Is Sweden Expensive? A Cost of Living Guide

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Is Sweden more expensive than the UK?

Sweden has a reputation for being an expensive place to visit but the facts are that living in the country is more affordable than you’d think.

In recent metrics conducted by online consumer price database, Numbeo, Sweden ranks as 15th on the cost of living index globally. The United Kingdom is ranked 23rd.

Cost of Living: Sweden vs The UK

Cost of Living Guide: Sweden vs The UK

Cost of Living Guide: Sweden vs. The UK

As a European country, Sweden is ranked 7th (behind Ireland, Iceland, and Switzerland) with the UK being ranked 12th.

The bigger picture however is not as simple as comparing the two countries directly. The cost of living very much depends on whereabouts in Sweden you are moving to and the level of comparable salary you are likely to command. For comparison purposes, where you are moving from is also a major factor.

Overall, the cost of living in Sweden measure by consumer prices (including rent) are approximately 1.90% higher than in the UK.

Some typical comparisons in the cost of living can be drawn up as follows:

Item for comparisonUKSwedenDifference
Domestic Beer 0.5l£3.50£5.46+56.13%
Loaf of Bread£0.93£1.88+100.6%
Pack of Premium Cigarettes£9.00£5.33-40.80%
Petrol (per litre)£1.08£1.21+11.73%
Monthly pass local transport£60.00£68.31+13.85%
Monthly Utilities (small home)£138.78£58.21-58.05%
Pair of Jeans (Levis or similar)£56.43£77.61+37.53%
Rent – 1 Bed Apartment (not city)£610.98£458.92-24.89%
Disposable monthly salary£1611.12£1842.45+14.36%
Hotel stay£76.18£161.18+111.58%

Whilst the consumer prices and groceries are considerably more expensive it is the basic cost of living with rent and utilities being lower. With a greater disposable income, the gap between the two countries certainly gets smaller.

As in the UK, the differences get greater depending on the region you are looking at including, whether you are looking at cities vs towns.

London vs Stockholm

However the differences are reversed and much larger when we start to compare the cost of living in the two capital cities of London and Stockholm.

Overall, to maintain the same standard of living in Stockholm as that in London, you would pay almost 20% less.

But how does this break down?

There is no surprise that the biggest difference is in the cost of renting property with like for like prices being 44.89% lower in Stockholm than London. Despite grocery costs being 28.78% higher in Stockholm, local purchasing power is 25% greater and eating out at a restaurant is 5.27% cheaper.

So, if your annual outgoings in London are £36,000 you would be saving just over £7,000 every year without having to give up your lifestyle.

Halmstad vs Dover

When it comes to living outside of the main cities, the cost of living can be much higher than the UK. Comparing Halmstad (a city with a university, industrial port and a population of approximately 100,000) with Dover, the cost (including rent) is 9.30% higher in Sweden meaning your £36,000 would need to be supplemented by an extra £3.3k to maintain your standard of living. Again, it is the comparative cost of renting which can push this up with costs in Halmstad being 15.22% higher.

How do house prices compare?

So, if rent is one of the big factors that separates the cost of living in the UK and Sweden, how do house prices compare?

The country is not a big rental community and demand for housing has been increasing however the rate of building has not. Sweden has one of the lowest housebuilding rates in Europe.

As a result, the housing market in Sweden has seen big increases in 2016 with the eight national areas rising as follows:

National Area (Riksområden)Year on Year Increase – Inflation Adjusted
RIKS1 Stockholm13.14%
RIKS2 Eastern Central10.96%
RIKS3 Småland with the islands7.69%
RIKS4 South Sweden6.5%
RIKS5 West Sweden10.03%
RIKS6 Northern Central Sweden9.07%
RIKS7 Central Norrland10.48%
RIKS8 Upper Norrland13.58%

The average cost to buy Sweden is £3,467 per m2 and in Stockholm it’s £8,045. This compares to £2,216 in UK and, depending on the area, £5,000-£10,000 in London.

However, with mortgage rates some 41.21% lower and higher annual salaries, the affordability may well be more achievable than it would seem at first glance.

The five most expensive cities to purchase property in Sweden are:

  • Stockholm
  • Gothenburg
  • Uppsala
  • Lund
  • Malmo
Stockholm, Sweden: One of Europe's most beautiful capital cities

Stockholm, Sweden: One of Europe’s most beautiful (and expensive) capital cities

Some other things to consider

Whilst the above data covers the general costs associated with running a home including groceries and personal shopping there are some costs which aren’t covered, including healthcare and education.

In the UK, the NHS is entirely free (apart from prescription fees) whereas in Sweden the largely state funded healthcare system does incur additional charges. Annual top-ups to see a doctor are unlikely to exceed £100 but you may wish to consider private healthcare.

University education is free to Swedish residents but, as is the case with the UK, fees of between £7,200 to £9,000 per year do apply.

Have you made the switch from the UK to Sweden or Stockholm to London?

What happened to your cost of living after the move?

Let us know your experiences below.


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