American Express -- For local 24-hour customer service in Stockholm, call tel. 08/429-56-00.
Area Code -- The international country code for Sweden is 46. The local city (area) codes are given for all phone numbers in the Sweden chapters.
Business Hours -- Generally, banks are open Monday through Friday from 10am to 3pm. In some larger cities, banks extend their hours, usually on Thursday or Friday, until 5:30pm. Most offices are open Monday to Friday 8:30 or 9am to 5pm (sometimes to 3 or 4pm in the summer); on Saturday, offices and factories are closed, or open for only a half-day. Most stores and shops are open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 6pm, and Saturday from 9:30am to somewhere between 2 and 4pm. Once a week, usually on Monday or Friday, some of the larger stores are open from 9:30am to 7pm (July-Aug to 6pm).
Drinking Laws -- Most restaurants, pubs, and bars in Sweden are licensed to serve liquor, wine, and beer. Some places are licensed only for wine and beer. Purchases of wine, liquor, and imported beer are available only through the government-controlled monopoly Systembolaget. Branch stores, spread throughout the country, are usually open Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm. The minimum age for buying alcoholic beverages in Sweden is 21.
Dentists -- For emergency dental services, ask your hotel or host for the location of the nearest dentist. Nearly all dentists in Sweden speak English.
Doctors -- Hotel desks usually can refer you to a local doctor, nearly all of whom speak English. If you need emergency treatment, your hotel also should be able to direct you to the nearest facility. In case of an accident or injury away from the hotel, call the nearest police station.
Driving Rules -- You drive on the right, and all passengers are required to wear seatbelts. It is mandatory to have low-beam headlights on at all times. Chances are your rental car will have automatic headlights that go on when the engine is turned on. Speed limits depend on the area you're driving through, of course, and are 30kmph (19 mph) in school districts or playground areas, rising to as high as 110kmph (68 mph) on open stretches of express highways.
Drug Laws -- Sweden imposes severe penalties for the possession, use, purchase, sale, or manufacture of illegal drugs. (Illegal is defined much like in the U.S.) Penalties are often (but not always) based on quantity. Possession of a small amount of drugs, either hard or soft, can lead to a heavy fine and deportation. Possession of a large amount of drugs can entail imprisonment from 3 months to 15 years, depending on the circumstances and the presiding judge.
Drugstores -- Called apotek in Swedish, drugstores generally are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 1pm. In larger cities, one drugstore in every neighborhood stays open until 7pm. All drugstores post a list of the names and addresses of these stores (called nattapotek) in their windows.
Electricity -- In Sweden, the electricity is 220 volts AC (50 cycles). To operate North American hair dryers and other electrical appliances, you'll need an electrical transformer (sometimes erroneously called a converter) and plugs that fit the two-pin round continental electrical outlets that are standard in Sweden. Transformers can be bought at hardware stores. Before using any foreign-made appliance, always ask about it at your hotel desk.
Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are in Stockholm. The United States embassy is at Daj Hammarskjölds Väg 31, S-115 89 Stockholm (tel. 08/783-53-00; http://stockholmusembassy.gov). The United Kingdom embassy is at Skarpoügatan 6-8, S-115 93 Stockholm (tel. 08/671-30-00; www.britishembassy.se). The embassy for Canada is at Tegelbacken 4, S-103 23 Stockholm (tel. 08/453-30-00; www.canadaemb.se). The embassy for Australia is at Sergels Torg 12, S-103 86 Stockholm (tel. 08/613-29-00; www.sweden.embassy.gov.au). New Zealand has a consulate on the fourth floor at Stureplan 4C, 114 35 Stockholm (tel. 08/633 116).
Emergencies -- Call tel. 90-000 from anywhere in Sweden if you need an ambulance, the police, or the fire department (brandlarm).
Holidays -- Sweden celebrates the following public holidays: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Epiphany (Jan 6), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day (mid-May), Whitsunday and Whitmonday (late May), Midsummer Day (June 21), All Saints' Day (Nov 1), and Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (Dec 24, 25, and 26, respectively). Inquire at a tourist bureau for the actual dates of the holidays that vary from year to year.
