Welcome to the guide to how to save money and time and avoid confusion, when travelling in and from/to Sweden by train.
Travelling around Sweden by train is generally a joy, the journeys are predominantly fairly scenic, and the trains are comparatively comfortable.
And planning and booking journeys is also comparatively easy too, as Sweden’s national rail operator SJ's ticket booking website is one of the least complicated we've ever used.
However, some pre-planning is generally recommended, particularly if you won't be travelling on routes to/from Göteborg, Malmö or Stockholm, OR plan to travel north of Uppsala.
SJ is the national rail operator in Sweden and it has resumed the majority of it's national timetable, though it's worth checking the information on its coronavirus page.
The ticketing policy information is also on that page.
The national operator SJ, does not have a monopoly on operating Swedish train services.
It has competitors on routes between some cities, see the Content menu, also private operators also provide many of Sweden’s rural train services and on branch lines.
The two main railway lines/networks not operated by SJ are:
(1) the Inlandsbannan, which lives up to its name by providing train services on its lengthy north to south route in central Sweden, that serves many scenic destinations and ski-resorts not reached by SJ trains.
Interchange is available between SJ trains and the Inlandsbannan at several stations.
From north to south they are - Gällivare; Östersund; Mora and Kristinehamn.
(2) the Smalsparet - though the attraction of this line is mainly for those who want to enjoy a nostalgic railway experience.
Eurail and InterRail Passes are valid on both of these railways.
Plus there are SJ Night trains which connect the main cities to the very north of Sweden - and they also operate on most nights of the week between Stockholm and Malmo.
One unusual aspect of Swedish train travel is that SJ operates significantly fewer trains on Saturdays on its long-distance routes, so it can be a particularly good idea to book at least a couple of days ahead if you want to travel on a Saturday.
Eleven Things Worth Knowing about travelling on the Snabbtåg services:
(1) Snabbtåg is the fastest train service in Sweden.
(3) The X2000 trains are also used for the international Snabbtåg services on the Stockholm to Copenhagen and Stockholm to Oslo routes (Swedish IC trains have temporarily taken over on the Stockholm to Oslo route).
(4) Sweden has no high speed lines, so the X2000 trains TILT to make them faster; and they also call at fewer stations than the IC trains, when those trains also share a route.
(5) Despite the lack of high speed lines in Sweden, when you look up journeys on the English language version of the SJ website, 'high speed' is the term that's used to indicate which departures are the Snabbtåg services.
(6) Reservations are compulsory on Snabbtåg services (rail pass users take note), but when booking online or at stations, the reservation is automatically included, at no extra cost!
(7) The seat number will be on your ticket, but the reservation won't be displayed in the seating saloons, so when you just need to match the numbers of the seat(s) to the numbers on your ticket.
(8) When booking first or second class journeys by Snabbtåg trains, on the SJ app AND now the website, you can choose your seat(s) on a seating plan - which is recommended, as not all of the seats on the train are by a window.
(9) Free Wi-Fi is available on Snabbtåg services.
(10) To travel in a quiet zone in which no mobile phone calls are permitted 'Class 2 Calm' tickets need to be selected when booking. They cost more than ordinary 2nd class, but also have same the complimentary catering benefits as 1st class.
(11) The less obvious benefits of travelling in 1st class on Snabbtåg trains include:
Seven things worth knowing :
(1) InterCity trains used to be the top tier SJ trains, but now they typically provide a slower, cheaper and less frequent alternative to the Snabbtåg services.
(2) However, there are no SJ Intercity services on the Stockholm - Malmo route.
(3) Though on certain routes between Stockholm and cities to the north, these IC services are the only express trains operated by SJ.
(4) Seat reservations are included in the price when booking tickets for journeys by SJ, Intercity services.
(5) For rail pass users the reservations fees on these Intercity (IC) trains are optional.
If you do want to reserve, they're much cheaper than the Snabbtåg trains - these rail pass reservations can be booked at on the SJ website.
(6) Free Wi-Fi is available on InterCity services.
(7) Quiet zones are available in both 1st and 2nd class.
Routes that have no Snabbtåg or Intercity services are served by SJ Regional services - these routes include many of the cross country routes that don't serve Stockholm.
Some of SJ’s most modern trains are used for these Regional services.
SJ Regional trains can travel long distances.
Between Stockholm and Göteborg they take a different (but much slower) route to the Snabbtåg trains; but they’re cheaper when the discounted tickets for the Snabbtåg trains have sold out.
Unusually for European regional trains, discounted tickets can be available for journeys by SJ Regional trains:
Öresundståg train services are the regional trains between Denmark and Sweden, but these services also travel fairly long distances in southern Sweden.
All trains between Malmö and both Karlskrona and Kalmar via Växjö are Öresundståg trains.
On the route between Malmö and Göteborg, the Öresundståg trains provide the most frequent (hourly) services - the Snabbtågs are faster, but less frequent.
