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From our recent trip to Sweden and Finland
Old 06-30-2016, 04:05 PM   #1
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From our recent trip to Sweden and Finland

We just came back from a fabulous trip to Sweden, Estonia and Finland. I thought I'd share some thoughts on the aspects that people here discuss often.

Hotels:
We got good deals from AARP (expedia/aarp), tripadvisor, hotels.com and airbnb. When rates were more or less equal, we used hotels.com because of the free nights. We used airbnb for longer stays.

Smart Phones:
We used local SIM cards in Sweden and Finland. It is a 2 part process - pay for the SIM card and then for the plan or credit. Adding the plan or credit to the phone involves punching in a code that was carrier dependent. (eg *110*couponcode# - in sweden). Just ask the store clerk for help. SIM cards and credit available at convenience stores.
We used Comviq in Sweden and weren't happy with its coverage in rural areas. We were later told that Tele2 is a better option. We used DNA in Finland and were happy with its coverage and data speeds everywhere.
We find the phones invaluable as travel tools.

Rental cars:
- No issues. We used Hertz in Sweden and Sixt in Finland. Hertz upgraded us to a Volvo V60 which had a cruise mode that automatically slowed the car to match the speed of the vehicle ahead of us. That was very cool.

Credit Cards:
What a pain! We felt like second class citizens in Sweden being asked for ID very often in addition to signature. That didn't happen in Estonia or Finland, but we had to sign.
A few gas stations and ticket machines were completely automated and we were glad we had the Barclays card that could deal with a chip/pin. But, it defaulted to chip/signature if possible.

Food:
Loved the pastries and we both enjoy fish. Had our fill! Alcohol is very expensive, so we didn't have a drink with meals as often as we usually do.

Laundry:
There are almost no public laundromats in Sweden or Finland. Choose hotels with that option at strategic points in your trip. Use google translate to understand the instructions.

Experience:
Stockholm is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful people too and well dressed. I think it doesn't get the recognition it deserves. We spent 5 days there and loved it.
Helsinki : Beautiful too, but much smaller than Stockholm.
Tallinn : Gorgeous medieval town.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. DW reconnected with relatives she hadn't seen for a while and others that she met for the first time. Experiencing 24 hours of light, and seeing how the sun rises almost in the North (2:30a), circles overhead and then sets (11:45p) just a few degrees west of where it rose, was amazing.

I'll be happy to answer any questions if I can.
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Old 06-30-2016, 09:33 PM   #2
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We returned last September from a cruise from Copenhagen to Warnemunde, Tallin, St. Petersburg (2 days), Helsinki, Stockholm and back to Copenhagen. We then flew to Oslo and took the Norway in a Nutshell train/ferry to Bergen.

Our cruise was very attractively priced, and it would be a trip of a lifetime for those less traveled. St. Petersburg was the highlight and one of the great cities of the world. We also loved Copenhagen and spent time before and after our cruise there.

Let me just say that traveling on the ground in Scandinavia is deadly expensive. Two burgers/fries/Cokes in TGI Fridays is $60--ouch. Cruises are the preferred manner of travel--as a big money saver.

We always choose to travel with a $.20 voice/unlimited free text program from T Mobile. I prefer to communicate with family by WiFi and a 1 lb. Chromebook.

I also agree with your assessments of the cities you traveled to. We did find the Scandinavian people to be very nice and approachable people. If you think they're beautiful in Stockholm, you ought to see the well bred people of Bergen, Norway.

It's just a shame that the farther you go north, the worse the weather gets after September 1st. Many countries look at 20 days of rain in September, and temperatures drop dramatically then. But the Summer weather's the time to go to the region.

Scandinavia is truly a special place to visit as a tourist.
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Old 07-01-2016, 06:19 AM   #3
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Let me just say that traveling on the ground in Scandinavia is deadly expensive. Two burgers/fries/Cokes in TGI Fridays is $60--ouch. Cruises are the preferred manner of travel--as a big money saver.
I don't know how it is in the US - but here in Norway TGI Fridays is definately an expensive place to get a meal. I guess they are foreign and exotic to us and let that determine their price level.
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Old 07-01-2016, 01:50 PM   #4
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I don't know how it is in the US - but here in Norway TGI Fridays is definately an expensive place to get a meal. I guess they are foreign and exotic to us and let that determine their price level.
Norway is definitely on our list, but probably a couple of years away.

We didn't visit any American chains, but found restaurant food to be quite expensive compared to prices in the US. Since we stayed in Airbnb aparments in a couple of places and an extended stay apartment at another, we would occasionally pick up food at the food hall or grocery store and eat at home. Pizzas (which were very good) and asian ethnic food (we had a very good thai meal in helsinki) seems more reasonably priced. We ate more fish in 3 weeks there than we do in months here and loved every bite.

Do you have any tips on eating out for less in Scandinavia?
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Old 07-01-2016, 08:03 PM   #5
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I don't know how it is in the US - but here in Norway TGI Fridays is definately an expensive place to get a meal. I guess they are foreign and exotic to us and let that determine their price level.
Our TGI Fridays are considered medium priced "fern bar" restaurants. For what we paid $60 for, we'd be paying $25 or slightly less in the U.S.

