Driving in Sweden
This article is a travel topic
Driving around in Sweden takes you to places outside the big cities. This is a good way to travel if you are interested in seeing some countryside.
All cars in Sweden must have their headlights on at all times. If you drive without lights you may find other drivers flashing their headlights at you to inform you.
From 1 December - 31 March (in case of winter conditions) all cars in use, both swedish and non-swedish, are required by law to have either studded tires or un-studded winter friction tires. The tires must be marked, M+S, M-s, M.S, M&S, MS or Mud and Snow. Outside this period winter tires must be used if the roads are considered to be in "winter conditions" by the local police.
Foreign registered cars are no longer exempt from this requirement.
The European road network goes through Sweden and are the best and biggest road. The biggest ones are:
- E6 - from Malmö to Gothenburg (Göteborg) and Oslo (Norway).
- E4 - from Helsingborg (close to Malmö), to Stockholm and then all the way north to Haparanda at the Finnish border.
Most of the European roads are freeways.
There are the national roads (riksvägar) that have two digit numbers. They are the next best roads.
The three digit numbered roads (länsvägar) come in two flavors. The big ones (numbers 100-400) and really small ones (all other numbers).
The European roads and the national roads are very well marked with signs telling you what road you are on and how to get onto these roads. The three digit numbered roads with numbers up to 400 are also marked. Roads with lower numbers are situated south of the roads with higher numbers.
The small ones, and in some cases 4 digit roads that might show up on your GPS map are never marked with their numbers. They are just numbered for some administrative purpose and the numbers cannot be used while driving.
How Swedes drive
Driving in Sweden is pretty calm and not that aggressive as in southern Europe but it will always be cars passing you. On the motorways there's not very much respect for the speed limits and people will always try to overtake you. Swedes are driving pretty calm compared to other countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece.
Traffic jams are pretty common in the larger cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg especially during rush hour. Try to avoid the Stockholm rush hour (Mornings 07.00-09.00 and afternoons 16.30-18.00) especially from the south. The part of the E4 motorway that goes through the western parts of Stockholm is Swedens busiest road.
The best markings are made with big blue signs with the name of the upcoming towns. If the road leading there is a freeway, the signs are green instead of blue. Unless you are going on a very big road, make your directions based on what towns or villages you are passing and keep an eye out for these signs instead of the road numbers.
The current speed limit is very well marked by signs. The speed limit signs are in km/h. The signs you see are normally 30, 50, 70, 90 and 110. Recently, new speed limits have appeared, 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120. Two speed signs on each side of the road mean from this point this is the new speed. One sign on the right means that this is the speed on this road but there is no change in speed.
The standard speed for roads outside built-up areas is always 70 km/h unless otherwise indicated.
Since 2001 some new signs have been introduced or have been altered to also indicate the speed limit. These are:
- The Freeway (Motorväg) sign now also means 110km/h.
- The Highspeed road (Motortrafikled) sign indicates 90 km/h (100 km/h on roads with cable fence between the lanes since 2008).
- The new start of village sign means 50km/h.
- The new end of village sign means 70km/h.
With the adding of new speed limits in 2008 the signs mentioned above now follow these rules:
- The Freeway (Motorväg) sign is now always posted together with a sign indicating the speed limit for this road.
- The start of village sign is also always posted together with a speed limit sign.
The respect for obeying the speed limit is rather poor. Often, when you are driving at the correct speed on a 70 or 90km/h road you will constantly get passed by other cars or be urged to get out of the way to let them pass. On the other hand, speeding on 30 km/h roads is not accepted. If caught, speeding will cost you from 1500 kr (about €160) (1-10 km/h too fast) to 4000 kr (about €430) (36-40 km/h too fast) on 70 km/h or faster roads. Speeding on slower roads is more expensive.
You are obliged by law to have your headlights on at all times, even in the middle of the day. Modern Swedish-sold cars always have the lights turned on automatically (unless you actively turn it off), so if you rent a car in Sweden you won't have to worry about it.
See also: Winter driving
Wild animals! Major roads may have warning signs and also miles of running fences to prevent wild animals from entering the driveway, but there are no absolute guarantees. Small and bigger animals do venture out on the roads, sometimes even in major urban areas, at anytime. Badgers and foxes are common roadkill and will do little damage to vehicles, but deer, wild boar and moose is a different story. Hitting a moose will certainly wreck any normal car and travellers will be glad to survive such a massive impact at high speeds. In the north of the country, there are not just small groups of stray reindeers to consider but also the occasional herd being transferred between grazing areas.
Drivers in Sweden are recommended to be extra attentive at:
- springtime (as moose reject last year's calves and give birth to new ones).
- moose hunting season in autumn.
- the edge of forests.
- bridges across streams.
Many animals are very active at dusk and dawn and also search their drinking water in streams and lakes, and many lakes are close to roads. During the various hunting seasons, game animals get nervous and move around more erratically than usual.
If you hit an animal you call the Emergency Number 112 and report viltolycka (wild animal accident). Accidentally hitting an animal is not a crime, but not reporting the incident is. If the animal has disappeared out of sight, you must mark the spot where you saw it last and your car should be equipped with a special paper ribbon for this purpose. With this lead, a trained hunter with a sniffer dog will be engaged to track down the possibly wounded animal. Do not attempt to bring any bigger animal out of its miseries, unless you are a police officer or otherwise trained professional.
