Sweden may be world-famous for IKEA and ABBA, but this Scandinavian country has so much more to offer. The 7.6 million international tourists the country received in 2019 certainly know that this is true.
You can spend days visiting the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, alone, from the medieval alleyways of Gamla Stan to the beautiful islands of the Stockholm archipelago that make for a great natural getaway.
Check out other cities, such as sophisticated Malmo and cultural hub Gothenburg. Sweden is also perfect for getting out into nature, whether you cycle the south or search for Northern Lights closer to the Arctic.
Sweden certainly has much to offer everyone, from nature lovers to gourmands to lovers of pop music. That is why so many people visit each year, but before you join them, you might be wondering if it is safe to do so.
This travel guide can help you prepare for anything you might encounter in Sweden. Keep reading to learn about any safety precautions that you have to take.
Is Sweden Safe to Visit in 2024?
Yes. Sweden is incredibly safe to visit thanks to its general high level of security and low crime rate.
However, bad things such as crime do occur, so it’s important that you don’t leave caution completely at home during your trip. Plus, do your research and take precautions when heading out into nature, a popular activity for many visitors to the country.
Sweden routinely tops lists of the safest countries in the world.
Despite this caution, some countries actually advise that their citizens exercise increased caution in Sweden! For example, the United States puts Sweden under a Level Two travel advisory. The main reason it cites is the risk of terrorism.
Other problems that travelers might encounter in Sweden include:
- Bag snatching
- Tourist scams
- Gang violence
It’s important to note that the rate of all of these incidents is fairly low, although they are present. The biggest reason most countries advise their citizens to be cautious when visiting Sweden is terrorism.
According to assessments by the U.S. State Department, Sweden has a high risk of terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists and by far-right/Nazi terrorists.
Swedish security services have raised the alarm about national networks of violent right-wing extremists that plan to carry out attacks targeting Muslims and other religious minorities and Sweden’s immigrant communities.
According to the Swedish Police, the terrorist threat in the country is currently at Level Three, which means that there is an elevated risk of a terrorist attack happening.
Analysts are worried that attacks might happen in response to recent agitations by far-right extremists in Sweden that publicly burned the Quran. Attacks often target crowded public places where visitors might be.
The police provide advice for what to do in case an attack happens. Try to escape the area, hide if escape is not possible, and follow instructions by authorities.
However, it’s important to put the risk of terrorism in Sweden into perspective. There hasn’t been a major terrorist attack in Sweden since the 2017 attacks in Stockholm. The likelihood that a terrorist attack will occur in Sweden during your trip is very low.
Besides threats from humans, you also need to be aware of threats from nature when visiting. Many people visit the country with the hope of exploring its natural wonders, but the country’s harsh winters can be inhospitable.
The Swedish government offers tips for safely exploring Sweden’s nature, such as sharing your itinerary, wearing bright clothing to deter hunters and wild animals, and bringing extra supplies in case you get lost.
You have to take additional precautions if you are visiting the Arctic areas of Sweden. The UK government warns its citizens in a special section on Arctic travel that search and rescue capacities near the pole are limited in case an accident happens.
Try to travel with an organized tour such as a cruise and research the tour provider ahead of time to find out about their safety measures.
Crime in Sweden
Crime is the most likely problem to affect you during your visit in Sweden, simply because it is more common than terrorist attacks and getting stranded in the wilderness. The crime rate in Sweden is low to moderate.
The overall crime rate is 13,803 incidents per 100,000 people, which is a moderate rate.
The vast majority of crimes committed in Sweden are minor offenses or petty property crimes — the most common category of crime in the country is theft.
Bicycle theft is one of the most common forms of theft in Sweden. Sweden has a very low rate of violent crime. The homicide rate is just 1 incident per 100,000 people according to data from the World Bank.
Although this homicide rate is higher than in other Nordic countries such as Finland, it is one of the lowest homicide rates in Europe and in the world.
Since homicide rates are usually indicative of other violent crime rates, it’s safe to assume that the overall violent crime rate in Sweden is also low. There are some worrying trends in Swedish crime.
According to the official Swedish Crime Survey, 19.5% of Swedes reported being exposed to a crime during the year. That is higher than last decade, although crime is declining from its recent peak in 2016.
Many locals are also worried about the increase in violent crime, driven by the increase in gang violence in big cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo.
Stockholm alone experienced 126 shootings in 2022, most the result of gangs fighting for territory in the drug trade. Although most gang violence is retaliatory against members of other gangs, the methods they use mean that civilians often get caught in the crossfire.
Despite the increase in violent crime recently, Sweden is still one of the safest countries in the world. Its cities still have lower crime rates than most cities in the United States.