If our cost of groceries and restaurant food was as much as in Scandanavia, North Americans wouldn't be so overweight and unhealthy.
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Old 07-02-2016, 03:32 AM   #6
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Our TGI Fridays are considered medium priced "fern bar" restaurants. For what we paid $60 for, we'd be paying $25 or slightly less in the U.S.

If our cost of groceries and restaurant food was as much as in Scandanavia, North Americans wouldn't be so overweight and unhealthy.

We just returned from Iceland (essentially a Scandanavian country) and we found the same was true in terms of food and gas prices. We set it up with a tour company and every hotel and guest house served a European style/Scandanavian style breakfast, which helped a lot.

I stashed granola bars and 2 lbs of mixed nuts in our suitcase. We bought one restaurant meal per day and saved that way. Gas was ridiculous--about $180 per tank for diesel.

I want to do it again though. Gorgeous country. Virtually 100% middle class. And everyone speaks English.

The Garmin that came with the car was weird though. It frequently told us to turn on roads that stopped existing 20 years ago!


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Old 07-02-2016, 10:49 AM   #7
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Do you have any tips on eating out for less in Scandinavia?
No excellent ones I'm afraid. The best one I've heard from foreigners is that thanks to the alcohol duty in Norway which is not related to the price of the bottle expensive wine and brandy is relatively cheaper and often actually cheaper than in other countries. Especially if bough in the monopolist liquor store Vinmonopolet compared to restaurants.

Apart from that it's the same as everywhere else: Making your own meals or eating at cafés are less expensive than restaurants and restaurants around the high street is more expensive than those in quieter side streets. And chinese restaurants are less expensive in general. Then you have pizzas, burgers and kebab type places.
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Old 07-02-2016, 12:21 PM   #8
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Same in Iceland. Fish and chips were our go to meal. They also had Subway and Domino's. Fish was amazing though. We had one really nice meal. It's not a great place for foodies.


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Old 07-02-2016, 05:08 PM   #9
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No excellent ones I'm afraid. The best one I've heard from foreigners is that thanks to the alcohol duty in Norway which is not related to the price of the bottle expensive wine and brandy is relatively cheaper and often actually cheaper than in other countries. Especially if bough in the monopolist liquor store Vinmonopolet compared to restaurants.
That's news to me. We took the ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn, so bought a bottle of booze from the tax free for DW's relatives on midsummers.

Quote:
Apart from that it's the same as everywhere else: Making your own meals or eating at cafés are less expensive than restaurants and restaurants around the high street is more expensive than those in quieter side streets. And chinese restaurants are less expensive in general. Then you have pizzas, burgers and kebab type places.
We knew that eating out would be expensive, so budgeted for it. We enjoy the occasional pizza/burger, but don't want to eat badly on vacation. Thanks for the input.
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Old 07-13-2016, 10:22 PM   #10
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Same in Iceland. Fish and chips were our go to meal. They also had Subway and Domino's. Fish was amazing though. We had one really nice meal. It's not a great place for foodies.


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Loved Iceland too. Since I travel alone, I stayed in hostels. Great kitchens, grocery store close by. It was fun interacting with people of all ages. The Reykjavik city card was a great option which allowed free entrance to most museums, free rides on all buses and free entrance to the spas. Saw most of Iceland using day trips on buses. Will go back again!
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Old 07-20-2016, 12:41 PM   #11
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Bought five, 3 day Metro passes in Stockholm - good for all buses, subways and even the ferries that go to Skansa and Vasa museums. Was about $120 total but we used it often. Even took the bus from south part of city (where our Hostel was) all the way to Frihammen port where the cruise ship was docked. Had plenty of room for the luggage and sure beat the $100 USD taxi fee!
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Old 07-20-2016, 05:27 PM   #12
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We did this cruise last July and loved it. All the cities were great with Helsinki the least and St Petersburg the most impressive. We had extended stays in Stockholm and Copenhagen and loved them both. We had an amazing private guide in St Petersburg who was very much worth the money. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the various sites (PhD in Art History) and seemed to have back doors into everywhere. Felt a bit awkward at times being whisked past huge lines inside the attractions. The lines outside some of the places to get tickets to get in were unbelievable but all of our admissions were prearranged by the guide. A great trip and was our first cruise.
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Old 07-20-2016, 05:54 PM   #13
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I made tour reservations online with one of the highly rated tour companies. They didn't even request a deposit and we paid at the end of the second day.

We went on a small 12 person tour in a Mercedes van. The driver took us down every alley and cowpath in St. Petersburg. The tour guide was simply fantastic. If we needed Rubles, she'd give it to us and we settled at when we paid our bill.

We would not want to travel to St. Petersburg with a Visa--on our own. Their alphabet is different and negotiating the city is simply not easy. It's pedestrian versus automobiles, with people constantly jumping out in front of cars.

But there are at least 50 great tour operators operating in this fabulous city.
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