Internet Access -- It's hard nowadays to find a city that doesn't have a few cyber cafes. Although there's no definitive directory for cyber cafes -- these are independent businesses, after all -- two places to start looking are at www.cybercaptive.com and wwws.cybercafe.com.
Language -- The national language is Swedish, a Germanic tongue, and many regional dialects exist. Some minority groups speak Norwegian and Finnish. English is a required course of study in school and is commonly spoken, even in the hinterlands, especially among young people.
Legal Aid -- The American Services section of the U.S. Embassy will give you advice if you run into trouble abroad. They can advise you of your rights and will even provide a list of attorneys (for which you'll have to pay if services are used). But they cannot interfere on your behalf in the legal process of Sweden. For questions about American citizens who are arrested abroad, including ways of getting money to them, telephone the Citizens Emergency Center of the Office of Special Consulate Services in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/647-5225). Citizens of other nations should go to their Stockholm-based consulate for advice.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover that your wallet has been lost or stolen. Your credit card company or insurer also may require you to file a police report and provide a report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's emergency number outside the U.S. is tel. 410/581-3836. American Express cardholders should call collect tel. 336/393-1111. MasterCard holders should call collect tel. 314/542-7111.
Mail -- Post offices in Sweden are usually open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to noon. Sending a postcard to North America costs 7.20SEK ($1.45/75p) by surface mail, 10.50SEK ($2.10/£1.05p) by airmail. Letters weighing not more than 20 grams cost the same. Mailboxes can easily be recognized -- they carry a yellow post horn on a blue background. You can buy stamps in most tobacco shops and stationers.
Newspapers & Magazines -- In big cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg, English-language newspapers, including the latest editions of the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, and the London Times, are usually available. At kiosks or newsstands in major cities, you also can purchase the European editions of Time and Newsweek.
Police -- In an emergency, dial tel. 90-000 anywhere in the country.
Shoe Repair -- Shoe-repair shops rarely accommodate you while you wait. If all you need is a new heel, look for something called klackbar in the stores or shoe departments of department stores. They'll make repairs while you wait.
Smoking -- Smoking was banned in restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs in 2005. Smoking rooms, however, are allowed in these institutions. The smoking rooms contain a few restrictions: No serving or consumption of food or beverages is allowed in the smoking rooms and it may not cover more than 25% of the institution's total area. Smoking is still allowed in hotel rooms and at airports that have designated smoking areas, including most major airports.
Taxes -- Sweden imposes a "value-added tax," called MOMS, on most goods and services. Visitors from North America can beat the tax, however, by shopping in one of the 15,000 stores with the yellow-and-blue tax-free shopping sign. To get a refund, your total purchase must cost a minimum of 200SEK ($40/£20). Tax refunds range from 12.5% to 17.5%, depending on the amount purchased. MOMS begins at 12% on food items but is 25% for most goods and services. The tax is part of the purchase price, but you can get a tax-refund voucher before you leave the store. When you leave Sweden, take the voucher to a tax-free Customs desk at the airport or train station you're leaving from. They will give you your MOMS refund (minus a small service charge) before you continue on to your next non-Swedish destination. Two requirements: You cannot use your purchase in Sweden, and it must be taken out of the country within 1 month after purchase. For more information, call Global Refunds at tel. 08/545-28-440 in Sweden (www.globalrefund.com).
Telephone -- Avoid placing long-distance calls from your hotel, where the charge may be doubled or tripled on your final bill.
Time -- Sweden is on central European time -- Greenwich mean time plus 1 hour, or Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. The clocks are advanced 1 hour in summer.
Tipping -- Hotels include a 15% service charge in your bill. Restaurants add 13% to 15% to your tab. Taxi drivers are entitled to 8% of the fare, and cloakroom attendants usually get 8SEK ($1.60/80p).
Toilets -- The word for toilet in Swedish is toalett, and public facilities are found in department stores, rail and air terminals, and subway (T-bana) stations. DAMER means women and HERRAR means men. Sometimes the sign is abbreviated to D or H, and often the toilet is marked WC. Most toilets are free, although a few have attendants to offer towels and soap. In an emergency, you can use the toilets in most hotels and restaurants, although, in principle, they're reserved for guests.
Water -- The water is safe to drink all over Sweden. However, don't drink water from lakes, rivers, or streams, regardless of how clean it appears.