Within Sweden -- Stockholm is Sweden's major gateway for Scandinavia's best-known airline, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), while the airport at Gothenburg supplements Stockholm by funneling traffic into the Swedish heartland. In the mid-1990s, SAS acquired LIN Airlines (Linjeflyg); thus, it now has access to small and medium-size airports throughout Sweden, including such remote but scenic outposts as Kiruna in Swedish Lapland. Among the larger Swedish cities serviced by SAS are Malmö, Karlstad, and Kalmar.
During the summer, SAS offers a number of promotional "minifares," which enable one to travel round-trip between two destinations for just slightly more than the price of a conventional one-way ticket on the same route. Children under 12 travel free during the summer, and up to two children 12 to 17 can travel with a parent at significantly reduced rates. Airfares tend to be most reduced during July, with promotions almost as attractive during most of June and August. A minimum 3-night stopover at the destination is required for these minifares, and it must include a Friday or a Saturday night. When buying your tickets, always ask the airline or travel agency about special promotions and corresponding restrictions.
Those under 26 can take advantage of SAS's special standby fares, and seniors over 65 can apply for additional discounts, depending on the destination.
Within Scandinavia -- The best way to get around the whole of Scandinavia is to take advantage of the air passes that apply to the entire region or, if you're traveling extensively in Europe, to use the special European passes. The vast distances of Scandinavia encourage air travel between some of its most far-flung points. One of the most worthwhile promotions is SAS's Visit Scandinavia Airpass. This pass, available only to travelers who fly SAS across the Atlantic, includes up to eight coupons, each of which is valid for any SAS flight within or between Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Each coupon costs $96, $128, or $160, a price that's especially appealing when you consider that an economy-class ticket between Copenhagen and Stockholm can cost as much as 1,250SEK ($250/£125) each way. The pass is especially valuable if you plan to travel to the far northern frontiers of Sweden; in that case, the savings over the price of a regular economy-class ticket may be substantial. For information on purchasing the pass, call SAS (tel. 800/221-2350).
The Swedish word for train is tåg, and the national system is the Statens Järnvägar, the Swedish State Railways.
Swedish trains follow tight schedules. Trains leave Malmö, Helsingborg, and Gothenburg for Stockholm every hour throughout the day, Monday through Friday. Trains depart every hour, or every other hour, to and from most big Swedish towns. On expresståg runs, seats must be reserved.
Children under 12 travel free when accompanied by an adult, and those up to age 18 are eligible for discounts.
Rail lines cover only some of Sweden's vast distances. Where the train tracks end, buses usually serve as the link to remote villages. Buses are often equipped with toilets, adjustable seats, reading lights, and a telephone. Fares depend on the distance traveled. The one-way fare for the 525km (326-mile) trip from Stockholm to Gothenburg is 170SEK to 270SEK ($34-$53/£17-£27). Swebus (tel. 036/290-80-00; www.swebusexpress.se), the country's largest bus company, provides information at the bus or railway stations in most cities. For travelers who don't buy a special rail pass (such as Eurail or ScanRail), bus travel can sometimes be cheaper than traveling the same distances by rail. It's a lot less convenient, however -- except in the far north, where there isn't any alternative.
By Car Ferry
Considering that Sweden has some 100,000 lakes and one of the world's longest coastlines, ferries play a surprisingly small part in its transportation network.
After the car ferry crossings from northern Germany and Denmark, the most popular route is from the mainland to the island of Gotland, in the Baltic. Service is available from Oskarshamn and Nynäshamn (tel. 0771/22-33-00 for information). The famous "white boats" of the Waxholm Steamship Company (tel. 08/679-58-30; www.waxholmsbolaget.se) also serve many destinations in the Stockholm archipelago.
Sweden maintains an excellent network of roads and highways, particularly in the southern provinces and in the central lake district. Major highways in the far north are kept clear of snow by heavy equipment that's in place virtually year-round. If you rent a car at any bona fide rental agency, you'll be given the appropriate legal documents, including proof of adequate insurance (in the form of a "Green Card"), as specified by your car-rental agreement. Current driver's licenses from Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States are acceptable in Sweden.
Rentals -- The major U.S.-based car-rental firms are represented throughout Sweden, both at airports and in urban centers. The companies' rates are aggressively competitive, although promotional sales will favor one company over the others from time to time. Prior to your departure from North America, it will be advantageous to shop around to find the lowest available rates. Membership in AAA or another auto club may enable you to get a moderate discount. Be aware that you may avoid a supplemental airport tax by picking up your car at a central location rather than at the airport.
Avis (tel. 800/331-1212; www.avis.com) offers a wide variety of cars and has offices in all major cities in Sweden. Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131; www.hertz.com) has offices located in all major cities, as well as major airports.
One auto supplier that might not automatically come to mind is Kemwel (tel. 800/678-0678; www.kemwel.com), a broker that accumulates into one database the availability of rental cars in markets across Europe, including Sweden. Originally established in 1908, and now operating in close conjunction with its sister company, Auto Europe (tel. 800/223-5555; www.autoeurope.com), it offers convenient and prepaid access to thousands of cars from a variety of reputable car-rental outfits throughout Europe, sometimes at rates a bit more favorable than those you might have gotten if you had gone through the hassle of contacting those companies directly. Car rentals are prereserved and prepaid, in dollars, prior to your departure for Europe, thereby avoiding the confusion about unfavorable currency conversions and government tax add-ons that you might have discovered after your return home. You're given the option, at the time of your booking, whether you want to include collision damage and other forms of insurance. Most car rentals can be picked up at the airport or in the downtown offices of cities throughout Sweden, and there's usually no penalty for one-way rentals.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.