The most likely crime you will encounter in Sweden is petty theft. Common forms of theft are pickpocketing, bag snatching, and bike theft. Although petty theft rates are much lower in Sweden than in many other European countries, it is still a risk that tourists might encounter.
The Australian government warns about the risk of petty theft in its travel advisory for Sweden. Theft incidents are most common in big cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Thieves operate on public transportation, around bus and train stations, and in areas popular among tourists. According to the UK government, tourists are often targeted for theft because of their cash and passports.
One area where you have to be careful is restaurants and cafes. Thieves take advantage of people relaxing in a place where they think they are safe from theft and take unattended items and bags.
Never leave items such as phones or wallets on the table, especially not if you are sitting on an outdoor terrace. Never let your bag hang off the back of your chair as that makes it easy to snatch. Hold it on your lap instead.
Thieves often work in groups in crowded areas.
Make sure that you have a firm grasp on your valuables whenever you are in a place with a lot of other people. Beware of people that seem too eager to get your attention as thieves often use distraction tactics to take advantage of their victims.
Although violent crime rarely affects tourists in Sweden, assault rates have been rising across the country. Much of this violence is fueled by gang activity.
The Canadian government warns about the risk of violent crime linked to gangs. Gang violence is usually directed at specific individuals, but the methods gangs use such as explosive devices mean that civilians often get caught in the crossfire.
Attacks have happened at public areas such as bars and restaurants (although usually not in areas frequented by tourists). You can take some precautions to protect yourself from this violence.
Always be careful of unattended packages. Be alert to your surroundings — if you notice that situation seems tense, get out of there first, ask questions later.
Gang violence may grab the headlines, but many assaults are not related to something quite so grand. Alcohol-related assaults happen, especially during Sweden’s long summer days when the entire country takes hedonism a bit too seriously.
Don’t overindulge when drinking. If you notice a dispute, get out of the bar or club you are in. Don’t rise to provocation and if someone threatens you, alert a bouncer.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Like most cities around the world, Sweden’s big cities have certain areas that are more dangerous than others.
In Stockholm, be careful in:
Most of these neighborhoods are located on the outskirts of the city, so you are unlikely to wander into them by accident.
In Gothenburg, dangerous neighborhoods include:
In Malmo, be careful around:
- Sodra Sofielund
Ask a local for more advice on specific areas to avoid.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when getting ready for your trip to Sweden:
- Be careful in taxis. Sweden may be safer than many other countries, but some things are universal, and that is the fact that some taxi drivers take advantage of foreigners to scam them. The Swedish taxi system is not regulated well, so research trusted cab companies in the city you will be visiting and only ride with them.
- Crime increases in the summer. If you are visiting during Sweden’s famously lengthy summer days, make sure that you keep a firm grasp on your valuables.
- Buy good travel insurance before going on adventure tours. If something happens, especially in the Arctic where medical facilities are few and far between, you may need medical evacuation. You don’t want to worry about the cost while you are in distress.
- In the summer, be careful of Swedish wildlife. In the forests, don’t approach wild animals such as bears and moose, no matter how cute they are. Smaller animals are far more dangerous — Sweden has a growing tick and mosquito problem. Wear insect repellent and tick-proof clothing when you go hiking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the most common questions fellow visitors to Sweden have asked before:
Is it safe to walk at night in Sweden?
Sweden is generally safe to walk at night, especially in the summer when the sun does not really set. However, avoid neighborhoods with unsafe reputation in the evening hours, even in the summer when it may not technically be dark yet.
Is it safe to visit Sweden in 2023?
Yes, Sweden is safe to visit in 2023. Although there have been news reports about the crime rate rising this year, the country is still much safer than many of its neighbors.
Is Sweden safe for female tourists?
Sweden is one of the safest places in the world for female tourists. However, harassment and assault can still happen, especially in bars and clubs, so make sure that you take precautions while you are in town.
Is it safe to walk in Stockholm at night?
Stockholm is Sweden’s biggest city and has the highest crime rates. However, as long as you stick to safe neighborhoods and well-lit areas, even Stockholm is safe to walk around at night.
Is Sweden very expensive?
The price of all that safety is high — literally. Sweden is an expensive country to visit as the cost of living and many amenities, from accommodation to alcohol, is among the highest in Europe.
So, Is Sweden Safe to Visit?
Sweden has some problems, just like any place in the world. However, it is a very safe place to visit.
Just make sure that you still take basic precautions to keep yourself safe during your trip, such as keeping a firm grasp on your valuables, leaving tense situations, and following the news to alert yourself to potentially dangerous situations.
So, with so much to see and do, and a very safe environment in the country, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Sweden has to offer. Happy travels!