How do I pay for things in Sweden (with some constraints)
September 23, 2019 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I will have to be in Stockholm for nine days in October, without credit cards or a mobile phone. How difficult is it going to be to get around/pay for things?

My previous trips to Europe have always been within EU territories and accomodation and so on was provided. In this case it is not. On those previous trips I always paid for things in cash, in Euros and occasionally local currencies). But I understand Sweden is basically cashless at this point and many places do not accept it at all.

In this case my primary concerns are 1) being able to get from the airport to my hotel; b) being able to settle my hotel bill and c) being able to eat. I do not have a credit card or access to one. I do have a chipped Canadian debit card that my bank assures me will function internationally, and more than sufficient cash reserves, but transactions may require some sort of verification involving access to a mobile, which I don't have (and ideally don't want, though I am thinking about a temporary prepaid mobile if it seems absolutely necessary).

I will mostly be at the studio where I will be working while I am there and at my B&B (in close walking distance). It is unlikely that I will be out and about in the city much apart from the airport on arrival/departure.

Any tips are much appreciated.

(This is my first ask, I hope I've done this correctly!)
posted by remembrancer to Travel & Transportation around Stockholm, Sweden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was in Sweden a couple years ago, with dumb American cards that weren't tied to a PIN, and had no issues, even with paying for things in cash.
posted by LionIndex at 9:32 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

You should be fine with your chipped debit card. And there are still taxis in Sweden- I was there a few months ago (in Malmö) and saw quite a few. I wouldn't worry if I were you, you shouldn't need mobile verification for any in person purchases as long as your bank knows that you'll be in Sweden.
posted by mollywas at 9:33 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

I did not use a lot of cash while in Stockholm. One cafe informed me that they were card only, but I did not try frequently. My US based credit cards (no chip) worked fine, and I suspect debit card would have as well.

I recall that the train from the airport (which is cheaper and faster than a taxi) has a chip-only CC machine, but the help desk at the airport that's RIGHT next to it was able to sort me out.
posted by Phredward at 9:35 AM on September 23, 2019

I'd be most concerned about the hotel. Many hotels put a significant funds holds on a debit card in case there's damage or extra charges. If you don't have enough of a reservoir of cash in a debit account, this could be a big problem. The holds can take many days to be removed, especially in cases of foreign transactions. If your more than sufficient cash reserves can accomodate this, I think you're fine.
posted by quince at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2019

Not sure if Stockholm has changed drastically in the two years since I've been there, but I mostly used cash when I visited there in 2017. The only times I had to use a card was for train tickets/metro passes. I had no problem using cash for most everything else. (I didn't stay in a hotel, however.)
posted by VirginiaPlain at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2019

I was in Stockholm last month.

The main issue may be buses, since the machines to buy tickets only seem to take cards, but your chipped Canadian one should work. You can buy your bus ticket in the airport at a machine while you wait for your luggage to come out.

Places that take cash usually have a sign out front. The only time in four days that I ever saw someone use cash was at a fast food restaurant (Max), so that should OK, at least in some places.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2019

Be sure you notify your bank of your specific country of travel and dates of travel, rather than a generic "does this work internationally". My credit union will frequently fraud-block any/all transactions from my debit card it thinks could be suspicious, even within the United States. And you may not be able to get that block rapidly lifted when you are anywhere from 6-9 hours ahead.

You might want to consider a prepaid Visa card of the kind that Travelex et al sell.
posted by scolbath at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

See if the studio will loan you a phone.
posted by Mistress at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2019

Yes: buses are often cash-free these days. Other than that, some coffee places and lunch restaurants have started cash-free, but not all, which will give you the option to go to the next one and try again. Your debit card however is likely ok as others have said.
posted by Namlit at 12:18 PM on September 23, 2019

Have you considered a prepaid currency card? We use one of these for EU travel from the UK and you might even find it saves you some money on exchange rates. We use Caxton cards, which is chipped but doesn't have the swipe only feature that is common on most UK cards for payment under £30.

I don't know what they do in Stockholm but for buses can you prepay for a certain amount of trips and get the ticket on a phone app?
posted by biffa at 1:14 PM on September 23, 2019

Thanks for all the feedback, folks! My bank apparently doesn't do prepaid cards, which would have been my first choice, but the replies here are encouraging. As someone who can barely organise their way out of the house on an average day, all of this is very helpful!
posted by remembrancer at 3:33 PM on September 23, 2019

My wife is from Sweden, so I've spent a lot of time there. And I think you will be fine. Can I ask why aren't you going to have a phone if your debit card might require it? Even if you don't have data you can use it on wifi.

It seems you've already checked with your bank to make sure your debit card will work. So just draw out cash. If you have a daily limit see if your bank will up it. Also, I would email the hotel to see if you can pay cash.
posted by nomdicstephen at 7:54 AM on September 27, 2019

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