Is it Really Possible to Visit Stockholm on a Backpacker Budget?
The internet is full of tips about how to visit Stockholm on a budget, and no wonder. Scandinavia is seriously expensive.
That’s why we waited to visit this area of the world, until we could allow ourselves to be a little less restrictive with our budget. Because really what’s the point of visiting someplace if you can’t really afford to enjoy it?
And though it’s true that we’re in a more relaxed financial position today, we have certainly done our share of budget traveling, from sleeping in decrepit $5 beach huts in Thailand, to eating at the cheapest roadside stalls in India. In fact, out of the 54 countries I’ve visited, most of them have been visited on a budget. For our around the world trip, our goal was to spend just $50 per day each. We weren’t always successful, but we definitely tried.
Point being, I think we understand a little bit about the ins and outs of budget travel.
So even though we didn’t visit Stockholm on a budget, I couldn’t help but assess the city to see if it was actually possible to visit the city on a backpacker budget.
On his site, Nomadic Matt managed to make $100 stretch over 5 days in Stockholm by couch surfing, walking everywhere, and cooking all of his own food. So clearly, it IS possible to be in Stockholm for some period of time on a very limited budget, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Because to me, you haven’t legitimately been to a country or city, unless you’re actively visiting that city. If you don’t eat any of the local food, or see any of the sights that make the city famous (touristy or not), what’s the point of being there in the first place? Just to pin a dot on a map?
So I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you can’t really visit Stockholm on a backpacker budget, which I’m saying is around $50/day. Here’s why.
This is the chunk that’ll eat up most of your budget. Yes, you can couch-surf. And yes, it’s completely free and a wonderful way to get a more local experience of a destination. But I’d say that most backpackers still check themselves into a hostel. There’s only so many couch-surfing spots available, and unless you’re a serial couch-surfer with a lot of positive reviews, it’s pretty difficult to score yourself one of these amazing free beds.
Which leaves the next most budget-friendly option: the hostel. The cheapest bed in a decently rated hostel in Stockholm costs around $20 per night, and that’s in a 14 bed mixed dorm. Oh, but did I mention that this price doesn’t include sheets or towels? Unless you’re carting sheets and towels around (and I haven’t met many backpackers in recent years that do), count on an additional $15 per night to rent them.
Stockholm is a very walkable city, and on a backpacker budget, walking is without a doubt the best option. It’s free!
However, you still need to get from the airport to the city, and that distance is most definitely NOT walkable. The cheapest, and not surprisingly lengthiest option, involves a combination of local bus and commuter train, and costs 60 krona each way (about $10).
There are budget eating options in Stockholm, but they’re not Swedish. They’re falafels, pizza or donairs. And as far as I’m concerned, you haven’t experienced a culture until you’ve tasted their food, so this budget requires at least 1 authentic Swedish meal.
The most budget-friendly way to accomplish this, is by taking advantage of a dagens or set meal at lunch time. In non-touristy areas (read NOT Gamla Stan), you can get a great menu of soup, pan fried herring, or Swedish meatballs, plus a drink for around 75 krona (about $12).
Of course, you can’t eat only once in 24 hours, so I’m gonna add another $15 for budget eats on the street. Yes. That means, falafels, pizza or donairs. 😉
I’m afraid that on a backpacker budget, entertainment has to be limited to free things. Fortunately, there are a few free museums in Stockholm, free walking tours (they ask for a tip, but it’s not required to participate), and beautiful outdoor areas to take advantage of. Exploring Gamla Stan’s narrow alleyways and corridors could easily take up an afternoon.
So how much did our budget day and night in Stockholm cost? $72. $22 over our $50 per day backpacker budget. Yeah, it’s not crazily over, but we sure didn’t get to do much. We weren’t able to visit some of the premier tourist attractions, like Fotografiska or the Vasa Museum ($20 entrance fee), or partake in a fika ($10), because adding these small indulgences would’ve broken the budget.
There’s a reason why you don’t see too many backpackers in Scandinavia. Mostly people chalk it up to the expense, but now that I’ve traveled there, I don’t think it’s just because of the cost. Stockholm was a very, very pretty city. Maybe one of the prettiest cities I’ve seen. But was it enough to justify the high cost? I don’t think so. There are plenty of equally beautiful and honestly, more interesting cities in Europe that cost much, much less to visit.
What do you think? Would it be worth it to you to visit an expensive city like Stockholm on a backpacker’s budget? Even if it meant you couldn’t really see and do everything you wanted to do?