Driving in Sweden
Driving in Sweden is simple and convenient; roads are generally in very good condition and a road trip is an excellent way of getting around. The traffic load will vary depending on when and where you are driving, but it’s usually very calm and safe. The worst time of year is the weekends around Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter and Midsummer as many Swedes head out on the roads to visit friends and family.
When it comes to driving, Sweden is actually one of the safest countries in the world with the fewest amount of fatal accidents relative to population. Read more about the Vision Zero goal.
However, some basic rules and regulations may differ from other countries and it doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with local policies and customs before getting behind the wheel.
What do I need to know?
You will come a long way by using good judgement and common sense. Compared to many highly populated countries, the traffic in Sweden is often considered to be calmer and slightly less crowded. People generally follow regulations very well and it’s good practice to show consideration and respect for other drivers on the road.
When it comes to official traffic regulations, there are a few things that might differ from what you’re used to. Here are the most basic dos and don’ts of how to drive in Sweden:
- The age limit for driving a car in Sweden is 18
- In Sweden you drive on the right side of the road
- Overtaking is to the left
- Right turn at red light is not allowed
- Seat belt is required by law, even in the backseat
- Using your phone while driving is prohibited and may get you a ticket
- You must always have your headlights switched on, even during daylight. But do not use your full “high beam” when there is risk of blinding oncoming drivers
- Slower traffic keep to the right, and must stay in the rightmost lane to let passing traffic through
- In Sweden you are required to signal when exiting a roundabout
- Snow tires are mandatory between December 1 and March 31
Speed limit is given in km/h (kilometres per hour) and varies between 30 km/h to 120 km/h (about 18-75 mph). There’s a lot of speeding cameras throughout Sweden. Vehicles driving too fast in a monitored area are registered and the drivers are automatically fined. This does not apply to foreign vehicles, registered outside of Sweden, as the system does not have access to international registry. Traditional law enforcement is however still able to stop and indict all vehicles on Swedish roads.
Drinking and driving is prohibited in Sweden. The DUI-limit is 0.02 % and a violation may result in an expensive fine (typically starting at a few thousand SEK) and a suspended driver’s license. Anything above 0.1 % is considered a major violation and may even result in a prison sentence.
The “right hand rule”, or “priority to the right”, applies in Sweden. This means that if no other regulating sign or rule is governing the traffic in an intersection or junction, vehicles coming from the right have priority over those from the left.
Make sure you license is renewed and in order, and check if your missing any supplementary documentation. Read more about valid licenses here.
If you are involved in an accident, or if you’re in need of help along the road, find out more about what to do here.
Swedish road signs are in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, and are very similar to almost every other country in Europe. In other words, there’s nothing strange about them and you shouldn’t run into anything too surprising.
Red stop signs means full stop before continuing, not just slowing down. Failure to do so might result in a pricey ticket.
Major highways are the E-roads marked with green signs – perfect for longer drives when you need to cover some distance. The European Route E4, for example, runs through almost the entire country from Helsingborg in southern Sweden up to the Finnish border in the north.
Cultural and historical sights and scenic routes are marked with brown signs. Keep an eye out for them if you’re not in a hurry – they may be a great opportunity for a quick break or an interesting detour.
Road tolls and taxes in Sweden
There are generally no tolls on public roads in Sweden. The Öresund and Svinesund bridges leading to Denmark and Norway, respectively, might be considered exceptions as they are subject to a fee for passing.
Infrastructural funding and traffic control in Stockholm and Gothenburg is managed using a congestion tax. There are no tolls and cars passing into the cities are registered automatically. If you are renting a car that is registered in Sweden this tax is usually either included or paid together with the final rental bill, ask your rental company to make sure what policy they are using. If you are bringing your own car, registered outside of Sweden, an invoice should be automatically sent to the owner of the vehicle.
You can read more about the congestion tax in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the Swedish Transport Agency.
Ferries are used in many parts of Sweden to reach islands in the archipelago or to cross rivers and straits. They will typically charge a small fee before driving aboard, but do not require any special admittance.
Fueling in Sweden
Getting fuel in Sweden is usually not a big issue. Most gas and petrol stations have automatic pumps where you can pay with either a debit or credit card, as well as a manned store where they also accept cash payment. However, there are also unmanned fueling stations where cash can’t be used, so a debit/credit card with a smart chip is highly recommended when visiting Sweden (not only for fueling purposes). In fact, many Swedes rarely even carry cash.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the number of filling stations has decreased the past few years, especially in rural areas. Many remote stations has shut down as fuel is more expensive and cars can drive much farther before having to stop for gas. Remember to plan ahead when driving in more sparsely populated areas – fill up when you have the chance and you won’t have any problems. Nowadays, there are many helpful travel applications for your smartphone that can help you locate the nearest fuel stations.
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