Unfortunately the places that drew my attention most when it came to traveling are also the most expensive places on earth.
As kid I was fascinated by Vikings. They were my thing. Not cowboys, Indians, ninjas, samurais, pirates, or astronauts. Vikings were it. Why? They ruined everyone’s shit.
So when I first decided to start traveling the world, naturally I decided to start where where my obsession lied, Scandinavia. Home of the Vikings.
When I first touched down in Stockholm, Sweden for the first time I quickly realized that I was in over my head when it came to my finances.
Here’s a quick rundown of the average cost of goods and accommodation from the travelers standpoint:
Bed at hostel for one person for one night: $30 minimum.
Metro card for all buses, subways, and ferries for 72 hours: $65. For one month $100.
One cheeseburger at McDonald’s: $1.75
Average Combo Meal at McDonald’s: $10
I could go on and on but as you can see, everything is ridiculously expensive.
Ten bucks for a Big Mac Combo? I mean… jesus.
Also, fast food is NOT cheap. Just fast and unhealthy.
Here are some ways to stretch your travel dollar and save on food in one of the most expensive countries on the planet.
1. Buy food from Asian and Ethnic food markets.
Even the basic, healthy foods can be wallet breaking at the local markets so I seek out ethnic and Asian markets to save a ton of money. Scandinavia in general is home to thousands upon thousands of immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and eastern Europe. And with those immigrants come their food markets. I have a personal preference to the Asian markets because I find them to generally be the cheapest and the tastiest. I love Asian food anyway so that’s where I go.
If I’m really running tight, I’ll grab up a crap ton of their version of Ramen Noodles. There’s a lot of different delicious flavors and you can mix them together to make an entirely new taste. And the best part? They’re about a buck a piece. Ideally, you wouldn’t want to consist your whole diet on these because it is pretty damn unhealthy and will open you up to sickness after a while.
Basics are cheaper here too. Customarily expensive items like fish and seafood are close to dirt cheap in these markets. Most seafood is healthy and delicious so I try to stock up on as much crab and fish as I can and cook it up at the hostel or park with a grill. I try to also get plenty of rice and beans. It’s healthy and cheap.
How do you find these markets? Easy.
Either Google them or ask a stranger. Almost everyone speaks fluent Engrish so you shouldn’t have a problem if you ask nicely.
2. Street vendors:
A little more expensive than markets but still relatively cheap compared to fast food joints and traditional restaurants are the street vendors. They are little stalls that sell cans of soda, bottled water, and different burgers and hot dogs. A meal of a hot dog, drink, and a bag of chips will run you about six bucks. Again, you don’t want to comprise your whole diet of this because six bucks per meal adds up quickly and can be unhealthy after a while. It’s hard to enjoy the sights and your time there if you’re feeling sluggish and fat.
Unless you’re fat already and used to waddling around.
3. Window Shop:
Most restaurants advertise specials in the windows along with posting the menu to look at before you walk in. What you want to look for are lunch and combo specials. Lunch is generally way cheaper than dinner and the combos will usually include a beer or drink with the meal.
There are plenty of places that offer a buffet at a set price. They’re usually Chinese/Japanese buffets and they get really busy with the business lunch crowd. Also if you’re sneaky enough when it’s busy, you can shove food in a plastic bag for later if you’re really strapped.
I would suggest taking some time to walk the areas where the restaurants are and make notes of what restaurants have specials you like, when they are available, and make notes of them in a notepad to reference later.
This has two benefits:
1. Your own personal use
2. To help others
When you’re at the hostel at night and people want to go out, you can whip out your list of what is available at different places and you could be the ‘go to guy’. Everyone loves the ‘go to guy’ (or girl).
4. Seven Eleven’s, Pressbyrans, and other Qwikie Marts:
Seven Eleven’s abound in Sweden. They also have Pressbyrans on almost every corner and sometimes two or three on each corner. They’re everywhere. Pressbyrans are the Qwikie Marts of Sweden. They have everything you could need on the go and they have good coffee/donut specials.
You can also walk the neighborhoods picking fruit from the trees. A lot of houses have fruit trees in their front yards that include apples, oranges, and my favorite, pears. Scavenging is a great way to get a free cheap meal. However, if I want to fill up a plastic bag full I will ask the homeowner for permission first. It’s only right.
Sweden Travel Guide