Visa issued, accommodation ready, – the last preparations before you leave for Sweden will certainly involve booking tickets and making some banking and insurance arrangements. Your University is likely to provide you with some kind of “International Students Guide to Sweden”. Read that one carefully! Still, some stuff you only learn from practice – and such tips I’ll share in this post.
- Make your card ready to handle Swedish kronor!
Sweden is probably one of the most cash-free countries in the world. You can use a debit card to pay pretty much everywhere (the only exception I encountered were public toilets). Hence, it makes more sense to establish a multi-currency account back home, than to bring cash to Sweden. Of course, banks might charge a bit inflated exchange rates, but local exchanges are usually more expensive still.
Choosing a bank smartly can further reduce your transaction costs. Since you’ll most likely open a Swedish bank account after a while, I would recommend opening a multi-currency card at a bank with branches in Sweden. As a rule, intra-bank international money transfers cost a lot less than those between different banks. So check if you have any Swedish banks back home: Swedbank, SEB, Handelsbanken and Nordea are some of the biggest.
Finally, once you’re ready to open a Swedish account, check Jimmy’s post on Banking in Sweden. Gimmy’s got a point there: opening a bank account here is not a walk in the park… But Jimmy spelled it all out nicely.
- Book low-cost flights, but be ready for high-cost airport transfers!
All the major low cost Airlines fly to Sweden. So if you’re lucky, you might catch really good ticket deals. However, you should factor in skyrocketing bus prices to get from the Airport to Stockholm. Rainbow-colored Flygbussarna coaches can take you to the city for $10-$16. By the way, if you fly to Skavsta Airport, the journey to the city will take you some 1.5 hours, in case of Arlanda Airport – up to 1 hour. Oh, and in case you wanna just call a taxi, prices for those really bite: a $50-$60 is a usual range.
If you’re bringing a lot of luggage, it might cost you an arm and a leg. Make sure you check Gimmy’s advice on getting your stuff shipped to Sweden.
Once you’re in Stockholm, it would make sense to buy three-month metro card right away. It’s much cheaper than buying separate rides, especially with a student discount. You can get a student ticket even though you don’t have a Swedish student ID just yet. In the worst case scenario, if controllers stop you and ask for a student card, you can later show up to the Public Transport Office, once you have a student ID, and they won’t fine you.
- Visit Skatteverket early on!
One of the biggest headaches is to get a personal number from the Local Tax Office – Skatteverket. So I’d recommend Googling the one nearest to your place, and going there once you have your residence permit card, Reference from the University and permanent address. At Skatteverket, you’ll get a personal number and after that – a Swedish ID card, which are necessary to open a bank account in Sweden. I’ve been pretty impressed with how service-oriented Swedish bureaucracy is, but the process still takes around a month until you get an ID card.
It’s true: you might get overwhelmed with checklists, but settling abroad is about the best method to train some useful life skills. For some encouragement on your journey, see Francesca’s post about 7 things to know before you go to Sweden!