These trains trains are now once again operating in both directions between Denmark and southern Sweden, as the ID checks are now carried out on the trains.
SJ’s overnight trains connect both Göteborg and Stockholm with northern Sweden and they also operate on the Stockholm - Malmo route, but Vy Nattag trains are now used on the Arctic Circle route between Sweden and Kiruna
An unusual aspect of Swedish train travel is that NON-FOLDING bicycles are not allowed on any train operated by SJ.
Also folding bikes must be placed in a travel bag and stored in the luggage racks at the end of coaches and not in the overhead rack.
Three things worth knowing:
1. Snälltåget trains offer a daytime alternative to SJ's trains on the Stockholm - Malmö route
The company also operates overnight trains between Malmö/Stockholm and the skiing areas in north-west Sweden (Åre and Duved).
Rail pass users should note that rail pass reservation fees also apply to Snälltåget services.
2. MTR now operates the Stockholm commuter train network, but tickets for these trains are not sold online.
SJ’s booking service sells tickets for the trains it operates, the Öresundståg trains and the Snalltaget trains
Some other operators, including MTR Express, only sell tickets for their respective services, so the only means of comparing prices and schedules is to check each company’s website.
Remember that on the SJ booking service, the prices will be displayed in Swedish krona and NOT euros.
Also worth knowing is that the most popular Snabbtåg departures CAN sell out completely days in advance - rail pass users take note.
What's particularly unusual is that because the majority of Swedish train passengers book mid and long distance journey tickets online, conventional ticket offices are now not available in Sweden.
If you want to book tickets at the last minute for a journey by a Snabbtåg or IC service and don't want to use a ticket machine, you may have to seek out a travel agent near the station.
While tickets for local and Regional services are often sold by news stands/kiosks, as alternatives to the machines.
SJ usually places tickets on sale up to six months ahead and it’s worth booking in advance for SJ's train services.
The most heavily discounted SJ tickets are some of Europe’s best rail travel bargains - travel from Stockholm to Malmö for the equivalent of around €22.
The cheapest discounted tickets can be 3 x cheaper than the standard price, but prices can vary widely between different departures on the same date.
So it can be worth being flexible re: departure/arrival times and looking through the departures to find the cheapest fares.
A quirk of SJ’s booking service to look out for, is that when attempting to book too far ahead, before tickets are released for sale, the English translation is 'not available’.
This does not mean that tickets for this train have sold out, what you need to do is check back in a few days to see if the tickets have been released.
Limited numbers of discounted tickets are also available for SJ Regional trains – they're usually a cheaper alternative to the faster express trains on the Stockholm – Göteborg route.
When travelling on a Snabbtåg service or an IC service, the reservations are included in the ticket price when booking 1st or 2nd class tickets online or at stations.
When booking online, or the SJ app, your seat(s) will be automatically assigned.
If a Snabbtåg train is being used for your chosen departure, you will be able to select specific seats from a seating plan.
If an IC train is being used for your chosen departure, you will be able to select your type of seat - window or aisle etc.
If your journey is by SJ Regional trains; when 1st class is available and you book 1st class tickets, seat reservations are complimentary.
If you book 2nd class tickets on these trains, you can opt to add a reservation to your booking for 50 kr.
SJ’s booking system will sell tickets for journeys to Copenhagen/København and Oslo - and to Norwegian stations that the trains from Sweden call at.
It doesn't sell tickets to destinations in Denmark or Norway that require a change of train
If you will be travelling with children, for each adult ticket booked, discounts can USUALLY be applied to two children aged 15 and under.
However, be aware that different terms apply to child tickets, depending on the type of train service that you will be taking.
Whether you need to make reservations for journeys within Sweden is dependent on the type of train service you travel by.
All rail pass reservations can be booked on the SJ (Swedish Railways) website - up to 3 months ahead of the travel date
Travel by Snabbtåg services, the fastest trains in Sweden, and you MUST reserve prior to boarding
The fees are 1st class = €15.50; 2nd class = €7 (equivalent prices will be charged in Swedish krona)
These fees ALSO need to be paid in advance when taking these trains to Copenhagen and Oslo*.
Or you can avoid these fees by taking alternative routes when travelling from Stockholm to Copenhagen/Kobenhavn or from Stockholm to Oslo.
Booking in advance is recommended for the international services, seats can sell out days in advance - bookings open 3 months ahead.
*IC trains are currently being used instead of Snabbtåg trains on the Stockholm ↔ Olso route and rail pass reservations are also mandatory on these trains.
Travel by SJ Intercity within Sweden or on the SJ Regional* trains and reservations are OPTIONAL for rail pass users.
The fees for both 1st and 2nd class pass users = the equivalent of €3
*There are fairly frequent Regional trains between Stockholm and Gothenburg.
This is one of more than 150 train guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.