 24.90 SEK = $2.93 USD (about same as USA).
- sliced Swedish cheese 150 g (5.3 oz) 25.90 SEK = $3.05 USD (about same as USA).
- mixed greens pasta salad bowl 50 SEK = $5.89 USD (about same as USA).
- smoked Salmon 125 g (4.4 oz) 25 SEK ($2.95 USD) (less than USA).
A fruit plate was provided by Radisson Blu when I checked in and I have found fruit in the gyms of both hotels we stayed. Fruit in hotel gyms seems to be fairly common in the hotels I have stayed in Europe and often there are apples and oranges around the reception desk.
Restaurants are a big expense in Sweden
So far I have only had one restaurant meal (I paid for myself) and one grocery store food shopping trip in the two days since arriving in Sweden for the TBEX conference.
The restaurant meal was a Chinese restaurant with one of the least expensive menus we saw on the streets around Stockholm Central Station. My Szechuan chicken with minimal vegetables was the least spicy dish I recall ever eating at a Chinese restaurant. The price was 125 SEK ($14.70 USD) and my wife had a more flavorful shrimp dish 159 SEK ($18.71 USD), but still under spiced. The buffet option was 199 SEK ($23.41 USD).
Wife went to McDonald’s for a 20 SEK diet soda ($2.36 USD). Burgers looked to be around $9 to $10, but I don’t recall exact prices. That is not where I want to dine.
Many restaurant menu entrees I glanced at looked to be priced around 160-240 SEK ($19-$27 USD) in various places I walked by.
Ice cream is sold all over the place in Stockholm summer at outdoor stands starting at 20 SEK. ($2.36 USD).
System Bogalet (Swedish liquor store)
Systembolaget in Sigtuna, Sweden.
In Sweden alcohol sales are controlled and if you want standard beer or liquor you have to pay restaurant/bar prices or go to Systembolaget, the government liquor stores (if you can locate one). Markets only sell 2.2% – 3.5% beer. I have decided low alcohol beer is a waste of money after my three previous trips to Sweden in the past year. I waited for the Systembolaget shopping trip. The price of low alcohol beer in a city market is not much cheaper than regular beer purchased at Systembolaget.
Beer prices in Systembolaget range from about 10 SEK to 20 SEK ($1.15 – $2.30) for Swedish beers and some imports with normal alcohol content (4.8 – 6.9%). There were about 10 to 15 different Swedish beers and about 25 other import beers in the Systembolaget on Klarabergsgatan, Stockholm. The only USA beer I saw was Pabst Blue Ribbon. There were a dozen or so UK beers.
- Zeunerts Hoga Kusten 5.3%, 500 ml, 15.90SEK = $1.87 USD.
- Eriksberg Karaktar 5.4%, 330 ml, 12.90SEK = $1.52 USD.
- Sotiero Original 5.2%, 330 ml, 9.90 SEK = $1.17 USD.
- Pripps Bla 5%. 330 ml, 10.90 SEK = $1.29 USD.
- Mariestads Old Ox 6.9%, 500 ml, 18.60 SEK = $2.19 USD.
A 330ml bottle is about 10-13 SEK ($1.18-$1.53) and 500 ml bottles about 17-20 SEK ($2.00-$2.36). Other craft beers and some imports were priced in the 20 – 30 SEK range.
I find that I can get by on around $20 per day in Scandinavia for food and beer. Often far less, like when I stayed two weeks in Norway in Sep 2014 and only spent $10 on food thanks to Nordic Choice Hotels Clarion Collection stays at a time when Norway was the most expensive country in the world for a tourist.
Loyalty Traveler – Six days in Norway and $6 spent on food (Sep 9, 2014).
Sweden is affordable if you stay away from bars and have a good stash of hotel points.
My economic philosophy to my life and it also applies to my travel is ‘You only need a lot of money if you spend a lot of money.’
I strive to live sustainably, live well, consume less and spend less. That truly is the focus of Loyalty Traveler blog with hotels and airfare deals and descriptions of places I find myself hanging out in on trips.
Travel well for less is my objective and I share my strategies with you. My focus are shopping markets and finding deals for my needs and not marketing sponsors and affiliate links to my readers for your needs (no credit card sales, PR pitches for places and brands, or pushing affiliate links on Loyalty Traveler. That is the information you can already easily access from destination tourist boards and professional PR firms).
I only need a lot of money from my blog if I spend a lot of money and I don’t. The Loyalty Traveler web design layout is proof of that.
Still, I travel relatively frequently, relatively well, while spending less than the average traveler.
Hopefully my insight and deals I write about help you achieve the same for your travel.