When I visit a city for the first time, I want to find out how new technologies are impacting on peoples’ lives. Often these may not be the latest technologies, and sometimes the answer is not very much. As soon as I landed at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, I had a glimpse of the future and what impact that future was going to have on me as a tourist. Basically, without a credit card and a smartphone, I was not going to leave the terminal building, let alone get a warm dinner. I had heard about Sweden wanting to move to a cashless economy but assumed a few Kronor bills would win the day. In any case, I decided that I should change a few euros in case the battery on my phone died. The 12% loss on commission and exchange rate was pretty dissuasive, but I was determined to press on.
The transfer from the airport to Stockholm can be booked online through Flygbussarna, credit card obliged. Flygbussarna has a dedicated App to manage where you can manage travel transport from all major airports in Sweden. Getting around the city on public transportation can be done with the SL Travel Planner App. You can still buy single and multi-course travel cards for 20 SEK.
If you are only carrying cash, I hope you like street food. This is not a bad thing in Sweden, and I can recommend the shrimp and sour cream baked potato. If you want to dine out, you’ll need a credit card. A large number of restaurants have ceased accepting cash altogether.
Stockholm is a historically vibrant city with countless museums, castles and monuments. Every restaurant, club and museum has a dedicated app or bespoke mobile website. The Moderna or Nordiska Museum Apps include excellent free audio guides; they also have information about upcoming exhibitions and activities. For booking and buying concert, theatre and sport events tickets download the Stockholm Events App.
To experience Stockholm to its fullest, do not leave your credit card and a smartphone at the hotel. The fact that everything is a finger-touch away and every part of the economy has embraced digital transformation is super practical and enriched my stay. Plus, there was never a moment I could not access public Wi-Fi.
Sweden is planning to be cashless by 2020. In 2017, only 2% of transactions were made with cash. Many banks do not hold bills and fees for withdrawing cash as a tourist should not be neglected.
What’s not to love about this new cashless economy I hear you say; no more handling grubby, bacteria-spreading coins and notes anymore (I wonder if flu epidemics spread less quickly Stockholm?). I think we need to be a little wary of this system as it does not provide anonymity or privacy, all our transactions are logged and presumably available to the ‘competent authorities’. Also, it can create economic segregation as everything is linked to our credit rating. Accepting electronic payments is a significant investment cost and can be a hurdle for start-up entrepreneurs. Online transactions incur fees at every level. This might be good for the tax man, but the end costs will be borne by the consumer. I’m pretty sure the Stockholm street beggars have their own PayPal QR codes; I’m not kidding. As we move to a digital economy, there has been a significant rise in cybercrime which can cripple some small businesses and ruin a fantastic weekend in Stockholm.
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