Surviving the first month in Gothenburg without Bank Account

​Wondering how you can survive a cashless society like Sweden only with cash? Good News! Cash is not completely outdated yet.​
Picture of a paper bag and banking cards in Mohsen's hand

You all have heard about Sweden being a cashless society, right? But let me tell you, it is not 100% cashless, you can still use cash here. Due to international sanctions, we as Iranian don’t have access to international banking systems. It means I did not have access to Master Card or any other international payment systems when I arrived here from Iran. therefore, I had to spend my first month just by using cash until I could open a bank account in Sweden. 

When I first got here as a master’s student in Architecture and Urban Design at Chalmers, I only had Euro and Dollar with me and I had to exchange my money for Swedish Kronor (SEK) to be able to buy stuff. The majority of stores and businesses here do not accept Euro, even though Sweden is part of the EU, it has its own currency. Therefore, I exchanged part of my money at the airport. For this purpose, usually, the only option is FOREX bank branches.

Once I arrived at my student apartment in Gothenburg, I realized that it is going to be harder than I thought without an international bank card or SEK. I needed to buy groceries, dishes, cooking appliances, etc. But none of these options were available to me on the first night. Hopefully, I had a friend who was also an Iranian student here, who helped me to order food from Foodora, it is good if you find a friend or someone who is willing to help you before coming to Sweden since it is the most straightforward way of getting useful information. The following day, I did some research on the internet and I was able to find many places that accepted cash, but how could I reach those places if I could not buy a bus ticket? 

Well, I would say this is one of the few places that you have to either use your foreign bank to buy a ticket or if you are like me, you should take a walk to the central station, which is a beautiful place in the heart of Gothenburg, and it does not take more than 30-45 minutes to walk from the city center. Once you arrive there, you can buy a physical ticket for different periods of time depending on your preferences. There is also a student discount which requires you to have your student ID, but probably, you will not have it in the beginning, so It will be wise if you choose a ticket for a shorter period and once you get your Student ID you can buy a ticket for a longer period of time with a student discount. Once you got your ticket then congratulations! Now can go anywhere in the city that you want with one of the best public transportation systems in the world! The ticket will be valid for the trams, busses and ferries in Gothenburg.

One of the best supermarket options which are also close to Chalmers and also have many branches around the city are “Willys” chain stores. They accept cash and they are also a cheap option for the most basic stuff you will need at your home. Another option is ICA, which is of course more expensive but also has more options. ICA is usually closer to the city centers, so if your house is a bit far from the city center, it might be easier to get your stuff from Willys! There are a couple of other options as well, like Coop and LIDL. All these stores accept both cash and cards. Some of these stores also support self-checkout which unfortunately does not support cash, but once you get your bank account, you can use them! Otherwise, you should always go to the cashier who accepts cash.

Dishes & Furniture
Picture of IKEA store from outside with a few cars in the backgroundDo you have any doubt? IKEA. The good news is that IKEA branches also accept cash if you buy the items in person. There are currently two IKEA stores in Gothenburg, one in the north and one in the south of the city – Bäckebol and Kållered. You have to allocate time to visit here, since it is not in the city center, and it takes time to go there. But the good news is that you can take the bus! There are also secondhand shops around the city that you can buy stuff for a cheaper price, like Myrorna. Most of them also accept cash, but there are a few that only accept cards. You have to do some research before heading to one of these shops.

Electrical / Mechanical Accessories 
I would suggest Biltema for this purpose, you can find most electrical things here for a cheap price, it also has a wide range of accessories for any type of vehicle. Almost anything can be found here, and it is way cheaper than any other place I have been to. They also accept cash if you buy the items in person, it is also located near IKEA, so you can visit both places on the same day!

Facebook Groups (Recommended!)
For the final part, I want to remind you that you look for second-hand selling Facebook groups. If you live in one of the student housing areas, try to look for the one that is created specifically for your building! There are usually students that are leaving and sometimes giving away their stuff for a cheap price or even for free! You just need a sharp eye to find what you want. Also, since it is located in your area, you can easily give them cash without using your bank card.

Picture of Mohsen

Author: Mohsen

Page manager Published: Tue 08 Feb 2022.