Incidentally, hunting is one of the foremost and proudest national pastimes and experienced people can be consulted and summoned in practically every single community.
Some useful words and phrases that might be seen on various road signs
Parkering förbjuden – No parking
Förbjuden / Förbjudet – Forbidden, prohibited
Höger – Right
Vänster – Left
Sakta – Slow
Nästa – Next
Infart – Entrance
Utfart – Exit
Avfart – Highway exit
Påfart – Highway entrance
Fart – Speed
Sänk farten – Reduce speed
Farthinder – Speed bumps
Tänk på hastigheten – Mind the speed limits
Skola – School
Vägarbetsområde – Road construction area
Viltstängsel upphör – End of wild animal fence
Akta barn – Mind the children
M – Meeting zone, on narrow roads
Grusväg – Unpaved road
Enskild väg / Privat väg – Private road
Ej genomfart – No thoroughfare
Vägen avstängd – Road closed
Stängd / Stängt – Closed
Följ skyltar – Follow signs
Verkstad – Mechanic worshop
Däckverkstad / Däckservice – Tire workshop / Tire service
Rum – Rooms, meaning Vacancies
Lediga rum / Rum lediga – Vacant rooms
Frukost – Breakfast
Hantverk / Hemslöjd – Handicraft
Gårdsbutik – Farm produce store
Honung – Honey
Potatis – Potatoes
Ägg – Eggs
Självplock – Pick it yourself
Jordgubbar – Strawberries
Hjortron – Cloudberries
Blåbär – Blueberries
Lingon – Lingonberries
Hallon – Rasberries
Smultron – Wild strawberries
Sylt – Jam
Saft – Juice
Mjölk – Milk
Kött – Meat
Vilt / Viltkött – Wild game / Wild game meat
Ren – Reindeer
Älg – Moose
Fisk – Fish
Rökt / Rökeri – Smoked / Smokery
Brandstation / Brandkår – Fire station / Fire brigade
Sjukhus – Hospital
Kafé – Café
Värdshus – Inn
Vandrarhem – Hostel
Köpcentrum – Shopping mall
Livs / Livsmedel – Foods, meaning Supermarket
Mat – Food
Snabbmat – Fast food
Grill – Grill bar
Gatukök – Snack bar
Stad – City
By – Village
Kommun – Municipality
Län – County
Sevärdhet – Place of interest
Färja – Ferry
Bil – Car
Lastbil – Truck, lorry
Långtradare – Semi-truck, articulated lorry
Varning – Warning
Halka – Slippery or icy conditions
Väg – Road
Gata – Street
Gränd – Alley
Trottoar – Pavement
Gångväg / Gågata – Pedestrian zone
Cykelväg – Bicycle zone
Flygplats – Airport
Bro – Bridge
Berg / Fjäll – Mountain
Skog – Forest
Flod / Älv / Fors – River, Rapids
Å – Stream
Ö – Island
Holme – Islet
Badstrand / Strand – Beach
Badsjö – Lake for bathing
Badplats – Outdoor bathing area
Bad – Indoor or outdoor bath, pool, spa
Badhus – Indoor bath, pool, spa
Simbassäng – Swimming pool
Äventyrsbad – Adventure water park
Bastu – Sauna
Nöjespark – Amusement park
Djurpark – Zoo
Intoxicated and careless driving
Do not even think about driving after you have drunk even one beer. The legal limit is .02, which is only a quarter of that in the United States, Canada and Britain. Police at any time, can take blood by force, and if you are over the limit, it's almost automatic jail time. It is also likely that you, as foreigner, will be held in custody awaiting trial (although this time will be deducted from your jail time) for the fear that you might try to leave the country. Also since this is Scandinavia, the fine will be based on your pretax income (dagsböter in Swedish), and can therefore be extremely high. Taking the car keys or similarily disabling a would be drunken driver is considered a responsible and heroic act. Please also bear in mind that offering someone alcohol that one know is driving (e.g. at a party) can be illegal, although of course, it is up to the attourney to prove that you possessed this knowledge.
Driving while intoxicated with medicines or illegal drugs are also very serious offences, with severe punishments.
There are starting 2014 restrictions regarding using a mobile phone while driving in Sweden. Texting and driving is for example not accepted but dialing and driving might be. As the law is new no one really knows. Do though remember that being inadvertent in traffic is a serious offense so exercise caution and do not take any unnecessary risks. Better being safe than sorry!
Keep a safe distance if you spot a vehicle being driven carelessly, and try to get hold of the police.
Keep in mind when trying to overtake a lorry with trailer. That these are often longer than in other European countries. Maximum length is 25.25 meters instead of 18 meters in continental Europe. This is the standard and does not have signs indicating a long vehicle. These vehicles are allowed on all roads unless there's a local weight or length restriction. It's not uncommon to meet these lorries on narrow, curvy rural roads fully loaded with timber. If so, slow down, keep out or find a place wide place to meet, if the road is really narrow.
Around the Midsummer holiday in Sweden (Middle of June) roads all over the whole country is extremely busy and there are many accidents. Try to avoid driving long distances that time of the year and if you drive under Midsummer, be careful and keep the speed limits.
During the summer season there are many fruit stands by the roads selling mostly strawberries but other berries and fruits as well. A nice way to get to know the locals.