STOCKHOLM — One of the best bonuses for budget travelers who use Eurail Passes or Eurail Youth Passes is that they are eligible for free travel on the Silja overnight steamer between here and Helsinki, Finland.
Eurail Pass holders are eligible for free steamer and ferry services in other areas of Europe, too, but on this route you don't have to pay extra for a comfortable night's sleep: 150 free berths are provided.
The Silja ships that sail this route are being renovated. They offer facilities more in line with a cruise ship than a ferry service--dining rooms, cafes, bars, a disco (no cover charge), duty-free shopping and an indoor swimming pool. For a small charge you can use one of the saunas.
The ships are large enough to carry 450 cars or 70 trucks. For those on more liberal budgets, there are 647 cabins.
Claim a Free Bunk
If you travel free using a Eurail Pass, there are a limited number of deck-class berths. Thus, you should plan to board at 4:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. sailing, so you can claim a free bunk.
In the same area on Deck 4 are pay lockers, showers, airline-style reclining seats and free movies or television.
There is duty-free shopping on board (this includes some soft drinks and snack food), but most Scandinavian meal prices are higher than at home. For example, a cup of coffee is 3.90 Finnish marks (about $1 U.S.) and the buffet breakfast is 26.50 marks (about $7 U.S.).
Stockholm is home to one of the world's most unusual youth hostels, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
The Af Chapman is a majestic clipper ship that rests in the Stockholm harbor across from the Royal Palace. It was built in England in 1888 and sailed under the British and Norwegian flags before becoming a training ship for the Swedish Navy in 1923.
Hostel Since 1949
In 1949 it was opened as a youth hostel by the Swedish Touring Club.
The Af Chapman can accommodate 136 visitors in men's and women's dormitory rooms that hold two to 10 people.
Members of the International Youth Hostel Federation are charged 55 Swedish kroner (about $10 U.S.) per night. Non-members are charged 75 kroner. You must use a sheet sleeping bag; if you don't bring one, a paper version can be purchased.
There is a 1 a.m. curfew.
The ship will open for the season March 1. You can make reservations by writing to Af Chapman, Skeeppsholmen, 111 49 Stockholm.
Note: The ship will not be able to accommodate guests on May 29 because of a birthday celebration.
Less than 100 meters from the Af Chapman is another youth hostel, which provides 150 beds in rooms for two to four people. There is no curfew.
Next to the Af Chapman dock is one of the city's two youth information centers. It is open daily during the summer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It has a coffee shop and showers, and the staff provides touring information.
The main international youth center at Valhallavagen 142 (take subway 13 or 14 to Karlaplan) provides "drop-in" services and accommodations during summer.
The center is open from 1 to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and provides young travelers a place for cooking, showers, sewing and equipment repairs. It also has a cafeteria.
The center's hostel-style accommodation is open June through August. The fee is 70 kroner ($12 U.S.).
Sweden House, at Kungstradagarden in the city center, is the largest of Stockholm's visitor information centers. It provides a free copy of "Stockholm on a Shoestring," a 15-page pamphlet of tips on accommodations, eating, sightseeing, transportation, luggage storage, English-language radio programs and emergency services.